Save Bidadari's bird haven: Nature society

SINGAPORE - Nature conservationists are urging the Housing Board to preserve a section of forested land which has been earmarked for the new Bidadari estate.

Doing so would allow migratory birds flying in from the north during the winter months between September and April to find a nesting place in the former Muslim cemetery, said the Nature Society (Singapore).

An alternative, said Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairman of the society's conservation committee, is to relocate a 10ha park set to be built in the centre of the upcoming estate to the green lung along Bartley Road.

"The planned area for the park in the middle of the housing blocks is quite open, with fewer trees for the birds to rest," said Dr Ho. "Migratory paths of birds flying in from temperate regions in the north would also be blocked by the buildings."

A three-page document, outlining the group's suggestions to relocate the park, was sent to the HDB last month.

The society said it has sought a "compromise... between preserving an area with such invaluable assets and the need for housing developments".

A spokesman for HDB told The Sunday Times on Saturday "that a wide range of feedback" has been received "from members of the public, as well as various stakeholders, including the Nature Society".

"We are studying the feedback and suggestions collectively and holistically to see how best we can take the various views into account as we refine our plans," she added.

When completed in 2018, the 93ha estate - bounded by Sennett Estate, Bartley, Upper Serangoon and Mount Vernon roads - is expected to accommodate about 11,000 HDB units.

Nature lovers like Associate Professor Tan Leng Seow are hoping that the existing forest along Bartley Road can be preserved for its rich diversity of flora and fauna. "Bidadari is like an oasis in our built-up environment," said the 62-year-old.

Birds, too, apparently prefer the Bidadari forest to the green area in Woodleigh Park located to its left across Upper Serangoon Road.

Pointing to the less compact vegetation in the neighbouring park, Dr Ho said: "In terms of variety of species in an area, Bidadari is the richest in terms of bird species that the society knows of."

The close proximity of houses to the Woodleigh forest also explains why migratory birds prefer nesting in Bidadari, said Dr Ho, a bird-watcher of 30 years.

Two endangered species - the brown-chested jungle flycatcher and the japanese paradise flycatcher - are also most frequently sighted in Bidadari compared with other birdwatching spots in Singapore.

A bird photographer of seven years, research scientist Mithilesh Mishra, 38, said about 12 brown-chested jungle flycatchers were spotted in Bidadari - the highest number spotted in Singapore yet.

For Dr Ho, this signals an intensifying ecological need to protect the "priceless assets" like the "birds and the existing habitat".

The relocation of the park can also benefit more than just the bird life, Dr Ho said. "More Singaporeans are looking for more natural areas to live near to fulfil their recreational, spiritual and leisurely needs, instead of gravitating towards neat and manicured parks."

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