Visitors at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore (Photo: localsingaporetours.com)

 

 Singapore (VNA) - Singapore is developing a 126-hectare eco-tourism zone in the northern district of Mandai in a bid to bring in more visitors, but environmentalists fear the development will damage natural habitats and are already blaming it for a series of animal deaths.

While it may be best known as a financial hub with scores of high-rise buildings, tropical Singapore is still home to patches of rain forest and an array of wildlife, from monkeys to pangolins.

In one green corner of the city sits a zoo and two sister attractions - a night safari and river safari - that have long been big draws for foreign and local visitors.

Now jungle is being cleared in the same area to make way for a bird park, a rain forest park and a 400-room resort, to create a green tourism hub hoped to eventually attract millions of visitors a year.

But the project, which is scheduled to complete in 2023, has ruffled the feathers of environmentalists.

They believe that rather than promote biodiversity, it is too imposing for the area and will destroy forest habitats, adding insufficient safeguards were put in place before work began - leading to animals being killed on roads.

The row has highlighted concerns about rapid development in space-starved Singapore, and worries that some of the country's more wild and green corners are being lost only to be replaced with something more artificial.

But Mandai Park Holdings, which is overseeing the project through its development arm, insists work is being carried out sensitively and will bring improvements. Barriers have now been put up along much of the road, as well as a rope bridge for monkeys to cross above the traffic and road signs warning motorists about animals in the area.

Green groups have raised concerns that besides the roadkill deaths, noise and light pollution from the large resort could affect the surrounding area, although the developer insists it will be designed carefully to limit any impact.

With the new development, it appears that "making money was more of a priority than finding the balance and preserving biodiversity", said Subaraj Rajathurai, a veteran wildlife consultant.

Meanwhile, Ho Hua Chew, vice president ofthe Nature Society of Singapore, said a project on such a vast scale is another setback for the country's natural environment.-VNA