Tuesday August 23, 2011
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: The water in the Bakun hydroelectric dam reservoir has not risen to the level that was initially predicted because the area has been hit by a dry spell.
Managing director of Sarawak Hidro, which manages the dam, and chief engineer Zulkifle Osman told The Star yesterday that it had been an uncharacteristically dry month.
“The rainfall for the whole month was not what we had expected. We expected more rain, but since the start of August, we have been badly hit by a dry spell. On Aug 20, only one millimetre (mm) of rain fell throughout Bakun region,” he said.
Too little rain: Water released from a diversion tunnel of the dam in this file pic.
“The day before, only 4.5mm rainfall was recorded. On Aug 16, there was 41mm (4.1cm) of rain. For the rest of August, there was zero rain. The rainfall combined on the three days when it rained was very little as compared to the normal rainfall.
“And spread over such a huge reservoir, the three days of rain did not make any difference at all to the water level. That is why there was hardly any difference to the water intake for the turbines.
“The amount of water we could release from the Bakun Dam into the downstream area was only limited to the amount of water coming out from the lone turbine that is in operation now.
“There is no water coming down the spillway because we cannot reach that level yet. Only once we have reached the 214-metre level at the Bakun reservoir can the water flow down the spillway into the Rajang River and downwards to Belaga, Kapit and Sibu.
“The current water level at the reservoir is 207m and it has not changed because of the lack of rain.”
Zulkifle said that if the reservoir kept receiving zero rainfall or little rain, there was no way the water level downstream of the dam could rise.
On whether this dry spell was foreseen, he said it was unpredicted.
On whether the stagnant level had affected the functioning of the turbine generator, he said that had not been the case because the water could still flow down into the power generation house.
As long as the water could flow down, the electricity-generation process could go on, he said.
Zulkifle, when asked whether cloud-seeding could be carried out over Bakun, said the idea had not yet been discussed with the authorities.
On the amount of rain forecast over Bakun for the next few days, he said the weather would still be dry.
On the river transportation woes downstream of Bakun, he said the Kapit and Belaga local authorities had not informed him that those woes were directly caused by the dry spell in Bakun.
He said the low river levels downstream of Bakun might be a result of a combination of dry spells in other parts of central Sarawak, not just because of the lack of water coming down from the Bakun Dam.
The dry spell over Bakun and central Sarawak is rather strange because in northern Sarawak, especially Miri, there was occasional moderate to heavy rain during the past week.