KUCHING, Dec 20: Villagers living upstream and downstream of the Bengoh Dam are requesting detailed information on the Emergency Response Plan (ERP) in case of dam break.
PKR Puncak Borneo chief Willie Mongin said villagers are worried as there was a lack of information and details of an ERP to mitigate losses in property damage and life in the event of a possible dam break.
“The seepage had also been acknowledged and confirmed by the authorities. If the expert said it is safe, we are not going to dispute that.
“But the seepage is obvious and there is a reason for the villagers to be concerned. We are not doing this for any political gain but just to take proactive measures,” Willie told a press conference today.
Quoting the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Bengoh Dam, he said it warned that “in case of dam failure, the impact would be disastrous” (to the downstream residential areas), including Kuching, which would suffer flooding within 60 minutes of a dam break.
Willie was among the first people to highlight the seepage on the Bengoh Dam, to which the authority had later provided an explanation and assured members of the public of its safety.
He hoped the same can be done on the ERP and urged the Minister of Public Utilities to clarify whether there is an ERP, and suggested that JKR conducts ERP briefings in all the villages that may be affected by any eventualities.
“The formulation of an ERP is essential for any dam project. It is a formal and concise plan that identifies potential emergency conditions which could occur at a dam, and prescribes procedures to minimize the loss of life and property damages.
“It must serve the primary function to provide a means to notify downstream residents of failure or impending failure of a dam, so that the area can be evacuated in a timely manner.”
Willie also claimed that the promised ‘siren’ to be installed in the villages to give warnings of an emergency for evacuation purposes had yet to be installed after one year.
“There was no follow-up on what the villagers should do to prepare the sites for evacuation.”
Also, a dialogue session held to brief the village headmen and villagers about the lowering of water level for the Bengoh Dam reservoir and safety and security of the dam had also failed to provide an explanation of the ERP due to the absence of JKR engineers.
Villagers were told that there will be a simulation of the ERP in April next year but there has been no confirmation from JKR or the dam contractor and engineering consultant, Willie added. — DayakDaily