Page: Highway Sparks Water Worries 1

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Highway sparks water worries (1)

By Meena L. Ramadas and Natalie Heng
THE proposed Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR) project, which has come under fire from environmental groups for cutting through the ecologically fragile Selangor State Park, could also impact the water supply in the state.
Rainforest Canopy
Rhinocerous Hornbills

"Any highway that will pass by a water catchment area is a catastrophe," said forest researcher and Ampang resident Lim Teck Wyn.

He said a highway would "open the door" to huge amounts of pollutants to flow into the water catchment area.

Although he acknowledged the main siltation effects would only exist for a short term, additional layers of silt settled at the bottom of the streams in the water catchment areas would kill sensitive organisms and affect the overall river ecology.

"Studies in Gombak have shown that this remains a problem for 20-30 years," he said.

The KLORR, which will link Rawang to Cheras, bisects the 108,300ha state park which houses several recreational parks and forests reserves, including Hulu Gombak and Hulu Langat Forest Reserves as well as the Ampang Recreational Park at Bukit Belacan.

It will also go through the geologically unique Klang Gates Quartz Ridge in Hulu Kelang, which is a potential Unesco heritage site and a major water catchment area.

Selangor Irrigation and Drainage Department River and Beach management engineer Ibrahim Yasis, while admitting that there would be some impact on the water catchment area around the Klang Gates Reservoir in Hulu Klang, claims it can be controlled.

He said there are many methods to  protect the area from vehicular pollutants and the state government is considering several measures to mitigate water pollution.

He said one of these measures is an elevated highway to protect the Gombak Forest Reserve and Selangor State Park, which the highway is proposed to pass through, and minimise effects to the dam.
Blue Banded Kingfisher|
Malayan Sunbear

"We will also implement a 500m buffer zone from the dam’s waterline," he said. The dam has the ability to produce 28 million litres of water per day to areas in Kuala Lumpur.

Ibrahim said another measure is a water retention mechanism to ensure vehicle fuel is separated from the highway’s runoffs.

"In view of possible oil spills due to accidents involving petrochemical vehicles, other methods also include interceptors to separate the oil from the water and indicators to protect the dam from the oil spillage," he said.

However, he said all of these measures are still in discussion as the alignment has not been concluded yet.

Once completed, the KLORR, which was proposed by the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA), is expected to alleviate traffic woes on the Middle Ring Road Two. The project has been awarded to AZRB and construction work on the western part of the KLORR has already begun near the Kanching Forest Reserve.

However, ever since the draft local plans for Ampang Jaya 2020 were displayed in late 2009, the proposed KLORR has come under criticism from groups such as the Malayan Nature Society (MNS), WWF Malaysia, Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES), as well as consumer and residents associations.

A check with the MHA found that KLORR is very much still under its planning phase. A spokesman from the authority was unable to give a timeframe when this might be completed.

However, he said the process, which involves local authorities as well as the state and federal governments, may take "a long time" and that as no decision has been made, the location of the road may still change.

Tunnel vision
Initially, the plan called for the highway to bisect the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, but following pressure from various quarters, the state government plans to implement a 200m tunnel as part of the highway to protect the ecologically sensitive Klang Gates and the Gombak Forest Reserve.

When contacted, state executive councillor for environment Elizabeth Wong said the tunnel has been approved in principle pending the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and other conditions to be outlined by the assessment.

State Town and Country Planning Department director Datuk Mohd Jaafar Mohd Atan said various stakeholders have submitted a "wish list" to the MHA.

"These include minimal deforestation, creating a passageway for animals to pass and the non-closure of any natural waterways," he said.

"We are waiting for their feedback," he added. -- theSun

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