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History of the Kranji Marsh

One of the earliest reports I have seen about the Kranji Marsh dates back to 1985 titled – Clive Briffett, “Kranji Marshes: An Outline Proposal for a New Nature Reserve” (Malayan Nature Society MNS, Singapore Branch, 1985). This was after the nesting site of the Grey Heron was discovered here. The area had also become a popular birdwatching site. But the proposal for a new nature reserve here was rejected by the relevant authority.

In 1989, the Kranji Reservoir marshes, together with five other Singapore wetland sites, were included in the IUCN's A Directory of Asian Wetlands (Scott, D.A.; Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, The World Conservation Union, 1989). The Directory emphasizes that the freshwater marsh is "a fairly rare type of habitat in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia(Scott, 1989). The only other extensive example of this habitat in Singapore and also included in the Directory is the Poyan Marshes in the military zone of the Western Catchment Area, which is little known in terms of biodiversity.

In 1990, when the plan for the SIMCOM transmission station to be sited at the Grey heronry area became known, another conservation proposal was submitted by MNS to the relevant authorities authored by my mentor Dr. Hua Chew titled 
“Conservation Proposal for Kranji Heronry and Marshes” dated September 1990.

The proposal recommended the establishment of a new nature reserve consisting of a Heronry and several marshland sites around the Kranji Reservoir covering approximately 215 hectares. It highlighted the importance of the heronry and the area of ponds and mangroves around it and that they should be preserved instead of being used for the SIMCOM transmission station project. At the time of writing that proposal, the heronry was the only nesting site for the Grey Heron in SingaporeThe proposal for the preservation of the heronry was however rejected on the grounds that an alternative site for the SIMCOM Transmission station was lacking and that it would be too costly. There was no indication that the rest of the Kranji marshes will be conserved or developed at this time.

After this unfortunate incident, the MNS (Singapore Branch)s conservation Master Plan titled"Master Plan for the Conservation of Nature in Singapore" (Briffett, 1990) was published, in which the Kranji Bund Marshes, rated a five-star site, was recommended with 27 others for conservation.

Then, in 1993, the Kranji marshes, with 18 other sites, were put into The Singapore Green Plan (SGP) as a "nature conservation area".

Following five years later, what was most worrying is that, the area size and boundary of these sites were not delineated under the 1996 National Parks Act and the 1998 URA Master Plan despite the promise that it will be done over "the next five years" after 1993.

When the National Service Recreation and Country Club (NSRCC) first announced its intention of developing a second golf course in the Kranji Reservoir area in 1999, the Nature Society (NSS) expressed its concern publicly that the project should not be located at the existing "nature area" with justification given (The Straits Times, 16 February).

Another interesting Straits Times article that appeared in 2001.

NSS suggested alternative sites as a win-win solution at:

1) An area in Ama Keng;

2) An area in Choa Chu Kang near the new Warren Golf Course; and

3) An area south of the Tengah Airbase off Choa Chu Kang Road.

Another alternative NSS had proposed was to move part of the golf course into the URA-designated 'Reserve Area' south of the Kranji Radio Transmitting Station so that a larger marshy zone from the shoreline could be saved being about 200m from the shoreline.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that was conducted only after the leasehold was conferred to NSRCC in May 2000, reported its findings in April 2002. It yielded about 140 species of birds in the area, constituting an impressive 40 per cent of the total number of species (350) recorded for Singapore. Due to NSS contesting the creation in 2002 of the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course, the biodiversity importance of the Marshes was highlighted in the media.

Further discussions brought about a compromise between NSS and NSRCC which allowed for a 60 m stretch from the edge of the marshes of the North Kranji Bund Marsh to be retained as a sort of 'buffer' for the wetland birds instead of from the PUB bund running parallel to the shoreline. The golf course took up about 60 ha out of the 74 ha on leasehold for the project. This meant that 70-80% of the marsh north of the BBC station was destroyed.

About this time, Dr. Hua Chew also wrote a cover story for April – June 2002 volume of Nature Watch titled “Kranji Bund Marshes” further spreading awareness among the NSS members.

This article is available online at RMBR's Habitat News

Thereafter, URA Master Plan (for the Northern Sector) designated the remaining marshes ‘The Kranji Marsh Park’, which alleviates the status of the marsh here to more than a Nature Area,like what Sungei Buloh was - a Nature Park - when it was first accepted for conservation. Thus it has become another conservation achievement of NSS!

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