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Mandai area set for major redevelopment

SINGAPORE — The Mandai area, home to the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari and the River Safari, is set for major redevelopment, with plans for an all-encompassing wildlife attraction with educational, recreational and “green” elements.

SINGAPORE — The Mandai area, home to the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari and the River Safari, is set for major redevelopment, with plans for an all-encompassing wildlife attraction with educational, recreational and “green” elements.

The new attraction, which could be ready around 2020, would be similar to the likes of Gardens By The Bay, where beyond viewing wildlife, one could also take walks in public areas, enjoy the waterfront and watch the sunset on Upper Seletar Reservoir.

This was revealed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the ‘live’ television programme Ask the Prime Minister last night, where he also said that Jurong Bird Park could relocate to Mandai. The Government has been seeking the advice of nature groups on how to refine its plans for Mandai, he added.

Asked whether the plans are an extension of the zoo, Mr Lee said what the Government has in mind is “something bigger and better”, which will enhance the nature reserves and not infringe onto the reserves.

Mr Lee had shared the plans for Mandai in response to a question from the programme host on what large-scale projects Singapore can look forward to in future.

The Government, Mr Lee said, is considering using the available space outside of the nature reserves, such as an unused old orchid plantation and old fruit orchard for its plans.

“If you can extend the zoo to those parts, I think it’ll be very interesting,” he said. “For example, the Bird Park is all by itself down in Jurong. Why not move it to where the zoo is?”

Asked if the waterfall at the Jurong Bird Park — a signature of the park — would be moved as well, Mr Lee said: “I think we have something in mind which is even more spectacular than the waterfall.”

TODAY understands that besides the relocation of the 43-year-old Jurong Bird Park to the area, a museum may be housed there as well, together with a research facility and a hotel employing green technology in areas such as how it cools its facilities and housekeeping.

In recent weeks, talks have been rife that big plans were afoot for the Mandai area.

A member of a nature group whom TODAY spoke to said that as recently as last month, a potential developer was quietly holding talks with environmental groups, and was considering getting a consultant to look into the feasibility of their plans. But it is all at an exploratory stage. “I don’t know if they have made up their mind”, he said.

When TODAY contacted the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on plans for Mandai earlier this week, Mr Poh Chi Chuan, its Director of Cultural Precincts and Tourism Concept Development, said the STB is studying various options for Mandai and would share more information when ready.

“The Mandai area, with its existing wildlife attractions (Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari) has the potential to be developed into a precinct of nature-themed attractions for education and recreation,” he said. He added that any development of the site “will also have to be sustainable and sensitive to its natural environment”. TODAY understands that an environment impact assessment will be carried out before any plans are finalised.

The three existing attractions as well as Jurong Bird Park are managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Talks to develop the Mandai area first surfaced some time in 2007, prompting Nature Society (Singapore) to publish a report in November that year highlighting their concerns.

The report said the STB was exploring an eco-tourism project south of the Mandai Road area and on both sides of Mandai Lake Road. Two parcels of land were involved — a patch of about 15ha bounded by Mandai Road, Mandai Lake Road and the boundary of the Western Catchment Reserve; and another patch of about 18ha between Mandai Track 15 and the Western Catchment Reserve up to the military firing range.

The society also listed concerns such as how the area is already in a “fragmented and degraded state”, and that the project would degrade the area as a forest ecosystem or habitat, creating instead a parkland landscape which would result in the loss of variety of habitat niches.

Areas involved in the latest plans have not been finalised.

When contacted last night , Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chair of the conservation committee in Nature Society (Singapore), said they are concerned about the planned development and hope that a comprehensive environmental impact assessment can be done, covering noise pollution, hydrology and more.

He said the area is rich in biodiversity and the wildlife there — such as the leopard cat, pangolin, the mouse deer — could be put in danger.

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