Abg Jo: Sarawak looks to rubber for peat soil road construction breakthrough


Abang Johari officiates at the SRDC Research and Development Symposium. From left are Dr Annuar, Sagah, Dr Sim, and Harden. – Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING (Nov 2): The use of rubber could one day be the answer to solving the challenges of road construction on peat soil in Sarawak, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He explained in road construction, rubber is utilised to strengthen the base and this method could also be applied to building roads on peat soil.

In view of this, he called on the Sarawak Research and Development Council (SRDC) to seriously look into this proposal together with the Public Works Department (JKR).

“I would also like to have a road to be part of this research using this material and to be constructed in a peat soil area.

“I will fund this project so that the researchers can assess if it is effective or not. If it is found to be effective, this will be a breakthrough for us to construct roads on peat soil,” he said when officiating at the SRDC Research and Development Symposium here today.

Sarawak has approximately 1.6 million ha of tropical peatland, which covers about 13 per cent of the state’s total land area of 12.4 million ha.

These vast areas of peatland have always posed a challenge for road construction in the state.

Abang Johari suggested that a road in Sibu or Mukah be identified and dedicated for this proposed study in view of the notoriety of bumpy stretches of roads there.

“If you go to Sibu, the stretch between the airport to Sibu town is just like ‘landas’ (monsoon) season. We can maintain the roads by pouring another layer of bitumen but after two years, the problem resurfaces.

“So, if we can make this (rubber) a successful solution to construction of roads on peat soil, this will definitely change the whole landscape of road construction on peat soil, particularly in these areas,” he said.

Earlier in his speech, the Premier said the Sarawak government through SRDC facilitates and enables a vibrant and competitive research and development (R&D) ecosystem through provision of funds; coordinating and monitoring such activities; and ultimately, the realisation of such ideas into viable products that benefit the Sarawak economy, create more jobs, and make the state more competitive.

He said RM13 million has been disbursed to research agencies and universities in the state to stimulate innovative research with the aim of producing talents and outcomes that can be commercialised.

“This symposium marks the culmination of the first funding cycle and presents opportunities for our grant holders to share their research findings and innovations by our industrial partners,” he said.

He added the state government is committed to making an impact in biomedical research through providing support by constructing the Sarawak Infectious Disease Centre (SIDC), a world-class biomedical research facility equipped with a BSL3 laboratory.

“The SIDC will be embarking on an intensive research and development, and human capital development programme in the area of disease surveillance, diagnostic, therapeutic discovery, and vaccine development and data analytics.

“The programme will see close partnership between SIDC with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Imperial College London, Oxford University, and Monash University (Malaysia),” he said.

Abang Johari added the state government has agreed to commit RM8 million for SIDC to initiate research and human development programmes that will enable the centre to be operationalised by December 2024.

Among those present at the event were Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian; Education, Innovation and Talent Development Minister Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn; deputy ministers of Education, Innovation and Talent Development Datuk Dr Annuar Rapaee and Datuk Francis Harden Hollis; and SRDC general manager Dr Peter Morin Nissom.