LETTER TO THE EDITOR
EXPLORE ALTERNATIVES TO TREE-FELLING
As a Petaling Jaya resident, I am dismayed that the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has made the decision to cut down over 1,100 trees for the construction of the Damansara-Shah Alam Highway (DASH). Petaling Jaya residents were previously informed that only 160 trees were identified for felling to make way for the highway construction project.
On 10th April 2017, the MBPJ confirmed that 1,100 trees of varying sizes will be felled for the highway project. Concerns are now raised as to the final number of trees already felled and to be felled, the basis for the increase in the number of trees felled, how the earlier evaluation had been made and why the earlier number could not be adhered to, and who stands to benefit from the felling of the trees.
Despite the fact that the highway developer Prolintas is required to replant two trees for every tree felled, it is submitted that these tree-planting efforts have only limited potential to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, compared to if mature trees were left intact and protected against disease and felling. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) averred in a special report in 2000 that tree-planting initiatives could sequester only around 1.1 to 1.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year. Global greenhouse gas emissions, on the other hand, were equivalent to 50 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2004. Although replanting and tree-planting initiatives are better than no climate change mitigation efforts at all, the carbon sequestered through replanting is almost negligible.
Further, as concerned citizens, we would like to know where the developer and MBPJ propose to replant these 2,200 trees, the variety and species of trees to be planted, whether the tree-planting sites chosen will be afforded protection against land-clearing and future development projects, and what level of care these new trees are expected to receive to ensure their survival. Merely putting saplings into soil does not constitute reforestation and climate change mitigation efforts. A tree will only begin to be effective in absorbing CO2 in its 10th year. A 25-year-old tree will be able to absorb approximately 0.0011 tonnes of CO2 over a year. Over 25 years, we would need 36 trees to offset just one tonne of CO2. Disease, deforestation and reclamation of land for development will have an impact on whether a tree survives for 50 years and beyond.
The DASH project was proposed as a solution to traffic congestion in the Damansara area. However, any good it proposes to effect by reducing traffic volume and travel distance is invalidated by the destruction and damage to the environment caused in its construction. Urban trees play a vital role in temperature regulation, floodwater and stormwater absorption and pollution reduction, among others. Urban tree canopies provide shade, oxygen, habitats for birds and wildlife and recreational spaces for people. Felling mature trees and then pledging to ‘replace’ them is not the right approach. One cannot simply ‘replace’ a mature tree that has been providing oxygen and other ecological services. In addition, the felling of trees goes against the National Landscape Policy and defeats the purpose of tree-planting and urban renewal campaigns.
The developer and MBPJ should look into the possibility of realigning the highway construction plans to minimise damage to the environment and reduce the number of trees to be felled, and of relocating and transplanting the smaller and younger trees. It is clear that despite the wishes of the public and the concerns of environmental organisations, the developer and Selangor State Government fully intend to press ahead with the construction of the DASH Highway. It is thus incumbent upon the developer and State Government to take all measures necessary to protect, preserve and retain the existing trees and to reduce the environmental impact of the DASH Highway project.
WONG EE LYNN
GREEN LIVING SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP,
MALAYSIAN NATURE SOCIETY