Nature group seeks more information on impact of Cross Island Line site investigations

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 28 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE – Hoping for more details on the outcome of drilling works in the Macritchie forest for the future Cross Island MRT line, a group of nature enthusiasts is inviting the public to submit questions for the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Issuing the invitation on its website and social media last Friday (June 22), the volunteers from the Love Our Macritchie Forest group said the public could either submit the questions through them, or write directly to the LTA.

Questions compiled by the group will be submitted to the LTA on July 1.

Nine parties – including five who are not affiliated with nature groups – have submitted responses to the group so far, said Ms Chloe Tan, project manager of Love Our Macritchie Forest.

Questions include whether the LTA would make the full results of its monitoring programme available to the public.

Earlier this month, the LTA said findings were encouraging. Camera traps had picked up the presence of animals such as the lesser mousedeer and the critically endangered Sunda pangolin after site investigation works were completed. These sightings validated measures it took to reduce the impact of site investigation works in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the authority said.

In response to media queries, the LTA said on Thursday (June 28) that it monitored the animals in the nature reserve from end-2016 to end-2017. In general, monitoring began three to six months before works began at each location, and ended about four to six months after the works were completed.

The site investigation works involved the drilling of 16 boreholes to determine soil and rock conditions. This will aid the authorities in eventually deciding which of two alignments to take for the Cross Island Line. One option is to tunnel under the nature reserve, while the other will skirt around it.

About 90 camera traps were placed "within the areas where site investigation works were conducted", said the LTA.

"Our findings suggested that similar fauna were present in the areas before and after the site investigation works, with various animal groups such as mammals, reptiles and birds captured by the camera traps," said a spokesperson.

The authority did not provide details on the number or frequency of animal sightings before and after the works. But it said the common palm civet, a nocturnal animal, was another species sighted.

An environmental impact assessment, done before site investigation works, had projected "mainly moderate" impact if mitigation measures were taken. Asked if this was indeed the outcome, the LTA did not comment.

Nevertheless, the spokesperson said: "LTA continues to work with the relevant stakeholders to further analyse the data collected to deepen our understanding of the site investigation works on fauna activities in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve."

On why the volunteers decided to compile questions for the LTA, Ms Tan, 29, said the lack of details to support the conclusion about the effectiveness of mitigation measures led to some concern how the monitoring was conducted.

"We are hoping that LTA can address our concerns and provide assurance that environmental impacts of Cross Island Line-related works have been/will be treated with utmost rigour," said Ms Tan, who is assisted by National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate Liang Lei and NUS research assistant Rachel Lee.

In its public invitation, Love Our Macritchie Forest — which was set up in 2013 when news of the Cross Island Line's possible alignment first came up — said the impact on wildlife cannot simply be determined by their presence after site investigation works. It said details on monitoring methods and their results are needed.

A second phase of environmental impact assessment is ongoing, to project the impact of constructing and operating the MRT line for both alignment options. It will be completed later this year. TODAY understands the assessment will be gazetted and available for public inspection, as was the case for the first phase of the report.

Submit your questions by 30 June 2018 at http://tinyurl.com/lomf-30jun2018

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