Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing told Parliament on Friday (26 Feb) that the Kranji woodland sites set aside for redevelopment did not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), being previously dominated by “strong plant vegetation” and “non-native albizia trees”, as well as away from “sensitive nature areas”.
Responding to questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) on the clearing of the forest, Mr Chan explained that JTC has appointed CPG as its consultant in 2019 to carry out planning and design works for the site.
“An environmental impact assessment or EIA was not required then, given that the site was previously dominated by strong plant vegetation and later non-native albizia trees as I had explained earlier. The site is also not close to sensitive nature areas,” he noted.
Mr Chan said that CPG submitted building plans for the Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP) – which is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District (SKED) – to National Park Boards (NParks) including proposals to fell trees.
He noted that NParks had issued a “written direction” to approve the tree felling for three plots within the site on 29 August 2019.
These three plots are plot 4, 5, and 9; with tree felling for plot 9 beginning in March last year.
“In August 2020, CPG submitted updated building plans to NParks which included a new drain with discharge and flow into Sungai Pang Sua,” said the Minister.
Given that the drain could potentially cause sediments from the site to flow into Sungai Pang Sua and “impact life in the vicinity”, Mr Chan said JTC and CPG were instructed by NParks to conduct a baseline study and Environmental Monitoring and Management Program (EMMP).
The consultant for the baseline study and EMMP was engaged in December last year, he said.
Mr Chan went on to say that the contractor conducted further clearing of the forest without approval between the end of December last year and 13 January this year.
“There are ongoing investigations on why the contractor did so since there was no approval. I seek the House’s understanding that I cannot say more at this point in time, pending the outcome of these investigations,” he added.
The further land clearing by the contractor was discovered by JTC’s project manager during his site visit on 13 January this year, said Mr Chan.
He pointed out that all clearing works on site were suspended immediately and remain suspended today.
“JTC has commenced an internal investigation to ascertain what has happened and why. The investigation will be led by JTC Senior Management who are not involved in the project.
“It will check if JTC’s current processes for land clearance works were followed by both the public officers and private contractors involved,” he said.
While Mr Chan noted that NParks will separately investigate whether there were breaches to the Wildlife Act, he refused to comment further on the respective investigations at this point in order to “not prejudice the outcomes”.
“JTC will engage key stakeholders including nature interest groups to discuss its development plans. Findings of the studies will be made publicly available when ready,” he added.
Mr Chan stressed that the government has instructed all agencies involved in land clearance projects to conduct an immediate check to ensure their project supervision and implementation processes are in order.
The Minister added that Permanent Secretary (Defence Development) Joseph Leong, who is not directly involved with the Kranji Woodlands site clearance, will also lead a review of the lessons arising from the development of the site.
“The outcomes from the various investigations and review will be shared with the public when ready,” he asserted.