Saturday, August 20

Water in Rajang River could get lower if dry weather persists


KUCHING: The low water level in the Rajang River could worsen as the current dry spell is expected to persist for at least another week.

IRREVERSIBLE: Water impoundment for Bakun dam progresses smoothly. - Photo Courtesy of Zulkifle Osman

A report from the Meteorological Department revealed that for the next one week, the Rajang basin would continue to experience dry weather.

However, the report also revealed that there could be isolated rain in the coming week especially in the afternoon.

“The situation will improve by next month when the normal 300mm to 500mm of rain is expected to fall. By then it will be into the Landas season,” the spokesperson told The Borneo Post here yesterday.

She added that the dry spell especially in the Rajang basin was due to the El Nino effect, which would persist until March next year.

At the same time, the impoundment of Bakun water also lowered the level of water in the river downstream.

Bakun Hydro Sdn Bhd chief executive officer, Zulkifle Osman, said there had been heavy rain upstream of the dam.

“We have allowed the water to flow out from the dam’s ‘ritarian flow’ (compensation flow) to maintain the water level downstream at 43.18 metres allowing small boats with engine capacity of below 40 horse power to ply the Rajang River between Belaga and Kapit,” said Zulkifle.

He said if the current weather pattern persisted the dam’s turbines would be ready for testing in the next seven months.

“But if there is a sudden heavy downpour above the dam, the period could even be shorter to four or five months,” he said.

Zulkifle said he sympathised with those living downstream of Bakun Dam but it was beyond his control as the impoundment could not be reversed after it started on Oct 13.

Land Development Minister and Baleh assemblyman Dato Sri Dr James Dr Masing concurred with Zulkifle but added that the low water level was also due to the impoundment of water.

“However, the current low water level in the Rajang River is nothing new. A few years ago before the water impoundment, the Pelagus rapids went dry.

“We expect this situation to be temporary. Once the rain comes, the water level will be back to normal,” said Masing.

Meanwhile, Kapit Resident Dahim Nadot said the situation was still ‘manageable’ but warned that the situation could be critical in the next four or five days if the dry spell persisted.

“If the situation persists, then we have to send an SOS to the State Disaster Relief Management Committee in Kuching for further action,” he said, adding that among others, he would be recommending cloud seeding at the required areas.

He disclosed that between Kapit and Belaga there are 98 longhouses with a population of some 19,839 people.

There are also 13 schools with some 3,116 students and 443 teachers. There are three clinics located in the area.