Reconsider 'eco-tourism' plans for Mandai

Mandai Park Holdings' new measures to minimise the potential environmental damage by its developments in Mandai notwithstanding ("Mandai makeover to tread with care"; Oct 11), the planned relocation of Jurong Bird Park there and the new Rainforest Park are not in ecological harmony with the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

These so-called "eco-tourism" plans should be reconsidered.

Our major concern is the connectivity and integrity of the reserve's land along the north-western sector across Mandai Lake Road.

Although outside the reserve's boundary, the two development sites, with their secondary forests and other natural habitats, are critical to the natural connectivity and ecological viability of the reserve's land in the area.

We strongly propose extending the nature reserve's boundary to cover the project sites.

As to Mandai Park Holdings' mitigation measures, we are not convinced that the impact on biodiversity would be small, given the big reduction in natural habitats as featured in its concept plan and the drastic alteration of what remains by artificial structures, such as tight boundary fences, aviary cages and netted enclosures, as well as introduced non-native wildlife.

Even if implemented in stages, each requiring a prolonged period of time, the clearing and construction involved will cause significantly high stress for the resident wildlife, especially the less mobile species, even with temporary refugia catered for them.

The area boasts rich resident wildlife with 199 faunal species recorded, including the globally threatened Sunda pangolin, Raffles' banded langur, straw-headed bulbul and Malesian frog, to name just a few.

Instead of Mandai, we recommend that the Bird Park be incorporated into the new Jurong Lake District masterplan, which will help to enrich the area's redevelopment.

As for the Rainforest Park, we disagree with the idea of destroying natural habitats to create sanitised eco-themed parks.

Apart from rectifying the reserve's boundary gap, the proposed extension will support the existing biodiversity and any restoration programme for critically endangered species.

The remaining areas can be used as adventure centres with programmes allowing for significantly less invasive ecological education and appreciation tours of our regenerating natural forests.

Ho Hua Chew (Dr)

Vice-chairman

Conservation Committee

Nature Society (Singapore)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'Reconsider 'eco-tourism' plans for Mandai'. Print Edition | Subscribe