By Chris Prasad
The East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) project has been heralded as a vital addition to the country’s ever-growing network of traffic arteries, particularly because it will spur the rapid urbanisation of rural areas that have not yet benefitted from the economic prosperity of the Klang Valley.
However, some say the cost of this progress far outweighs any positive economic gain. Specifically because the first phase of the EKVE – from Sungai Long to Ukay Perdana in Hulu Klang – involves the de-gazetting of about 263.41 acres of the Ampang Forest Reserve.
Late last week, various environmentalist groups gathered to protest the move, reminding the authorities that the Ampang Forest Reserve is one of the last few prominent green lungs in the Klang Valley and any construction on the site would be disastrous for the natural ecosystem there.
Their key concern was the displacement of forest animals and the disruption of their natural habitat as a result of the future highway.
Despite the protest, the project’s concessionaire Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd (AZRB) said construction of the highway will go on as planned, and it is currently progressing on schedule.
On the concerns raised, AZRB managing director Datuk Wan Zakariah Muda said the company was within the stipulated boundaries set by the Selangor government. AZRB received approval from the state government after it underwent a stringent process that included numerous engagement with stakeholders.
The company is required to abide by a list of conditions, Wan Zakariah said, adding that it will ensure that its subcontractors and suppliers do not violate any of the conditions. The conditions include providing replacement land to the state government for forest land taken for the project, and ensuring forest animals are not displaced by the construction.
“We have to be watchful that our subcontractors and suppliers at the site are not breaking any of these conditions. We have to abide by these conditions at all times,” he told a press conference at the group’s annual general meeting last week.
However, certain quarters, including pro-development industry stakeholders, question if such an outcome is plausible given that building a highway necessitates the felling of trees as well as carving and flattening the natural landscape.
AZRB was awarded the contract to build the 35.5km highway by the federal government in 2013. Wan Zakariah said construction on the project commenced in September 2015 and will take another three years to complete.
The company is currently bidding for a number of other projects worth a total of RM2.5 billion to RM3 billion. They include the 31.8 km Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway (SUKE) and 20.1km Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway (DASH).
In April this year, the group was also awarded a new contract by MRT Corp to construct and complete the viaduct guideway from Persiaran Dagang, Bandar Sri Damansara to Jinjang, worth RM1.44 billion.
The EKVE is a 39.5-kilometre-long expressway which will connect Ukay Perdana in Ampang, Selangor and Bandar Sungai Long in Kajang. Once fully completed, the highway will drastically shorten traveling time along the Eastern reaches of Selangor and boost economic activity along this path.