FINALLY breaking their silence, Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd (AZRB), the concessionaire of the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) project explains about the project in an exclusive interview with StarMetro.
Phase One of RM1.55bil project will stretch 24.1km from Sungai Long in Kajang to Ukay Perdana in Ampang. Work on the highway began Sept 1.
AZRB group managing director Datuk Wan Zakariah Wan Muda addressed environmental and traffic concerns surrounding the project.
“The EKVE is part of the missing link for the eastern region of the KL Outer Ring Road (KLORR).
“It will also be a direct way to by-pass the city for traffic from both north and south, going towards the east via the KL-Karak Expressway.
“EKVE is part of the Highway Network Development Plan outlined by the Works Ministry.
“The KLORR is a traffic dispersal scheme that was planned very much earlier. It is important to complete the link for it to be a full traffic dispersal scheme.
“The Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) has reached beyond its capacity of a dual three-lane highway, especially from Batu Caves to Ampang and Cheras.
“The traffic has gone beyond 180,000 cars per day, which is Service Level F (the worst level according to some guidelines for calculating the capacity and quality of service for roads and highways).
“The MRR2 was designed to accommodate a maximum of 160,000,” said Wan Zakariah.
Once completed, the highway is expected to benefit 140,000 motorists a day with an expected growth of 4% per year.
The most controversial aspect of the EKVE project has been the de-gazetting of 106.6ha of the Ampang Forest Reserve (AFR).
The Selangor government’s endorsement of the project prompted NGOs to voice their concerns. These include Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES), WWF-Malaysia, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka) and Institute of Foresters Malaysia (Irim).
“About 326.7ha of land will be acquired for the EKVE alignment, out of which 106.6ha is located along the fringe of the forest reserve. This portion constitutes 0.001% of Selangor’s entire forest reserve,” Wan Zakariah explained.
“The excision of the AFR was carried out strictly in accordance with the National Forestry Act 1985 and we are in the process of replacing the acquired forest reserve based on a one-to-one basis.
“What this means is that AZRB has to find replacement land, which will then be handed back to the state to be gazetted as forest reserve. So, at the end of the day the forest reserve will not be depleted or reduced in any way.
“We have identified the location (of the replacement land) and are in the process of changing its status from agricultural land. In fact, we have bought over 130ha of land in between the Ulu Langat and Ampang forest reserves so that it will be a contiguous to the forest reserve,” he revealed, adding that the acquisition of the alienated land aside from the AFR by Department of Lands and Mines (JKPTG) is 80% complete.
“Along the entire alignment, only 15 households in Kampung Sungai Michu are affected and they have been well compensated,” said Wan Zakariah.
On comments by NGOs on the impact of the highway to the forest reserve, Wan Zakariah said several measures were in place to help mitigate any effects to the forest.
“The alignment of the EKVE traverses along a 5km strip close to the forest edge.
“We are not encroaching into the quartz ridge or going through regions with colluvial deposits (rock debris) as that region is unstable and will involve too much cutting,” he noted.
On concerns that the EKVE would dissect the AFR and create a physical barrier and restrict the movement of animals, Wan Zakariah said 40% of this stretch would be elevated.
“For areas where the structures will be on the ground, 21 box culverts will serve as drainage while eight 100m-wide beam bridges will bridge valleys and rivers. Both will double up as animal crossings.
“On average, there will be an opening every 250m for the 5km stretch, allowing for unhindered movement of animals,” he said.
The company and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) are working closely to relocate any animals away from the construction site of the expressway.
“From now till the start of physical works, we and Perhilitan will be going into the forest to survey the area and pushing animals across.
“They will be monitoring even during construction should there be any animals to shift,” he adds.
According to Wan Zakariah, a special committee will be set up to specifically monitor the project.
“The committee will be answerable to the state exco. As our approval for the project is conditional, the relevant authorities can put in a stop work order if we fail to comply with any of the conditions.
“We have to adhere to over 100 conditions imposed by various authorities including the Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM), Public Works Department (JKR), Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) and the Department of Environment (DOE).
“The longest list of conditions, about 66, come from the DOE alone.
“Most of the them, some covering the entire concession period, relate to environmental and safety issues.
“MPAJ and JKR have particularly stressed on a proper management system to be implemented within the present road reserve during construction.
“This is to minimise traffic congestion, especially at peak hours,” he said, adding the company was currently concentrating on upgrading Jalan Ukay Perdana first.
“Unlike other road construction projects, our work method in the forest will be different.
“Only the specified work corridor will be cleared and we will open up the area in stages, entering the site from the north and south exits.
“The state Forestry Department will go in first to harvest the trees along the corridor. Once that is done, we will come in to do strengthening, erosion control and pavement works.
“Because of this, this stretch will take the longest in terms of duration,” Wan Zakariah disclosed, adding that the highway would be elevated to an average of between 7m and 10m.
To minimise damage, the “manual hand-dug caisson pile” method will be used instead of the conventional bored pile method. This will avoid the use of heavy machinery in the area.
Pollutant removal system
“As part of the stringent conditions set by DOE, as we are passing through the forest reserve, any surface runoff must not be directly discharged into any natural streams unless treated.
“To that effect, we will be introducing the Pollutant Removal System (PRS), which is based on German technology.
“The PRS will filter out all the toxic materials and discharge the water. The discharge will be minimum Class 2, as instructed by DOE.
“The entire work surface acts like a viaduct where surface runoff is directed to the PRS via a specific drainage system and not directly into nearby streams.
“We will have six PRSs throughout that 5km stretch and they will remain throughout the life of the highway, which we will maintain,” said Wan Zakariah.
He said this marked the second time the system would be used in Malaysia, with its first during the construction of the Senai Desaru Expressway in Johor.
Traffic impact assessment
Another highly contentious issue surrounding the EKVE project are claims that an outdated Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) study was submitted for approval.
“The ‘discrepancy’, highlighted by the Bukit Antarabangsa Residents Association, was clarified in a meeting chaired by MPAJ on Aug 27.
“The residents association claimed we submitted an outdated 2012 report. But the project covered in the report is for the next 10 years and is still valid.
“Even so, we have submitted a new study which was done this March and was accepted by the residents and Miros,” Wan Zakariah pointed out.
Wan Zakariah said for the KLORR to be effective, a second phase would also have to be completed.
“We will sit down with the state to find the best alignment so that the ring can be completed.
“The previous alignment was approved by the former menteri besar, but the current administration has reviewed it and disagrees with the alignment as it will go behind the Klang Gates Dam and the Quartz Ridge,” he explained.
“At the end of the day, AZRB will be in charge of building, operating and maintaining the highway.
“It will not be a case of us taking shortcuts during construction as it will only backfire on us,” he said.