Sarawak needs more roads in lower regions of rivers

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

SEBUYAU: Sarawak needs to build more roads in the lower regions of rivers to provide connectivity for about 65 percent of the Sarawak population who live there.

“More roads mean more bridges need to be built when the rivers are at their widest.

“Their construction becomes a very expensive exercise for Sarawak unless the federal government is willing to assist us,” said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing.

He was speaking at the earth-breaking ceremony for the Batang Lupar Bridge held at the site here today (March 23).

He added that the state government was committed to implementing 11 huge bridge projects in the coastal road network, going as far as taking over the projects cancelled by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

They are the Batang Lupar Bridge in Betong/Samarahan; Batang Lupar 2 Bridge in Sri Aman; Batang Igan Bridge, Batang Paloh Bridge and Muara Lassa Bridge in Mukah; Batang Saribas Bridge and Sungai Krian Bridge in Betong; Batang Rambungan Bridge and Sejingkat Bridge in Kuching; Bintulu-Jepak Bridge Crossing Kuala Kemena in Bintulu; and Batang Rajang Bridge in Sarikei.

“These bridges are built with a construction cost of not more than RM4 billion.

“Ladies and gentlemen, build these we must if we wish to improve their livelihood and standard of living. Otherwise, 65 percent of the Sarawak population will be deprived of this connectivity,” he added.

Masing, who is also the Infrastructure and Ports Development Minister, pointed out that   the bridges would provide better access to the villages, longhouses, towns and cities.

“My ministry is most fortunate that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg agrees with our proposal and work hard to look for funds to build them. Building these bridges is half the job done.

“The next task for the chief minister is to look for money to build the roads to connect these bridges. If we don’t do this, our bridges will be bridges to nowhere!

“We are, however, fortunate that the chief minister knew how to generate income from our oil and gas assets to provide for the necessary funds for our roads and 11 bridges,” he said.

Masing added that by overcoming engineering challenges in implementing projects, the chief minister showed he was very amicable to new approaches of doing things.

“Sometimes, Sir (addressing Abang Johari), new approaches of designing roads and bridges seem  more expensive to start with, but in the long run, they are cheaper.

“For an example, building roads by tunnelling through the mountain may appear more expensive than cut and fill methods.

“However, tunnelling does not require much maintenance once completed and uncut ground above is not scarred, environment still looks pristine and cultivation can take place.

“Meanwhile, cut and fill methods of building roads around our hills and mountains, may cost less but maintenance due to slope failures is very high. It is estimated that 1 KM of road maintenance in a hilly terrain is about RM15 to RM50 million per year,” he explained.