Malaysia: 45 tunnels to save pristine forests

mazwin nik anis The Star 28 Feb 18;

PUTRAJAYA: Only 216ha of forest will be cleared to make way for the 688km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) alignment, with efforts being made to further reduce the size of the affected area.

This is only 10% of the 2,000ha of forest originally estimated to be lost in the course of the project, said Dr G. Balamurugan, managing director of ERE Consulting Group Sdn Bhd, which conducted the social impact assessment of the project.

This was made possible through the redesign and realignment of the ECRL, he added.

“ECRL is a project of great importance for the country. What we want is to ensure it causes minimal damage to the environment and impact on wildlife while meeting its economic and social objectives,” he said at the signing of a memorandum of agreement between China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) on the implementation of a wildlife management plan.

CCCC was represented by its executive managing director Bai Yinzhan while director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Hashim signed on behalf of Perhilitan.

The signing was witnessed by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian.

Dr Balamurugan said the ECRL alignment runs close to 25 different forest reserves, home to animals such as elephants, tapir, tigers, barking deer and sun bears.

To minimise the impact on the environment, 45 tunnels will be built to keep the forest intact.

For wildlife to be able to roam freely and safely, 27 crossings and 100km of viaducts will also be constructed, he said.

“In areas that can’t be avoided, expeditions will be held to check for rare species of flora which will be replanted at unaffected forest areas,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the RM10mil contribution from the CCCC for a period of seven years would enable Perhilitan to take crucial measures to ensure the rail project complies with environmental requirements.

“The wildlife management plan will, among other things, minimise and monitor the impact on wildlife and their habitats along key stretches of the ECRL,” he said in his speech.

Describing this as a milestone agreement, the minister lauded the project for its environment-friendly initiatives.

Dr Wan Junaidi said he had informed the Cabinet that the ministry wanted to be consulted from the start of the project so that any concerns and impact on the environment could be addressed.

“With the agreement on the implementation of a dedicated wildlife management plan for ECRL, this key catalytic rail project will proceed with adequate safeguards.

“This is a win-win situation as the ministry strongly believes that development and the environment must always go hand in hand.

“I am glad to see that CCCC is proving to be a good and responsible partner for the ECRL by focusing on protecting the environment.

“This collaboration will ensure the project incurs minimal damage to the environment and protects the welfare of wildlife,” he said.

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