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S E L A N G O R   D A M :
A Titanic Environmental, Social, and Financial Disaster in the Making

Temuan boy in Pertak, Selangor (photo: Antares)1.  The proposed dam will flood a significant portion of the last remaining forest reserve in Selangor - including two thriving Orang Asli villages. This area is sacred to the Temuan (an indigenous rainforest tribe), for their traditions say that Manusia (Humanity) began life anew after the Great Flood in the vicinity of Gunung Raja, which they call Pusat Negri (Navel of the Nation). The area affected is, in fact, the ancestral heartland of the Temuan. Once disconnected from it, the tribe will slowly but surely vanish. Their legends say: “When the Orang Asli (Original People) are no longer visible, the world will end.” I firmly believe this to be true, for they are the taproot of our humanity. How long can a tree live if its roots are killed?

Batu Caves was once a Temuan sacred site. After the Second World War the Hindus claimed it as a temple to Lord Murugan. When quarrying almost reduced Batu Caves to a pile of rubble, there was widespread protest. Fortunately for all of us, it was heeded.

And never again to play in paradise? (photo: Colin Nicholas)What if someone proposed that the great Ganga River be dammed and pilgrims be forever banned from bathing in her blessed waters? Would this not cause tremendous tumult? (True, the Orang Asli are not quite as populous as the tribes of India, but the fact that so few remain makes their cry all the more poignant and meaningful.)

2.  The residents of Kuala Kubu Baru remember the tragedy that occurred over a century ago in 1883, when a much smaller dam across the Selangor River burst and destroyed the entire town. They say the first District Magistrate and Revenue Collector, Cecil Ranking, tried to kill the crocodile penunggu (spirit guardian of the river) in defiance of the native superstitions - and within days a monstrous flash flood smashed the dam and buried Kuala Kubu town under tons of mud. After the waters subsided, Ranking’s body was found atop a tree (which gives a graphic idea how high the floodwaters reached).

Surely no one would want to live in the grim and deadly shadow of a 400-foot-high dam? Especially in an area where flash floods and landslides have increased dramatically in recent years, due to irresponsible logging upstream. Local residents will never again be able to sleep peacefully during the rainy season, and property prices will plunge.

3.  With pollution and stress levels rising in the Klang Valley, more and more people have been seeking relief every weekend in the idyllic green sanctuary of Pertak, Ulu Selangor.  Once the dam is constructed, the area will no longer be natural. Even if tasteful landscaping turns the area surrounding the man-made lake into a scenic park, it will no longer have the powerful healing effect that only raw nature can provide. And since the Selangor Dam will only supply the water needs of the Klang Valley for three to six years at most, it cannot be regarded as a viable long-term solution.  As such, it is hardly worth sacrificing the priceless natural heritage that Pertak represents, purely as a knee-jerk reaction to the Klang Valley water crisis.

4.  >In recent years, the disastrous environmental impact of large dams has drawn heavy criticism. Experts now admit that damming up rivers is extremely destructive to our fragile ecosystemic equilibrium. Tampering with the natural flow and topology of rivers is a very dangerous business. The negative impact is far-reaching, unpredictable, and usually irreversible. In the case of the proposed Selangor Dam, it is quite possible that the wetlands and famous firefly colony near Kuala Selangor will be adversely affected. The negative impact of inundating nearly a thousand hectares of montane forest cannot be adequately assessed or quantified.  For a start, we may stand to lose rare species of flora and fauna unique to the area. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has acknowledged the rich biodiversity of the nearby Semangkok forest reserve. On Fraser's Hill alone, 256 bird species - nearly half the total number of avian species found in Europe - have been identified. If the Pertak forest reserve is further depleted, the forced migration of species would cause havoc to the ecosystemic balance.

The larger the project, the higher the risk factor.  In this instance, the Selangor Dam will inevitably distort the geomagnetic field of the area, resulting in drastic long-term climatic and seismological changes - including the possibility of earth tremors in hitherto stable areas.  Apart from this, the streams and tributaries feeding the Selangor River - already polluted by recent logging on the hillslopes - will pour so much debris into the reservoir that it will need to be desilted every two or three years, adding to the enormous cost of maintaining the Selangor Dam. Furthermore, constructing a 5 km (3 mile) stretch of new road through hilly forest reserves to replace the inundated stretch will cause further environmental degradation, apart from greatly increasing the enormous cost of the dam project.

5.  The need for drinkable water certainly does not override the even more desperate need for breathable air, and further depleting the last tract of rainforest in Selangor will most definitely not help Klang Valley residents breathe easier.

c l i c k  h e r e  f o r  L A T E S T  N E W S
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by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)
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by Concerned for Sungai Selangor
Are there any alternative solutions to the Klang Valley water crisis?
Yes, I believe there are, though they will not be lucrative propositions in business terms, for these are humble, modest, unspectacular strategies which do not involve timber concessions, multibillion-ringgit tenders, and death-defying mega-constructions.

The alternative solutions are founded on the belief that integrity, intelligence, wisdom, and the political will to "tread lightly upon this fair earth" must prevail in the end. Let me list a few things that must be done, if we wish to resolve the Klang Valley water woes without further incurring the wrath of the elements and the guardian spirits of the Temuan.

D I S A S T E R    C A N    B E    A V E R T E D    I F . . .

  • We immediately embark on a concerted and sustained campaign to educate the public about the true meaning and value of water - and the urgent need to use it with utmost care and respect. A vigorous effort to convert unconscious water-wasters into conscious water-savers must be launched via the mass media over several years. The fact that Orang Asli perceive their rivers as an eternal outflow of life-sustaining love from the breast of Mother Earth illustrates their deep-rooted respect for Nature. We have a great deal to learn from these simple, modest folk.
  • Antares
    Ceremonial Guardian (ret.)

    [From a letter to Samy Vellu, Minister of Works, Malaysia, dated 18 December 1998.
    To date, no reply has ever been received.]

    click here
    (to view MAP of the proposed dam site taken from the EIA report)


    Call for Moratorium on Large Dams!
    C L I C K   H E R E
    (an extract from On the Slippery Slope: The Bakun Debacle
    an article by John Devi published in the June 1996 issue of Ethos)

    'Time-Bomb' Dams in China
    click here for More DAMaging Evidence!
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