National NGOs Object to KIDEX and Question Findings of Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment Report

Four national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have raised their objection against the proposed Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (KIDEX) because it comes at a price in terms of adverse impacts on the environment, public health and residents of Petaling Jaya. The findings of the Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) undertaken for the controversial KIDEX have been called into question by the NGOs.

The NGOs – Consumers’ Association of Penang, Environmental Protection Society Malaysia, Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Third World Network – have demanded a full environmental and social impact assessment so that decision-makers and the public are properly informed about potential risks to health, public safety, environment and local communities from constructing a fully elevated highway through densely populated residential and urban areas affecting homes, schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas.

The PEIA, commissioned and paid for by the project’s proponents, KIDEX Sdn. Bhd., as part of meeting relevant statutory requirements, examines possible environmental and social effects of the project on local communities and the environment.

In a letter to the Director General of the Department of Environment, Dato’ Halimah Hassan, the groups including national NGOs with experience evaluating proposed highway developments, expressed serious concerns about the validity of the PEIA, including its assumptions and analysis, and about the inclusion of the authors’ value judgments into the report’s conclusions.

The NGOs are worried that the flawed analysis and conclusions may inadvertently mislead decision-makers.

“We are concerned that in a number of cases the conclusions of the PEIA don’t follow properly from its analysis. Instead they seem designed to present a rosier picture of the expressway than the data and analysis would justify”, said S.M. Mohamed Idris, President of the Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

The PEIA, for example, documents that noise pollution is above legally permissible levels for four out of five segments of KIDEX, and that KIDEX will further increase these levels.

Rather than highlighting that KIDEX will move noise levels even further above legally permissible limits, the PEIA downplays the additional noise, stating vaguely that all stations “would be subjected to the same compliance requirements if KIDEX was not constructed” and “the compliance status would be similar” — i.e. not legally permissible.In response, the NGOs in their letter to the Department of Environment dated 4th June 2014 pointed out that “existing violations should not be a justification for additional ones”.

The PEIA then confirms noise will exceed permissible levels at some 12 locations, including at several schools and a hospital. To address this, it proposes construction of noise barriers.

These can reduce additional noise but cannot remove it altogether. The feasibility of constructing noise barriers is also questionable, as they would block access to the residential roads over which KIDEX would be built.

If noise levels are already above permissible levels, and if KIDEX will add to this, and if the feasibility of noise barriers is uncertain, then the report’s conclusion that “sound level with noise barriers at the sensitive receptors are fairly acceptable and are below the permissible levels” is doubtful.

In addition to conclusions that are not coherent with the analysis and data, the final conclusions of the PEIA include the authors’ opinions and value judgements, where they should not.

“On what basis do the authors assume that congestion will be reduced, given evidence emerging that KIDEX is to connect with other major highways via residential roads? And on what basis do they conclude that any perceived reduction in congestion outweighs the costs in terms of social, environmental, health, safety, aesthetic and other impacts?”, asked S.M. Mohamed Idris.

The NGOs state in their letter that the PEIA is not an adequate basis for decision-making about KIDEX and raises substantial questions.

“The proposal to build KIDEX just to solve traffic problems is fundamentally flawed and is not a sustainable or sensible solution to cope with the increasing number of cars on the road,” said Nithi Nesadurai, President of the Environmental Protection Society Malaysia. “The solution lies in focusing on and providing easier access to public transport, and then disincentivising the use of private vehicles, especially those which are single occupant.”

Although the NGOs do not see the need for KIDEX, should the government continue to pursue the project, they then call on the Director General of the Department of Environment to exercise her authority to require a detailed environmental impact assessment for the project to ensure that decision-makers and the public have the detailed, independent information they require to make an informed decision about the project’s likely impacts on the people and environment of Selangor.

The engagement of national NGOs on the KIDEX controversy suggests that it has become a national issue and no longer one of concern merely to residents in Selangor.

Press Release, 5 June 2014

On behalf of: Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP), Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM), Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), Third World Network (TWN)