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EIA report details impact of Mandai park construction on animals and their habitats

SINGAPORE — Construction of a mega nature attraction in Mandai, to take place over the next seven years, could affect groundwater quality, disrupt certain habitats and species, and raise noise and vibration levels, among other environmental issues.

An artist’s impression of the new bird park. There are concerns about the eco-friendliness of the new bird park, which would require more fences and pose problems for wildlife movement in the area. Photo: Mandai Safari Park Holdings

An artist’s impression of the new bird park. There are concerns about the eco-friendliness of the new bird park, which would require more fences and pose problems for wildlife movement in the area. Photo: Mandai Safari Park Holdings

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SINGAPORE — Construction of a mega nature attraction in Mandai, to take place over the next seven years, could affect groundwater quality, disrupt certain habitats and species, and raise noise and vibration levels, among other environmental issues.

These were revealed in an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report released on Tuesday (July 26), which has been gazetted and is available for public consultation (www.mandai.com/eia). 

Plans for two new parks to join the trio of wildlife attractions in the Mandai area — Singapore Zoo, River Safari and the Night Safari — were revealed last month by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), which commissioned the EIA. They are the Bird Park (to be relocated from Jurong) and a Rainforest Park. By 2023, the 126-ha mega attraction is expected to be ready.

Given that the area to be developed is located near Upper Seletar Reservoir and other surface streams within the Sungei Mandai Water Catchment Area, there could be spillage, issues with waste control, contaminated run-off and other discharges from the construction site. Drains would have to be maintained to capture run-offs, among other measures, the report stated. 

Higher dust levels are expected during construction and when transporting construction materials, and these will be managed by using water to suppress dust and enclosing buildings that are to be demolished.

Construction work could also reduce habitat resources, disturb and displace wildlife and restrict their movements, the report noted. 

For instance, the site clearance might affect the population of certain species of wildlife, such as the Lesser Mouse Deer, the Malayan Colugo and the Sunda Pangolin. Mitigation efforts include a “phased relocation” of the targeted animals, to cut down the disturbance they will face. 

(Click to enlarge)

Before the construction work, the targeted fauna will also be shepherded towards adjacent refuge habitats to preserve existing populations. 

Measures would be put in place to reduce the possibility of animals getting hit, or habitats being destroyed by the accidental release of pollutants or introduction of invasive species.

To prevent displaced animals from moving towards the main roads and getting into accidents with vehicles, hoardings can be put up along Mandai Lake Road during construction, and speed limits can also be introduced. 

When the new attractions are ready, there could be an increase in vehicle traffic along Mandai Lake Road and Mandai Road — resulting in higher volumes of air pollutants — more waste and litter, and potential human-wildlife conflicts, the report said. 

An increase in visitors may result in more of them picking or damaging the flora, although the report noted that the impact would be small if this is managed by educating visitors and building physical barriers. 

Unforeseen events such as fire, accidental spills and overflow of stormwater from the surface water drainage system are also potential sources of environmental impact. 

For the wildlife, the built environment might become barriers to their movement. There could also be a higher risk of introducing invasive species and diseases to the native population.

Animal escapes was a key concern raised by nature groups, the report said, because incidents like these may negatively affect the ecosystem, such as potential breeding with native species, or the animal escapees could become competition for these species.  

The proposal was to have enclosures designed with double gates and locking procedures, motion sensors, or measures to track birds that have a higher likelihood of escaping. 

Mr Joseph Koh, an authority on spiders who was consulted for the EIA, was cheered by the engagement process during the assessment. “It was not a token consultation, not just a one-way traffic,” he said. 

“We did not get everything we wanted, but we were glad that we were given an opportunity to be briefed in advance… In other words we were not presented with a fait accompli… It could have gone the other way, in a nightmarish scenario, HDB (public housing) flats would have (come up) and taken its place, but that was avoided. So there was a good compromise,” he added.

Mr Ben Lee, founder of Nature Trekker, a nature conservation group, was particularly pleased with the Eco-Link bridge, which will be constructed to connect the two parcels of nature reserves on either side of Mandai Lake Road and to facilitate wildlife movement in the reserves. 

“It’s a wonderful idea. If you have that, you give (animals) the leeway to run away from the devastation and destruction, (instead of) confining (the animal) to one corner where it doesn’t know where to run… (The size of the bridge) is reasonable, as animals in Singapore are very small, like mousedeer, squirrels, pangolins, Banded Leaf Monkey, Common Palm Civet, even leopard cats… Larger animals you can find are wild boars and Sambar Deers.”

However, Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairperson of the conservation committee from the Nature Society (Singapore), said that it was “most disappointing” that the Bird Park would be relocated to the mega attraction site. 

“Apart from captive breeding for conservation purposes, the goal of using captive animals (in zoos, bird parks, aquarium) for nature appreciation is to inculcate an appreciation of wildlife in their natural habitat. This objective has not been achieved if a bigger or more such places are or need to be created, as the people have not been weaned from such spectacle,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TOH EE MING

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