‘Let villagers know of emergency response plan for Bengoh dam’ — Willie

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KUCHING: The Ministry of Utilities must reveal the Bengoh Dam Emergency Response Plan (ERP) to the public, particularly the villagers living in the upstream and downstream of dam, to ensure that they are aware of the circumstances and work together with the authorities to prepare and put in place the necessary ERP, said PKR Puncak Borneo branch chairman Willie Mongin.

According to him, the villagers are most concerned with the lack of information and details of an ERP to mitigate losses in damage and lives in the event of a possible dam break, having seen the seepages which had also been acknowledged and confirmed by the authorities.

Willie cited the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Bengoh Dam, Chapter Six on ‘Risk Assessment’ at Paragraph 6.4.2 on ‘Risk of dam failure’” which stated that ‘the risk posed by it is not too high as it is located in an area that is not highly populated’ but warned that ‘in case of dam failure, the impact would be disastrous (to the downstream residential areas)’.

“The EIA, at page 6-5, gave the projected dam break scenario, as follows: ‘The projected scenarios are as mentioned below: The impact on Sg Semadang

Bridge at the confluence of Sg Semadang and Sg Bengoh may be within 10 minutes. The bridge and the house besides the river at the bridge would most probably be washed away due to the force of water. The next impact area would be Kpg Bengoh along Sg Sarawak Kiri. Here the impact would most probably wash away the houses by the side of the river. The area will be hit within 15-20 minutes after a dam break.’

‘The areas along the Sg Sarawak Kiri further downstream of Kpg Bengoh would be affected at a slower rate as the topography is less hilly and the river plain is wider. This includes Kpg Danu, Kpg Puruh Semadang, Kpg Boyan, Kpg Giam, Kpg Git, Kpg Landeh, Kpg Sebu, Kpg Lubok Boya, Kpg Skunyit, Kpg Pluntan and Kpg Rembus. The area around these villages and the surrounding low lying area would be flooded.

Flood water will then flow into Sg Sarawak and flood both of its bank where Kuching city and its surrounding area are situated.’

’Kuching city would suffer flooding. These areas would be affected within 60 minutes of a dam break’,” he said in a press conference here yesterday.

However, Willie said the EIA did not mention all the villages at Batu Kitang and those downstream, between Batu Kitang and Kuching City.

He recalled that more than a year ago, some village headmen had attended a ‘lab’ on the Bengoh Dam ERP at a hotel in Kuching, but they were not given details concerning the ERP.

“The village headmen who attended the ‘lab’ were only told that a siren will be installed in the village to give warnings of an emergency. Then, they were asked to identify sites in the village for evacuation purposes.”

Willie also recalled that a supposedly dialogue to brief the village headmen and villagers about the lowering of water level for the Bengoh reservoir and safety and security of the dam had also failed to apprise the villagers on the ERP due to the “absence of PWD (Public Works Department) engineers”.

“No siren had been installed in the villages despite the lapse of more than a year, there was no follow up on what the villagers should do to prepare the sites for evacuation. The Deputy Resident of Kuching and the engineers from Kuching Water Board said there will be a simulation of the ERP in April next year.

“But there has been no confirmation from the PWD or the dam contractor and engineering consultant.”

In noting that the formulation of an ERP is essential for any dam project, Willie said it is a formal and concise plan that identifies potential emergency conditions which could occur at a dam and prescribed procedures to minimise the loss of life and property damage.

“It must serve the primary function to provide a means to notify downstream residents of failure or impending failure of a dam, so that the area can be evacuated in a timely manner.

“Is there an ERP being formulated at all? If there is, why is there still no briefing for the affected residents until today?”

Willie henceforth called for Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom to clarify whether there is an ERP and to suggest that the PWD conduct ERP briefing in all the villages that may be affected by any eventualities.

Meanwhile, Dr Rundi has yet to reply to a WhatsApp message by The Borneo Post seeking for his comment or response to Willie’s statement as of press time yesterday.