The mud flood in Cameron Highlands last year claimed four lives and damaged more than 100 houses after water released from the Sultan Abu Bakar Hydroelectric Dam in Ringlet caused Sungai Bertam to overflow. File pic

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: TASIK Ringlet in Bertam Valley here, the centre of a mud flood, which claimed four lives and damaged more than 100 houses a year ago, is still swamped with garbage and sediment despite efforts by Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to clear up the lake.

Now, with the rainy season in full swing, the possibility of a similar tragedy recurring is looming.

Going by Tasik Ringlet’s current state, it is obvious that much more has to be done by the authorities to avert another tragedy.

Last year’s mud flood took place in the early hours of Oct 23 when Sungai Bertam overflowed after water was released from the Sultan Abu Bakar Hydroelectric Dam.

The fact is Tasik Ringlet, the reservoir that holds water to power up the dam, can no longer sustain water to its original capacity. What is wrong then?

Dredging to excavate silt and garbage from the lake are being carried out by TNB. This year, it is spending RM40 million to excavate 750,000 cubic metres of sediment from the lake — the highest yearly expenditure so far compared with the RM180 million it had spent carrying out similar works since 2001.

TNB generation division senior general manager (asset management) Azman Talib said the excavation works were complicated and involved high costs.

He said only one-third of the lake contained water, while two-thirds were made up of garbage and sediment, enough “to fill 100 football fields if stacked up to the height of a double-storey house”.

Azman said the amount of domestic and agricultural wastes generated by the residents here had increased ten-fold from 50 years ago.

“In the 1960s, about 30,000 cubic metres of garbage and sediment used to enter the lake every year. Now, the amount has soared to 300,000 to 500,000 cubic metres a year.”

Recalling last year’s tragedy, Azman said the sole water outlet from Tasik Ringlet had become clogged by garbage and sediment, and this had caused the dam’s water level to rise rapidly.

“The unusually heavy rain and flash floods in Ringlet town had worsened the situation.

“In the end, to avert a worse disaster, we had to manually release the water from the dam to prevent the spill gates from opening should the water reach the 3,513 feet level.”

Mohd Faizal Mohamed, 32, who was among those affected by the mud flood, said when he heard the siren, he and his family rushed to the third floor of the government quarters they lived in, which was close to the reservoir.

Faizal, a teacher, said he could see the water level rising rapidly.

Azman said the Sungai Bertam reserve land close to the dam ought to be declared out of bounds and people should be barred from the area due to the danger of floods should water be released from the dam due to exceptional rainfall. Bernama