CNA’s recent article “Commentary: Save forests or build 4-rooms? It’s not a zero-sum game” has led many netizens to call for the conservation of forests in Singapore, imploring the government to preserve Clementi Forest from being torn down for residential development.
The article, penned by an associate professor at National University of Singapore (NUS) Yun Hye Hwang, highlighted that a petition to protect Clementi Forest has garnered over 10,000 signatures since it was launched on 26 October.
The petition was regarding the threat of Clementi Forest being subject to redevelopment plans.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) earlier on 30 November confirmed that Clementi Forest has been classified as a residential plot, adding that there are no immediate plans for residential development there yet.
According to URA’s plans, nearly half of existing secondary forests –- forests that have regrown after being logged –- covering about 4,700 hectares will potentially be converted into new development land uses within the next 10 to 15 years.
Referencing URA’s plans, Assoc Prof Yun noted that extensive forest loss could result in adverse consequences, such as floods.
She added that wild animals would be losing their habitats to survive, causing wildlife to appear in urban settings -– such as the case of a woman being attacked by a wild boar at the park off Pasir Ris Drive 3 on 17 November.
There’s also a spike in demand for housing and road traffic, raising the question as to how the need for infrastructure can be fulfilled while the forests are being preserved.
“I believe that viewing construction versus conservation as a zero-sum game is unhelpful. Instead, we should investigate how to develop land while preserving biodiversity and integrating nature into our urban landscape,” Assoc Prof Yun wrote.
She then pointed out the need to identify forests that are worth conserving at the city level, which takes into account the proximity to nature reserves, historical land use, topography and soil compositions, as well as the size of the forest.
Noting that competing demands might cause a forest removal to be “inevitable”, Assoc Prof Yun said a common approach taken for construction is to clear all pre-existing vegetation by “drastically altering or flattening the terrain”.
“In contrast to this blank slate approach, I suggest saving habitats that have higher biodiversity within an area earmarked for development,” she stated.
A handful of netizens commented on the article – posted on CNA’s Facebook page – to express how they were against the government’s move to classify Clementi Forest as a residential plot.
They brought into focus one question: “Do we need more housing in Singapore?”
Some netizens suggested converting old HDB flats into high-rise HDB flats instead of destroying the forests.