Forum: Build eco-link at old fire station site

A photo of the recently conserved1956 Bukit Timah Fire Station, taken on Jan 15, 2020.
A photo of the recently conserved1956 Bukit Timah Fire Station, taken on Jan 15, 2020.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

It is heartening to learn that the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) requirements for developers of the 260 Upper Bukit Timah Road site include that it must serve as a base to explore surrounding attractions.

Not only that, developers must also set aside 410 sq m within the site for a visitor centre run by the National Parks Board (Old fire station site ready for spruce-up, Jan 20).

In the article, Mr Andrew Lau, director of The Yards, a former school turned enrichment hub in Telok Kurau, called for the revamped site to "draw on its relationship with nature".

All of this is important as the site is not only a recreational nexus in the area, but also a biodiversity nexus with various rich wildlife habitats such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Bukit Batok Nature Park sitting nearby - but unfortunately separated by a busy road.

An eco-link similar to the one constructed across the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) is sorely needed here, between the nature reserves to the east and Bukit Batok Nature Park to the west.

Right now, a former railway bridge provides a form of connectivity at The Rail Mall just north of Hume Avenue, but the bridge is used by cyclists, hikers and joggers traversing the Rail Corridor, and the areas on both sides of the bridge are fairly developed, making it not conducive to wildlife crossing.

As Bukit Timah Road is not as broad as the BKE, this eco-link can be on a smaller scale. It would be in line with and bolster the planned 5km-long forest corridor at Tengah that aims to connect the western water catchment area and the nature reserves in the central area.

An eco-link would be especially beneficial for the dispersal of animals that move or need to move on the ground to cross roads, such as the Sunda pangolin, civet cat, leopard cat and the many species of reptiles and amphibians that are present in the natural habitats on either side of Bukit Timah Road, minimising roadkill incidents.

Ho Hua Chew (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2020, with the headline 'Build eco-link at old fire station site'. Print Edition | Subscribe