Letters (Unedited) to the Press on Mandai Development

Letters (Unedited) on Mandai Development

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Letter Published on 05 Dec 2016
Un-edited version that was sent to TODAY

Dear Editor 

Nature Society’s (NSS) Response to Mandai Park Holdings on Mandai Development Plan 

Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) has expressed in their website and in the mass media   (e.g. in Straits Times Forum dated, Nov 4,  “Committed to developing Mandai project with care’) that it genuinely hopes that its so-called “new wildlife parks will be a very good neighbour to the Nature Reserve”. Within the parameters of being tasked to run revenue earning attractions at Mandai, MPH has indeed tried to give some consideration to the adjacent nature reserves. 

The position of NSS, however, is that such type of facilities should not be located next to the nature reserves at all. Our proposed extension of the nature reserves onto 50% of each of the two plots in question would link up two existing patches of the Central Catchment Nature Reserves (CCNR) which are now separated. Already the regenerating forest on the former farmland site allocated for the Rainforest Park North harbours a rich diversity of wildlife with many nationally & globally threatened species, as evident in MPH’s EIA records. 
Much of the existing CCNR areas were former farming areas (rubber plantations, orchards), for example the forests at Lower Peirce now harbouring threatened wildlife (e.g.  Buffy Fish Owl, Raffles Banded Langur). Being former farmland does not disqualify an area from becoming a nature reserve.

Over the last 20 years the government has utilised former farming areas to buffer weak flanks of existing forested nature reserves.   Such laudable remedial actions by our government include the Hindhede and Dairy Farm areas bordering the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, as well as more recently the creation of the Chestnut, Windsor and Thomson Nature Parks along the CCNR’s boundaries. 
It is thus tragic that, at Mandai, the serious gap in the nature reserves is not receiving similar consideration by the government. Instead the Jurong Bird Park and a mis-named Rainforest Park, effectively another zoo, will be sited there, destroying flora and fauna in their making. Our suggestion for nature reserves and nature-based adventure centres on these sites adds to the impetus of greater environmental sustainability for Singapore. 

MPH could still pursue its proposals inside its existing boundaries, such as Rainforest Park South, to expand its revenue earning and conservation work. Jurong Bird Park could retain its name and enhance ongoing developments if re-sited within the Jurong Lake District. All in all a quadrupal win situation – for MPH, for Jurong, for Singapore’s biodiversity and for future generations of Singapore students. 
 (394 words minus the titles)  

Leong Kwok Peng (Mr)
Nature Society (Singapore)

Also: Chair, Conservation Committee
Nature Society (Singapore)

Letter Published on 31 Oct 2016
Unedited version that was sent to ST Forum

Dear Editor 
Straits Times’ Forum 

Nature Society’s Stand on MPH’s Development at Mandai

    We refer to the Mandai Parks Holdings’ announcement of new mitigation measures to minimise the potential environmental damages on the development areas by its masterplan at  Mandai (“Mandai Makeover to tread with care” .ST: 11 October 2016). The planned relocation of Jurong Bird Park there and the  Rainforest Park North are not in ecological harmony with the Nature Reserve. These so-called ‘eco-tourism’ plans should be reconsidered.    

    Our major concern is the extremely tenuous link in terms of the viable connectivity and integrity of the official Reserve’s land along this northwestern sector across the Mandai Lake Road, which urgently needs to be rectified. Although outside the Reserve’s boundary, the two development sites, with their secondary forests and other natural habitats, are critical in providing this natural connectivity and ecological viability of the Reserve’s land there. To achieve this rectification, we strongly proposes extension of the Nature Reserve’s boundary to part of these project sites.

    As to the MPH’s mitigation measures, we are not convinced at all that the impact on the biodiversity can be small given the big reduction in the natural habitats given in the concept plan and the drastic alteration of what remains by the artificial structures that will be implemented --- such as tight boundary fences, aviary cages, netted enclosures,  as well as introduced alien wildlife.
    Even if implemented in stages, each requiring definitely a prolonged period of time,  the projected clearing and construction involved would result in significantly high stress for the resident wildlife, especially the less mobile species, when their habitat, connectivity and sustenance are being radically disrupted and shrunk, even with temporary refugias catered for them. The area boasts a rich resident wildlife with 199 faunal species recorded, including the locally and globally threaneted Sunda Pangolin, Raffles Banded Langur, Straw-headed Bulbul, Malesian Frog ---to name a few. 

    Instead of Mandai, we recommend that the Bird Park be incorporated into the new Jurong Lake Masterplan which would help to enrich the area’s redevelopment. As to the “Rainforest Park North”, we disagree with the idea of destroying natural habitat to create sanitized “eco-themed” parks. 

    Apart from rectifying the Reserve’s boundary gap, the proposed Nature Reserve’s extension will support the existing rich biodiversity and any restoration programmes for critically endangered species (e.g. Raffles Banded Langur). The remaining areas  can be used as adventure centres with programmes allowing for significantly less invasive ecological education and appreciation tours of our regenerating natural forests. 

405 words (minus the subject’s heading)

Yours faithfully,
Dr Ho Hua Chew
Conservation Committee
Nature Society (Singapore)

To view our proposal, please click here.