Singapore’s remaining natural patches and building new towns

Hi there everyone,

I wanted to bring up this topic with regards to urbanisation and clearing remaining forest patches in Singapore.

The Straits Times reported recently on 12 April 2016, Tengah located between Choa Chu Kang and Jurong West is going to be developed into a mixed-use housing town. The report by Straits Times here:

Tengah is a secondary forest patch that connects the Western catchment area to the Central catchment. The plans for a new town means that the corridor connecting Western catchment and Central catchment will now be disconnected. Habitat fragmentation negatively impacts the biodiversity (or whatever remains of it).

There are plans to make the new town in Tengah a “forest town”. But we know that even a highly planted urban area will never be able to support the type and abundance of biodiversity that a healthy intact forest of the same size can. I commend HDB for trying to plan a residential are such that it somewhat mimics the natural area. This could benefit residents living there as they may feel that they are ‘closer’ to nature in a landscaped forest town and reduce the disconnectedness between nature and urbanites.  From my personal observations, many of the new upcoming residential and commercial buildings are marketing themselves as “close to nature”, “eco-friendly”,”amidst lush greenery” etc. There seems to be a trend or demand toward properties that are situated close to natural green spaces and environmentally friendly infrastructure. Does the demand for such ‘green’ buildings and nearby amenities reflect a change in the societal mindset toward one that values nature and understands the importance of exposure to nature? I would hope so. But the biodiversity of an urban area leans toward the urban exploiters and adapters (Javan mynas, anyone?) and not the original biodiversity that can be found in forests. So….. is it really a different town from what we already have in other non-forested housing towns? I feel that it is ironic to remove the secondary forests to be replaced by a manicured “forest” landscaped

I fully understand that there is an economic component in development of land, property values and construction. However,  how long can Singapore sustain building new towns and clearing natural areas?Eventually, we are going to run out of natural areas to clear. What are we going to do then? What will be left of Singapore’s natural/native biodiversity?

Since Tengah town is set to disconnect the Western from the Central catchment, Nparks had the foresight to try to mitigate the impacts of the fragmentation by building the longest nature corridor called Tengah Nature Way @ South West in 2014 (see below). The nature corridor is planted with mostly native plants and connects the western catchment to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve which is then connected to the Central catchment. While the efficacy of the nature corridor for the movement of animals and plants is still unknown, I would say this is a good initiative to mitigate the impacts of urbanisation.

TengahNatureWay map

Sorry for the poor image quality. The red lines denote the nature way that will link up Western catchment and BTNR.

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We have learnt about the issues associated with urbanisation such as the loss of native biodiversity, nature deficit disorder and environmental changes like UHI effect. It is my hope that we use the knowledge gained to apply it to our daily lives, at home, at work and even in our political views to ensure the sustainability of our planet.