The Government should take “further steps” to ensure that JTC Corporation is “equally responsible” as the contractor, Huationg Global Limited in the clearing of 4.5 hectare-plots of land at Kranji woodland, said Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Terence Soon on Friday (26 Feb).
It was reported earlier that Huationg had “erroneously” begun clearing some of the specific plots of land prematurely on 13 Jan. JTC said these plots of land were earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP), which is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District (SKED).
A stern warning has since been issued to the contractor as the land was cleared before the Biodiversity Baseline Study and an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) for specified plots of land within the area were completed.
JTC said that the agency takes a very serious view of this incident and will investigate how this error occurred before deciding whether further punitive measures need to be taken, while the National Parks Board (NParks) said that it is investigating the matter.
“We take a serious view of unauthorised greenery clearance and will not hesitate to take the appropriate enforcement action,” NParks told The Straits Times.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing also said that the Permanent Secretary for Defence Development, Joseph Leong — who was not directly involved with the land clearance — will 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,” said Mr Chan in Parliament on Friday.
Following that, Mr Soon, who contested in Tanjong Pagar GRC in last year’s general election, took to Facebook on Friday to call for “full transparency” on Mr Leong’s findings and review of the incident, which he stressed should result in the “proper accountability” for those responsible.
“We should take further steps to ensure that not only the contractor, Huationg, is responsible but that JTC; being the oversight of outsourcing resources is equally responsible,” he wrote.
Mr Soon believes that a “more reliable oversight process” needs to be incorporated to ensure that similar risk in the future is negated.
“It is not justifiable to profit millions from outsourcing oversight when no actual oversight was achieved.
“Administrative oversight institutions such as the JTC, must maintain a high level of accountability and responsibility to uphold the high levels of trust the nation puts in government-linked companies that undertake contracts safeguarding the interests of the nation,” he added.
While the PSP supports the Government’s Green Plan 2030, the alternative party is of the view that when it comes to deforestation and environmental protection, the lack of oversight and accountability processes remain “a major cause for concern”.
“When we have 11 football field-sized areas of land that were mistakenly destroyed, we must also account for the biodiversity that might have been lost,” said Mr Soon.
He noted that ponding events are now happening almost every year or every two years when such events often take place “once-in-50-years”.
Mr Soon noted that one of the factors to flash floods and ponding is “less vegetation” in the country, as there are less rainwater absorption and runoff areas.
Referring to recent incidents involving wild boar attacks in Punggol, he asked: “Do we just take these occurrences at face value or should we delve into the possible reasons why they happen?”
“We have to understand that deforestation leads to less suitable habitats for these wild animals and inadvertently they would start appearing more often in our dense housing estates in forage for food and shelter,” Mr Soon added.
He said the imposition of carbon taxes “does not remediate the loss of natural carbon sinks” such as the Kranji Woodlands, highlighting that there should be policies and processes in place for the on-going monitoring and review of the land use.
“For perspective, we currently have 17 golf courses in Singapore, 1 of which (Keppel Club) will have its lease expiring in end December 2021.
“Considering that a nation which has less than 1% of its population who play golf, should we relook at having 2% of total land area dedicated to golf courses? These are questions an inquiry committee for land use must ask itself,” he added.
Mr Soon went on to suggest for the Government to consider designating “a nature heritage”, which will preserve the important biodiversity and ecosystem that makes Singapore a “truly green” city.
Contrastingly, only less than 0.5 per cent of the city-state’s primary forests remain, he said.
“Even as we clear our woodlands and forests, we ought to consider encouraging developers to maintain and develop innovative ways to incorporate ecology.
“We should inspire and promote the ecology and gardening aesthetic successes of Parkroyal on Pickering and Changi Airport Terminal 3 into other developments and land use,” said the PSP’s member.