PM Lee joins tree-planting at forest plot

SINGAPORE - A secluded forest plot in Seletar was abuzz with activity on Sunday as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined more than 1,000 residents of Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West for a reforestation event.

They planted some 300 trees at the Old Seletar Range, which was a military live-firing range until 2009.

PM Lee planted a 3m-tall sindora tree, which can grow up to 50m tall, before going around to chat with residents.

He was met by 10-year-old Ashton Chua, who found a durian in the forest and handed it to the Prime Minister.

"I'll let you know how it tastes," quipped Mr Lee.

The mature saplings planted will cover half a hectare of the 9ha plot.

They are made up of 17 species such as the jelutong, tembusu and sentol trees, carefully selected by the National Parks Board to match the native ones already growing there.

When fully grown in 20 years, the trees will serve as a buffer to protect nearby swamp forests and natural streams.

They can also act as a roosting ground for Singapore's last pair of crested serpent eagles that live in the area, said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, 50.

Although the slippery forest ground was soaked by the previous night's rain, residents gamely trudged through the mud to learn more about the ecosystem.

Mr Loysius Yong, 41, said the event was a good way for his three children, aged between four and 12, to learn about conservation.

"It takes two seconds to throw away a piece of paper that comes from trees, but 20 years for a tree to grow," he said.

In a Facebook post later, Mr Lee wrote: "Reforestation restores damaged and degraded secondary forests into habitats for native animals and plants.

"Let's all do our part to protect our nature reserves and parks - take only pictures of the beautiful scenery but leave only footsteps."

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