by Deborah Choo/
The Land Transport Authorities (LTA)’s decision to build the North South Expressway (NSE) along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 has deeply upset the residents at Nuovo Executive Condominium.
In January this year when LTA first announced its decision to build the NSE, Nuovo, along with nearby Castle Green and Bullion Park Condominium, had part of their land compulsorily acquired by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for the construction of expressway. However, Nuovo is the most badly affected of the three as it has a higher percentage of residents’ apartments slated to face the semi-tunnel and is situated only barely 15 metres away from the projected NSE. On the other hand, Castle Green is 30 metres away and Bullion Park is situated 50 metres away.
Mr Chua, 40, an engineer, bought his apartment less than a year ago. He is particularly worried of the NSE’s impact on his baby’s health. “As it is now, the road and MRT noise is already border-line unbearable so I cannot imagine it getting worse. Having lack of sleep from traffic noise that increases early in the morning (rush hour traffic) and breathing in pollutants are what me and my family (baby included) will have to contend with if LTA do not heed our plea and build fully underground tunnel as what they did for KPE.”
Some 95 percent of Nuovo’s residents have signed an appeal requesting asking the LTA to reconsider its decision. The appeal cited several main concerns:
(1) Health issue brought on by prolonged exposure to pollutants,
(2) Noise pollution and the impact on their daily activities,
(3) The distance of the boundary wall from the condo to the NSE tunnel (which is supposed to be two to three meters away from Nuovo’s swimming pool and basement carpark but according to residents’ measurements only stretch up to a maximum of one metre), and
(4) Property valuation.
The appeal letter also proposed an alternative to LTA: To consider extending the full underground tunnel from Anderson Junior College to the intersection of Yio Chu Kang road which is situated away from residential areas.
LTA’s Chief Executive Officer Mr Chew Hock Yong replied on 22 February. He rejected the suggestion, stating that the proposed stretch of road would require the building of an additional ventilation building. However, “due to competing land uses, no suitable site is available.”
When it came to addressing the residents’ concerns on health impacts, the letter stated that LTA will “fully comply with NEA’s standards”. It also said that noise reflectors will be used for the semi tunnels. Regarding concerns over the boundary wall, Mr Chew assured residents that “a safe distance will be maintained.” As for property valuation, LTA stated that URA would honor the last approved GFA upon redevelopment.
“LTA’s response was disappointing. It does not address most of the valid concerns which we have brought up in our appeal letter, for example, air pollution and noise,” a Nuovo resident told TOC. “Nuovo residents feel that the government is not concerned about protecting the health of existing residents’ and our young children.”
On 15 March, a discussion between residents, LTA and SLA ended with promises of a meeting with MINDEF, National Environment Agency (NEA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). However, residents say they were informed via email shortly after, to organize their own meetings with the other parties.
Meanwhile, some like Darren Lim, have put their property up for sale. An accountant who moved into Nuovo only about 15 months ago. Mr Lim is an asthmatic. His wife is currently pregnant and he has two young children.
“I am utterly disappointed that cost has come into the picture when people's health and the environment in which our children grow up are in that same equation.” Mr Lim said. “I wonder how such costs have been calculated or taken into account in arriving at their decisions to build a half tunnel of an expressway a metre or two next to a residential compound?”
LTA was unreachable for comment.
“Our government has always been trumpeting about how open and fair they are in their policies and plans.” Mr Chua added, “in this case, they have shown lack of openness and lack of fairness.”
The Online Citizen understands that resident at Castle Green condominium are also intending to appeal the LTA’s decision and petitions are being collected at the moment.
Construction of the NSE is scheduled to start in 2 years. The targeted date for completion is 2020.
LTA replied to TOC's query at 5.33 PM today with this: "The answers to the questions you raised has been covered before by Minister Raymond Lim in Parliament in February 2011."
LTA also assured that it will continue to work with the Advisor, the Working Committee and the MCST to "engage and update the residents of the project progress and address their concerns."
Read also: Saving the line.