PETALING JAYA: Three environmental groups have called for a moratorium of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), citing concerns over the viability of the project and the environmental effects it will have.
In a joint statement, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) and Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES) urged Putrajaya to further evaluate the project.
“We urge the federal government to undertake a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of the project.
“The cost benefit analysis should be a multi-stakeholder initiative involving federal and state agencies, environmental NGOs, research institutions, businesses, civil society and other stakeholders on a shared platform.”
The group voiced concerns that the ECRL will traverse the Central Forest Spine (CFS) as well as coastal forest areas, wetlands and rivers. They said all of these were part of sensitive and inter-connected ecosystems and home to many endangered and rare wildlife including tigers, elephants, tapirs and sun bears.
“These environmentally sensitive areas provide vital services to the nation including protecting 90% of the nation’s water supply, aiding in local climate control, flood mitigation as well as protecting vast areas of irreplaceable biodiversity.
“We recognise that the government has made efforts to mitigate and minimise the environmental impact of the project, including building underground tunnels and viaducts.
However, the group said the ECRL will still cut through forests causing fragmentation and that this was contrary to the CFS master plan which sought to connect all fragmented forest areas.
“We fully understand that the ECRL will be fenced for safety purposes, however this will affect wildlife movement,” it said, adding they were also worried about the effects of noise pollution on wildlife during the ECRL’s construction.
The group said it was also concerned that the long-term impact of the ECRL on the ability of the ecosystems to continue playing its role hasn’t been “adequately measured” and that the areas traversed by the ECRL pose construction and long-term maintenance challenges to the rail lines.
“We are concerned that the challenges these habitats present have not yet been factored into the project, including the construction of the rail line through Melaleuca swamps in Terengganu and Kelantan.”
These swamps, they said, are subject to flood and fire during the wet and dry seasons, and that construction in these areas should be avoided.
The group said that a wildlife management plan is needed before the construction of the ECRL begins and that such a plan should be developed with all stakeholders to enable decisions to be made in a transparent and accountable manner.
“We are concerned that if a wildlife management plan already exists for the project, this was done without involving or consulting many stakeholders.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Najib Razak in his speech at the ECRL groundbreaking ceremony in Kuantan, Pahang described the project as a game changer.
The 688km rail project will be built by China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC).