Friday, June 7, 2013

Wrath of environmentalists

The Star, Friday 7th June 2013

Photos by SAM THAM

Nature threatened: Taman Rimba Ampang is the place city folk go for a cool dip in the river and enjoy nature, hence NGOs are worried about the effects of the East Klang Valley Expressway construction. Nature threatened: Taman Rimba Ampang is the place city folk go for a cool dip in the river and enjoy nature, hence NGOs are worried about the effects of the East Klang Valley Expressway construction.

A VISIT to the recently reopened Taman Rimba Ampang gives a good idea of the possible environmental impact the proposed East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE), the final route of the Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR), may have.

The park was closed for about a year for a major clean-up and to repair amenities damaged by serious flooding in March last year, which also inundated two villages nearby.
Broken roads and paved paths, rotting trunks lying across the river in which children play and a gazebo is sloping down dramatically due to soil movement are all too common.

This extensive damage happened when the trees on the hills around Sungai Ampang were still intact. As such, the prospect of a highway being built right though these hills was undeniably worrying.

Environmental groups are not convinced by the Detailed Environ-mental Impact Assessment (DEIA) done by UKM Pakarunding Sdn Bhd, which was commissioned by EKVE Sdn Bhd, the project proponent.
The company is a subsidiary of Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd which signed the RM1.55bil concession agreement with the Works Ministry for the design, construction, completion, operation, management and maintenance of the stretch.

It was reported that the concession period is 50 years.

Environmental groups were surprised that the Environment Department (DoE) in Putrajaya approved the said DEIA about a month ago.

Wrath of nature: Part of the walkway in Taman RImba Ampang damaged by previous flooding. Wrath of nature: Part of the walkway in Taman RImba Ampang damaged by previous flooding.
They felt that the approval was “done irregularly” in a meeting in which NGOs, including the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), which was on the panel, were not invited.

Environmentalist Lim Teck Wyn said a petition with more than 3,000 signatures of residents and park visitors had been submitted during the DEIA’s public viewing period but it was still approved.

“The primary concern here is that the highway will cut through the Selangor State Park gazetted in 2005 in conjunction with its Developed State status. The state park was classified as Rank 1 Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) under the National Physical Plan and accorded the highest status of protection.

“If this is the kind of thing we do to a heritage site, we do not deserve developed state status,” said Lim.

To make their voices heard, MNS, WWF-Malaysia, Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES) and Save Our Rivers (SOS) have formed the Coalition for Taman Warisan Negeri Selangor recently. Lim is its adviser.
The Ampang Forest Reserve that falls within the state park would be affected, Lim pointed out.
He added that the DEIA had left out the forest reserve’s boundaries, which would show the impact more clearly.

“Part of the highway is right next to Sungai Ampang in the upstream.

“This is also the Ampang water catchment area and the source of Sungai Klang, which the River of Life project is striving to rehabilitate. What’s the point of cleaning Sungai Klang when its source is not protected?” said Lim.

He pointed out that the river was crystal clear some 10 years ago.

“Natural landslides upstream have made the water murky now, just imagine how the construction will affect water quality,” he said.

The NGOs also felt that the erosion preventive measures suggested in the DEIA would not reduce its harmful impact much. They insisted on re-aligning the highway and wanted to be on the panel that would oversee this.

“The erosion modelling used by the DEIA had not taken into consideration the increased risk of flooding shown in the past few years."

“The highway planning also did not look at the additional highways we have in Kuala Lumpur and MyRapid Transit, it is still based on a study done in the 1990s.

“Furthermore, instead of building this highway, why not just build an elevated MRR2 since they are connecting the same places?” Lim queried.

He said the groups acknowledged that a stretch of the earlier proposed alignment that would affect the Klang Gate Quartz Ridge was not approved.

“However, there is no guarantee that it will not happen in the future. We fear that once the highway goes through, the whole forest will be opened up for development.”

Lim urged the federal and state governments to consult the public whenever a forest reserve would be affected.

“The state government has made a ruling to protect forest reserves but it has not been fully adhered to, look at what happened in the Kanching Forest Reserve.

“Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir has said that Kedah is willing to forgo timber revenue.

“If Kedah can do it, Selangor should be the one leading the way,” said Lim.
Source: The Star Wrath of environmentalists

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Aerial View: Destruction and Degradation of Tasik Chini

Aerial View: Destruction and Degradation of Tasik Chini
by TIMForestwatch


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tasik Chini - Eco System On A Brink (Documentary)

Tasik Chini - Eco System On A Brink (40min Documentary)
by TIMForestwatch

The Forest Watch Project is launched by Transparency International's Forest Governance Integrity (FGI) Programme to involve the public to become eyes and ears of the forest by monitoring using Google Earth Geospatial Technology (satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D globe) to assess forest cover and report irregularities through the site.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Are Hydrogen Cyanide levels in Bukit Koman really safe?

Press Statement - 25 February 2013

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) queries the Department of Environment (DOE) whether the concentration and level of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) in the air in Bukit Koman, near Raub, Pahang declared safe by the Department, are actually safe and will not cause any adverse health effects to those who are exposed to the pollutant.

