Environmental group pushes for more nature parks

04 January 2014

Environmental group pushes for more nature parks
By Kok Xing Hui -

SINGAPORE — Conduct environmental impact assessment on development plans, designate more areas as nature parks and plant trees that could act as buffers between development sites and the nature parks that they are built close to. These were among the recommendations tabled by the Nature Society (Singapore) in response to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s draft Master Plan released last November.

Making public its 24-page report yesterday, the society said the Master Plan seems to involve more salvaging rather than conserving or preserving effort, with an emphasis on curbing the impact of urbanisation. A thrust towards sustainability should be employed instead, it said.

The group submitted its recommendations on Dec 19 last year, saying environmental impact assessments should be conducted for development plans to assess their impact on the biodiversity as well as the culture, recreational, economy, air and water — depending on the size of the green area. It said residents and other stakeholders should also be consulted and that such assessments must be made before the development plans are finalised and put out for tender.

While creating more public parks is laudable, the NSS felt the emphasis should be on designating wildlife-rich areas, such as the Kranji Marshes Park, as nature parks. This will help preserve the areas’ biodiversity, while making them accessible to the public for eco-friendly uses. Suggestions put forth include the “highly scenic and beautiful” Sungei Khatib Bongsu, the mudflats and mangroves of Sungei Mandai, Bukit Brown Cemetery and the secondary forest in Clementi, which has recorded 21 per cent of the total bird species in Singapore.

The society said it was grossly deficient that out of the 29 per cent of land identified as Spontaneous Greenery (comprising secondary forest, scrubland and mangrove among others) by a research team from National University of Singapore, only 4.4 per cent of that are truly or permanently protected as Nature Reserves.

Marine conservation is pretty deplorable, said the NSS, adding it had submitted proposals to the authorities requesting for four coral zones to be restored as nature areas, but only one has been designated as such so far.

The status of parks classified as nature areas should also be clearer, the group said, pointing out that some are located within military zones and the NSS has “no clue” what the sizes and boundaries of these areas are. It cited the examples of Mandai Mangrove, Khatib Bongsu, Pulau Semakau and the four coral zones, which were nature areas in 1993 but “deleted as such in the 2012 revised SGP (Singapore Green Plan)”. Nature area Chek Jawa has also been planned for reclamation at its shoreline.

The NSS also proposed that the percentage of secondary forests, which it said are extremely important and viable habitats for native fauna, under the SGP be increased from 6 to 12 per cent and that this should come from outside the nature reserves.