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Kranji forest parcel ‘erroneously’ cleared by contractors; firm given stern warning: JTC

SINGAPORE — In response to widely shared social media posts of images showing the clearing of a forested area in Kranji, state-owned industrial property developer JTC said that its contractor had “erroneously” begun deforesting some of the land. This happened before a biodiversity study and an environmental management plan into the area have been completed.

Kranji forest parcel ‘erroneously’ cleared by contractors; firm given stern warning: JTC

On Jan 13, 2021, JTC discovered a mistake in land clearance by a contractor — more than a month before images showing the difference in the forested areas went viral.

  • Photos showing a before-and-after aerial comparison of a forest parcel in Kranji was circulated on social media
  • JTC said it found on Jan 13 that its contractor had mistakenly cleared parts of the land
  • This was before the conclusion of a biodiversity study and an environmental monitoring and management plan 
  • The plot has been earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park 

 

SINGAPORE — In response to widely shared social media posts of images showing the clearing of a forested area in Kranji, state-owned industrial property developer JTC said that its contractor had “erroneously” begun deforesting some of the land. This happened before a biodiversity study and an environmental management plan into the area have been completed.

JTC made this discovery on Jan 13 — more than a month before the images showing the clearance of land around Kranji Road and Kranji Close went viral — it said in a press statement to the media on Tuesday (Feb 16).

A spokesperson from JTC told TODAY that the name of the contracting firm is Huationg.

Nature enthusiast Brice Li, who had earlier called for the conservation of Clementi Forest, had published a set of photographs on Facebook on Sunday that showed a before-and-after aerial comparison of the parcel of land that he labelled as Kranji woodlands.

One photograph, dated May 2019, showed a fully forested area. A second image shot this month showed the same plot of land with just a narrow strip of greenery — through which the Rail Corridor runs — now flanked by cleared earth.

In a book by the Nature Society Singapore titled The Green Rail Corridor, the area is called the Kranji Woodland-Scrubland and measures about 70ha. 

A rapid survey by the society found that there are around 47 species of birds within the area, which accounts for about 12 per cent of Singapore’s total records.

JTC said on Tuesday that the area that was cleared was earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park, which is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District.

In 2019, Dr Koh Poh Koon, who was then Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said that the agri-food innovation park will be 18ha in size, or about 33 football fields.

Nature enthusiast Brice Li published a set of photographs on Facebook on Feb 14, 2021 that showed a before-and-after aerial comparison of the parcel of land that he labelled as Kranji woodlands. Photo: Brice Li/Facebook

As part of preparations to develop the agri-food innovation park, JTC said that it had engaged an environmental specialist to carry out a biodiversity baseline study in December last year, with the aim of working out an environmental monitoring and management plan (EMMP) for specified plots of land within the area.

While the environmental specialist’s assignment is expected to be completed around April this year, JTC had discovered on Jan 13 that its contractor Huationg had “erroneously begun clearing some of these specified plots of land” before the completion of both the baseline study and the EMMP. 

JTC said that it had originally intended to engage key stakeholders, including nature groups, to discuss developmental plans after the conclusion of the assignment.

Upon discovering the contractor’s mistake, JTC ordered the firm to stop all clearing works immediately.

“Since then, no further clearing has taken place on site and the contractor has been issued a stern warning,” JTC said, adding that it takes a “very serious view of this incident” as it has always been committed to protecting the environment when developing industrial land.

An investigation is now being conducted to determine how the mistake occurred before JTC decides on whether further punitive measures need to be taken against Huationg.

Huationg said in a statement that it apologises for its error and that it is working with JTC to determine the cause of the lapse and how it can prevent similar situations from occurring in future.

“We are also reviewing internally and working with JTC to strengthen our project management processes,” the company said.

Mr Li the nature enthusiast told TODAY that he found the news “shocking and unbelievable”.

“I can’t accept it. How can such mistakes be made?”

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, who chairs the Nature Society Singapore's conservation committee, said that never in his previous engagements with developers has he encountered such an oversight.

Whatever is left, Mr Leong said, is worth taking a look again to see what can be retained.

As for the vegetation around Rail Corridor, he added that it is “already very narrow” and he hopes that it could be widened further through the replanting of greenery.

Moving forward, JTC said that it will continue with the baseline study and the EMMP. It will work with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the Sungei Kadut Eco-District plans are carried out with “due consultation and in an environmentally responsible and sensitive manner”.

These stakeholders include the Urban Redevelopment Authority, NParks, nature groups and the community.

JTC said that the findings of the study will be made publicly available when ready.

In response to TODAY’s queries, NParks said that it is investigating the incident. “We take a serious view of unauthorised greenery clearance and will not hesitate to take the appropriate enforcement action.” 

The Sungei Kadut Eco-District is part of the Northern Agri-Tech and Food Corridor and it will be connected to the 24km Rail Corridor.

The land 15m to 20m to the left and right of the Rail Corridor has been safeguarded to protect biodiversity within the belt of the existing forest, JTC said.

When completed, the eco-district will be integrated seamlessly into the Rail Corridor, and provide “four times more green cover in the area than previously”, it added.

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