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Highway sparks water worries (2)

Former environmental consultant James Cherian said an elevated highway is a better option than one on the ground level but more information about this needs to be gleaned to assess the effects of the project.

"Off hand, an elevated highway would also reduce forest fragmentation and reduce encroachment by poachers," he said.

However, Cherian said pollution of waterways would be an inherent adverse effect of the development.

"A highway collects a lot of pollutants from vehicles and this will definitely find its way to waterways," he said.

"These are not ordinary pollutants and they cannot be removed from water easily. Some of it can be carcinogenic," he added.

He said exotic chemicals such as heavy metals and hydrocarbon compounds can be found in fuel, grease, exhaust fumes and tyre threadwear.

Water and Green Technology Professionals Council chairman Khairy Yeop said mitigation measures such as erosion controls, sediment traps as well as oil and grease treatment units by both contractors and the water treatment concessionaires will indeed the minimise risk of water pollution.

However, these would only be effective if regular monitoring and enforcement takes place.

"If sedimentation traps are not checked regularly for example, in the event of heavy rainfall may cause sedimentation traps to overflow, causing an increase in water clarity levels of up to Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU) 1000 or more," he said, adding that this would require most treatment plants to cease operations until turbidity returns to normal levels of NTU 200-500.

Contradicting the law
Sara Srinivasan, a policy analyst at WWF Malaysia points out that any form of cutting through the Selangor State Park or its 500 meter buffer zone would contradict the National Physical Plan-2.

According to the plan by the National Physical Planning Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, she said areas designated as Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Rank 1 stipulates that no development, agriculture or logging shall be permitted except for ecotourism, research and education.

Similarly, no development or agriculture is allowed for the park’s ESA Rank 2 buffer zone.

Directors for the environmental NGO TrEES Leela Panikkar and Christa Hashim also said it would contradict the local Town and Country Planning Department’s policy based on Agenda 21.

Many parties view the project as ‘reactive’ and see it as a short sighted solution that fails to address the root of traffic problems.

"Encouraging further reliability on motor vehicles seems a dead end with China, the European Union and the United States moving increasingly away from such a solution," said Carl Traeholt a senior research officer and coordinator of the Malayan Tapir Conservation Project.

If a road was built through the park however, Carl said making proper underpasses and overpasses for wildlife to disperse could help with habitat fragmentation issues for the Malayan Tapir.

Other tree dwelling species such as the white handed gibbon and siamang which are reluctant to cross roads however may not fare so well.

"Its a matter of integrating ecological components into this road development right from the beginning, in other words it depends on how the government decides to build the road."

Until a final decision is made, residents and nature lovers can only hope and pray that good sense will allow Mother Nature to prevail. -- theSun

Updated: 02 Jan 2011

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