LTA releases environmental impact assessment report on Cross Island MRT line

Nature lovers buoyed by ongoing dialogue with the government agency
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 19 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — In a rare move on Friday (Feb 19) due to strong public interest, the Land Transport Authority posted online the first phase of a report on the environmental impact of a rail line development, more than a week after opening it for public inspection.

This was in response to public feedback, the LTA stated on Facebook as it announced the move, which was welcomed by nature lovers.

The first phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report detailed the effects that site investigation work for the future Cross Island MRT line would have on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The LTA is studying the soil and rock profiles of two alignment options for the future MRT line, one of which will cut under the nature reserve for about 2km.

Before it was put online, five physical copies of the EIA report had been available for inspection at LTA by appointment.

At the same time on Friday, about 100 people braved the rain and turned up for a talk on the environmental impact of the Cross Island Line on the nature reserve — of which MacRitchie is a part — held at the office of the Nature Society (Singapore) in Geylang.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, vice-president of the society, said it exceeded their expectation that just 70 to 80 people would attend the talk. Nature Society council member Tony O’Dempsey spoke about the engagement process between the nature community and LTA so far, and said this dialogue would continue into the second phase of the report.

He told TODAY after the talk: “One thing I really like is that we’ve had an objective and frank discussion lacking in emotion with the agencies… That was a real step ahead and I think that’s a model for future engagement.”

Mr O’Dempsey also explained the society’s “zero-impact” policy, believing that the various projects taking place at different times near the reserve could have cumulative impact — or “death by a thousand cuts”, as he put it.

Another public talk about the Cross Island Line and the EIA report will take place next Thursday (Feb 25) at SingJazz club in Jalan Sultan.

Among those who attended the talk on Friday were Secondary 4 student Wei Qining and Mr Chen Dexiang, who recently returned to Singapore after completing his master’s degree in conservation management in the United Kingdom.

Qining, 16, is on Nature Society’s mailing list and said she found the topic of the talk interesting. Although she has not been to the MacRitchie forest, she wants to get more involved in environmental work. “Singapore doesn’t have lot of forest left,” she said.

Mr Chen, 30, said he used to work on EIA reports as a project consultant and is looking for avenues to contribute, for the Government and the people to make a better decision on the Cross Island Line. He hopes to start a blog and share more about the EIA process. “I enjoy nature and also hope people will appreciate what we have now,” he said.


LTA puts 1,000-page environmental study online after people complained it was inconvenient to access
Audrey Tan Straits Times 19 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has finally put a 1,000-page environmental impact assessment report online. This comes after members of the public had complained it was very inconvenient to get their hands on the results of the study - undertaken to look at the potential impact of site investigation works of the upcoming Cross Island Line which could cut through the Republic's largest nature reserve.

In a Facebook post on Friday, the LTA said it has done so in response to feedback. Those interested can view the report here

The authority's latest move comes after environmentalists, ecologists and members of public called for the report to be put online.

Although the LTA first gazetted the report on Feb 5, people could look at the report only after the Chinese New Year break, on Feb 10, and by appointment only at the authority's Hampshire Road premises.

In a forum letter to The Straits Times published on Friday, for instance, ST reader Ezra Ho pointed out that many other statutory boards and ministries publish key policy documents and collect feedback online.

He wrote: "So, why is public viewing and feedback for a 1,000-page document like this not done online? How can members of the public meaningfully read, understand and comment on such a document within the timeframe provided?

"With this arrangement, the LTA effectively limits the number of people who can access the EIA, contrary to the spirit of public participation and transparency."

The first phase of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) looked at the potential impact of preliminary site investigation works on the two proposed alignments of the upcoming Cross Island Line.

One alignment cuts through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, while the other is routed around the reserve along Lornie Road instead.

The findings showed that tests to see how a train tunnel can be built through the nature reserve would have a "moderate" impact on plants and animals there, but only if measures to reduce impact are strictly implemented. Otherwise, the soil investigation works for the upcoming Cross Island Line could have a large impact on the highly sensitive parts of the nature reserve. Mitigation strategies to prevent this include the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge.

Biologist David Tan, from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, said: "I think it's good to see that LTA is responding to public feedback, and I hope that this newfound sensitivity to public concerns will extend to the rest of the public consultation exercise over the alignment of the Cross Island Line as well."


LTA's environment report now online
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Feb 16;

The report was open to the public, but to get information on a new environment impact assessment (EIA) for an upcoming MRT line, people had to make their way to the Land Transport Authority's Hampshire Road premises to read the 1,000-page hard copy, with no photography allowed.


Yesterday, after complaints that it was too difficult to access the study, which looked at the potential impact of soil works for the Cross Island Line if it cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) put it online.

"In response to feedback, LTA has made the EIA report available online at http://bit.ly/1Wv9bnu for interested parties who are unable to come to LTA to view the documents," the authority said in a Facebook post yesterday.

The move was welcomed by environmental groups, scientists and members of the public, who had felt the LTA was not forthcoming with the results of the study. "It is well-received news," said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, a council member of the Nature Society (Singapore), adding that the society had suggested the results be put online during its discussions with the LTA.

Biologist David Tan, from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, said: "I hope that this new-found sensitivity to public concerns will extend to the rest of the public consultation exercise over the alignment of the Cross Island Line as well."

Nature groups are uniting under the March for MacRitchie banner to call for an alternative route skirting around the reserve, instead of going through it.

The report comprises findings from consultancy Environmental Resources Management for the first phase of the EIA. The second phase will be done by year end.

A key finding showed that the preliminary tests to see how a train tunnel can be built through the nature reserve would have a "moderate" impact on plants and animals there, but only if measures to reduce impact are strictly implemented. For the alternative route around the reserve, the impact of soil investigation works along Lornie Road was deemed to be "negligible", and "minor" for areas near Venus Drive and a golf course.

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

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