Massive forest clearance next to Lower Seletar Reservoir; Nature Society Singapore says it was not consulted

On Saturday (27 February), a netizen highlighted massive forest clearance next to the Lower Seletar Reservoir, asking if anyone knows what the clearance is for. The netizen noted, “looks like at least 20 football fields of 40yrs old trees gone and they are continuing cutting.”

In response, the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) took to its own Facebook on Sunday (28 Feb) to say that it was not informed or consulted on the forest clearance.

Leong Kwok Peng of the group’s Conservation Committee said in the post, “The area size of forest cleared is about 40 ha up to Jan 2021. NSS wasn’t informed nor consulted with regard to this big project.”

He went on to talk about the wildlife in the area, noting, “Whatever records we have of the wildlife within that officially-prohibited forest are from its periphery and given the large size of the forest there, things look promising — even if we just look only at the birdlife.”

Mr Leong added that if an environmental impact assessment was conduct, it was not made public and that the organisation was not apprised of it before the clearance of the forest, noting that it is usually “standard procedure for other governmental organisations like the PUB, LTA and HDB – or even after the development was carried out.”

Talking about the area itself, the NSS said: “From the view through satellite map, this extensive clearance of the forest is rather not ecologically-oriented for there is hardly any allowance to say the least for a wildlife corridor along the shoreline of the Lower Seletar Reservoir to forge a connectivity between Springleaf Park and the Nature Reserve to the west and Khatib Bongsu Nature Park and the general Sungei Seletar Estuary area along the eastern coast.”

“This is especially relevant or pertinent for the dispersal or movement of the globally critically endangered Straw-headed Bulbul, which is regularly recorded at Khatib Bongsu along the eastern coast and the Springleaf area inland to the west,” it added.

NSS said that the clearance of the forest “will constraint adversely this allowance for a green corridor for wildlife in general,” and that this “should be a cardinal principle for the national objective of sustainability.”

The group stressed that such a large project which involves the clearance of an extensive patch of secondary forest calls for a consultation with a broad spectrum of stakeholders apart from of just professional consultants.

NSS then added that it has communicated with the National Parks Board (NParks) on this project.

Way back in 2019, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) shared its Master Plan proposal for redevelopment of the Northern region of Singapore, including creating a green loop or park connector around the Lower Seletar Reservoir.

However, nowhere in the Master Plan does it mention that a new park would be built by cutting down trees.

According to satellite imagery, the forest was still not cleared in July last year and works only started near to September last year.

Deforestation at odds with country’s goal of restoring nature

Of course, this is only the latest in a slew of forest clearance incidents Singapore has seen in the past few months. Most recently was the “erroneous” clearance of 4.5ha of the Kranji Woodlands forest. When a netizen highlighted the destruction on social media, NSS commented that “This is a shocking and dreadful development in an important green area contiguous to the Rail Corridor.”

It was later discovered that this large swathes were mistakenly cleared while the authorities were still in the midst of completing biodiversity impact assessments at the area.

Following this, authorities as well as JTC Corporation are conducting investigations into how this could’ve happened. However, TOC notes that the area is already earmarked for development. The clearance, while done prematurely, does seem like it would have been done eventually.

The clearing of so much forestry in Singapore does seem to be at odds with the nations pledge to plant one million trees by 2030 to boost biodiversity and reverse the effects of deforestation. The OneMillionTrees movement helmed by NParks aims to “restore nature back into our city” by planting at least a million trees across the island over a 10 year period.

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