Ever since the story of the “erroneous” clearance of the Kranji woodland surfaced, I’ve managed to convince my boss that while I make countless mistakes every day, it’s nothing compared to killing hundreds of trees accidentally.
Which then begs the questions: how the heck could someone make such a big mistake? Who’s really at fault? And why was it mentioned that the clearing happened in December 2020 but satellite images showed that the area was cleared since March 2020?
Today, we finally got the answers, and let’s just say that if you’ve made a mistake and are contemplating on whether to admit your mistake to your boss, now’s the best time: just do it and then go, “Yes, boss, I’m sorry, but if even a big company like JTC can make mistakes, I think my mistake is nothing.”
But before anything, here’s a brief recap: it all started on 14 Feb 2021, when Facebook user Brice Li, who once did a video about Kranji woodland and is therefore very familiar with the area, posted this:
Parts of the woodland (for your info, “woodland” refers to a piece of land filled with trees) has been cleared, which made him wonder what had gone on since no one knew anything about any development in the area.
And then, two days later, JTC responded, saying that parts of the woodland were earmarked for clearance to make way for an Agri-Food Innovation Park that would be part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District.
But here’s the thing: a biodiversity baseline study was commissioned in December 2020, and it shouldn’t be cleared yet. JTC realised its contractor, Huationg, had started clearing the land on 13 Jan and told them to stop immediately.
Okay, a big (honest) mistake but hey: the plot thickened a day later when satellite images showed that the woodland has been cleared since March 2020.
Today, all questions are answered.
Land That Would Be Cleared
For a start, let’s address the pressing question: how much land would be cleared?
The Agri-Food Innovation Park will take 25ha. As of now, 11.9has has been cleared, while 13.1ha of trees have been untouched.
Based on preliminary findings, 4.5ha of land was erroneously cleared—that’s about six football fields.
Wait a moment; how can there be an “erroneous” clearing when the so-called baseline study wasn’t completed? Surely no one would have counted their eggs before they’re hatched, right?
Well. This is when you need to know the timeline of what really happened.
Timeline of the Clearing in March 2020
The satellite images were right: the land had been cleared since March 2020.
You see, back in July 2019, the flora baseline study was already completed.
Basically, they know what plants are in the area, because anyone who’s been through the army would know that chionging through a jungle with a parang is not exactly the most efficient way to clear an area.
Later, it turns out that in some areas, trees are falling so they have to clear some land urgently.
So, an area was given permission to be cleared first on March 2020.
That explained the satellite images.
But as we know…after March 2020, it was April 2020.
And in April 2020, PM Lee went up to the podium with his magic cup, and given that this obviously is as non-essential as being an artist, work was stopped there.
Circuit Breaker Ended and Work Started Again
After the Circuit Breaker, work resumed. The consultant needed a new drain in the area, and so they submitted a new plan to NParks.
And because of this new drain, NParks required them to do a fauna baseline study and Environmental Monitoring and Management Programme (EMMP) due to potential pollution caused by sediment run-off.
A fauna baseline study is to look at what animals live in the region.
And so, the consultant, CPG Consultants, looked for a company to do the study…while clearing some parts of the land that weren’t approved by NParks. At least, not yet.
Finally, in December 2020, a company is engaged to do the fauna baseline study.
That’s also when facts about the clearing were revealed.
Everything That Was Reported Prior to Today
Now you know why work has started since March 2020 but it was mentioned a week ago that work only started in December 2020: after the fauna baseline study was initiated, the contractor Huationg started to clear 4.5ha of the land.
JTC project manager discovered the error on 13 Jan and issued a stern warning to the contractor.
Statement Made Due to Public Interest
Without Facebook and Facebook user Brice Li, I might be chilling at home now, but it was his post that caused a public interest that led to JTC releasing a statement and an apology from Huationg, and me having to write this when it’s clearly after office hours.
The public demanded more, and this led to today, whereby the company also held a media conference to explain everything.
JTC Taking Full Responsibility
In today’s media conference, the CEO of JTC said that his company take full responsibility as the project site developer. He added, “We do not run away from this responsibility. We will not, nor do we intend to.
“JTC is now undertaking an internal review of some of its internal processes and procedures to look at whether there are any shortcomings that could have resulted in some of these issues happening on the ground.
“And when that review is completed, we will certainly be looking at how we can improve. We do strive to do better. We acknowledge that we can do better, and we must.”
What’s This Land?
If you’re like me who’s never heard of the land before this incident, hi-5.
If you remember, KTM railway used to go deep into Singapore in the past, so some of the lands around there used to belong to Malaysia. In 2011, the land was handed back to Singapore, and for about ten years, the authorities allowed greenery to grow in the area instead of, you know, building a new HDB there.
It was only in 2019 that the land was earmarked for development.
Investigations Will Go On
The authorities aren’t taking this lightly; a review will be made to assess what lessons could be learned from this incident, and NParks will investigate if there had been any breaches under the Parks and Trees Act and the Wildlife Act.
The findings will be revealed to the public, and it’ll take about three months to complete.
Is this the end of the saga?
Well, it appears so. Unless another satellite image appears, that is.
Featured Image: Facebook (Brice Li)