SINGAPORE: Construction work for a new Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) campus on Coney Island will be “carefully planned” to “minimise adverse impact” to the island's flora and fauna, said Outbound Bound Singapore (OBS) on Tuesday (Jun 8).
“In line with our Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) during construction, we will also work with NParks (National Parks Board) on the careful handling of wildlife found within our developmental site, and the transplanting and re-planting of flora,” said a spokesperson.
OBS announced on Friday in a Facebook post that it had begun construction of a new campus on Coney Island as part of a “necessary expansion” of its campuses.
Facebook users left comments on the post expressing concern over possible destruction of the local flora and fauna, with several questioning the need for a new OBS campus.
In response to CNA’s queries, OBS said on Tuesday that the new campus was part of the Government’s efforts to expand outdoor adventure education for all students through the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan announced during Budget 2016.
OBS@Coney will be “instrumental” in developing “social cohesion, ruggedness and resilience” among youth in Singapore, said a spokesperson.
OBS noted that the area used for OBS@Coney is on reclaimed land zoned for sports and recreation. Its location is close to the Pulau Ubin campus and connected to mainland Singapore, providing greater access to training areas and more flexibility to use expanded areas on mainland Singapore.
“As OBS embarks on the development of OBS@Coney, we strive to minimise environmental impact while maintaining the quality and safety of our programmes.
“OBS has been working closely in consultation with the National Parks Board (NParks), nature groups and various stakeholders to incorporate their feedback and suggestions for the development of OBS@Coney,” said the spokesperson.
OBS said on its website that the Coney Island campus will occupy about 10 per cent of the island and will feature “new advanced obstacle courses”, with the aim of catering to a “larger profile of participants”.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY
According to OBS, an environmental impact study completed in 2018 looked into minimising the environmental impact of OBS@Coney.
Recommendations and insights from the study were incorporated into the design of the campus, which will integrate nature and include eco-friendly features such as rainwater harvesting to reduce potable water usage.
It will also optimise natural ventilation to reduce reliance on air-conditioning, said the spokesperson, adding that OBS had consulted nature groups on introducing greenery into the campus to enhance biodiversity.
In addition, OBS has invited members of the public to provide feedback on environmental sustainability in OBS programmes or environmental mitigating measures for the construction of OBS@Coney.
DEVELOPMENT HAS "POSITIVE ASPECTS": ACRES
CNA reached out to the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), which was one of the nature groups consulted for the campus.
CEO Anbarasi Boopal told CNA that ACRES observed “positive aspects” in the OBS development, including creating new habitats for animals, promoting coexistence through education programmes in the long run and incorporating natural design elements.
The local wildlife group was consulted once in early May for its thoughts on the developments, recommendations and mitigation measures from the environmental impact study. ACRES was also asked for its opinion on the ecological principles behind the design and operations of the facility.
The group shared feedback on the design, construction and operations of the campus, said Ms Anbarasi.
On the design front, ACRES recommended that there should be no food provision for wildlife - directly or indirectly - around the premises.
It also requested that the wild pigs on the island not be removed or culled while clearing the land.
“We also shared concerns on more clarity on wildlife management measures on site during the clearing, offered to conduct briefing for on-site personnel for heightened awareness on wildlife encounters and other aspects such as wildlife-friendly construction measures,” said Ms Anbarasi.
Wildlife-friendly construction measures could include the use of erosion blankets that do not trap small burrowing snakes.
As the design elements would create new habitats that could attract wildlife such as bats and civets, ACRES urged OBS to “strongly incorporate” coexistence into its site management measures when the campus is operating, said Ms Anbarasi.
She added that wildlife, such as bees, sighted on campus should not be treated or managed as pests. Any native wildlife that has to be removed from the building must be released within the island and not relocated unless the assessment calls for it.
The organisation pointed out as well that the campus could be used by animals as a connecting site to cross over.
“Clearing forests will undoubtedly affect wildlife in any site and loss of greenery, whose land use is already designated on the master plan.
“However, certain measures such as preserving trees of a certain width, restricting night time activities to allow natural behaviour of nocturnal animals and stricter measures on site with animal sightings ... will help minimise the impact,” said Ms Anbarasi.
“Additionally, we observed that the site development includes creating terrestrial and aquatic habitats, green buffers, other nature-friendly practices such as reusing the certain trees for the development itself and water treatment facility on-site.
“We appreciate that the design itself has quite a few sustainability measures in place and encourages wildlife to enter. We do hope that these measures are adhered to and are adopted by more development sites in Singapore.”