KUCHING: Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy’s (Score) newly created Upper Rajang development area has received a major financial boost with a state funding of RM1.47bil for its various projects.
The big allocation is mainly to finance infrastructure projects like roads, electricity and water, to be fast tracked in the next two years, according to Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Development and Transportation Tan Sri Dr James Masing.
Masing chairs the Upper Rajang Development Agency (Urda), which is one of the three agencies set up following the extension of Score boundary by 30% to about 100,000 sq km from 77,000 sq km early this year.
The other two are the Highland Development Agency and Northern Regional Development Agency.
Urda oversees the development of 41,186 sq km, which covers eight state constituencies and three parliamentary seats in several districts.
Upper Rajang, which lacks good infrastructure and is largely inaccessible by a road network (other than logging tracks), is endowed with abundant natural resources, such as hydro power and coal.
It is already the home to the 2,400MW Bakun hydroelectric dam and 944MW Murum dam. Under construction there is the RM9.5bil Baleh dam (1,285MW), scheduled to come on stream by 2025.
The Bakun and Murum dams are now powering energy-intensive industries – such as aluminium, ferro alloys and manganese smelters – in Samalaju Industrial Park, Bintulu.
Sarawak Energy Bhd, which built the Murum dam and is now undertaking the Baleh dam project, has a long-term plan to construct a 300MW coal-fired power plant in Merit Pila, about 75km from Kapit in the Upper Rajang. Merit Pila has an estimated coal reserves of 15 million tonnes.
Masing, the long-serving Baleh assemblyman, said the RM1.47bil allocation approved by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was based on proposed projects recommended by Urda’s special lab.
Baleh constituency will get the bulk (RM307.5mil) of the allocation and the rest will be shared by the other constituencies – Pelagus (RM212mil), Katibas (RM210mil), Murum (RM183.5mil), Belaga (RM180mil), Bukit Goram (RM158mil), Machan (RM120mil) and Ngemah (RM101mil).
“These (proposed) projects must take off over the next two years. So, Urda has to act fast (to see their timely smooth implementation),” said Masing at a briefing given by Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda) chief executive officer Datuk Ismawi Ismuni to government officials, community leaders and grassroot leaders in Kapit.
Masing said the Upper Rajang would benefit from another RM4bil worth of government projects, including those under the Rural Transformation Programme, that have been identified.
The impending rollout of these projects will benefit construction companies, suppliers of building and construction materials as well as logistic firms.
According to Ismawi, six economic trigger projects – acquaculture, tourism, forestry, palm oil, rubber and biotechnology – have been identified for the Score hinterland that covers Upper Rajang and the highlands in northern Sarawak.
The huge reservoirs and lakes created by the hydro dams, for example, are said to be ideal for acquaculture projects and tourism activities.
The success of Score (which initially covers only central Sarawak) in attracting mega manufacturing industries has prompted the state government to extend its boundary to bring the next phase of development and economic growth to the interiors.
Last month, Ismawi said Score had attracted about RM79.3bil investments from both the public and private sectors. Approved total private investments in 22 projects totalled RM33.6bil, and 10 of these projects, mostly energy-intensive, are in operation.