A study released this week by the Malaysian government concluded that there is not a significant risk for seismic activity in the region where the proposed 1,400-MW Baleh hydropower plant might be constructed.
Questions regarding the area’s geographic stability and its impact on the Baleh dam’s integrity were raised after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck near Ranau in June. However, a report made available by Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Board this week cites numerous other studies that show now evidence of karstic limestone in the project’s reservoir area, and that leakage in the reservoir is unlikely.
The document draws on geological and seismic assessments conducted by MWH Global Malaysia and the GHD Group in 2010 that established Baleh’s area meets International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) safety standards, along with similar studies conducted by the Seismology Research Centre of Australia for SMEC Malaysia during the past year.
Baleh was one of several hydroelectric projects introduced by former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in February 2008 as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative. The plan also includes the 900-MW Murum, 150-MW Limbang and 1,000-MW Barang projects.
The government has yet to determine whether it will ultimately proceed in building Baleh, though it maintains that it wants to use hydropower to help make the Sarawak Corridor a “developed” region by 2020.