KUCHING: The Baleh Hydroelectric Power (HEP) Dam is on track to meet major milestones including scheduled completion of the diversion tunnels by the end of next month, despite limitations faced during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Sarawak Energy Group CEO Datu Sharbini Suhaili said the completion of the diversion tunnels is critical towards meeting the project’s completion target of 2026.

“We are grateful to the State Disaster Management Committee for allowing us to continue to work during the MCO with stringent Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOP) in place.

“Safety is still our number one priority and all employees, contractors and their workers must comply with our life saving rules in addition to the Covid-19 SOP.

“Any incidents of non-compliance will not be tolerated as there are serious repercussions in a contained project environment such as our Baleh HEP site,” Sharbini was quoted as saying in a press statement released by Sarawak Energy yesterday.

Sharbini, together with Sarawak Energy chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi recently led a team to the site to view first-hand the progress of the project.

They were also there to receive Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg who arrived the following day on a work visit accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing, Utilities Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi and his assistant minister Datuk Liwan Lagang; State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion and others.

The 1,285MW Baleh HEP is a key state infrastructure and hydro-industrialisation development project planned as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) to ensure sufficient energy capacity for Sarawak’s future growth and development.

The project supports the state’s ambition of achieving high-income status by 2030.

It comprises six work packages, namely the construction of jetties, roads and bridges; storage for explosive magazines used for rock blasting; an operator’s village which will house the power plant’s staff; diversion tunnels for diversion of the river to enable construction of the main dam; main civil works; and main electrical and mechanical works.

In the statement, Sarawak Energy said local community briefings have begun to keep folks informed of the river’s diversion and to gather their feedback and concerns.

While the project does not involve the relocation of any villages or settlements, community concerns regarding its impact are monitored through engagement sessions and interactions that started in 2015, it said.

In addition, the state-owned utility company said social investment programmes with local communities have been developed and implemented, including training local youth to ensure a pipeline of local resources; provision of scholarships; and conducting entrepreneurial development programmes.

Meanwhile, the statement said conservation and protection of biodiversity in the Baleh catchment area is also vital to ensure the sustainability of a catchment area ecosystem.

As part of these efforts, Sarawak Energy and Sarawak Forest Department inked a memorandum of understanding in June 2019 to collaborate on the ‘Baleh Watershed Wildlife Connectivity Project’ for research and data gathering in the effort to conserve and protect the catchment area and its ecosystem.

This three-year project is part of Sarawak Energy’s integrated catchment management initiative to support biodiversity conservation as well as build resilient hydropower resources through protection of catchment areas and water resources.

Source : Borneo Post Online