The mourning after the morning after

1 08 2011

A month after the cessation of the old Malayan Railway’s services through Singapore and into Tanjong Pagar, we are seeing, besides the removal of the tracks, a complete alteration in the physical landscape of one of the prettier parts of what the Nature Society hopes would be a Green Corridor through Singapore, and possibly erasing features of the landscape that one would associate with a former rail corridor.

The view down the corridor in the Bukit Timah Station area on 1st July 2011.

The view from Bukit Timah Station.

Another look at the work in the vicinity of the station. Earth is being filled over the corridor erasing any traces of the former rail corridor.

There is no doubt that the area is one of the favourites amongst the many Singaporeans who now have walked the length of the rail corridor, being one that in its relative isolation was blessed with lush greenery and a wonderful array of bird and insect life. It was here that one can get up close to the munias that frolic on the railway tracks, the noisy parakeets that flutter on the branches of the trees above and even oriental pied hornbills flying overhead. It was also here where one could dance with the wondrous colours of the delightful dragonflies and butterflies and get a breath of wonderfully fresh air as dawn turns into day.

The area was where one could once dance with dragonflies.

There was a wealth of flora and fauna in the area - a pair of Scaly Breasted Munias seen on the railway tracks in June 2011.

The area is also probably one of the less accessible areas of the tracks and there was already some concerns raised prior to the work commencing to remove the tracks in the area about an access road that was being built into the area through the lush Clementi woodland that separates the area from Clementi Road to which the authorities have explained was necessary to facilitate the removal works which was being carried out within an extremely tight schedule and the authorities pledging that SLA and the contractors involved would work with NParks to plan access routes and minimise the damage to the existing flora and fauna. That however does not seem to be what is happening on the ground, and even with photos I have seen and feedback I have received from friends, I was unprepared for what I saw in my first visit to the area since it was closed up to the public on the 18th of July. What greeted me was a scene beyond what I imagined could have happened in a mere two weeks. Beyond the removal of the tracks, sleepers and other structures along that stretch of the corridor, it looks as if the whole area has been transformed into a dusty work yard where there had been some of the most wonderful greenery. The entire width of the corridor seems as if it is not just an access road to the area that is being built, but an entire highway through from Holland Road to Bukit Timah Station, with even soil being brought in to raise the level of what had been the rail corridor erasing any traces that it might have once been a rail corridor. While the vegetation and the animals that make the area such a wonderful place to run off to, may find its way back to the area once work is completed, what is certainly of concern is that all the work that is being done has also altered the landscape of one of the prettiest parts of the rail corridor and with that, a lot of how it had been and any evidence of the railway it may have had is now a thing of the past.

Another view of the clearing and earth filling works.

A wide area has been cleared and now looks like a huge work yard.

The undisturbed view towards Bukit Timah Station on 17 July 2011.

Captioned on a previous post 'The sun sets over the rail corridor': 'A scene that would soon only be a memory - the rail corridor on the 17th of July 2011 just as I want to remember it'. How true it now all seems.

The view towards Bukit Timah Station on 31 July 2011.

Another view towards Bukit Timah Station on 31 July 2011.

Earth is being brought in and the level of the former corridor is being raised.

The new soil that is placed to raise the level of the corridor burying any traces of the original corridor beneath it.

It looks almost as if a road is being built over the former rail corridor.

An excavator sits on new earth being brought in to bury the rail corridor.

Vegetation that has been trampled on by the vehicles in the area.

The human invasion wouldn't be complete without litter left behind to clog streams in the area.


Posts on the Railway through Singapore and on the Green Corridor:

I have also put together a collection of experiences and memories of the railway in Singapore and of my journeys through the grand old station which can be found through this page: “Journeys through Tanjong Pagar“.

Do also take a look at the proposal by the Nature Society (Singapore) to retain the green areas that have been preserved by the existence of the railway through Singapore and maintain it as a Green Corridor, at the Green Corridor’s website and show your support by liking the Green Corridor’s Facebook page. My own series of posts on the Green Corridor are at: “Support the Green Corridor“.



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12 responses

1 08 2011
ilovekefir

Every1 knows the greed of the incumbent, in time to come, all these plots of land will be sold at a hefty price and the green corner will redevelop itself into condos or country clubs strictly for the rich.

1 08 2011
Yen chong

Is a pain staking sight to see all these excavators removing this historic site. What left for me now is the memories captured in my photos.

1 08 2011
francis siew

well, i think this shows to all the government is all talk only. It shows the efficiency and brutuality of the government at its best. When that B.G. promised things in the newspaper, i was pleasantly surprise ….

