Nature group concerned about impact of MRT line/ Preserve parts of Bidadari as a haven for birds, says society

Today 4 Feb 2013

Nature group concerned about impact of MRT line

SINGAPORE — Following the unveiling of plans last month by the Government to construct a Cross Island Line, the Nature Society has raised concerns about the impact on the environment, given that the line will cut through one of the island’s richest areas in terms of biodiversity — the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

By Tan Weizhen

SINGAPORE — Following the unveiling of plans last month by the Government to construct a Cross Island Line, the Nature Society has raised concerns about the impact on the environment, given that the line will cut through one of the island’s richest areas in terms of biodiversity — the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

As Parliament debates the White Paper on Population, the trade-offs in terms of land use has come under sharper focus.

To be completed by around 2030, the 50km line will start from Changi and run through places such as Pasir Ris, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Timah, West Coast and terminate at the Jurong Industrial Estate.

According to the Nature Society, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve — together with the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve — is home to Singapore’s most important and oldest primary rainforest.

The society has written to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to express its desire to discuss how the Cross Island Line will be built.

Mr Shawn Lum, President of the Nature Society, told TODAY: “The nature reserve contains some of the best habitats on the island. Some kind of impact assessment would be helpful to have minimal damage and no lasting impact on the forest.”

One question the society has is whether the line would be constructed above ground — the most damaging option as it would cut the nature reserve into two — or underground. Said Mr Lum: “Presuming it will go underground … There will still be drilling, work done above ground.”

Hopefully, the authorities can harness technology to minimise the impact on the area, he said.

Responding to queries from TODAY, an LTA spokesman noted that “where suitable and appropriate”, lines will be built fully underground for optimal land utilisation. “However, this has to be balanced against the role of the line and its intended catchment coverage. Underground systems are also costlier to construct,” said the spokesman. Whether the line will be an elevated or underground system will be studied before the alignment and actual station locations are finalised, he said.

Adding that the LTA will also engage the Nature Society at an “appropriate time”, he said: “We are mindful of the Nature Society’s concerns on the possible environmental impact of an alignment that goes through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

“Several agencies are committed to jointly undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment and associated Engineering Investigative Works to study the impact of the Cross Island Line crossing the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and look at the possible mitigation measures.”

A National University of Singapore (NUS) transport expert, Mr Lee Der Horng, said the impact can be minimised with the latest construction methods. “If there is going to be any major damage, it will be at the area of the MRT station area,” he said.

NUS civil engineering professor Yong Kwet Yew added: “If this MRT line runs deep underground — I believe the depth is still being studied and it could be in the region of about 20 to 30m deep — and in competent ground, and if the train tracks are designed to absorb the vibration, any transmission of vibration or noise outside the tunnel is probably negligible and will certainly not affect the ecosystem of the nature reserve.”

Meanwhile, another nature group, WildSingapore, has expressed concerns that plans to reclaim more land, if realised, may result in the loss of nature areas such as Chek Jawa, Pulau Sekudu and the Mandai mangroves.

Preserve parts of Bidadari as a haven for birds, says society

By Tan WeizhenSINGAPORE — The Nature Society has proposed to conserve 25 hectares of the 200 ha former Bidadari cemetery, which is slated to be redeveloped into a new town under the Government’s land use plan.

According to the society’s proposal, a copy of which has been obtained by TODAY, the proposed nature park is the former Muslim cemetery in Bidadari bounded by Bartley Road, Upper Serangoon Road, Upper Aljunied Road and the Mount Vernon Crematorium/Maris Stella School area.

The proposal was sent to the Ministry of National Development (MND) in December last year, after new data showed that the proposed nature park is more important to conserve than previously thought. The area in question “is well-known among nature lovers and photographers as a haven for birdlife”, the proposal said.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, who is the Vice-Chairman of the society’s conservation committee, told TODAY that the authorities’ plan to develop the area will destroy about three-quarters of the woodland which is an important sanctuary for migratory birds.

On why the proposal was sent so long after Bidadari had been identified for redevelopment, Dr Ho said: “We were not so familiar with Bidadari, as bird watchers did not like to get into the graveyards. But after they exhumed the area, we started to realise there were many species of birds.”

To date, 141 species of birds have been recorded in the area, which is about 38 per cent of the total number recorded for the whole island. Among the near-threatened or vulnerable bird species found there are the Long-tailed Parakeet, Jambu Fruit Dove, Japanese Paradise Flycatcher and Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher.

Dr Ho added: “We are just asking for the boundaries to be realigned, that’s all. In short, instead of using the columbarium as a park, use it as well as the former Christian cemetery for housing, and preserve the woodlands as a park since the HDB (Housing and Development Board) wants to create a park in the town.”

In response to TODAY’s queries, the MND noted that Bidadari “has been announced as one of the new areas for public housing development”. It added: “It is inevitable that some trees may have to be removed in the process of building the new housing estate.

“Nevertheless, we will take into consideration the existing greenery and also public feedback, including conservation as well as other competing interests, as we work with NParks and the Urban Redevelopment Authority on the development plans for Bidadari.”

Copyright 2013 © MediaCorp Press Ltd.

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