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 27 Apr 2009

Greenlight given to Malaysia’s controversial power project

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Malaysia has approved plans for a power cable linking the controversial Bakun hydroelectricity project in Sarawak state on Borneo island to the mainland, AFP reported, quoting a report.

Energy Minister Peter Chin Fah Kui told the Star daily the cabinet had approved plans for a 700km (435-mile) undersea cable to transmit power from the dam to Johor state, a project dropped after the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Chin said the government had decided to invest in the multimillion-dollar project as it would be cheaper than building power plants on the peninsula, the newspaper reported.

"In the long term, it will be more economical and viable to transmit power from Bakun to peninsular Malaysia even though the undersea cable project will be very costly," Chin was quoted as saying.

A senior official from Chin's office confirmed the report but was unable to say how much power the new cable would transmit to the Malaysian mainland. Bakun Dam is expected to generate 2,400MW of clean electricity on completion, according to the hydroelectric project's website.

Last month, the government said the Bakun project would be ready by 2011, four years later than planned, with the completed project expected to cost 7.5 billion ringgit ($2.09 billion).

The project has been dogged by delays and setbacks since its approval in 1993. The dam, which involves flooding an area the size of Singapore, has attracted fierce criticism because of its impact on the environment and the fact that 10,000 people have had to evacuate the site.

Environmentalists say the undersea cable will be unsafe because it crosses an earthquake-prone region.





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