Here we go: Fadillah (second from right) clicking the trackpad on a laptop to launch the Peat Technology Research Institute.
SIBU: There is a need to handle peat soil with proper care in the construction of the proposed RM27bil Pan-Borneo Highway so as to avoid cost overruns, said Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof.
He said contractors under the Public Private Partnership Unit (Ukas), which has been tasked to speed up the implementation of the highway project, would need the expertise on soft soil development to carry out the project.
Fadillah said as the cost in the upgrading and construction of the highway would be huge, contractors would need to work with research institutes and experts to find a better solution for peat soil areas along the route.
“The launching of the Peat Technology Research Institute by University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) is thus timely so as to be able to provide solutions and advice to industry players in the handling and management of peat soil for construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects,” he told reporters after launching the institute and the Peat Technology, Opportunities and Challenges seminar here yesterday.
The Pan-Borneo Highway project covers a distance of 2,239km from Sematan, in Sarawak’s Lundu division, to Serudong in Tawau district, Sabah.
Singling out Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, which is a main road leading to the Sibu airport, Fadillah said the ministry spent up to RM20mil in the last two years to upgrade it, but its condition was not improving due to its location in a soft soil area.
He said other federal and state roads in the town were also affected by peat soil.
He said the country already had a number of soft soil experts but what was needed was to translate their knowledge and apply it with experts of universities and research institutes, including industry players.
“By having more institutes on peat soil research, we can do tests. If we can get new technology and solutions for the Sibu airport road, that will be an achievement,” he said.
Malaysia is the ninth country in the world with the highest total peat land area covering 2.6 million hectares.
Of this, 80% was in Sarawak, 13% in peninsula Malaysia and the rest in Sabah, he said.