18 April, KUALA LUMPUR – An environmentalist has hailed the government move to leave untouched the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge in Gombak, Selangor, under the renegotiated East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.
Andrew Sebastian, who is also a naturalist and an established certified nature and bird guide, said “Protecting the quartz ridge should not have been even a consideration; it should always be protected”.
The 16-km long and 200-metre wide pure quartz dyke, the longest of its kind in the world, would have been a major environmental casualty under the ECRL project originally proposed by the previous government.
It would have involved tunnelling through the country’s mountain ranges, including the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, at a huge cost to the environment.
Last Monday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the new deal that the current government had renegotiated with the Chinese government after postponing the project due to its high cost.
Following nine months of renegotiation, the government reduced the cost significantly by RM21.5 billion, bringing down the cost from the original RM65.5 billion to RM44 billion. The alignment, shortened by 40 km to 648 km, will also see the number of stations reduced from 26 to 20.
Environmental factors were also considered in the new ECRL alignment, Dr Mahathir had said when announcing the resumption of the rail link project.
Andrew welcomed the new rail system linking the Klang Valley with the east coast, saying that it is much-needed and timely and that it will provide a clean and efficient way of travel both for people and in the transportation of goods.
However, he said, serious consideration must be given to the environment during the implementation of the project.
“The environmental cost of such a large project must be carefully contained and there must be transparency in terms of how much land will be used and, most of all, they must not take down any forest or forested areas in the process,” said Andrew, a law graduate who also writes the Eco Journey column for the NAM News Network (NNN) website under the Bernama International News Service.
“The idea to protect ecosystems like the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge is a very good mandate and assurance that has been given, but other places like permanent forest reserves, river reserves, corridor connectors, such as from one forest complex to another, must be taken into consideration as well.
“The ECRL project must have a very, very high standard of environmental planning, execution and monitoring,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Bernama quoted Department of Environment (DOE) director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajuib Che Ibrahim as saying that the DOE had not set any date for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report from the Federal Government on the new alignment of the ECRL.
“The EIA report can be submitted if the Federal Government is ready to present it to the DOE. No final date has been fixed for the submission,” he said.