New Selangor highway will destroy major water source, warns green group (7.7.15)

( Infographic: Malaysian Insider)

( Infographic: Malaysian Insider)

A green group is sounding the alarm after the Selangor government approved a new highway they say will cut through the Ampang forest, a critical source of water for the Klang Valley.

The approval of the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) early last month comes as water distributor Syabas warned Klang Valley residents to brace for disruptions in the coming dry months.

The Selangor government’s approval of the EKVE also puts into question Menteri Besar Azmin Ali’s pledge on January 7 not to allow development that harmed the environment.

“We are still questioning how both the state and federal governments are pushing this project forward,” a spokesperson for environment group Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES) said in an email.
“(On June 29) news was published on yet another eminent dry spell and likely water shortage. How is (the Ampang forest reserve) no longer needed for water catchment if a water shortage is looming once again?” said TrEES director Christa Hashim.

Highways over water

Christa said the green light for the 39.5km tolled EKVE was given via its inclusion in the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) Local Plan 2020.

The plan had been amended by MPAJ and the state planning committee to include the EKVE on June 2, said Christa.

An infrastructure project must be included in a local council plan in order for it to be built.

What this essentially means is that the Selangor government has given the go-ahead for the project’s developer, Ahmad Zaki Resources Berhad (AZRB) to build the highway.

Based on the EKVE alignment in the local plan, the Ampang reserve will be cut down in phase one, which starts from Sungai Long, Cheras to Ukay Perdana, Ampang.

The Selangor Forestry Department in February 2014 announced a proposal to de-gazette 106.65ha of the Ampang forest reserve for the construction of the EKVE.

In phase two, from Ukay Perdana to the Karak highway, the EKVE would have cut a swathe through the Ulu Gombak forest reserve north of the Klang gates dam.

“In the Selangor Structure Plan released recently, both the Ampang and Ulu Gombak forest reserves are classified as ‘water catchment forests’ and are part of the Selangor state park,” said Christa.

According to the TrEES website, the Selangor state park is the origin of its rivers and provides more than 90% of the water supply to Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Selangor’s water resources are coming under increasing stress due to heightened demand and leakage in treated water distribution.

According a November 2014 report in The Malaysia Insider, about 33 out of 100 units of treated water produced are lost because of leaky pipes or theft.

In a June 29 report in The Star, Syabas (Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor) warned that taps may run dry again in July and August due to supply disruptions.

The February to April water woes last year saw almost 6.7 million residents in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor hit by water rationing as rivers and dams ran dry.

No phase 2

MPAJ councilor Ahmad Sabri Abu Bakar, however, said approval was only given for phase one of the highway.

The final alignment has yet to be decided as residents of Ukay Perdana have complained that it could increase congestion in their area.

“Phase two of the highway was not approved due to environmental concerns,” said Ahmad Sabri.

Christa said the fact even without phase two, the highway would still harm Sungai Ampang, a valuable water source in the Ampang forest reserve.

“Phase 1 will cut through the Ampang forest reserve, running close to the banks of Sungai Ampang for much of the way.”

According to a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) of the project, Sungai Ampang is considered a class 1 river, or very clean, she said.

“Both phase one and two of the EKVE will jeopardise two very clean water catchment areas.”

AZRB declined to comment on concerns that the project would impact on the environment.

Another TrEES director Leela Panikkar asked why phase two was still part of the local plan if it was not approved.

A map of the local plan sighted by The Malaysian Insider included a road project matching the original phase two of the EKVE which meanders north of the Klang gates dam.

“The project proponent can still come back and propose a new alignment for phase two or a different alignment,” said Leela. – July 6, 2015.

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