Resident's mission: Save trees

Housewife upset after foliage cleared for MRT site office; LTA to minimise tree removal
Shuli Sudderuddin, Straits Times 29 Nov 09;

Horrified to discover that the vegetation next to her condominium in Bukit Timah was being cleared, Ms Ginny Leow-Guerville launched a one-man mission to save it.

The 40-year-old housewife, who lives in The Sterling condo, woke up on Nov 21 to see birds flying wildly outside her seventh-floor window. She also heard the sound of chainsaws.

'We could see several workmen cutting down the foliage very rapidly in the forest from my windows over the weekend. My daughter and I got very upset,' said the former private banker.

Her family had moved into The Sterling a few months ago because of the greenery.

'We can observe several kinds of birds, spot squirrels on the trees, see monitor lizards sunning themselves and enjoy the sounds of the forest at night,' she said.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is having the area cleared for a site office for the King Albert Park MRT station, which is being built.

The station is part of the Downtown Line Stage 2, which is expected to be completed in 2015.

The vegetation being cleared is on state land next to the condo's perimeter wall.

Ms Leow- Guerville contacted the condo's management and a meeting with the LTA was arranged on Nov 23.

Said Mr Adrian Tan, 60, chairman of the condo's management committee: 'We wanted to ask them why they were cutting down the foliage without discussing it with us, and ask them if they could work around the forested area.

'We're also worried about the dust and noise that will be created if the trees are cut down. Without this buffer, it will be like the construction site is just outside your window.'

At the meeting, Ms Leow-Guerville, a couple of other residents and the management committee raised their concerns.

The LTA told them that it would look into the matter.

A spokesman told The Sunday Times that the LTA and other authorities have not carried out any massive clearing of undergrowth or cut any trees in the area.

Only 'minimal clearing of shrubs and bushes' was done to allow its contractor to do preliminary assessments of the place to build the station and site office, the spokesman said.

She added that the LTA was working with the relevant agencies to realign the site layout to minimise the removal of trees.

When The Sunday Times checked with the agencies involved, they could not confirm how many trees would be removed.

The Sterling management committee will meet tomorrow to discuss LTA's proposal to minimise the removal of trees.

Ms Leow-Guerville's efforts have drawn praise from fellow residents like Ms Elaine Phung. The 38-year-old financial consultant said: 'I'm very disappointed. I really appreciate nature and I don't understand why the LTA cannot consider another place.'

But Mr Kenneth Kwok, 43, a research scientist, takes a more pragmatic approach.

'I know that there must be a balance between conservation and development in today's world, but I still think that the authorities should make conservation a priority in the decisions that they make,' he said.

Ms Leow-Guerville is hoping for the best.

As she said: 'Every mature tree counts. Even though these trees do not have an economic value, they have an ecological value.'

Related article
Havoc on trees, animals: LTA must do more to save our rainforest Letter from Ginny Leow-Guerville, Today Online 23 Nov 09;