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Fresh appeal for Govt to bypass forest in building of MRT line

SINGAPORE — A group of volunteers advocating zero-impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve submitted a fresh appeal to the Government yesterday, petitioning for works related to the future Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) to avoid the area.

SINGAPORE — A group of volunteers advocating zero-impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve submitted a fresh appeal to the Government yesterday, petitioning for works related to the future Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) to avoid the area.

Copies of the appeal letter, addressed to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, were also submitted to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, several Ministers, as well as chiefs of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and National Parks Board.

To date, no decision has been made on whether the line will cut through the nature reserve or skirt around it, but the issue has drawn intense debate, with Mr Khaw calling in February on the public to keep an open mind as the authorities study a host of factors and trade-offs.

The appeal contained signatures, gathered from June 2013 to May this year, of more than 10,000 Singaporeans and residents who support the call for works related to the rail line to avoid the nature reserve, for fear of damage to the forest and wildlife there.

The appeal letter, updated in March, noted that site investigations for the line are due to begin in the third quarter of this year. “No MRT line, whether above or underground should pass through it,” the letter stated.

Any development in the MacRitchie forest “can potentially pollute our forest streams with silt and toxic materials. This will in turn damage unique microhabitats created by forest streams, affecting native forest frogs, freshwater turtles, freshwater fishes and crustaceans that can only live here”, the letter read.

“MacRitchie Forest has been protected for more than a hundred years. We should continue to conserve it, especially for the endemic denizens of our forest ... We appeal to the LTA to courageously reconsider proceeding with works related to the CRL within the (Central Catchment Nature Reserve).”

The cover letter that accompanied the documents submitted was signed by Dr Vilma D’Rozario and Mrs Teresa Teo-Guttensohn, on behalf of the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement.

An LTA spokesperson said that the agency has received the petition letter.

It will conduct site investigations for both alignment options of the rail line and has released the environmental impact assessments of both site investigations earlier this year.

For the alignment that cuts under the nature reserve for about 2km, 16 holes as deep as 70m will be drilled on public trails and areas without vegetation of the reserve, to determine ground conditions.

These would have “moderate” impact on the reserve with mitigating measures and controlled access. The impact on MacRitchie fauna would otherwise be “large”.

The mitigation measures for drilling of boreholes include: 30m buffer zones around streams, wetlands and marshes, and the use of fluid containment tanks to ensure no spillage of drilling fluid and to minimise erosion and siltation.

The alternative alignment skirts around the nature reserve near Adam Road for about 9km.

The 50km Cross Island MRT Line linking Jurong and Changi is slated to complete around 2030, and will have about 30 stations while commuters would be making at least 600,000 trips daily.

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is an area of rich native biodiversity. It is home to more than 1,500 plant species, 218 bird species, 30 mammal species, 24 freshwater fish species and 17 species of amphibians.

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