EIA report details impact of Mandai park construction on animals and their habitats

SIAU MING EN Today Online 27 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — Construction of a mega nature attraction in Mandai, to take place over the next seven years, could affect groundwater quality, disrupt certain habitats and species, and raise noise and vibration levels, among other environmental issues.

These were revealed in an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report released on Tuesday (July 26), which has been gazetted and is available for public consultation (www.mandai.com/eia).

Plans for two new parks to join the trio of wildlife attractions in the Mandai area — Singapore Zoo, River Safari and the Night Safari — were revealed last month by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which commissioned the EIA. They are the Bird Park (to be relocated from Jurong) and a Rainforest Park. By 2023, the 126-ha mega attraction is expected to be ready.

Given that the area to be developed is located near Upper Seletar Reservoir and other surface streams within the Sungei Mandai Water Catchment Area, there could be spillage, issues with waste control, contaminated run-off and other discharges from the construction site. Drains would have to be maintained to capture run-offs, among other measures, the report stated.

Higher dust levels are expected during construction and when transporting construction materials, and these will be managed by using water to suppress dust and enclosing buildings that are to be demolished.

Construction work could also reduce habitat resources, disturb and displace wildlife and restrict their movements, the report noted.

For instance, the site clearance might affect the population of certain species of wildlife, such as the Lesser Mouse Deer, the Malayan Colugo and the Sunda Pangolin. Mitigation efforts include a “phased relocation” of the targeted animals, to cut down the disturbance they will face.

Before the construction work, the targeted fauna will also be shepherded towards adjacent refuge habitats to preserve existing populations.

Measures would be put in place to reduce the possibility of animals getting hit, or habitats being destroyed by the accidental release of pollutants or introduction of invasive species.

To prevent displaced animals from moving towards the main roads and getting into accidents with vehicles, hoardings can be put up along Mandai Lake Road during construction, and speed limits can also be introduced.

When the new attractions are ready, there could be an increase in vehicle traffic along Mandai Lake Road and Mandai Road — resulting in higher volumes of air pollutants — more waste and litter, and potential human-wildlife conflicts, the report said.

An increase in visitors may result in more of them picking or damaging the flora, although the report noted that the impact would be small if this is managed by educating visitors and building physical barriers.

Unforeseen events such as fire, accidental spills and overflow of stormwater from the surface water drainage system are also potential sources of environmental impact.

For the wildlife, the built environment might become barriers to their movement. There could also be a higher risk of introducing invasive species and diseases to the native population.

Animal escapes was a key concern raised by nature groups, the report said, because incidents like these may negatively affect the ecosystem, such as potential breeding with native species, or the animal escapees could become competition for these species.

The proposal was to have enclosures designed with double gates and locking procedures, motion sensors, or measures to track birds that have a higher likelihood of escaping.

Mr Joseph Koh, an authority on spiders who was consulted for the EIA, was cheered by the engagement process during the assessment. “It was not a token consultation, not just a one-way traffic,” he said.

“We did not get everything we wanted, but we were glad that we were given an opportunity to be briefed in advance… In other words we were not presented with a fait accompli… It could have gone the other way, in a nightmarish scenario, HDB (public housing) flats would have (come up) and taken its place, but that was avoided. So there was a good compromise,” he added.

Mr Ben Lee, founder of Nature Trekker, a nature conservation group, was particularly pleased with the Eco-Link bridge, which will be constructed to connect the two parcels of nature reserves on either side of Mandai Lake Road and to facilitate wildlife movement in the reserves.

“It’s a wonderful idea. If you have that, you give (animals) the leeway to run away from the devastation and destruction, (instead of) confining (the animal) to one corner where it doesn’t know where to run… (The size of the bridge) is reasonable, as animals in Singapore are very small, like mousedeer, squirrels, pangolins, Banded Leaf Monkey, Common Palm Civet, even leopard cats… Larger animals you can find are wild boars and Sambar Deers.”

However, Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairperson of the conservation committee from the Nature Society (Singapore), said that it was “most disappointing” that the Bird Park would be relocated to the mega attraction site.

“Apart from captive breeding for conservation purposes, the goal of using captive animals (in zoos, bird parks, aquarium) for nature appreciation is to inculcate an appreciation of wildlife in their natural habitat. This objective has not been achieved if a bigger or more such places are or need to be created, as the people have not been weaned from such spectacle,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TOH EE MING

Mandai plans altered to limit environmental impact
SIAU MING EN Today Online 27 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — Original plans for the mega nature attraction in the Mandai area were modified, after an assessment found that the construction and operation of the attractions could have an impact on the habitats, wildlife and vegetation, and cause pollution.

The Bird Park, expected to draw 14,300 visitors a day at its peak, was initially envisioned for the northern side of Mandai Lake Road, but will be built on the southern side instead, as it is “predominately cleared”. “Greater disturbance” is expected from the development of the Bird Park because of the construction of nine aviaries, according to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) commissioned by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which was made public on Tuesday (July 26).

The rainforest-themed adventure park will be built on the northern end, which would allow for better protection of the existing forest area.

