It was not until I watched the news coverage by Buletin AWANI that I know about the plan to build a new highway shortnamed SUKE (Sungai Besi – Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway). It is a plan aimed to reduce the massive traffic nightmare motorists have to face in MRR2 everyday . When we were looking for a house, we had to cross out a few options because of the traffic problems we might have to face to get to work if we choose to live there – we heard Jalan Ampang is almost a no-go during rush hours, and even an empty parking space at Ampang LRT station would be a rare find on working days. It is just common sense that the authority, upon receiving complaints, will take the step to build another expressway that would reduce the commute time from these areas –Sungai Besi, Alam Damai, Cheras-Kajang, Taman Bukit Permai, Taman Putra, Taman Permai Jaya, Taman Dagang, Taman Kosas, Ampang and Taman Hillview before ending it in Ulu Kelang.
The authority has came out with good stakeholder engagement initiatives, and many turned out to its public briefing sessions. But it was not at all roses – many opposed the idea of building another highway citing potential environmental problems, safety issues, and some even claimed that having SUKE will only increase the traffic in certain areas instead of reducing it.
I have not been following the issue of Lynas rare earth plant very closely, but I do know the basic arguments for and against it. Rare earth, as some might have known, are elements used in most of our electronic devices (that includes your iPad and mobile phones, flat panel displays); also used in defense and alternative energy industries. It is only recently that we saw thousands came out and protested on the construction of the rare earth processing plant for its radioactivity, and other associated risks, citing the example of Bukit Merah plant in Perak, a similar plant which allegedly cause severe birth defects and leukemia cases in the local community.
When I ponder about these two issues, I found many similarities that I can’t just ignore.
Both touch the rights of the people for safety – which is basically human rights. Many raise environmental concerns too – and this is definitely applaudable. It shows that at one level, Malaysians do not only care about themselves. For the case of Lynas, think about the money pocketed by the state government and federal government, which some portions of it (the leftover of what’s being given to corrupted individuals if there’s any) will go back to the mass, also the employment opportunities that come with the plan.
Nevertheless, I found it hard not to take this to beyond the environmental and safety concerns.
For both cases, the authorities approved the plans for both, I supposed, because both manifest development. And fundamentally, that is what we have been asking from them – we explicitly mention having the ability to bring physical development as a key criterion for one to be voted to be in the office. We hear this every now and then, especially when the election is nearer. The authorities are only giving us what they thought what we demand of them, hoping that the votes will go to them again next time.
And what we object now, in both cases, are somehow not parallel with what we are currently doing. It is a mixed signal that we sent.
We object another highway built in our backyard – but we never shut up from complaining about bad traffic. While some specifically suggest building better public transport systems instead of a new expressway, many of us (including me) still choose to drive to our destinations, and not even carpooling at that.
We object having a rare earth plant in our homeland, but did it ever cross our mind that essentially without the demand from the mass (all of us consumers, not only Malaysians of course), there will be no need for a supply of rare earth elements? If there is less need for more iPhones, iPads, LCDs, and the likes of it, there is no business case for a whole new processing plant.
I am a culprit myself, no denying to it. My household has two cars we might actually not need, we are thinking of upgrading our CRT to a flat screen TV, and bought a house which space is considered excessive for three occupiers.
But in a world where owning physical items become more than a mean to improve our quality of life, but also to satisfy one’s need to be seen as better than their contemporaries – we tend to be happy with consuming more. Less doesn’t equal more satisfaction. We are constantly upgrading our phones, laptops, cars, houses etc. We are taking more than what we need – and now we are complaining about our rights for safety and better environment being violated.
This is very contradictory from sustainability point of view, and essentially from my view, the root cause of the problem.
Playing safety and environment cards, I guess, can only go so far, but just remember, though as basic as it is, it is this simple economic law of supply and demand that governs this world.