Cross Island MRT line cutting under MacRitchie forest

From ‘Macritchie Route for MRT line an irreversible error’, 13 Feb 16, Voices, Today

(Joey Gan): I am writing in to express my concern about the planned Cross Island Line. I feel strongly that the line should be routed along Lornie Road, one of the two proposed alignments, to avoid it cutting under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (“Impact of Cross Island work on MacRitchie significant without LTA mitigation measures”; Feb 11).

Having worked in conservation previously, I have had the opportunity to conduct research in the forests of MacRitchie. It is a beautiful place that can only be harmed if works are carried out beneath the area. The impact of noise and smell on forest inhabitants cannot be fully understood or quantified even with an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Even with mitigation measures in place, it is likely to be near impossible to enforce these measures on a daily basis. Furthermore, works must be done around the clock, and this only exacerbates the situation.

The MacRitchie forest is home to one of the largest patches of primary rainforest and lowland swamp forest in Singapore. It is a national treasure.

I can appreciate that transport is a big concern, but in this situation there is a viable alternative. If this alternative is not taken, the consequences on our national natural heritage is irreversible.

We have already divided what was once the largest stretch of primary forest in Singapore into two fragments when we built the Bukit Timah Expressway through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. We then spent millions trying to connect the two via the Eco-Link@BKE. And now we are considering making a similar mistake at MacRitchie.

I implore the Minister of Transport and those involved this project to consider their decision carefully, for the sake of our forests and for Singapore.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan once pledged in a Facebook post that he would help ‘protect our Garden legacy’, whatever his portfolio. If there’s anyone would could sway the powers that be to scrap the Macritchie project, it would be this man. But he can’t do it alone. To paraphrase his thoughts on engineering, we need to make conservation ‘sexy’. We need to shake off our perception of nature crusaders as hipster tree-huggers. We can’t just plant a tree and think we’ve undone all the damage we’ve inflicted to become where we are today. We need to discuss such issues in Parliament instead of thrashing out town council accounts and duckweed (even though they’re green) NCMPs.

Concerned voices failed to stop the impending wipeout of Bukit Brown and, more recently, Bidadari. Mandai also looks set for a ‘moderate-impact’ makeover.   An Environmental Impact Assessment without considering the cumulation of all our past ‘achievements’ at the expense of nature doesn’t tell you much about the fate of our ecosystem, whether future generations will be spending most of their existence staring at screens, living in concrete, and their only concept of wilderness is a stroll though the UNESCO World Heritage Site Botanic Gardens. One also can’t help detecting the mixed messages coming from the authorities. On one hand, you’re talking about going ‘car-free’, the next you’re ripping an expressway right though the oldest damn cemetery in Singapore.

Environmentalists call for a zero-impact solution, but it’s likely that the Government will give zero shits. Occasionally, conservation warriors win the day. In 1992, the Nature Society managed to stop the development of an 18 hole golf course in Lower Peirce Reservoir. What’s more disturbing to me is the fact that the idea of building a golf course in the first place came from the PUB. What a national water agency is doing supporting an activity that actually wastes water is beyond me. We are thankful for Chek Jawa, Sungei Buloh and Kranji Marshes, but need to be wary that the Government doesn’t use these as excuses for further devastation. For every avid golfer there are probably a dozen motorists or commuters who wouldn’t mind a new road or MRT line if it means killing off some pesky wild boars. The Government will continue to use fuzzy words to placate us like ‘moderate’, ‘calibrate’ and ‘balanced’, and sneakily modify buzzwords like ‘Garden City’ to ‘City in a Garden’.

There wasn’t time for self-congratulatory pats on the back. Ultimately, conservationists lost the battle for Marina South and Senoko. And there’s little done to stop the onslaught of less known nature enclaves right behind our doorstep. There may not be an endangered pangolin hiding in the bushes behind my estate, but if the town council decides to replace whatever wilderness we have left with a Gateball Court that nobody uses, it not only wastes resources and tax payers’ money but who knows what chronic deprivation of greenery and birdsong would do to our mental health and ‘spirit’. Not everyone has the time or energy to trek to Sungei Buloh for their dose of greenery. I could be struck with cancer staring out of a window in my terminal years and there’s not even a swaying branch in sight to sooth my dying soul.

A ‘Smart Nation’ should have the foresight and, I should say – audacity, to leave our forests, marshes, seas alone without scratching that itch for progress. Singaporeans are already one of the most stressed people in Asia, and with the Government doing whatever it can to make us produce babies, we need to establish a link between this metastatic urban growth and environmental degradation to our willingness to procreate, and ultimately, our very survival.  In other words, think of new ways to pitch the conservation message – that displaced creatures will run amok on the roads resulting in accidents, eat your mangoes, steal your grocery bags and charge at little children, that one less hectare of greenery increases the risk of dementia or depression, or even scare tactics like a docile mousedeer mutating into a novel virus-spreading, gnashing, man-eating beast over time because of tunneling works. Godzilla was Japan’s answer to the scourge of nuclear technology. We need our own Godzilla for Macritchie – Maczilla.

Whatever we’re doing, misguided economic benefits, shitty useless amenities or otherwise, let us be reminded that for what it’s worth, our trains, fancy buildings, expensive automobiles and all those projects that work out to be short-term gratifications in the grand scheme of things, nature always wins in the end, and chances are we won’t be around to witness Her victory parade.

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One Response

  1. The decisions make no sense. On the one hand there are pious sermons about greenery and sustainability, and promises about the willingness to fight climate change.

    On the other, there is the criminal destruction of our greenery in the name of so-called progress.

    A relative was jumping during CNY dins about the wholesale removal of greenery in the Jurong/Bukit Gombak area for “development” (expressways).

    Vertical walls of greenery are seen as an answer to the removal of trees and other surface plants. Encouraging butterflies is so in. Monkeys and wild boar are such a bore. Palm trees and “pretty” plants replace shade trees. Vegetable farms are seen as a waste of space.

    We will not talk of landmark buildings and areas being chucked in the “dustbin”. We will not talk of the ridiculousness of building more malls – including the airport’s “jewel” – as hordes go online to shop.

    The idea of progress today is so antiquated, so last century, so narrow. And so utterly and completely irresponsible. Smart nation? My big toe!

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