More than 12,000 signatures to re-think MRT line under nature reserve

Volunteers speak about how the Cross Island Line will affect the central catchment area as they lead a nature tour in MacRitchie Nature Reserve, on March 19, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - A letter containing the signatures of more than 10,000 people was sent to the authorities here on Monday (June 6), to rethink possible plans to build an MRT tunnel under Singapore's largest nature reserve.

The signatures were collected by the Love Our MacRitchie volunteer group, and addressed to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan. The letter was also also sent to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and other officials in the ministries of Transport, National Development and Social and Family Development.

In all, 12,364 signatures were collected between June 17, 2013 and May 5, 2016.

The letter is the latest development in protests against the upcoming 50km Cross Island Line, first announced in 2013 as a link between Changi and Jurong. When the line was first announced, preliminary plans showed it cutting through primary and secondary forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve near MacRitchie Reservoir.

Nature groups, alarmed by the environmental harm which be caused by the construction and operation of an underground MRT line through the reserve, suggested the line be built along Lornie Road. This alternate route goes around the reserve.

Since then, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has conducted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) which looked at the impact of both routes on their surroundings.

The first phase of this assessment, which looked at the impact of soil works, was announced in February 2016.

Among other things, the report said the impact of works on the reserve would be kept to "moderate" levels if mitigating measures, such as the use of enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge, are effectively carried out. For the alternative route around the reserve, the impact of soil investigation works along Lornie Road was deemed to be "negligible", and "minor" for areas near Venus Drive and a golf course.

The LTA has said that soil works to see if the ground is suitable for this will start in the third quarter of this year, and that the second phase of the environmental assessment will be completed by the end of this year.

The Government has stressed that the decision on whether to build through or around the reserve is still being mulled over.

"Ensuring that urban development does not harm the nature reserve will ensure that future generations will continue to reap the benefits of having healthy and intact rainforests in the heart of our city," said Miss Chloe Tan, a Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer, in the letter.

The LTA said it has received the letter.

Said a spokesman: "LTA acknowledges receipt of the petition letter from Love Our MacRitchie Forest, which contains signatures dating back to 2013."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.