Malaysia’s Controversial Bakun Hydro Project Ready in 2011

KUALA LUMPUR ~ Malaysia’s controversial Bakun hydroelectricity project will be completed in 2011, four years later than originally planned, the government said this week.

Deputy Finance Minister Kong Cho Ha said civil works for the Bakun project would be ready in June 2010 while the electrical and mechanical works would be completed in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Bernama news agency.

“The first commissioning is expected in August 2010,” Bernama quoted him as saying to lawmakers in parliament, in reference to when the 300-megawatt generator will begin functioning.

The completed project is expected to cost 7.5 billion ringgit (US$2.02 billion), according to the government.

Malaysian energy companies Tenaga Nasional and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) in January said they had received government approval to take over operations of the Bakun project from multinational Sime Darby.

The government has also proposed the construction of a 700-kilometre undersea cable link to transmit power generated by the dam to southern Johor state on the mainland.

The ambitious cable project was originally dropped following the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The dam’s construction has been dogged with delays and setbacks since its approval in 1993. It had been earlier slated for completion by August 2007.

The dam, which involves flooding an area the size of Singapore, has attracted fierce criticism because of its impact on the environment and the fact that 10,000 residents have already had to evacuate the project site.

Environmentalists have also said the undersea cable would be unsafe because it lies across an earthquake-prone region.

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