Nature group concerned about impact of MRT line

Tan Weizhen Today Online 4 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE — Following the unveiling of plans last month by the Government to construct a Cross Island Line, the Nature Society has raised concerns about the impact on the environment, given that the line will cut through one of the island’s richest areas in terms of biodiversity — the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

As Parliament debates the White Paper on Population, the trade-offs in terms of land use has come under sharper focus.

To be completed by around 2030, the 50km line will start from Changi and run through places such as Pasir Ris, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Timah, West Coast and terminate at the Jurong Industrial Estate.

According to the Nature Society, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve — together with the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve — is home to Singapore’s most important and oldest primary rainforest.

The society has written to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to express its desire to discuss how the Cross Island Line will be built.

Mr Shawn Lum, President of the Nature Society, told TODAY: “The nature reserve contains some of the best habitats on the island. Some kind of impact assessment would be helpful to have minimal damage and no lasting impact on the forest.”

One question the society has is whether the line would be constructed above ground — the most damaging option as it would cut the nature reserve into two — or underground. Said Mr Lum: “Presuming it will go underground ... There will still be drilling, work done above ground.”

Hopefully, the authorities can harness technology to minimise the impact on the area, he said.

Responding to queries from TODAY, an LTA spokesman noted that “where suitable and appropriate”, lines will be built fully underground for optimal land utilisation. “However, this has to be balanced against the role of the line and its intended catchment coverage. Underground systems are also costlier to construct,” said the spokesman. Whether the line will be an elevated or underground system will be studied before the alignment and actual station locations are finalised, he said.

Adding that the LTA will also engage the Nature Society at an “appropriate time”, he said: “We are mindful of the Nature Society’s concerns on the possible environmental impact of an alignment that goes through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

“Several agencies are committed to jointly undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment and associated Engineering Investigative Works to study the impact of the Cross Island Line crossing the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and look at the possible mitigation measures.”

A National University of Singapore (NUS) transport expert, Mr Lee Der Horng, said the impact can be minimised with the latest construction methods. “If there is going to be any major damage, it will be at the area of the MRT station area,” he said.

NUS civil engineering professor Yong Kwet Yew added: “If this MRT line runs deep underground — I believe the depth is still being studied and it could be in the region of about 20 to 30m deep — and in competent ground, and if the train tracks are designed to absorb the vibration, any transmission of vibration or noise outside the tunnel is probably negligible and will certainly not affect the ecosystem of the nature reserve.”

Meanwhile, another nature group, WildSingapore, has expressed concerns that plans to reclaim more land, if realised, may result in the loss of nature areas such as Chek Jawa, Pulau Sekudu and the Mandai mangroves.

[Ria's comment: wildsingapore is not a nature group. It is merely a series of web resources that I run and fund alone as a volunteer. More about wildsingapore.]

Related posts
LTA's proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) cuts through the Central Catchment Forest Reserve on habitatnews.
What shores will Singapore lose in 7-million population plan? on wild shores of singapore

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.