LTA's soil check for Cross Island Line could threaten weaker wildlife: NSS

The existing harmony among the animals living in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) will be disrupted during soil investigations carried out prior to the construction of the Cross Island Line (CRL), said the Nature Society Singapore (NSS) on Wednesday (24 Feb).

As boreholes are being drilled and the people conducting the investigations move about at the reserve, it will cause tensions among the territorial animals there, said NSS spokesperson Anthony Dempsey.

“During the soil investigation, the animals are going to scatter, and they don’t just disappear, there’s a limit to where they can go due to the fragmentation of the nature reserve. When they scatter, they end up in each other’s territory,” Dempsey said.

The majority of the male mammals in the area, such as the endangered slow loris and pangolins, are territorial by nature. When conflicts arise between the different species due to territorial encroachment, the existence of the weaker species could be threatened, Dempsey added.

The CCNR - home to some of the oldest trees in Singapore - has been in the spotlight since the Land Transport Authority (LTA) released earlier this month its Environment Impact Assessment (Phase 1) report for the construction of the 50-km train line.

LTA announced its plan to construct the line in January 2013. CRL will connect commuters between Changi and Jurong Industrial Estate.

The planned route for the line will cut across the reserve by way of an underground tunnel, between the Singapore Island Country Club and the vicinity of Venus Drive.

The plan caused uproar among nature conservationists, who are lobbying the government to ensure that the line won’t directly impact the reserve. They have proposed to LTA to build a route that will skirt the perimeter of the reserve.

Photo by LTA

The alternative route will have “negligible” effects, such as noise level, on the activities close to the boundary, Dempsey said.

LTA has responded to the proposed alternative route, and said that it would cost the government an additional $2 billion in cost. It would also require the construction of longer tunnels (9km) and more underground ventilation facilities, LTA added.

LTA also said that it would reduce number of boreholes from 72 to 16 in its ground investigations. These boreholes would be confined to public trails and existing clearings.

“LTA will complement these with non-intrusive geophysical survey methods and horizontal directional coring that will start from outside the CCNR. As such, no vegetation will be cleared,” they said in a Facebook post on Monday (22 Feb).

Photo by LTA

Rich in wildlife, flora and fauna

The CCNR, with over 2,000 hectares of forest cover, is home to at least 413 flora and fauna, and over 800 animal species. It has over 150 hectares of primary lowland forest known as Dipterocarp, which was once abundant in Singapore.

Plant species at the reserve include: Keruing, Meranti, Butterfly Climber, Sea Apple Tree, Wild Ixora, Chemperai Tree, Licuala Palm, Calophyllum Tree, Buttress Roots, Singapore Rhododendron, Rubber Tree, Ant Plant, Tembusu, Lianas, Nibong Palm, Leaf Litter Plant, Petai, Chestnut Tree, Cheng Tng Tree.

Animal species at the reserve include: Banded Leaf Monkey, Sunda Pangolin, Clouded Monitor Lizard, Common Sun Skink, Plantain Squirrel, Long-Tailed Macaque, Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo, Striped-Tit Babbler, Olive-Winged Bulbul, Green Crested Lizard, Collared Kingfisher, White Throat Kingfisher, Pink-Necked Green Pigeon, Banded Damselflies, Dragonflies, Oriental Whip Snake.

Numbers of species based on surveys done in the last 20 years.

Mammal species - 30

Freshwater fish - 24

Amphibians - 17

Reptiles - 56

Dragonflies and damselflies - at least 82

Butterflies - at least 178

Spiders - 211

Birds - 218

Area breakdown of CCNR

Primary forest - 201 hectares

Swamp forest - 230 hectares

Mature regrowth - 1,122 hectares

Less mature regrowth - 566 hectares

Reservoirs - 681 hectares

Reserved for military use - 296 hectares

Non-forest - 72 hectares

Wetland marsh - 14 hectares

Wetland forest - 122 hectares

Fernland - 130 hectares

Visitors to CCNR, which was once linked to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, would typically visit the 250-meter Tree Top Walk, trek at the MacRitchie Nature Trail, indulge in nature photography or engage in bird watching. Today, the two reserves are separated due to the construction of the Bukit Timah Expressway. They are linked by the Eco@BKE ecological bridge to allow wildlife to travel from one reserve to another.  

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