By Henry Goh
As Malaysia’s oldest environmental agency, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) would like to express its concerns about the East Coast Rail Link’s (ECRL) environmental impact during construction.
While environmentalists generally welcome improved public transport systems for the long term benefits it can provide to the localised environment and population, MNS views with deep concern the potential environmental impact that the project may cause during its construction period.
Over its planned 600km length, 36% of the rail corridor (500m on either side of the rail lines) is currently classified as “forest”. The remaining corridor is 42% agriculture, 10% built-up and 12% “others”.
Obviously, with a 42% loss of agricultural land, there may be a need to declassify further forested land for food and horticultural production purposes.
In particular, a total of 12 Permanent Reserved Forests may be affected in Pahang and south Terengganu.
We are pleased to note that the CEO of Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd stated in his declaration for the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) that he had “allocated sufficient funds” to implement all the pollution prevention and mitigating measures described in the EIA and the Environmental Management Plan.
It will be a task for MNS to ensure that this pledge is honoured and the mitigation measures included during the construction to overcome any loss or fragmentation of habitat now supporting Malaysian wildlife.
With a currently estimated completion of mid-2024, the construction period may in itself prove to be the worst threat to Malaysian flora and wildlife with disruption within the forested areas and potential risk of soil erosion and water contamination.
MNS is the oldest and largest local conservation NGO with a large pool of experts in diverse fields amongst its membership. In the past, it has been instrumental in the successful gazetting of major forests, such as the Endau Rompin National Park and Royal Belum State Park.
The Society stands ready to work with allied agencies and provide professional advice in helping alleviate and minimise the impact of the construction and eventual facility of the ECRL.
Henry Goh is President of the Malaysian Nature Society.
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