BY ANASATHIA JENIS
Hafis Mohamed will never forget the bitter experiences and times when the boat he was travelling in sank in the South China Sea while on his way to Sematan town from his village in Telok Melano more than 10 years ago.
At that time, travelling across the sea by boat was the only means of transport to move between Telok Melano and Sematan, two areas located in southern Sarawak.
“It is common for boats to sink …that had been a part of our lives then and I have experienced it myself three times…but Alhamdulillah, I am still alive,” he told Bernama recently.
However, things have changed over the past two years when a road project linking Telok Melano and Sematan, which is part of the Pan Borneo Highway route was completed, thus ending the nightmare many had to face when travelling across the sea.
“From then on (completion of Jalan Telok Melano-Sematan), we began to have hopes of this area being transformed through road infrastructure development,” said the 32-year-old man.
The construction of the Telok Melano-Sematan Road Project was the brainchild of Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Sarawak’s fifth chief minister, who wanted Telok Melano, the settlement at the southwestern tip of Sarawak, located some 140 km from Kuching, to be linked to the Pan Borneo Highway project.
The 32.77 km stretch, constructed since Sept 15, 2015 at a cost of RM580 million and fully completed on Jan 4, 2018, was officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on Jan 26, 2019.
At the launch ceremony, Abang Johari said the opening of the route via the Sarawak Pan Borneo Highway right up to Lawas would open up economic opportunities in the area that would be able to help the people.
Ever since then, Telok Melano is no longer isolated from road connectivity network and activities in Sarawak and as one of those enjoying the new development as a result of this project, Hafis truly appreciates the government’s efforts as life had certainly been easier, enabling him to embark on new economic opportunities.
“With the road network, visitors and tourists have been thronging Telok Melano and this has led to the opening of homestays and stalls by the beach,” he added.
Hafis, who is also the owner of Lentera Homestay, said the opening of the road has also seen an increase in demand for accommodation services in the Telok Melano area.
Although many sectors have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the country since last year, Hafis said his business has started to pick up again now that interstate travel and the tourism industry were allowed to resume.
Mohamed Aluis Hamri, 37, is another young entrepreneur in Telok Melano, who takes advantage of the road infrastructure development project by building a new tourist attraction in the area.
The Niranur Upside Down 3R House was built from tens of thousands of recycled plastic bottles which he collected since 2015.
The house which is also decorated with various collections of vintage household items with a touch of 80s and 90s decoration concept, was opened to the public early last year.
“This house is open to the public from 8 am and on average, it receives around 800 visitors a day. The number of visitors will increase by double during weekends or public holidays,” Mohamed Aluis said.
Apart from attracting people to visit Sematan, Mohamed Aluis said the house was also built with the aim of creating awareness on environmental conservation and the importance of recycling.
The young entrepreneur also ventured into the kelulut or stingless bee farming business under the ‘Niranur’ brand which is not only marketed in Sarawak but also other states through online platforms.
The initiative taken by Hafis and Mohamed Aluis is a proof of the domino effect of the successful implementation of the Telok Melano-Sematan road project in changing the living standards of the people in the areas. – Bernama