Mandai area set for major redevelopment

Joy Fang Today Online 5 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The Mandai area, home to the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari and the River Safari, is set for major redevelopment, with plans for an all-encompassing wildlife attraction with educational, recreational and “green” elements.

The new attraction, which could be ready around 2020, would be similar to the likes of Gardens By The Bay, where beyond viewing wildlife, one could also take walks in public areas, enjoy the waterfront and watch the sunset on Upper Seletar Reservoir.

This was revealed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the ‘live’ television programme Ask the Prime Minister last night, where he also said that Jurong Bird Park could relocate to Mandai. The Government has been seeking the advice of nature groups on how to refine its plans for Mandai, he added.

Asked whether the plans are an extension of the zoo, Mr Lee said what the Government has in mind is “something bigger and better”, which will enhance the nature reserves and not infringe onto the reserves.

Mr Lee had shared the plans for Mandai in response to a question from the programme host on what large-scale projects Singapore can look forward to in future.

The Government, Mr Lee said, is considering using the available space outside of the nature reserves, such as an unused old orchid plantation and old fruit orchard for its plans.

“If you can extend the zoo to those parts, I think it’ll be very interesting,” he said. “For example, the Bird Park is all by itself down in Jurong. Why not move it to where the zoo is?”

Asked if the waterfall at the Jurong Bird Park — a signature of the park — would be moved as well, Mr Lee said: “I think we have something in mind which is even more spectacular than the waterfall.”

TODAY understands that besides the relocation of the 43-year-old Jurong Bird Park to the area, a museum may be housed there as well, together with a research facility and a hotel employing green technology in areas such as how it cools its facilities and housekeeping.

In recent weeks, talks have been rife that big plans were afoot for the Mandai area.

A member of a nature group whom TODAY spoke to said that as recently as last month, a potential developer was quietly holding talks with environmental groups, and was considering getting a consultant to look into the feasibility of their plans. But it is all at an exploratory stage. “I don’t know if they have made up their mind”, he said.

When TODAY contacted the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on plans for Mandai earlier this week, Mr Poh Chi Chuan, its Director of Cultural Precincts and Tourism Concept Development, said the STB is studying various options for Mandai and would share more information when ready.

“The Mandai area, with its existing wildlife attractions (Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari) has the potential to be developed into a precinct of nature-themed attractions for education and recreation,” he said. He added that any development of the site “will also have to be sustainable and sensitive to its natural environment”. TODAY understands that an environment impact assessment will be carried out before any plans are finalised.

The three existing attractions as well as Jurong Bird Park are managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Talks to develop the Mandai area first surfaced some time in 2007, prompting Nature Society (Singapore) to publish a report in November that year highlighting their concerns.

The report said the STB was exploring an eco-tourism project south of the Mandai Road area and on both sides of Mandai Lake Road. Two parcels of land were involved — a patch of about 15ha bounded by Mandai Road, Mandai Lake Road and the boundary of the Western Catchment Reserve; and another patch of about 18ha between Mandai Track 15 and the Western Catchment Reserve up to the military firing range.

The society also listed concerns such as how the area is already in a “fragmented and degraded state”, and that the project would degrade the area as a forest ecosystem or habitat, creating instead a parkland landscape which would result in the loss of variety of habitat niches.

Areas involved in the latest plans have not been finalised.

When contacted last night , Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chair of the conservation committee in Nature Society (Singapore), said they are concerned about the planned development and hope that a comprehensive environmental impact assessment can be done, covering noise pollution, hydrology and more.

He said the area is rich in biodiversity and the wildlife there — such as the leopard cat, pangolin, the mouse deer — could be put in danger.

‘Bigger and better’ plans for Mandai
Joy Fang Today Online 4 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The Government is looking into developing the Mandai area, with plans to turn it into an all-encompassing wildlife attraction, much like Gardens By The Bay.

It will include educational, recreational and green aspects on top of its wildlife theme, with the possibility of the Jurong Bird Park relocating there as well, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Sept 4) in a live television forum, Ask the Prime Minister.

The show aired on MediaCorp’s Channel 5 and Channel NewsAsia from 8pm to 9pm. He was addressing questions on what the future of Singapore would be like.

Asked by host Dawn Tan if the plans are an extension to the zoo, Mr Lee said what they have in mind is “something bigger and better”.

Mr Lee, who said the attraction may take shape sometime in 2020, noted it will be something that enhances the nature reserves and does not infringe into the reserves. He also said the Government will seek the advice of nature groups on how to improve on its plans for Mandai.

LIVEBLOG: Ask PM Lee 2014
Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Over the last two weeks, the public has been invited to send in their questions for a '"live" forum with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Here is what he has to say on issues ranging from retirement adequacy to education.

