The nature community was shocked by a significant patch of forests being cleared in Kranji after photos showing the clearance was shared online.
Here's a "before" and "after" of the forested area:
Clearance of forested land caught nature community by surprise
By February, two plots of forests were cleared, leaving only some trees lining on both sides of the rail corridor.
The Nature Society Singapore said in a Facebook post on Feb. 15 that this is a "shocking and dreadful development".
Nature lover Brice Li said that members of the "Friends of Rail Corridor" did not seem to be consulted prior to the clearance.
"They had no answers as the development had caught them by surprise too," Li said.
An environment consultant Tony O'Dempsey said that the loss of this area will be potentially detrimental to the rail corridor's ecological sustainability. Therefore, it is important to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), he said.
O'Dempsey added that the Kranji woodlands adjoin the mangrove-lined Sungai Pang Sua canal which is also of ecological importance and it connects the canal to the rail corridor.
"We should endeavor to retain these types of habitat connections by incorporating them into development plans. This is how we can bring some heart into our built environment," he said.
JTC: Clearance of forested area was a mistake
In response to Mothership's queries, JTC Corporation said on Feb. 16 that the agency discovered its contractor had "erroneously" begun clearing some of these specific plots of land prematurely on Jan. 13, 2021.
JTC said that these plots of land were earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP) which is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District (SKED).
A Biodiversity Baseline Study and an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) for specified plots of land within the area were carried out by an environmental specialist engaged by the agency.
The study and EMMP are expected to be completed around April 2021, following which JTC plans to engage key stakeholders, including nature groups, to discuss its development plans.
A stern warning has been issued to contractor
JTC adds that after discovering the land was cleared before the studies were completed, the agency had instructed the contractor to stop all clearing works immediately.
Since then, no further clearing has taken place on-site and the contractor has been issued a stern warning, JTC said.
JTC said that the agency takes a very serious view of this incident.
They will investigate how this error occurred before deciding whether further punitive measures need to be taken.
JTC said that the baseline study and EMMP will continue and they will work with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), National Parks Board (NParks), and the nature community to ensure the redevelopment plans are carried out with due consultation and in an environmentally responsible and sensitive manners.
The findings of the studies will also be made public when ready.
Met up with members from the nature community
Speaking to Mothership on Feb. 16, Conservation Committee Chair of Nature Society Singapore, Leong Kwok Peng said that the agency had a closed-door meeting with some members of the nature community.
The agency was "regretful" about what had happened and apologised for the clearance.
Leong said that this is his first time as far as he remembers learning about such oversight by a government agency and hopes the agency will engage the nature community with future updates on the investigation and development plans in the area.
In response to media queries, NParks said that it is investigating the unauthorised clearance at the Kranji Road/Kranji Close site.
The agency added that it takes a serious view of unauthorised greenery clearance and will not hesitate to take the appropriate enforcement action.
Top image: Brice Li's photos.