JTC acknowledges it has overall responsibility of Kranji woodland as developer; releases timeline of site clearance

Speaking at a press conference on Monday (22 Feb), JTC Corporation chief executive Tan Boon Khai said in relation to the erroneous clearing of Kranji woodland that there has been media interest as well as undue speculation.

This is in light of growing public discontent over the manner in which the Kranji woodland was cleared and JTC’s explanation that its contractor, Huationg has “erroneously” cleared plots of land in December last year.

Setting out a detailed timeline of the erroneous forest clearing at Kranji, JTC Corporation that when it discovered the error on 13 Jan, it immediately ordered work to stop and gave the contractor a stern warning.

JTC said that online narratives had led some to form the incorrect idea that the former KTM site was pristine woodland untouched by development, however it acknowledged that there “has been some confusion” stemming from its 16 Feb statement.

While noting that the investigation should be allowed to be given due process to take its course, Mr Tan said, “As the project and site developer, JTC does have overall responsibility for the site. We do not run away from this responsibility. We will not, nor do we intend to.”

Map from JTC Corporation

The case involves a 25ha site in Kranji, which was set aside for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park. It is part of the 500ha Sungei Kadut Eco-District.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (22 Feb) that the Government has issued directions for “immediate follow-up” after it was revealed that parts of the Kranji woodland in northwestern Singapore had been “erroneously” cleared for redevelopment.

As Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, Mr Chan said that he has instructed all agencies responsible for land clearance projects to promptly carry out checks on project supervision and implementation processes to “avoid any repeat of the mistakes made”.

“The public service will learn from this and improve,” he told reporters.

Mr Chan acknowledged: “It is clear to us that there were gaps in the way that the project was managed and supervised, and that we must do better.”

According to JTC, the erroneous tree clearing involves 4.5ha of the plot (marked in dotted red lines in the map above), out of the 11.9ha that has been cleared so far. Another 13.1ha of greenery is still undeveloped and all site works have stopped.

Mr Tan said: “There is a history and context to the site. And in determining the plans for the site, it has gone through various consultations and multiple parties and stakeholders have been consulted.“

“There have been discussions, as well as many iterative plans. There will also be regulatory requirements that will need to be fulfilled before work can commence.”

It is said that since the site was largely “scrubland” and far from any sensitive nature areas, an environmental impact assessment was not required.

However, additional environmental surveys were needed when project consultants CPG Consultants amended the building plan later, in August 2020, so as to accommodate a drain in its designs. These studies were expected to be completed in April this year.

The clearing of the 4.5ha plot was a mistake because the tree felling started before these new studies were completed, JTC said.

JTC’s contractor, CPG had commissioned a Biodiversity Baseline Study and an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) for specified plots of land within the area.

The study and EMMP are expected to be completed around April 2021, following which JTC plans to engage key stakeholders, including nature groups, to discuss its development plans.

Timeline of the Kranji Woodland saga

1 Jul 2011:Malaysia hands back the land — a segment of the KTM rail land — to Singapore
Before 2019: The Kranji area became a “scrubland” that was overgrown with non-native Albizia trees over a 10-year period, as the authorities allowed the greenery to grow
2 May 2019:CPG Consultants were engaged to carry out planning and design works, following a public consultation that rerouted the Rail Corridor so as to use the site for industrial purposes. Around 40 per cent of the site will be earmarked for greenery
22 Jul 2019:CPG submitted a building plan for tree felling to NParks as well as a tree survey plan
29 Jul 2019:CPG completes a flora baseline study of the area
29 Aug 2019:After verifying that the trees could be felled, NParks approves CPG’s request for tree felling in Plots 4, 5, and 9
2 Mar 2020: Site clearance works for the 1.9ha Plot 9 (marked in yellow in the map above) begins
3 Mar 2020:Koh Poh Koon announces in Parliament the commencement of the Phase One of AFIP for the Infrastructure and land preparation works and companies will be ready to be welcomed in by the first half of 2021
April-June 2020:Singapore imposes a two-month circuit breaker, which stops work at the Kranji site
21 Aug 2020:CPG proposes a new drain that would discharge into Sungei Pang Sua, submitting a new building plan in the process. As a result, NParks required it to do a fauna baseline study and Environmental Monitoring and Management Programme (EMMP) due to potential pollution caused by sediment run-off
August to September 2020:Site clearance works for Plots 8, 10-1, 10-7 and Road 2 (marked in blue, measuring about 2.8ha) continued as the fauna baseline study was being called
29 Sept 2020: NParks issues a building clearance plan for tree felling, subject to conditions from the fauna study and the EMMP
3 Nov 2020:CPG asks NParks for permission to clear Plots 1, 2, 10-5 and 10-6. NParks approved the clearance of only a part of Plot 1, marked in green and measuring 0.6ha
15 Dec 2020:Land clearance commenced for Plots 4 and 5, which was earlier approved in August 2019, the 2.1ha site marked in purple
23 Dec 2020:CPG engages consultant to conduct fauna baseline study and EMMP
End-December 2020 to 13 Jan 2021:Contractor Huationg erroneously clears around 4.5ha of land, marked in red
13 Jan 2021:JTC’s project manager discovers error, and suspends all clearance work immediately. JTC starts internal investigation
15 Jan 2021:A stern warning was issued to the contractor Huationg
14 Feb 2021:Brice Li shares before and after images of Kranji Woodland, sparking public criticism over massive deforestation
16 Feb 2021:Due to increased public interest and speculation by the public, JTC released a statement, followed by an apology from Huationg
16 Feb 2021:National Parks Board (NParks) said it was investigating the unauthorised clearance.
18 Feb 2021:Satellite images showing that clearance of land has started in March 2020 instead of Dec 2020 as stated by JTC earlier in its statement.
22 Feb 2021:Setting out of details of erroneous clearance by JTC and acknowledging its responsibility.

Commissioner of Parks and Recreation of the NParks, Leong Chee Chiew said that his agency will be investigating whether there were any breaches of the Parks and Trees Act and the Wildlife Act.

Under the Parks and Trees Act, felling of a tree larger than 1 metre in girth carries a penalty of up to S$50,000 and any breaches under the Wildlife Act has the same hefty penalty plus a jail term of six months.

Workers’ Party Member of Parliament for Hougang SMC, Dennis Tan has said that he will be filing two series of Parliamentary questions  to the Minister of Trade and Industry in relation to the Kranji Woodlands saga.

 

 

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