Malaysia: Benefits of KL-Singapore high-speed rail outweigh potential environmental costs: Report

Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project will have several short-term environmental concerns, but the long-term benefits on commuter safety and carbon emissions provide a "strong justification" for the project, an environmental impact assessment report showed on Wednesday (Dec 27).

In a report commissioned by MyHSR Corporation, the group responsible for the development and implementation of the project, it was noted that air, water and noise impacts, soil erosion and sedimentation are among the short-term environmental concerns.

Among these concerns are also carbon dioxide emissions that will be generated from the burning of fossil fuels to provide enough electricity to power the HSR system. By 2060, 646,000 megawatts hr/yr of electricity is needed to support the HSR system. This hourly figure is about 140,000 times the electricity per capita consumed in Malaysia in 2014.

However, the report added that mitigating measures have been put in place to ensure that these environmental effects do not adversely affect people.

For example, pathways used to transport soil and biomass will not be located near residential areas.

The report also added that "the duration of the construction period is relatively of short term" and that the "impacts will be intermittent".

As a result, the findings from the study indicate that "on an overall basis, the HSR project is expected to induce net positive environmental impacts" the report said.

POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL EFFECTS

When operational, the HSR will offer three services - the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore direct service , a one-stop service from Iskandar Puteri to Singapore and a domestic service stopping at seven stations - and operate between 6am and midnight daily.

Annual ridership is expected to reach about 15.2 million in 2030 and increase to 37.8 million in 2060.

These ridership figures will translate into fuel and carbon dioxide emissions savings, the report said. It is projected that by the 10th year of operation, about 19 million litres of fuel will be saved from fewer vehicles on the roads.

Additionally, the electric-powered HSR will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and this can amount to up to 55 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions saved.

With the HSR, commuter trips between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will likely be serviced predominantly by the rail service, rather than by air or cars, the report said.

Hence, commuter safety is also expected to improve.

The report stated that 6,872 fatalities were recorded on Malaysian roads in 2010, especially during festive seasons with high traffic figures. As commuters switch to using the HSR instead of driving, this could "reduce the exposure of commuters to safety incidents with significant benefits to the economy and society".

However, the report does take into account that although certain impacts are mitigated in the long run, social impacts may extend into the future as well.

The HSR alignment is set to start from Bandar Malaysia Station in Kuala Lumpur and pass through Putrajaya, Seremban, Malacca, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri before terminating in Singapore.

As such, eviction and relocation of businesses and households in these areas may take place, said the report.

A social impact study has been commissioned to assess the impacts and potential social benefits of the HSR.

IS THE HSR JUSTIFIED?

Despite the short-term and long-term negative impacts, the Malaysian government believes there is "a strong justification" for the HSR as it will "contribute significantly towards the country's future economic growth" and help transform Malaysia into a "high-income, developed nation".

In order to achieve the World Bank's requirements for a high-income nation, Malaysia expects to raise its per capita income from US$6,700 to US$15,000 by 2020.

Furthermore, the HSR is also expected to create 111,000 jobs.

In terms of convenience, commuters can enjoy an increased speed of travel between cities, especially cities in the south-west coast of the Malaysian peninsula.

Additionally, pick-up and drop-off facilities for passengers will also be included at the HSR stations, allowing easy access for passengers arriving or departing by buses and taxis. Those driving will also have about 8,400 parking facilities across all Malaysian stations.

The HSR, slated to be ready by 2026, is also expected to shorten the travel time from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to 90 minutes.

Source: CNA/aa


HSR will be good for environment in the long term
The Star 29 Dec 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) is expected to be good for the environment in the long term, according to an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.

The report noted that the chosen HSR alignment is not expected to lead to environmental disturbances which could affect the health and safety of residents in surrounding areas.

In addition, the alignment would not have any significant impact on ecology along with surface and ground water systems.

The report stated that the project could also reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases generated by the local transportation sector, improve or increase connectivity through time saved, reduce traffic and create jobs.

However, the amount of emission reduction depends on the relative fuel efficiency of a transport mode and the HSR.

The HSR’s annual ridership is expected to increase from approximately 15.22 million in 2030 to 37.8 million in 2060.

The report noted that there would be permanent loss of forest areas and associated environmental services from forest reserves due to the project.

A small part of the Sungai Pulai Forest Reserve (mangrove forest) in Gelang Patah would be affected.

The size of the affected mangrove forest area is 25ha and the total estimated environmental value from the mangrove area is RM27,001.44 per hectare per year.

Another 1,141ha of oil palm plantations and a total of 902ha of rubber estates would be affected.

The report said minimal water quality impact is expected because of mitigation measures such as site-specific erosion and sediment control measures along with planned construction of bridges at river crossings.

HSR operations are not expected to cause adverse noise and vibration on surrounding land areas as the alignment is routed primarily through plantation areas.

The report noted that potentially adverse environmental impactcould occur during the construction phase due to land clearing and earthwork operations for tunnels, elevated structures, stations and depots.

“However, the resulting soil erosion and sedimentation impacts are short term and can be effectively controlled by adopting tried and tested mitigation measures,” it said.

The EIA report was posted on the official website of MyHSR Corp, a company wholly owned by the Minister of Finance Incorporated, on Dec 27.

The Department of Environment Malaysia is currently reviewing the EIA Report.

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