KUCHING: Vast areas of peatland is one of the challenges faced in the construction of highways in the state, resulting in higher cost compared to Peninsular Malaysia.
Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said this included the construction of the RM16 billion Pan Borneo Highway, 70 per cent of which will be built on peat soil.
“The RM16 billion allocation for the Pan Borneo Highway project is not entirely for construction as it also includes land compensation, consultancy fees and so on.
“The actual construction cost for the highway may be about RM12 billion. So 70 per cent out of this RM12 billion will be the challenges we have to face and therefore it is crucial that we find a solution on clearing the peat soil for construction,” he told reporters when met after officiating the conference on ‘Towards Sustainable and Resilience Construction in Malaysia’ at a leading hotel here yesterday, organised by Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (CREAM) in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
He pointed out that in Telok Melano, where the project started, the construction team had cleared all peat soil there and replaced it with sand.
“Hopefully the sand will settle down and that will be the base. Apart from that, there are many other methods we are also looking at.”
Fadillah, who is also Petra Jaya MP, noted that constructing a good road over peatland was much like constructing an elevated highway which required piling.
“Everything will be on stilts and it will be as good as constructing a bridge,” he explained.
Citing the pilot project in Batu Kawa around ten years ago as an example, he said back then construction cost was around RM20 million per kilometre.
“Today, the cost could be double and imagine if we were to do the whole stretch of Sarawak, based on a per kilometre basis, it will be costly.
“This is one of the reasons we also established the Centre of Excellence on Peat Soils (CoPS) so we can pull all expertise and industry players to ensure that we can find a better and affordable solution towards constructing roads that are less bumpy than what we have now,” he remarked.
He also acknowledged that there were challenges ahead in constructing roads due to Sarawak’s dense peat soil.
“If we were to remove the entire peatland, there will be consequences in terms of the environment so we have to balance it out. These are the challenges we are facing and we are committed to find a solution.
“With the collaboration between the federal and state governments with all professional industry players, I believe we should be able to come up with a more creative solution in the construction industry for our infrastructure and also constructing in peatland areas,” he said.
Earlier, Fadillah also launched CoPS, which will serve as a referral centre for industry players and researchers of peat soil in the country.
Also present at the ceremony were Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Tajuddin Ali, CIDB chief executive Datuk Ahmad Asri Abdul Hamid, Malaysian Highway Authority director-general Datuk Ismail Salleh, Public Works Department director-general Datuko Dr Roslan Md Taha, CREAM chairman Datuk Hamzah Hasan, and Unimas vice chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi.