My proposal to NParks et al on conserving and restoring mangroves in Jurong river and Pandan river

Panoramic view of Jurong river mangrove mudflats (Photo by Jimmy Tan)

Below is my message sent to National Parks Board (NParks) on 9 December 2022:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to propose to NParks and other relevant agencies to conserve and restore Jurong river mangroves and designate Pandan river mangroves as a nature park or wetland reserve.

The purpose is to complement the roles of the current nature reserves, such as Sungei Buloh wetland reserve, and other nature parks, to strengthen Singapore’s climate, ecological and social resilience, in view of the current climate emergency.

Location of Jurong river (which flows through Jurong Lake Gardens) and Pandan river (which flows past Dover-Ulu Pandan forest towards the sea) in southwest Singapore. A visitor centre for the proposed Sungei Pandan wetlands reserve could be built next to Pandan river tidal gates, not far from the upcoming Pandan Reservoir MRT station. An ecological corridor could be designated to link both proposed conservation sites. (Base map: Google Maps)

1. As noted by Nature Society (Singapore) in their post dated 13 September 2022, Jurong river and Pandan river are among the 3 remaining mangrove patches in the southern sector of mainland Singapore (the third one is Berlayer Creek).

They have identified a green area in the vicinity that is contiguous with the Old Jurong Line and a corridor for wetland bird species from the Southern Islands, thus giving us the opportunity to preserve both our natural and historical heritages.

2. Although parts of the banks along Jurong river and Pandan river have been concretised or reinforced due to industrialisation since the 1960s-1970s, some mangroves (and back forest vegetation) and mudflats remain, as also noted by MND minister Desmond Lee in the aforementioned post.

These mangrove habitats support a diversity of flora and fauna, including endangered Nipah palms, smooth-coated otters, horseshoe crabs and threatened giant mudskippers, as well as resident and migratory shore birds, many of which were spotted by my hiking buddies and me during our recces and environmental clean-up sessions.

Smooth-coated otters swimming along Jurong river mangrove mudflats on 8 September 2021

A crocodile was also spotted in the West Coast area yesterday (8 December 2022), which I believe testifies to a gradually recovering ecosystem, in spite of the environmental impacts of industrialisation and land reclamation in recent decades.

Hence, restoring Jurong river mangrove mudflats and protecting Pandan mangrove wetlands can ensure that these native flora and fauna can continue to survive, and in turn help the mangrove ecosystem to become more established through the interconnected web of species interactions (including seed dispersal, pollination, prey-predator relationships, etc).

3. By having a bigger and healthier mangrove ecosystem, Singapore can benefit from greater carbon sequestration (since mangroves can sequester more carbon than tropical rainforests) and protection of the coasts from rising sea levels and resultant floods.

For example, as recent as 17 April 2021, Ulu Pandan river canal experienced flash floods as a result of the intense rain and high tide.

Earlier today (9 December 2022), I noticed that Pandan river was almost full capacity near the tidal gates around 1 pm plus during high tide – see link for pictures.

Given that Singapore may experience rising sea level up to 1 metre by the year 2100, having more mangroves along the coast can help stabilise the mudflats, build higher ground and mitigate floods to some extent, which can help reduce the socio-economic costs of flood damage, since we cannot solely rely on engineering solutions due to high costs, resource-intensiveness, reliance on global supply chains, and other factors.

4. Economically speaking, Singapore can benefit from the restoration of mangroves in Jurong river and Pandan river in terms of not only flood prevention but also ecotourism. For example, with the expected completion of Pandan Reservoir MRT station by 2027, both rivers will be much more accessible to visitors and tourists. 

The (UNEP) report outlines that every $US1 invested in restoration creates up to $US30 in economic benefits. “Restoring our ecosystems will help avoid 60 per cent of expected biodiversity extinctions,” Atallah says. “It will also help absorb carbon and crucially, help us adapt the effects of the climate crisis.”

Why nature holds the key to meeting climate goals” (UNEP, 15 November 2022)

I believe that a new Sungei Pandan wetland reserve can help draw more international tourists to visit Singapore, given that mangroves are unique to only certain tropical coastal areas. It can also help ease visitorship in Sungei Buloh wetland reserve, as too many human visitors may cause stress to the wildlife there (just as too many visitors in the central nature reserves may also be detrimental to the sensitive wildlife, hence the need for buffer nature parks outside the nature reserves).

