Ringlet Reservoir: Did deforestation, siltation lead to rapid rise in water level?

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A look at the terrain would suggest that land clearing upstream in the Sungai Bertam catchment area may have aggravated erosion and surface run-off to the reservoir, which has been plagued by siltation problems (as the colour of the water in the image below would also suggest).

The Ringlet Reservoir area
The Ringlet Reservoir area

Mind you, this image is from 2001; so you can imagine what the situation is like today.

Blog visitor Kam Suan Pheng adds:

The Cameron Highlands (Sultan Abu Bakar) Hydroelectric Power Project at Sungai Bertam was commissioned in 1963 (Global Energy Observatory) and the Ringlet reservoir was designed with a targeted life span of 80 years. The projected life span of any reservoir is normally based on the assumption that its catchment maintains the extant condition at the time of commissioning. However poor land use management of the Bertam watershed and sediment control resulted in siltation of the reservoir by the 1990s, and the high sediment load of the river has remained unabated. A shallowed reservoir has reduced volume to retain water, hence unseasonally high discharge from heavy rainfall and high runoff will trigger rapid rise of the water surface to danger levels. This has been a disaster waiting to happen, and may not be the last one if improper land use management of the Cameron Highlands persists not only in the Bertam valley but also the upper Telom valley.

A study supported by UKM in 2010 “found that the impoundment of river as reservoir not only caused the siltation to the Ringlet reservoir itself but it also caused the siltation to the river reach after the reservoir. The disconnection of upstream and downstream had caused the interruption of upstream-downstream movement of water, sediment, nutrients and organisms by the Ringlet reservoir.”

The same study noted:

Meanwhile, according to Choy and Hamzah (2001), extensive deforestation and indiscriminate earth bulldozing in the Cameron Highlands area for agricultural and housing development has resulted in widespread soil erosion over the land surface. It leads to sedimentation of the streams and the Ringlet reservoir from which water is drawn to the power station.

This blog post by an unknown writer by the name of usoff noted in 2006:

The badly silted Ringlet Lake - Photograph: usomba.net
The badly silted Ringlet Lake – Photograph: usomba.net

The studies on soil erosion and sedimentation impacts affecting the Ringlet Reservoir of Hydro Cameron Highlands Hydro Electric Scheme provide vital information on the high erosion risk area within the Cameron Highlands whole catchment as well as the contribution of various land uses towards erosion and sendimentation to the lake. Agriculture activities is found out to be the main contributor to the quality of soil eroion losses within the catchment(218,160.06 t/yr), followed by mixed residential development(14,260.03 t/yr) and road project (10,642.22 t/yr). Now because of that The Ringlet Reservoir was heavily silted and estimated figure of 600,000 cu.m of sediment. To improve the original lake capacity, TNB need to carry out the major dredging project and the cost for that project is about RM160Million.

Now, who is responsible for (not) monitoring and controlling land use in the area? Would this “tragedy” have been avoidable if there had been proper control of land use and a careful periodic review of the erosion in the catchment area and the siltation at the reservoir?

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Andrew

This is an Act of God. Please don’t try to blame our wonderful Barisan Nasional government for developing the dam and also the forests in Cameron Highlands via agricultural development, housing for tourists and roads to bring more tourists to Camerons to enrich the people there. What would residents of Cameron Highlands do without this dam, the agriculture and the tourism? If anyone is to blame for this mess, it is God. It is God’s responsibility to ensure that the rains fall within limits. God should not allow too much rain that causes floods that can overwhelm the holding capacity… Read more »

semuanya OK kot

Are we allowed to mention the timber tuans or are we only allowed to blame small fish like small farmers?

Batu Ferringhian

Let’s look at the local authorities and the State Government. Someone up there must have known about this but did nothing. Why were people allowed to build houses in the flooding areas? I saw a man being interviewed on Astro Awani a few days ago, I can’t remember his name but he was a professor from UKM (I might be wrong as I can’t remember). According to him, TNB lodged several complaints to the local authorities about the residents who occupied the flooding areas and they did nothing about it. I strongly believe that the local authorities and the state… Read more »

phyllis

Even though it was claimed that standard operating procedures were followed when the water of the dam was released, disaster still happened.

On the same note, I suppose disaster could also happen at Lynas plant even if SOP is followed?

Be afraid.

Kam Suan Pheng

The Cameron Highlands (Sultan Abu Bakar) Hydroelectric Power Project at Sungai Bertam was commissioned in 1963 (http://globalenergyobservatory.org/geoid/41471) and the Ringlet reservoir was designed with a targeted life span of 80 years. The projected life span of any reservoir is normally based on the assumption that its catchment maintains the extant condition at the time of commissioning. However poor land use management of the Bertam watershed and sediment control resulted in siltation of the reservoir by the 1990s, and the high sediment load of the river has remained unabated. A shallowed reservoir has reduced volume to retain water, hence unseasonally high… Read more »