Continuing to question various development projects in Bukit Batok, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)’s Chee Soon Juan highlighted on Thursday (26 November) the clearing of the Bukit Batok Hillside Park for development.
In a Facebook post, he said a BB resident named Jimmy Tan brought to his attention several weeks ago “an issue that would have a profound impact on Bukit Batok and the rest of Singapore.” This was the clearing of the park and an adjacent plot of land that used to be the Tengah Forest for the development of a Housing Development Board (HDB) new town.
To illustrate the rise of the development, Dr Chee said the whole of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is smaller than the new town.
“Not content, the government is now considering clearing another forest beside it, the BB Hillside Park (it’s actually not a park but a mature secondary forest), as well as the Clementi Forest for more development,” wrote the veteran politician.
Dr Chee said several of his colleagues as well as SDP’s Young Democrats and Mr Tan made an excursion into the BB forest to get a first-hand look at “what we stand to lose”.
He went on to outline several concerns that Singaporeans ought to know about the potential clearing of the forest, starting with health concerns. Dr Chee noted, “More development means more people and more foreigners. This will add to an already stressful environment that worsens our mental health.”
“Study after study show that improvement in health and lower mortality risk is proportionate to the amount of open green spaces,” he added.
Next was the loss of a natural treasure that is the forest. “BB residents enjoy such a treasure at the moment and would lose it all if the forest is gone. In its place would be more concrete and HDB blocks and carparks,” said Dr Chee.
The third point he raised was about the effect the development would have on air quality and temperatures. Noting that greenery and forests help improve air quality and keep temperatures down, estates in south central Singapore with more built up areas are already about 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than estates like BB currently.
“Higher temperatures lead to greater usage of air-conditioning adding to the climate crisis. With the development of Tengah and potential clearing of BB Hillside Park, the BB’s surface temperatures are set to rise,” he explained.
On top of there, there are also concerns of loss of biodiversity and habitat for wildlife.
Dr Chee stressed, “Ultimately, Singaporeans, especially the younger generations, must ask what kind of environment they want to live in.
“Is it one that clears every pocket of forested area for more and more people and buildings and cars and pollution and stress or one that provides us with a healthier quality of life that comes with greenery, space and nature?”
He then invited the public, especially residents of BB as well as BB MP Murali Pillai, to sign a petition initiated by the concerned resident Mr Tan. The petition calls for the conservation of the Bukit Batok Hillside Park and has 4,804 signatures at the time of writing.
He also shared a link to Mr Tan’s blog which has more information about the development taking place in the area as well as an interview the resident gave to TODAY online about the issue.