Alternative political party Red Dot United has urged the government to consider creative alternative solutions to address the serious effects of clearing certain parts of the Tengah forest corridor to build viaducts.
In an article on the party’s website on Thursday (17 December), RDU stressed the importance of ensuring a better balance between ecological and economical considerations in the Tengah forest corridor development.
Referring to a recent news article detailing the plans to clear part of the forest to make way for viaducts, and replantation plans, RDU noted its concern about the felling of parts of the forest which current serves to provide safe passage for wildlife in Tengah.
The land is being cleared to make way for two viaducts that will connect the upcoming Tengah town with the Kranji Expressway.
“We echo the ecologists’ concern about the resultant loss of mature trees that offer a host of ecosystem services, such as providing food and refuge for animals,” stressed the party.
“While we acknowledge that cost and efficiency might be among the factors in the development plans, including the alignment of the forest corridor, we feel that they should not be the dominant criteria for evaluating the plans.”
The article went on to say that that the apparently cheaper or more efficient development plans may end up being more costly in the long run “when things go wrong”.
“Any development that lacks planning foresight by not placing environmental concerns at its forefront can have serious cost consequences for society – including social, health and environmental costs,” the party added, noting later that the Tengah development plan is ultimately about “convenience”.
To drive home the point, RDU recalled the example of the Bukit Timah Expressway which was constructed in the 80s and eventually resulted in the increased incidence of roadkill between Bukit Timah nature reserve and Central nature reserved annually. Animal casualties include endangered species such as the Sunda pangolin, as well as native species such as the cream coloured giant squirrel and large forest gecko.
In an effort to mitigate the ecological damage, an ecological corridor—the Eco-Link—was built over the highway, costing the state S$12.3 million.
“Such unplanned or incidental costs should be acknowledged and duly addressed,” stressed the party, adding that the safety, survival and well-being of resident wildlife should be taken into account since it is humans who are “encroaching on their homes and not the other way around.”
The party went on, “It is said that the mark of a great nation is not how powerful or wealthy we are, but rather how we treat the weakest members in our midst. Our pledge to uphold justice, equality and inclusivity should not be just enshrined in words but also embodied and demonstrated in action.”
RDU also pointed out another recent news article—this one about conserving a lagoon on St John’s Island for research, education and conservation—raises the question of why one natural habitat is marked for conservation while another is marked for development.
It asked, “Do we seek to conserve a natural habitat only when it doesn’t inconvenience us or when it puts us in a good light?”
“If we are truly sincere about wanting to conserve Nature in order to ensure biodiversity preservation and sustainable development, wouldn’t we make efforts to be more inclusive and holistic in our planning, even if it might not make sense economically at first? “
Citing a report on a study back in 2004 which estimate that more than 95 percent of Singapore’s original 540 square km of tropical forests have been felled and as much as 73 percent of the islands original flora and fauna have been destroyed, RDU said “Hence, we can no longer claim ignorance of the extensive damage done to our environment…”
The damage includes loss of biodiversity, human-wildlife conflicts, loss of habitat leading to extinction of endangered species, increased temperatures, more flash floods, and an increased risk of various infections.
The party warned, “Any further deforestation at this point in time will only exacerbate the above-mentioned problems, incurring more costs and creating an increasingly unsustainable future for ourselves and our future generations.”
It added that merely replanting trees after removing mature trees is akin to putting a “band-aid over the deep wounds” we have inflicted upon the environment.
As such, the party reiterated its call on the government to consider creative alternative solutions.
The three questions the party went on to ask are if underground roads can be considered to connect the upcoming Tengah town to the Kranji Expressway; whether the forest corridor can be realigned to maintain a safe distance from the expressway and ensure a conducive habitat for resident wildlife; and if the forest corridor could be expended as originally proposed by the Nature Society (Singapore) to minimise disruption to wildlife.
Ravi Philemon, secretary-general of Red Dot United, said: “One of RDU’s most important goals is to encourage discourse, so as to drive change and hold the Government accountable. Our call to the Government to better justify and reconsider its decision on Tengah forest corridor is made in that spirit.”
“We can improve our society and the environment we live in by ensuring sustainable development in its truest sense,” he added.