Engaging with stakeholders the way forward

Straits Times 26 Feb 16;

Mr Robin Lim Jit Piow feels that we should make balanced and informed decisions, which may be jeopardised by interest groups advocating extreme views ("Zero impact on nature not realistic in S'pore"; yesterday).

I could not agree more.

What has been overlooked in the coverage of the Cross Island Line (CRL) issue has been a remarkable engagement process between the nature community, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the Ministry of Transport, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Ministry of National Development.

Over the past 21/2 years, they have dedicated hundreds of hours of their time and energy over meetings, discussions, site visits, and a careful review of draft documents.

Nature Society (Singapore) member Tony O'Dempsey stood out for his dedication.

The result is an environmental impact assessment (EIA) that brings the risk associated with soil investigation works for the proposed MRT alignments down to an acceptable level.

There is more to come.

Findings from the soil investigation works, which will be closely monitored by experienced ecologists from NParks, will be important in helping us determine how to proceed with an EIA for overall project options.

A decision on the CRL route will be made after engineering feasibility, financial costs, ridership access, impact to residents, possible land acquisition, and, last but not least, impact to Singapore's natural heritage are carefully weighed.

The Nature Society's preferred CRL alignment is to avoid the nature reserve and we have given our reasons.

However, we acknowledge and respect other views, and know the complexities of the planning process.

The LTA reached out to us to make this process more transparent and robust, in hopes of a better outcome for Singapore.

I would like a win-win situation, one where, hopefully, long-time residents will not need to lose homes and where there is no risk to irreplaceable natural heritage.

Through a meaningful engagement process, we may achieve something that is best for the long-term interests of Singapore while minimising (if not eliminating) losses of any form.

Such an extended consultation process is unprecedented in my 20 years of involvement in nature conservation work.

I hope that the CRL discussion process will not be an isolated example of public-people sector engagement.

This could be a model for cross-sectoral interaction, one that welcomes diverse views, encourages meaningful and honest discussions, and one that makes us a more sympathetic, thoughtful and participatory society.

Shawn Lum

President

Nature Society (Singapore)

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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