Two new parks in Bukit Batok to be part of nature corridor connecting Central Catchment and Tengah

The two new parks will be part of the newly announced Bukit Batok Nature Corridor, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee. PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, SOH WEE LING

SINGAPORE - Two new nature parks will add to Bukit Batok's green lustre and be part of a nature corridor that connects the Central Nature Park Network and the future Tengah Forest Corridor.

The first, Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park, will be located between Bukit Batok West Ave 2 and Bukit Batok West Ave 5. The 8.9ha facility, about the size of 12 football fields, is slated to open in 2024.

The second, the 16ha Bukit Batok Central Nature Park, will be in the forested area next to the Civil Service Club @ Bukit Batok, but its launch date will be announced later as the plans for it are still in the works.

The two new parks will be part of the newly announced Bukit Batok Nature Corridor, which will consist of over 125ha of nature parks and 10km of trails,
said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Monday (Dec 7).

Bukit Batok Town Park and Bukit Batok Nature Park, which opened in the 1980s, will also be part of the corridor.

The National Parks Board said it has been working with other agencies on linking Tengah and the Central Catchment since 2014, with other features in the corridor, like the Bukit Gombak Park, set to open next year.

Mr Lee said the parks "act as key stepping stones within the existing network of green spaces between the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Tengah, which provide food and shelter for our native flora and fauna to thrive".

He cited the appearance of the Malayan colugo, a gliding animal, in Bukit Batok Nature Park as an example of how existing park connectors and nature ways between Bukit Batok and the Central Catchment have enhanced connectivity for native species.

He also acknowledged that there have been concerns about the impact of upcoming developments in Bukit Batok and Tengah on biodiversity in these areas, and said that the Government aims to strike a balance between development and nature conservation in its planning approach.

"While we need to develop to meet Singaporeans' needs for housing, infrastructure, healthcare and jobs, we also aim to protect as many of our green spaces as we can," said Mr Lee, who added that "any decision to clear forest cover is made only after careful study of the trade-offs and alternatives".

One result of such an approach is the upcoming Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park. The Ministry of National Development (MND) said in October that it conducted an environmental impact assessment to guide the development of the site, and engaged members of the nature community in August 2019 on the development of the Bukit Batok Hillside Park area, and that "their feedback and suggestions were instrumental in shaping the findings and recommendations of the study".

"For instance, the study recommended retaining a natural stream that runs through the site as well as its catchment area, which nature groups supported," said the ministry.

It added then that both the stream and a catchment area will be retained in the future park. The two features lie in an area that was rezoned from residential use to park use in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Masterplan.

The two new parks "will remain rustic and forested, and NParks will undertake habitat enhancement to further support our biodiversity", said Mr Lee.

He also announced enhancements to the Dairy Farm Nature Park, which is part of the Central Nature Park Network. The network will provide "ecologically inter-dependent habitats for the flora and fauna" of the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves.

One is a new exhibition at the Wallace Education Centre, located in Dairy Farm Nature Park, which was opened by Mr Lee on Monday.

The Wallace Education Centre at the Dairy Farm Nature Park on Dec 7, 2020. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

It is the largest permanent exhibition in Singapore on English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace that introduces visitors to Wallace and his theories of evolution and natural selection, NParks said. It also touches on Singapore's biodiversity and the board's Nature Conservation Masterplan. A section of the centre is equipped with tools like magnifying glasses and microscopes that visitors may use.

Another enhancement is an extension to the Wallace Trail within the park from the original 1km to 2.2km. The extended trail stretches to Hillview MRT station, and includes a new deck that gives visitors an unobstructed view of the secondary forest in Dairy Farm Nature Park.

Together with six other nature parks and the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, the Dairy Farm Nature Park is part of the Central Nature Park Network which Mr Lee said "act as buffers to protect our central nature reserves, which are some of the richest sources of our natural capital, against the impact of urbanisation".

An eighth park - Rifle Range Nature Park - will join the network when it opens in 2022.

Besides enjoying the parks, the public is encouraged to contribute to green spaces and corridors.

Opportunities include tree planting and habitat enhancement activities under NParks' One Million Trees Movement, which was launched in April 2020 and aims to plant more than a million trees in Singapore over a decade.

To support the propagation and nurturing of saplings planted in the movement, at least 10 community nurseries will be built across the island over the next three years, including one at Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The first such nursery was launched on Monday at Dairy Farm Nature Park, a third enhancement of the facility. Volunteers can grow nature plants that were collected as seeds or wildlings on trails at the nursery.

When they reach a suitable maturity, the saplings are then replanted in the forest.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (third from left) and National Development Minister Desmond Lee (in blue shirt) at the Dairy Farm Nature Park Community Nursery on Dec 7, 2020. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The first nursery was set up with the support of a $160,000 donation from HSBC to NParks' registered charity, the Garden City Fund.

Mr Tony Cripps, HSBC Singapore's chief executive, said: "HSBC is proud to be a partner of this initiative, which aligns with our own global climate ambition to support the transition to a net-zero future.

"We believe that these learning nurseries and the community involvement will enable greater appreciation of the importance of ecosystems and biodiversity that surround us."

Keen to explore more of Singapore? Check out ST's picks for the top 5 heritage trails here.

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