Malaysia: Mass fish kill caused by resettlement and logging related to dam construction

Over the past two months, tonnes of fishes from inland river tributaries in several parts of Sarawak had suddenly died en-masse. This phenomenon was seen in Bakun, Mukah, Kapit, Marudi and even in the Baram River near Miri. The worst-hit river was the Balui River in Bakun, the site of the RM6 billion hydro-electric dam project in central Sarawak.

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Dr Rauf said on Friday that he and the enforcement officers from the
Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board had gone personally to
investigate the dead fish cases. “We carried out investigations from
helicopters and on the ground and had carried out tests on
water-samples and on the dead fish.

“It was found that the fishes died because of suffocation. For example in Bakun, there was a very high degree of suspended solids in the rivers in Belaga, Balui and Baleh – six to 20 times the normal level. This was caused by logging and land-clearing in the upstream of the Bakun hydro dam.

The death of the fishes was not due to the dam construction itself,” he said. Dr Rauf said his ministry found that some giant timber companies had by-passed Environmental Impact Assessment requirements by splitting their projects into very small packages. Under the state EIA law, any
development project measuring 500 hectares and above must be subjected
to EIA.

“These companies split their projects into small packages in order to escape the EIA. For example, some companies with licence to open 10,000 hectares of land had split their project into small ones measuring 499 hectares each.

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