Some wildlife sightings in/around Pandan river mangroves in May 2022 (Photos by Jimmy Tan)

Having the new Sungei Pandan wetland reserve can also facilitate school and public education and foster scientific research on mangrove habitats and their manifold benefits.

5. Last but not least, residents and people working in the highly built-up industrial estate around Jurong river and Pandan river can benefit from having access to cleaner air, cooler environment and more dense greenery in the neighbourhood, which is good for both physical and mental health. 

This in turn will help them save costs of electricity bills (from using air conditioning) and costs of medical bills (from falling sick due to stress, heat injuries caused by heat waves or rising urban heat island effect, and so on).

Protecting and restoring the mangrove forest in Pandan river will bolster its role as a water catchment for Pandan reservoir and as a nature-based solution to rising sea levels and urban heat island effect. (Photo by Jimmy Tan; base map from NParks)

I understand that Singapore is considered land scarce, and I believe the above proposal does not involve having to sacrifice much land zoned for other purposes, since the mangroves in Jurong river and Pandan river already exist, and the main work to be done is to first protect them as nature areas, so that we can focus on making these environments more habitable and conducive for both humans and non-human residents (and more pleasant and attractive for visitors as well).

Going further, we can redevelop old industrial sites in this part of Singapore, since many of the single-storey or low-rise industrial buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s are old and possibly run-down or underutilised, so that we can rebuild taller and more integrated modern industrial buildings in order to optimise land space fully.

The island-state’s sixth national report to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, submitted in 2020, said: “Due to the limited land area in Singapore, our natural areas tend to be small and isolated.” But to maintain the biodiversity of these areas, it is important to connect the green spaces, restore habitats and implement species recovery projects, among other efforts, the document added.

Protecting 30% of planet’s forests and habitats can save 1,000 wildlife species: Study” (The Straits Times, 5 December 2022)

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your favourable response.

Yours sincerely,
Jimmy Tan San Tek


Plant rescue at Dover Forest East

29 September 2022 felt like one of the longest days in my life.

I attended a plant rescue programme at Dover Forest East in the morning, which was organised by Nature Society Singapore (NSS), in collaboration with National Parks Board (NParks) and Housing & Development Board (HDB).

The event was supervised by NSS reforestation officer Chua Chin Tat.

I witnessed how the dedicated volunteers dug up saplings and placed them in bags for transplanting.

After the event, I had lunch with some of the volunteers and learnt much from their sharing of knowledge and experiences in various fields –

from hiking to recycling to scavenging to food security to nature conservation.

Then I cycled to Alexandra Woods for a recce via Green Rail Corridor before starting my dinner delivery shift at Bukit Merah area.

After the shift, I decided to make my way back via the Green Corridor in the dark of the night.

I was glad for the bright front lights for my bicycle and the improved surface of the greenway, which help to ensure safety.

Somehow, I am reminded that when it is darkest, we shine the brightest, even though things around us may look bleak, in view of the existential crises facing us.

“Our planet has been wounded by our actions. Those wounds won’t be healed today, or tomorrow, or the next, but they can be healed by degrees.” – Barack Obama, COP26 speech, November 2021

My feedback on Singapore’s revised climate targets

  1. Singapore has stated that we intend to achieve net zero emissions by or around mid-century. Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is:

Not sufficiently ambitious

  1. What is a suitable year to reach net zero?


  1. Should we enhance Singapore’s 2030 NDC which currently pledges to peak emissions at 65 MtCO2e around 2030? What should our 2030 NDC ambition be and why?

Please see SG Climate Rally and Lepak in SG’s recommendations.

  1. What can the Government do to support Singapore’s transition to a low carbon future?

Renewable energy may not be as green as it sounds, though it is less pollutive than fossil fuels.

This is because extracting cobalt and other minerals for manufacturing electric vehicles etc through mining in Congo etc and proposed deep-sea mining has serious environmental and human rights concerns.

In comparison, conserving and restoring forests and mangroves is a more cost-effective and less resource-intensive nature-based solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (as well as protecting biodiversity and boosting public health and well-being).

That means putting an indefinite moratorium to deforestation, instead of just replanting trees while continuing to sacrifice secondary rainforests.

At the end of the day, our priorities should be focused on life and death issues (aka existential crisis of climate change fuelled by unrelenting deforestation and urbanisation) rather than comfort and convenience (aka insatiable demand for housing for upgrading and investment, excessive consumption lifestyles, etc).

