(NSW) JUST IN: Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation ‘ involved in the controversial plan to raise ‘ Warragamba Dam ‘ has “an established history of abusing Indigenous rights across the globe”, according to a group non-government organisations and environmental bodies from across Asia #AceNewsDesk reports

#AceNewsReport – Oct.10: A group representing 20 non-government organisations and environmental bodies from across Asia has made a submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the project, which would raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 14 metres. ………….The State Government says the dam wall needs to be raised to protect highly flood-prone areas of western Sydney.

But the plan has drawn criticism from traditional owners and environmentalists who say valuable sacred sites and objects, and flora and fauna, will be destroyed by a higher water level: They say the project is simply designed to aid more development on the floodplain………………..The submission details a number of allegations against the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) regarding its involvement in projects in Myanmar, Mongolia, Laos and Uganda………………………..Signatories include the Living River Association and the Mekong Community Institute from Thailand, the 3S Rivers Protection Network in Cambodia and the Centre for Social Research and Development in Vietnam.

Spectators watch Warragamba Dam overflowPhoto: Plans to raise the am have drawn criticism from traditional owners and environmentalists. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

SMEC accused of involvement in ‘questionable’ projects

SMEC Australia was appointed in 2017 to prepare the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project, including the Aboriginal heritage assessment, which it hired a sub-contractor to complete: The first signatory to the submission, Eugene Simonov from the Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition, said SMEC has been involved in several “very questionable” water infrastructure projects since the mid-2000s, including the Mong Ton Dam in Myanmar and Taishir Hydro in Mongolia………..

“There is common disregard for local communities that clearly comes to mind if you compare all those projects,” Dr Simonov told the ABC from China: Basically, local communities are not being sufficiently consulted, their wellbeing is not being well-considered, their culture is not being protected, and the projects — some of them at least — are basically incompatible with continued sustainable living of local people on their land along the river.”

Children hold a sign which reads 'World Heritage' while someone behind them holds a sign saying 'Don't Raise the Dam Wall'Photo: There are fears raising the dam wall will destroy significant Indigenous sites. (ABC News: Jean Kennedy)

The submission also cited allegations of bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, which saw subsidiaries of SMEC International debarred by the World Bank in 2017: It called on the NSW Government to redo the environmental and cultural assessments for the Warragamba Dam project using another company………The SMEC website says the company, born out of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, was officially established in 1970. …………SMEC expanded internationally in the 1980s and 1990s and joined the Singaporean group Surbana Jurong in 2016.

In a statement, SMEC denied it ever failed to do adequate consultations on the projects mentioned in the submission…….”SMEC has been engaged across various international projects as an Independent Technical Consultant … and is proud of its known reputation for professional work,” the company said…………”SMEC denies that it has ever taken a biased position or favoured one side of the impacts assessment process over the other……………”SMEC’s aim is to conduct anEIA/SIA [social impact assessment] process that is inclusive, constructive and transparent and which follows international best practice for open and engaging community consultations.”

‘Our requests have been ignored’

Gundungurra traditional owner Kazan Brown said she was not surprised by the allegations in the submission…………..”The way they’ve treated us, it doesn’t surprise me at all … [our] requests have been ignored, the whole Aboriginal heritage assessment is just rubbish,” she said………………….”SMEC and their consultants have done a tick-the-box consultation … we’ve just been left out of it………..”Redo the whole thing … they weren’t down there long enough to do an assessment.”

A mother and daughter at a waterholePhoto: “This is all that’s left’: Kazan Brown fears for her heritage if the dam wall proposal goes ahead (Photo: Ross Byrne)

Petr Matous from Sydney University’s School of Civil Engineering said SMEC was not the only international engineering company to attract negative attention: “Dam projects in particular often necessitate large-scale resettlement of local inhabitants, which is always extremely controversial,” DrMatous said.

“The potentially most significant impacts of [the Warragamba Dam] project are on sites of cultural significance in the Blue Mountains” ……………………..Regardless which company leads the assessment process, a significant component of the assessment needs to be conducted in consultation with the traditional custodians in a culturally appropriate manner … the assessment cannot be just a tick-box exercise over an already pre-determined project brief.”

SMEC’s statement said its Aboriginal heritage report had been peer-reviewed and more consultation was planned when the EIS goes on public display: “Regular and ongoing consultation with Aboriginal communities has been undertaken,” it said………………Harry Burkitt from Give a Dam, which is campaigning against the project, said any assessment by SMEC needed to be scrapped.

“The NSW and Federal governments must now find a world’s-best-practice environmental consultancy firm to redo all cultural and world heritage assessments for the Warragamba Dam project,” he said: A WaterNSW spokesperson said in a statement SMEC Australia was not involved in the projects detailed in the submission, only its international subsidiaries.

#AceNewsDesk reports …………….Published: October 10, 2019 at 07:28PM: By Kathleen Calderwood 33 minutes ago ABC.Net/

Editor says #AceNewsDesk reports & #Brittius says are provided by Sterling Publishing & Media News Chat https://t.me/joinchat/Di_0I1O9-Gz1ogusgUArog and all our posts, links can be found at here Live Feeds https://acenewsroom.wordpress.com/ Ace News Services Posts https://t.me/AceSocialNews_Bot and thanks for following as always appreciate every like, reblog or retweet and free help and guidance tips on your PC software or need help & guidance from our experts AcePCHelp.WordPress.Com or you can follow our breaking news posts on AceBreakingNews.WordPress.Com or become a member on Telegram https://t.me/acebreakingnews all private chat messaging on here https://t.me/sharingandcaring