Site investigation works approved to proceed
08 Jun 2016
The National Parks Board (NParks) has given approval for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to proceed with site investigation works for the proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR). The approval is given in view of the series of stringent safeguards, and comprehensive and substantive mitigation measures that will be put in place to limit the impact of the site investigation works on the ecology and biodiversity of the CCNR. These safeguards and measures are spelt out in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) commissioned by the LTA, and a supplementary document stipulating additional conditions and mitigation measures formulated after the public disclosure of the EIA report.
NParks’ approval for the site investigation works came following a stringent process of review and study with LTA. During the process, NParks has taken into account and benefitted from the varied inputs and constructive suggestions from the nature community in earlier engagement sessions. Their concerns have been addressed with the additional mitigating measures listed in the final EIA report. NParks is now satisfied that:
- Site investigation work will take place in existing trails/clearings, and will avoid the most ecologically sensitive parts of the CCNR, e.g., primary forests, swampy areas and within the forest stream system itself.
- The magnitude of residual impact will be restricted to “small” in most areas where the site investigation work will be carried out if stringent conditions and comprehensive mitigation measures proposed in the EIA and post-EIA document are strictly adhered to.
- More elaborate safeguards have been put in place to limit potentially higher impact of site investigation work in a few localised places around the forest stream systems and off-trail forested areas. These measures are designed to protect the wildlife living here, particularly the less mobile fauna (e.g. soil and leaf-litter insects and other invertebrates) and animals that may be particularly sensitive to environmental disturbances (e.g. babblers, nesting birds, mousedeers, pangolin, slow loris and barking deer).
- Compliance of the conditions will be closely monitored by a team of specially deployed NParks ecologists, supported by trained representatives from the nature community who have been invited as observers. Should there be any breach or deviation from the agreed mitigation measures or when pollution is detected, NParks officers will issue immediate stop work orders.
Details of these comprehensive and substantive mitigation measures are spelt out in the Appendix. The measures aim to achieve the following:
- reduce the footprint of borehole operations and confine them to existing trails and clearings;
- reduce the intrusiveness of off-trail geophysical surveys;
- reduce disturbances to fauna;
- protect the ecological integrity of jungle streams;
- reduce risks of spillage, soil erosion & compaction;
- reduce noise and light pollution;
- monitor and enforce compliance.
Full compliance of all the mitigation measures will ensure that any potential residual impact of site investigation work remains limited and short-term. Notwithstanding this, NParks is cognizant that any such site investigation work, even with stringent mitigation measures, can add on to the cumulative impact of the many other ongoing activities within the nature reserves and lead to the deterioration of the nature reserves over time. These include recreational activities such as jogging and hiking; military training; NParks’ own regular maintenance works; as well as biodiversity surveys carried out by researchers. All such activities can be highly intrusive and potentially damaging to the nature reserves if they are not properly regulated.
However, stringent regulation of activities within our nature reserves alone will also not be sufficient to protect our natural heritage. It must be accompanied by additional efforts to improve ecological connectivity, implement species recovery programmes, and restore and rehabilitate degraded habitat within the reserves. These must be further undergirded by a concerted effort to strengthen the ecological resilience of the nature reserves. It is for these reasons that NParks has taken proactive steps to establish nature parks around the nature reserves, e.g., the newly opened Chestnut Nature Park and the upcoming Windsor and Thomson Nature Parks, which further protect our nature reserves and also offer a rustic and natural alternative to visitors, and relieve demands of recreational activities within the nature reserves.
NParks notes that the Government has not decided if the final alignment of the CRL will go under the CCNR, or circumvent it. This decision cannot be made until the data and findings of soil and geological conditions can be gathered from site investigation work for further feasibility studies.