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Kranji woodland incident: Area equal to 6 football fields mistakenly cleared – JTC

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·5-min read

SINGAPORE — Preliminary findings show that some 4.5 hectares of land, or the equivalent of about six football fields, at a Kranji woodland site was mistakenly cleared, said the JTC Corporation on Monday (22 February).

In a statement, the government agency acknowledged that it has “supervisory responsibilities” for the error, and is now conducting an internal review of its processes.

According to Today, JTC Corp chief executive Tan Boon Khai told a media conference, “We realised that… there has been media interest as well as undue speculation. This led therefore to the media statement that JTC had (released) on Feb 16, trying to clarify some of the issues that have been surrounding (the incident) as well as the interest that has been generated.”

JTC also acknowledged that there “has been some confusion” due to its statement on16 February, while online speculation has led to the incorrect impression that the site was pristine woodland untouched by development.

A separate report by CNA quoted Tan as saying, “Regardless, as the project site developer, JTC does have overall responsibility for the site. We do not run away from this responsibility. We will not, nor do we intend to.”

An overall investigation of the matter is being conducted, with the full cooperation of parties involved in developing the site, he added.

Last Tuesday, JTC Corp admitted that large areas of Kranji woodland were "erroneously" cleared before the completion of environmental assessments, as aerial photos of the razed land emerged on social media.

The land was cleared by one of its contractors, Huationg, to whom JTC issued a "stern warning". The agency reportedly discovered the mistake during a site inspection on 13 January.

Members of the nature community in Singapore were shocked by the clearing of the land, which sits on a 70ha woodland that is home to around 40 species of birds.

Agri-Food Innovation Park

The area is the site of the future Agri-Food Innovation Park, which is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District focusing on new growth sectors such as agri-tech and environment technology. It was once home to part of the former KTM railway line.

Located along a green artery known as the Rail Corridor, the site to be developed measures 25ha, of which 11.9ha has been cleared, while 13.1ha of greenery remains.

JTC Corp noted that the site does not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as it is “not close to any sensitive nature areas”. Most of it comprises disused scrubland with a few scattered large trees, most of which are Albizia trees.

The land is now dominated by non-native Albizia regrowth, which sprouted over time after the railway service ceased and the land was returned to Singapore in 2011.

Timeline of events

While an EIA is not needed, a flora baseline study was completed in July 2019, said JTC Corp as it provided a timeline of events.

In August 2020, a further fauna baseline survey and an Environmental Monitoring and Management Programme (EMMP) were also required.

This was because a new drain, proposed as part of the building plan, would release discharge into Sungei Pang Sua, creating a potential risk of pollution caused by sediment runoff.

  • 2 May 2019: CPG Consultants (CPG) engaged to carry out planning and design works

  • 22 July 2019: CPG submitted Building Plan for tree felling to NParks with a tree survey plan

  • 29 July 2019: CPG completed flora baseline study

  • 29 August 2019: NParks issued a Written Direction to approve CPG’s urgent request for tree felling in plots 4, 5 and 9

  • 2 March 2020: With this approval, clearance started for plot 9

Satellite images depicting the progress of clearance from February to March 2020. (PHOTO: JTC Corp)
Satellite images depicting the progress of clearance from February to March 2020. (PHOTO: JTC Corp)
  • 21 August 2020: CPG’s resubmission of a Building Plan showed a new proposed drain that would discharge into Sungei Pang Sua. NParks then required a fauna baseline study and EMMP

  • August to September 2020: Site clearance continued for plot 8, 10-1, 10-7 and road 2, while the fauna baseline study was being called

  • 29 September 2020: NParks issued Building Plan clearance for tree felling, subject to conditions of the fauna study and EMMP

  • 3 November 2020: CPG asked NParks for permission to clear more plots. It only approved the partial clearance of plot 1 on Nov 6, and the plot was cleared.

  • 15 December 2020: Plots 4 and 5 started being cleared based on the approval from August 2019.

 Satellite images depicting the clearance of various plots from November to December 2020. (PHOTO: JTC Corp, Planetscope)
Satellite images depicting the clearance of various plots from November to December 2020. (PHOTO: JTC Corp, Planetscope)
  • 23 December 2020: The fauna baseline study and EMMP consultant was engaged

  • End-December 2020 to 13 January 2021: Contractor cleared further areas, measuring 4.5ha (in red)

Satellite image showing the state of the plot in January 2021. (PHOTO: JTC Corp)
Satellite image showing the state of the plot in January 2021. (PHOTO: JTC Corp)
  • 13 January 2021: JTC’s project manager discovered the further clearing. All clearance works suspended and JTC started an internal investigation

  • 15 January 2021: Stern warning issued to contractor. Investigations still under way

  • 16 February 2021: JTC released media statement and contractor apologised

On-site work suspended

All work on site continues to be suspended, while the fauna baseline study and EMMP are expected to be done by April 2021, said JTC.

Thereafter, it will engage stakeholders on the study’s findings, which will also be publicly shared.

NParks is also conducting its own investigations to see if there were breaches of the Parks and Trees Act and Wildlife Act, while Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and National Development Minister Desmond Lee have ordered a review of inter-agency coordination.

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