S'pore to retain green spaces as city grows

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday gave his pledge to keep green places in Singapore even as the city continues to be developed, insisting that conservation and development can go together.

He made this commitment at the opening of the Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum, where he shared personal memories that showed his affection for nature and the Gardens, and also highlighted the Government's vision to have more park land and new green routes connecting communities and places all across Singapore.

"We may not be able to have such large parks like the Istana all over Singapore, and also we can't afford to preserve every single green patch on this little island," he said, referring to the grounds of the Istana where his office is, and which is home to a variety of trees, shrubs and wildlife.

"But we are determined that we will leave green lungs and natural spaces all over the city as we build our city. We can do that and we will do that. Then our people can always be in touch with nature, never far from green spaces and blue waters."

In line with the commitment to greening, Singapore will get its fifth and longest "nature way" early next year, he said.

Tengah Nature Way will be a route planted with specific trees and shrubs to help the movement of birds, butterflies and small animals, and it will connect the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, in the centre of Singapore, with the Safti Live Firing Area out west.

The 12.8km route will be longer than the other four existing ones at Admiralty, Kheam Hock, Tampines and Yishun, which are all part of plans to have 60km of such nature ways by 2015.

While not yet finalised, the route will run along the Bukit Batok estate including Old Jurong Road and Bukit Batok West Avenues 2, 3 and 5.

The public will get a chance to plant trees on the new nature way starting from early next year.

PM Lee noted that Singapore's greening efforts have been going on for 50 years, since the first Tree Planting Day in 1963, which was followed by integrating parks and green spaces into the housing estates and developing a sustainable Singapore blueprint.

And as it moves on to its next phase to become a "city in a garden", Singapore will have 900 more hectares of park land across the country, or two times the size of Toa Payoh town, he said.

"We will be connecting our communities and places where we live through parks, garden, streetscapes and skyrise greenery. So green streets, green lungs, green buildings," he said.

These parks will not be passive green areas, but will be focal points for the community, hosting cultural performances, nature tours and other activities.

Singapore's rapid development as a city-state has often raised concerns about the preservation of nature, and participants from varied backgrounds lamented what they believed to be the prioritisation of economic over environmental issues at a separate Our Singapore Conversation event on green spaces yesterday.

The theme of conservation and development being able to go hand in hand was therefore a key message that emerged from the four-hour discussion organised by the Nature Society (Singapore) and Young NTUC.

One group suggested that development could take place in already built-up areas in the south, so that existing green areas located further up north, such as Bidadari, could be retained for their biodiversity.

Said Ms Dorothy Ng, 33, who works in communications: "I think that conservation and development need not be contradictory."

chanckr@sph.com.sg

audreyt@sph.com.sg


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