Eco-park details in January

RSP Architects, Jurong Consultants to come up with concept masterplan

THICK grass covers a flat stretch of land for more than two kilometres. A few young trees stand tall and migratory birds swoop across the plain. It is hard to imagine this natural sanctuary as Semakau, a landfill commissioned nine years ago as the dumping ground for ash from Singapore’s waste incinerators.

Now, RSP Architects and Jurong Consultants have been commissioned by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to study how to transform a quarter of the island – some 90 hectares – into an eco-park.

Besides offering recreational and educational activities, the eco-park will serve as a test-bed for renewable energy technologies. Details of the concept ­masterplan will be unveiled in January.

Already, since it was open to organised tours in mid-2005, Semakau has been seeing a stream of visitors, like those from the Astronomical Society of Singapore.

Said Mr Ong Chong Peng, general manager of Semakau Landfill and Tuas Marine Transfer Station: “We’re fully booked for the weekend till the end of the year; a few openings are available on weekdays. We’re especially packed this month because of Clean and Green Singapore.”

Limiting the number of visitors through advance bookings helps minimise the impact on Semakau’s environment. Would such curbs on visitor numbers continue, when the eco-park is up and running?

Mr Ong said it was for the NEA to decide. The Sport Fishing Association Singapore, for one, limits the number of anglers heading to the island to 22 a month, and does not fish there between November and January.

The group’s chairman, Mr Chin Chi Khiong, said: “The goals of exposing Singaporeans to nature and preserving the environment are daunting … Which is more important – the eco-system or the recreational activities on the island? If it’s the eco-system, then we should sacrifice the numbers.”

Dr Shawn Lum, president of Nature Society Singapore, said: “The guiding principle should be why are we doing this. Will the people who come to Semakau become more environmentally conscious? If they do, then you can justify having more activity.”

Source : Today – 4 Nov 2008

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