China "Going Out"

Sinohydro denies Malaysian dam unsafe

(June 20, 2011) The practice of adding excessive water to cement – regarded as unsafe by the construction industry – was endemic in the building of Malaysia’s biggest dam, a new exposé claims.

By Toh Han Shih

South China Morning Post

Sinohydro, China’s biggest dam builder, has rejected accusations it used unsafe construction methods to build Malaysia’s Bakun dam, but acknowledges its construction processes did not fully adhere to correct procedures.

NGOs have alleged that Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, has utilized improper construction practices that pose concerns for the dam’s safety.

Writing in the online Sarawak Reportenvironmental journalist Clare Rewcastle alleged the practice of adding excessive water to cement, regarded as unsafe by the construction industry, was endemic in the building of the dam.

The online report includes photos and a video of water being injected via a hose into cement mixers before being used in the dam. It also included a photo of a document indicating that a batch of concrete was rejected by quality controllers because too much water had been added into the cement.

“It’s all supposition,” a Sinohydro spokeswoman was quoted saying after seeing the video and photos. “The pictures show workers washing the silo of the machine. We can admit the cleaning process is not correct and doesn’t follow instructions,” she said.

The rejection of a batch of concrete because water was introduced could be proof that quality control was functioning, she said. The Sarawak Report cited an unnamed quality controller at the project who said many batches of cement with excessive water passed quality control tests because the measures were inadequate. The quality controller said he often reported these problems to his superiors at Sinohydro, but got little response or support from them.

Raymond Abin, national co-ordinator of the Sarawak Conservation Alliance for the Natural Environment, accused the Malaysian government and the dam builders of failing to take the safety of the dam into account. “They are more interested in completing the dam as the project has been delayed for so long. This is very serious because a slight tremor will cause the dam structure to break which can endanger human lives downstream and the entire Rejang River basin.”

Toh Han Shih, South China Morning Post, June 20,2011

Read the full Sarawak Report here.

The Bakun dam was first proposed in the 1960s and finally given the green light in 1986. Several delays and a lack of adequate financing stalled the project until China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank and Sinohydro became involved. Once complete, the dam will cover over 700 square kilometers of arable land and tropical rainforest. Transparency International listed the Bakun dam in its ‘Monuments of corruption’ Global Corruption Report 2005.

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