The road toward progress passes through the rainforest.

The city of Kuala Lumpur (KL) has about 1.6 million inhabitants, and about 5 million vehicles are registered in the city or its federal territory. Despite having an efficient but underutilized public transport system, KL is undoubtedly a city in which mobility relies on private motorized vehicles. This, together with an intricate and counterintuive road system, makes KL a chaotic city, prone to air pollution and daily traffic jams.

Yet, the picture changes radically at less than eight km from the Petronas Twin Towers, iconic symbol of the city centre. Here the city leaves the ground to a thick, beautiful secondary forest and wetlands.

Part of these forests have been protected by the Selangor Nature Park since 1987. The rationale behind this park is not purely environmentalism-driven, as the Selangor forest hosts the catchment that provides water to the north-eastern part of KL. The park protects the forest from logging and from the erosion that it would induce, possibly compromising the water reserves in the forest.

Today, the Selangor Forest is threatened by the plans for building the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE). The hope behind the EKVE is that, with it to complete the outer ring of highways that circles KL, the mobility in the city would be improved.

Various environmental groupos are trying to stop the construction of the EKVE based on various reasons. One argument, the easiest to leverage upon although the least poignant, is that the plans for the EKVE have been approved covertly and possibly without following all the steps required by law. Another, more obvious reason is that the existence of a natural park should not depend on whether or not the land it protects offers economically profitable ways of being used. The very idea of national parks is that thay protect a land from exploitation because its environmental value is deemed to overwhelm any economical advantage. Finally, one might object that the mobility in and around KL remained very poor in spite of the profusion of roads, highways, and flyovers that were interveaved in the city over the years. Perhaps the solution should be looked for in rethinking the road system instyead of keeping adding to the existing mess without a long term plan.

Here is a video from The Leaf Project collective summarizing the issue:

To conclude, even if usually I avoid talking to the belly of people, here are some pictures showing just how magical that forest is:

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