SINGAPORE: JTC Corporation said on Monday (Feb 22) it accepts its “supervisory responsibilities” in the case of a Kranji woodland site that was partially cleared by mistake, adding that it is conducting an internal review of its processes to see what could have led to the error.
The agency said last Tuesday that plots of land had been “erroneously cleared” by a contractor before a commissioned environmental study could be completed, prompting criticism from nature groups and conservation advocates.
The area is where the Agri-Food Innovation Park will be developed. It is located along a green artery known as the Rail Corridor.
At a media conference on Monday, JTC said that the site to be developed measures 25ha, of which 11.9ha has been cleared, while 13.1ha of greenery remains.
Specifically, based on preliminary findings, the land that was erroneously cleared measured about 4.5ha, or the equivalent of about six football fields.
READ: Kranji woodland clearance: ‘Gaps’ in project management, directions for ‘immediate’ follow-up issued, says Chan Chun Sing
JTC Corp’s CEO Tan Boon Khai said an overall investigation is being conducted into how the land was cleared by mistake, with the full cooperation of parties involved in developing the site.
“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,” said Mr Tan.
“JTC is now undertaking an internal review of some of its internal processes and procedures to look at whether there are any shortcomings that could have resulted in some of these issues happening on the ground,” he added.
“And when that review is completed, we will certainly be looking at how we can improve. We do strive to do better. We acknowledge that we can do better, and we must.”
READ: Nature advocates call for mitigation measures after error in clearing parts of Kranji woodland area
LAND WAS MOSTLY SCRUBLAND
The site, which was home to part of the former KTM railway line, did not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as it was “not close to any sensitive nature areas”, said JTC.
Most of the site comprised “disused scrubland” with a few scattered large trees, most of which were Albizia trees, it noted.
JTC added that the land is now dominated by non-native Albizia regrowth. The trees had sprouted over time, after the railway service stopped and the land was returned to Singapore in 2011.
Giving a timeline of developments, JTC said that although an EIA was not needed, a flora baseline study was completed in July 2019.
READ: Government will ‘proceed with care’ when developing near areas of rich biodiversity: Desmond Lee
A further fauna baseline survey, as well as an Environmental Monitoring and Management Programme (EMMP), were later required in August 2020.
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.
- May 2, 2019: CPG Consultants (CPG) engaged to carry out planning and design works
- Jul 22, 2019: CPG submitted Building Plan for tree felling to NParks with a tree survey plan
- Jul 29, 2019: CPG completed flora baseline study
- Aug 29, 2019: NParks issued a Written Direction to approve CPG’s urgent request for tree felling in plots 4, 5 and 9
- Mar 2, 2020: With this approval, clearance started for plot 9
- Aug 21, 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
- Sep 29, 2020: NParks issued Building Plan clearance for tree felling, subject to conditions of the fauna study and EMMP
- Nov 3, 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.
- Dec 15, 2020: Plots 4 and 5 started being cleared based on the approval from August 2019
- 23 Dec, 2020: The fauna baseline study and EMMP consultant was engaged
- End-Dec 2020 to Jan 13, 2021: Contractor cleared further areas, measuring 4.5ha (in red)
- Jan 13, 2021: JTC’s project manager discovered the further clearing. All clearance works suspended and JTC started an internal investigation
- Jan 15, 2021: Stern warning issued to contractor. Investigations still under way
- Feb 16, 2021: JTC released media statement and contractor apologised
All work on site continue to be suspended, JTC said.
It added that the fauna baseline study and EMMP are estimated to be completed in April 2021.
Thereafter, JTC said it will engage stakeholders on the study’s findings. The results of the study will also be publicly shared.
Separately, NParks is conducting investigations to see if there were breaches of the Parks and Trees Act and Wildlife Act.
Commissioner of Parks and Recreation at NParks, Dr Leong Chee Chiew, stressed that assumptions should not be made ahead of this because penalties under these laws are “not small”, with fines of up to S$50,000 and even the possibility of six months’ imprisonment.
Aside from investigations by JTC and NParks, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and National Development Minister Desmond Lee have also ordered a review on inter-agency coordination.