Ekran Bhd. Would be invited to send its “earthquake” experts to the MPGED Conference on Bakun in December to explain how the Bakun dam had been designed to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.4 on the Richter scale


By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 6th October 1995:

Ekran Bhd. Would be invited to send its “earthquake” experts to the MPGED Conference on Bakun in December to explain how the Bakun dam had been designed to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.4 on the Richter scale

The Malaysian Parliamentary Group on Environment and Development (MPGED) Conference on Bakun in early December will invite Ekran Bhd. To send its “earthquake” experts to explain how the Bakun dam had been designed to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.4 on the Richter scale.

The Interim EIA Report on the Bakun dam project had made it clear that “the design of the dam should take into consideration the worst seismic event that can be expected, probably 6 on the Richter scale” while the manager of Bakun Management Sdn. Bhd., Wan Zawawi Wan Akil, boasted two weeks ago that the Bakun dam was being designed to withstand tremors of up to 6.4 on the Richter scale.

A dam analyst, Dr. Wang Weilou, however, after studying the available statistics about the dam design, charged that the Bakun dam could only withstand earthquake tremors up to live on the Richter scale.

The “earthquake” aspect of Bakun is very important for three reasons:

*First, that the Bakun dam is in the earthquake belt is not a “scale scenario” invented by NGOs and opponents of Bakun, but had been seriously admitted by Ekran Bhd.’s own experts, and this had been highlighted in Ekran’s reports.

*Secondly, the Kobe earthquake disaster which devastated Japan’s sixth largest city in January this year had also destroyed the complacency that Malaysia is completely earthquake free.

After the Kobe earthquake disaster, Malaysia is considering incorporating safety factors into the country’s high-rise buildings to minimise possible earthquake damage.

After the Kobe earthquake disaster, the Malaysia Government is considering incorporating safety factors into the country’s high-rise buildings to minimise possible earthquake damage.

This was announced by the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Aleng Ding last month when he revealed that an inter-agency committee headed by his Ministry’s secretary-general, V. Danatialan, had been set up to study into the need to incorporate safety factors into the country’s building by-laws to minimise possible earthquake damage in all future construction projects.

Law said: “Since present by-laws were patterned after Great Britain’s and were established when Malaysia was thought to be stable and free from earthquake risks, they do not consider such safety factors.

“Geologically, Malaysia is in a low-risk seismic area and is considered quite stable. There have been, however, some local earthquakes, mostly in Sabah and Sarawak.”

Law said that recorded incidents include a 1994 tremor measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale which was reported over a wide area in Sabah and which caused people from high-rise buildings in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau to evacuate their homes and offices.

The worst incident took place on July 26, 1976, when a tremor measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale damaged concrete buildings in Tawau, Lahad Datu and Kunak in Sabah.

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

In 20 seconds, the Kobe earthquake, measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, killed over 5,000 people, injured 25,000 people and at least 310,000 were made homeless. Over one million people were left for days without drinking water and no fewer than 46,440 buildings were destroyed.

If Japan, which spends RM250 million every year in earthquake predictions , and has invested billions and expended much skill in designing buildings supposed to survive earthquakes, has to admit that engineers cannot design buildings guaranteed to stand up in earthquakes, Malaysians are entitled to answer from Ekran Bhd. on searching questions about the dam’s capability to withstand earthquakes.

As it is now well-established that large dams can cause earthquakes, what studies had Ekran’s “earthquake experts” made on this aspect?

*Thirdly, there is another aspect which is little known by the general public but now well-established that large dams can cause earthquakes. The United States Commission on Large Dams had compiled a bibliography of more than 2,000 technical papers related to reservoir-induced earthquakes.

This would mean that the siting of Bakun dam in the Belaga area would on its own heighten the risk that earthquakes could be triggered off in the locality, affecting not only the dam site proper but the adjacent areas in Sarawak and Sabah.

The “earthquake experts” of Ekran Bhd should expound at the MPGED Conference on Bakun to both Parliamentarians and concerned Malaysians as to what studies have been made on this aspect, what are the likelihood that the Bakun dam itself could trigger off earthquakes-apart from being located in an earthquake belt.

For a start, can Ekran Bhd. announce to the public who are its “earthquake experts”, so that invitation to the MPGED Conference could be sent to them?

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