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Land the size of over 60 football fields to be reclaimed to expand Woodlands Checkpoint

Land the size of over 60 football fields to be reclaimed to expand Woodlands Checkpoint
JTC Corporation and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said about 34ha of land will be reclaimed on the western side of the Causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore, and 10ha on the eastern side.
PHOTO: The Straits Times/Shintaro Tay

SINGAPORE - About 44ha of land will be reclaimed as part of works to expand the Woodlands Checkpoint - a smaller area than what was initially studied, so as to minimise the impact on the environment.

JTC Corporation and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said about 34ha of land will be reclaimed on the western side of the Causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore, and 10ha on the eastern side.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted by JTC had studied a larger reclamation area - 36.4ha on the western side and 30.2ha on the eastern end.

The size of the area has been reduced to 44ha - the size of more than 60 football fields - to minimise the environmental impact of reclamation work, said the agencies in response to queries. This will also maximise the distance between the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat nature park and reclaimed land on the western side.

Reclamation is tentatively scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2024 and slated to be completed by 2029.

Works on the western side will be conducted in two phases, and take about five years to complete. The smaller eastern side will take about three years and four months.

The redeveloped Woodlands Checkpoint is expected to span about 95ha - almost five times the size of the current 19ha checkpoint - and aims to cut average clearance time from 60 minutes to 15 minutes during peak periods across all vehicle types, among other improvements.

Reducing the size of the eastern reclaimed area would move it farther away from the Woodlands Waterfront Jetty and decrease the presence of suspended sediments at the jetty, the EIA report showed.

The initial area studied had a 75m distance between the reclaimed portion and the jetty, while the final profile is about 620m away from the jetty.

JTC, which is the government agency overseeing Singapore's industrial spaces, had made the 600-page report available for public viewing from Jan 29 to Feb 26 at JTC Summit, subject to the signing of a non-disclosure agreement.

ICA and JTC said mitigation measures will be put in place, and reclamation works carefully planned such that there is only slight to moderate impact on marine ecology and biodiversity in the area.

The reclamation could result in the loss of about 35ha of subtidal seabed - areas that are submerged most of the time - though the agencies noted that the density of benthic fauna - animals that live on the sea floor - in that area was found to be low.

But the EIA found a high density of macrobenthic organisms - those that live at the bottom of a water body - in sediment samples from the mudflat near the western reclamation site.

To protect these organisms, JTC and ICA said reclamation will be "carefully planned" so that it would not overlap with the mudflat. Silt screens will be installed as part of measures to minimise the smothering effect on fauna in the area.

The report showed that mangroves at the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat nature park have the highest species diversity for birds compared with three other surveyed areas at the coastal belts adjoining the park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Kranji Nature Trail.

Fifty-five species of birds identified are listed on at least one red list of threatened species. Of these, five are critically endangered locally, including the great-billed heron and black-tailed godwit.

The mangroves at the nature park also have significant conservation value, with the report identifying 12 major species and five minor species of mangroves.

JTC and ICA said they will review feedback received from the public before finalising the report and starting reclamation works. The agencies will also work with the appointed contractor to develop an environmental management and monitoring plan.

Other efforts include training the main contractor's staff on what to do if they encounter wildlife.

Trees will also be checked for wildlife nests. If an active bird nest is found, the tree will be retained until the chicks are able to fly, the agencies added.

JTC said it will try to avoid seawall construction activities and marine works within 100m of the mudflat from September to March - the period when migratory birds such as the endangered great knot are found in Singapore.

The agency is also trialling the use of artificial intelligence to monitor birds in Mandai to complement manual bird counting surveys.

"If the pilot trial is successful, machine learning will provide reliable real-time bird count data, minimise human intrusion in biodiversity areas, ensure surveyor safety from natural predators, and reduce errors in bird counting," it added.

To reduce the loss of native biodiversity within the nature park, JTC will work with the National Parks Board to collect suitable fruits and seeds for replanting at a suitable location.

A 3m-tall barrier will be installed along the shoreline of Woodlands Waterfront Park to reduce noise from the reclamation works.

The report also recommended having a dedicated path from Woodlands Road to serve construction vehicles to the western reclamation site, so that the impact to traffic to and from the checkpoint would be minimal.

In addition, the MPA Flotsam Jetty, where garbage collection vessels transport waste to shore for disposal, will be relocated as it falls within the eastern site. Plans for the jetty's relocation are being studied by the authorities.

Woodlands Checkpoint will be redeveloped in several phases over the next 10 to 15 years.

The first phase, comprising an extension at the Old Woodlands Town Centre and Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE), is targeted to be completed progressively from 2028, and fully operational by 2032.

As part of the BKE extension, a direct route to the expressway will be created for vehicles exiting the checkpoint to ease peak-hour congestion on the roads. The surrounding road networks will also be upgraded to improve traffic flow.

The BKE extension will be aligned with the eastern edge of Marsiling Park to avoid a mangrove area in the western side of the park, the agencies said.

The extension will also have minimal overlap with a freshwater stream in the park, to lessen the effects on water quality.

ALSO READ: Woodlands Checkpoint to grow 5 times its current size, expansion work to start in 2025

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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