The Minister for National Development Desmond Lee has announced two new parks at Bukit Batok — the Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park and Bukit Batok Central Nature Park.
More buffers for nature reserves
In a media briefing on Dec. 7, Lee said that this was part of the government's move to establish a network of buffers around Singapore's Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR).
The two new parks are some of the green spaces the agency intends to "safeguard" to promote greater ecological connectivity between BTNR and Tengah.
The latter includes the 5km-long Tengah Forest Corridor.
Green buffers help protect the nature reserves against adjacent developments, as well as provide new habitats for flora and fauna from the reserves to occupy and move through.
Currently, the existing Bukit Batok Nature Park and Bukit Batok Town Park serve these functions.
The up and coming Bukit Gombak Park, which will be completed in 2021, will help to complement the existing parks in the area as well.
New parks will remain rustic and forested
However, due to the rich biodiversity found in these areas, the new Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park and Bukit Batok Central Nature Park will be established.
Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park will be 9ha, and will be completed in 2024. Meanwhile, the Bukit Batok Central Nature Park will be 16ha. A date on when it will be completed has yet to be firmed up.
NParks will "sensitively enhance" these areas to "strengthen the connectivity between the Central Nature Park Network and Tengah Forest Corridor".
This means that the parks will remain "rustic and forested". Lee added that NParks will continue to "undertake habitat enhancement to further support our biodiversity".
The addition of these two new parks will increase the size of the Bukit Batok Nature Corridor to over 125ha of nature parks and 10km of trails, as well as Nature Ways and Park Connectors.
Lee added that the enhanced connectivity, including the two new parks, between the Central Nature Park Network and the forested areas in Tengah is the result of NParks working closely with HDB, URA and other agencies since 2014.
Petition to save Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park from development
Nature lovers previously spoke up against the development of Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park for residential needs.
One blogger, Jimmy Tan, cited the fact that he had spotted numerous species of animals during his treks there.
He added that with the clearing of Tengah forest for housing, wildlife occupying that habitat would have no more refuge to turn to should Bukit Batok Hillside Park be razed as well.
Other reasons he gave in his post included the loss of the area's historical and cultural significance — the park includes a natural freshwater stream, something Tan described as "rarely seen", and other relics such as an old well.
Tan even started a petition to save Bukit Batok Hillside Park and another green patch, Clementi Forest. The petition has since garnered over 10,000 signatures.
In Oct. earlier this year, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Dennis Tan posed a question in Parliament on whether a second Environmental Impact Assessment would be carried out following feedback from environmental groups.
The Ministry of National Development replied that they had taken into account the groups’ feedback and suggestions, and thus chose to retain a natural stream that runs through the site. However, they would not be conducting another EIA, but would instead incorporate feedback from the groups in their finalised report.
Calls to preserve the patch of forest have also been echoed by Singapore Democratic Party politician Chee Soon Juan.
In his speech, Lee acknowledged the concerns that the impact development would have on biodiversity in Bukit Batok and Tengah.
He said that the government would try to strike a careful balance between development and conservation, and should the former be unavoidable, careful management would be carried out.
"This is why we aim to strike a balance between development and nature conservation in our planning approach. While we need to develop to meet Singaporeans’ needs for housing, infrastructure, healthcare and jobs, we also aim to protect as many of our green spaces as we can. Any decision to clear forest cover is made only after careful study of the trade-offs and alternatives. Where development cannot be avoided, we aim to carefully manage the possible environmental impact and develop and implement suitable mitigation measures."
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Top photo from Jimmy Tan / Nature And Us