Environment Personal

[2600] A lament of a tree lover

I do love trees. There is something comforting about trees, especially when I am surrounded by tall buildings most of the times. In the tropical Kuala Lumpur, it also has a cooling effect. That makes the city every bit more livable, never mind the aesthetic value it offers. Imagine large rain trees with the sound of leaves whistling as soft breeze blows through the landscape. Even imagining so is enough to make me smile a bit.

Great trees remind me of a time when I was relatively carefree, when I would lie down in the shade of a tree during summer, sleeping or reading a book or just eating lunch. The memories I associate with trees calm me down. A place without trees is a barren place and a depressing at that.

I can say that I have emotional connection with trees, especially with those within my familiar environs. And I had favorite trees in the past. These favorite trees of mine were where I would return almost daily when the weather permitted to do what a young me would do. I would lie down on the grass, by the trees and just stared at the clear blue skies. The mind would just be empty, uncluttered by equations, reports, personal issues, and only the heaven knows what else. I would be at peace with myself.

It hurts me whenever I see a tree cut down. Sure, there is deforestation everywhere, everyday but the feeling is accentuated when I see it. There is a feeling within me, almost irrational, that equates such cutting down to torture or killing of animals.

So, it pains me to see trees are being cut down to make way for the construction of the mass rapid transit in Kuala Lumpur. The first trees cleared to my knowledge were those on Federal Hill. I spotted it all the way up from the Parliament tower when I had a short stint there. It is the spot where the tunnel begins. Or will begin.

The latest patches of green succumbing to the monsters that would make up Devastator in the animated series Transformers (not the horrible Michael Bay’s version—he ruined Transformers) are in Damansara. The trees by the road leading to Bangsar from Jalan Semantan are now gone. The trees along the Sprint Highway will be gone soon too. Some have already been cut down.

I know, in terms of carbon accounting, the MRT will probably reduce net carbon emissions even as it cut down those trees (as well as trees for timber from elsewhere). That is good but it still pains me to see these trees being there no more. Between watching a pillar supporting the MRT rail line and a green, lush tree, I prefer the latter.

Also, the dust is nothing to look forward to.

Do not get me wrong. I do love to see a Kuala Lumpur with MRT. I do love intracity trains. Notwithstanding its financial merit and demerit, for better or for worse, a city with a great rail system is nice to live in. I for one do hate driving and the MRT will provide an alternative way for me to move around the city, if I stay in the city by the time the lines are operational. But that does not mean everything about the MRT is a-okay.

There are costs to it and the trees are one of the costs.


[2500] Will there be any saving in the MRT setup?

Here is a microeconomic contract theory puzzle with the incentives do not quite line up perfectly.

According to the Financial Daily today, the MRT project delivery partner (a joint venture between MMC Corp and Gamuda) will be punished by the project owner if the cost of the project exceeds 15% of some base. Any cost overruns beyond that limit will be borne by the PDP instead of being passed to the project owner, which really is the government.

In StarBiz today, it is reported that any cost saving will go directly to the government.

This makes me wonder, will there be any saving? What incentive is there to discourage the PDP from running 14.99% above the agreed base. Is it not rational for the PDP to eat up any saving that might exist, leaving nothing for the government?

But I guess we can take comfort that a cost overrun is a likelier outcome than any saving. After all, the last time a similar project was carried out in Kuala Lumpur more or less 10 years ago, the cost ran out of order so much that the developers had to be bailed out by the government.

Some comfort, eh?