A development plan, called Ngemah Development Area (NDA), has been proposed for Ngemah under Upper Rajang Development Agency (Urda).
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the plan is a comprehensive socio-economic and infrastructure development plan for the former Rajang Area Security Command (Rascom) resettlement areas in Nanga Tada, Nanga Ngungun and Nanga Jagau as well as areas along Kabah and Ngemah river basin.
According to him, within this belt, the state government will develop infrastructure such as electricity and water supply and open up land including Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands to develop commercial agriculture, which will improve the income of the people in Kanowit.
The area will be developed through proper infrastructure and coordinated socio-economic development programmes.
He also assured that the state government would provide fund under the 12th Malaysia Plan for NDA.
Kanowit is a rural district located in the Sibu Division with an area of 2,253.5km2 and a total population of 28,600 (based on the 2010 census) comprising Ibans – 23,000, Chinese (3,000), Malays (1,200) and others.
This district can be accessed via river and land routes from Sibu to Kapit and Julau. Its position is also very strategic as a temporary stopover for river users before continuing their journey to interior parts of Sarawak.
Residents in Kanowit will enjoy 24-hour electricity supply with the completion of a high-voltage sub-station worth RM106 million.
Located at Jalan Durin-Kanowit, the 132kV capacity sub-station which is expected to be completed in March next year, will benefit 146 villages comprising 2,632 households.
It is also part of the state government’s efforts to increase electricity supply coverage throughout Sarawak from 91 percent in 2018 to 97 percent by the end of 2020.
Providing electricity and water throughout Sarawak is a very challenging task as half of the population lives in hilly and mountainous areas and far upstream.
Various strategies such as the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares) and Sarawak Alternative Water Supply (Sawas) have been implemented by the Sarawak government to supply electricity and water to all citizens.
To date, only 22,360 households or 7 percent of the rural population have not received 24-hour electricity supply.
A project to build Menalun-SK Menalun road, worth RM15 million, was officiated by Machan assemblyman Allan Siden Gramong last July, with the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) as the implementing agency.
The project is expected to be completed in 2023. Upon completion, residents in Menalun, Sungai Poi will no longer need to use river transport.
Apart from that, a road connecting Bukit Goram/Katibas/Ngemah/Machan to Nanga Geremai is expected to be completed by Feb 2021.
Water woes in Kanowit
To reduce the water supply problem in Kanowit, a project called ‘Design and Build – Proposed Performance Based Contract Or Short-Term Solution Of Acute Water Supply Shortage For Kanowit Water Treatment Plant Sibu Division’ has been temporarily adopted.
“For the long-term, water supply will be connected from Sibu Water Board to Kanowit through Jalan Salim Treatment Plant to supply adequate water, especially to residents in Nibong, Tada, Durin, Machan and Kanowit.
“In this regard, the ‘Proposed Pipeline from Salim Treatment Plant to Kanowit Treatment Plant, Sibu Division’ project has been implemented,” said Rural Water Supply Department (JBALB) director Chang Kuet Shian.
According to him, all these efforts are in line with the vision of the Sarawak government to supply water through the grid to rural areas.
The conservation and upgrading of Fort Emma, costing about RM5 million, started in August 2018 and was completed in February this year.
Last July, the Sarawak Museum Department discovered ceramic fragments (believed to date from the 17th century) and fragments of small cannon balls during the conservation and upgrading process of the fort. The findings will be studied and put on display at Fort Emma exhibition area along with other artifacts.
The fort, which is more than 160 years old, will also be upgraded to a heritage museum.
According to Samantha Lily, the residents of Kanowit do not have long-term problems (such as water supply problem) because the elected representatives and related agencies always resolved such problems promptly.
“Kanowit has grown a lot in terms of social and economic development. Road construction has also been able to connect the locals with Sibu.
“However, I sincerely hope that the state government can provide faster internet access without neglecting basic infrastructure such as water and electricity supplies and roads,” she said.
The 23-year-old also thanked the elected representatives for always planning various developments for the residents in the district.