Bukit Brown put on world watch list

Bukit Brown put on world watch list
Students from different countries visiting Bukit Brown cemetery earlier this year.

The historic Bukit Brown cemetery has been put on the 2014 World Monuments Watch (WMW), an international list of cultural heritage sites which are being threatened by nature or development.

The cemetery, which has been the final resting place of pioneering Chinese immigrants to Singapore since the mid-19th century, is one of 67 sites in 41 countries and territories on the biennial listing.

Work is scheduled to start early next year on a controversial eight-lane road through the cemetery, meant to ease congestion. And the 233ha site, closed to burials since 1973, is also slated for future residential use.

All Things Bukit Brown, an interest group which is keen to preserve the site's heritage and habitat, nominated it to the New York-based World Monuments Fund watch list. It was picked from 248 nominations - making it the first time that a Singapore site has made it to the list.

The WMW citation said of the road and redevelopment of the site: "In destroying the cultural landscape of Bukit Brown, it is a loss to all of society."

The non-profit World Monuments Fund has issued its watch list since the 1990s to raise awareness about threatened cultural sites. It has helped to helped restore sites in more than 90 countries, including the historic enclave of Georgetown in Penang.

Nominations are assessed by fund staff and heritage experts, based on the significance of the site, how urgent the conditions are and the viability of a feasible plan of action. Other sites on the list include Hong Kong's Pok Fu Lam Village, the churches of St Merri and Notre-Dame de Lorette in Paris and cultural heritage sites in Syria.

Referring to the decision by the World Monuments Fund to include the cemetery on its watch list, Ms Claire Leow, 46, one of the organisers of All Things Bukit Brown, said: "I hope it motivates communities to do more to take ownership."

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