The Singapore government is tearing down a local petting farm to make ways for more roads to be built.
In recent weeks, it was reported that The Animal Resort in Seletar will be closing down for good after 20 years of operations. Its last day of operations is on 10 January next year.
The decision was made due to the farm’s inability to comply with the requirements outlined by the National Parks Board (NParks) to renew its lease, which would require them to commit some S$250,000 to earn just a two-year extension.
Thierry Lim, the owner of The Animal Resort, told TODAY that it would not make sense to invest such an amount only to open for another two years, adding that his family would “definitely” pay the price if that was not the case.
“We did try to negotiate to stay and even told NParks that this is a 2ha land, but we are using only half of it. They said more than half will be used for roads,” said Mr Lim.
The NParks, JTC and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) have also advised Mr Lim to consider bidding for commercial units for his retail business, the agencies informed TODAY.
“JTC and NParks had suggested other sites for the tenant to tender for the petting farm but they were assessed by the tenant to be unsuitable. As such, NParks has been exploring options for the rehoming of his animals and will continue to work closely with him to ensure the animals’ welfare and health,” it added.
While it is no denying that roads are crucial in economic development, the government’s decision to close down The Animal Resort has again brought this question into focus: Why are we tearing down an animal petting farm just for the sake of building more roads?
What’s more, just shortly after the impending closure was announced, The Animal Resort said it received overwhelming demand from visitors and that all slots were fully booked until next year.
Is this not an indication of demand for nature tourism in Singapore?
Braess Paradox proves building more roads is a bad idea
Aside from the ecological loss that might arise from the government’s decision to close down the petting farm to build new roads, another scenario that might happen from this move is road congestion.
Braess’ Paradox, a theory created by a German mathematician Dietrich Braess in 1968, is a famous example in which building more roads can actually worsen traffic flow.
The analogy of this paradox is that while adding new roads provides a shortcut to certain destinations, car drivers tend to make “the optimal self-interested decision” as to which route is the shortest, causing the shortcut to be overused.
This will then lead to a traffic flow equilibrium resulting in longer travel times than before. The solution to this is by closing some roads to improve traffic flow.
The Cheongyecheon restoration project in South Korea is a good case in point for the Braess’ Paradox.
Lee Myung-Bak, the then-mayor of the capital city of Seoul, initiated a restoration project in 2003 to remove the elevated highway at Cheongyecheon and restore the once-polluted stream. The project was completed in 2005 and was lauded as a major success in urban renewal.
As a result of the demolition of the highway, the number of vehicles entering downtown Seoul has declined, while the number of users for busses and subways increased.
Another case, which evidenced the existence of the Braess’ Paradox, took place in Germany.
In 1969, the city administration of Stuttgart built a new road to ease downtown traffic. However, it was demolished not long after due to worsening traffic congestion.
Similar findings were reported in New York City when it was found that the traffic became less congested after the 42nd Street, a major crosstown street in Manhattan, was shut down by the authority.
These instances further suggest that building more roads would potentially induce greater traffic congestion instead of solving traffic congestion in the long term.
Nine in 10 of S’poreans willing to bear additional costs and inconvenience in favour of low-carbon economy
The overwhelming demand that The Animal Resort received from Singaporeans after the resort announced its impending closure appears to indicate that Singaporeans are in great need of nature-related places.
This need could also be seen in results from the Climate Change Public Perception Survey, released by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) a year ago, in which the majority of Singaporeans wanted to “preserve a liveable world for future generations”.
The survey was conducted with 1,000 residents aged 15 and above via face-to-face interviews from May to July last year.
It found that over 90 per cent of respondents were aware of climate change and global warming, while nine in 10 of the respondents supported the shift to a low-carbon economy, even if they have to bear some additional costs and inconvenience as consumers.
NCCS also observed that the key motivator for respondents in safeguarding the planet is the liveability of the world for future generations, adding that 84.8 per cent were strongly believed that climate change is already happening and will affect future generations if nothing is done.
While most of the respondents agreed that it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part in fighting climate change, they believed that the government should lead the charge, followed by business leaders and individuals.
72 per cent of S’poreans prioritise the environment over economy and jobs
Furthermore, Pew Research Center’s international survey findings indicated that 72 per cent of Singaporeans think that protecting the environment should be given high priority, even if it may result in slower economic growth and some loss of jobs.
The survey was published in September, which was conducted across 20 societies in Europe, the Asia-Pacific, the United States, Canada, Brazil and Russia from October 2019 to March this year.
According to the survey, only 23 per cent of Singaporean adults prioritise creating jobs even if the environment suffers to some extent.
“In Singapore, about two-thirds [65%] say climate change is affecting where they live a great deal [26%] or some [39%],” it asserted.