1 08 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

I believe the authorities involved are keen on the idea of public engagement and about keeping as much of the greenery along the corridor as is possible – what may have happened could be a result of a failure in execution and what needs to be highlighted is that some immediate action may be required on the part of the authorities to ensure that what is left is not also damaged in the same way. One immediate concern besides the destruction of flora and fauna is the alteration of the landscape which will erase any resemblence of the corridor to the one that was used by the railway.

1 08 2011
fabian

this is depressing. how excavators and lorries coming into the corridor be “minimised impact” on the corridor?

1 08 2011
Patrick Dalton

Guys & girls … don’t just complain on here about it, DO SOMETHING! Contact your MP, write a letter to the URA, tell all your friends to get onto the Green Corridor’s page on Facebook. Don’t let this fantastic opportunity to develop a world class site be lost by public apathy. Local Singaporeans need to stand up and make themselves heard in the corridors of power and not just on the web. You really can make a difference. PLEASE get more of your friends involved

1 08 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Sample letter to voice your concerns to SLA on how the removal and turfing works are too excessive and disruptive to nature and the unique landscape of the railway lands:

https://www.facebook.com/?sk=inbox&action=read&tid=9zq7RMPjTzs6kZvlrs98nw#!/notes/we-support-the-green-corridor-in-singapore/request-to-minimise-impacts-of-railway-removal-and-turfing-works/261226410569539

2 08 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

This was posted by BG Tan Chuan-Jun, the Minister of State (National Development) on the We Support the Green Corridor Facebook Page on 2 August 2011:

Quote

No one is in the ivory tower the last I checked (its also being returned btw). We’re aware of the dismantling work and are trying to ensure that the contractors keep to the plan and minimise the impact. Have asked NParks to help manage it. We’re removing many of these items to return to the Malaysians. When we stated that we are going to discuss about future plans for the corridor, we will do just that. Nothing is being developed right now.

There have been queries by some of you, Chris and Chengmin and others about the Turntable. Have been trying to determine the fate of this and what leeway there is. Unfortunately, this is one of the items being returned as well.
I hope many of these would be part of their museum which may be set up. So hopefully these items amongst many would not be lost.

We have started the dialog with all of you very early so that things can be shaped ahead of time where possible. I am grateful for the positive response by many, especially by those who have put in much effort championing the causes all this while. We intend to continue this conversation and journey to shape this together.

But some of you feel that this is a waste of time and are keen to slam our efforts regardless. I am sorry you feel that way.

Unquote

2 08 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Also, BG Tan’s response to concerns raised on what appears to be excessive removal of greenery and alteration of the landscape in the area south of Bukit Timah Station raised:

Quote

Fully understand. Saw your pics Jerome and in fact when some of you first raised this earlier, my concern was to make sure that the contractors operate within the specifications. I don’t think they necessarily worry very much about the greenery so we need to ensure that it is done with as light a touch as possible. But I think the process of removal will be ugly and we are not sure if time permits a slower process. The date line is tight and we are obliged to meet it. Removing is one part. We then need to arrange for it be be brought back etc.

I will do what I can and my colleagues in NParks and URA are doing the same.

Unquote

3 08 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

An update from URA:

“Hi everyone, NParks has identified the areas that are rich in biodiversity along the rail corridor. We want to assure the public that SLA will ensure that these are not inadvertently cleared as the tracks are being removed.

As part of the works, the removal of the tracks and ballast will result in uneven ground and potholes. Hence, some earthworks will need to be done to level the ground so that it is safe for walking later, as well as to prevent ponding and subsequent mosquito breeding.

We seek the public’s understanding that some messiness is unavoidable during the course of these works. SLA is working hard within the constraints of space and a tight deadline to minimise the impact of these works to the environment”.

29 08 2011
kheng

dear jerome,

hello there. i have just subscribed to your blog because i share a similar interest in a period of singapore that i lived through, and which i miss – the 1960’s, 70’s especially – periods of this country which i feel displayed our strengths, spirit, creativity and unique-ness so much more than the current day.

i have a question for you – how did you get interested in Singapore’s past? and do you do continuing research on it? Besides writing for your blog.

also – do you do research on singapore’s past for other reasons other than your own musings and blog?

Thank you and have a great day…

Kheng

31 08 2011
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Hello Kheng, thanks for dropping by and following the blog! There are quite a number of us who do missed that old and perhaps gentler Singapore and one as you pointed out was more Singaporean in many ways. I guess I have always been one who is interested in history and I realise that a lot of what I connected with growing up is now gone and much as I would like to revisit many of the places of my childhood, most have disappeared and it is through the blog that I am able to relive some of my experiences. While most of what I dig up is centered around the blog, I have also conducted walks for the NLB and assist the NLB and others who are capturing bit and pieces of history, or researching on areas which I have some information on. I have also got a little Facebook group “On a little street in Singapore” going on which members contribute bits and pieces of what they remember of Singapore’s past. 🙂 Jerome

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