It was reported that in a statement to The Malay Mail, the DOE said monitoring of the environment adjacent to the Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd (RAGM) gold processing plant here found that each reading of HCN was below the 4.7 parts per million (ppm) standard for safety and workers’ health set by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). The readings were also well below the 10ppm standard set by the Cyanide Management Guidelines of the Department of Mineral and Energy, Western Australia.

However, SAM is of the opinion that the standards the DOE is using to conclude that the HCN levels are safe are NOT the correct standards. Stricter standards exist for inhalation reference exposure level as opposed to the ceiling limit of 4.7ppm for HCN, of which under Malaysia’s Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, an employer must ensure that the exposure of any person to the chemical hazard does not exceed the ceiling limit.

For instance, in California, there are standards stipulating that on a short-term basis, in order to prevent loss of coordination and loss of consciousness, due to cellular hypoxia of the central nervous system (CNS), 24-hour average levels of HCN should not exceed 340 µg/m3 (0.30ppm).

Whereas on a long-term basis, in order to prevent CNS effects, thyroid enlargement, and hematological disorders, annual average levels of HCN should not exceed 9µg/m3 (0.008 ppm).

Until the DOE can demonstrate that HCN levels are below these standards (0.3 ppm on a 24-hour basis, 0.008 ppm on an annual basis), it has no basis to conclude that hydrogen cyanide levels at Bukit Koman are safe for the residents living in the area, bearing in mind that they are not workers who have chosen to be exposed to this pollutant for the duration of their working hours only.

Furthermore, hydrogen cyanide is not the sole pollutant here and members of the community, especially vulnerable individuals, have been suffering ill health for extended periods, which they suspect is caused by exposure to several different pollutants.

We urge the responsible authorities to conduct long-term 24-hours continuous monitoring of air pollutants and to determine the source of emission. Ambient air quality guidelines for HCN and other pollutants must be set  and stricter standards must be used by the DOE to ensure protection of public health and the environment.

Source: Consumer Association of Penang (CAP)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cyanide exposure from gold mining real, say Bukit Koman residents (TMI)

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — Irate Bukit Koman, Raub residents insisted today that they are exposed to unacceptable levels of cyanide exposure daily from the Raub Australian Gold Mining (RAGM) plant despite claims to the contrary.

The residents claimed they are exposed to daily cyanide concentrations of 0.5 to 0.8ppm daily, although Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob alleged in September last year that the issue is an agenda of opposition parties instead of an environmental issue.

The levels were obtained from a monitoring board posted at SJK (C) Yuh Wah, around 1km away from the plant, which displays hydrogen cyanide exposure measured in parts per million (ppm).

“We found that every minute hydrogen cyanide is detected in the air, and the highest reading was 1.11ppm,” Tan Hui Chun, a member of the Ban Cyanide Action Committee (BCAC), told reporters here.

BCAC criticised the 10ppm maximum permissible level stipulated by the Department of Environment (DOE), claiming that it was way higher than the 4.7ppm level set by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Act (OSHA) 1994.

The group noted that while New York’s standard was set at 0.03ppm and the Czech Republic’s is 0.007ppm, Malaysia has no set level for hydrogen cyanide exposure in residential areas.

They stressed that they are not against the project, but urged RAGM and the government to follow a strict process to ensure that people are not being exposed to poisonous hydrogen cyanide.

Dr Tan Ka Kheng, a professor with the HELP College of Arts and Technology with a background in chemical and environmental engineering, expressed his shock over the irresponsible absence of environmental safeguards in the plant concerning hydrogen cyanide emission.

“If we have a limit, for example 4.7ppm per worker in the factory, for the public usually it’s at least 10 times less,” said Dr Tan, who acts as an adviser for BCAC.

“This is terrible. The only time we heard about cyanide poisoning was during the war.”

Hydrogen cyanide gas was used by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust for mass execution in the gas chambers, and was also part of the United States and Soviet Union’s chemical warfare arsenal.

The environmental group has gone through several defeats since the plant was opened in 2009 to extract gold from ore using a controversial process involving highly poisonous cyanide.

Just yesterday, the Ministry of Health rejected three of the five experts nominated by BCAC for a joint research panel with the ministry to investigate health effects of the plant.

Renowned international cyanide management and gold mining expert Dr Glenn C. Miller was rejected since his involvement would require lengthy bureaucratic approvals to obtain a working permit.

The other two experts were PAS MP for Kuala Selangor Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and PSM MP for Sungai Siput Dr Michael Jeyakumar, both rejected for their political affiliations. They are both public health experts trained in toxicology and cardiology respectively.

Besides Dr Tan, the other expert accepted by the panel was Dr Chan Chee Khoon, an epidemiologist and former Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) lecturer.

In September last year, the group had failed in the Federal Court to challenge the preliminary environmental impact assessment (PEIA) report by RAGM, which was approved by DOE director-general.

In the same month, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob issued a statement accusing opposition parties of politicising the issue.

“The opposition has learnt from their teacher Adolf Hitler, who believed that a lie told many times will become truth,” Adnan told the Pahang state assembly.

The Cabinet has insisted since 2009 that the gold mining plant poses no danger to the environment and the health of close to 3,000 residents in Bukit Koman.

Gold extraction using cyanide is currently banned in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and two states in the United States — Montana and Wisconsin.

Source: The Malaysian Insider, By Zurairi AR (February 07, 2013)