Save our green lung, say Pasir Ris residents

Ongoing petition to preserve woodland with numerous endangered bird species
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 9 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE - Some residents of Pasir Ris Heights have started a petition to save a densely forested patch of land in their backyard, which is home to several endangered bird species.

The woodland in question is about the size of two football fields and flanked by Pasir Ris Drive 3, Elias Road and Pasir Ris Heights. Plots of land on either side of it have been sold to property developers Elitist Development and Capital Development in recent months.

It is slated for development and "subject to detailed planning" under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's 2008 Masterplan, but the residents hope to preserve the forested area and engage the authorities in a discussion before concrete plans for it are announced.

Mdm Cherry Fong, 54, who has lived in Pasir Ris Heights for 13 years, said: "Many birdwatchers come here and it's a nesting place for some birds like the (black-naped) oriole."

Mdm Fong is one of six residents - who call themselves the Pasir Ris Greenbelt Committee - leading the petition.

Last year, at the behest of her children to "do something to protect the forest", the housewife made a scrapbook of wildlife spotted in the area and presented it to their Member of Parliament (MP), Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, at his Meet-the-People Session.

The committee will approach the 320 households behind Pasir Ris Beach Park and some blocks of flats along Pasir Ris Drive 3 with the petition in the next fortnight, she said.

According to Mr Rajendran Nair, Vice-Chairman of the Pasir Ris Beach Park Neighbourhood Committee, there are plans for an international school to be built on the woodland, although this is not confirmed.

Acknowledging the ongoing petition, Mr Nair said the members of the Pasir Ris West Citizens' Consultative Committee and Mr Teo would meet with residents to "explain developments to take place in the area".

Out of nine Pasir Ris Heights residents TODAY spoke to, six said they were in favour of preserving the woodland.

Some of them cited views expressed last month by property analysts that the north-eastern part of Singapore is at risk of housing oversupply, and said it would be hard to recreate a wildlife habitat that has taken decades to generate.

"We moved here because of this," said pre-school teacher Shashee Devi, 40, gesturing at the trees and a white-bellied sea eagle's nest from the second floor of her home.

Teacher Yap M S, 54, a resident of 25 years added: "We understand there's a need for development, but (the authorities) need to do a more thorough study."

But Mr Hong Koh Hing, 56, a resident of 16 years, noted that "it also depends on what the land would be used for".

A survey by the Nature Society done last month - at the invitation of Mdm Fong - recorded 33 species of birds in the area, including the endangered Changeable Hawk Eagle and critically endangered Oriental Pied Hornbill.

The Nature Society also noted that the survey was not exhaustive: "More surveys and during the migratory season will definitely yield more species records."