By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 9th October 1995:
DAP calls on Ekran Bhd to explain whether it had commissioned a study specifically on whether the Bakun dam design could itself trigger off an earthquake, and if so to make public the study
The 7-Richter-scale Sumatra earthquake on Saturday, which killed 100 people, injured 700 and destroyed or damaged. 10,000 buildings, should make Malaysians more earthquake-conscious – especially as the tremors rocked the Bukit Chagar and Larkin flats in Johore Bahru, which housed 6,000 people.
After the Kobe earthquake disaster in January this year, the Malaysia Government, has become more earthquake-conscious and had started considering incorporating safety factors into the country’s high-rise buildings to minimise possible earthquake damage.
I will be asking the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding in Parliament next week what is the outcome of the study by an inter-agency committee headed by his Ministry’s secretary-genera], V. Danabalan, on the need to incorporate safety factors into the country’s building by-laws to minimise possible earthquake damage in all future construction projects.
In the Kobe earthquake, measured ‘7.2 on the Richter scale, 20 seconds 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.
The Bakun EIA Report had omitted an important aspect of the earthquake-potential of the dam although the EIA Report (Part One} on the Bakun dam project, specified that the dam should be designed to withstand an earthquake up to 6 on the Richter scale.
This is because the EIA Report merely focussed on the “natural seismic!ty of. the area”. Between 1965 and 1994, 28 earthquakes were registered in Sarawak and Sabah, including 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 of fices and a tremor measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale on July 26, 1976, which damaged concrete buildings in Tawau , Lahad Batu and Kunak in Sabah.
However, Ekran Bhd’s EIA reports have omitted to study specifically on whether the Bakun dam design itself could trigger off an earthquake.
As Ekran Bhd has been awarded the largest, privatisation project in the country to build the biggest dam in Malaysia, Ekran Bhd must have its own “earthquake experts” who must be conversant, with the latest studies in seismology particularly with reference to the relationship between dams and earthquakes.
The Ekran Bhd. uearthquake experts” must know what is little known to the public – that large, dams can cause earth¬quakes, particuiariy dams over 100 metres high, because of extra water pressure created in the microcracks and fissures in the ground under and near a dam.
Seismic studies have shown that dams can both increase the frequency of earthquakes in areas of already high seismic activity and cause earthquakes to happen in areas previously thought to be seismically inactive.
The most powerful earthquake thought to have been induced by a darn is a magnitude of 6.5 tremor which flattened the village of Koynanagar, Maharashtra, western India, on December. 11, 1967, killing about.
180 people, injuring 2,200 and rendering thousands homeless. The epicentres of this earthquake and numerous foreshocks and aftershocks were all either near the 103 metre-high Koyna Dam or under its reservoir. The dam was seriously damaged and the powerhouse put out of action, cutting off the power supply to Bombay and causing panic among its populace, who were able to feel the tremors 600 kilometres away.
Of the 24 dams which have induced earthquakes of magnitude 4,4 and above, in 17 cases, the strongest, tremors occurred within three years of initial Impoundment of water.
There must be a specific study on the Bakun dam, on whether and how its design could itself trigger off an earthquake , as Bakun dam is 205 metre high – over twice the 100-metre height regarded by darn experts as likely to trigger off seismic, activities.
The DAP calls on Ekran Bhd to explain whether it had commissioned a study specifically on whether the Bakun dam design could itself trigger off an earthquake and to make public the study.