Tuesday, 4 February 2014

LTA receives Cross Island Line working group's report

By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 2 Feb 2014

Nature groups have submitted their ecological study of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

LTA will use the study as a reference for consultants conducting the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Cross Island MRT Line. The EIA will help LTA decide if the MRT line should pass through the nature reserve or skirt around it.

Spanning almost the entire length of Singapore, the 50-kilometre Cross Island Line was announced in January, 2013 and is slated for completion in 2030.

The nature groups, which spent about three months collating available literature and research from the past 20 years on Singapore's largest nature reserve, are calling for the protection of the forest area and are concerned about the possibility of the Line being built through it.

The study was done by seven environmentalists, some of whom are members of the Nature Society (Singapore), the Singapore Environment Council, and Cicada Tree Eco-Place.

The result is a 120-page document describing the extent of biodiversity in the reserve located in the central part of Singapore. The document has recorded about 400 species of trees, 200 species of birds, 400 species of insects and 150 species of mammals and amphibians.

The groups want to provide a realistic assessment of the impact of any physical works in the forests.

They say the study will save the environmental consultants working on the EIA a lot of ground work.

"As soon as they come in they will have an appreciation immediately of what's there,” said Tony O’Dempsey of the Nature Society (Singapore). “They are off to a flying start with this document.”

“I think the agency has done a fairly good job of putting together the tender document, and the requirements that are in there, and we can expect some very high quality EIA consultants to tender for this project."

An expert familiar with EIA matters says the consultants will need to have diverse expertise.

"In addition to the technical aspects of engineering, the team should include at least some members who have environmental expertise -- particularly in botany, the soil sciences, how it affects the plants, vegetation, the trees etc., to review the report,” said Prof Leung Chun Fai from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the National University Of Singapore.

With the study in hand, nature groups hope to convince the consultants and authorities to preserve the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

"The nature reserve is like the green heart in the red dot, and every time there is a project around the edge and through the nature reserve, it takes a small bite out of the apple,” said O’Dempsey. “And if you take lots of small bites you are going to consume the whole apple after a while."

The LTA said the nature groups' study together with the earlier position paper by the Nature Society (Singapore) will be incorporated into the EIA tender.

They will also serve as useful resources for the EIA consultant in studying how the various alignment options could affect the nature reserve. LTA is expected to call the EIA tender by next month.

The assessment is expected to be completed in 2016, and this will be followed by an 18-month engineering feasibility study on the possible routes.

* Two options for new train line
Govt to study impact of Cross Island Line to span largest nature reserve
By Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 25 Feb 2014

THE Government will hire a consultant to study two possible corridors for the Cross Island Line to span Singapore's largest nature reserve.

One cuts directly across the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the other skirts south of it.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday called a tender to study, among other things, the potential environmental impact of the train line being built in either.

In a statement, it said it expects to hire a consultant by the second half of this year and complete the study in 2016.

The findings, along with other factors such as cost, travel times and land use considerations, will help the Government decide the line's alignment, it said.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said in a Facebook post yesterday that an environmental impact study of such a scale was new for rail development in Singapore.

"But it is necessary because the reserve is special," she said, adding that there will be no soil surveys or physical works in the reserve until the consultant gives its input.

The 50km line linking Jurong to Changi was announced in January last year and is expected to be completed by 2030.

Nature groups were dismayed that a section of the line was apparently slated to cut through the reserve. They said it would harm flora and fauna there. The Government said later that the route had not been finalised.

The Nature Society (Singapore) proposed two detours north and south of the reserve.

It estimated that the southern option along Lornie Road would add just 2km and four minutes to travel time, but nearby residents were worried that it could affect their homes.

LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong said the authority has worked with residents and nature groups over the past eight months to address their concerns. "This study is only one of the inputs that will be considered before an eventual decision is made," he added.

Among other things, the consultant will carry out a "baseline evaluation" of the existing ecosystem and physical conditions along the two proposed corridors.

This work will be aided by an existing 120-page report setting out some 400 tree species, 400 insect species, 200 bird species and 150 mammal and amphibian species in the reserve.

