Rooting for Unesco heritage status

The Singapore Botanic Gardens took another step towards its bid to become the country's first Unesco World Heritage Site.

After completing a required site management plan, it put the document online Wednesday for public feedback.

The 120 pages reveal how the Gardens plans to conserve more trees of special significance, such as a Senegal mahogany planted by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1980, as well as open a 240 sq m Heritage Museum by the end of this month.

Said Gardens' director Nigel Taylor: "The plan reflects our commitment to conserving the Gardens' historical and cultural significance."

Highlights of the five-year plan include adding 10 more trees to the Heritage Tree list, which protects them from being chopped down or disturbed by excavation work near their roots.

Two Tembusu heritage trees more than a century old - one of which predates the Gardens and is featured on Singapore's $5 note - will also be fenced up to reduce the high number of visitors treading around them, which adversely affects root growth.

The Heritage Museum will have interactive exhibits detailing the Gardens' history, as well as displays of photographs, plant specimens and rare botanical books and paintings dating back to the early 19th century.

There will also be a new 0.6ha foliage garden which will showcase more than 300 plant species, and feature a boardwalk, pond and meandering paths.

Both attractions will be open from next Saturday.

The management plan, required for the Unesco nomination process, outlines how the Gardens' authenticity and integrity are conserved and improved.

More than 100 people have responded to an earlier, ongoing public consultation exercise, with most getting behind the Gardens' nomination to the United Nations body.

The suggestions may be worked into the final dossier to be submitted to Unesco by February, said the National Parks Board and National Heritage Board in a joint statement Wednesday.

Singapore ratified the World Heritage Convention last year, which means it has an obligation to protect its national heritage.

Unesco World Heritage sites are cultural or natural attractions that are deemed to have outstanding universal value. There are 981 such sites in the world.

Botanic gardens already on the list include London's Royal Botanic Gardens, which boasts one of the world's largest collection of living plants, and Italy's 468-year-old Orto Botanico in Padua.

The 154-year-old Gardens in Singapore spans 74ha and draws more than four million visitors a year. It was crucial in pioneering rubber cultivation and tapping techniques, and orchid breeding.

Ms Jean Wee, director of preservation of sites and monuments at the National Heritage Board, said: "The rich heritage of the Gardens is a testament to how far we've come as a nation."

The Botanic Gardens' nomination document and site management plan can be found at www.sbg.org.sg/unesco


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

SERVICES