Behind the greenery of Singapore, the Republic is in a constant state of development and redevelopment — old buildings come down and glitzy new buildings go up in the central business district every year.
The heartlands are expanding at an accelerated pace to accommodate new young families and an increasing population. Everyone wants a brand new BTO (Build To Order) flat! Empty spaces in Punggol and Sengkang have gone though a host of developments to create new townships with housing and amenities.
Traversing our bustling city too is prompting further development of our road and rail systems.
As our current and impending needs push us to urbanise more of our already scarce landmass, the small pockets of primary forests, green spaces, and natural reserves have to make way for them. But do they not play an important role in our ecosystem?
Singaporeans seem to be catching on to the fact that nature is essential to our quality of life. With a number of civil society groups acting independently to raise awareness for conservation causes. The latest of which is the Future Of MacRitchie Concert happening this Saturday at 4.30pm at the Reservoir Deck, MacRitchie Reservoir Park.
We then have to ask ourselves:
Can we find a balance between necessary urbanisation and preserving our natural forests/landscapes? How do we prioritise these needs?
Subaraj Rajathurai, Wildlife Consultant, Strix Wildlife Consultancy
For us to become a beautiful, successful, modern city, nature has sacrificed too much. Now is our turn to return the favour and make some sacrifices for nature.
We have signed the International Biodiversity Convention, and now we have to work harder to live up to it. It is our responsibility as a ‘First-World Nation’. We have lost sight of what preservation means. Further efforts are needed to ensure that our nature reserves are not compromised.
Our need for new developments is putting much pressure on the system. But I think it is very possible to create a balance.
We now have to be steadfast in protecting our rainforests. Identify key areas, like the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and make sure there are no disruptions to these spaces.
Every precaution must be taken with these areas; because once the biodiversity in these areas is lost it can never be recovered. The best practices and methodologies in achieving this are not yet fully understood, and there needs to be more education in that regard.
Education and changing mindsets take time, in comparison, development can happen very rapidly. My only fear is that we may be too late. I hope more stakeholders and experts in the area will be given a voice when it comes to new developments. Developers and nature experts have to work together if we hope to achieve anything.
Thankfully, there seems to be increased public interest in protecting nature. We have recently had success in Sungei Buloh, Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin; we must build on these to further our preservation efforts.
Ivy Singh-Lim, Farmer, Bollywood Veggies
We are really losing our way. We have gone too far with our efforts to urbanise Singapore. Too much of Singapore’s natural landscape is already gone.
Are we trying to change god’s creation, concrete-ize everything just to build an edifice to worship money?
If so we might as well go all the way until Singapore is a square, grey, concrete island.
Balance, however, is absolutely achievable. If the right decisions are made, we can have a comprehensive plan in conserving some of our pristine forests while also erecting new developments. London has its Hyde Park and New York has the Central Park in the middle of their cities, why can’t we do the same in Singapore?
The leaders only see the value of building a shopping mall or a condo when they see a plot of land. They don’t see the value of the precious natural life that thrives there. This desperately needs to change.
Singapore has the resources to do almost anything. We now have to find the best ways to apply these resources for the right goals.
Vinod Kesava, Co-founder & CEO, Climate Resources Exchange International
Catastrophic climate change is a reality facing the planet today. It is the single most important issue of our generation. Anthropogenic emissions are to blame, primarily originating from over-consumerism. If this is not managed carefully and conscientiously, then it would appear that the planet is fast-tracked towards decadence and eventual ruin.
Yet, humans continue to exploit natural resources irresponsibly and without thought for the future. Whilst framework guidelines like the GreenMark are useful tools for building ecologically sustainable developments, they do not provide for specific performance metrics that can be measured and verified against the principles of an integrative design process (IDP).
There is a serious misconception that building a sustainable or “green” development is more expensive. In fact, the converse is true. Developments that are designed for resilience using a whole-systems thinking approach, ensure that all pillars of sustainable development are carefully considered using the least possible materials and equipment that work well with each other. This reduces the capital expenditure of the development at the outset.
Correctly operating and maintaining this well-designed and efficient development, then reduces the annual operating expenditure.
Preservation and conservation of our few remaining natural forests and landscape is critical in maintaining some balance in our environment. Manmade green spaces and vegetation do little to maintain the natural cooling effect and CO2 absorption that rainforests bring. How much can palm oil plantations absorb compared to the natural rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia? A small percentage, perhaps. If you factor in the carbon dioxide released in the process of making way for these plantations, you will always end up with a net surplus of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Teresa Teo Guttensohn, Co-founder, Cicada Tree Eco-Place
It’s not the Land Transport Authority (LTA), nor the MRT line, nor encroachment of urbanisation that is the real enemy of the forest. We Are. The average Singaporean is very detached from nature. They are bo chap (indifferent). We need to reconnect with the natural green spaces. All you need to do then is to say “I care”, and we can come together to take collective action.
Mohammad Juhari, Nature Enthusiast
We have to protect the nature reserves for future generations. As it stands, we only have a few of these green spaces left and we have to think about preserving them even as urbanisation continues. It is important to consider the impact to the natural state of forests before any development begins.
Chloe Tan, Volunteer, Love Our MacRitchie Forest Campaign
What amazes me is the abundance of native species that can be found at green places like MacRitchie. Together with the Central Catchment and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves, MacRitchie is part of our national forests and it is home to many indigenous species that need to be preserved.
Our forest reserves are the last strongholds for many native species. Singapore has suffered catastrophic losses in biodiversity, largely due to the loss of forest habitats. What we have left now is precious and vulnerable, and cannot afford further impact.