Nature Society (Singapore) spokesman Tony O'Dempsey, who was involved in the report, said that it was not comprehensive and that the consultant should "document every single thing" in the areas that could be affected by the train line.

The LTA said yesterday it will start a separate engineering feasibility study for the Cross Island Line by the second half of this year for stretches outside the reserve. This is also expected to be completed in 2016.

* Cross Island Line: Site tests will be green
Impact on animals, plants at nature reserve can be kept to moderate levels, says LTA
By Audrey Tan and Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 6 Feb 2016

Tests to see how a train tunnel through Singapore's largest and most important nature reserve can be built have been slated for the third quarter.

The impact on the animals and plants around the test sites can be kept to "moderate" levels, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday without going into detail, citing the findings of an independent environmental study.

The study suggested several strategies to mitigate the impact to flora and fauna, including the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise, and tanks to collect discharge.

Still, nature groups told The Straits Times that "mitigation does not equal no impact".

The 50km Cross Island Line to link Changi and Jurong by 2030 was first announced in early 2013, and preliminary plans showed it cutting through primary and secondary forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve near MacRitchie Reservoir.

But nature groups, alarmed by the environmental harm which the construction and operation of an underground MRT line right across the heart of the reserve could cause, suggested that the line be built along Lornie Road. This alternate route goes around the reserve.

The decision on whether to build through or around the reserve is still being mulled over. But the LTA in 2013 did say that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the line on the reserve would be done.

The assessment's first phase, which includes looking at the potential impact of site investigation works, was carried out between August 2014 and last December by consultancy Environmental Resources Management.

Yesterday, the LTA gazetted the first phase of the EIA. "The report concluded that the proposed site investigation works, with the implementation of mitigating measures and controlled access, could be carried out with moderate impact on the few parts of the nature reserve where these works are to take place," it said.

Hey folks, we’ve reached a milestone in feasibility studies of the Cross Island Line (#CRL) today, with the gazette of...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Friday, February 5, 2016

The assessment also suggested alternative methods to collect data, so as to minimise the number of boreholes that need to be drilled within the nature area. Instead of drilling 72 boreholes, each of which is 10cm in diameter and stretches between 50m and 70m underground, only 16 will be needed to assess the soil and rock profile. The authorities will also use non-intrusive methods to find out about the soil and rock at the reserve.

In addition, the plan is to drill the boreholes only on public trails and clearings - which means that existing vegetation would not have to be cleared. In comparison, 250 boreholes will be drilled along the alternative route along Lornie Road.

Nature groups here welcomed the Government's efforts to check on the environmental impact of an MRT line in the reserve, which comprises pristine freshwater streams and the country's largest patch of primary lowland rainforest. It is also home to at least 413 species of plants, 218 species of birds, 30 mammals, 24 freshwater fish species and 17 species of amphibians.

Said Mr Tony O'Dempsey of the Nature Society (Singapore): "Our policy is that nature reserves should not be touched at all, as the impacts are cumulative, but the Nature Society is very happy to be involved in consultations with the authorities. We have some concerns on vibrations, noise and cave-ins, which we will discuss with the authorities during the next phase."

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajuthurai, who was also involved in the consultations with the authorities, said: "Acceptable impact is zero impact. All the other East-West systems, such as the current East-West MRT line or the Pan Island Expressway, have avoided tunnelling through the nature reserve.

"Although most of the work for the MRT line is underground, it could have a massive impact on the nature reserve, which is one of the most important nature areas for Singapore."

Phase Two of the EIA, which will be completed by the end of the year, will study and assess the potential environmental impact on the reserve arising from the construction and operation of the Cross Island Line for both routes.

The EIA findings will be one of the factors used by the authorities to decide on the final alignment of the Cross Island Line. Other factors include connectivity, travel times, costs and impact on home and other land owners.

When queried, Mr Sim Cheng Hai, director of policy and planning at the National Parks Board (NParks), said site investigation works are potentially impactful.

He said: "This is why NParks has worked with LTA to mitigate the potential impact of the site investigation on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, such as reducing the number of boreholes for the Cross Island Line site investigation, defining areas which are off-limits and providing staff to monitor the works in the geophysical survey."

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