SINGAPORE: The Government aims to strike a balance between the conservation of green spaces, and the development of homes and amenities for the future needs of Singaporeans, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Thursday (Jan 28).
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee said he visited Ulu Pandan on Wednesday, accompanied by representatives from the National Parks Board (NParks), Nature Society (Singapore) and Singapore Youth Voices for Biodiversity.
Ulu Pandan is the site of Dover Forest, a 33ha piece of land that has been zoned for residential development.
The two nature groups have urged the Government to reconsider developing Ulu Pandan, one of several areas where the Housing Board (HDB) plans to offer 17,000 Build-to-Order flats this year.
Conserving greenery and providing people with homes "are both important needs", said Mr Lee, adding that "we should not rush into a decision".
Because of the housing needs of Singaporeans, the Government has had to take land “set aside by earlier generations and develop (the land) for its intended purpose,” Mr Lee said. Some land, like Dover Forest, has become “green and vegetated over time", he added.
Where rubber plantations, fruit orchards and kampongs once stood, the forest is now overgrown with “mostly Albizia trees”, the minister said.
The forest is home to at least 158 species of animals - including critically endangered ones - and 120 plant species, according to an HDB environmental study.
Nature Society (Singapore) has proposed that the entirety of Dover Forest be conserved as a "public-cum-nature-park", citing its importance as a "stepping stone for wildlife connectivity", linking forests in the Southern Ridges to areas such as Bukit Batok Nature Park and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Mr Lee said the authorities will “study all the feedback received in detail, as we consider possible plans for the site”, highlighting that the Government has in the past protected several ecologically important sites such as Thomson Nature Park, Dairy Farm Nature Park, Rifle Range Nature Park and Khatib Bongsu that were initially set aside for development.
For development near areas of significant biodiversity like Dover Forest, “we proceed with care,” he added.
“As far as possible, we seek to preserve and integrate natural elements within developments, to facilitate ecological connectivity. … We will consult the community, and share more detailed plans and ideas when ready.”