8.57PM On Singapore's future: We are a small country. We used to say we are a sampan, now maybe we are a boat with a motor, self-propelled. The seas are unpredictable. We didn't expect to come this far. In the next 50 years, we hope to go as far. Things can go wrong, and we must be be prepared for that. You must have that steel in you. We have to take the setbacks, and move on, and move on together.

8.55PM On redeveloping Mandai: We have something in mind to make the zoo much better, and bigger. There is space - land is available next to the nature reserve. If you can extend the zoo to those parts, I think that would be very interesting. We have something in mind - green, improved, that will enhance the nature reserves while not infringing on it. Why not move the Jurong Birdpark to where the zoo is? You want an attraction like Gardens By The Bay, with public areas where you can wander around, watch the sunset. It can be a very beautiful place. By 2020 we should see something. We have been talking to some of the nature groups, and I'm sure they will help us to refine and improve the plan.

8.47PM On space constraints and heritage: We have ideas for putting plants, factories underground. We will explore that further. We cannot keep everything undisturbed, but important things we have to keep - like Chinatown, Little India. From time to time we have to make tough choices. We have to build in Bukit Brown, but we can try to disturb fewer graves.

8.45PM On future leaders: Will there be a female PM? I hope there will be one. I shouldn't be PM when I am 70. Our young ministers are good and promising, and with time a leader will emerge.

8.42PM His childhood ambition: In Primary 3, I wrote an essay about being a pilot. Each time I go on an aeroplane. I peek in the cockpit and wonder what it would be like. Maybe it will be my hobby. My childhood heroes included Superman and Tarzan. I didn't like Batman very much.

8.40PM PM Lee shares parenting tips: I did change diapers, and in those days we used safety pins so you have to be very careful. As the child grows up you have to be his friend, his guide, his role model. Spend time with them, engage them. It's a very trying time for your wife when the baby is born, so support her.

8.35PM On NLB controversy on withdrawn children's books: It is an illustration of social tensions, and we have to bridge those differences. We are never going to be single-valued, single-cultured Singapore. We are diverse - that is our strength, provided we don't let it tear us apart.

8.33PM Will there be more MPs who are ITE and poly graduates in the future? I hope so. We will try very hard to look for them. Whenever we find a good man or woman we will field them. Charles Chong, Liang Eng Hwa - we didn't choose them because they were poly graduates, we chose them because they were good. We are casting our net very wide, we are inviting a lot of people to tea.

8.32PM Is there a glass ceiling for diploma-holders in the civil service? It should depend on your performance. Whether you are a graduate or not should not be so critical - for many jobs degree- and diploma-holders work side by side.

8.30PM PM Lee answers more questions on education: When you study for a degree, you have to be sure the degree is rigorous, and there is a market demand for it. Government universities, we make sure the standards are there, and the right courses are there in the right numbers. In private universities, you have to be careful. We can't say every degree or diploma is worth exactly the same and will be able to guarantee you a job. What counts is what skills you have, what contribution you'll be able to make.

8.25PM On the importance of PSLE: We have been grappling with the PSLE for a while. It's important because we use it to know how well we've done, and which secondary school you can get into. In other countries with no PSLE, the school exam is important and pressure is there. We have one good exam, PSLE, to decide which secondary school you go to, but we try to make every school a good school. PSLE won't be the last time you have to prove yourself. But beyond the PSLE, other things come into play.

8.20PM More questions come in about extending the retirement age: Australia has made the age 70, and they are taking many years to phase this in, it won't happen till 2030. I think Singapore can take a similar approach.

8.17PM On CPF: We want to make sure everyone has the basic provided for in CPF, which is why we said if you want to you can take out 20 per cent, but you don't have to. We should allow people to put more into CPF if they want to.

8.15PM On retirement age: We would like people to work as long as they are healthy, to stay active and stay connected. We have pushed the re-employment age to 65, and we would like to push it further. On a voluntary basis, we would encourage companies to keep re-employing people as long as they are fit. We are working towards raising the retirement and re-employment age, but that may take a few years.

8.11PM: What kind of growth should Singapore aim for? Growth that creates good jobs, that Singaporeans can benefit from. We used to grow more than 10 per cent a year when we were taking off very fast, then we slowed down. Looking forward, I think we have to get used to maybe 2 to 3 per cent a year.

8.00PM PM Lee answers questions on cost of living in Singapore: Expectations have changed. Today people have fewer children, but people put more pressure on themselves and for their children. Cost of living is on many people's minds. Yes, things have become more expensive, but incomes have gone up faster than prices.

- CNA/xy