by Peter Sibon. Posted on October 14, 2010, Thursday
KAPIT: Land Development Minister Dato Sri Dr James Jemut Masing has declared the recent logjam that clogged the Baleh and Rajang rivers a “man-made disaster”.
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He said ecological devastation at Ulu Melatai, one of the tributaries of Baleh River, could be the main contributor to last week’s disaster.
However, the Baleh assemblyman said the Baleh River’s other tributaries could also have contributed to the devastation.
Baleh River has at least 10 tributaries similar to Ulu Melatai, such as Seranai and Entuloh.
“It is a man-made ecological disaster. It created a mud pool, which completely wiped out the flora and fauna in the area. This includes animals and fish,” Masing told The Borneo Post after a site visit to Ulu Melatai yesterday.
Ulu Melatai is located some 100km southeast of Kapit town and is very close to the Kalimantan border.
With Masing were political secretary to the Chief Minister Angeline Umis, Kapit District Officer Simon Japut Tiok and Kapit district councillor Tan Kian Hoo.
Masing attributed the devastation at Ulu Melatai to extensive logging with little or no control by the authorities.
“It is as if the loggers are in a hurry to clear the whole area above the proposed Baleh hydroelectric power dam, which is currently under feasibility studies,” he said.
He warned that more similar incidents could happen again if such manner of logging was allowed to continue.
Besides, he said, the soil along the Baleh tributaries was loose and heavily churned up by logging activities, which could easily turn into mudslides by prolonged heavy rain.
While the government’s policy on forest management was very clear, he said, greater implementation and enforcement were needed.
“I would like to urge the big boys to stop sub-contracting the jobs to others to prevent illegal logging and gangsterism in the area,” he said, adding that no such incident occurred when large companies operated in the area over the last three decades.
He added that this was the third such incident to happen at Baleh River, causing havoc to the local community.
The first was recorded in 2008 at Sg Ga’at, while last year a similar incident happened at Sg Tutoh.
According to him, the upper reaches of Baleh River are a very hilly and rugged terrain, making logging very dangerous. In a related incident, two people reportedly died in that area when the bridge was swept by the mudslide.
Both bodies have been found.