14 February 2016 | Love Our MacRitchie Forest |
I was kind of frustrated when I read the news on Thursday (11 February) in The Straits Times on an article titled "Tests on nature reserve must be conducted with care: Study". It was a study that affirm that an upcoming study is most likely to have a negative impact on our nature reserve, the MacRitchie Forest. There was a full-page news on this topic in The Sunday Times (page A4) today. Everyone, including the LTA (Land Transport Authority) knows that no matter how careful you are in conducting the upcoming tests (study) in the MacRitchie Forest, you are going to disturb and damage something, either the land or the living organisms around the area. It is not as if we do not have another choice. Indeed, we do have an alternative route. Why not treat the alternative route as the only route and forget about tunnelling through the MacRitchie Forest?
According to the news article, the outcome of the independent environment impact assessment (EIA) study of the yet-to-come study was reported in a roughly 1000-page document. Apparently, this EIA report is not freely available but can only be viewed after you make an appointment with LTA and the viewing window is only 4 weeks, up till early March. I do not know why there is such a restriction on public access to this important document that have implication on one of our most precious nature heritage sites. Is there something in the EIA report that is not suitable for general public consumption? If not, what is stopping LTA for simply releasing this document to the public instead of having to control the access?
As some have already pointed out, the MacRitchie Forest sits on the land of a Nature Reserve protected by law. I would assume that the protection encompass the area beneath the ground. If we can start digging deep underground and claim that it is not part of the nature reserve, what prevent us from moving closer and closer to the ground level in the future?
To prevent any damage to the ecosystem in MacRitchie Forest, the most logical and straightforward way is not to touch it. What is wrong with the alternative route? As I know, it take a bit more time to travel and more money to build. But, how much more time can you take to travel in this tiny islands and what extra costs when you put them in perspective of other mega projects that our government is investing?
As a concern citizen and someone who has been taking the public transport for over 20 years, I simply cannot understand the need for LTA to continue trying their luck to tunnel through the Nature Reserve when there is an alternative choice. It is useless and too late to start shifting blames to something or someone when things go wrong later. We are simply taking unnecessary risks that would jeopardize our scarce forest resource which is going to be a lifeline for our future generations. Is there no way that LTA can persuade its own stakeholders to change their mind or is there not anyone in the higher order who can take this load off everyone's shoulder?
There are simply too many questions in my mind on this saga. If we try so hard to get our Botanic Gardens to be preserved as a World Heritage site, why are we messing around with an equally, if not more, important nature heritage site when we fully aware that the impact on the nature site is going to be "moderate", a category not too far away from "major" impact?
The damage may have already started even before a decision is made if we do proceed with Phase 2 of the assessment.
Update: 20 February 2016
As of today, LTA has decided to make the EIA report easily accessible by the public. The report is available at the LTA website. I am glad that we are all able to read this report in the comfort of our home.