Our fragile nature reserves in Singapore

Last Sunday, I took a plunge into the last remaining primary rainforest in Singapore, which I haven’t visited for some time.
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I decided to hike along South View trail, as I didn’t recall having taken it before and I wanted to be far away from the crowd who took the main path to the summit.
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I was rewarded with a view of the surrounding area at a lookout point at South View hut.
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Though the view is mostly covered by the foliage, it is at least better than the view from the summit, which is almost completely covered by trees (not that it’s a bad thing, as the trees are important too).
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As I sat at the South View hut, I read the NParks signboard that says we are guests in this place, and it is our responsibility to conserve our fragile nature reserves both for ourselves and future generations.
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The words are so true, and yet so ironic… because the transport authorities are considering to build an underground MRT train tunnel underneath the Central nature reserve near the reservoirs.
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No words can adequately describe the sense of tranquility and ancient heritage of Bukit Timah nature reserve, which must have retained its original form for millions of years (possibly surviving cycles of sea level rises in between ice ages due to its elevation).
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It is the last stronghold for the native green spaces that are relatively untouched by humans in Singapore.
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Its fragile existence is made all the more pronounced by the fact that one forest after another has fallen prey to development over the years, including Bidadari forest, Lentor-Tagore forest and Tengah forest.
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Even the forest around Poyan area in western Singapore is being cleared for development (as reported by avid Nature explorer M Saniroz AR) – this is being carried out quietly while the mainstream media distracts us with news of all kinds.
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All this talk about climate change mitigation measures might sound impressive, but …
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As long as deforestation continues in our midst, and our wildlife residents continue to experience genocide and displacement, the words ultimately sound hollow, for we are failing in our responsibility to conserve Nature as a nation.

A case for conservation of Tengah forest in Singapore

Why we need the forest 🌳🌳🌳🌳

A couple of days ago, I took time off after my morning shift for hiking.

It is part of my voluntary project for nature conservation and environmental awareness.

The photos and videos of the hike serve to preserve the memory of Tengah forest for posterity.

I am also inspired to make a special video that combines video clips from my previous hike to make a case for conservation.

Why?

Because climate change affects all of us, including plants, animals and humans.

According to an article:

“New research has found strong evidence that climate change is spurring conflict, which is driving people to abandon their homelands and seek safety elsewhere.”

In Singapore, it is already happening in some ways.

Birds and animals have been displaced from their homes ever since urban development started some 200 years ago.

With the ongoing clearance of Tengah forest, the baya weavers, otters and other animals are in danger of losing their homes.

It probably wouldn’t be long before more and more of us humans will also become environmental refugees due to climate change affecting the liveability of our environment.

To where will we seek asylum?

To where can we really migrate since the effects of climate change are ubiquitous?

What happens in one country will affect other countries, as seen in the case of the Sumatran haze and many other examples.

The future is in our hands.

Nature is free and abundant

(Picture sources: Google)

Nature is free and abundant.

When it rains, Nature provides an umbrella in the form of a banana leaf free of charge.

All of us have equal access to the benefits of Nature.

Nature does not discriminate anyone.

You don’t need to pay anything.

You only need to take care of the environment, and Nature will take care of you.

Conserve the forest, and the forest will preserve you and your posterity.

We and Nature are one and interconnected.

Circuses and our evolving consciousness

National Geographic has published an online photo gallery of the Ringling Bros Circus. I don’t remember following Ringling Bros Circus but I vaguely recalled having watched some circus shows on TV when I was younger. In today’s rising consciousness about animal welfare, changing lifestyles and perceptions and so on, it is perhaps understandable that circuses aren’t generally as popular as they were during their heyday.
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One vivid memory I had about circuses though is the book I read when I was in primary school called “Mr Galliano’s Circus” written by Enid Blyton. I remember I was struggling with learning English in Primary 1 or 2, and did not score well in English tests or exams, partly because I wasn’t well read at a young age. When I stumbled upon “Mr Galliano’s Circus” in the school library, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the language level was just right for me at that point in time, and I believe it marked a turning point for me to develop a love for reading story books, thanks to the intriguing premise of the story about a boy called Jimmy (the name sounds familiar) who embarked on an adventure when he got to travel with the circus with his parents.
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I googled about the book and found it interesting that a reviewer wrote the following

“But Mr Galliano’s Circus is also quite subversive. An ordinary family gives up their comfortable suburban life and joins the circus. Ultimately this is a book about freedom and escaping the rat race.”

