Government to exhume over 80,000 graves, acquire land to make way for Tengah Air Base expansion


SINGAPORE: The Government will be exhuming over 80,000 graves at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery in order to expand Tengah Air Base. It will also acquire land occupied by fish farms and a nursery on Murai Farmway. 

The additional land, which measures about 106 ha, is required to accommodate some of the assets and facilities from Paya Lebar Air Base, which is due to be relocated there in 2030 at the earliest, the Ministry of National Development (MND) , National Environment Agency (NEA) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said in a joint statement on Tuesday (Jul 18).

Development works for the expansion are expected to start in 2019, by which time two ornamental fish farms, a food fish farm and nursery on Murai Farmway are expected to move out. Works will be carried out in phases. Compensation will be based on market value for the land on the date it is acquired, said the authorities.

The authorities also said that 45,500 Chinese graves and 35,000 Muslim graves will need to be exhumed. Of these, claims and registration for 45,000 Chinese and 5,000 Muslim graves which have met the minimum burial period of 15 years will begin in September this year, they added. These graves take up 100 ha of land.

(Map: National Environment Agency)

Notices of exhumation for the remaining 500 Chinese graves and 30,000 Muslim graves will be issued at a later date, after they have met the 15-year burial period. The exhumed Muslim graves will be reinterred into another part of the cemetery.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the 2013 National Day Rally that the Paya Lebar Air Base will be relocated to free up 800 ha of land that is expected to be used to build homes, offices, factories and parks.

In developing this plan, the Government has “considered all alternatives, taking into account our national defence and security needs, as well as the overall benefits” of moving Paya Lebar Air Base in the longer term, the authorities said.

“Government agencies have, as far as possible, tried to minimise the impact of these works, and affected stakeholders will be given advance notice to make alternative arrangements,” they said.

The agencies also said that SLA gazetted the acquisition of the affected land on Tuesday.

A portion of heritage road along the 1.8km Lim Chu Kang Road will also be affected by the development, and the road will need to be re-aligned, the authorities said.

Heritage roads are characterised by their lush tropical forest ambience, and feature tall mature green walls of natural vegetation along their length. They also form a roof of overarching tree canopies.

“Agencies are studying the exact impact on the road, and possible mitigation strategies, which includes transplanting the trees to the new road,” the statement said. 


Manager at family-owned Koon Lee Nursery Mac Teo will not only be losing the site that has been home to the business for 30 years, but his home too. 

The 41-year-old told Channel NewsAsia that his parents sold their five-room HDB flat when they had to pay an upfront sum when renewing their lease for the land 10 years ago. He now lives in a home built on the 2-ha site with his parents, wife, son and brother. 

Mr Mac Teo, manager at family-run nursery Koon Lee said that he has been asked to move out by January 2019. but that officers said they will be flexible with the deadline. (Photo: Jalelah Abu Baker)

They are halfway through their 20-year lease, and he had been making improvements to the nursery, like changing the shelving, he said.

SLA officers arrived at his nursery at about 10am with officers from NParks to serve a notice of acquisition. He will have to wait for a nursery land tender to open, in order to move, he said. 

“The uncertainty is what is worrying. There is not a lot of information available. Even if we bid for the land, we may not get it,” he said.

He added that the 1.5 years given for them to move out is too short, given that he would first need to find a new site, build the nursery, then move the plants and flowers from the nursery. Just moving the items would take months, he said. Shutting down the business is also an option, Mr Teo said. 

Still, he felt reassured by officers telling him that they will be flexible with the deadline for moving out. However, he has started making plans to minimise disruption when he does have to eventually leave the premises.

“We have to reduce the number of plants. This can only mean that if I sell, I don’t buy so much. It will affect my business. I’ll also have to stop making improvements, and creating new storage areas,” he said. 

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