A stretch of upper Batang Baleh river closed to public

A graphic showing an illustration of the river diversion. Source: Sarawak Energy Berhad.

KUCHING, Oct 3: A stretch of the upper Batang Baleh river will be closed to the public for river diversion work which will start on Monday (October 5).

Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) in a media statement said the closure of a section of the river was to enable construction work on the Baleh Hydroelectric Project (HEP) dam to begin.

“Entry into the danger zone within the 1 km radius from the diversion tunnels area is strictly prohibited.

“Safety sign boards have been installed along the riverbank to notify river users that they are approaching the danger zone,” it said.

The company added that Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB) had also issued a public notice in the media on the river diversion and members of the public are advised to take note and comply with SRB’s navigation rules.

It said water from the upstream Batang Baleh adjacent to the confluence of the Putai River will be diverted through dual concrete-lined tunnels running in parallel to each other over a length of 1.2 km.

SEB said with the critical project milestone reached in September, the area immediately surrounding the project site has been declared a restricted area and off-limits to general use as dam construction can be implemented.

However, the company pointed out that users of the river have been provided with an alternative route by SEB through a bypass road connecting the two closed-off sections.

The company added that water levels will remain unaffected downstream and upstream of the closed area, with commuting still possible.

It said rest houses located on the opposite banks of the diversion tunnels have been built with boat docking facilities, and this will be managed by the local community.

SEB said stakeholder engagements for those affected have begun well in advance with close consultation and updates to local communities and leaders, elected representatives and the relevant government officials.

It asserted that the engagement has enabled SEB’s project delivery team to understand and address concerns during the preparation phase.

SEB said the rest houses were suggested by the stakeholders as a result of the engagements.

The company added that the agencies consulted include Kapit’s Resident Office, Bukit Mambong District Office, Land and Survey Department Sarawak, Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board, Department of Irrigation and Drainage Sarawak and Sarawak Rivers Boards among others that were guided by Sarawak’s Ministry of Utilities.

SEB’s executive vice president for project delivery Pramod Kumar Karunakaran said, “The team has been preparing for months to ensure the safe completion of this milestone for minimal impact on our stakeholders.

“We also want to ensure that our river diversion work does not compromise the safety of river users.

“Together with Bukit Mambong District Office, our project team engaged affected communities on the matter, informed them on the new by-pass route and the facilities prepared for their convenience and most importantly on the safety aspects when commuting close by the project’s restricted zone,” he said.

For queries, contact SEB’s Baleh HEP helpline at 019-8828641. — DayakDaily