KUCHING: A timber company’s proposal to upgrade the 80km stretch of Long Luping–Ba Kelalan road to a standard R1 category road is welcome news to the Ba Kelalan people.
Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian, who is state PKR chairman, thus hoped that the Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing is serious and determined to source the RM36 million required for the project.
“But I have reservations as the federal government does not appear to have the funds to spare, and even if it does, Sarawak is always low on their priorities when it comes to rural infrastructure,” he stated in a press statement received here yesterday.
Baru was commenting on Masing’s statement that his ministry was in favour of the proposal to upgrade the Long Luping-Ba Kelalan road at an estimated cost of RM36 million, and would try to find the money to finance the upgrading work.
Masing, who is also deputy chief minister, said a timber company operating in Ulu Trusan and Limbang areas had suggested upgrading the 80km stretch into a standard R1 category road.
Baru applauded the timber company for putting forward the proposal, which is only right and appropriate, as it has been logging extensively in the area for the past 30 years, and the licence valid for many more years.
Since the timber company has profited enormously from the timber extracted from the people’s land, Baru said it would be taken as a goodwill gesture if they could bear the cost of road upgrading.
“This could be done as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.
I am sure that to them RM36 million is an affordable sum, considering the billions they must have made from logging in the area over the past many years.”
Baru said he understands that an R1 road is the lowest standard of rural roads, and the surface is not necessarily tar-sealed.
“As this 80km R1 road is to be a gravel road, I hope the road builders will take extra care with the drainage so that the road will not wash away during heavy rains.”
Baru added that the minister’s (Masing) statement was also timely as he had just received complaints from the people of Ba Kelalan yesterday that the road between Long Semadoh and Long Ibau was also in atrocious condition.
“Parts of the road are mud bogs, and on stretches where remnants of the road still exist, there is danger of the road breaking away and falling into the ravine below. This road is the only access road into Lawas and it is used by students daily to get to schools and back, especially for those living around SK Long Luping, SK Long Semadoh and SK Ba Kelalan.
“It is also the only way for the elderly and sick to get to medical services and for the villagers to get their provisions. It is a common complaint from car owners (vehicles must be 4WD type to have a chance of making it to Lawas) that their vehicles are damaged and condemned before they even finish paying installments to the finance companies.”
Hence, Baru hoped that the minister will also look into the completion of the 25km Sebangang–Long Sukang road.
“According to his reply to my question in the State Legislative Assembly last year, only 2.8km of the road was being built (tar-sealed), and was funded from a RM1billion special allocation from the federal government.
It does not make any sense that such an allocation would be made for only 2.8km of a 25km stretch of road.”
On the Lawas-Damit road, which is riddled with potholes, he said there is no sign of any repairs yet besides gravel being thrown into some potholes here and there.
“This is the stretch where a fatal accident happened last month when a motorcyclist swerved to avoid a pothole. The minister had told the DUN in May that for 2017, a sum of RM3.6 million has been provided for the repair of critical stretches of this road and that the potholes will be tar-sealed to form a paved surface.
“The delay in implementation is causing not only inconvenience; the danger of more fatal accidents along the road is of great concern to the people.”
Baru said the people in Ba Kelalan often compared their mud tracks with the roads to Kuala Lawas, Puneng and Sundar, which are very well constructed.
“In Ba Kelalan, even the roads nearer to Lawas such as the Long Tengoa and Long Sebangang roads are badly constructed and full of potholes. The government has the capability to build good roads if they want to, as proven by the Kuala Lawas and Sundar roads.
“I urge the government, with the help of the timber company, to upgrade the roads in Ba Kelalan to be of the same standard as the Kuala Lawas and Sundar roads. There is no point wasting money to build sub-standard roads that will only last a few months before being turned into impassable muddy fields.”
~ Borneo Post