Botanic Gardens gets boost in UN bid

Botanic Gardens gets boost in UN bid

SINGAPORE - The campaign for the Singapore Botanic Gardens to become a Unesco World Heritage Site has received a boost from local nature and heritage societies.

Earlier this month, a new committee with representatives from non-government and government groups met to endorse the Gardens' site management plan, which sets out actions to conserve it.

The site management plan will form part of the 154-year-old attraction's nomination dossier to be submitted to the United Nations by February for the global body to assess if the Gardens should get World Heritage Site status. The Gardens will learn the results of its application in 2015.

Botanic Gardens director Nigel Taylor said the experts' endorsement "sends a very good message to Unesco", adding: "It shows that we are really serious about doing this properly and with the support of the community."

The 15-member committee includes people from the Nature Society, Singapore Heritage Society, Singapore Institute of Architects and the local chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), which helps to evaluate World Heritage Site nominees. While it is not a requirement, the UN encourages applicants to bring together a wide variety of participants including site managers, local communities and non-government groups to identify, nominate and protect World Heritage Sites. It also recommends bringing them together regularly to discuss the site's conservation plans.

Dr Taylor said the 15 representatives who endorsed the plan will try and meet every six months to review the Gardens' progress. "The meetings can also be used as a forum to handle any concerns, for example, if the rise in visitorship causes traffic and parking woes for nearby residents," he said.

Icomos Singapore president Kevin Tan said that the group is especially focused on maintaining the historical authenticity of the Gardens. He said: "Over the years, there may have been alterations to the site and its buildings. We have a team of architectural historians who can study old photos, drawings and building plans to see whether features have been changed and if they could be restored."

Nature Society president Shawn Lum added that the Gardens could be further used as a bank for endangered plant species in the region, in case natural disasters or developments wipe them out. "Hopefully, the Gardens can really embrace this as one of its roles, with a comprehensive strategic and long-term plan," he said.

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