Malaysia’s Protected Selangor State Park Threatened by Highway Plans
In a clear-cut case of industry over environment, plans for a highway that would cut through vital water catchments and raze protected forests that drain carbon pollution from already unhealthy air were approved by a regional council in the populous Malaysian state of Selangor on Thursday, August 20.
Plans for the project in question – the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) – have met strong public opposition from the start. Its construction would de-classify and destroy parts of Selangor State Park, the state’s only protected natural area. The park was originally gazetted to safeguard air and water quality for Selangor residents while conserving Malaysia’s natural environment and protecting biodiversity, but now faces the threat of partial de-classification.
Air, water and environmental protection are important, but the consequence of Selangor State Park goes even further. The forests and plants there maintain the stability of Selangor’s weather patterns, ensuring the area gets rain when it needs it. Global climate change has resulted in drier weather than usual for Malaysia, which is already struggling with water supply issues. Destroying this forest for the sake of improved traffic congestion has seemed to Malaysian residents, environmental organizations and international entities, a bad idea from the beginning.
For this reason, WWF Malaysia’s executive director Dyonisius Sharma recently penned an open letter expressing his frustration with the Selangor government’s silence on the issue – the government is not letting the public in on whether it will approve the highway, or whether public opinion is being heard at all.
“WWF-Malaysia and other parties have used every opportunity available to voice our objections officially on the proposed project, however, to date we are left wondering if any of our concerns are being heeded,” Dyonisius wrote (Rakyat Post).
Selangor State administration’s handling of this EKVE controversy doesn’t bode well for transparency in the Malaysian government, and the de-classification of one protected area can lead to more.
As it stands, WWF Malaysia is awaiting a response to its letter, and Malaysia is awaiting governments that listen better to their subjects.