Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why you shouldn't build a road across the main range

Peninsular Malaysia has a backbone. It is called the Titiwangsa Range. It starts up north on the Thai border and travels south, ending up in the state of Negri Sembilan, south of Kuala Lumpur.

First two photos: what the Titiwangsa Range can look like.

It is very, very old. Which means its foundation is riddled with the geological equivalent of arthritic joints, sagging muscles and poor skin tone. And just to add insult to age injury, it is situated in a place of high torrential rainfall all year around.

When we went to Camerons, we took what is known as the Pos Slim road, or the Simpang Pulai road. It is new(ish). We (the environmentalists of the nation) warned what would happen, but politicians and developers know better, naturally. Or unnaturally.

Photos 3 , 4 and 5 were taken from the road visible in photo 6. Photo 6 was taken from the top of the landslide visible in photo 5. If you look very hard in Photo 5, you will see trucks and heavy machinery - tiny little dots. this gives you an idea of the scale of this landslide. The road is at the apex; the slide goes on for hundreds of metres.

The road has already had numerous landslides, and someone is making a fortune from the continual repairs, a cycle which inevitably destroys more and more of the highland rainforest, resulting in everything from river/dam siltation to coastal pollution affecting fish stocks.

The road is also a disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later, someone will die up there.

Sooner or later a landslide will collect a car or truck or two. It's just a matter of time.

Take a look a these photos, and wince.

No such road should ever have been built.

Early roads were built by following contours and using pickaxes and buckets, and they have survived although even they have problems (compare the new and the old roads up Fraser's Hill and see if you think the new road is an environmental improvement or an environmental disaster).







In this kind of terrain, only tunnels and bridges should be an option, and even then one wonders. Why won't the ignorant listen?

The last photo shows the Australian weed (acacias) having a field day on the barren slope that once looked like photo 1. In the distance you can see the gash cut through the land like the parang* slice of a giant, who has gouged the land in malicious glee.

*machete

5 comments:

Peter said...

Shortsighted, sad and discusting.

For what reason was the road built?
Economic? Company profit?
Is road building in Malaysia performed by government or private contractor?

Glenda Larke said...

Not sure who built it; I suspect the public works dept, but you can be sure private suppliers and sub-contractors made a packet, as did the loggers etc, etc.

There was a good reason for needing the road - the only road up to Camerons was narrow and winding and the area at the top (with its cool climate) is now a major vegetable growing centre, exporting to Singapore.

But when what you end up with is a dangerous environmental disaster like this new road, and you were told that it would be by people who actually understand the geology of the country, then you did something not only wrong but incredibly costly in ways that will last forever.

Perhaps they could have thought in terms of transport by cable instead. I've seen such things in Europe. Or using tunnels. Bridges to span valleys instead of chopping into the valley sides for miles and miles. Any damn thing would have been better than this.

bibliobibuli said...

makes me so angry!!

Alex said...

What can I do to stop this kind of destruction? I want to help.

Glenda Larke said...

Well, best advice I can give is hook up with what the Malaysian Nature Soc is doing - central office are always looking for volunteers (and are well aware that most of us work and have limited time). Besides helping out with whatever their current projects are, it's great fun!

Alternatively, join one of the special interest groups (free as long as you are a member) and work with them on their conservation projects. Could be anything from Raptor Watch Week, to collecting Crown of Thorn Starfish on a reef, to taking kids on forest outings, planting trees, desisgning brochures, helping with the website...or all of the above.

Great way to have fun, learn about our natural world and biodiversity, explore Malaysia on the cheap, make great friends of committed people, do something worthwhile...

http://www.mns.org.my