After several weeks of public outcry about the reclassification of the Clementi Forest for redevelopment, the Dover Forest has now come under the spotlight as well, sparking more calls for conservation.
While the government said recently that it has no immediate plans to redevelop the Clement Forest, it appears that the Dover forest, earmarked for residential use, may be developed into new flats in the next few years.
On 15 January, the Nature Society Singapore (NSS) made public its feedback to the Dover Forest-Ulu Pandan Baseline Study prepared by infrastructure firm AECOM for the Housing Development Board (HDB) which was released in November 2020.
The 13-page report proposes that the area be designated a public/nature park instead—based on the information reported in the HDB study as well as the NSS’s cumulative data on birdlife in since 2007.
According to the HDB study, the Dover forest is home to over 200 species of wildlife including threatened and endangered species. In fact, the NSS feedback notes that there are more threatened species in that 33-hectare patch of lush greenery than the study found back in 2017, for a total of 103 species of birds. This includes about 12 nationally near-threatened or threatened according to the Singapore Red Data Book and at least two vulnerable species listed on the ICUN Red List.
While the HDB study identified 22 species of resident and migratory birds that are dependent on the forest, NSS says 9 more were not listed in HDB’s study.
NSS noted, “This will make a combined total of 31 forest/woodland dependent species, which comes to about 30 percent—about a third—of the combined total, which is of very high conservation significance.”
Apart from serving as a wildlife habitat, the Dover forest is also an important part of wildlife connectivity in the region, said the NSS, as animals use the forest as a sort of “stepping stone” to numerous other green spaces such as the rea east of Pandan Reservoir, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Clementi forest and forests of the Southern Ridges.
The non-profit organisation then suggested that the entirety of Dover forest be conserved as a public-cum-nature park.
“Such a substantial park (about 33 hectares in total, with an estimated 10 hectares for a public park section) set up in tandem with its natural assets is rather imperative for the well-being of all in this very dense and busy sector of Singapore, surrounded by schools and colleges, private housings and HDB flats as well the buzzing One-north Biotech Hub and Media complexes and offices.”
The organisation also highlighted the growing demand for more green spaces by the public, as evidenced by a rise in the number of visitors at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve’s Tree-Top Trail as well as the “simply astounding” number of people flocking to the Clementi Forest in recent times.
As an alternative, the NSS went on to suggest that the new HDB estate be developed in other areas that are “brownfield sites”—which are previously developed land not currently in use—or cleared and open areas instead of cutting down existing secondary forest that are rich in wildlife.
Some proposed sites were the roughly 3.5 hectare open patch at the junction of Ghim Moh Road and Commonwealth Avenue West, the already degazetted Warren Golf Course (also about 3.5 hectares) or the open patch at the junction of Dover Road and North Buona Vista Road which is approximately 14.5 hectares.
Netizens on the Straits Times and Mothership Facebook pages have become quite vocal about this planned redevelopment of Dover forest, reiterating the importance of having more green spaces in Singapore for the wellbeing of residents and wildlife as well as to mitigate climate change.
On that note, several people pointed out the “hypocrisy” of the government encouraging people to live a greener life and plant more trees while cutting down forests for the sake or development.
Some also support the suggest by NSS for HDB to redevelopment brownsites or other urban areas instead. A couple of people suggested building up instead of out as well.
On top of that, there were also questions on why the HDB keeps building new flats.
Despite the government’s assurances during GE2020 that it has no plans or targets for a 10 million population, many netizens are concerned that the government’s push to create more housing despite the already high supply for HDB flats and consistently low Total Fertility Rates (TFR) is a sign that the government is actually going ahead with those plans.
Others suggested that the government is more focused on money, with climate change and conservation taking a back seat.
Even so, there were several netizens who supported the plan to redevelop Dover forest into new HDB flats, noting that it is necessary in order to keep property prices.