Key step needed in environment assessment process

I applaud the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for engaging various stakeholders regarding the Cross Island MRT Line ("Both possible alignments for CRL will be studied" by Mr Chew Men Leong of the LTA; Feb 22).

However, the letter showed a significant lack of understanding of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which has caused undue stress to residents, businesses and nature lovers.

In the EIA process, scoping is a critical early step that surfaces social, environmental and economic issues before any project or development (in this case an alignment) is conceptualised, so that voices can be heard and decisions can be made with a holistic view in mind.

Leaving out engagement at the scoping stage, while subsequently throwing in a seemingly speculative figure of $2 billion and announcing the possible social impacts after the completion of EIA Phase 1, unsettles the public and is contrary to the goal of constructive, inclusive decision-making.

Nonetheless, there are agencies and projects which are moving towards a much more effective model.

For instance, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and National Parks Board, through the Friends of Ubin Network, put in a valiant effort to engage a relatively diverse group of non-governmental organisations, businesses and residents to understand their needs, concerns and dreams in order to scope out a list of acceptable projects and developments on Pulau Ubin.

I urge agencies to carefully consider their approach to future projects and the engagement process, to avoid polarising the public and to encourage cooperative deliberation instead.

Chen Dexiang

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