Friday, August 3, 2012

Heartened by bid to keep S'pore's green edge

Straits Times: Thu, Aug 02

IT IS heartening to note that 47 per cent of Singapore's land mass is covered in greenery, of which 10 per cent has been set aside for parks and nature reserves, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority ("Vital to have balanced approach to land use"; Monday).

But increasingly, natural areas in neighbourhoods from Bukit Timah to Thomson to Pasir Ris are being scaled back either by new residential and commercial property developments or road expansion projects.

In places like Punggol Park and Gardens by the Bay, much of the natural vegetation has been replaced by artificially manicured and landscaped gardens that are intended more to be aesthetically pleasing to photographers than ecologically friendly to wildlife.

While being included as part of green spaces, sites like golf courses and military training reserves are not openly accessible to the public.

So, with the land pressures from the rapidly expanding population and a burgeoning property market, it is understandable why the nature-loving public may feel that Singapore is being deforested even as it looks "green" in satellite images.

Given the anxieties over these trends, I am therefore heartened by the Housing Board's plans to retain the heritage and greenery of the former Bidadari Cemetery ("Bidadari to retain its greenery and heritage"; Tuesday).

I am also excited by the possibility that the new estate will be significantly more pedestrian-friendly with less reliance on vehicular roads.

If well implemented, this plan reflects the Government's commitment towards making Singapore an organic and liveable city that has life, history and nature even in the backyards of our heartland.

The concept of the garden city has distinguished Singapore from the uncontrollably congested and over-urbanised cities in Asia.

While other countries can easily overtake us with more impressive buildings and quality products and services, it will be harder for them to outdo Singapore as a metropolis in terms of "greenery".

As such, we should not see natural spaces in the country as "spare" land that can be bulldozed for short-term development, but essential intangible assets to the survival of Singapore in the long term.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
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