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ST Forum, May15, 2014

THE article ("Can civil society influence policies?"; Monday) said civil society groups "extracted concessions on Bukit Brown cemetery".

As key players in the civil movement trying to protect and preserve Bukit Brown, we are unclear what "concessions" the article referred to.

In 2012, the decision to build a highway through Bukit Brown had already been made before the official announcement. We were present at a briefing by the Ministry of National Development, but there was no consultation or protracted engagement thereafter to extract any concessions. We issued a call for a moratorium and moved on.

The article said the number of graves planned for exhumation was reduced from 5,000 to 3,746 as part of a compromise reached with civil society. This was not the case.

The number of graves finally affected was 4,153. The figure cited in the article was from a Land Transport Authority (LTA) statement on March 19, 2012 on the realignment of the road. The final tally of affected graves was in an Aug 5, 2013 statement by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and LTA to announce the award of the contract for the road.

Also, both statements clearly attributed the road realignment to an engineering decision. The decrease in the number of graves affected had nothing to do with consultations with civil society.

The LTA statement that announced the road design included a plan for a bridge over several creeks in Bukit Brown, rather than a design that would see the filling up of these natural drainage networks with soil.

There was no consultation on the original design or its changes. It is not clear if the adjustment was a result of a yet-undisclosed but limited-scope biodiversity impact assessment that the LTA conducted in early 2012.

Regardless of the reason, this change in design was not a result of a "compromise" with civil society.

To date, there has been no consultation on the zoning of the greater Bukit Brown area in its entirety for residential use in the 2013 Draft Master Plan released by the URA. This area includes the larger cemetery complex comprising Bukit Brown, Seh Ong, Lau Sua and Kopi Sua.

We would like to focus on the present. We have been meeting the National Heritage Board since the middle of last year and hope to make more progress in protecting Bukit Brown.

Chua Ai Lin (Dr)
 President
 Singapore Heritage Society

Claire Leow (Ms)
 Co-Founder
 All Things Bukit Brown

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