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November 26, 2019

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Papar Dam project asks more questions than provides answers

The Papar Dam was proposed to solve an electricity and water shortage in Kota Kinabalu, a Malaysian city on the island of Borneo. Malaysian engineers went to the village of Buayan to map its physical geography and collect soil samples for the project. I also traveled to Borneo, but I was there to learn about the electricity generation.

When we first arrived at Buayan after several hours of turbulent mountain roads, we were amazed at the breathtaking scenery. A swaying wooden suspension bridge led into the peaceful village, with palm trees gently swaying in the breeze. Brilliant pink clouds drifted lazily under the setting sun.

The villagers in Buayan mostly rely on subsistence farming.

Kota Kinabalu makes a substantial contribution to government revenue and requires water resources to develop further. This need for water prompted the proposal of the Papar Dam.

Another reason for the proposal of the Papar Dam is to achieve improvements in making electricity available. The electricity generated by the Papar Dam will motivate and stimulate the entire Malaysian economy. Furthermore, once debts for the construction of the Papar Dam have been settled, it is predicted that the state government might be able to collect between RM400 million (US$6.50 million) and RM500 million a year.

Furthermore, the spending on large infrastructure projects is enormous.

The Malaysia Daily believes the Papar Dam project will cost around RM3 billion.

Some critics argue that the money spent on building the dam should be directed into something that would be more effective in improving people’s living standards, such as increasing investment on the quality of education and health care.

However, the long-term benefits of the project outweigh its potential threats since the dam will play a pivotal role in creating job opportunities, increasing the efficiency of the power generation and generating economic dividends.

I noticed the local government has been making efforts to spread a core belief that the project is for the betterment of social welfare and a growth driver. In a nutshell, the economic growth and development of metropolises should provide better social welfare and culture.

The benefits of bringing power to Kota Kinabalu and the promotion of economic development, including the potential threats it will pose, should be evaluated and considered before the construction of the Papar Dam project.


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