Ekran Bhd must answer the serious charge Levelled by dam expert Dr.Wang Weilou that the present Bakun dam design could only withstand earthquake tremors up to five on the Richter scale when the Interim Elk Report requires it to withstand up to six on the Richter scale


by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General] and NP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya On Monday, 25th September 1995:

Ekran Bhd must answer the serious charge Levelled by dam expert Dr.Wang Weilou that the present Bakun dam design could only withstand earthquake tremors up to five on the Richter scale when the Interim Elk Report requires it to withstand up to six on the Richter scale

Wan Zawawi Wan Akil, the manager of Bakun Management Sdn. Bhd., subsidiary of Ekran Bhd, told the two-day Bakun Dam Project Development Seminar organised by Sarawak United National Youth Organisation (Saberkas) in Sarawak that all safety aspects, including the possibility of earthquakes, have been taken into account Lu the dam’s structural planning.

Wan 2awawi said the dam can withstand tremors of up to 6.4 on the Richter scale.

Zawawi said that “even though Sarawak is outside the earthquake belt. tremors of up to 5.4 on the Richter scale had occurred in the State.”

With many disasters occurring in Malaysia, the people must be very skeptical of assurances like the one given b7 Zawawi especially when there are experts openly challenging the claims made by Ekran.

Ekran Bhd must answer the serious charge levelled by dam expert and lecturer at the University of Dortmund in Germany, Dr .Wang Weilou that the present Bakun dam design could only withstand earthquake tremors up to five on the Richter scale when the Interim 8tA Report requires it to withstand up to six on the Richter scale.

The Executive Summary of the Interim Elk Report on Bakun states:

“7. Seismicity and Reservoir-induced Seismicity:
The natural seismicity of the area appears to be related to the major fault system in the region. The presence of a major fault close to the dam site increases the probability of an earthquake occuring in proximity to the site.

“The design of the Dam should take into consideration the worst seismic new that can be expected, probably 6 on the Richter scale. The huge volume of water and the presence at faults and fractures within the reservoir may trigger off certain degree of crustal adjustment. If the dam is not sufficiently designed to withstand the anticipated magnitude of the seismic events, such readjustment of surface trust may damage the Dam structure if it occurs in the foundation.”

Based on the “List of Main Project Features” given in Table 2.1 of Bakun’ s Part One EIA report (on “Reservoir Preparation”) submitted by Ekran Bhd in February 1995, Dr. Wang Weilou made two important observations:

Firstly, that the design of the Bakun dam could only withstand an earthquake or up to 5 on the Richter scale and not 6.4 as claimed by Zawawi;

Secondly, if the Bakun dam is to be designed to withstand tremors of up to 6 on the Richter scale, precautionary measures should be taken to grapple with a seismic scenario of an anticipated magnitude of fissure of 10 degrees which has riot been done by Ekran.

Ekran must act with greater responsibility and provide satisfactory responses and answers to these questions about the safety of its Bakun dam design, as well as other questions on the socio-economic dimensions, environmental damage and financial viability of the RU5 billion Bakun project.

Malaysians must also learn from the Kobe earthquake disaster which devastated Japan’s sixth largest city in January this year. In 20 seconds, the Kobe earthquake, measured 7. 2 on the Richter scale, killed over 3, 000 people injured 2,000 people arid at least. 310,000 were made homeless. Over one million people were left for days without drinking water and no fewer than 46.440 building were destroyed.

The lesson of the Kobe earthquake, both for Japanese and humanity, is that earthquakes tend to strike at times arid at places where they are least expected and that superior technology arid scientific breakthroughs in understanding the movement of the earth’ s plates have not tamed nature’ s forces or destruction.

If Japan, which spends RM250 million every year in earthquake predictions, and had invested billions and expended much skill in designing buildings supposed to survive earth-quakes, has to admit that engineers cannot design buildings guaranteed to stand up in earthquakes, Ekran Bhd should learn to be more modest!

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