Reconsider 'eco-tourism' plans for Mandai

Straits Times 31 Oct 16;

Mandai Park Holdings' new measures to minimise the potential environmental damage by its developments in Mandai notwithstanding ("Mandai makeover to tread with care"; Oct 11), the planned relocation of Jurong Bird Park there and the new Rainforest Park are not in ecological harmony with the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

These so-called "eco-tourism" plans should be reconsidered.

Our major concern is the connectivity and integrity of the reserve's land along the north-western sector across Mandai Lake Road.

Although outside the reserve's boundary, the two development sites, with their secondary forests and other natural habitats, are critical to the natural connectivity and ecological viability of the reserve's land in the area.

We strongly propose extending the nature reserve's boundary to cover the project sites.

As to Mandai Park Holdings' mitigation measures, we are not convinced that the impact on biodiversity would be small, given the big reduction in natural habitats as featured in its concept plan and the drastic alteration of what remains by artificial structures, such as tight boundary fences, aviary cages and netted enclosures, as well as introduced non-native wildlife.

Even if implemented in stages, each requiring a prolonged period of time, the clearing and construction involved will cause significantly high stress for the resident wildlife, especially the less mobile species, even with temporary refugia catered for them.

The area boasts rich resident wildlife with 199 faunal species recorded, including the globally threatened Sunda pangolin, Raffles' banded langur, straw-headed bulbul and Malesian frog, to name just a few.

Instead of Mandai, we recommend that the Bird Park be incorporated into the new Jurong Lake District masterplan, which will help to enrich the area's redevelopment.

As for the Rainforest Park, we disagree with the idea of destroying natural habitats to create sanitised eco-themed parks.

Apart from rectifying the reserve's boundary gap, the proposed extension will support the existing biodiversity and any restoration programme for critically endangered species.

The remaining areas can be used as adventure centres with programmes allowing for significantly less invasive ecological education and appreciation tours of our regenerating natural forests.

Ho Hua Chew (Dr)
Conservation Committee
Nature Society (Singapore)

Committed to developing Mandai project with care
Straits Times 4 Nov 16;

We thank Dr Ho Hua Chew for his feedback ("Reconsider 'eco-tourism' plans for Mandai"; Monday).

One of Mandai Park Holdings' core objectives is to ensure Mandai is established as a strong habitat for our plants and animals, available to the public and managed sensitively to showcase the richness of Singapore's biodiversity.

The new Bird Park and Rainforest Park will be located on impacted land that was formerly occupied by a village, farmland and most recently, the Mandai Orchid Garden.

The plot was subsequently set aside by the Government for use.

The new wildlife parks will be a very good neighbour to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

We are committed to protecting Singapore's biodiversity in the project site for the long term, and we will continue our partnership with nature groups as we go forward.

Right at the conceptualisation phase, we commissioned an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to guide our master planning.

After consulting with nature groups and experts, we incorporated additional measures into the plans to reduce environmental impact, especially during the development phase.

We will continue to work towards this goal as the project evolves.

The EIA was guided by international best practices. The assessment of impact and mitigation measures was based on expert advice. Government agencies and nature groups were extensively involved throughout the process, and will continue to be.

Over the past two years, we met nature groups, including Nature Society (Singapore) members, and have discussed concerns such as loss of natural habitats, nature reserve fragmentation and wildlife displacement.

We shared some of the important measures already undertaken to safeguard important habitats, such as the design of an eco-link bridge to give animals a safe passage over Mandai Lake Road.

We agreed to the setting aside of buffers along the nature reserve to reduce edge effects, as well as a wildlife shepherding programme to protect animals.

The mitigation measures for the project have been captured in an environmental management and monitoring plan (EMMP).

An environmental advisory panel comprising experts from the scientific community, academia, nature groups and private sector has been set up to monitor the implementation of the EMMP during construction and operation. This is chaired by Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

As a responsible steward of nature, we remain committed to managing this process carefully as the project evolves.

Mike Barclay
Group Chief Executive
Mandai Park Holdings

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