Environmental impact assessment covering 122ha in Bukit Batok to start at end of year

Upcoming works in the nature corridor will include a new pedestrian bridge that will link the former Bukit Timah Fire Station and Bukit Batok Nature Park (pictured). PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An environmental impact assessment covering 122ha of forested areas that make up the Bukit Batok Nature Corridor will begin at the end of the year.

Its results will guide the development of two new nature parks that form part of the corridor, said Mr Ryan Lee, group director of the National Parks Board's National Biodiversity Centre.

The first, Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park, is slated to open in 2024, while the second, Bukit Batok Central Nature Park, does not currently have a launch date.

Although the two parks cover only 24.5ha, or about a fifth of the study area, Mr Lee said studying a wide range of green areas beyond the two parks will provide NParks with a more complete and holistic understanding of ecological connections within the corridor.

Announced last December, the Bukit Batok Nature Corridor acts as a highway for animals between the Central Catchment area and the upcoming Tengah Forest Corridor. It will comprise more than 125ha of nature parks and 10km of trails.

Mr Lee said this is the first time NParks is covering several green areas and future parks in an environmental impact assessment, in line with its efforts to reduce fragmentation of habitats in Singapore.

To this end, NParks had in July announced that an ecological profiling exercise is under way. It will map routes between forest plots for wildlife, allowing planners to account for ecological connectivity amid future development.

Mr Lee said that based on findings from the exercise, future environmental studies are expected to consider the ecological connectivity of the development site to other adjacent habitats.

Enhancement works in the nature corridor's two parks will mainly consist of habitat restoration and other works that will help improve ecological connectivity, he added.

Other upcoming works in the nature corridor include a new pedestrian bridge that will link the former Bukit Timah Fire Station and Bukit Batok Nature Park.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, a conservationist, noted that environmental studies conducted in Singapore have tended to focus on a specific site.

This study's approach, which accounts for impacts on neighbouring sites as well, is consistent with new ecological science, he said.

He added that the study is timely as there is an urgent need to forge connectivity for wildlife between isolated green patches within the nature corridor.

While wildlife like strong bird flyers can move from point to point easily, animals on the ground like reptiles and amphibians may find their movement between forest patches hampered by roads and development, said Dr Ho.

By being close to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the green areas in the corridor could serve as extended foraging or home grounds for forest-dependent wildlife from the nature reserve, said Dr Ho, noting that the reserve may have exceeded its carrying capacity - the maximum population of a species that an area can support without environmental degradation.

Assessing how connectivity for forest wildlife could be facilitated to improve their dispersal or propagation is thus important, said Dr Ho.

One species that may benefit from this wide-area study is the globally critically endangered straw-headed bulbul, he added.

Straw-headed bulbul. PHOTO: FRANCIS YAP

"Singapore is a globally important stronghold for this bird species and it is a huge national obligation on our part to do our utmost best to ensure that it will do well here in the long-term, as we are a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity," said Dr Ho.

The study is expected to take about 15 months upon commencement, and its findings will be made public.

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