Date
31 March 2017
This tropical rainforest in the heart off Singapore is the subject of protests by activists opposed to a government plan to build a railway tunnel under it. Photo: Internet
This tropical rainforest in the heart off Singapore is the subject of protests by activists opposed to a government plan to build a railway tunnel under it. Photo: Internet

No go for rail tunnel under Singapore rainforest, say activists

Singapore environmentalists are protesting a planned railway tunnel under a patch of prime rainforest, saying it could irreversibly damage the habitats of hundreds of plant and animal species.

They are appealing to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to re-route the 50-kilometer Cross Island Line around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve near the MacRitchie Reservoir, rather than through it, Reuters reports.

The government is spending billions of dollars to upgrade its Mass Rapid Transit system to cope with a rising population in one of the most densely populated countries which penalises car ownership through hefty taxes.

But the LTA’s plan is not going down well with nature lovers, which are organising guided walks around the reserve, exhibitions and talks, and producing music videos to lobby for the route to be changed. 

An online petition supporting the re-routing of the line away from the nature reserve has received more than 7,790 signatures.

“A lot of our forests have already been lost to development and we can’t afford to lose much more of them because there’s so little left,” said Sankar Ananthanarayanan, co-founder of the Herpetological Society and a life-sciences university student.

A network of freshwater streams in the reserve supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including more than 1,000 species of flowering plants and over 500 species of animals.

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said in a letter in the Straits Times Forum page this week that taking the new line around the reserve would cost an extra S$2 billion (US$1.4 billion).

Industry experts estimate the overall cost could  be as much as S$40.7 billion.

He said the government is studying both options for the underground route but had not yet made a decision.

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FL/RA

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