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Nature reserve worth more than cost to save it

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) plans to build the Cross Island Line (CRL), slated for completion in 2030, as part of the expansion of Singapore’s MRT network.

Ong Jun Yuan

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) plans to build the Cross Island Line (CRL), slated for completion in 2030, as part of the expansion of Singapore’s MRT network.

The current proposed route would cut through our Central Catchment Nature Reserve and “severely degrade ancient, species-rich and highly complex ecosystems”, according to the Nature Society (Singapore), which has proposed an alternative route.

Despite the talk of losing biodiversity and damaging our forests, these issues carry little weight with ordinary citizens who have no particular passion for nature.

We are more concerned about bread-and-butter issues such as transportation and construction costs, travelling time and how these affect our daily life.

If the Nature Society’s proposal is accepted, construction costs and travelling time would increase.

Yet, while cost is one of the main considerations of any project, I believe there is a case for avoiding the reserve.

First, one should consider the cost as being distributed over the years until the CRL is completed.

What may seem like a big amount, say S$1 billion, would work out to about S$66.7 million per year over 15 years, an increase of 0.125 per cent of our country’s yearly budget, based on the current budget of S$53.4 billion.

This is a small price to pay for preserving our reserve. While it may be argued that the money could be better spent on other programmes to benefit the population, could their success be guaranteed? The effect of preserving a nature reserve cannot be disputed.

A similar event happened before. In 1986, the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) was built, separating the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from the Central Catchment forest.

Today, the construction of Eco-Link@BKE, a collaboration between the National Parks Board and the LTA, serves to link the two nature reserves again, albeit only along a fraction of the swathe that was cut to construct the BKE.

This will provide a bridge for animals to once again move across freely. So, it can be seen that the Government recognises the value of our nature reserves and biodiversity.

As of now, the CRL’s route has yet to be finalised. What may seem like a simple map exercise, a line drawn on paper, may have permanent effects in future.

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