Kranji woodland cleared by mistake: How it happened

One of two plots of forested land cleared at Kranji Road, as seen on Feb 22, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - On Jan 13, site developer JTC Corporation suspended clearing works at a site which is part of Kranji woodland. This was after the statutory board discovered excess clearing of the forested area, which had been slated for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park (Afip).

Here is a timeline of what transpired, according to JTC:

July 1, 2011: Land belonging to the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway line is returned to Singapore. This includes a 25ha site around Kranji Road and Kranji Close. The area - which is part of Kranji woodland - was formerly unused scrubland.

2015: The site is set aside for industrial use. The Rail Corridor is re-routed southwards along Woodlands Road after consultations with community stakeholders.

2019: In planning for Afip, JTC and the National Parks Board (NParks) propose the retention of the Rail Corridor as a green corridor that cuts through the development. This plan is exhibited in URA's Draft Master Plan 2019. Fast-growing non-native Albizia trees and scrubland vegetation have grown at the site. No environmental impact assessment is required for the land parcel because it is not close to sensitive nature areas.

May 2019 to July 2019: JTC engages a consultant to execute planning and design works for Afip. The consultant submits a building plan for tree felling and conducts a study that details plants in the area.

August 29, 2019: NParks approves the consultant's request to clear three of 18 plots of land after verifying trees that can be felled.

Clearance of site

March 2, 2020: Site clearance works for one of the three plots, around 1.9ha of land, begins.

June 1, 2020: Wildlife Act comes into effect, which states that those who do not comply with wildlife-related measures for development or works issued by NParks can be fined up to $50,000 and jailed for six months.

Aug 21, 2020: NParks asks for a study detailing the animals in the area and a programme to monitor and manage environmental impact after a resubmitted plan for the Afip shows a new drain that affects a nearby river, Sungei Pang Sua.

August 2020 to September 2020: Four plots of land, around 2.8ha, are cleared while the animal study has been called for. It is unclear whether this clearance was authorised.

Sept 29, 2020: Afip's building plan receives clearance for tree felling from NParks, subject to conditions set on Aug 21, 2020.

November 2020: The consultant, on Nov 3, asks for permission to clear four more plots of land, and on Nov 6 NParks approves only partial clearance of one plot.

Dec 15, 2020: Two plots, around 2.1ha, are cleared.

Dec 23, 2020: A consultant is engaged by JTC to conduct the animal study and draw up an environmental monitoring and management plan.

End-December 2020 to Jan 13: Contractor Huationg clears further plots of land amounting to 4.5ha, larger than the size of the Padang. These were not approved for clearance.

Jan 13, 2021: JTC's project manager discovers the further clearing and immediately suspends all work. About 13ha of vegetated land remains. JTC begins internal investigations.

Jan 15: A stern warning is issued to Huationg.

Feb 16: JTC releases media statement acknowledging the "erroneous" clearing. NParks announces that it is also conducting an investigation to determine if there were breaches to the Parks and Trees Act and Wildlife Act.

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