Tuesday, April 7, 2009

River And Life (Batang Rajang Part 1)

Gold Arawana on his memorable journey from Daro to Kapit on Batang Rajang

My journey on Batang Rajang shown on blue trail. Daro, Sibu, Kanowit, Song and Kapit are towns that connected directly through this "King of the River". My finger is pointing on Kapit.

This long speedboat, or better known as Express Boat by Sarawakian is just an express bus for highway or, perhaps similar to LRT in City. Whatever his name is, he is the best friend of Batang Rajang, giving the best transportation mode for the settlements along the river. Some says that this is the reason why Kapit is not yet connected by roads. I am not the best to comment, anyway....

Batang Rajang in Sarawak is the famous river in Malaysia for its title as the longest river in Malaysia. From a bit research from the internet, I discover that Batang Rajang is about 563 km which flow from the mountain of Iran and meet the South China Sea at Bruit Island. “Batang” in Sarawak is common and mean big rivers.

I have the chance to visit Kapit for several times, but this time is really a memorable one as I am using two express boats from Daro (a town at the downstream) to Sibu (a major town in the middle of the journey) and to the upper stream of the river, Kapit. The journey took me about 5 hours, about two and half and hour each from Daro to Sibu and Sibu to Kapit. This cost me about RM 20.00 from Daro to Sibu and another RM 30.00 to Kapit.

The story is that how this mighty river has his strong interrelationship with the human and other living creatures which depends very much on him to survive.

DOWNSTREAM (Daro to Sibu)

My journey from Daro in Mukah Division to Sibu Town of course in Sibu Division, discovers an obvious how the river plays his important roles to and becoming the victim of “others”. It is between the river itself, human, flora and the fauna. Daro is surrounded by swamp area, where there is nowhere to find and hills. Daro is also popular for its “Terubok” which in the past could be easily found on the Batang Rajang and his smaller sub-streams. Nowadays, it is difficult for the fishermen as it dwindling ignorantly. My first trip to Daro, Terubok can easily buy, and cost about RM 15.00 per kilo but now increase to about RM 30.00, doubles in five years. I was informed that it is not easy to catch now, as the fish are either dwindling or migrating to other virgin places. This also happened to other popular freshwater-based foods populations on the fish, prawns and crabs.

Sand extracting and logging in this area gave big impacts on the river itself and its habitat. At last, the Terubok replica at Daro Town will be the last terubok standing in the land of Daro. Daro is a well develop District in the administration of Mukah Division. As result, they have to sacrifice their valuable nature. Sand extractions are for the sand filling on constructions, and logging for unclear reason. Most of the time, plantations of Oil Palms are the best reason for the developments. Who cares than!

Fishermen boats and the long speedboats (we call it express boat) which can accommodate about 100 passengers are common. Most settlements in Daro are not accessible by roads, yet the river is still the major mode of transportation. Most of them are Melanau Daro, and Iban longhouses which gives the rivers more merrier. Judging it by my naked eyes, the total log ponds are more than the total settlements along the river. Traveling from Daro to Sibu, the Melanau kampongs are getting lesser and the Iban longhouses are appearing more and more.

Nearer to Sibu, the fishermen boats are getting lesser, the tug boats carrying almost everything takes place. The longhouses are getting lesser and lesser, and the longboats are also getting lesser and lesser. This reflects that the settlements are already connected with the roads and the river being the second important for transportation. Log ponds are also getting lesser and replace by sawmill and it’s associated timber industries on the left and right side of the river. Other industries, boats factories are also appear, reflecting that the roles of the river itself are still relevant. There are almost no different on the view, as bakau and nipah are growing well along the river.

Sibu is the third major town in Sarawak. Its status as a floating town has slowing down his transformation to become the third City in Sarawak after Kuching and Miri. The town, where it is dominating by the Chinese Foochow was however the second largest town in Sarawak before Miri claims the honorable title. Processing of timber are the main industries that contributing major developments in this town. Half an hour before reaching Sibu, the passengers can easily view the tallest building in Sarawak, Wisma Sanyan.

As the timber is getting less, Sibu has transformed himself to industrial and food processing industries. On the locality, Sibu is the central one-stop for the central region. Most peoples from Sarikei, Kapit and Mukah Division came to Sibu for various business and job opportunities. This absolutely will be the major factor that Sibu still becoming one of the major towns in Sarawak. Another factor is the developments of the Rajang Port Authorities. For decades, this port being the important gateway that brings the needs to the peoples in central region. Again, the river is still the main factor to maintain its status and creates more jobs opportunities to the Sibu folks and the surrounding areas.

Significant to its status as the central town of the central region, my journey is adjourned to two hours before I continue my journey to Kapit by another express boats and another two and half an hour enjoying the relationship between the river and life.

The Hopes

A group of longhouse folks near Daro looking towards on boarding Express Board. They are one of thousands of peoples that depend very much on Batang Rajang for their daily activities.

The fishermen in Daro I believed still strongly dependent on their fishing returns for their incomes. Yesteryear, they are the champions of the rivers, know every sharp bends, and needs no special tools for fishing. To date, they are still the same, but they need special tools for the limited resources. I believed that they are not interested to work in the plantations and work for others. They have strong insane that the nature has everything for them, but needs extra effort to reach it. With the rivers have change tremendously; it’s no more the good friends to the fishermen. As the time change, they slowly follow the changes; by educating their children to become more educated, at least a better fisherman than their parents. Some of them migrate to better places, looking for jobs in towns which offer them more incomes. Not less, still depending on the river, for everything, income, transportation, drinks, foods, as well as the toilets.

A bridge under construction across Batang Rajang, this is one of the three or four bridges which will across the river. The road constructions perhaps give future hopes for more clean river. Or it will be forgotten as one of the important modes of transportation. The development of Tanjung Manis as the new gateway for the Central Region of Sarawak will erase the roles play by the Rajang Port in sibu. It just my opinion....

On upper stream of the river, river is means only for the business. Transportation is still the best choice and shipping industries is getting bigger and bigger. This has creates thousands of job opportunities to the locals. Unfortunately, I believed that the younger generations prefer to work on easy and in comfort environments. The rivers is still there, from a generous nature to cruel nature, suited himself to the evolutions of the human beings. He flowing on everywhere he likes and creates flood to the low land of Sibu. He brings his muddy smelly polluted water, which not allowed human and other living creatures to get it for free service. As the result of developments, human have to pay more for the rehabilitation. Still, there are nobody who cares about it, yes maybe but not sincerely done. Despite the clear warnings on global warming, extraordinary floods happened recently, the river is still the best choice to dump on the waste of developments. As he has served the people from Daro to Sibu for transportation for centuries, human shall appreciate his contributions towards cleaner and safer rivers for life. For the big tycoons, they have no problems because they have everything to recover their life qualities, for those who still depending too much on the one and only river, there is no special answer for that. Believed me, when the mother of nature show her anger, he recognize nobody either they are reach or poor. She serves for equilibrium, and everybody will take the risk.

My journey will take me about 126 km from Sibu to Kapit which take another two and half an hour. I wish that the Batang Rajang will be as what written at the board above;


My upstream journey on PART 2......

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