Papar Dam makes neither Economic nor Social Sense

by Sharan Raj

(Photo of Papar kilometer sign by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas)

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) has been closely monitoring the recent developments of the Papar Dam. Shafie Apdal claims Papar Dam was necessary for electricity and clean drinking water. PSM welcomes the intention to provide clean drinking water and reliable electricity for the people of Sabah.

However, the RM 3 billion Papar Dam makes no economic sense for the state. The true objectives of Shafie Apdal to push for the Papar Dam are questionable, as it has little or no positive impact on the socio-economics of the state.

In 2015, non-revenue water (NRW) stood at 51% of the overall loss of water for Sabah due to pipe leakages and poor operational management. Resolving the NRW would only cost less than 10% of the Papar Dam budget. Shafie Apdal’s focus should in increasing water efficiency and promoting rain-water harvesting to reduce the demand for potable water.

In 2018, Sabah has an excess of electricity supply capacity (known as reserve margin) of 32%. Sabah electricity is oversupplied as recommended reserve margin is 20%. Increasing the reserve margin would only increase the electricity tariffs burdening the users.

Sabah’s unreliable electricity system is due to poor transmission infrastructure, and not due to electricity shortage. The estimated cost of strengthening Sabah transmission infrastructure is less than 30% of the Papar Dam budget.

Large electricity users should be pushed to reduce their electricity demand through energy efficiency and installation rooftop solar panels. These policies will also create and sustain “green jobs” addressing Sabah youth unemployment.

Furthermore, bio-methane captured from landfills, and agriculture waste could be used to generate electricity. Purchasing of organic waste from agriculture sectors from farmers and smallholders would improve the rural economy.

The Papar Dam comes with a significant negative social implication. The dam would uproot local communities and exaggerate loss of natural biodiversity. The compensation and relocation cost will be extremely high. These communities also face serious risks of becoming “vulnerable communities” if the assimilation programs fail.

As the ruling government, Shafie Apdal has failed to utilise all tools available to him. Undeniably, the Papar Dam would drain state resources in terms of labour, finance and time. Shafie Apdal should refocus himself to solve real problems rather than creating more issues by bulldozing through his plans for Papar Dam.

Central Committee (CC)
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

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