Kuching, 21 February 2014 – Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) and Sarawak Energy Berhad signed an agreement yesterday to enter into a research collaboration in the aspect of environmental sustainability of hydropower development.
Power development, in the form of large dams, brings with it a number of physical and social changes to a river basin. These in turn affect land cover, land use, and consequently, the risk of soil erosion and mobilising heavy metals. Knowing the location and size of high, medium and low risk soil erosion loss areas in dam catchment areas would help Sarawak Energy identify possible erosion prevention strategies.
Curtin Sarawak researcher Dr. Dominique Dodge-Wan will manage a project to map the potential soil erosion risk in the catchment area of the proposed Baram hydropower plant project using satellite imagery to follow changes in land use over time.
Meanwhile, her colleague, Associate Professor Dr. Ramasamy Nagarajan’s project will aim to investigate the geochemistry and distribution of heavy metals in sediments in the regions of the proposed Baram, Baleh and Pelagus hydropower plant projects.
Professor Clem Kuek, Dean of R&D at Curtin Sarawak and Acting Director of the Curtin Sarawak Research Institute (CSRI), said that this initial research collaboration with Sarawak Energy, which costs RM2 million and is the largest funded research activity to-date at the university, resulted from many months of discussion to develop the projects for Sarawak Energy and other projects to follow are being considered.
Curtin Sarawak’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Mienczakowski, on signing the collaboration agreement on behalf of the university, stated that Curtin University in Malaysia is rapidly ramping up its already strong research capacities, including a new BioValley Research and Development Park funded by the State Government and new engineering buildings for teaching and postgraduate work in order to closely support and meet the particular research needs of government and local industry.
Chief of Corporate Services of Sarawak Energy, Puan Aisah Eden said, “Through this partnership with Curtin, we are confident the extensive research work will be a critical input for us to better understand and assess the potential risks and extent of erosion in the planned hydropower plant development areas.”
“In line with the State SCORE agenda, we also see this type of collaboration with local academic institutions, especially Curtin Sarawak, as joint efforts to uplift the competency and skill sets of Sarawakians, and create career opportunities for the locals.
The signing also forms part of Sarawak Energy’s overall Sustainability Agenda that defines our commitment to improving energy generation for the State, and more importantly, to comply with international standards for hydropower development,” added Puan Aisah.
The signing of the agreement at Menara Sarawak Energy by Puan Aisah and Professor Mienczakowksi was witnessed by Dr. Chen Shiun, Sarawak Energy’s General Manager R&D, and Professor Kuek.
Other senior management employees from Sarawak Energy present were Polycarp Wong, Vice President Hydro; Shawn Liu, Capital Works Procurement & Contracts; Jiwari Abdullah, Senior Manager II Corporate Social Responsibility; and Haniza A. Hamid, Senior Manager II Corporate Communications. Associate Professor Ramasamy and Dr. Dominique Dodge-Wan were also present.