Satellite images show over 8ha of Kranji woodland was cleared almost a year before JTC knew

SINGAPORE – Satellite images of Kranji woodland shared on social media on Thursday (Feb 18) showed over 8ha of forested land being cleared since last March, nearly a year before developer JTC Corporation knew about the mistake.

This is almost half of the site slated for the Agri-Food Innovation Park, which is equivalent to 33 football fields, and over 10 per cent of the 70ha woodland area.

The images of the unauthorised clearance of the land parcel around Kranji Road and Kranji Close come after JTC told The Straits Times on Tuesday that the “erroneous” clearing started last December before environmental assessments were complete.

Independent checks by ST on Global Forest Watch – a monitoring service run by World Resources Institute that uses satellite data – revealed forested land disappearing from March 1, 2020.

Green patches totalling at least 8ha – or 11 football fields – were cleared by Jan 25, according to satellite Sentinel-2B used as part of Europe’s Copernicus Earth-monitoring project.

Photos on Google Street View also showed a sign saying “proposed site clearance and earthworks at Kranji Road for Plot 9” at the deforested land next to Kranji Road last September.

On Tuesday, a JTC spokesman said the mistake was discovered on Jan 13, more than a month before aerial images of the deforestation were posted on social media on Sunday.

JTC added that an environmental specialist was engaged to carry out a Biodiversity Baseline Study last December to work out an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan for specified plots of land, which were expected to be completed in April.

Following these assessments, the statutory board said that it had “plans to engage key stakeholders, including nature groups, to discuss its development plans”.

On discovering the error on Jan 13, JTC ordered all clearing works to stop and issued a stern warning to the contractor, it added.

According to a book published by Nature Society (Singapore), titled The Green Rail Corridor, the forested area cleared for the park is part of Kranji Woodland-Scrubland, spanning about 70ha.

A rapid survey from the rail corridor found 47 species of birds – a mix of resident and migratory species – which account for 12 per cent of Singapore’s total records.

On Tuesday, the National Parks Board (NParks) said it was investigating the unauthorised clearance.

Under the Parks and Trees Act, it is illegal to fell a tree with a girth exceeding 1m growing on any vacant land, whether within or outside a tree conservation area, except with the approval of NParks.

ST has contacted JTC for comments.

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