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


Hougang/Lorong Ah Soo secondary rainforest: Then and now

Winds of change: The former secondary rainforest at Hougang Avenue 1 was probably around 8-10 ha in size (equivalent to 10 football fields).

Almost 10 years ago, I took an aerial picture of the secondary rainforest next to Tai Keng Gardens from an apartment block along Hougang Avenue 1.

Back then, I had no idea that it would be cleared for housing development one day.

I discovered the forest in the backyard of my office building at Upper Paya Lebar area around 2013.

That was when I decided to go for lunch on my own and take a walk around Tai Keng Gardens.

The lush greenery and fresh air along the forest fringe provided a respite for my soul.

However, by early 2018, bulldozers came to raze the forest to the ground.

That same year, I left the company and became a self-employed writer, editor, photographer, videographer and food delivery rider.

Thanks to my flexible working hours, I was able to explore other forests, such as Bukit Batok hillside park area and Tengah forest, and advocate their conservation.

After all, the relentless pursuit of development-at-all-costs has resulted in the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and health crisis facing us today.

I had the opportunity to visit this formerly forested area again while passing by Hougang / Lorong Ah Soo recently, and I saw how much has changed.

Gone were the densely growing trees and shrubs, with only a few token ones remaining in the margins.

One might say that change is inevitable, as the only constant is change.

But I believe we can have nuances in our narratives and ask ourselves who benefit and who do not benefit from the changes in land use.

How about those who have been displaced or disadvantaged by the deforestation and cannot speak up for themselves?

It is not known how the loss of the forest at Hougang Avenue 1 may affect resident and migratory birds that may have used it as a stopover and/or core habitat. Hopefully, an ecological profiling exercise will be conducted for the remaining forests, including Paya Lebar airbase forest buffer before any development begins.

How would the existing residents in Hougang Avenue 1 and Tai Keng Gardens feel about the loss of ecosystem services in their neighbourhood?

Can we consider state land as public commons since the forest is interconnected with the air we breathe and the fauna we depend on for pollination, seed dispersal, food security, etc?

A drainage area was dug beside the significantly large fig trees next to Tai Keng Gardens, possibly to prevent flash floods during heavy rains. I am not sure if it was built only after a flood occurred nearby at Hougang Avenue 3 in November 2020.

Deforestation and flash floods: How they are all connected

Deforestation in Bidadari and Lorong Ah Soo may have contributed to the flash floods in the surroundings during an intense storm on 2 November 2020.

It is believed that due to climate change, more extreme weather changes can be expected.

Yesterday, flash floods occurred in several places in Singapore during such a heavy downpour.

Although floods aren’t new occurrences in low-lying countries like Singapore, they may be exacerbated by ongoing deforestation.

According to TODAY’s article dated 2 Nov 2020:

“In photos shared on social media, murky brown water can be seen inundating parts of a road along Hougang Ave 3 near the Singapore Girls’ Home.


In a Facebook post at around 3.15pm, PUB said that flash floods had occurred along Upper Paya Lebar Road, Lorong Gambir near Bartley as well as Mount Vernon Road.”

Murky water flooding Hougang Avenue 3 on 2 Nov 2020 (Photo by SG Road Vigilante Facebook Group)

It is interesting to note that these places are also the locations where deforestation is taking place.

Deforestation is underway in Bidadari (around 90 ha) to build a new housing estate.

Deforestation for housing development in Bidadari (Photo taken on 2 Jan 2020)

Likewise, deforestation is taking place south of Lorong Ah Soo.

Is it any wonder why flash foods are happening all of a sudden during a heavy downpour in the vicinity?

It is a clear sign that we have reached a point we can no longer ignore the negative consequences of destroying our few remaining dense forests in Singapore to our own detriment.

But when concerned citizens and nature lovers decry the ongoing deforestation, they get labelled as “negative” and “complaining”.

Have any of us remembered our Geography lessons in school where we learn that replacing the porous soil of the forest with impermeable concrete and asphalt surfaces will result in greater surface runoff?

