Involve us in future Bukit Brown plans, says group

AsiaOne News
Mar 21, 2012

Involve us in future Bukit Brown plans, says group
Seven concerned groups have formally called for a moratorium on the building of a road that cuts through Bukit Brown.

Karen W Lim

Concerned groups in Singapore are calling on the government to hold back the finalised plans of building a road through the Bukit Brown area and want to be included in future discussions of the area.

In a statement to AsiaOne, seven groups have formally called for a moratorium on all plans "until there is clarity over long-term plans for the area and discussions over alternatives have been exhausted."

Although plans on developing the area into a housing estate are still far off, one of the groups said that they wish to be involved even if the issue is something which the next generation has to deal with.

A spokesperson from the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) said: "It has been mentioned before that the concept plan is a very long term plan and is subject to changing circumstances and consideration, so we would very much like to see an open conversation about the conept plan over the two decades."

SHS is one of the groups which have voiced their concerns over the finalised alignment of a dual four-lane, 2km-long road through the Bukit Brown cemetery and woodlands.

On Monday, authorities revealed that an eight-lane road will be built through the area. About one third of the new road, spanning 600m, will consist of a vehicular bridge to be built between 5m and 10m above ground. Construction will begin early next year and is expected to be completed by 2016.

Other groups that have voiced their concerns include Nature Society of Singapore (NSS), Asia Paranormal Investigators (API), All things Bukit Brown, SOS Bukit Brown, We Support the Green Corridor and Green Drinks Singapore.

NSS stated that although the planned expressway will service a future housing estate at the police academy area, it is still 20 to 30 years later and the immediate concern now is the building of the road.

Other groups whom AsiaOne spoke to expressed their disappointment over the matter and are now urging the government to hold the project back until it can be proven that other alternatives have been studied.

Dr Ho Hua Chew from NSS said that the society is not convinced that the eight-lane expressway is really necessary and that there should not be a rush to build it.

He highlighted some alternatives on how traffic could be eased on Lornie Road, such as introducing an ERP gantry, routing around the whole area using the PIE, Thomson Exit and Thomson Road as part of a one-way crcuit, or adding an additional lane to the seven-lanes on Lornie Road.

Not only will the road - even though it is planned to be built on a bridge - have an impact on the heritage of Singapore, due to the many graves and tombstones in the area, it will also have a profound impact on the area's environment and ecosystem, emphasised Dr Ho.

"The area where the road goes through is important to the bird life in Singapore. There are about 90 over species of birds that live there, and of which, 14 of these are endangered in the Singapore red data book.

"The massive width of the bridge will cast a shadow on the plants underneath the bridge due to lack of sunlight will wither and the stretch will be bare and ugly.

"The eight-lane expressway is planned to cut diagonally across a beautiful valley. It will damage this valley although the river flowing through will be saved.

"We cannot accept this decision and we do not believe that all alternatives have been exhausted," said Dr Ho.

Ms Erika Lim from SOS Bukit Brown said that they are not against the road being built through the area, but rather, they had wished to discuss alternatives before going ahead with the road.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) was criticised by all seven groups on Tuesday for not giving them time to present alternatives at a closed door meeting which was held on Monday.

The groups said that government agencies had postponed a Feb 20 meeting the groups had requested with 31 of their representatives, but only to have MND invite only a handful of the original group of representatives, and others.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin had stated yesterday on his Facebook account that the meeting "was never intended to be the type of dialogue desired and claimed by these groups. Nor was it a response to their earlier request".

Rather than an open discussion or consultation, the meeting turned out to be a "briefing" from the MND on the finalised plans which were made public, said a spokesperson from SHS.

Mr Tan had earlier stated the Government had explored many options, such as widening Lornie Road and constructing a viaduct, before making the "difficult decision" to build the proposed road.

He added that the plan had "the least impact" on the area, adding that it was the government's responsibility to "make the final call on the trade-offs between competing land needs".

 API told AsiaOne that they were disappointed with the recent announcement.

"As long as the bulldozers aren't here yet, we won't give up. We will continue to call for a moratorium," said Mr Raymond Goh from API.