Friday, December 3

Masing: No dam, no road


Long Lama-Ulu Baram road scrapped together with Baram Dam project

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing

KUCHING: The hope of the people of Baram to have road connectivity lies in the Baram HEP project.

This seems to be the message Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing is sending to residents of Baram who want the scrapped Long Lama-Ulu Baram road project to be continued as highlighted in The Borneo Post yesterday.

Masing, who is also Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation, pointed out that socio-economic factor is the critical driver for financiers, including the government and developers or investors, to start any mega project that could be the solution to many diverse problems.

“That’s why I am committed to make sure that the Baleh HEP dam is built, otherwise there will be no road,” he told reporters after the presentation of Minor Rural Project (MRP) grants at his office in Bangunan Baitulmakmur here yesterday.

“So the people of Baram must work out and make up their minds. What do they want? Do they want the dam to be built so that the Baram people can benefit from it as well as the rest of Sarawak?” he asked. Reflecting on the far-reaching benefits of the Baram HEP dam on the entire state and its people, he urged Baram residents not to be selfish.

In the news report, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau said that the road project, which had in fact commenced and covered a few metres, was stopped due to a road blockade by several locals.

“I hope they still continue to request. It is unfortunate there was a group of people stopping the construction of the Baram HEP because the dam will be the game changer for the local community,” Masing said.

The mega project, he reiterated, is key to attract and influence investors and the government to build the road.

“You must understand the complexity and difficulty to just build expensive roads to cater for a few longhouses only. You have to look at the beneficiaries,” he said of the many considerations to be taken into account before implementing projects.

“There must be a bigger project to attract that (building of road) apart from being used by people and longhouses,” he added.

On the government moving away the RM700 million allocated for the Long Lama-Ulu Baram road project to finance other projects, which Dennis claimed to have not seen the document indicating the move, Masing revealed that two official letters requesting the shift of the allocation had been submitted to the federal government which are pending approval.

The first official letter dated July 4, 2016 was written by the late Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem, when he was chief minister, and the second letter by Masing himself dated May 11 this year.

Both letters were to seek approval to utilise the approved 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) allocation of RM690 million, earmarked for the construction of the access road to Baram HEP, for implementation of the access road to Tunoh (in close proximity to Baleh HEP) in Bukit Mabong district, Kapit division.

In the letter, Masing explained that the overall access road to Baram dam was 126.8km and the road project consisted of two packages, namely Package A (66.8km) and Package B (60km).

Package A was completed in 2014 while Package B (RM690 million) was discontinued as there was a moratorium from the state government for the construction of the Baram dam project due to objection by the local community.  Tunoh, Masing stated, was earmarked by the state government to be one of its growth nodes in the hinterland of Kapit.

“There is a plan to turn this area into an agriculture hub producing bulk produce such as vegetables, fruits and also exotic flowers to supply to Sarawak’s population and beyond.

“However, at this point of time, it is only accessible from Kapit by timber roads which are dangerous and winding. Therefore, to ensure good connectivity, a 37km–long road is urgently needed to realise the state  government’s vision to turn Tunoh Resettlement Scheme into a robust agricultural hub in the hinterland.”

The Baleh dam, he emphasised, is the game changer for the people of Baleh who now see the wider impacts the project is creating, including road connectivity improvement.

“The dam will finance (the infrastructures) including providing electricity to industries and ordinary households. More importantly, not only Baleh people will benefit but all the people of Sarawak,” he said.

Masing was glad that the people of Baleh listened to some of the arguments the government had put across and supported the construction of the dam.

“Even though one or two people may object, we can settle the minor irritation. What’s important is that the dam must go ahead,” he added.

He revealed that the Baleh HEP dam was under construction whereby certain packages had been awarded and the road connecting Kapit all the way to Ulu Baleh was expected to be ready in three years’ time.

Earlier, Masing presented MRP grants totalling RM245,200 to 21 non-governmental organisations, committees and associations.  He disclosed that a total of RM2.6 million in MRP funds have been distributed in and outside Baleh area so far this year.

“Hopefully they will utilise the funds given for the intended purpose, especially carrying out beneficial activities,” he added.