How deforestation contributes to flooding (Source:

It isn’t sufficient to simply apply superficial band-aid solutions by building artificial rain gardens and so on.

We need deep ecological solutions to deal with the root cause of the problem of flash floods, increased urban heat island effect and so on.

We need to seriously consider redeveloping brownfield sites such as golf courses and other underutlitised or unused existing built-up lands, instead of sacrificing our few remaining dense forests such as Bukit Batok Hillside Park, Clementi Forest, and so on.

To sign the petition to conserve Bukit Batok Hillside Park, click here.

To sign the petition to conserve Clementi Forest, click here.

Zombie apocalypse: Will it become a living reality in our city?

Monuments or modern tombstones?

Imagine a zombie apocalypse scenario where there is hardly any human being seen in the city.

Where have all the human beings gone to?

The shiny skyscrapers and grand sculptures are left empty like giant whitewashed tombstones.

Are these buildings monuments of humankind’s glorious achievements?

Or are they stark reminders of a decadent dystopia?

In the hot sweltering oven of the sun-baked tropical desert, the air feels hostile and oppressive.

Seedlings of trees all across the island have stories to share.

Those who had the privilege and “good fortune” to be planted in the Gardens by the Bay are under protection by default.

Those who were “unlucky” to grow up in forests such as Bukit Batok Hillside Park live in fear that their days are numbered.

They have heard horror stories of how their tree relatives in Punggol, Tampines, Lentor, Bidadari and Tengah forest woke up one fine morning and heard the dreadful noise of the excavators that came rumbling in to clear their habitats.

Meanwhile, as the island reaches a boiling point, one wonders how long more humans continue the onslaught without destroying themselves.

Already, the city is simmering under the unrelenting heat today (which currently feels like 35 degrees Celsius at 9.50 pm).

How long more can we endure the urban heat island effect and still pay lip service to sustainable development?

P.S. If you do not wish to see our city becoming a post-apocalyptic desert, please sign the petition to support nature conservation and sustainable development.

A visit to Lentor-Tagore forest 

Having been reading on Facebook about the impending development of Lentor area that will result in the destruction of forest and two natural streams, I decided to check out the area this afternoon in search of the elusive streams. 

But it turned out that I was a bit too late because when I arrived at Yio Chu Kang road via Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, I saw that the entrance to the forest, where the streams were supposed to be, has been fenced off, and a portion of the forest behind a bus stop along Yio Chu Kang road has already been cleared. 

I decided to cycle around Lentor private housing estate, hoping to find another way to Lentor forest. The nearest I could get to the forest is via a canal near the junction of Lentor avenue and Seletar Expressway (SLE).

From the end of the canal, I could see heavy machinery clearing the forest. I found a path through the forest fringe that led me closer to the clearing. 

I decided not to venture too close to the clearing and turned back. I later circled round the area via Springleaf nature park in the north to the other side of the forest, hoping to find an entrance to the forest from Tagore Industrial Avenue. 

I managed to find a small entrance along the avenue, and walked some distance along the fringe of the Tagore forest. I came to the point where forest clearing was taking place in the south beside a stagnant-looking water body. 

Is that part of a natural stream? I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to trespass the construction site, and decided to hike in another part of the forest. I followed a track through Tagore forest that led me to SLE in the north. 

Apart from some wildlife such as a wild boar, a jungle rooster and munias, I didn’t see much in this area. There seems no signs of any natural streams. I suppose they are only found in the part of the Lentor forest that has been fenced off, which I wasn’t able to access. (Or maybe there is another entrance to Lentor forest that leads to the streams that I am unaware of, as I am unfamiliar with the area.)

I decided to call it a day, as evening was approaching. I cycled via Teachers’ Estate back to Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, and took a lift up to the highest floor of a HDB block, and snapped some sunset pictures, showing an aerial view of the remaining forest next to Teachers’ Estate.