KUCHING: Rivers will continue to play an important role in the transportation system of Sarawak, especially to connect rural and remote areas still inaccessible by road.
Infrastructure Development and Communication Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin said Wednesday night that some 5,000 kilometres of roads needed to be built to connect 5,000 outlying villages and longhouses across Sarawak.
“To do that, more than RM13 billion is required,” he said at the Sarawak Rivers Board’s (SRB) Farewell and Welcome Dinner at the Riverside Majestic Hotel here.
The dinner was organised to welcome SRB’s new chairman Dr Murni Suhaili as well as to bid farewell to outgoing chairman Datuk Roland Sagah who has helmed the board for the past three years.
“This is only a conservative figure which breakdown shows that RM2.5 million is required to construct one kilometre of normal village road,” he said.
“However, in areas such as Baram and Kapit, it will require RM10 million per kilometre,” he added.
While building roads in Sarawak is a slow and costly process, Manyin pointed out that the river will serve as one of the most important modes of transportations in the next few years.
“So SRB has lots more to do in order to ensure a river transportation system that is effective and efficient,” he said.
He also reminded SRB management and staff that more works needed to be done to perform to the expectations of the public even though accidents seldom occurred in the rivers.
“But when it (accident) does, we will have to face the overwhelming reactions from the public as compared to the focus when it comes to deaths and accidents on the roads,” he stressed.
Manyin pointed out that on average, about two people die on the roads in Malaysia every day, but no one was horridly surprised and in fact few showed little concern or interest in this uncomfortable truth.
“So, we must be careful in dealing, handling and managing the issues that may arise as well as public sensitivity,” he said.
“I believe that the new chairman Dr Murni, with his background, experience and knowledge, will further strengthen SRB as the lead agency in ensuring safe, clean and natural rivers of the state,” he said.
“I hope all of you will give your full support and cooperation to help Dr Murni in carrying out his responsibilities to bring SRB to greater heights,” he added.
Meanwhile, outgoing chairman Sagah said he was grateful to the SRB staff who had stuck through thick and thin with him for the past three years.
“You have done a great work. We have cleared the backlog of cases as well as updated them,” he said to the applause from the floor.
“We have also implemented new regulation under Marine Traffic Risk Assessment (MTRA) which will be good for the future including the recently launched Darul Hana development project,” he added.
Sagah said he is confident that his successor will be able to perform better in leading SRB and that they will continue to support each other in their future endeavours.
Dr Murni, who is also Daro assemblyman, assured that he will contribute his best to SRB and make it even stronger.
“I am really looking forward to work with all the staff in SRB and I hope that you will give me your full support and cooperation,” he said.
“I hope more activities will be carried out this year to move SRB forward,” he added.