ABB: Withdraw from Sarawak Dam Projects

Bruno Manser Fund is asking the engineering company, ABB, to review Sarawak’s human rights position and withdraw from all dam related activities in Sarawak. Read more below about the controversy of these dam projects and learn more about ABB’s involvement.

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KUCHING: Swiss-based NGO, Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) wants Swedish-Swiss power and technology group, ABB, to withdraw from all dam-related activities in Sarawak.

In making the call, BMF criticised the Zurich-based multinational corporation which also operating in robotics, for ‘providing key technologies to Sarawak’s controversial dam projects’.

In a statement today, BMF said that ABB, which has operations in around 100 countries, ‘is involved in a controversial dam initiative with vast environmental and social impacts in Sarawak’.

“The human rights situation at the Murum Dam has been criticised for a while, but now the conflict has spread further and reached the area of the planned Baram Dam. In both areas, affected communities are manning blockades.

“Since 2009, ABB has deepened its involvement in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, where the government is currently realising a series of at least 12 mega-dams,” said BMF.

It also noted that the planned dam programme would ‘dislodge tens of thousands of natives and inundate over 1,600 sq km of rainforest and farmland.

ABB’s business partner, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), it said, ‘has systematically violated the rights of indigenous people’, claiming ‘the situation is most urgent at the Murum dam, for which ABB provides the turbine governor’.

“The reservoir of the Murum dam is currently being impounded and the resettlement is on going. Since mid-September, the affected communities, mostly Penans, have been blocking the dam site.

“They are determined to stay until SEB and the government agree to compensate them for the loss of their land, homes and livelihoods. However, SEB refused to engage meaningfully in negotiations and tried to dissolve the protests,” said BMF.


ABB keeping mum

NGOs claim that about 200 natives staged the blockade in Murum, where 10 of them, including children, were arrested earlier this month, but subsequently released.

BMF said the dam, if completed, would displace up to 20,000 people and submerge over 400 sq kms of rainforest and farmland.

ABB, one of the largest conglomerates in the world, apart from being one of the biggest engineering companies and ranked 158th in the Forbes Ranking , is building up a close business bond with SEB.

“SEB is mentioned as a ‘major customer’ on the website of ABB Malaysia. It’s president and manager Stephen Pearce posed with Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, on the company’s Facebook site,” said BMF.

In the 90s, ABB led an international consortium in charge of the construction of the Bakun dam, one of the largest dams in Asia, but later pulled out from the project, which was named by Transparency International a ‘monument of corruption’.

BMF said that other international companies, such as Rio Tinto, Norsk Hydro or Hydro Tasmania, have departed Sarawak after ‘an in-depth analysis of the human rights situation, the economic feasibility and the reputational risks involved’.

“The Swiss Bruno Manser Fund has asked ABB in a letter to clarify its role and involvement in Sarawak. ABB, however, chose to remain silent and did not respond to the raised concerns,” BMF said.


Way, Winston. “‘Withdraw from Sarawak dam projects’.” Free Malaysia Today. 19 Nov 2013.  <>.