World first! Company employs orangutans to build sustainable dam

Emily and Erik Meijaard
4 min readDec 7, 2019


All Who Support the Green Dam May Apply. For Info Contact : BanEco

“A dam is such a beautiful thing.” said the wise, old flanged orangutan to the cunning mouse deer. “They have no nasty smokestacks over-heating the planet, and are invariably built in stunning mountain areas, with emerald lakes contrasting gorgeously against the rocky fringes. Dams are also excellent places to take your girlfriend for a picnic, balance your chakra, or go trout fishing. A world without dams would be a sad world indeed.”, “Indeed” agreed the mousedeer nodding his petite, but perfectly streamlined head.

It is so wonderful that there are companies like North Sumatra Hydro Beavers. This leading hydro energy company is notorious for pushing the boundaries of innovation and globally celebrated for its commitments to sustainability. But its recent bombshell announcement of the world’s first heritage hydro-dam took many by surprise, not just for the depth of its commitment to sustainability but also the extent of its technological innovation.

In a world first, a Sumatran dam project will consult with local orangutans on its construction to fulfill its pledges on sustainability and employing ‘local wisdom’. The orangutans suggest building the dam out of locally sourced giant bamboo. The orangutans further advocate for making the dam watertight with forest clay treated with sustainably harvested tree oils known for high water proofing qualities. This is a traditional technique that orangutans have employed in dam building for over 3 million years of their existence.

The rare Tapanuli orangutans are known to be excellent dam builders and say that they are happy to do whatever it takes to “make this dam happen”. In contrast to other parts of the world, people and sacred wildlife in the Batang Toru area have long lived in peace and harmony and have deep traditions of co-existence and mutually beneficial collaboration. “We love the new dam”, one orangutan commented, “because it will look so stunning in the forest, modernize our area, and the dam makes it so much easier for visitors to reach us in the forest.”

North Sumatra Hydro Beavers predicts that thanks to the help of orangutans, which are known to be seven times stronger than humans, the new dam will be built faster, cheaper and more sustainably than any other dam in the world. A company spokesperson stated that “while the Three Gorges Dam in China took 75 years to design and build, the Batang Toru dam will be fully completed in 6 months, and supply all of Indonesia and the rest of South-East Asia with clean energy for over 500 years.” “Never again will there be black-outs”, a Company spokesperson commented, “and poverty and hunger will be things of the past”, he continued.

Wanting a “piece of the action”, it has also come to light, that a group of local mousedeer has volunteered to perform all dangerous underwater construction work, thus dismissing the need for bothersome aquatic risk assessments. It is a little-known fact that mousedeer can hold their breath for hours making them highly suitable for carefully inserting bamboo twigs into small crevices with their dainty hooves and lining them with drops of tree oil which they apply with their sharply curved canines.

Apart from the physiological advantages, mousedeer are also known for keeping a low profile and working with little or no supervision and in this respect will help the Company meet the tight completion schedule. “We know we are not rock stars of the animal kingdom like the orangutan, but we are proud to play a small, but integral part in pushing the boat out for Batang Toru’s sustainable management”, a mousedeer representative squeaked.

The dam project has further enlisted the few Sumatran tigers in the area as security, wild boar and Malay badgers will do much of the digging, hornbills will handle communications and macaques are scheduled to entertain the workers hilariously dressed up as dolls and banging little drums.

These undeniably innovative sustainability commitments are evidence enough that the entire Batang Toru ecosystem and all its human, animal and plant inhabitants support the building of the dam for its positive contributions to the longevity, health, happiness and well-being of all. It once again shows that deeply ingrained traditional practices and harmony with nature provide ready and time-tested answers to all of today’s global social and environmental challenges. “Going back to the past helps us to meet the challenges of the future”, the company spokesperson commented.

This satire was written in response to ongoing corporate greenwashing regarding the planned Batang Toru hydrodam in Sumatra, Indonesia, the only place where the Critically Endangered Tapanuli orangutan occurs. Hydrodams can be good for the planet’s environment but some dams have greater environmental costs than benefits.

Cartoon by Alan Hesse:



Emily and Erik Meijaard

Emily en Erik write about their long-term experiences living and working in the Asian tropics.