KAPIT: Last Thursday and Friday saw river transport at a standstill as wooden debris clogged Baleh and Rajang rivers which adversely affected navigation from Sibu to Putai, a distance of some 300km.
This massive logjam
along Malaysia’s longest river was a cause of grave concern and drew
wide-spread discussion and speculation on the causes, especially in
Facebook and other blogs on the Internet, thus getting the attention of
foreign media and environmental groups.
A man from Sungai Melatai, a tributary of Baleh River, gave the following account of the cause.
cause of the ecological disaster and the extensive environmental damage
has nothing to do with the rain or rising water level because on the
day it happened the water level along Baleh River was low and normal.
There was extensive landslide of between five and 10km on both banks of
Sungai Melatai. This has nothing to do with farming activities. It is
caused by human disregard for the environment through extensive logging
A child died when its mother could not send it for
medical treatment in Kapit due to the logjam. Two men in a Land Cruiser
died in the landslide.
“We are very angry but helpless, it is time
we wake up to protect our environment,” a teacher who was a relative of
the mother said.
A bank employee said political leaders should
not blame the weather and appealed to the government to engage an
independent body to investigate and get to the root cause because the
people deserve to know the truth.
A retired army personnel and a
fish breeder from Sungai Sut, who wanted to be known as ‘Robert’,
lamented that many types of indigenous fish had died along Sungai
Melatai to Sibu, depriving the people of their source of income and
protein. According to Tuai Rumah Kilau who returned from Tunoh to Kapit
on Friday morning, the massive riverbank erosion was caused by the
eruption of dykes formed by sediments, wood and other debris caused by
long periods of logging activities.
When contacted, the
Superintendent of Land and Survey Kapit Affin Bawi said the massive
landslide was the culprit. His view was confirmed by an officer from
Sarawak Rivers Board.
An elderly casual worker identified as Jilan
explained that the Ibans described the phenomenon as ‘baruas’ or
massive landslide affecting a huge area, when nature gives way.
the fish would die and in my young days I used to follow my parents in
the longboat to catch lots of fish that appeared on the surface”, he
The massive logjam prompted an onlooker to exclaim that one
just could jump from one log to another to reach the other side of the
An elderly Chinese was heard murmuring to himself that
this could be the first signal of ‘the end of the world’ because of
massive destruction to nature caused by humans.
Among the many
reasons, the phenomenon could be attributed to the heavy rainfall in the
interiors of Kapit, particularly in Baleh, which had caused the river
to burst its banks and grab debris and deadwood along the way.
surprisingly a check at the Kapit waterfront revealed that the water
level was low and the velocity of flow was very slow and normal.
Friday, the situation returned to normal. The extent of damage it had
caused to the shipping industry is yet to be ascertained.