LTA receives Cross Island Line working group's report

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Nature groups have submitted their ecological study of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

LTA will use the study as a reference for consultants conducting the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Cross Island MRT Line. The EIA will help LTA decide if the MRT line should pass through the nature reserve or skirt around it.

Spanning almost the entire length of Singapore, the 50-kilometre Cross Island Line was announced in January, 2013 and is slated for completion in 2030.

The nature groups, which spent about three months collating available literature and research from the past 20 years on Singapore's largest nature reserve, are calling for the protection of the forest area and are concerned about the possibility of the Line being built through it.

The study was done by seven environmentalists, some of whom are members of the Nature Society (Singapore), the Singapore Environment Council, and Cicada Tree Eco-Place.

The result is a 120-page document describing the extent of biodiversity in the reserve located in the central part of Singapore. The document has recorded about 400 species of trees, 200 species of birds, 400 species of insects and 150 species of mammals and amphibians.

The groups want to provide a realistic assessment of the impact of any physical works in the forests.

They say the study will save the environmental consultants working on the EIA a lot of ground work.

"As soon as they come in they will have an appreciation immediately of what's there,” said Tony O’Dempsey of the Nature Society (Singapore). “They are off to a flying start with this document.”

“I think the agency has done a fairly good job of putting together the tender document, and the requirements that are in there, and we can expect some very high quality EIA consultants to tender for this project."

An expert familiar with EIA matters says the consultants will need to have diverse expertise.

"In addition to the technical aspects of engineering, the team should include at least some members who have environmental expertise -- particularly in botany, the soil sciences, how it affects the plants, vegetation, the trees etc., to review the report,” said Prof Leung Chun Fai from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the National University Of Singapore.

With the study in hand, nature groups hope to convince the consultants and authorities to preserve the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

"The nature reserve is like the green heart in the red dot, and every time there is a project around the edge and through the nature reserve, it takes a small bite out of the apple,” said O’Dempsey. “And if you take lots of small bites you are going to consume the whole apple after a while."

The LTA said the nature groups' study together with the earlier position paper by the Nature Society (Singapore) will be incorporated into the EIA tender.

They will also serve as useful resources for the EIA consultant in studying how the various alignment options could affect the nature reserve. LTA is expected to call the EIA tender by next month.

The assessment is expected to be completed in 2016, and this will be followed by an 18-month engineering feasibility study on the possible routes.

- CNA/rw