I woke up this morning (Thursday, 31 Jan) in UK time to a flurry of Facebook posts by friends back in Singapore on the latest land use plan put out by the Ministry of National Development. The earlier news of a projected 6.9million population in Singapore by 2030 had already caused much discontent and dissent amongst my Facebook friends (Nature lovers and the “average” Singaporean alike), since it seems to mean even more over crowding than what we currently already experience.
However, the latest news on the land use plan seem to affect mostly the Nature community, whose present and future are closely tied with our biodiversity, mainly due to the vast land reclamation that is proposed.
Looking at the short history of our island, Singapore has lost a lot of its biodiversity as compared to the days before Raffles, then becoming a major trading port and subsequently a first world country. But Nature is resilient and can fairly quickly reclaim back a lot of what was lost, and Singapore is not entirely wildlife-free. Yet.
Yet what will the future hold? A country that’s high-tech, hyper-connected, the hub of almost every industry in the region – yet completely (or close to completely) devoid of non-man-made recreational areas? Will there still be places for people to unwind and relax, because it’s important for our well-being? Perhaps the government does not consider nature areas of sufficient enough value to conserve; but have they factored in all cost, including loss of ecosystem services? And in general, will people want to live in a country that they envision? Cos Singapore is not just a city, it’s a country as well. Unlike other mega cosmopolitan cities, we don’t have big swathes of fairly unmolested land to retreat to.
I guess I could be totally optimistic and focus on how marine life bounces back pretty quickly (though I’m also wondering if the land reclamation will affect currents and tides and spawning grounds and other factors), how we will just have to embrace urban wildlife and other synurbic biodiversity (no complete loss of biodiversity) and various other seemingly positives. Simply accept the fact that all that is planned by the Powers-that-be will happen and we just have to make the most of what we have and be happy with it.
But being at a point in time now when I can actually make some noise about it and express my discontent (in what is hopefully a lucid manner), I don’t think I can be satisfied with just accepting that things will just happen. I want to hope that something might change, that when I go back, there’ll still be places to conserve, still be areas to work in. Curiously enough, I blogged about land use in Singapore last year while at NParks, on conservation and governance.
Anyway, (I need to get back to my mounting stack of supervision work) there are lots to think about, naturally. Whether or not to (eventually) go back to Singapore and work is obviously a pretty pertinent question for me, and the other Nature-lovers studying abroad (though those with bonds may not quite have a choice). Nonetheless, it’s a question that will only be answered in a few years’ time. Just like many other questions that we have right now on our minds.
Much of it is, I think, neatly summarised by (Alex) Au Waipeng, author of the yawningbread blog.
The choice Singaporeans should be asked to consider is this: Do we prefer to have a more slowly-growing economy (1 to 2 % a year) with no further increase in population or do we prefer a faster-growing one with more foreigners in our midst? The White Paper does not give Singaporeans this choice.
– taken from the yawningbread blog.