Mandai makeover to tread with care

New moves to lower impact on wildlife follow concerns over adverse effects on environment

A massive makeover of Mandai into a hub with five wildlife parks could start early next year, but with new measures in place to address concerns about negative effects on the environment.

The developer, Mandai Park Holdings, has promised six new measures to minimise the hub's impact on the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

These include plans to locate a visitor arrival node at least 10m from a freshwater stream, and retain a forested strip that can serve as a link for wildlife to cross into the neighbouring nature reserve.

There will be no construction work at night, said the developer, adding that it will conduct long-term noise monitoring at the fringe of the reserve. The measures follow a month-long public consultation, with talks between the developer, nature groups and the public.

An initial environmental assessment report released in July had set out six other mitigation measures, including one that swops the locations of the new Rainforest Park and Bird Park, such that existing trees do not have to be cleared.

Mandai Park Holdings earlier told The Straits Times that discussions were prolonged to accommodate recommendations in the report, although it is "still on track with development timeline".

The developer, which reached out to nature groups about its plans from as early as 2012, declined to reveal the number of pieces of feedback it had received.

But Mr Mike Barclay, Mandai Park Holdings group chief executive, said: "We have listened carefully to all the feedback, and strengthened the mitigation measures associated with the project to help ensure we can deliver an enhanced Mandai nature precinct, of which we can all be proud."

Plans to turn leafy Mandai into a hub of five wildlife parks with two additions - the relocated Bird Park from Jurong, and the new Rainforest Park - by 2023 were announced in June, sparking environmental concerns.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said he was glad to see that a green corridor would be retained on the Bird Park site. He said: "While the new measures are all good and worthy points, half of them, such as plans to reduce noise pollution and contingency plans for escaped animals, should be standard protocol."

National University of Singapore ecologist David Tan agreed, saying: "Plans to deal with noise pollution should have been a key consideration in the first place, given the rich nocturnal biodiversity of the area and voluminous research showing the negative effects of noise pollution on animals - such as depressing animal activity and reducing the lifespan of birds."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Mandai makeover to tread with care'. Print Edition | Subscribe