Parliament: Environmental study, wildlife shepherding plan to be done in Tengah

A map showing the five new housing districts in Tengah, which will be Singapore's first "forest town".
A map showing the five new housing districts in Tengah, which will be Singapore's first "forest town".PHOTO: HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD

SINGAPORE - The animals in Tengah, a secondary forest area in western Singapore where the Republic's first "forest town" will be built, will get help in finding new homes when developmental works start.

Wildlife will be shepherded to adjacent vegetated areas unaffected by development in the short term. This will help reduce the potential impact of works on wildlife, Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament on Tuesday (April 4).

The Housing and Development Board (HDB), which is building a new town the size of Bishan in Tengah, will also be conducting an environmental baseline study to better understand the topography, hydrology, flora and existing wildlife in the area, said Mr Lee.

"We will share the key findings of the study with the public in due course," he told the House.

Mr Lee was responding to a question from Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who had asked if the Ministry of National Development would make public the results of all environmental impact assessments or studies done in relation to the development of Tengah. He also asked what the ministry's plans were for existing wildlife living in that area.

HDB's decision to conduct a wildlife shepherding plan in Tengah follows a similar move by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2016.

A 30ha plot in Lentor designated for private housing was gradually cleared so that animals are herded to nearby green areas, such as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The URA's move had helped to save several animals, including the critically endangered Sunda pangolin and the flying lemur. These were relocated or shepherded to nearby green plots.

In Tengah, nine species of birds threatened with extinction have been spotted in the secondary forests there, including the changeable hawk eagle and the red-wattled lapwing, according to the Nature Society (Singapore).

Tengah is the first new town to be developed since Punggol two decades ago, and is touted by the Government as a "green" town boasting a car-free town centre and a 5km "forest corridor" with hiking trails. It will also have a forest corridor that will serve as a wildlife connector between the Western Water Catchment Area and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Located between Jurong East to the south, Choa Chu Kang to the north and Bukit Batok to the east, the Tengah area today is largely forest and scrubland. But it will eventually contain 42,000 new homes: 30,000 units of public housing and 12,000 of private housing. The first public flats there will be launched in 2018.

Mr Ng told The Straits Times he was heartened to see that a baseline study on wildlife would be done in Tengah, and that HDB would also be considering a wildlife shepherding programme.

"It is important to balance our needs for developments with the need for conservation and wildlife protection. I look forward to our dialogues with HDB on this and working with them to incorporate public feedback before the plans are finalised," he said.

"I hope that the public will be given sufficient time to review the study results and provide their feedback to HDB."