MPH also decided to build two arrival areas instead of the originally planned single entry, to divert some visitors from environmentally sensitive areas around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR).

The public areas around each arrival point are expected to see about 10,200 visitors at its peak each day when development works are completed, according to the EIA.

Commissioned in March last year, the EIA was conducted by consultancy firm Environmental Resources Management. The findings have been gazetted for public consultation until Aug 22. The measures detailed in the 398-page EIA are expected to help reduce the potential environmental impact linked to the development to “a residual impact of small or below”. This means that the impact would not be as significant, and “animal(s) as a population will survive”, said marine biologist Leo Tan of the National University of Singapore, which provided technical advice for and oversight of the EIA.

Without mitigation, the impact of construction work on certain areas, such as the surface water quality and ecological resources due to the disturbance and displacement of fauna, would be large, the EIA stated.

Speaking at a media briefing on the EIA findings on Tuesday, MPH group chief executive officer Mike Barclay said the firm had initiated the assessment early into the planning and design processes, “to bring on board feedback and comments at a very early stage to inform our master-planning”.

The final siting of both wildlife parks was revealed last month. The two new parks will join the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari already in the Mandai area. By 2023, the 126ha mega-attraction will be home to a nature-themed education centre and eco-sensitive lodging.

Plans for the education centre also saw tweaks. Expected to draw peak-day visitorship of 25,200 when completed, it will be housed in a single building on a site where a multi-storey car park now sits, instead of along the reservoir edge as initially planned, as there was concern about the impact on a patch of forest. Meanwhile, a development-free buffer zone measuring 45m to 50m wide will be set aside between the eastern edge of the development and the CCNR. The planned eco-link bridge to allow wildlife to move between the central and northern reaches of the nature reserve will be built in this zone.

The various mitigation measures and monitoring requirements will be laid out in an Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan, with an Environmental Advisory Panel made up of experts and members of nature groups to keep tabs. The authorities will also check in on these plans, said Mr Barclay.

Professor Tan acknowledged that human activity would impact the environment, “but it does not mean that impact is bad”. “It’s just that you have to manage it, and that’s the reality of life. We are starting with already-impacted land, and that’s the key,” he said.

After the public consultation closes, MPH will incorporate public feedback in the final EIA report and development plans, before seeking the Government’s approval.

Changes made to Mandai development plans to reduce environmental impact
Kimberly Spykerman, News 5 Channel NewsAsia 26 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: To reduce its impact on wildlife and vegetation, changes were made to the future Mandai eco-tourism hub's plans, the project’s developer announced on Tuesday (Jul 26).

The area is now home to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, but will soon be developed into a nature and wildlife destination with two new attractions – the Bird Park, which will be relocated from Jurong, and a Rainforest Park. The development is expected to be completed by 2023, with the groundbreaking expected to take place at the end of 2016.

An Environmental Impact Assessment was commissioned by developer Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) to assess the project’s potential environmental effects and consider protection measures.

Among the changes made is the location of the new Rainforest Park, which was originally slated to be built in the southern area of Mandai Lake Road. The park will now be moved to the northern side to better protect the existing forest, as the mature trees can be integrated into the park’s design, MPH said.

The Bird Park will occupy the former Mandai Orchid Gardens, located in the south side of Mandai Lake Road. The land there, previously home to some villages and farmland, was "predominantly cleared", said the developers.

Changes were also made to the visitors’ arrival area. Initially, the plan was to have a single arrival area for the public at the eastern side of the project area, adjacent to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

But to avoid introducing a large number of visitors to a single arrival area next to the nature reserve, two arrival points were created – one to the west and the other to the east. This means visitors will be sorted out and diverted away from sensitive areas around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, MPH said.

Another change was to the design of the nature-themed indoor education centre. It was originally designed to be housed in two different areas, but will now be combined into a single building on the site of an existing multi-storey carpark to reduce its footprint and avoid making an impact on an area of important vegetation.

"We want sustainability and conservation to be at the heart of the Mandai project. As we are committed to being a responsible steward for nature, we made a conscious effort to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment at the concept stage of the project to allow key mitigation measures to be built into the design of the new Mandai project," said MPH Group CEO Mike Barclay.

During the project’s development period, buffer zones – where no construction or human activity will take place – of between 45m and 50m wide will be provided between development areas and the nature reserves, to minimise disturbance to flora and fauna.

An eco-link will be constructed in the buffer zone to connect two parcels of the nature reserve, on either side of Mandai Lake Road. This will allow wildlife to move safely across.

"The moment you have human activity in anything, you will create an impact," said Professor Leo Tan, director of special projects at the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Science. "But it does not mean that impact is bad. It's just that you have to manage it, and that's the reality of life.

"That's why we're starting with already impacted land, and that's the key. This project avoids the central nature reserve completely and even provides a buffer - which means it eats into the development site of this project and therefore, we have to ensure it's commercially viable as well."

"It's not just a simple, straightforward 'somebody says must protect, and we protect'. We will protect sensibly and rationally," Prof Tan added.

- CNA/cy