Bridge across BKE to link nature reserves

Besides humans, it will allow animals, plants to cross the expressway
Grace Chua StraitS Times 19 May 10;

BUILDERS wanted: to design and construct an eco-link bridge between two nature reserves that will be accessible to both humans and animals.

The bridge would allow animals and plants to move between Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment area around the reservoirs.

To be planted with grass and native trees and shrubs for creatures from both sides to colonise, the area should become a habitat for wildlife when animals and insects move in.

The movement of species was cut short when the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) was completed in 1986. Animals could not cross the busy road, and were often turned into roadkill while trying to do so in search of food and mates.

Since then, conservationists have bemoaned the potential loss of genetic diversity, as species like the rare banded leaf monkey were cut off from their counterparts on the other side of the BKE.

That loss of diversity could affect the survival of the two fragmented forests.

Now, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is calling for tenders to design and build the 50m-wide green bridge to span the BKE, at about 600m north of Rifle Range Road between the Pan-Island Expressway and Dairy Farm exits.

The LTA and National Parks Board, which are jointly behind the project, have not decided on the precise location yet.

NParks said the general location was picked as being the least damaging on the nature reserves at either end.

The LTA tender opened last month and will close early next month.

The contractor must come up with a final design within six months of the award and complete the whole project in two years and nine months. Construction should start in the middle of next year.

The tender requires that the contractor take pains to protect the sensitive nature areas around the bridge - down to preserving specific trees. One of the tender drawings stipulates which trees cannot be chopped down.

They include species like Senegal mahogany, meranti tembaga, and fruit trees like the jambu and durian.

'Eco-passages' have been used successfully in other countries. In 2006, an 800m-long 'eco-duct' for deer, foxes and other animals was opened in Holland. The US$19 million (S$26.3 million) bridge spans a highway and a railway.

'The eco-passage is long overdue,' said Mr Veera Sekaran of landscaping company Greenology, who is a botanist by training. 'For the animals, it is like bridging the North and South Korea divide.'