Government won't rush into decision on Dover Forest development: Desmond Lee

National Development Minister Desmond Lee (left) visits Dover Forest with members of the nature community in Singapore. (PHOTO: Facebook/Desmond Lee)
National Development Minister Desmond Lee (left) visits Dover Forest with members of the nature community in Singapore. (PHOTO: Facebook/Desmond Lee)

SINGAPORE — National Development Minister Desmond Lee has pledged not to “rush into a decision” on the development of Dover Forest, following calls by nature groups to preserve the area.

On Thursday (28 January), Lee visited the forest with members of the local nature community. He later posted on his Facebook page that the Singapore government will “proceed with care” for development near areas of significant biodiversity.

The 33 ha forest within the Ulu Pandan area has come under scrutiny in recent weeks. It had been zoned for future residential development and was the subject of a 2017 environmental baseline study conducted by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Ulu Pandan is one of several areas where HDB plans to offer 17,000 Build-to-Order flats this year.

Earlier this month, the Nature Society of Singapore’s Conservation Committee called for the forest to be designated a public-cum-nature park based on its biodiversity data: there are 120 plant species and 158 animals that call it home, including critically endangered ones.

Christopher De Souza, MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC’s Ulu Pandan ward, has also filed an adjournment motion in Parliament in a bid to preserve Dover Forest in his constituency.

Lee said in his Facebook post, “As far as possible, we seek to preserve and integrate natural elements within developments, to facilitate ecological connectivity.

“These are the same considerations for balancing greenery and conservation on the one hand, and providing future homes on the other, in the Ulu Pandan area. These are both important needs, and we should not rush into a decision.”

Lee added that feedback received from local residents, green groups, potential homeowners and the broader public will be taken in to inform the planning process.

The HDB environmental baseline study report on Dover Forest is available online and seeking the public’s views. Lee asked more Singaporeans to send in their views and ideas.

“We will study all the feedback received in detail, as we consider possible plans for the site,” he said in his Facebook post.

Nature Society committed to foster environmental ethos

In response, the Nature Society (Singapore) also put up a Facebook post, saying that it is encouraged by Lee’s comments.

It added that, while it recognises the challenges in meeting vital land needs, it believes that “a Singapore with a rich diversity of plants and animals and with thriving ecosystems is a better Singapore”.

“Achieving a balance between conservation of nature and development requires good science, technical expertise in all sectors, and holistic planning,” it said.

“Most of all it needs an environmental ethos shared by everyone that sees nature and people in a synergistic relationship. The Nature Society is committed to playing our part to foster this.”

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Related story:

Dover Forest: MP Christopher De Souza wants to preserve site, files motion for debate