Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tar and gravel ride to heart of Borneo

By Rahmat Hj Abdul Rahman

Twenty years ago, the roads between Brunei Darussalam, Limbang and Lawas in Sarawak, and the Sabah Hi-Way infrastructure were applauded by travellers.

This was just after the Federal Government of Malaysia, through the state government of Sabah, straightened a few areas of the of its undeveloped 35-kilometre roads between the Mesapol suburb of Sipitang District to Beaufort District under the leadership of the ex-premier of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir bin Mohammad.

Now, the roads between Tedungan in Limbang and Merapok in Lawas have been given thorough attention by the state government of Sarawak and the Federal Government of Malaysia.

What we saw in the past were bad roads. Travellers drove on soil surface roads, which were sandy and dusty roads during hot days, and turned into mucky and slippery roads during the rainy seasons, just to reach the ferry point near Sungai Limbang.

Some years later, the ferry operation was grounded by the State Government and Federal Government when they decided to build a stronger concrete bridge at Sungai Limbang. Knowing that many travellers drive to Limbang, the Sarawak state government constructed the permanent reinforced concrete bridges from the former old Limbang airstrip towards Sungai Pandaruan.

This was followed by the Immigration Posts Control at Merapok; the second construction was at Sungai Pandaruan, and ongoing construction is now at Tedungan Immigration Control Post and another Immigration Control Post across the Temburong border, as well as the construction of the permanent concrete bridge at Batang Lawas in the Heart of Borneo.

With the basic infrastructure to be completed in forthcoming developments, travellers are expected to enjoy driving towards to the East Coast of Sabah.

However, it is also relatively important for the state government of Sarawak to complete the roads in rural areas, if tourists want to visit the Heart of Borneo, which comprises Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah.

About two decades ago, such facilities were not available for travellers.

However, BIMP-EAGA businessmen now can access and transport goods between Sabah and Sarawak through the Tedungan and Kuala Lurah Immigration Control Posts. The roads from Sipitang District are already connected to Tenom District. Journeys take approximately one-and-a-half hour. From Papar District to Keningau District, it takes two hours on tarmac roads.

It is known that businessmen in Sarawak are planning to construct a five-star hotel in Lawas near the riverbanks of Lawas town.

Residents have protested against what is perceived to be a land grab, sources said.

People from as far as Kuching in Sarawak and Brunei Darussalam can drive to the east coast of Sabah at Lahad Datu to cross over to the island of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, where the natural beauty of their flora and fauna is incomparable.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

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