By Wayne Lo Fei Hon

I applaud the efforts of Mandai Parks Holdings (MPH) in gazetting the results of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and committing to measures that would mitigate the negative effects of the Mandai eco-park project on the environment. However, there is still more that needs to be done to ensure that we do not carelessly destroy what is left of our precious biodiversity.

The incorporation of buffer zones and the introduction of long-term noise monitoring, are vital, if not fundamental, management strategies that should have been included in the eco-park’s development plan from the onset.

While sustainability and conservation are regarded as top priorities for the project, there are still under-addressed environmental concerns, which MPH should be mindful of – to prevent any unnecessary damage to our already vulnerable ecological systems.

Firstly, with regard to retail or F&B establishments within the development, MPH should refrain from having them anywhere else apart from the arrival nodes. This keeps human traffic in check and reduces the possibility of wildlife coming into contact with food refuse. This also reduces the need for complex waste management systems near ecologically sensitive habitats.

Secondly, resident fauna is highly vulnerable during the construction phase. MPH should exercise extreme care. The use of hoarding and provision of temporary refugia may not be effective in protecting critically endangered species such as the Sunda pangolin and Lesser mousedeer, as they are highly mobile and sensitive to habitat changes.

Even where the temporary relocation of these species to the adjacent nature reserves is possible, the increase in competition for resources with other resident populations will severely diminish their chances of survival.

Thirdly, I sincerely urge MPH to leave the Bird Park out of existing plans as the likelihood of invasion of nearby forests by non-native birds is high, given the high mobility of birds.

Although the use of aviary cages and netted enclosures may lower such risks, birds may still escape. The contingency plans to deal with escapees could be costly in terms of time and money. By the time these contingency plans kick in, it would be too late as the ecological harm on our native species would be already done.

I support Nature Society (Singapore) Conservation Committee Vice-chairman Dr Ho Hua Chew’s suggestion that the Bird Park should remain in Jurong Lake District to boost the area’s appeal in the recreational aspect.

Development is slated to begin early next year, but let’s not rush the project – we are not ready.

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