News: Clementi Forest to retain residential zoning

Jan 6, 2021

The site came under the spotlight after a drone footage of its green space went viral in October and a petition was started seeking for the area’s conservation as a nature park. Image: Brice Li via Facebook

The Clementi Forest, which has been zoned for residential use since 1998, will remain designated for housing, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

The site came under the spotlight after a drone footage of its green space went viral in October and a petition was started seeking for the area’s conservation as a nature park – an idea mooted by the National Society Singapore (NSS), reported TODAY.

NSS had described the site as “the most important and largest patch of forest” that is contiguous to Rail Corridor.

The online petition, which was titled Protect Clementi Forest from Urbanisation, had so far received over 12,000 signatures since its launch on 26 October. 

“The site commonly referred to as “Clementi Forest” has been zoned “Residential (Subject to Detailed Planning)” 23 years ago, since the Master Plan 1998, and safeguarded for residential use,” said Lee in a written reply to Member of Parliament Tan Wu Meng, who asked if the site can be designated as a national park or nature reserve.

“However, there is no immediate need to develop the site for housing. We will, however, retain the zoning of the site, while giving our future generations the option of deciding whether to use it for housing, if the need arises.” 

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Tan had also asked whether the government had conducted environmental impact studies or assessments on the Clementi Forest and as to what would be the implications on biodiversity in case the site is used for urban development.

With Singapore being land-scarce and densely populated, the government will have to balance the needs of conservation and development, said Lee. 

“As part of our long-term planning process, we set aside land early to meet the aspirations of future generations. In doing so, we endeavour to balance the demands and trade-offs across a variety of land use needs, including that of housing, green spaces, infrastructure and workplaces,” he explained. 

He added that the government has reviewed its plans to retain green spaces, where possible.

In fact, about 7,800 hectares of land have been safeguarded “for nature reserves, nature areas, nature parks and other green spaces, such as parks and park connectors”. 

The Mandai Mangroves and Mudflats, for instance, have been retained as a nature park for their ecological value even as they were initially intended for factory use.

The Thomson Nature Park and Windsor Nature Park were also retained as green buffers to nature reserves even as they could have been used for housing.

Lee revealed that not all of the nature parks and nature reserves were untouched habitats.

“For example, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the upcoming Khatib Bongsu Nature Park were once prawn farming areas. These areas were abandoned, acquired by the government, and have over time become green spaces inhabited by indigenous flora and fauna.” 

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He noted that Clementi Forest was also an abandoned rubber plantation that has become a secondary forest.

“After weighing the alternatives and trade-offs, there will be areas that we cannot avoid developing,” he said.

“Nonetheless, for these sites, possible environmental impacts will still be carefully managed, and natural elements will be integrated within developments where possible.”

He acknowledge that the country’s land-use requirements will continue to evolve.

Demand for HDB flats, for instance, are expected to remain strong as more families become nuclear households and more singles aspire to have a place of their own. 

“At the same time, as our economy transforms and work patterns shift, there may be changes to how we plan for office and industrial spaces. Likewise, as we move towards a more car-lite city, road space may be freed up for other purposes,” he said. 

With this, Lee assured that the government will continue to regularly review its plans “in partnership with the public, to ensure that it supports the changing needs and aspirations of Singaporeans”.

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