MIRI: People who have been to the site of the Murum dam since the start of its impoundment last Saturday have claimed that water in the rivers has so far risen by an astonishing 5m within a week, fuelled by the damming of the diversion tunnels and also persistent heavy rainfall.
Borneo Resources Institute coordinator Raymond Abin and human rights lawyer Abun Sui have produced pictures showing tall trees in the Murum Valley half-submerged by rising waters.
Abin said that the situation was a cause for real worry.
“I have personally visited the Murum dam site many times and have inspected the riverbanks and measured the level of water based on the water line along the banks and along the roots of the trees.
“I must say that based on the latest scenes along the rivers that feed the dam reservoir, the water level had surged by a very alarming rate,” he said yesterday.
“Based on rough estimates calculated from the water level that had drowned half of the trees in some areas already, I would say that the level had risen by at least 5m since the impoundment took place.
“This is very worrying because it looks like the landas (monsoon) season is going to start very early this year. Already, it is raining heavily and regularly in the interior of the central region of Sarawak and the Murum Valley is one of the areas that catches the heaviest amount of rain,” he said.
“There are two huge rivers that feed into the Murum Valley – Sungai Peliran and Sungai Danum. Sungai Danum runs all the way into the Murum Valley from its sources along the Sarawak-Kalimantan mountain ranges.
“During the landas season, these rivers flood their banks. Now that the impoundment had started, the floodings will be even more severe.
“There is real worry that Penans from the six villages that had not moved out from the valley will be trapped by rising waters if the rain continues and if the landas starts soon.
“They will be caught off-guard and cut off from the outside world. We will not be able to reach them. We will not know their fate because there is no telecommunications connection,” he said.
“The only way to reach them will be by helicopter if the floods start. I hope the state government will do something urgently to look into this matter.”
“The Penans live in scattered and isolated places and it will be difficult to reach them if the rivers become too dangerous to navigate during the full onslaught of the landas season,” he added.