Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Borneo Project

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Borneo Project

Article excerpt

Three years in the making, the second community-managed microhydro project on Malaysian Borneo is now up and running! In exchange for a formal commitment to protect upstream rainforests in the buffer zone of Crocker Range National Park of Sabah, the indigenous Dusun community of Terian received funding for a state-of-the-art microhydro turbine with a grant from the Seacology Foundation. The Borneo Project, Green Empowerment, and Partners of Community Organizations (PACOS) of Sabah provided technical training and troubleshooting for appropriate technology selection, system design, and installation. Teams of youths from Raleigh International UK, a British nonprofit working with disadvantaged and at-risk youth, provided additional volunteer labor. Borneo Project volunteers spent several weeks with community "collective work parties" to install the piping system, water catchment tank, powerhouse, turbine, and wiring systems.

Adrian Lasimbang, a coordinator for PACOS who was awarded the Seacology Conservation Prize of 2004 for his work with Terian, was thrilled with the final results. "The water comes out of this system as clean as it went in. By eliminating the use of fossil fuels, we are preventing pollution of their pristine streams, river, and air. The forests in the watershed are now officially protected. Native fruit and timber trees are being planted on slopes formerly used for rice farming."

The small, quiet turbine now provides six kilowatts of clean electricity to light 50 houses and power school computers, a rice mill, and communal refrigerators for forest produce. Petroleum-powered generators and fuel, which once had to be backpacked in on grueling eight-hour hikes through the mountains, are now obsolete. The community has lived in this roadless watershed for over 100 years, combining subsistence rice farming with generations of indigenous knowledge in natural resource management. …

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