BRUNEI-MUARA – The Imang Dam will be receiving a $3.9 million upgrade to increase its overall capacity so it can supply irrigation to all paddy plantations in Brunei-Muara.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Sembada188 harvesting event on Tuesday, head of Agricultural Engineering Services of the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA), Saidin Namit said that the Imang Dam can retain about eight million cubic meters of rainfall in its current state.

It is the main water supply for plantations in the Wasan, Bebuloh, Panchor Murai, Batong, Junjongan and Limau Manis area.

However, with the expansion, the dam will be able to retain up to nine million cubic meters. This is “a significant increase” as it will allow farmers in the  Pangkalan Batu area to simultaneously plant other crops and the new hybrid rice varieties, which requires constant irrigation.

“For now, paddy farmers [within the Pangkalan Batu area] have to schedule their planting accordingly because with the current capacity [of the Imang Dam], it is not enough to service other areas outside of Wasan [the nearest plantation to the dam],” Saidin said.

The dam’s $3.9 million uupgrade includes a deepening of its reservoirs as well as the removal of vegetation surrounding it, a welcomed development said the senior official as the dam “has not been maintained” since it was completed in the late 90s.

He said that the project will also include an upgrade to the water pumps that supplies water to the holding tank, where water is distributed to all paddy plantations in Pangkalan Batu.

Harvested Sembada188, a new high-yielding rice variety which requires constant irrigation.  Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

The Imang Dam upgrade is just one of the upcoming projects conducted by the DAA aimed at improving irrigation and drainage systems for paddy plantations in the district, which produces about 80 per cent of the nation’s rice output.

Other projects include the construction of a 10km irrigation pipeline to the the newly identified Limpaki paddy plantation, and the upgrade of water retention ponds for farms outside of Wasan.

“Although in the near future the dam’s capacity will be enough to supply all the commercial paddy plantations [in the Brunei-Muara district], we want to ensure that other areas that are further away from the dam are equipped with their own irrigation systems, so they won’t have to rely solely on the Imang Dam”.

No timeline was given as to when these projects will commence, however, Saidin said that once initiated, the dam will be completed within 15 months. Meanwhile, the irrigation pipeline for the Limpaki paddy plantation, costing about $1.8 million, will be completed within eight months from its commencement date.

The cost and timeline for the upgrade of water retention ponds outside of Wasan was also not disclosed.

In September last year, the DAA inked an agreement with Preston Geocam (B) Sdn Bhd to identify groundwater sources for paddy irrigation purposes. The results will be used to identify suitable locations to build wells to supply water to non-irrigated areas such as the Lot Sengkuang agriculture development area in Belait.