In relation to the erroneous clearing of 4.5ha plots of land at Kranji woodland, JTC Corporation chief executive officer Tan Boon Khai said on Monday (22 February) that the statutory board takes “supervisory responsibilities” over the blunder.
He added that JTC is carrying out an internal review of its processes to find out what might have happened that led to the error.
This is in light of growing public discontent over the manner in which the Kranji Woodlands was cleared and JTC’s explanation that its contractor, Huationg had “erroneously” cleared plots of land in December last year while the authorities were still in the midst of completing biodiversity impact assessments.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Mr Tan noted that the site to be developed measures 25ha, of which 11.9ha has already been cleared, while 13.1ha of greenery remains.
He also revealed that an overall investigation is being conducted into how the land was wrongly cleared, with the full corporation of parties involved in developing the site.
“Regardless, as the project 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,” said Mr Tan.
He added, “JTC is now undertaking an internal review of some of its internal processes and procedures to look at whether there are any shortcomings that could have resulted in some of these issues happening on the ground.”
“And when that review is completed, we will certainly be looking at how we can improve. We do strive to do better. We acknowledge that we can do better, and we must.”
This issue came to light after a person named Brice Li shared on Facebook on Sunday (14 February) some photos showing the difference between the forest in 2019 and 2021 – the older photo full of lush forestry while the latest photo shows a section of the land cleared for development.
After discovering that the said plots of land were erroneously cleared before the Biodiversity Baseline Study and an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) for specified plots of land within the area were completed, a stern warning was issued to Huationg.
The company later issued an apology and is working with JTC on its investigations to find out the cause of this lapse and to avoid similar occurrences in the future.
If that’s not all, JTC also explained on Monday that the site, which was home to part of the former KTM railway line, did not need an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) given that it was “not close to any sensitive nature areas”.
It added that most of the site is covered with “disused scrubland” with a few scattered large trees, most of which were Albizia trees.
Over on social media, netizens slammed JTC for “pushing the blame”, urging it to take full responsibility over the mistake. Penning their thoughts in the Facebook pages of The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia and TODAY, they explained that it is “remarkable” for the statutory board to come up with multiple excuses just to justify its “negligence” in handling the matter.
Others questioned if JTC will receive harsher penalties for its error such as being charged for failing to comply with Wildlife Act given that natural habitats of innocent animals were destroyed.
Many other online users urged the Government to re-plant all the trees back in order to ensure that wildlife can get back its home.