Appraisal of Gardens’ Unesco bid out soon

Singapore will soon know how it fared in a technical assessment of its bid to inscribe the Botanic Gardens as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), a panel of experts which advises the Unesco World Heritage Committee, will publish its appraisal of the 156-year-old Botanic Gardens on its website in the coming days.

Icomos’ recommendation will be a factor in the committee’s final decision to be announced at its 39th session in Bonn, Germany, in late June or early July.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said he is hopeful and excited about the pending assessment from Icomos.

He is expecting it “maybe by the end of this month or early May”.

“We are sort of in a position now where I feel like a child who has just completed his O levels, (having) studied very hard for them, and (is) now waiting for the results,” he said yesterday.

He was speaking at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, where the Taoist Yueh Hai Ching temple in Phillip Street received a Unesco Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation Award of Merit for its $7.5 million makeover.

There are four possible recommendations Icomos could give to the Gardens. If the site is recommended for inscription without reservation, it stands a good chance of being inscribed by the World Heritage Committee. If it is given a referral of nomination, it means the Republic may have to provide more information.

If the Icomos team decides to recommend a deferral, it indicates that a more in-depth assessment or a substantial revision might have to be carried out.

The worst result would be a recommendation not to inscribe.

Last September, an Icomos technical assessor spent three days here to evaluate the Gardens. This came after Singapore submitted a nomination dossier substantiating its bid for Unesco status in February last year.

Mr Wong described the Gardens as distinctive and unique, as it is believed to be the only English-landscape-style garden in the tropics.

If successfully inscribed, it will join two other Unesco-listed gardens: The 1759 Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, and the 1545 Orto botanico di Padova in Padua, Italy.

Part of the Botanic Gardens’ heritage value stems from its history. Pioneering work on rubber cultivation and extraction was carried out there, which catalysed the rubber boom in the region and later in the world.

The 74ha Gardens, housing more than 10,000 types of plants, is also home to historic buildings such as Burkill Hall. The two-storey bungalow dating back to 1867 was recently identified as an Anglo- Malay plantation-style house and is believed to be the last such bungalow in the region.

This article was first published on April 25, 2015.
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