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Monday, Jun 2, 2014

Singapore

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to be closed for restoration, access limited for 2 years

AsiaOne | Monday, Jun 2, 2014

SINGAPORE - Public access to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) will be limited for about two years from September 15, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on Monday.

NParks said in a statement that it will be carrying out repair and restoration works to the slopes, trails and forests in the reserve. The visitor centre at the foot of BTNR will also be upgraded.

The authority said it will adopt a phased approach for the restoration. For the first six months, the entire reserve will be closed to public as slope stabilisation works are carried out.

The Main Road trail leading to the Summit will be reopened to visitors on weekends after six months, while the rest of the reserve will remain closed for another 18 months.

Over the years, erosion has affected the slopes and trails, and has damaged forests in the reserve. To ensure public safety, NParks will repair these slopes and trails and restore the forests.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve contains at least 40 per cent of Singapore's native flora and fauna on just 0.2 per cent of Singapore's land area. The reserve, which was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2011, is home to rare and native species like the Singapore Freshwater Crab (Johora singaporensis), the Colugo (Galeopterus variegates) and the Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus).

Dr Leong Chee Chiew, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation and Deputy CEO of NParks, said that visitors are encouraged to explore alternative nature areas such as the nearby Zhenghua Nature Park, Dairy Farm Nature Park, Bukit Batok Nature Park, Bukit Batok Town Park, as well as Park Connectors in the vicinity during the restoration period.

Besides erosion and damage, a number of new, unauthorised paths have appeared in the forest, Mr Joseph Koh, Chairman of Nature Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee (NRSAC) said. "If left unchecked, these changes can eventually add up to alter the character of a unique ecosystem that has hitherto allowed an amazingly rich variety of native flora and fauna to thrive in this scientifically significant rainforest," he added.

Dr Shawn Lum, President of Nature Society (Singapore), said: " The proposed slope stabilisation and trail restoration work will not only benefit public safety and an enhanced visitor experience, but will also be beneficial for the long-term health of Bukit Timah's forest ecosystem. Decreased erosion from slope and trail restoration, better protection of tree roots from boardwalks, and limiting future soil compaction will help tree survival and regeneration."

"This in turn will provide a more stable environment for the diverse animal life dependent on Bukit Timah's mature and very rich plant community. I look forward to the completion of the proposed infrastructure work, and envision a future where all of us park management, researchers, reserve visitors, and a supportive public can all work together as stewards as well as be beneficiaries of Singapore's glorious natural heritage at Bukit Timah."

ljessica@sph.com.sg

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