The Ministry of National Development (MND) and Housing Board (HDB) released a joint statement on Saturday explaining the cause of the lapses in Earth Control Measures (ECM) at a Build-To-Order project in Bukit Batok.
The statement highlighted that the terrain constraints and supply issues were the primary reasons for the lapses, which occurred during the implementation of the site’s environmental management and monitoring plan (EMMP).
The statement stated that the earth-related works were carried out in stages due to the hilly terrain of the site.
Since 7 February, some parts of the site were cleared to erect hoardings and put in place earth control measures, as well as creating safe access routes for vehicles. However, the contractor was unable to cover some areas of exposed earth in one day, as required by the site’s EMMP, due to a temporary supply issue.
The statement also acknowledged that better coordination could have been implemented in the supply of materials for the ongoing works, but the supply issue has since been resolved. All the exposed areas within and outside the hoardings have been covered with biodegradable earth control blankets.
On 23 March, the national water agency PUB discovered breaches in measures to contain and treat water containing silt, mud, rocks, and sand before being discharged into drains. PUB then stopped the clearance of forested areas at the West Glades site.
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 in 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 site in Bukit Batok Hillside Park is an important node for wildlife to travel between Tengah and Bukit Batok, and the EMMP is aimed at reducing environmental impact.
The statement clarified that the PUB did not issue a formal stop-work order for the lapses but worked with HDB to direct the contractor to speed up the construction of proper cut-off drains with silt fences before site clearance work could continue.
Following the lapses, HDB, together with its EMMP consultant, contractor, and representatives from the National Parks Board (NParks), met with members of the Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) on 3 April to discuss the site’s measures.
Mr O’Dempsey later posted in a Facebook post on 6 April, highlighting issues related to the environmental management of the construction site. He identified problems with erosion control measures (ECM) and raised concerns about fauna herding.
The post also outlined how the site was split into four sections to be cleared in order, with a pre-clearing fauna inspection conducted prior to clearing each section. Sections A and B were cleared first, leaving substantial areas of exposed soil uncovered for several days, while clearing work for areas C & D immediately followed, even though the ECM for the site had not kept up with the clearing works.
According to Mr O’Dempsey’s post, there was a need for better coordination between the clearance work and the implementation of ECM. He also suggested that a “cattle grid” could be deployed at openings in the hoarding intended for escaping fauna to limit the ability of pigs to enter the site while allowing other animals to escape.
Mr Ryan Lee, group director for the NParks National Biodiversity Centre, said the site is known to have wild boars, and with public safety a key concern, hoardings were put up to prevent wild boars from escaping and getting on the roads and into residential areas.
He added that NParks would study the feedback of using other methods to limit the movement of wild boars while allowing other animals to be shepherded from hoarded areas.