Foreign NGOs, press taken to task


SEE FOR YOURSELF: Manyin (left) arrives to officiate at the opening of the conference, accompanied by Mohamad Kadim and Peter (right). — Photo by Kong Jun Liung

Armchair reporters out on a witch hunt to smear Sarawak’s good name, says minister

KUCHING: Foreign NGOs and media organisations critical of the state’s alleged poor handling of its forest resource should come to Sarawak to experience the rainforest first-hand, before continuing to harp on the issue.

Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin said unscrupulous individuals often criticised the state for destroying its environment and forests based on reports by armchair reporters out on a witch hunt to smear the good name of Sarawak.

He said foreign NGOs and media organisations often published baseless articles, claiming that the state was destroying its natural forest and habitats for the animals and the indigenous people in favour of mega development projects such as hydro-electric dams.

Manyin said the state adhered strictly to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and social impact assessment reports which must be carried out before the implementation of any (mega) projects.

“If you travel by land or fly across Sarawak, you will see the vast area of rainforest. All these allegations about destroying animal habitats are not true. In fact, Sarawak has a proper and sustainable forest management in place. It is also vigorously promoting its eco-tourism to the world. Our tourism products include the Mulu Cave, which is recognised as a Unesco heritage site.

“Go have a look at our environment, forest rehabilitation, eco-tourism destinations and tell the whole world about it,” the Tebedu assemblyman said when officiating at the opening of the Sixth International Engineering Conference (EnCon 2013) organised by Unimas’ Faculty of Engineering here yesterday.

Also present were Unimas vice-chancellor Prof Dato Dr Mohamad Kadim Suhaidi, deputy vice-chancellor Prof Dr Peter Songan, Faculty of Engineering dean Prof Dr Wan Hashim Wan Ibrahim and Assoc Prof Dr Andrew Ragai Henry Rigit who is EnCon 2013 local organising committee chairman.

Manyin said the theme of the conference ‘Energy and Environment’ was most appropriate to reflect the awareness issue considering that the region was currently choked by haze due to the ‘slash-and-burn’ technique of clearing farmland.

“We need to find a long term solution to these headaches and inconveniences,” he said, adding that the subject of sustainable development had been of great concern in recent years and the emphasis on all things ‘green’ had increased dramatically.

He said renewable energy was attracting worldwide attention as individual countries continued with their respective agenda towards ensuring energy security, containing rising energy cost and preparing for a low carbon economy.

With hydropower dominating the renewable energy resources in the state, Manyin said discussion on renewable energy development must take into consideration its hydropower agenda.

In this regards, Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) served as the main thrust to propel the state to a developed state status by 2020.

“Besides the general financial incentives, competitively-priced electricity provides a unique ingredient to attract multi-nationals to set up manufacturing facilities on our shore. To date, numerous agreements and term sheets are committed to take up the electrical power from Bakun and Murum hydropower projects.

“Sarawak Energy is entrusted with the responsibility to continue negotiating with interested parties as it seeks to develop the remaining capacity in a sustainable manner encompassing four aspects of financial, technical environmental and social.”

Manyin added that four more hydropower dams had been earmarked for construction – to vastly reduce carbon emission.

Earlier, Mohamad Kadim said EnCon 2013 was organised in collaboration with Institution of Engineers Malaysia (Sarawak branch), Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Awam University of Engineering, Science and Technology (Quest) and Unimas Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy (CoERE).

A pre-conference workshop was held on Monday while yesterday and today will see the presentation of the scientific programme consisting of six keynote lectures and more than 100 papers from 10 countries in 18 oral presentation sessions.

These papers cover a wide range of topics including green technology, smart materials for energy efficiency and environment.

The conference will conclude with a technical forum on Energy and Environment tomorrow.