  1. What can businesses and industries do to support Singapore’s transition to a low carbon future?

Pay carbon tax et al for deforestation to compensate lower income residents affected by the loss of ecosystem services in Singapore.

  1. What can individuals and communities do to support Singapore’s transition to a low carbon future?

Consume less. Cycle, walk, take public transport. Don’t use (buy & sell) property at the expense of our forests and mental health just for investment to make quick profits. Learn to be contented in life and do no harm to oneself and others.

A highly urbanised environment in Ang Mo Kio housing estate, where a forest reserve once stood in the 1930s.

7. While there may be trade-offs or inconveniences, I am willing to contribute / play my part in helping Singapore realise its net zero ambition.

I agree to play my part in helping Singapore realise its net zero ambition.

8. Do you have any other thoughts on Singapore’s climate ambition that you wish to share?

Replace “grow at all costs” economic model with degrowth or donut economic model or equivalent. Please see attached link for details.

P.S. In case what I have shared above is seen in a negative light, I was expressing my wish to the government for them to be more mindful to the less privileged who are most affected by the effects of rapid deforestation and urbanisation. It isn’t about anti-development or anti-housing, as it is about sustainable development where everyone has equal rights to housing and health and well-being, instead of only the minority of the ultra rich and megacorporations who keep on encroaching limited green spaces to profit themselves, at the expense of the general populace and the natural environment, including native flora and fauna.

What can we learn from our younger generations about climate change?

“Climate change ain’t political; it’s parental.”

– Prince Ea

Indeed, climate change is a result of many parents, especially those in positions of influence and privilege, particularly in corporations and governments, who choose to live an unsustainable lifestyle or make decisions and policies that conform to the capitalistic economic system at the expense of our environment. As a result, our actions cause harm to the environment and affect the future of today’s children.

Come to think of it, if we see parenthood in a broader context, perhaps each of us can be a parent or mentor or guide to our younger generations, whether physically or spiritually.

Will our children and youths inherit a safe, diverse, inclusive and habitable world from us?

Will we also be teachable enough to learn (or relearn) the values of respecting and caring for Nature and sustainable living from them?

Urban heat island effect and climate change (A simplified explanation)

Let’s talk about wind for a start. 🌬️

I don’t profess to know all about wind, but maybe I can learn something new while sharing whatever little I know.

Physics teaches us that air flows from a high pressure area to a low pressure area.

That’s how wind is formed.

When a land area is heated up by the sun, parcels of air rise and condense to form clouds in the sky.

The rising air parcels cause the area to become less dense, creating low pressure.

The air from areas of high pressure will flow in as wind.

Air flows from a high pressure area to a low pressure area. (Source:

Some surfaces heat up faster than other surfaces, hence creating different areas of high and low pressures.

At the beach, the land heats up faster than the sea during the day, hence air flows towards the land as sea breeze.

On land itself, concrete buildings and asphalt roads heat up faster than parks and forests.

What happens when more forests are cut down to make way for cities?

We experience the urban heat island effect. 🌆

More heat. Stronger winds. More turbulence.

Urban heat island effect (Source:

Multiply this effect over time and space, and we will get more extreme weather changes, such as more intense and/or prolonged storms, heat waves, droughts, etc in different parts of the world.

In the longer run, we describe the phenomena collectively as “climate change”.

When measured in terms of the average time span of 35 years, climate may be observed as predictable meteorological patterns, which are fairly constant.

Weather is less predictable, as it changes daily, or even hourly.

Of course, in a much longer term, such as thousands or millions of years, climate changes significantly.

That’s how we get ice ages in between long periods of global warming.

But in the Anthropocene that we live in, climate changes faster than ever before, due to unprecedented emissions of carbon from human activities, such as:

🌳 Deforestation to make way for urbanisation
🌳 Burning of fossil fuels for energy, transport, etc

This is where we are.

On a global scale, winds are influenced by the Coriolis effect, which has to do with Earth’s rotation. 🌏

Coriolis effect (a simplified animation) Source:

It causes prevailing winds to rotate clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on whether they are in the Northern or Southern hemispheres.

That’s how we get monsoons, cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes in different regions of the world, which are being made more extreme by climate change.

