Damansara folk say still in dark on MRT land acquisition

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Damansara Heights residents complained today of lack of communication on the Klang Valley MRT project, saying they are still clueless if their properties will be acquired to make way for the mammoth infrastructure development.

In an e-mail to Prasarana group managing director Shahril Mokhtar, a representative from the Damansara Heights residents’ association (RA) pointed out that the Land Public Transport Commission’s (SPAD) representative, Leong Shen-Li, had during a May 3 briefing given the residents verbal assurances that the residential houses along Jalan Damansara Permai, Jalan Damansara Endah and Jalan Jelutong would not be compulsorily acquired, although Section 4 Notices have already been issued.

According to the e-mail, Leong clarified those only properties along the relevant Jalan Semantan stretch would be acquired for the MRT project. These include the Shell and Esso gas stations, opposite Bangunan UOA Damansara.

 “However these are merely verbal assurances by the PR Manager of SPAD. The residents would need something more concrete (eg a written confirmation by/on behalf of SPAD or Prasarana), before they take or refrain from taking any economic decisions as regards their homes,” the RA said today.

The group is demanding Prasarana confirm that the residential homes along the said roads would not be acquired.

Leong has written to the RA informing them that no acquisition of residential properties will be required along the stretch, but added the caveat that this can only be cemented after the public feedback was concluded.

“[F]inality will be reached only after the end of the public display period on 14 May 2011, and when the prime minister signs off on the finalised alignment which is expected to be anytime from the end of May to early June,” said Leong.

Leong, the spokesman representing SPAD, and Ibrahim Packeer representing Prasarana, were present to brief the residents at the meeting.

According to the representative from the Damansara Heights residents, the SPAD and Prasarana representatives had focused primarily on the noise issue.

But when one of the residents approached Professor Salman, a consultant brought in to field questions, and asked him for recent data instead of showing the residents research data from the 1970’s, “he became defensive and would not or could not respond”.

“According to this resident, recent neuropsychological data clearly indicates that noise levels at the high decibels shown by Prof Salman would compromise a person’s functioning irrevocably especially when the exposure is for an 18 hour stretch with a three minute interval, on a daily basis,” the RA said.

The association also said that there were other more pressing issues, for example, the proposed underground Circle Line.

“Having an elevated station at PBD to become a major interchange with the underground Circle Line, does not make any sense at all and the steep and winding descent of elevated tracks from Semantan into the underground tracks a mere 1.5km away,” it said.

However, the RA said that these issues were not dealt with by the SPAD or Prasarana officials at the meeting, other than to say that they cannot yet comment on the Circle Line.

The association said the project’s officials have been “deliberately evasive, or were just plain obtuse” and that SPAD and Prasarana officials have yet to explain the Circle Line despite the project’s scheduled July start.

The group added that Leong merely said he would pass on the suggestions and all other comments to his boss, Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar for “further action”.

While the MRT initiative has generally been welcomed by city commuters weary of traffic congestion and inadequate public transport infrastructure, it has also come under heavy criticism for its apparent haste and lack of consultation with city residents.

In addition to Damansara Heights, residents in the affluent northwest suburbs of Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Bandar Utama have protested against the proposed station locations for fear that they would prove sub-optimal and also called for the MRT to go underground to avoid disturbing the already densely developed and mature neighbourhoods

With an estimated cost of between RM36 billion and RM43 billion, the KL MRT is touted as the most expensive construction project ever undertaken in Malaysia.

The MRT will snake from Sungai Buloh to Kajang along a 51km-long line, including a 9.5km stretch which is underground. There will be 35 stations, of which 13 will have park-and-ride facilities. The project is due to start this July 16 and is scheduled to complete by 2016.


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