Would the RM2.14 billion Sg Selangor Dam follow the fate of the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam in Ringlet, Cameron Highlands in ten to twenty years down the line?

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday): The 40-year-old Ringlet Dam has been shut down temporary because of massive silting from uncontrolled land clearing for agriculture and development activities. The silting has also resulted in the need for Ringlet Lake to be drained (The Star, 14 Mar 2004).

Tenaga Nasional Berhad, which manages the dam and the hydro-electric power stations here, said it was forced to remove water from the lake and shut down its facilities now not only to protect its equipment but also to prevent an overflow of water and the flooding of the villages.

With the shutting down, the highland is now getting its power supply from the national grid. The power stations are expected to resume operation in mid-April.
The dam, built at a cost of RM290 million, was commissioned in 1965.It is estimated that it will cost TNB RM150 million to rehabilitate the dam over 30 months.

This is the first time in the country that a dam has been shut down and a lake drained due to silting.

But some experts have warned the government of the possible closure of the dam due to heavy silting at the time when the Selangor state government wanted to proceed with the building of the RM2.14 billion Sg Selangor Dam in Kuala Kubu Baru in year 2000. The silting rate for Ringlet Dam was then estimated as 26,000 tonnes/sq km every year.

The experts has also pointed out to the government that the estimated silting rate stated in the Sg Selangor Dam EIA report ( 250 tonnes/sq km) was far from accurate. They have argued that the dam is situated in a highland area with logging and other land clearing similar to Ringlet Dam, the rate of silting would certainly reach at least 100,000 tonnes/ sq km. The experts have forecasted the life-span of Sg Selangor Dam at about 10 years- which is 10 times shorter than the life-span stated in the EIA report.

Its life-span would be even shorter if the silting rate exceeds the rate at Ringlet.

Needless to say, no one in the Mahathir's administration was willing to listen and study the warning or the alternative proposals from DAP Selangor and other NGOs.

The Sungei Selangor Dam, the outcome of the Sg Selangor Phase Three project by SPLASH, in Kuala Kubu Baru has finally been plugged in early May 2003. The official plugging ceremony was done by Selangor MB Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo. Dr Khir Toyo has admittedly said that the water supply from the the dam would be sufficient for only two years. He even said that the state would have to source water from Pahang or Sumatra, Indonesia.

The RM2.14 billion dam is estimated to take about 18 months to reach full impoundment. Once fully operational in 2005, the dam is expected to provide 45% of the water supply for Selangor and the Federal Territory.

DAP Selangor and other environmental groups had strongly objected to the dam project before it started works five years ago.

Besides stating all the negative impact of the dam on environment and the danger of the dam itself, we have even worked out several alternatives, which were much cheaper, more sound and practical than the damn dam! These include laying pipes all the way to Pahang or Perak to link up with the Selangor River, changing the leaking pipes which were said to waste up to 40% of clean, processed water, plus an awareness campaign on saving water and natural resources.

The Selangor government under the leadership of Datuk Abu Hassan Omar at that time knew pretty well that the supply of water from the Selangor Dam project could last for not more than two years, and the state eventually would need to source water from Pahang and elsewhere. And yet they went ahead with the dam project right after the 1999 general elections.

Would Sg Selangor Dam follow the fate of Ringlet Dam in another 10 years down the line?

It costs RM150 million to rehabilitate the much smaller Ringlet Dam. Just imagine how much Malaysians would have to pay when it comes to Sg Selangor Dam, which cover an area of 6 sq km (as big as Subang Jaya). God bless Malaysia.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief