Highlighting Singapore’s title as one of the greenest cities in the word, National Development Minister Desmond Lee stressed that the greenery seen on the island today is a “result of the foresight and careful planning” of the country’s pioneers, as well as the “hard work of generations of horticulturalists and conservationists”.
In an article published by The Straits Times titled, ScienceTalk: A million trees more for a City in Nature, Mr Lee touted the government’s ramped up efforts to transform Singapore into a ‘City in Nature’. This vision is one of the five pillars of the Singapore Green plan 2030.
He explained the four key moves that the government will undertake in the following decade to achieve this goal, starting with extending the nature park network to “better protect and buffer our nature reserves”.
The other moves include, intensifying nature in Singapore’s gardens and parks, integrating nature into the urban environment, and strengthening connectivity between important green spaces.
Mr Lee wrote, “Given our land constraints, we must find innovative ways to weave nature into our urban fabric – for example, by turning concrete canals into naturalised vegetated waterways and wetlands, which has been done at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Jurong Lake Gardens.
“We must also strive to protect our most ecologically important areas, even as the island continues to develop. By doing so, we can mitigate the effects of climate change and soften the harshness of urbanisation.”
The minister went on to talk about the country’s OneMillion Trees Movement which was launched in 2020, which aims to plan a million trees on the island by 2030.
“While it is inevitable that we will lose some greenery to development, we will plant back what is lost, and more,” he noted, adding that 179,000 trees have already been planted so far under the initiative.
Mr Lee went on to explain the many benefits of trees, such as mitigating the urban heat island effect in the battle against climate change, and to provide more habitats for nature biodiversity while fortifying ecological resilience.
Netizens, however, are skeptical of this movement, especially in the wake of heated debate over deforestation for the sake of development—a public conversation that was sparked when people were made aware of the government reclassifying Clementi Forest as residential, planning to redevelop Dover forest, and the mistaken clearing of 4.5 hectares of forest at Kranji Woodlands.
On The Straits Times Facebook page, several netizens were directly calling for the government to protect the trees that already exist in Singapore as they are, instead of felling them for the sake of development on one hand, and replanting a million trees to combat the effects of that deforestation.
One person called out the irony of the government destroying forests to put up concrete buildings while also planting a few trees to fight global warning, that it is the “destroyer becomes the savior”.
One person suggested that the government do continual enbloc programmes instead of opening up new land via deforestation. “Homeowners can benefit, environment can benefit,” they wrote, describing it as a “win-win”.
Others wondered about the effectiveness of planting a million new, and smaller trees in the fight against climate change, pointing out that the existing bigger and older trees probably mitigate more the effects of climate change.
One person asked, “for every 1 tree NEA plants, how many will JTC remove?” while another asked for more information on the new plants planted in comparison to the old ones that are cut down.
One netizen pointed out that having to replace old forests with new trees that 24/7 care would also require a tax hike to pay for the maintenance of these new trees.
Another person called out the government’s light hand in dealing with the erroneous clearing of a portion of Kranji Woodlands forest with “no penalty or punishment at all.”