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Group wants environmentalists to oversee ECRL project

 | August 3, 2017

Peka says the government should consult environmentalists and include them in the board of directors of the company building the East Coast Rail Link as it involves tunnelling and cutting through rivers.

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KUALA LUMPUR: An environmental group has called on the government to co-opt local environmental experts to oversee construction of the 688km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) said the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study done on the project was not enough.

“The government should consult environmentalists and include them in the board of directors of the construction company,” said Peka president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil.

She expressed concern about the ECRL project, claiming that the government did not consult environmental groups before moving ahead on the project.

“The development plan looks good on paper but who will monitor this project?

“There is no single NGO or third party in the board to oversee the environmental impact of the project,” Sabrina told a press conference today after meeting executives of Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL), the local company involved in the project.

MRL is a special purpose vehicle fully-owned by the Ministry of Finance.

China Communications Construction Co (CCCC) will build the ECRL while financing will be provided by Export-Import Bank of China (Exim).

Sabrina said the RM55 billion ECRL project would require construction of 19 tunnels and affect about 12 forest reserves, five major rivers in Kelantan, 16 in Terengganu, five in Pahang and one in Selangor.

“Most of these rivers are the sources of water supply to the population and agricultural activities.

“Therefore, we are very concerned that the quality of the water in the rivers will become more polluted during the construction or upon its completion,” she added.

Sabrina also expressed concern over the cost of the project which involved 85% debts.

“Out of RM55 billion, RM46 billion is the form of debt. How will the government pay for it in the future?” she said, adding that according to Peka’s calculation, the government would have to pay more than RM10 million per day over 20 years to settle the debt.

An official of CCCC said it had hired local environmental groups to be part of the project. MRL did not elaborate on the statement.

The construction length of the rail link is 600km from Tumpat in Kelantan to Gombak in Selangor, and another 88km from Gombak to Port Klang. The project is expected to be completed in 2023.

It was reported that the project would benefit those in the rural areas by making travel easier, opening up business opportunities, and creating an estimated 45,000 jobs.


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