Graves, farms to make way for larger Tengah base

Area quarter the size of Clementi town will be added to take in Paya Lebar Air Base assets

SPH Brightcove Video
More than 80,000 graves and six farms will make way for the expansion of Tengah Air Base. This is to facilitate the relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base, which will be freed up for future development.
The view from block 7b at the Chinese Cemetery. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

An air base in the north-western part of Singapore will get new facilities and a substantial injection of land to spread its wings.

To make way, some 80,000 graves will be exhumed, while six farms will be acquired or not have their leases renewed.

The exercise will yield more than 106ha of land - a quarter the size of Clementi town - to enable the 78-year-old Tengah Air Base to expand. It, together with Changi Air Base, will take in the assets of the Paya Lebar Air Base (PLAB), which will move out from 2030.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night that the expansion will allow Tengah Air Base to house aircraft assets, operational flying and support squadrons and other facilities from PLAB.

There will also be a new runway at Tengah Air Base, he said, adding that there will be "net land savings" from the relocation.

The plan to move PLAB was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2013 when he said it would free up 800ha in Paya Lebar for new homes, offices, factories and parks, and also remove height restrictions around the base.

To accommodate a bigger Tengah Air Base, Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, the only active burial ground and the biggest cemetery here, will lose 100ha, a third of its 318ha area.

Some 45,500 Chinese graves and 35,000 Muslim graves will be exhumed in several phases.

Graves older than 17 years will be exhumed first - from the last quarter of 2018 onwards - while newer graves will be exhumed from a date to be announced later.

The Government will bear the costs of exhumation, as well as cremation for Chinese remains and reinternment for Muslim ones.

Meanwhile, the owners of four plots of private land - affecting three fish farms and a nursery - were notified yesterday that they have been acquired, and will have to be handed over by January 2019. They will be compensated based on market value on the date of acquisition.

A vegetable farm whose lease expires in June 2019 will not have it renewed. Egg farm Chew's Agriculture had sold its remaining lease to the Government in May last year, and its lease will lapse in May 2019.

The total affected farm area adds up to about 6.3ha. Some of the farms are worried about finding alternative sites within 18 months. Said Mr Bernard Goh, a supervisor at Sevenseas Fisheries at 17, Murai Farm- way: "It is difficult to find a suitable plot with the right water quality."

A third change will see the existing Lim Chu Kang Road realigned. The affected portion includes a 1.8km heritage road, one of five in Singapore characterised by their tall, mature trees with overarching tree canopies. Agencies are looking at mitigation strategies, including transplanting the trees.

In a joint statement, the Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and Singapore Land Authority said the Government had "considered all alternatives" in developing this plan, and taken into account "our national defence and security needs, as well as the overall benefits of moving PLAB in the longer term".

"Government agencies have, as far as possible, tried to minimise the impact of these works, and affected stakeholders will be given advance notice to make alternative arrangements," they said.

MP Vikram Nair, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence, said: "This is an optimal use of our scarce resources - the military needs land for defence purposes, and we need prime land for other development uses.

"There will be some unhappiness, but hopefully there is enough time for people to make the changes."

• Additional reporting by Yuen Sin

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline Graves, farms to make way for larger Tengah base. Subscribe