SINGAPORE: The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) announcement of plans to redevelop Pasir Ris Park Carpark B has raised concerns among some people, particularly regarding the potential impact on wildlife in the region.
On 19 August 2022, URA unveiled proposals to transform a carpark within Pasir Ris Park into a public housing development. This carpark is situated within a designated 2.9-hectare area allocated for housing.
Additionally, The Straits Times (ST) reported that an adjacent 1.7-hectare plot is slated for redevelopment for the same housing purpose.
These plans were published in an approved amendment to its 2019 masterplan on 19 Aug, 2022.
Pasir Park Carpark B, situated along Pasir Ris Drive 3, comprises approximately 20 parking spaces for cars and 10 for motorcycles.
It is located within a 2.9-hectare parcel, equivalent to the size of four football fields, specifically designated for public housing.
The carpark itself occupies about one-third of the parcel, while the remaining areas are presently covered by forests. In conjunction with the redevelopment of the 2.9-hectare housing parcel, there is an additional 1.7-hectare parcel that is outside the park boundaries.
Shawn Lum, president of Nature Society (Singapore), mentioned to The Straits Times last year that HDB consulted with nature groups about developing three land areas, including where the Costa Grove BTO is now.
It is said that HDB revised the boundaries to lessen environmental impact, like reducing a 3.7ha parcel to 2.9ha and adding Carpark B to preserve more greenery.
Dr Lum noted that while the affected woodlands are young, they could become biodiversity-rich if not developed, a factor often overlooked in pre-development studies. He emphasized the need for strategies to enhance biodiversity in new housing projects.
Dr Lum, a botanist at Nanyang Technological University, advocates for more than just limiting damage in such developments.
According to information from ST, this area is predominantly forested, with some sections cleared for housing construction and transportation infrastructure.
The delineation of the 2.9-hectare area is highlighted in red, while the 1.7-hectare parcel is marked in yellow.
The 1.7-hectare parcel has the potential to accommodate between 340 and 380 housing units, whereas the 2.9-hectare parcel could support the construction of 580 to 640 housing units.
As far back as 2017, both parcels were earmarked for public housing under the Remaking Our Heartland plans for the town programme.
The overarching goal of this program was to revitalize selected residential areas by enhancing parks and introducing additional housing options.
Concerns over potential impact on wildlife
However, as the construction plans progress, concerns have emerged over the potential adverse effects on the wildlife in Pasir Ris.
A Facebook user conveyed their concerns in a post shared on 20 December in the Singapore Wildlife Sightings group.
In the post, the user mentioned having reached out to the Nature Society of Singapore, which advised them to communicate their worries to the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
Despite acknowledging that expressing concern alone may not halt the construction, the user emphasized that it could inform authorities about the presence of concerned citizens.
This, they believe, might exert pressure on the HDB to fulfil their commitment to causing minimal disturbance to the wildlife, particularly at the Kingfisher pond and the mangrove, as indicated in the notice displayed in the park.
Accompanying the user’s post were three images, including a notice of the closure of Pasir Ris Park Carpark B and two signboards outlining the park’s development plan.
According to the park notice, Carpark B will cease operation from 15 January 2024.
In the post, the user expressed particular concern for the Sunda Scops Owls, the only documented pair in Pasir Ris and the east, highlighting their reliance on a unique palm species, Pandanus tectorius, found exclusively in Pasir Ris Park.
To garner support, the user urged people to voice their opinions by submitting feedback through HDB’s feedback form, especially “for the owls and all creatures that live there.”
In a similar sentiment expressed in Sept 2022, another user shared on the Nature Society Singapore Facebook group their disappointment at the prospect of Pasir Ris Park Carpark and the adjacent green plot being replaced by public housing.
Despite acknowledging it as the cost of development, the user, who frequents Pasir Ris Park, lamented the impending changes, stating that they “hate to see it go.”
Mixed reactions to concerns over wildlife impact and development plans
Looking at the comments section, there is a variety of responses on the matter. While some individuals express shared concerns about the impact on wildlife and are ready to voice their apprehensions to HDB, there are others who believe that the concerns of citizens will go unnoticed and are not of interest.
“Good that you are highlighting the matter,” commented one user, expressing a hope that the relevant authorities will intervene to preserve the presence of the Pandanus species in its current location or make it available nearby for the owls.
Nevertheless, one user remarked, “There’s nothing you can do… the project will proceed anyway.”
Another user holds the view that “Green is only marketing” and that “nobody actually cares about it.”
Additionally, one user acknowledged the regrettable loss of green spaces but argued that priorities must be considered. “We live in a densely populated island. Everyone needs and wants a roof over their head,” they wrote.
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