Clearance of the Kranji woodlands began in March last year but the trees that should not have been cut down weren’t felled until December.
That’s what the government agency supervising industrial developments told reporters yesterday afternoon after satellite photos appeared to contradict its version of events. JTC Corp. said although approved tree clearance had begun in March, as seen in satellite images, were approved, the 4.5 hectares of greenery removed in December was not allowed.
“Regardless, as the project site developer, JTC does have overall responsibility for the site. We do not run away from this responsibility. We will not, nor do we intend to,” JTC CEO Tan Boon Khai said, adding that it was reviewing its internal processes and procedures in the wake of public anger over the destruction of woodlands, which it says was done mistakenly.
The trees improperly destroyed were situated along the old Singapore-Malaysia railway and beside land marked for development 25-hectare Agri-Food Innovation Park, which will be part of the 500-hectare Sungei Kadut Eco-District industrial area.
Tan said that 11 hectares of land have so far been cleared, of which 4.5 were done erroneously and before a biodiversity study was completed. That study was required only after June when the Wildlife Act came into effect.
No public account has been given of how many trees were cut down
Yesterday’s conference was also attended by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and representatives from the National Parks Board. It was not clear whether a member from Huationg Global, the contractor that removed the trees, was present. The conference was held a week since word of the deforestation caused an online uproar.
This was sent to me by a friend who decided to take a look at satellite imagery to show the extent of the illegal deforestation that happened at Kranji. I find it extremely unlikely that the work continued unabated for 6 months (since August 2020) without a site visit from JTC. pic.twitter.com/Y0klqBpbqG
— Lim Jialiang (@lim_jialiang) February 17, 2021
Leong Chee Chiew from the National Parks Board told reporters there will be an investigation into a possible breach of environmental laws. An approval from the board is required to remove a tree larger than a meter in girth or risk a fine of up to S$50,000.
Chan said it was clear that there were “gaps” in the way the project was managed and supervised.