ANYONE would think it would be a bad idea to cut through a limited green lung that is also a vital water catchment area for millions of people.
Anyone that is, except the Selangor state government it seems, which has been keeping mum on the controversial East Klang Valley Expressway.
In an open letter, WWF-Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma expressed frustration with the state government over its silence on the status of the project — which will adversely affect the Selangor State Park.
This letter was in response to the recent announcement in the media that the Ampang Jaya Local Council and One Stop Centre committee had given the RM1.55bil highway project the go ahead.
This is in spite of the public and many conservation groups, including WWF-Malaysia, having voiced objections to the proposed project.
“Parts of critical water catchment forests will need to be cleared and the Selangor State Park — the last remaining contiguous forests and the only state park in Selangor — will be fragmented if the project is to proceed.
“WWF-Malaysia and other parties have used every opportunity available to voice our objections officially on the proposed project, however, to date we are left wondering if any of our concerns are being heeded,” says Dionysius.
While opponents to the project have been vocal, he adds, the “silence from top decision makers in the state government on the status of the EKVE has been deafening”.
Last October, Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali had announced the state government’s decision to review proposals for six new highways in the state, including the EKVE.
While the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (KIDEX) got the chop — raising hopes that the same would happen with the EKVE — the state government until now has remained silent on the project.
“Despite calls by numerous parties for full disclosure of information, transparency in its decision making, and concerns on the clearing of water catchment forests in the state for the project, it is disappointing that the state government has not officially disclosed information on the status of the proposed project or its alignment and neither taken a stand on the project.”
The WWF-Malaysia feels that the trade-offs of this highway project will far outweigh the benefits in the long term, especially as the road will cut through and fragment water catchment forests and the Selangor State Park.
At a meeting with state government officials last year, the NGO and other parties proposed that an independent and transparent environmental cost benefit analysis is undertaken with stakeholder participation, to show if the proposed project will really benefit the state and her people in the long term.
To date, Dionysius says, it is unclear if such a study has been carried out and it’s discouraging that no feedback has been given since the meeting.
His letter also highlights how the state government had been vocal in its promises to safeguard natural resources and to protect the environment.
“Pakatan Rakyat’s 2013 Election Manifesto included a commitment to strengthen efforts to rehabilitate and conserve state forests as major sites for water catchments and green lungs,” says Dionysius.
Azmin, when tabling the state’s 2015 budget, had given the assurance that the state authorities will not approve activities that destroy the flora and fauna in order to protect the ecosystem. He had also promised that all the remaining forest reserves in the state would be conserved.
“However, these commitments don’t seem to have had any bearing in the EKVE decision making process,” says Dionysius.
The state needs to ensure that its decision on the EKVE does not compromise the remaining forests in the state, he adds.
The integrity of the Selangor State Park and water catchment forests need to be protected in totality and it is the responsibility of the state government, as the custodian of its forests, to do so.
“It is our belief that the state still has the powers not to allow the EKVE to cut through our precious water catchment forests and state park — if it really is committed to environmental conservation, that is,” says Dionysius.
The environmental organisation strongly calls on the Selangor State Executive Committee to disclose the status of the proposed EKVE and the state’s stand on the proposed project, given the numerous commitments made to protect the forests in the state.
Dionysius adds that the state government should stand by its commitment to protect all remaining forest reserves in the state and not allow the EKVE to traverse through the Selangor State Park.
“We seek assurance from the state government that its commitments on environmental conservation will be demonstrated in every decision and action — decisions that will protect forests and ecosystem services the forests provide.
“Please don’t backtrack on your commitments. Save Selangor State Park, save our water resources.”