For all the controversies surrounding circuses, I have to admit that circuses at that point in history probably would have developed from a different set of cultures, values and circumstances than that in the kind of modern societies in which I live. Back in those days, animals from the wild were seen as mysterious and taming wild animals was a wonder for people who grew up all their lives in urban concrete jungles to watch, and the circus life was seen as a source of entertainment and an escapade from the mainstream societal system that didn’t have iPads, YouTube and MTVs for instant entertainment.
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As much as I empathised with the wild animals such as lions and elephants that had to bear the ignominy and inconveniences of being confined in unnatural cages and subjugated to perform circus tricks, I have to understand that the people who grew up being involved in circus life didn’t know much better at that time, and through a rising consciousness about how we are all interconnected, we begin to understand a bit better about ourselves and others, and we begin to make positive changes and learn to make adjustments to create a better, more humane and equitable world…

My feedback on the concept master plan to develop the Green Corridor in Singapore

A news article that was published yesterday features proposals for the Green Corridor (aka Rail Corridor) in Singapore.
In the same vein, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) website that is dedicated to the Rail Corridor says:
“The Rail Corridor is a very unique public space differentiated from other community spaces in Singapore. The Rail Corridor connects homes, work places and schools. It encourages a spirit of discovery and exploration, and provides a common space for shared experiences across a diverse segment of our population. There is great potential in fostering social-bonding and community-building activities along the Corridor.”

The above news article also says:

“The public is invited to give feedback at the exhibition and online at http://ura.sg/railrfp from now until the end of next March.”

So, I decided to submit my feedback to URA via their website with regard to the concept master plan to develop the Green Corridor, as follows:

It seems the plan is only to commercialise Tanjong Pagar railway station, so hopefully the rest of the green corridor will be spared (and I understand nothing is set in stone as the plan will be fine-tuned based on public feedback). I also don’t wish to see the green corridor becoming another east coast park, but at the rate it is currently being used and will be more frequently used in future, it is inevitable that some degradation of the muddy track will result, such as compaction and erosion of soil. Bukit Timah nature reserve was closed to public for the time being (except on weekends) for renovation for that reason, so if paving is going to be done carefully, such as using gravel (or something equivalent) instead of concrete to emulate the cycling trails in Pulau Ubin, that allows infiltration of rainwater into the porous surface, I would say it will likely serve the dual purpose of protecting the environment and making the trail more user friendly.
Green Corridor, Singapore
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

The night lighting can be solar powered, and have motion sensors. So, if there is nobody in the area, there isn’t any need for the lights to turn on. This will help conserve energy. Solar panels can be built throughout the Green Corridor to harness more of the solar energy for nearby buildings.

Natural vegetation, as far as possible, should be left as they are – like in the case of Sungei Buloh wetland reserve. It is fine to enhance the zen tranquility of gardens or urban parks, but not the rainforests etc because the latter already have their own natural serenity.

One concern many nature lovers have is that the Green Corridor will lose its quiet ambience and natural feel, especially when it becomes too popular and crowded in future. For example, if the corridor becomes too user-friendly to the extent that it becomes a bicycle expressway, it will somewhat lose its rustic charm. Similarly, if we are going to build plaza spaces, cafes and amphitheatres, it is likely to disturb the quietness of the surroundings, and people will no longer find the Green Corridor attractive as a sanctuary to get away from urban stress and commercialisation.
Mountain Bike Track
© Photographer: Haslinda | Agency: Dreamstime.com

So, maybe one way to prevent the green corridor from being too inviting for bicycles and becoming overcrowded is to have a holistic development of cycling infrastructure in Singapore, such as by developing the green corridor in tandem with the cycling infrastructure elsewhere. For example, if dedicated bike lanes are made available along the roads nearby, then cyclists can choose to take these alternative routes to their destinations instead of solely depending on the green corridor to use as a bicycle “expressway”.

Similarly, let’s seek to find a balance by not over-developing the Green Corridor in order to minimise noise level and any form of commercialisation and artificiality, in order to retain the original spirit of rustic charm and healing balm of Nature.

Green Corridor, Singapore
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Education on Nature conservation is always good because no amount of penalty and fines are going to stop people from littering or destroying the environment or poaching the wildlife unless people are armed with the understanding on the importance of their interrelationships with Nature, and how any harm done to the environment will ultimately affect themselves. People need to be guided from within instead of having to be controlled by laws and regulations from outside authorities. We as a human species have never lost our inner wisdom and affiliation to Nature – we simply have forgotten who we really are in the quest for development, and we only need to reconnect ourselves with Nature and remember our true identity, and then we will be able to act responsibly based on that revelation.

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Plant propagation at Plant Resource Centre, Botanic Gardens, Singapore

Filling a small container bag with soil

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Newly planted seedlings or stem cuttings in container bags

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Seedlings or stem cuttings waiting to be planted

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I saw onion shoots growing in some pots.

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Preparing to plant the seedlings or stem cuttings into a small bag of soil

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Newly planted seedlings or stem cuttings transported to a nursery nearby

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The plants are watered with a water hose.

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