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Masing: Costly to build standard rural roads, so Jiwa Murni concept preferred
Posted on : 05 Jul 2017  Source of News: The Borneo Post online
 
July 5, 2017, Wednesday

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing

KUCHING: It costs RM10 million to RM16 million to build one kilometre of Standard R3 to R5 rural road in Sarawak, points out Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing.

Masing, who is also Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister, also said in general, the further the area, the more expensive it would be for rural roads to be built.

“It is the responsibility of the government to provide connectivity for the people. That has been why for some rural areas that need connectivity urgently, we build the Jiwa Murni road first – it requires less funds and can be built in a much shorter time, so connectivity can be provided,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

As an example, he said the Jiwa Murni road linking Belaga with Nanga Merit, which spans 100km, would cost about RM300 million – meaning RM3 million per kilometre.

“And if we insist on having a proper road like a R3 to R5 Standard road for this stretch, the project would cost at least RM1 billion. So we decided to have a Jiwa Murni road, which can be materialised in three years’ time rather than having a Standard R3 to R5, which we don’t know when it would materialise,” he said.

On the durability of Jiwa Murni roads, given that some of them are in a terrible condition such as the one linking Ba Kelalan with Long Lupeng – described by some as being worse than a ‘buffalo trail’ – Masing explained that the dire conditions of the road were caused by heavy vehicles.

“The road was built to cater for the ordinary road users, but it has been used by logging trucks and other heavy vehicles. As a result, the road gets damaged.

“Logging trucks should have their own roads. They should not be using these roads meant for the public. To allow the heavy vehicles to use the Jiwa Murni road is like having the poor subsidising the rich.

“These heavy vehicles must be stopped. We must prevent the abuse of Jiwa Murni roads by logging companies.

“The elected representatives of the area are equally responsible. They should help the government identify the culprits who are responsible for destroying these roads, built by government for the general use of the public. Don’t just complain,” said Masing.

Nevertheless, Masing promised to look into the Ba Kelalan-Long Lupeng road by making a trip there.

“We will see the condition of the road. The state Public Works Department (JKR) would have to make some studies including the economy of scale before any decision can be made,” he pointed out.

According to locals, the 60km road was in better condition after it was upgraded under the Jiwa Murni programme three years ago and the journey from Ba Kelalan to Long Lupeng took only an hour.

However, they said now it takes them an entire day to make the journey and drivers have to travel in a convoy and bring along food and drinks in case their vehicles get stuck in the mud along the way.

Masing, who was in Marudi to inspect the upgrading of the Marudi Road yesterday, said the Marudi Road was another good example of a good road built by the government but destroyed by heavy trucks ferrying oil palm fresh fruit bunches.

Before the upgrading of the road, it took four hours to complete the short journey of 40km between Miri and Marudi, resulting in endless complaints from Marudi residents.

“The government repairs it but within two to three days, the road would be destroyed by heavy vehicles. And later, the government would be blamed for the bad condition of the road,” lamented Masing.

He said to prevent that from happening, he was determined to set up gantries along the road to prevent heavy trucks from using it.