SINGAPORE: Plots of land earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park in Kranji were "erroneously" cleared ahead of the conclusion of a commissioned study and a "stern warning" has been issued to the contractor involved, said JTC Corp on Tuesday (Feb 16).
In a statement, JTC referred to social media posts regarding the clearance of land at Kranji Road and Kranji Close, saying the area that had been cleared was earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park.
The Agri-Food Innovation Park is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District. About 18 hectares of land has been set aside for the first phase of development for the Agri-Food Innovation Park in the district to co-locate research and development, prototyping and high-tech farming operations such as indoor farming and aquaculture hatcheries.
As part of JTC’s preparations to develop the Agri-Food Innovation Park, it had engaged an environmental specialist to carry out a biodiversity baseline study in December last year, and to work out an environmental monitoring and management plan for specified plots of land within the area, it said.
The study and the plan were expected to be completed around April, following which JTC would engage key stateholders, including nature groups, to discuss development plans, it said.
On Jan 13, however, JTC discovered during a site inspection that its contractor had erroneously begun clearing some plots of land prior to the conclusion of the baseline study and environmental monitoring plan for those areas, it said.
"Upon this discovery, JTC instructed the contractor to stop all clearing works immediately. Since then, no further clearing has taken place on site and the contractor has been issued a stern warning," it said.
In a separate statement, contractor Huationg said it has complied with JTC's instruction to stop all clearing works.
“We apologise for the erroneous clearing of land and are working with JTC on ongoing investigations to determine the cause of this lapse, and to prevent future occurrences,” said Huationg.
The company is also conducting an internal review and working with JTC to strengthen its project management processes, it added.
JTC said it "takes a very serious view of this incident" and is investigating how the error occurred before deciding whether further punitive measures need to be taken.
"Going forward, JTC will continue with the baseline study and environmental monitoring and management plan and will work closely with all relevant stakeholders, including URA, NParks, nature interest groups and the community, to ensure that the Sungei Kadut Eco-District redevelopment plans are carried out with due consultation and in an environmentally responsible and sensitive manner," it said.
The findings of the studies will be made public when ready, it added.
On Monday, the Nature Society Singapore shared a Facebook post showing cleared swathes of land in the area.
"This is a shocking and dreadful development in an important green area contiguous to the Rail Corridor," said Nature Society Singapore, referring to aerial shots of the area taken in May 2019 and February 2021.
The Sungei Kadut Eco-District is part of the Northern Agri-Tech and Food Corridor and is one of the nodes that will be connected via the 24km Rail Corridor. The land 15m to 20m to the left and right of the Rail Corridor has been "safeguarded to protect biodiversity within the belt of the existing forest", JTC said.