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KUCHING, Aug 27: The recent logjam in the Baleh River was caused by heavy logging of RM300 million worth of timber in the headwaters of Sungai Mengiong, which will be submerged following the impoundment of Baleh Dam in 2026.
This is the conclusion of Baleh assemblyman Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing, who had flown to Sungai Mengiong today to investigate the mysterious mile-long pile of wood debris that appeared on the Baleh River since Aug 21, 2021.
The pictures of the logjam have gone viral on social media, where questions were raised as to who was responsible for the incident. There were also multiple calls for the culprits to be taken to task and logging licenses to be revoked as punishment for uncontrolled logging.
Masing, who is also Deputy Chief Minister said Sungai Mengiong is an upstream tributary of the Baleh River and the timber extraction has been carried out in one of the most difficult terrains in its headwaters.
“The timber operators who do the salvage logging, do it on behalf of one of the concessionaires, Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC).
“They do the extraction in one of the most difficult terrains in the headwaters of the Batang Baleh. They are trying to extract the commercial timber (in the areas) before the impoundment begins in 2026. The areas where logging activities are taking place will be underwater in five years’ time.
“The value of commercial timber to be flooded is about RM300 million,” said Masing in a press statement today.
Apart from the heavy logging, Masing said the recent heavy rain in upper Baleh last week did not help in reducing the erosion.
“So what this means is that the wood debris (found on the Baleh River) has nothing to do with shifting cultivation or with the construction of of Baleh Hydro-Electric Power (HEP) Dam.
“Baleh Dam is the victim and not the cause of the wood debris. Now we know the cause, let us therefore stop the blame game and move forward and get these commercial timber including other timber of value like Belian out if they are found in Ulu Batang Baleh, before they are submerged.”
Masing said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had suggested to form a body to find ways and means to get the timber out without causing devastating impacts on the environment.
“So I suggested that the body can’t just be Forestry Department Sarawak (FDS) alone. A third party must be involved because if (it is) FDS alone it will not work, because you can’t be the judge, the jury and the prosecutor all rolled into one,” said Masing. — DayakDaily