These severe weather events may result in natural disasters, such as flash floods, landslides, mudslides, slope failures, etc, which in turn may cause property damage, injuries and/or deaths of people who are affected.

Sumatra squall in Singapore, caused by the southwest monsoon.

Note: This post is meant to provide only a simplified explanation of climate change. Besides wind, temperature and rain, other weather elements, such as humidity and cloud cover, have a part to play in climate too. Local weather cycles affect global weather cycles, and vice versa. To make things more complicated, deep ocean currents also affect the climate on continents.

Four main reasons why Dover forest is so important for conservation

Lush interior of the recovering secondary forest, supporting a rich biodiversity

1. The size of Dover forest is significant enough to combat climate change on a micro level.

Despite its relatively small size, Dover forest is sizeable enough to cool the urban heat island effect significantly, compared to small parks or gardens.

At 33 hectares in size, Dover forest has densely growing trees that can lower the temperature of the surrounding air more effectively than fragmented parks, small gardens or roadside trees.

“The results of the present study illustrate that the highest cooling effect distance and cooling effect intensity are for large urban parks with an area of more than 10 ha; however, in addition to the area, the natural elements and qualities of the urban green spaces, as well as climate characteristics, highly inform the urban green space cooling effect.”

Source: “Urban green space cooling effect in cities

It is especially crucial in the context of climate change and global warming we are experiencing today, due to rapid deforestation, urbanisation and emission of greenhouse gases.

How replacing Dover forest with concrete buildings will exacerbate the urban heat island effect in the region

2. Dover forest has rich biodiversity and ecosystem service benefits that are worth at least millions of dollars in economic value.

The biodiversity of Dover forest is pretty impressive, according to the environmental baseline survey report released by HDB and studies done by Nature Society (Singapore).

The ecosystem service benefits that Dover forest provides, such as food, shelter, nutrient recycling, preventing flash floods, and so on, would be worth at least million of dollars in economic value.

While replanting trees around the island is necessary, why should we have to destroy the lush forest and then spend many more millions of dollars to replant trees and implement environmental damage control measures that take years to take effect when we can enjoy the benefits that Dover forest already provides freely, abundantly and immediately?

3. Dover forest enhances our physical and mental health, while serving as a natural green buffer for our nature reserves.

Dover forest can meet the growing demands and needs of people for natural wild green spaces to relieve stress, build immunity and enhance mental health.

The forest serves as a green buffer to prevent our nature reserves from being negatively impacted by overcrowding.

4. Dover MRT station is a gateway for the general public to access the forest for recreation and outdoor education conveniently.

Its proximity to Dover MRT station means that residents can visit Dover forest easily and do not need to travel all the way to the nature reserves.

Just like Kranji MRT station is a gateway to Sungei Buloh wetland reserves and Kranji countryside, Dover MRT station is a gateway to Singapore Polytechnic, Holland private housing estate and Dover forest.

Aerial view of Dover forest, which has the potential of a world-class nature park that is easily accessible via public transport

Let’s make sustainable development a living reality.

For us to truly practise sustainable development, we urgently need to choose redevelopment of underutilised lands over deforestation, especially when climate emergency affects all of us locally and globally.

How would you envision sustainable development through conserving secondary rainforests and redeveloping brownfield sites?

P.S. To sign the petition to save Dover forest, click here.

Is Singapore really a green habitat teeming with wildlife? Is it also getting cooler or warmer?

Reality check: Green habitat teeming with wildlife?

Yesterday was a sunny day, as testified by those of us who commuted or worked outdoors.

Thanks to the cyclical La Nina effect and northeast monsoon season, the tropical heat has been slightly less intense lately.

Still, I had to laugh when my friend forwarded to me yesterday’s news article.

It was a mirthless inaudible laugh – my incredulous response to the headline.

It boldly says:

“From little red dot to green habitat teeming with wildlife”.

In the wake of two petitions on saving our threatened forests this year and a series of annual wild boar incidents resulting from a loss of habitats….

this article couldn’t have been more untimely,

Or it could have been written out of ignorance or under delusion.

It also says:

“Loving our flora and fauna can form the throbbing heart of a Singapore identity.”

Hopefully so, for this is far from our present reality.

Destroying the homes of pangolins and other endangered wildlife could hardly be considered “loving”.

Nor is suggesting that the wild boars be culled after making them homeless through deforestation.

