By Yasmeen Banu
In January 2013, Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced it would construct a new MRT line- the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL). This new line is currently under planning and evaluation, targeted for completion in 2030.
The CRL line is essentially a line that will serve as a key transfer line, cutting through the island. This new line will start from Changi, and will pass through Loyang, Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, before reaching Sin Ming. It will continue to the west, towards areas such as Bukit Timah, Clementi, West Coast and will terminate at Jurong Industrial Estate.
Stated on LTA’s website on the benefit of the CRL Line:
“It will provide commuters with another alternative for East-West travel to the current East-West Line, bringing greater comfort and significantly shorter journey times. The eastern leg of the CRL will also include a segment that extends into the centre of Punggol. Residents in Punggol will be able to travel to Pasir Ris – a popular and much demanded travel route - in only 10-15 minutes, compared to a 40 minute bus journey today.”
However, construction of this line would mean cutting through part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir. This has remained a concern with Nature Society Singapore and many eco-activists.
One such eco-activist, Teresa Guttensohn, has raised worries about our last remaining natural heritage and the impact the line would make on the rainforest. In an interview with Ms Guttensohn, she said,
“Major concerns (that will affect our natural reserve), are further fragmentation of the forest reserve, possible loss of habitats and endangered communities, soil erosion and stream stiltation.”
In June 2013, Ms Guttensohn was at Hong Lim Park’s Speaker’s Corner demonstrating a protest performance by being tied to a tree, for 24 hours from 3pm on the 22nd of June to the 23rd of June. The protest performance was to call for urgent action on the issue of planning the CRL line to run underneath the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Ms Guttensohn performed a poem “Chained To Our Roots”, and made a speech - “Paying Extreme Price for Cross Island MRT; A Faster Ride To Species Extinction”.
She also wrote a letter of appeal to the Minister of Transport. Ms Guttensohn’s friend, Dr Vilma D’Rozario, who also demonstrated a protest performance together with Ms Guttensohn, wrote a letter to the Strait’s Times Forum with regards to the CRL line.
In July last year, the Nature Society released a position paper that states the soil investigation activities involving the core drilling of 70 metres deep bore holes along the alignment will cause tremendous permanent damage to the habitat. The society has since made recommendations to LTA for them to adopt alternative routes for to have the MRT line rerouted so to avoid cutting through the reserve. (Read the society's position paper here)
While the alignment controversy has been brought to the attention of LTA, LTA insists that the line has not been finalized yet as “the Government has worked with nature and environmental groups to finalise the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the portion of the CRL around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve”.
The EIA report that is targeted for completion in 2016, “will assist the Government in making a considered decision on the CRL alignment”.
When asked should the EIA be shown to be detrimental to nature, if the agency would adopt the recommendation to reroute, LTA has not made any respond to the enquiry. Similarly, LTA has not responded when asked if the data of the environmental study be made public to view, since the data of the environmental study for Bukit Brown Cemetery was not made public.