Garden City Singapore: A tale of toil and soil

SINGAPORE'S evolution into a "garden city" since it gained independence will be familiar to most. But few realise the many problems that had to be ironed out behind the scenes.

For instance, there was an initial need to choose plants and trees that were not only suited to the tropics, but which could also grow relatively quickly.

Soil quality was another major issue.

Now, a book written by several former commissioners, deputy commissioners and committee members of the then-Parks and Recreation Department will give an insider's glimpse into how they achieved former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's vision.

Garden City Singapore - The Legacy Of Lee Kuan Yew was launched yesterday at the Shangri-La Hotel in an event hosted by the Centre for Liveable Cities.

The 148-page book was written by Mr Wong Yew Kwan, 82, the country's first commissioner of Parks and Recreation from 1974 to 1982; Dr Chua Sian Eng, 80, commissioner from 1983 to 1995; Professor Lee Sing Kong, 63, deputy commissioner from 1983 to 1989; Mr Choo Thiam Siew, 63, deputy commissioner from 1989 to 1995; and Madam Pamelia Lee, 72, a member of many Parks and Recreation committees. 

The Parks and Recreation Department was the predecessor of the present-day National Parks Board and was responsible for Singapore's early greening efforts.

Former PM Lee, 90, penned the book's foreword. 

In it, he commends the contributions of pioneers like the five co-authors and looks ahead to Singapore's future as a "City in a Garden".

"For this," he wrote, "the involvement of the community - individuals, schools, organisations and nature groups - will be crucial."

Prof Lee said at the launch that Singaporeans owe their quality of life today to Mr Lee's "bold vision" to green Singapore "even as it was striving to survive as a young nation", when other countries' governments in the same position might not have done so.

"As pioneers in this process of establishing the garden city, we thought hard and deep to overcome many challenges," he said, adding that he hopes the book's insights will be useful to the younger generation.

It will go on sale at major bookstores from tomorrow at a recommended retail price of $75.

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