Changes are being made in the plans for the Mandai eco-tourism hub to minimise the impact of its development on the environment, following one of the biggest environmental impact assessments undertaken in Singapore.
One of the most significant is to swop the locations of the new Rainforest Park and Bird Park. This puts the bulk of the Rainforest Park to the north of Mandai Lake Road, where there are more mature trees that can be incorporated into the park, instead of the south.
The Bird Park, to be relocated from Jurong, and the Rainforest Park are the new attractions to be added to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari to create the Mandai hub.
The environmental impact assessment (EIA), released yesterday, was conducted over two years by international consultancy Environmental Resources Management with input from local academics, government agencies and nature groups.
It concluded that the majority of environmental impacts associated with the development of the almost 64ha parcel of land could be reduced to "small or below".
Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) group chief executive Mike Barclay said: "We made a conscious effort to conduct the EIA at the concept stage of the project to allow key mitigation measures to be built into the design of the Mandai precinct."
Other design features include two separate arrival plazas where visitors can disperse, and a wildlife bridge across Mandai Lake Road.
During construction, Mr Barclay said, there will even be a "shepherding system" for terrestrial and tree- dwelling animals, to "walk the wildlife off the site before we start work".
Environmental characteristics such as water quality, air quality, ambient noise and biodiversity were studied in the EIA.
Mr Barclay thanked the local nature groups for their participation. "Many individuals from the nature groups have given up a lot of time for us, they've gone on site visits with us... and they've done a very thorough critique of all the mitigating measures we've come up with."
One of them, wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, 53, welcomed the extensive discussions. "Initially, the ideas were far worse than what they are today. It was almost like an amusement park."
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum's Professor Leo Tan, one of those who provided technical advice and oversight for the EIA, said: "It was not an afterthought. I think it is really one of the first, most comprehensive EIA surveys ever undertaken in Singapore's history."
A panel of external experts, including representatives from nature groups, will be set up to monitor the implementation of the measures and advise any modifications.
Mr Barclay added: "The authorities will make sure on site that we adhere to our commitments, but the environmental panel will keep an eye on that as well."
Ms Neo Gim Huay, managing director of enterprise development and sustainability at Temasek Holdings, a project partner, said: "We would like the rejuvenated Mandai nature precinct to be a destination for all Singaporeans as well as set a gold standard for environmental sustainability."
Ms Carrie Kwik, executive director of tourism concept development at the Singapore Tourism Board said the Government would work with MPH to ensure the area's "sensitive development and management" .
MPH said a ground-breaking ceremony could take place by the end of the year, kicking off the construction of infrastructure like boardwalks, aviaries and conference facilities.
Mr Subaraj added: "Although we've put up a plan, it doesn't mean this is the final plan. There're still ways we can improve and make it even better." For the full report, go to www.mandai.com/eia.