Help in Botanic Gardens' Unesco site bid

SINGAPORE - Members of the public are being invited to take part in the Singapore Botanic Gardens' bid for Unesco World Heritage Site status.

They have until December to give their feedback on the nomination dossier, which sets out why the 154-year-old attraction deserves the honour.

They can also support the bid by sharing anecdotes and memories of the gardens.

The National Heritage Board and the National Parks Board want the public's opinion on two documents that will be submitted to Unesco, known in full as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

One outlines how the gardens fulfil the nomination criteria, while the other is a site management plan that proposes how they will be run if the bid is successful.

Unesco World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural spots that have been deemed to have outstanding universal value.

To receive the honour, they must also meet at least one of 10 criteria. The gardens were nominated under two of them.

Firstly, they "exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design".

Secondly, they are "an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history".

To show the gardens' value, the nomination papers listed the historically important roles they have played.

For example, "pioneering work on rubber cultivation and techniques for tapping" was carried out there in the 1880s and 1890s, laying the foundation for the early 20th-century rubber boom.

The gardens also introduced economically valuable crops such as oil palm and coffee to South-east Asia.

To this day, they play an important role in conservation, housing at least 34 "veteran trees" - many of which are more than 100 years old. A 6ha rainforest in the gardens contains trees native to Singapore which are now rare because of deforestation.

Members of the public can view the documents and give their feedback at www.sbg.org.sg/unesco. Hard copies are also available at the gardens' visitor information counters.

Both documents will be submitted to Unesco by Feb 1. It will then decide whether to grant the gardens World Heritage Site status.

Singapore Heritage Society vice-president Chua Ai Lin said it is important to show the whole community supports the site's nomination.

She added: "It's not just the institutional story (that's important) but how people relate to the gardens."

The nomination bid was first suggested in 2009 by the Singapore Heritage Society.

The following year, the Government asked foreign consultants to identify the sites with the best chance of being listed.

Their suggestions included the Civic District, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Haw Par Villa, the former Ford Factory and the Botanic Gardens.

After the nomination criteria were taken into account, the gardens emerged the clear winner.

An initial application pitching the idea was sent to Unesco last December.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg

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