Thursday, April 9, 2015

What is the Fate of Our Water Catchment Forest?

Over the past few years, over 16,000 people have spoken up for the protection of Taman
The beautiful Ampang Forest Reserve
- part of Taman Warisan Negeri Selangor
Warisan Negeri Selangor, through the “Stop the EVKE Cutting Through the Selangor State Park” campaign.  However, the status of the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) and the Park remains unclear to the public.

While the DEIA for Phase 2, from Ukay Perdana interchange to the Karak interchange, was not approved, both phase 1 and 2 of the EKVE appears in the landuse section of the  “Laporan Tinjauan Kajian Rancangan Struktur Negeri Selangor 2035” (RSN 2035) and the ‘Proposed Amendments to the Rancangan Tempatan Ampang Jaya 2020’ (RTMPAJ 2020), despite the on-going objections from the public.  Furthermore, it was announced in February this year that EKVE Sdn Bhd. has received approval from the federal government to start work on the construction of the EKVE, with immediate effect.

Has the Selangor State Government agreed to degazette parts of the Ampang Forest Reserve to make way for the construction?  Before the area can be degazetted, there are 2 provisions under the National Forestry Act that need to be satisfied:

1. Is the area no longer needed for the purpose it was serving? 
2. Is the new land-use purpose of higher economic value than the current land use (i.e. water catchment)? 

The water crisis in early 2014 and the floods at the end of 2014 where deforestation played a big role, have both illustrated the importance of conserving our forests. With the state gazetting mining pools and river buffer zones for water catchment, it is hard to believe Selangor State Government can justify that the Ampang and Ulu Gombak forest reserves are no longer needed as ‘water catchment’ forests.  Also, there has been no independent economic evaluation of the ecological services this area provides – water catchment, clean air, protecting biodiversity, flood control, etc., to justify if the EVKE will be of higher economic value than the forest itself.

Furthermore, according to quotes by YB Tony Pua, conditions have been set out by the
Is this the fate of our water catchment forest?
Menteri Besar and the Selangor State Government before any new highway can be built in Selangor, including traffic impact studies, full transparency on the rate of return of the highway and the full disclosure of the concession agreement to the public.  Have these conditions been met with regards to the EKVE, as it would also be a 'new highway'?

The public, NGOs and resident groups have been voicing our objections to the EKVE cutting through the Park and jeopardising our water security at the recent
public hearings relating to the RSN 2035 and the RTMPAJ 2020.  But to date, we have not heard anything regarding the status of the expressway which will cut through pristine water catchment forests of Taman Warisan.   Will we only know the fate of our natural heritage when the bulldozers arrive?

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