The government’s Land Use Plan may be introducing green initiatives like green roofs for HDB flats and more land to build parks, but it will not be enough to compensate for what will be lost if the Land Use Plan goes all the way.
Dr. Ho Hua Chew from the Singapore Nature Society (NSS) stated this in an email response to inSing news regarding the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) Land Use Plan which was announced last Thursday.
Primarily a plan to cater to Singapore’s growing population, there are also green initiatives which set aside 0.8 hectres of land per 1,000 residents for parks, the implementation of green roofs and vertical greenery for HDB flats and the adding of Beting Bronok, Pulau Unum and Jalan Gemala to the list of nature areas.
Ho, who is also vice-chairman of the society’s conservation committee, says that the government’s green plans are to be commended, but the potential damage to the environment caused by the Land Use Plan will be serious.
He highlights in particular the planned reclamation at the large area of Mandai mangroves and mudflats near the Johor Causeway, that could destroy natural habitat.
“The area has the highest concentration of Mangrove Horseshoe Crabs, which according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is globally under threat and is urgently in need of conservation attention with the other Horseshoe Crab species in Asia as well,” says Ho, who adds that the area is also an important area for local and migratory birds.
The government plans to add Pulau Umum (north of Pulau Tekong) to the list of nature areas as it contains some endangered mangrove plant species.
In Ho’s eyes, it is a good move but to lose the Mandai mangroves and Kranji mudflats is not “an ecological trade-off.”
In another example, the planned Cross Island Line (CIL) which connects Changi and Tuas, will cut across a very old section of the forest in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, home to Singapore’s main reservoirs — MacRitchie, Upper Seletar, Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce.
According to Ho, Singapore has only about 150 to 200 hectres of these kinds of primary rainforest left and they contain a very rich diversity of freshwater life, birds, mammals and reptiles.
“The new MRT line will be a very serious threat to the forest as wildlife are very sensitive to the sounds and vibrations of trains passing through above or below ground,” he warns.
Ho added that the government also plans to conserve Jalan Gemala, located off Lim Chu Kang. The area has varied habitats such as wet grasslands, freshwater marshes, as well as tall secondary woodland and a freshwater reservoir.
“The conservation of Gemala is good but the forests there are very young. This is hardly any kind of substitute for the old forests in the Nature Reserves with its rich biodiversity,” he stresses.
NSS had previously found that the 200 hectre former Bidadari cemetery, which is slated to be redeveloped into a new town under the Government’s land use plan, is a haven for 141 species of birdlife.
In response, the NSS sent over a proposal to the MND to set aside 25 hectres for conservation last December and has more recently written to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on its wish to enter discussions on how the CIL will be built.
As reported by TODAY newspaper, the MND have responded saying that they will take into consideration public feedback on the development plans for Bidadari and the LTA have responded that they will engage the NSS at an “appropriate time.”