Sustainable energy projects are driving out Southeast Asia’s indigenous populations

In the late 1990s, the Bakun Dam was launched in Sarawak, a Malaysian condition in Borneo, to meet the growing requirement for electricity within Malaysia. The Bakun Dam is the 2nd tallest concrete-faced rockfill dam in the world, and is the most expensive energy task in Southeast Asia. Since the early 2000s, electricity has become a substantial factor in sustaining the particular well-being of the Malaysian population contributing to economic growth, most especially in transport, commercial and residential industries.

However the dam came in a high cost.

The project caused major environmental and ecological impacts such as the inundation associated with 69, 640 hectares of terrestrial environment which harmed the healthiness of plant and animal species. It also adversely impacted indigenous areas as they were forced off their land forcing them straight into poverty.

Many say this case reflects the lived realities that will local communities face across every corner of Southeast Asian countries when dealing with this kind of massive development and energy projects. These projects continue to damage marginalised social organizations and other vulnerable populations across the region and frequently have severe repercussions on the environment.

But it is a difficult problem to address. According to the United Nations, the world’s population will certainly reach 9. seven billion by 2050, with almost two-thirds living in urban areas. With this particular increased population, people inevitably be an increased demand for power. But fossil fuels might not be enough to meet this particular demand as the energy source is finite in nature.

Yet there is an improved dependency on fossil fuels, and this will worsen environmental degradation, climate researchers say. As fossil fuel combustion releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, decades of scientific research has shown these emissions contribute to worldwide warming. The reality is if we do not reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide released simply by burning fossil fuels, we will see a rapid rise in global temperatures and this might have wide reaching ramifications for Southeast Asian countries.

Inuk Bato, a Kayan tribesman standing in front associated with his floating house in Nahajale, Malaysia’s Sarawak regions. Local communities have been herded by the government to the new village of Sungai Asap, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the Bakun dam. Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFP

Southeast Asian governments have demostrated some commitment on transforming the region from using fossil fuels to alternative sources of energy to advance climate action at a faster rate. However , as multinational corporations expand power projects across the region, local indigenous organizations are being driven away.

Given this reality, it’s imperative that we choose safer and less environmentally damaging sources of energy as we move forward like a civilisation. It’s also important that we assure equal and equitable access to clean energy for all sectors of society. The question remains whether we have regarded as the impacts of energy transition on vulnerable groups in our communities.

Such as the case of the Bakun Dam, governments and multimillion dollar companies often obtain property and renewable energy assets without consulting nearby communities. There is an insufficient participatory planning through stakeholders to chart a course of action to deal with environmental issues whilst also maintaining society’s ecological needs. This inevitably leads to environmental injustice, whereby the benefits of the environment only reach a privileged few while the negative environment and economic externalities affect vulnerable organizations.

The Bakun Dam out of place many indigenous towns in Sarawak since the dam drowned their own rainforests and released billions of tons of methane into water reservoirs that the communities counted on to survive.

Kayan tribes and their hunter canines inside a boat heading to the forest regarding hunting in Nahajale, Malaysia’s Sarawak regions. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP

To address this problem, the particular Sarawak local government provided resettlement opportunities at a palm plantation web site. However , the Lengthy Lawen community claimed they would not be able to resettle there because the location had restricted usage for cultivation due to restrictions upon land and farming implemented by the local government.

Instead, the group relocated to another area and constructed their own micro-hydropower dam to sustain by themselves. Despite their efforts, the dam has been only able to produce between four and six kilowatts every day, an amount too small to power their own homes properly. The city then campaigned that some of the power in the mega dam end up being funnelled into their neighborhood as well. But worldwide indigenous rights laws fail to mainstream inclusivity in the country’s decision-making process, further highlighting the deeply inlayed cultural politics from the energy planning process in the region.

Policies and techniques must be explored beyond technocratic solutions to include grassroots empowerment to make sure that vulnerable groups aren’t systematically impacted. Although technocratic solutions enable policymakers to use scientific and technical experience to make important decisions and create changes, it is crucial that local towns be given the same decision-making power to support transformative resilience on the ground.

In many cases, ‘sustainable’ programs often place a huge burden on communities who can minimum afford it. The best irony is that these types of programs reward people who consume the most energy by giving them limitless access to benefits plus incentives. This therefore gives rise in order to inequitable distribution of energy across all incomes and demographics.

The basic tenets of environmental proper rights is that communities receive equal protection of their land, housing, health, education, and employment. And environmental justice and human rights are deeply linked. Understanding institutional biases and seeking collaboration with stakeholders to change the system is important to achieving fair environmental justice along with a better human legal rights landscape.

The process of mobilising diversified knowledge is vital in attaining environmental equal rights and equity. We are able to learn from indigenous areas like those within Sarawak who have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.

Through their own knowledge of land-based stewardship, we can develop useful ways to protect plus restore carbon-rich, biodiverse forests and other environments essential to fight climate change and varieties collapse.

Green activism has grown to a remarkable scale in the region. And as environment justice is strongly embedded in the wider political, social, and economic dynamics of Southeast Asia, it is vital to ensure that it is really achieved.

Yet environmental justice is no trivial issue. We need a paradigm shift for environment consciousness that includes equal human safety, one where the people of this earth and the planet can flourish together.

Qayyimah Al-Zelzy is an Offer Research Associate at the Global Awareness & Impact Alliance (GAIA) Brunei.