KUCHING: The 1,285MW Baleh Hydroelectric Project’s (HEP) dual diversion tunnels, river diversion, and closure works were completed last month.
Sarawak Energy said in a statement that this was part of the Baleh project’s six work packages.
Measuring over 1.2km in length, the dual concrete-lined diversion tunnels that run parallel to each other to enable river diversion activities are now fully functional.
“Baleh HEP is one of Sarawak’s largest state infrastructure projects and Sarawak Energy’s largest hydropower project so far. The project is crucial towards securing the energy capacity needed for Sarawak’s future growth and development and will support the state’s ambition of achieving high income status by 2030 in providing renewable hydropower for our growth,” said Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.
Dr Rundi said he was able to see the immense scale of the project during his visit in July and the project is expected to employ some 3,000 people at peak.
“I look forward to seeing Sarawak Energy reach future target milestones with the government’s support,” he said.
Sarawak Energy Group CEO Datu Sharbini Suhaili thanked the state government and community for their support.
“The Baleh HEP will contribute towards maintaining Sarawak Energy’s status as Malaysia’s largest renewable energy provider. The project involves multiple stakeholders with different needs.
In balancing these, support from the government and community have been crucial so that we can meet our completion target of the diversion tunnels for river diversion. This is critical towards meeting the current commissioning target of Baleh HEP by 2026,” said Sharbini.
In September, executive vice president for project delivery Pramod Kumar Karunakaran led the Baleh project team and its partner contractors in marking and assessing the readiness of the diversion tunnels for river diversion works during the Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) Week for Baleh HEP.
He explained with the simultaneous completion of the diversion tunnels as well as upstream cofferdam construction in October, they were able to effect the river diversion to enable the construction of the main dam.
“The river flow was then diverted through the diversion tunnels to enable closure for a stretch of the upper Batang Baleh,” said Pramod.
He said the water retained within the main dam area will be drained to create a dry working environment so that main dam construction works can be carried out safely.
The river diversion and closure works for Baleh HEP commenced on Oct 1 and were successfully completed on Oct 16.
Construction for closure berm or the rock layer built across the upper Batang Baleh will continue to a safe design elevation level of 71 metres in a month’s time and once completed the main dam construction will begin.
Communities who use the river are still able to commute downstream and upstream of the closed area via an alternative by-pass road connecting the two closed-off sections.
Rest houses located on the opposite banks of the diversion tunnels have been built with boat landing facilities. In addition, trailers have been made available as an option for river users who prefer to use their own boats.
Pramod emphasised the importance of safety in project delivery especially for a large-scale project like the Baleh HEP.
“I am truly grateful that with the close collaboration between our project team and contractors, as well as the support from all stakeholders, we have been able to overcome any obstacles to deliver our targets timely and safely,” added Pramod.
When fully commissioned in 2026, Baleh HEP will join the state’s stable of hydropower plants that includes Batang Ai, Murum, and Bakun to support the state’s aspirations to become a regional powerhouse of renewable and affordable energy.
On Wednesday, a miring ceremony was held on the request of the local communities to mark the safe completion of the critical package.
It was a collaboration between the Baleh HEP team and community leaders with support from the Kapit Resident’s and Bukit Mabong District offices.
Community leader Penghulu Jampi Rawing and other headmen of both the directly and indirectly affected communities conducted the miring at three locations — the right and left banks at the upper stream of the cofferdam and in the centre area.
Kapit Resident Nyurak Keti and Bukit Mabong District Officer Douglas Pungga Lawang witnessed the ceremony along with local government and Sarawak Rivers Board representatives among others.
The number of attendees was kept at a minimum due to Covid-19.