Fresh appeal for Govt to bypass forest in building of MRT line

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 7 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — A group of volunteers advocating zero-impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve submitted a fresh appeal to the Government yesterday, petitioning for works related to the future Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) to avoid the area.

Copies of the appeal letter, addressed to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, were also submitted to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, several Ministers, as well as chiefs of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and National Parks Board.

To date, no decision has been made on whether the line will cut through the nature reserve or skirt around it, but the issue has drawn intense debate, with Mr Khaw calling in February on the public to keep an open mind as the authorities study a host of factors and trade-offs.

The appeal contained signatures, gathered from June 2013 to May this year, of more than 10,000 Singaporeans and residents who support the call for works related to the rail line to avoid the nature reserve, for fear of damage to the forest and wildlife there.

The appeal letter, updated in March, noted that site investigations for the line are due to begin in the third quarter of this year. “No MRT line, whether above or underground should pass through it,” the letter stated.

Any development in the MacRitchie forest “can potentially pollute our forest streams with silt and toxic materials. This will in turn damage unique microhabitats created by forest streams, affecting native forest frogs, freshwater turtles, freshwater fishes and crustaceans that can only live here”, the letter read.

“MacRitchie Forest has been protected for more than a hundred years. We should continue to conserve it, especially for the endemic denizens of our forest ... We appeal to the LTA to courageously reconsider proceeding with works related to the CRL within the (Central Catchment Nature Reserve).”

The cover letter that accompanied the documents submitted was signed by Dr Vilma D’Rozario and Mrs Teresa Teo-Guttensohn, on behalf of the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement.

An LTA spokesperson said that the agency has received the petition letter.

It will conduct site investigations for both alignment options of the rail line and has released the environmental impact assessments of both site investigations earlier this year.

For the alignment that cuts under the nature reserve for about 2km, 16 holes as deep as 70m will be drilled on public trails and areas without vegetation of the reserve, to determine ground conditions.

These would have “moderate” impact on the reserve with mitigating measures and controlled access. The impact on MacRitchie fauna would otherwise be “large”.

The mitigation measures for drilling of boreholes include: 30m buffer zones around streams, wetlands and marshes, and the use of fluid containment tanks to ensure no spillage of drilling fluid and to minimise erosion and siltation.

The alternative alignment skirts around the nature reserve near Adam Road for about 9km.

The 50km Cross Island MRT Line linking Jurong and Changi is slated to complete around 2030, and will have about 30 stations while commuters would be making at least 600,000 trips daily.

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is an area of rich native biodiversity. It is home to more than 1,500 plant species, 218 bird species, 30 mammal species, 24 freshwater fish species and 17 species of amphibians.

More than 12,000 signatures to re-think MRT line under nature reserve
Audrey Tan Straits Times 6 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE - A letter containing the signatures of more than 10,000 people was sent to the authorities here on Monday (June 6), to rethink possible plans to build an MRT tunnel under Singapore's largest nature reserve.

The signatures were collected by the Love Our MacRitchie volunteer group, and addressed to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan. The letter was also also sent to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and other officials in the ministries of Transport, National Development and Social and Family Development.

In all, 12,364 signatures were collected between June 17, 2013 and May 5, 2016.

The letter is the latest development in protests against the upcoming 50km Cross Island Line, first announced in 2013 as a link between Changi and Jurong. When the line was first announced, preliminary plans showed it cutting through primary and secondary forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve near MacRitchie Reservoir.

Nature groups, alarmed by the environmental harm which be caused by the construction and operation of an underground MRT line through the reserve, suggested the line be built along Lornie Road. This alternate route goes around the reserve.

Since then, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has conducted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) which looked at the impact of both routes on their surroundings.

The first phase of this assessment, which looked at the impact of soil works, was announced in February 2016.

Among other things, the report said the impact of works on the reserve would be kept to "moderate" levels if mitigating measures, such as the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge, are effectively carried out. 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.

The LTA has said that soil works to see if the ground is suitable for this will start in the third quarter of this year, and that the second phase of the environmental assessment will be completed by the end of this year.

The Government has stressed that the decision on whether to build through or around the reserve is still being mulled over.

"Ensuring that urban development does not harm the nature reserve will ensure that future generations will continue to reap the benefits of having healthy and intact rainforests in the heart of our city," said Miss Chloe Tan, a Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer, in the letter.

The LTA said it has received the letter.

Said a spokesman: "LTA acknowledges receipt of the petition letter from Love Our MacRitchie Forest, which contains signatures dating back to 2013."

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