Risk of water disruption with ECRL northern route

by AFIQ AZIZ / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

CONSTRUCTING the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) under the Northern Alignment in Selangor would pollute its river and cause water disruption to four million users in the state.

Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari said the construction will involve the Sungai Selangor basin, which serves 65% of the Klang Valley’s total population.

As such, he said the proposed Section C of the project that will see ECRL traversing from Mentakab, Pahang, to Klang, Selangor, must avoid passing the area.

This was among the state government’s concerns when opposing the reversal of the alignment from southern to the northern approach, as recently pushed by Putrajaya.

“Sungai Selangor is the main river in the state. If there is pollution there, it would affect 1.2 million account holders, including industrial areas.

“Based on our experience, the construction of a rail or road project — be it LRT (light rail transit), MRT (mass rapid transit) or expressways — will affect the river and the surrounding areas.

“On the other hand, under the Southern Alignment, there will be some rivers that would be affected, but the implications would not be as big as the Northern Alignment,” Amirudin told the press after launching the SME Digitalisation Matching Grant in Shah Alam, Selangor, yesterday.

Unscheduled water cuts have been among the major issues haunting Selangor residents in the past years.

Last year, several incidents, mainly involving industrial effluents poured into the drainage and sewerage systems connecting to the river, had forced Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd to issue stop-work order at its water treatment plants, leaving more than one million houses with dry taps for several days.

Amirudin said it is not a risk worth taking.

“Especially, when it comes to the proposal to build a 14km tunnel in Pahang, which is near the river basin and will go through under the river.

“Of course they will claim that all the latest technology will be used to avoid unnecessary incidents, but normally, this would cause murky rivers and accidents, besides flooding the area.

“Based on our experience, regardless of where the company or technology is from, the issue will be repeated.

“The construction of ECRL would not take just one day…it would be years,” he added.

Last week, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said Section C of ECRL, which comprises an estimated 201km length, would be reversed to the Northern Alignment instead of the Southern Alignment, which both the state and the federal governments had agreed on in 2018.

Amirudin said the economic development is also a concern for the state, as many development streams are contributed by the southern area.

The 665km ECRL project was launched in 2017 by the Barisan Nasional government to boost cargo services in the west coast of

Peninsular Malaysia which will be connected to the Kuantan Port.

Apart from that, it could ferry huge numbers of travellers from the east coast region to the Klang Valley with a shorter travelling time.

The proposed Section C was to pass through Bentong-Gombak and Port Klang, which is known as the Northern Alignment.

However, in 2018, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration agreed with Selangor to change the alignment to the south, traversing Mentakab-Nilai, Negri Sembilan, before ending at Westports.

The plan was reversed by the Perikatan Nasional administration after the political realignment at Putrajaya that ended the 22-month PH ruling.

“We have met about nine times to discuss the ECRL development (with the federal government) since 2018.

“The discussion had reached 80% where we discussed the alignment, the land, as well as the name and location of the ECRL stations.

“But suddenly, this was highlighted after the change of the government, at the National Physical Planning Council, where one minister proposed to change it back to the Northern Alignment.

“Because of that, we have to go back to the drawing board and see which area of lands we want to use and there is no process undertaken, and we have also issued approval to firms to conduct studies and surveys. As for the Northern Alignment, nothing has been done yet,” Amirudin said.

“If we want the project to be developed on time, without delay, please agree with the Southern Alignment,” he added.

On the same development, Amirudin said Selangor is aiming to generate a conservative 5.2% of economic growth this year, backed by the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“The trend will be in tandem with the national GDP. The larger impact the nation has, whether positive or negative, the bigger the impact on the state.

“It will depend on how soon we can roll out the immunisation programme and (how well) we implement the standard operating procedures so economic activities would not be disturbed by any spike of Covid-19 cases.

“Additionally, manufacturing supplies for healthcare and biotechnology are also huge in Selangor, so perhaps this will help generate income for the state,” he added.

Malaysia GDP contracted -3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020 (4Q20) compared to a decline of -2.6% in 3Q20. Overall, the country’s GDP contracted -5.6% compared to 4.3% in 2019.

Bank Negara Malaysia forecasted the national GDP to grow between 6% and 7.5% in 2021.

At the event, Amirudin announced Selangor’s SME Digitalisation Matching Grant worth RM5 million is aimed at boosting the digitalisation initiative by the state for small entrepreneurs.

Through the grant, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can apply up to RM5,000 to purchase or subscribe digital providers that will help them embark on digital initiatives.

“The digital economy is expected to contribute 22.6% to GDP by 2025.

“As Selangor is always the largest contributor to the national economy by contributing 24.2% to GDP, the digitisation of the economy that mostly takes place in Selangor will also increase the income of the state government,” he added.