Malaysiakini Letter

ECRL: More in-depth study needed to reduce environmental impact

Sharan Raj, PSM
Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) welcomes the Pakatan Harapan government’s efforts to enhance public transport when they decided to revitalise the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) as a means to connect the east coast and west coast of Malaysia that will reduce travel time greatly.

Avoiding tunneling through the 16km Klang Gates Quartz Ridge is the right move to protect the geological heritage of our central spine. The Titiwangsa Mountain Central Region located at the Pahang-Selangor-Negeri Sembilan borders is a mega-biodiversity region that needs to be preserved.

However, the proposed route from Mentakab to Jelebu may harm Titiwangsa’s tropical rainforest ecosystem.

Instead, we should consider a surface railway track from Mentakab to Karak parallel to the Federal Route 2 (MFR2), whereby from Karak, the ECRL could either:

  • Explore a 40km tunnel from Karak to Ampang Jaya, before merging with KL Sentral to avoid Klang Gates Quartz Ridge and Titiwangsa Mountain Range surface forest, or
  • Align parallel to Federal Route 8 to Genting Sempah before merging into KTM’s Batu Caves-KL Sentral tracks.

By utilising the existing Federal Routes, the construction route could be minimised, reducing impact on the sensitive region. 

The presence of ECRL’s high-voltage overhead power lines deeper into the surface forest and closer to the ground could generate electromagnetic waves which tamper with animals’ biomagnetic compass, also known as magnetoception, which applies particularly to birds, reptiles and mammals. This would cause them to be stranded and lost, especially the young ones, reducing their survival rates.

ECRL may explore tunnel realignment if could protect the surface forest biodiversity. The condition deeper underground in Titiwangsa Mountain is too hostile for complex organism so tunnel impact will be minimal. Surface railway tracks fencing creates “islanding effect” by dividing the forest. Thus, trapping the animals within a limited area jeopardizing the animals’ access for food and water.

The merging of ECRL operator, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd, into Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) will reduce the project’s price tag. Post-merger, the ECRL could utilise KTM’s Port Klang tracks, Electric Train Service (ETS) coaches, maintenance depot, ticketing system and cargo handling equipment reducing development cost.

Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) and tracklaying equipment from MRT might be used for the construction of ECRL. Malaysia successfully refurbished MRT 1’s TBM using mostly local components, with partys being reused in MRT 2.

ECRL’s biggest problem is the absence of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA).

A credible SIA would have recommended the merger of ECRL into ETS to promote a cohesive and affordable interstate railway network. An EIA would have proposed multiple options to connect Mentakab to Klang Valley, and its impact.

Without a credible SIA and EIA, PSM is concerned that the project will be skewed towards only financial considerations that would potentially harm our ecology and geological heritage.

SHARAN RAJ is national coordinator of Parti Sosialis Malaysia's (PSM) Environmental Bureau.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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