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November 06, 2020

MEDIA ALERT: Inquiry to hear corruption allegations against Warragamba Dam contractor

Beginning at 9:30am this morning, the NSW Upper House Inquiry into the proposed raising of the Warragamba Dam wall will hear allegations of corruption, bribery and indigenous rights abuses against SMEC Engineering. The company was chosen by the NSW Government to undertake the multi-million dollar environmental and cultural assessment for the Warragamba Dam project in 2017.

Witnesses from Russia and Myanmar will give evidence via teleconference to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, speaking to allegations of bribery and corruption against the company in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, which saw SMEC debarred by the World Bank in 2017.

In a pre-hearing submission by 20 international indigenous and environmental groups, the inquiry was told that during a consultation for the Mong Ton Dam project in Myanmar, locals reported “SMEC’s consultations are entirely insufficient. The first consultation was only two hours. You cannot discuss anything in two hours. And they announced this consultation via a tiny ad in one of the last pages of the newspaper”. The local also reported that military authorities in Shan State sent a tank through the villages “to remind them to participate in the consultations run by SMEC".

Eugene Simonov, Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition Coordinator said SMEC Engineering 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. "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."

This morning's inquiry hearing will also hear from Blue Mountains Traditional Owners, the Australian International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the original author of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Listing, Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick.

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