Photos: Massive logjam in Borneo blocks Malaysia's longest river

mongabay.com
October 10, 2010



A massive 50-km-long (30-mi) logjam has blocked the Rajang river in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, bringing river traffic to a standstill and posing a threat to riverbank communities, reports Malaysian state media.

The Rajang, Malaysia's longest river, is presently unnavigable, according to Bernama.

"The river was like a conveyor belt in a sawmill but instead of transporting uniformly cut wood, it carried an endless flow of uprooted trees, discarded logs and all manner of vegetative debris from Kapit, some 176km away," stated Bernama.

The source of the logs and debris is believed to be the Baleh River and upper tributaries of the Rajang. Heavy rain reportedly triggered a landslide or landslides at log ponds at a "major" timber camp.


The Rajang River logjam. Photo from Hornbill Unleashed


State Minister of Environment and Public Health Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh told Bermara the cause of the "calamity of gigantic proportion" is under investigation.

"We need to find out the causes, but if there are evidence to indicate that it is due to human factor, stern action will be taken against the perpetrators," said State Minister of Environment and Public Health Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh. "This is unprecedented and beyond imagination."

"We haven't started to calculate the amount of losses and the damage caused."


The Rajang River logjam. Photo from Hornbill Unleashed


As of Thursday, the logjam was moving toward Sibu raising fears among residents that logs could damage local bridges and riverbank communities built on stilts.

"There is still a lot of debris, making travel unsafe. There are also dead fish in the river. It's an ecological disaster," Land Development Minister Datuk Seri James Masing told The Star.

Masing blamed irresponsible loggers in the region for the incident.


The Rajang River logjam. Photo from Hornbill Unleashed


"I have gone around the world telling people that we are doing logging correctly. Now this happens," he was quoted in The Star. "What will people think of us? We must take action against these unscrupulous timber companies.”

Sarawak is Malaysia's biggest timber producing state but over-harvesting has led to a decline in production in recent years, falling from 14.3 million cubic meters in 2000 to 11.9 million cubic meters in 2008.

Abdul Taib Mahmud, the state's Chief Minister, is known for his cozy ties with logging companies. He is currently enveloped in a corruption scandal involving his ownership of millions of dollars' worth of property in the United States and Canada. These properties are thought to be linked to payments from Samling, a Sarawak logging company, according to the Sarawak Report, which has been investigating Taib's financial dealings.


The Rajang River logjam. Photo from Hornbill Unleashed










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CITATION:
mongabay.com (October 10, 2010).

Photos: Massive logjam in Borneo blocks Malaysia's longest river.

http://news.mongabay.com/2010/1009-logjam_sarawak.html