PETALING JAYA - Commissioned in 1963, the 39.6m-high Sultan Abu Bakar Dam was built across Bertam river to generate electricity by then Lembaga Letrik Negara by impounding water from a 183.4sq km catchment in the highlands.
The dam forms part of the Cameron Highlands-Batang Padang Hydro-electric Scheme, which has an installed capacity of 262MW.
Under normal operating circumstances, water from the dam, located 1,071m above the sea level, is channelled via a tunnel to an underground power station further downstream.
Overtopping of a dam beyond its spillways can cause its eventual failure. Overtopping surface runoff will remove earth on both sides of the riverbank that hold the dam in place.
To counter this, dam operators normally undertake controlled discharges via the spillways, something that TNB claimed that it did early yesterday morning, to prevent flooding the entire Bertam valley.
The area around the dam is widely known to be undergoing massive land clearing activity, legal or otherwise, for agriculture and tourism.
Even to the most casual of observers, siltation over the years from land clearing in Cameron Highlands is forcing TNB to put in place a near-continuous desilting programme to maintain the reservoir, which was once a popular tourist attraction.