With 40 per cent of Singapore’s 197km coastline to be barricaded in the coming years to beef up security, the authorities have reiterated that further studies will be conducted if there is a need to better understand the barriers’ impact on the surroundings — especially if they are near sensitive areas such as nature reserves or marine and coastal areas.
Questions on the impact of barriers being built off the Kranji and Poyan reservoirs were raised recently on the Wild Shores of Singapore blog, run by nature enthusiast Ria Tan.
The Kranji and Poyan barriers are not part of the additional 80km announced by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in October. Work on the barriers near the reservoirs started in August and will be completed in January 2016, a Singapore Police Force spokesperson said.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and four other Government agencies had reviewed the proposal for any potential environmental concerns, a URA spokesperson told TODAY. The police is to do environmental monitoring and put in place mitigating measures such as silt control during construction.
The police were required to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Kranji barriers, but not for the Poyan ones.
“As the coastline next to Poyan Reservoir consisted mainly of seawalls, approval was given for the installation of sea-based barriers, on condition that the physical structures would not impede the movement of water-based plants and animals, and that the sediment plumes be kept to a minimum during construction,” said Dr Lena Chan, director of the National Parks Board’s National Biodiversity Centre.
The EIA for the Kranji barriers was to ascertain the potential impact on existing biodiversity areas and aquaculture facilities nearby, said the URA. Mitigation measures for the Kranji stretch included building the fences on land to minimise disturbance to the inter-tidal environments.
The Kranji-Mandai area is home to some rare and endangered mangrove plants. Dr Hsu Chia Chi, who started the Nature Society (Singapore)’s horseshoe crab research and rescue programme, said the mangroves also have one of the highest published densities of Mangrove horseshoe crabs.
Speaking in his personal capacity, Dr Hsu said he found out in September 2012 about the barriers to be built in the Kranji-Mandai area. The society’s Marine Conservation Group asked the Police Coast Guard for more information about the project and offered to provide data about the area’s flora and fauna if needed.
It was important for the mangroves and mudflats not to be impacted by the siting of the fences. “If the barriers are done properly and access is allowed to people who use the area responsibly, the fences may not be a bad thing. Now, when it’s wide open, you do find abandoned nets, which trap horseshoe crabs,” said Dr Hsu.
If the horseshoe crab population is decimated, migratory birds would be deprived of their eggs and young to feed on, he added.
Wild Shores of Singapore’s Ms Tan agreed that it is important for responsible users to continue to have access to the mangroves and mudflats, but felt the fences “probably will not keep out people who abuse (the) shores”.
It would be ideal for the Kranji barriers to have low openings at intervals to allow crawling or slithering creatures to move between both sides of the fence, and for biodiversity studies to be done before and after barriers are built, said Dr Hsu.