Singapore Botanic Gardens named UNESCO World Heritage Site

Singapore Botanic Gardens named UNESCO World Heritage Site
To be a potential World Heritage Site, a place must meet at least one of 10 criteria. The Botanic Gardens met two: having a historical landscape, and playing a role in the interchange of human values.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The nation can now lay claim to having its first UNESCO World Heritage Site, after the Singapore Botanic Gardens was inscribed at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany.

According to reports, it is the third Botanic Gardens to be listed as a World Heritage Site, after Kew Gardens in England and the Padua Gardens in Italy.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, led the Singapore delegation at the Committee meeting in Germany. Mr Wong uploaded a photo showing the team celebrating after the result was announced, along with the caption: "We did it! Historic moment for all of us and the whole nation.

"The Singapore Botanic Gardens is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site - a site of exceptional value for all of humanity! What a wonderful gift for our Golden Jubilee!"

In a Facebook post on Saturday (July 4), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the award is "a great Jubilee year gift to Singaporeans", and noted that 156-year-old Gardens "played an important part in making Singapore a Garden City".

Mr Lee congratulated the National Heritage Board, NParks, and Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth for the successful inscription.

The news comes almost five years after a feasibility study by the authorities, followed by the official submission to UNESCO in January last year.

Unanimous support

According to a statement from the National Heritage Board, the 21-member Committee unanimously adopted the recommendation by the International Council of Monuments and Sites to inscribe the Gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and this was witnessed by representatives of the 191 State Parties to the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

Following this, Vice Chairperson of the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, H.E. Ms Ruchira Kamboj, proceeded to declare the Singapore Botanic Gardens inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mr Wong made a statement shortly after: "Across the entire world, there are just over 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are exceptional treasures for all of humanity to cherish.

"Now in our little red dot, we have the honour and privilege of being home to one of these world treasures. It's something quite remarkable that all of us, as Singaporeans, can be proud of. This is a very special Jubilee Gift for Singapore, and I'm very happy to be able to bring back the good news to share with all Singaporeans!"

In order to be inscribed on the renowned UNESCO World Heritage List, the Gardens must first prove that it has outstanding universal value, integrity and authenticity, and is equipped with a Site Management Plan to ensure future preservation of the site.

Mrs Rosa Daniel, CEO of NHB, and Secretary-General of the Singapore National Commission for UNESCO, says: "The process of putting up Singapore's inaugural bid to inscribe the Singapore Botanic Gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was a rigorous one, but we are all elated that all the hard work by the many parties involved has paid off. This would not have been possible without the collaboration of government agencies, experts, community groups and the public. Our collective efforts have been recognised by the international community, and the successful inscription acknowledges Singapore's continued commitment to commemorating and preserving our cultural heritage. The listing of the Singapore Botanic Gardens as a World Heritage Site is especially meaningful as a lasting commemoration of Singapore's 50th anniversary year."

Only tropical botanical gardens on World Heritage List

The Gardens joins the more than 1,000 sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List and is the first and only tropical botanical gardens on the list.

The Gardens was amongst other newly inscribed World Heritage Sites such as Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains, Jordan's Baptism Site "Bethany Beyond the Jordan" (Al-Maghtas), Saudi Arabia's Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia, and Italy's Arab-Norman Palermo and the Catholic Churches of Cefalú and Monreale.

Mr Kenneth Er, CEO of NParks, says: "We are thrilled that the Singapore Botanic Gardens is the first Botanic Gardens in Asia to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We are committed to sustaining Singapore's green legacy through the Gardens' site management plan. In fact we have already set in place some of the measures such as the expansion of the Gardens' Nature Area and protection of the Gardens' centuries-old Heritage Trees. It is also symbolic that our nation's first World Heritage Site has been instrumental in the greening of Singapore. In the late 1960s, the Gardens' staff were involved in supplying the plants and trees for our roadsides and parks to create the pervasive greenery that make Singapore a City in a Garden. Today, the Gardens remains a centre for research, conservation and education of regional and international importance, and tranquil oasis for recreation. We hope that Singaporeans will join us in celebrating the successful inscription and continue taking pride in the Singapore Botanic Gardens."

candicec@sph.com.sg

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