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Natural lovers worried about Woodlands Checkpoint reclamation’s environmental impact

Despite JTC and ICA assurances, natural enthusiasts worry about Woodlands Checkpoint expansion’s environmental impact, fearing it threatens the Mandai mangrove and mudflat.



Source: ICA; Nature Society Singapore

SINGAPORE: JTC Corporation and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) have unveiled a reclamation plan, which involves approximately 44 hectares of land, equivalent to more than 60 football fields, for the expansion of the Woodlands Checkpoint.

However, environmental enthusiasts in Singapore have voiced their concerns regarding the potential environmental impact, particularly fearing that the reclamation may pose a threat to the Mandai mangrove and mudflat.

These areas are not only among the richest wetlands in Singapore but also represent one of the few remaining mangrove habitats in the country, characterized by an extensive mudflat exposed during low tide.

Redeveloping Woodlands Checkpoint to meet future traffic & security demands 

As reported by Singapore state media the Straits Times on Sunday (17 March), JTC and ICA disclosed plans to reclaim approximately 34 hectares of land on the western side of the Causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore, and 10 hectares on the eastern side.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted by JTC initially analyzed a larger reclamation area of 36.4 hectares on the western side and 30.2 hectares on the eastern end.

The agencies stated that the size of the area has been reduced to minimize the environmental impact of the reclamation work. This adjustment will also maximize the distance between the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Nature Park and the reclaimed land on the western side.

Reclamation is tentatively scheduled to commence in the third quarter of 2024 and is expected to be completed by 2029.

The work on the western side will be executed in two phases, spanning approximately five years for completion, while the smaller eastern side is estimated to take about three years and four months.

The redeveloped Woodlands Checkpoint is projected to cover about 95 hectares, nearly five times the size of the current 19-hectare checkpoint.

Its objectives include reducing the average clearance time from 60 minutes to 15 minutes during peak periods for all vehicle types, among other improvements.

In a press statement released in January, ICA emphasized the project’s significance as a sustainable, long-term solution to the chronic congestion at this crucial land crossing.

ICA added that based on the report’s findings, they do not expect any major environmental concerns arising from the works.

JTC, the government agency overseeing Singapore’s industrial spaces, made the 600-page report available for public viewing at JTC Summit from 29 January to 26 February, subject to the signing of a non-disclosure agreement.

EIA findings: Potential loss of subtidal seabed in reclamation project

The ST report also outlined key points from the EIA, indicating that the reclamation project may result in the loss of around 35 hectares of subtidal seabed, despite a low density of benthic fauna in the area.

To protect macrobenthic organisms found at the mudflat, JTC and ICA plan to carefully plan the reclamation to avoid overlapping with the mudflat, and silt screens will be installed to minimize the smothering effect on fauna.

Acknowledging the the significant biodiversity of mangroves at the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat nature park, EIA highlighted that 55 bird species identified and at least one red list of threatened species, including five critically endangered locally.

The mangroves at the nature park also have significant conservation value, with the report identifying 12 major species and five minor species of mangroves.

To mitigate disturbance to wildlife, JTC has pledged to avoid seawall construction and marine works within 100 meters of the mudflat between September and March, a period when migratory birds such as the endangered great knot inhabit Singapore.

To mitigate the loss of native biodiversity within the nature park, JTC will collaborate with the National Parks Board to gather suitable fruits and seeds for replanting at a designated location.

JTC and ICA have announced their commitment to reviewing public feedback before finalizing the report and commencing reclamation activities. Additionally, they will collaborate with the appointed contractor to establish an environmental management and monitoring plan.

Ecological concern

Despite assurances from JTC and ICA, natural enthusiasts have expressed concerns and raised scepticism about whether the authorities have downplayed the potential environmental consequences of the reclamation project.

Nature Society Singapore in a Facebook post highlighted the value of Mandai Mangrove & Mudflat as one of the last remaining mangrove habitats in the country, boasting extensive mudflats revealed during low tide.

Designated as a nature park in 2018, this site is home to a remarkable array of biodiversity.

NParks reports that it hosts 20 mangrove plant species, 16 of which are threatened, along with endangered species of seagrass and horseshoe crabs.

In a separate instance, a concerned netizen penned a letter to JTC, expressing worry over the absence of tidal drains near the Singapore side of the Causeway, sealed during the 1975 expansion supervised by the Public Works Department (PWD).

In another post, he mentioned that his letter to JTC remained unanswered, and further raised concern over potential environmental impacts, including the potential spillage of black water into Princess Cove shorelines and the need for an EIA from the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA).

Jimmy Tan, a nature conservationist highlighted the presence of endangered species such as horseshoe crabs, smooth-coated otters, and critically endangered straw-headed bulbuls in the Mandai mangroves and mudflats, accentuating the ecological significance of the area.
Other comments lamented the imminent threat to the Mandai Mangrove & Mudflat, expressing deep concern over the plans; some expressed heartbreak at the news of the impending reclamation, and questioned if any measures can be taken to preserve the area untouched.

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The ruling government does not care about “nature.” Trees and animals do not pay taxes. Nature Lovers complained about Tengah forest, now it’s gone. Kranji Forest, gone. Dover Forest, gone. Bukit Batok West Forest, gone. Pasir Ris Forest, gone. Now Gilman barracks is under threat. It’ll be gone soon enough. What about Clementi forest? Well, they and their cronies live in that area in opulence. So it’ll probably stay intact for as long as possible. What is the actual solution? Simple. Vote wisely at the ballot box. No point whining about nature if you keep choosing to be struck by… Read more »

It is never going to be enough if you continue with the population increase policy. Destroying nature is destroying ourselves. The PAP without souls can never understand that we are one with nature. The destruction of nature will bring about more illness to the population as oxygen levels fall.