The sad reality is that the current “throbbing heart of a Singapore identity” is more likely formed by replacing our remaining secondary forests with more BTO flats, malls and roads instead of redeveloping existing lands.

I suppose when driving around Central Catchment after being sheltered in an air-conditioned building, one might be forgiven for having an impression of a green city teeming with wildlife.

But perhaps by no stretch of imagination can we claim that the actual city itself has “stretches of parks that breathe like a green lung through the concrete landscape”

when the dominant green spaces are grassy plots or football fields or fragmented gardens and parks that simmer under the rising urban heat effect.

While I am grateful for the La Nina effect, we can’t depend on such transient favourable weather conditions and dismiss our need for more dense forests.

Our last two droughts were in 2014 and 2019.

When the next prolonged hot and dry season hit, we would wish we had never cut down those forests that have cooled our surroundings considerably.

Geographical location and climate

At this point, one may say that Singapore City looks a bit more green than the cities in many other countries.

How would one respond to that comment?

First, let’s agree on the fact that the comment “looks a bit more green” is referring to “looks” or “appearance”, not environmental friendliness.

Secondly, if we go by “looks” alone, we would still have to acknowledge that over 90% of the city is estimated to comprise concrete buildings and asphalt roads.

Thirdly, even if some other cities, such as Tokyo, New York City (NYC) and Shanghai, look less green than Singapore city, let’s keep in mind our geographical location.

Being located in or around the temperate regions, Tokyo, NYC and Shanghai are not subjected to high daily temperatures throughout the year.

These cities in temperate regions also have four seasons throughout the year.

Thus, the people in these cities do not experience the suffocating effects of urban heat effect or global warming as much.

Tropical and temperate zones of the world (Source of base map: Wikimedia Commons)

In comparison, being located at the equator, Singapore is subjected to the hot and wet tropical weather all year round, interspersed with hot and dry inter-monsoon periods.

The intensity of the sun’s rays is strongest within the Tropics. Being located at the equator, Singapore has a climate with uniformly high temperatures all year round. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Thus, losing over 90% of its original tropical rainforest is a recipe for environmental disasters, such as flash floods and adverse climate change, and is akin to a slow suicide through a health crisis.

It is reported that Singapore experiences increased greenhouse effect twice as much as most other places in the world because of its highly urbanised surface.

Secondary forests in Tengah and Bukit Batok West are being replaced with roads and buildings. Ever since its modern founding in 1819, Singapore has lost over 90% of its tropical rainforest and at least 50% of its flora and fauna.

Moreover, most of the aforementioned cities are located in much bigger countries, such as the United States of America, Japan and China, where the residents can choose to escape the summer heat waves to other parts of their countries that have much forests left.

In contrast, Singapore hardly has any sizeable forests left outside of its four nature reserves (which constitute less than 5% of the total land area)…

except only Clementi forest and a few smaller secondary forests, all of which are marked for future development.

Our gardens and parks may be visually appealing, but their sizes and density of trees are not enough to cool the surroundings as much as the dense forests (of at least 10 hectares) do.

We and our ancestors are not indigenous to this tropical island because we have migrated from nearby countries, hence we don’t have the wisdom and knowledge of managing rainforests sustainably like indigenous people do.

It is a mistake from the very beginning when the British colonialists and Chinese-majority authorities tried to replicate the idea of creating gardens in the city all over the tropical island.

While it might be common to have gardens in temperate countries such as the United Kingdom and China, having too many gardens and too few rainforests amidst roads and buildings in an equatorial country like Singapore only serves to leave us exposed and vulnerable to intense heat from the tropical sun.

The indigenous peoples in the Amazon, central African or Southeast Asian tropical rainforests would never allow their rainforests to be exploited and depleted recklessly like the way we have done in Singapore (which has lost over 90% of our original rainforests in the last 200 years).

These indigenous peoples have the wisdom and foresight to work with Nature and manage their forest habitats sustainably for thousands of years, both for themselves and their flora and fauna.

“Everyone needs to have the forest protected because it cleans the air; it is a pure air for us to breathe. …. We think that the problem is the people just want more and more and more; there is no end. The world is like there is no more control. What people need is more love and to understand each other. …. we want to have our forest protected because forest means life, forest means our body; forest means our everything and we live because we have the forest.” (We are all connected with Nature – TED Talk by Nixiwaka from Yawanawa tribe in Amazon rainforest)