Masing assures roads will be built in rural areas but HEP dams will hasten their construction
KUCHING: Roads will be built in rural areas, but construction would be expedited in places with hydroelectric power (HEP) dams.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing said budget constraints were the main factor behind slower road construction in the rural areas.
“The rough terrains in these areas make such construction costly. Hence we must make it worthwhile for the government to build major highways to rural areas of Sarawak and one of the enticements is HEP (dams),” he explained in response to those who did not agree that high-impact projects should be key drivers for basic infrastructure.
He pointed out that HEP dams are ‘game changers’ for the rural economy, highlighting their socio-economic impact. Masing had on Thursday urged Baram folk to rethink the role and implications a HEP dam would have on the local community.
Citing the road construction projects thanks to the Baleh HEP dam project, he explained that the dam would finance infrastructure including providing electricity to industries and households.
In response to Masing’s statement, many social media users said having basic infrastructure, particularly roads as well as electricity and water supply, should not be based on high impact projects.
A Brian LD commented: “Roads are public infrastructure, used for common good. With or without any high-impact projects.”
Lawrence B wrote: “Belaga has two HEP projects, Bakun and Murum. The people are saddened that 15 longhouses, about 10 to 30 minutes downriver of the (Bakun) HEP dam have been waiting for their households to be connected to the main grid for 24-hour electricity, which has not been implemented until today.”
He also called for the relevant authorities, especially the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development and state government, to prepare budget estimates, which could be presented in the State Legislative Assembly on rural electricity supply to the 15 longhouses in Belaga.
Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, who highlighted the plight of Baram folk, said he understood the complexity of the situation on the ground. He pledged to continue to seek road connectivity for the people.
“The ultimate aim is to get road connectivity until Telang Usan. The struggle will continue because we need the road,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted.
“I have in fact submitted requests for upgrading and construction of all roads in the Baram area to the Deputy Chief Minister (Masing) in the last State Legislative Assembly sitting.”
As it is impossible to proceed with the Long Lama-Ulu Baram road project due to the blockade, Dennis said attention would be shifted to get roads connecting Long Lama to Long Bedian to Mulu as well as Lapok to Ulu Tinjar River.
“There are many ways we can get to Baram still so for now we want to shift our focus to get these roads connected until Telang Usan. We shall find the solutions to the problem in the middle of Baram,” he added.