Friday, September 30

Totally unexpected

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Impoundment of Bakun to continue because the process cannot be undone despite low water level

SIBU: Second Planning and Resource Management Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said impoundment of the Bakun hydroelectric dam would continue despite the fact that water at the Rajang River had dropped to a “totally unexpected” level.

Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan

There would not be any postponement of the impoundment under the circumstances, he stressed.

“We cannot stop. If you see, we have taken so long to decide when to start the impoundment.

“Because the moment you do it, you cannot undo the whole thing,” he told reporters at the Government Resthouse in Song before leaving for Sibu yesterday.

The night before, Awang Tengah, who is also Public Utilities Minister, officiated at the closing of the three-day Song Festival.

He said the government gave the go ahead to impound the dam this month because studies and reports received stated that the area would be experiencing the monsoon season.

“The government had expected the water level at the Rajang River to recede to a certain degree during the impoundment but not to the current level. This is totally unexpected,” he said.

Awang Tengah added that one week after the impoundment, heavy rains were expected that would mitigate the low water level, but it did not happen.

“This (dry weather) is beyond our control,” he said.

He said some water had been released from Bakun to maintain the water level at Rajang River at 43 metres above sea level.

The lowest level recorded is 41 metres, which is between Kapit and Belaga, before the filling of the dam.

“Hopefully, it will rain soon so that we can collect more water and then we will release more,” he said.

It was reported earlier that the impoundment would take slightly more than seven months, and it would fill an area of 69,000 hectares.

Meanwhile, Kapit Resident Dahim Nadot lamented that the low water level had affected a number of areas between Belaga and Nanga Merit.

He said a few schools in the area were having shortage of fresh water supply.

He also learned that contractors for food ration to the schools there were experiencing difficulties sending the supplies.

“The transportation cost has now tripled because the supply has to be delivered by boat, then by land and by boat again,” he said.

He added that officers from the Resident Office were monitoring the situation.

“If the situation warrants it, we will alert the State Disaster Relief Committee and the Prime Minister’s Department,” he said.