MIRI: The Transport Ministry is monitoring the haze situation in Sarawak closely, especially its impact on river transportation.
Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the Sarawak government through the Ministry of Transport and relevant agencies under the ministry is taking necessary initiatives to provide better river transportation.
“We want safe, affordable, reliable and competitive river transportation benefiting all stakeholders namely for people mobility and transportation of goods.
“Thus, the ministry through its agencies especially the Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB) is monitoring closely the impact of haze and even drought on river transport. Actions through the SRB regional offices are being taken to make sure riverine transportation will continue to be safe and navigable for all users,” he added.
Lee said Sarawakians are blessed with many rivers that are being harnessed to bring more value to the state’s economy including for the provision of water supply, construction of hydroelectric dams and as a mode of transportation.
He pointed out efforts are being intensified by the state government to link all major settlements in the state through better road connectivity.
“However, river transport is still a very important mode of transportation in the state especially to link with the settlements in the interior areas that are not yet accessible by road,” he said via a phone interview with The Borneo Post yesterday.
According to Lee, the ministry is concerned and fully aware of the imminent danger of low water level and haze on river navigation and hence is monitoring it very closely.
“At the height of the haze when the Air Pollutant Index (API) hit beyond 200 in most areas in Sarawak, poor visibility is the main problem faced by vessel operators including express boat operators and this poses danger to river transport,” he pointed out.
To overcome this potential risk, Lee said the Sarawak Rivers Board had issued Riverine Notice to inform and warn boat operators of the danger of the haze to their operation and advise them to ply with greater care.
“People safety is of paramount importance to us. The boat operators are advised to ensure that the navigation lights and horns on their boats are in good working condition and to use them when necessary, especially when approaching the river bend.
“Concomitantly, we have informed all the juragans of the passenger boats to ply their boats with great care and to exercise caution at all times,” he said.
To date, the haze has not affected the schedule of river transportation especially for Sibu/Song/Kapit route and vice versa, added Lee.
“We have yet to cease operation of our river transportation due to haze problem. It is still manageable and we pray that the situation will improve,” he said.
Currently, the people and goods mobility in Baram area has not been much affected by drought and haze as most of the Baram folks are using land transport, he further said.
“Sampan or small boat can still navigate the rivers.
“Nonetheless, due to the low water level at the upper reaches of Batang Rejang and Batang Baleh, bigger passenger vessels are therefore not able to ply especially along Batang Baleh. The option available is to use smaller vessels such as speed boats to ferry passengers,” he added.