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JTC releases timeline of Kranji clearing works, says it decided to make error public after ‘undue speculation’

SINGAPORE — Setting out a detailed timeline of the erroneous forest clearing at Kranji, JTC Corporation said on Monday (Feb 22) that when it discovered the error on Jan 13 it immediately ordered work to stop and gave the contractor a stern warning. About a month later, when the industrial landlord realised there was media interest, it issued a public statement.

JTC Corporation chief executive officer Tan Boon Khai speaking at a press conference on Feb 22, 2021.

JTC Corporation chief executive officer Tan Boon Khai speaking at a press conference on Feb 22, 2021.

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  • Industrial landlord JTC Corporation set out a detailed timeline of how the erroneous felling of trees on a parcel of Kranji forest had unfolded
  • Upon discovering the error JTC had immediately ordered work to stop, and issued a stern warning to the contractor
  • It issued a public statement about a month after discovering the error because of media interest in the issue and 'undue speculation'
  • JTC also provided a map of the area under development to help illustrate how events had unfolded

 

SINGAPORE — Setting out a detailed timeline of the erroneous forest clearing at Kranji, JTC Corporation said on Monday (Feb 22) that when it discovered the error on Jan 13 it immediately ordered work to stop and gave the contractor a stern warning. About a month later, when the industrial landlord realised there was media interest, it issued a public statement.

JTC Corporation chief executive Tan Boon Khai said: “We realised that… there has been media interest as well as undue speculation. This led therefore to the media statement that JTC had (released) on Feb 16, trying to clarify some of the issues that have been surrounding (the incident) as well as the interest that has been generated.”

Since then, online narratives had led some to form the incorrect idea that the former KTM site was pristine woodland untouched by development. JTC also acknowledged that there “has been some confusion” stemming from its Feb 16 statement.

Some netizens had also put together satellite imagery showing that there had been clearing works dating back to March 2020.

The case involves a 25ha site in Kranji, which was set aside for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park. It is part of the 500ha Sungei Kadut Eco-District. On Monday, the Government announced a review, and a requirement that all land clearing projects check their work processes immediately.

The areas outlined in red are the parts of JTC's Kranji worksite cleared by the contractor erroneously. The parts marked by other colours are various sites that were legitimately cleared, said the JTC. Map: JTC Corporation

The erroneous tree clearing involves 4.5ha of the plot (marked in red in the map above), out of the 11.9ha that has been cleared so far. Another 13.1ha of greenery is still undeveloped and all site works have stopped.

Giving a summary, Mr Tan said: “There is a history and context to the site. And in determining the plans for the site, it has gone through various consultations and multiple parties and stakeholders have been consulted.

“There have been discussions, as well as many iterative plans. There will also be regulatory requirements that will need to be fulfilled before work can commence.”

Since the site was largely “scrubland” and far from any sensitive nature areas, an environmental impact assessment was not required.

However, additional environmental surveys were needed when project consultants CPG Consultants amended the building plan later, in August 2020, so as to accommodate a drain in its designs. These studies were expected to be completed in April this year.

The clearing of the 4.5ha plot was a mistake because the tree felling started before these new studies were completed, JTC said.

TIMELINE OF TREE CLEARING AT KRANJI

  • July 1, 2011: Malaysia hands back the land — a segment of the KTM rail land — to Singapore

  • Before 2019: The Kranji area became a “scrubland” that was overgrown with non-native Albizia trees over a 10-year period, as the authorities allowed the greenery to grow

  • May 2, 2019: CPG Consultants were engaged to carry out planning and design works, following a public consultation that rerouted the Rail Corridor so as to use the site for industrial purposes. Around 40 per cent of the site will be earmarked for greenery

  • July 22, 2019: CPG submitted a building plan for tree felling to NParks as well as a tree survey plan

  • July 29, 2019: CPG completes a flora baseline study of the area

  • Aug 29, 2019: After verifying that the trees could be felled, NParks approves CPG’s request for tree felling in Plots 4, 5, and 9

  • March 2, 2020: Site clearance works for the 1.9ha Plot 9 (marked in yellow in the map above) begins

  • April-June 2020: Singapore imposes a two-month circuit breaker, which stops work at the Kranji site

  • Aug 21, 2020: CPG proposes a new drain that would discharge into Sungei Pang Sua, submitting a new building plan in the process. As a result, NParks required it to do a fauna baseline study and Environmental Monitoring and Management Programme (EMMP) due to potential pollution caused by sediment run-off

  • August to September 2020: Site clearance works for Plots 8, 10-1, 10-7 and Road 2 (marked in blue, measuring about 2.8ha) continued as the fauna baseline study was being called

  • Sept 29, 2020: NParks issues a building clearance plan for tree felling, subject to conditions from the fauna study and the EMMP

  • Nov 3, 2020: CPG asks NParks for permission to clear Plots 1, 2, 10-5 and 10-6. NParks approved the clearance of only a part of Plot 1, marked in green and measuring 0.6ha

  • Dec 15, 2020: Land clearance commenced for Plots 4 and 5, which was earlier approved in August 2019, the 2.1ha site marked in purple

  • Dec 23, 2020: CPG engages consultant to conduct fauna baseline study and EMMP

  • End-December 2020 to Jan 13, 2021: Contractor Huationg erroneously clears around 4.5ha of land, marked in red

  • Jan 13, 2021: JTC’s project manager discovers error, and suspends all clearance work immediately. JTC starts internal investigation

  • Jan 15, 2021: A stern warning was issued to the contractor Huationg

  • Feb 16, 2021: Due to increased public interest and speculation by the public, JTC released a statement, followed by an apology from Huationg

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