KUCHING: The 2,000 odd villagers of Kampung Semilang in Santubong constituency have been suffering for ages as the absence of a long-awaited road link means they have to depend solely on river transportation to connect them to the towns and necessary medical facilities.
One of its residents, Ada Lakit, said the lack of a road posed immense challenges not only to the sick and pregnant women; enterprising youths who had ventured into planting oil palms; and those who wanted to build new houses; but it is also bad for Sungai Semilang environmentally.
“One of the biggest problems faced by the people in my village is during emergency cases. This is because boats plying Sungai Beradek would only operate during certain hours,” he lamented to The Borneo Post recently.
“To send the seriously ill or expectant mothers to the hospital in the middle of the night is extremely difficult. Charging RM50 per trip is one thing but the problem is many boat operators just refuse to operate at night.”
Ada, in his 70s, recalled several instance of pregnant women giving birth halfway due to the long journey to the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH).
It was learnt that despite the presence of Sungai Emang rural clinic to serve the people from Semilang, Beradek Melayu, Beradek Cina, Kampung Sungai Tanju, Kampung Tiang Api and Beliong, some pregnant women would be advised to deliver at SGH if they faced complications during their pregnancy.
Kampung Semilang can be reached from here by taking a 45-minute boat ride from Kampung Goebilt jetty, near Muara Tebas – located about 30km from the city centre.
For the people of Kampung Semilang to get to town through Kampung Goebilt, they have to use Sungai Beradek.
But the problem is that the jetty in Sungai Beradek is about a 40-minute walk from the village, longer for those who are burdened with heavy loads.
Before Kampung Goebilt was connected by road, the villagers of Kampung Semilang would use Sungai Semilang, snaked into Sungai Sarawak and berth at the jetty in Pending here.
But this is not their preferred route for their small boats because they have to traverse coastal areas and often times come under the mercy of rough seas and dangerous waves.
“We have been depending on river transport since day one, and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. I heard news quite some time ago that our village, Kampung Beradek Melayu and Beradek Cina would be accessible by road in 2012,” he recalled.
“But it is now already 2013 and there are still no signs that our long cherished dream is going to come true any time soon. Hopefully, people like us who are senior citizens will still be around when this area is linked by road.”
Jumali Lebot, 57, chipped in that luckily their village have treated water and electricity supplies.
“But river transportation has caused us a lot of inconveniences, and it is high time that the government seriously consider building a road to link us to the outside world. We can’t afford to continue living like this forever,” said Jumali.
He added that it had been very difficult for his folk to market whatever agricultural commodities they produced.
“Several villagers have ventured into oil palm planting. Some are already harvesting their fruits and imagine how difficult it is to carry the fruit bunches without an access road.”
Those who yearned for new houses often had to shelf their dreams because the cost involved is typically between 100 per cent or 200 per cent more expensive when compared to building a similar one in a village with road access.
“The transportation cost for ferrying building materials from the jetty in Kampung Goebilt or Muara Tebas is high. So, even if you have money to buy building materials, you might not have enough to pay for the freight charges.
“In the end, it is better to forget about building a house,” lamented Ada.
During the brief visit to the village, The Borneo Post noted that villagers were using Sungai Semilang as a dumping ground for domestic wastes.
“Where else are we supposed to dispose our wastes if not the river?” asked Ada.
“There are no other better means of disposals that we can think of right now. If there is an access road, at least scavenging services can be arranged for proper waste disposal.”