Activists concerned over more damage to Central Catchment Nature Reserve

Text and Photos by Stefanus Ian, Video by Jeremy Ho

On top of having 16 boreholes worth of damage, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) will likely have a 1.8 kilometre stretch of damage during the site investigation process for the Cross Island MRT Line, nature activists said.

During a public discussion on Thursday (25 February) at the SingJazz club, former Senior Arborist of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Lahiru Wijedasa, explained that the current Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report does not fully represent the potential damage of having the Cross Island Line cut through the CCNR.

“The problem with this report is that they haven’t engaged an arborist, and it’s purely an EIA based on what species are (at MacRitchie) and not actually looking at the (boring) method that is going to be used,” Wijedasa told a forum of about 100 people.

Wijedasa said that the dirt tracks on MacRitchie are not accustomed to the heavy machinery that would be passing through these tracks to transport the boring equipment.

The boring equipment will require a steady supply of water during operation, and the usual weight of the vehicle used to transport the water is 2.4 tonnes. He explained that if each vehicle is carrying about a tonne of water, the total weight exerted on the dirt track will be about 3.4 tonnes.

As a result the whole stretch of track being used to carry the equipment and water into the sites will also be damaged.

“The outcome is that we are going to have more damage caused to the roots by the machines carrying the water in and out, so we are not looking at 16 boreholes worth of damage. We are looking at 1.8 kilometres stretch of damage of 3.4 tonnes six times a day for nine months,” said Wijedasa, who formerly oversaw the maintenance of the health of the trees in the Botanic Gardens.

“There is going to be significant root damage and the compaction is going to cause the trees to die.”


The Nature Society’s council member Tony O'Dempsey speaking to the audience


The 50 kilometre train line will connect commuters from Changi to Jurong Industrial Estate and is expected to open in 2030. But many nature activists are up in arms over plans for the line to cross the CCNR. The Nature Society has earlier suggested re-routing the MRT project along Lornie Road saying that it will extend the line by just two kilometres and extend traveling time by four minutes.

Nature Society council member Tony O'Dempsey said that the group has been presenting their own research to the LTA and made recommendations, which were positively received.

Some of the points raised was how the LTA agreed to not put a borehole within 30 metres of wetlands, and how the number of boreholes planned for the site investigation was significantly reduced following discussions.

“They listened to us and they took on the things that we were recommending and that is how I measure a successful interaction,” O’Dempsey said.

But he stressed that the harmful impact of having the soil survey through the CCNR cannot be ignored.

“The way to look at this is that you need to ask or we need to ask ourselves this question, ‘Is the impact negligible?’ The answer is no, the EIA report showing that the impact is moderate,” O’Dempsey said. “Therefore we must conclude that the impact is significant and needs to be considered, and needs to be factored into the equation.”


About 100 people came for the public discussion at the SingJazz Club

High Stakes

Member of Parliament Louis Ng, who was in the audience, also said that having the Cross Island MRT Line go through the CCNR would be akin to gambling with the primary forest within the area.

“Whatever we do now, it is going to be a gamble and the stakes are pretty high because… even if we do our mitigation, (the impact is) moderate,” Ng told Yahoo Singapore. “It really is primary forest and what we do is irreversible.”

Ng suggested re-aligning the project through Lornie Road, saying that it will help to service more residents in the area.

Although he recognised the cost barriers with that suggestion, Ng said that there will also be revenue generated from the re-alignment.

Ng, who is also the Chief Executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said he has raised the issue in Parliament, and that there is still time to review the issue and consider other alternatives.

“I think we must always remember what happened to Chek Jawa, the reclamation markers were up. There were already plans to dump all the soil there to kill all the marine life, but at that point people spoke up, people went down to passionately fight for what they believe in. Singaporeans all got together to go there and see what we are about to lose and (the) decision was changed,” said Ng.

“I don’t think that it’s always the end of the line here. I think there’s always room for discussion. There’s always room to consider a different alternative.”

Updated 27 February: Corrected a quote by Tony O'Dempsey.