By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, Oct 30: Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB) controller Richard Tajan hopes there will be an allocation in the forthcoming federal Budget 2019 for clearing and dredging the mighty Rajang River.
He revealed that dredging was on-going at certain stretches of the river in which SRB deemed as necessary.
“Presently, siltation along Rajang River is under control, but if we could have more funds from the federal government, then we can do more, such as removing wreckages along the river.
“So far, for the express boats plying Sibu, Kapit or Song, we don’t have serious problems.
“As for the bigger vessels, they are not supposed to come into the Rajang River. There is a designated anchorage area for them to berth, and they will come ashore using small boats,” Richard told DayakDaily yesterday.
He confided that the main issue of the Rajang River was wreckages, which poses a danger to riverine users.
“We have been fighting for funds to clean Rajang River. There are seven shipwrecks along the river. Then there are debris, floating logs and oil palm waste, due to the factories or plantations on both sides of the river.
“Rajang River really needs to be cleaned because it is still the only means of transport for people travelling between Sibu, Song and Kapit, which have yet to be linked by road.
“Presently, we don’t even have money for that, not to mention having an overall plan to dredge the river to get rid of siltation,” said Richard.
For SRB, the funds have come from the federal Transport Ministry.
“The Rajang River, as Sarawak’s heritage, should be given due attention. I think we and the federal government should share equal responsibility towards preserving this river.
“We failed in getting the funds from the previous federal government. We hope the new government will be different. We will request for the funds,” he disclosed.
The 3rd, 6th and 7th Divisions Express Boats Association recently appealed to the state government to dredge two stretches of riverbeds in the Central Region before they become too shallow for river navigation.
Its deputy chairman Ting Chuo Won said these two stretches — from Kanowit to Sibu along Rajang River and at the river mouth of Pulau Bruit — were difficult for express boat operators to manoeuvre along when the tide is low during the dry season.
Meanwhile, on whether Sarawak River is suffering from a siltation problem, as the riverbed could be seen last Thursday during low tide, Richard pointed out that the water level of the Sarawak River was controlled by the Kuching Barrage.
“How much water to be released, the ship operators will let us know. Every week, we will be given a chart on their expectations of water level, and we will control the water level as per their requests.
“So far, there has been no complaint from the ship operators about low water level,” said Richard. — DayakDaily