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Friday, December 7, 2007

Nature Society moots 2 new spots for attraction

Nature Society moots 2 new spots for attraction
STB studying society's report stressing fragility of proposed site for nature-themed attraction
By Lim Wei Chean
7 Dec 2007

LEAVE that stretch of Mandai forest alone. Build the nature-themed attraction on one of two alternative sites.

This was the crux of the Nature Society's response to the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) announcement two weeks ago that it was releasing a 30ha plot of land in the Mandai area for development into a nature-themed attraction.

The main thrust of the 18-page report, submitted to the STB last Saturday, emphasised the fragility of the proposed Mandai site, which does not fall within the boundaries of the nature reserve.

It said the site is too valuable to be damaged for another attraction which may suffer the fate of Tang Dynasty City in the Jurong Lake area.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, who chairs the society's conservation sub-committee, shared key points in the report, which included suggestions of two alternative sites for development, with The Straits Times yesterday.

STB's vision was to develop the Mandai area into a nature attractions cluster - with the existing Singapore Zoo and Night Safari as anchors.

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The new site, about three times the size of VivoCity, along with a new attraction by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, hopes to double the current annual visitorship of 2.5 million to the area by 2015.

The Nature Society gave two reasons why it says the proposed area is a bad spot:

Fragmentation: The nature reserve's forest had been divided into seven 'habitat islands' standing in isolation because of the creation of golf courses, roads, pipelines and expansion of the existing reservoirs.

This results in the loss of humidity in the forest, increased temperatures, invasion and predation by alien and non-forest species, as well as introduction of diseases to forest wildlife to which they have no immunity.

Forest degradation: Forest cover within the Central Catchment Reserve had been cleared to make way for projects like the Zoo and Night Safari (89ha), the covered reservoir at Upper Pierce (11ha) and Nee Soon Firing Range (20ha).

Animals at risk include forest frogs, birds like the fish eagle, chestnut-winged babble; mammals like the mouse deer, pangolin and the rare leopard cat, known to exist only in two areas here.

The society proposes allowing the land, which is full of mature fruit trees like durian and rambutan, to revert back to a secondary forest.

It also seeks to have it designated as an official buffer zone for the nature reserve so it can continue to serve as a forest connector for the forest's wildlife to forage for food.

In its place, the Nature Society identified two alternative spots for the nature-themed attraction.

The first is the ecologically less sensitive area between Yio Chu Kang Road and Lower Seletar Reservoir with its scenic woodlands, scrubland and marshes.

If it has to be in the Mandai area, then let it be the military site bounded by Mandai Track 15, the Bukit Timah Expressway, Mandai Lake Road and the firing range.

This will not only provide enough space for development but also leave enough forest to act as a buffer for the reserve to enable animals to move around.

An STB spokesman said that it has received the report and is looking through it.

She added that STB will be setting up a meeting with the Nature Society to discuss in greater depth the concerns raised.

weichean@sph.com.sg

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