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?
by Ronnie Liu
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