By Jaythaleela K
MIRI, Sept 22: The Ministry of Transport through its agencies, especially the Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB), is closely monitoring the impact of the haze and drought on river transport, disclosed its minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin.
“Action through the SRB regional offices is being taken to make sure riverine transportation will continue to be safe and navigable (sic) for all users.
“We are concerned and are fully aware of the expected danger of low water levels and haze on river navigation and hence, are monitoring it very closely,” he said.
Lee added, that at the height of the haze when Air Pollution Index (API) readings rose above 200 in many areas in Sarawak, the main problem faced by vessel operators including express boat operators was poor visibility which posed a danger to river users.
Therefore, he said, to overcome this potential risk, SRB has issued Riverine Notices to inform the public and warn boat operators of the danger of the haze, and to advise them to proceed with great care.
“People’s safety is of paramount importance to us,” Lee emphasised.
Boat operators are advised to ensure that navigation lights and horns on their boats are in good working order and to use them when necessary especially when approaching river bends.
“Concomitantly, we have informed all the ‘juragan’ of passenger boats to navigate their boats with great care and to exercise caution at all times,” Lee added.
So far, the haze has not affected river travel especially for the Sibu/Song/Kapit routes and vice versa, he said.
“We have yet to cease operation of our river transportation due to the haze problem. It is still manageable and we pray that the situation will improve.”
Currently, the movement of passengers and goods in Baram is not much affected by the drought and haze as most of the residents are using land transport.
“‘Sampan’ or small boat can still navigate the rivers,” he added.
However, due to low water levels along the upper reaches of Batang Rajang and Batang Baleh, bigger passenger vessels are not able to travel especially along Batang Baleh.
An alternative is to use smaller vessels such as speed boats to ferry passengers.
“We are blessed with many rivers that are being harnessed to bring more value to the state economy including for the provision of water supply, construction of hydroelectric dams and as a mode of transportation,” noted Lee.
He disclosed that the state government is intensifying efforts 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 settlements in the interior areas that are not yet accessible by roads,” he added.
The Sarawak government through the Ministry of Transport and its agencies is taking the necessary initiatives to provide better river transport .
“We want safe, affordable, reliable and competitive river transport benefitting all the stakeholders, for passenger mobility and transportation of goods,” Lee revealed. — DayakDaily