When is a Nature Reserve not a Nature Reserve?

A nature reserve (natural reserve, bioreserve, (natural/nature) preserve or (national/nature) conserve) is a protected area of importance for wildlife, flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. – Wikipedia

An ​area of ​land that is ​protected in ​order to ​keepsafe the ​animals and ​plants that ​live there, often because they are ​rareCambridge Dictionary Online

Nature reserve, area set aside for the purpose of preserving certain animals, plants, or both. A nature reserve differs from a national park usually in being smaller and having as its sole purpose the protection of nature. – Encyclopaedia Britannica

And the Singapore Government own Parks and Trees Act Chapter 216 Part III:

(3)  National parks and nature reserves are set aside for all or any of the following purposes:

(a)   the propagation, protection and conservation of the trees, plants, animals and other organisms of Singapore, whether indigenous or otherwise;

(b)   the study, research and preservation of objects and places of aesthetic, historical or scientific interest;

(c)   the study, research and dissemination of knowledge in botany, horticulture, biotechnology, or natural and local history; and

(d)        recreational and educational use by the public.

So essentially there is general agreement that a Nature Reserve is a protected area for “nature”. In the Singapore context and activities which threaten the nature reserves are prohibited re Chapter 8 & 9, there are stated punishments for violating these.

So why was the question of having an MRT line running under the Central Catchment Area nature reserve even mooted in the first place? And I don’t understand why is there a need for a MRT line from Changi to Jurong? Don’t we already have the East-West line which runs from Pasir Ris to Jurong and is connected to Changi via the Changi Airport extension?  Is there really such a dire need to spend million of dollars for what seems to be a duplication.

The EIA commissioned by the authorities stated that impact on the nature reserve will be “moderate” if mitigating measures are put in place. And that is just for the initial phrase of the soil investigation work. So if just merely doing soil investigation work and with mitigating measures in place the impact will be moderate, I shudder to think what will be the impact if it is the full blown construction work for the Cross Island line! And by the way, in most industries risk management practices, moderate impact is not acceptable.

People in the construction and engineering line seems to think that it is possible to put in places mitigating measures such that the environment, the fauna and flora are not disturbed! Let’s get real here. If a few runners running through MacRitchie Reservoir at night are deemed to have impact on the wildlife there, do they seriously expect that contractors and construction workers in the hundreds working round the clock will have no or minimum impact on the wildlife? And as anybody who has lived or worked near a construction site can attest, which sites have really good environmental practice? Dirty water run off onto the road, mosquitoes breeding, littering, noise, smoke and anything and everything bad will be there. With our system of awarding projects to tenders with low prices and penalising work delay , the last thing these contractors do will be to put in place costly and time consuming practice which does not add to their bottom line.

The real nightmare is if this or should I say when they go on to Phase 2. Even if the digging is underground using bored tunnelling, just how deep below are they going to dig. There are trees all over many with deep roots. Will the digging impact the tree roots causing them to become unstable? What about ventilation shafts? Surely there will have to be many of them. And emergency escape shafts? And roads will have to be cut into the forest for trucks to bring in supply and remove waste. Do we seriously think that even with mitigating measures, impact will be moderate?

In my opinion, the question of having a MRT line running under the nature reserve should never have come out in the first place. It is a place to be protected and not something that should be changed at will. If that is the case, then there is no point designating any place as a nature reserve or a heritage building ….  if any fellas in some other government agencies can just simply come out with some better justification (mainly economic) reasons to alter the site!

So please leave MacRitchie Reservoir alone. We already lost part of Bukit Brown and the Mandai Forest. Let know lose one more beautiful place where nature is just a short journey away from our home.


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  • Arvin

    Saw similar article in ST Sunday, a bit irresponsible from the authority to throw all responsibilities (in terms of environmental impact) to the contractor side.

    “People in the construction and engineering line seems to think that it is possible to put in places mitigating measures such that the environment, the fauna and flora are not disturbed!”
    The mitigating measures and practices in the industry has improved in the last 5 years but it is still a big challenge to carry out such major works in Nature Reserve with acceptable impact.

    A bit puzzling why they can’t go underneath existing Lornie Rd, the traffic is expected to be lower once the new road is completed.


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