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Singapore's Controversial Cross-Island Line

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Neha Donde

Credit: Shutterstock


With the Thomson-East Coast MRT line newly opened in Singapore, it’s time to look into its origin, one of Singapore’s most controversial MRT lines: the Cross-Island line. The cross island line phase 1 is set to open in 2030, while phase 2 is planned to open in 2032. While its addition to Singapore’s current MRT system will help connect many parts of the island, the construction of the cross-Island line sparked outrage amongst environmental groups for its negative environmental impact.


According to Strait’s Times, the tunnelling required to build it calls for “3ha of forests next to the reserve - the size of four football fields - to be cleared” (Tan). The MRT is projected to run about 70 meters below the surface of the reserve. However, the MRT line will need two plots of ventilation, causing there will be a loss of habitat bordering reserve boundaries for critically endangered species such as the Sunda Pangolin and Raffles Banded Langur. With only 60 banded langurs and 100 pangolins left in Singapore, these species are at the forefront of environmental biodiversity related concerns. These two species are considered specialists, meaning small changes to their environment cause drastic effects on their population size. This type of habitat loss, the creation of edge habitat, is especially damaging to their populations and other specialist flora and fauna native to Singapore.


There are a few implementations either planned for the future or in place today that experts think may help mitigate the loss of habitat. Each strategy, however, comes with its own set of issues. The first is re-planting near the site of MRT construction. The millions of years of biodiversity that evolved to form those rainforests can’t easily be replaced, and therefore this strategy is not as effective as it seems. The next is the instalment rope bridges and poles to assist certain species, such as the Raffles banded langur, to move amongst forest patches. According to Andie Ang, and expert in non-human primates and the chair of Raffles banded langur working group funded by Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s conservation fund, this ‘solution’ may cause an increase in roadkill as it’ll take time for the primates to get used to them and begin using them. In order to counteract pollution of aquatic ecosystems, experts recommend transferring discharge elsewhere from those rare pockets of freshwater Singapore does hold.


Despite their many pitfalls, if these measures are implemented with caution, the threat to biodiversity could be reduced from ‘moderate’ to 'minor.’ Environmental specialists, consultants, and activists urge engineers and government officials to look at the problem holistically and to follow up on impact after construction is finished.


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