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Green cover count should exclude man-made spaces

Singapore prides itself on being an environmentally conscious metropolis whose green history can be traced from nascent policies of the 1960s Garden City movement to the current vision of a City in a Garden.

Darren Teo Qin Wei

Singapore prides itself on being an environmentally conscious metropolis whose green history can be traced from nascent policies of the 1960s Garden City movement to the current vision of a City in a Garden.

Today, Singapore heralds its track record in green land use and commitment to biodiversity conservation on a global scale, with active partnerships regionally and internationally, a prominent one being the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity.

The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, launched by the National Parks Board in 2009 to fulfil its biodiversity commitments, states that Singapore increased its green cover from 35.7 per cent to 46.5 per cent between 1986 and 2007.

Close to 10 per cent of the total land area is set aside for parks and nature conservation. Short of being a rosy situation, herein lies the issue: What exactly classifies as a green space?

As Singapore is densely populated, with no hinterland, the Government and its agencies have adopted a pragmatic approach to balancing development with preserving biodiversity.

Included in the statistics for green cover is manicured man-made greenery such as golf courses, roadside plants and high-rise greenery. These are part of practical yet innovative efforts to integrate greenery into our urban environment.

Including those areas in the count, however, tends to be misleading, by stretching the definition of greenery, which may result in complacency regarding conservation.

Currently, the remaining forest reserves occupy only 2.5 per cent of the land area. These primary and secondary forests are isolated, dwindling patches scattered across the island.

This raw and relatively untouched form of greenery has been proven scientifically to be the richest in biodiversity, given its conduciveness for wildlife, many species of which are endemic to Singapore.

Given the time required for its proliferation, much of this nature cannot be replicated; once it is gone, it is gone.

The good news is that with more conservation awareness, propelled by social media, people are awakening to the value of wild nature.

Moreover, the Government has recently been undertaking a more consultative stance towards conservation, with more public engagement than in the early decades.

This progressive posture comes partly with recognition of the need for more green spaces in the light of the rising population and the subsequent need for more green recreational outlets to counterbalance the relentless urbanisation.

It is imperative to continue protecting, and not overlook, whatever is left of these wild shades of green, treasure troves of nature.

After all, how many cities can boast of a primary rainforest in the middle of its concrete jungle?

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