Singapore’s national water agency, Public Utilities Board (PUB), has ordered a stop to clearance work at a Built-To-Order (BTO) project in Bukit Batok Hillside Park after the contractor flouted environmental regulations, according to The Straits Times.
Contractors are required to plan and implement adequate measures to contain and treat water containing silt, mud, rocks, and sand before discharging it into drains to maintain clean waterways. This is especially important during heavy rainfall, as it allows rainwater to flow freely.
Photos posted on social media by Nature Society (Singapore) member Tony O’Dempsey on 26 March showed stagnant water at the HDB construction site for the BTO project, raising concerns among conservationists about the environmental impact of construction work.
In his post, Mr O’Dempsey also pointed out how the construction site failed on the aspect of covering up of all bare/erodible surfaces, perimeter cut-off drain and perimeter silt trap as required under PUB’s code of conduct for surface water drainage.
The photos sparked concerns about the effectiveness of the environmental management and monitoring plan (EMMP) put in place to minimize the project’s harmful impact on the environment.
In response to queries by The Straits Times, PUB said that during an inspection of the site on 23 March, it found improper cut-off drains and silt fences – structures that protect water quality in nearby streams and rivers by removing silt and sediment from water before it leaves the site.
PUB directed the contractor to stop site clearance work and construct proper cut-off drains with silt fences before resuming site clearance work. PUB also said it would take enforcement action against the contractor.
The Housing Board (HDB), which oversees BTO projects, said it was aware that PUB would be taking enforcement action against its contractor.
An HDB spokesperson said the board was working closely with its EMMP consultant and contractor to install concrete-lined drains and ensure that exposed earth does not lead to other problems, given the recent rain and hilly terrain in the area.
Effects on wildlife and nature from construction
Nature lovers have previously spoken up against the development of Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park for residential needs.
Bukit Batok resident Jimmy Tan who has spotted numerous species of animals during his treks there and started a petition to save Bukit Batok Hillside Park and another green patch, Clementi Forest, made a post last week about the status of the construction site and questioned the impact on the wildlife.
In October 2020, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Dennis Tan posed a question in Parliament on whether a second Environmental Impact Assessment would be carried out following feedback from environmental groups.
The Ministry of National Development replied that they had taken into account the groups’ feedback and suggestions, and thus chose to retain a natural stream that runs through the site.
However, they would not be conducting another EIA, but would instead incorporate feedback from the groups in their finalised report.
ST quoted Mr Muhammad Nasry Abdul Nasir, executive director of volunteer group Singapore Youth Voices for Biodiversity, saying that the years-long process of conducting environmental impact assessments and consultations is pointless if recommended mitigation measures are not adhered to.
He said: “What that means for biodiversity is fairly straightforward: It’s almost as if the assessment was never done in the first place.
“In this case, the infractions can affect humans as well, as not covering bare earth leads to both stagnant bodies of water where mosquitoes can breed and contributes to even more erosion of the hilly area, which can destabilise the soil and lead to mudslides.”