A gateway to Singapore’s nature reserves MacRitchie Reservoir Paper

Published: 2021-09-11 13:55:13
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Category: Biodiversity

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A gateway to Singapore’s nature reserves, MacRitchie Reservoir park lies in the heart of the country. A popular destination for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts, the 12-hectare green haven borders Singapore’s very first reservoir and Central Catchment Nature Reserve and is a popular venue for hosting cross-country events, where participants run through trails and embrace the wonders of the native biodiversity.
MacRitchie possesses a rich biodiversity and is home to many species of flora and fauna, including the Sunda pangolin and lesser mousedeer, which are endangered in Singapore, as well as the Purple Thottea, Basket Stinkhorn and Mousedeer plant.
As I set foot in MacRitchie, I could feel my loose shirt starting to cling to my back in places within minutes, with perspiration trickling down my face under the sweltering afternoon heat. As I stood at the entrance of the nature trail, braced for the 5km long journey, the raw, earthy scent of the mud and the smell of foliage greeted me. Twigs and branches cracked beneath my feet with every step I take. The roots of the trees projected through the soil, twisting like snakes, writhing around the forest ground. The sunlight filtered through the spreading canopy of green above me, flowing through the gaps like running water. Squirrels scampered and scurried up and down around the trees as butterflies fluttered across me, the iridescent glow of their petal-wings bringing a feeling of serenity that holds me as if in a camera flash. They circled and spun, forming knot patterns in the air. The twittering and chirping of the birds in melodious chorus filled the air, and as they flew across the sky, I watched on till they became specks on the horizon, just before they blended into the faraway sky.
After a long and arduous hike, I eventually made it to the Treetop Walk. Spanning 250 meters from Bukit Peirce to Bukit Kalan, the two highest points in the park, the freestanding bridge offers breathtaking views of the reservoir. The clear, turquoise blue waters of the reservoir and the forest canopy looked brilliant under the afternoon sun. I could see why it was a popular favourite among locals and foreigners alike. It was a sight to behold. The tranquility I felt walking above the lush green foliage was something I have never felt before — it was quite unreal. In the midst of admiring those views, I encountered the common long-tailed macaques — a belated one to say the least. The trip to MacRitchie would have been incomplete without meeting their ‘friends’. The experience at MacRitchie has amazed me, but in light of the government’s plans to build the Cross-Island Line through the park, it made me worry — what would happen to the animals and plants here? It then led me to question myself, “Is biodiversity conservation important for Singapore?”
In Biodiversity Conservation in Singapore, Dr Lena Chan explores the importance of biodiversity conservation, and how this issue could define Singapore in the future. In the beginning, she mentioned that it is “positively dangerous to suggest that biodiversity conservation is an expense better avoided”. This was a strong statement. It clearly signalled her intentions. According to Dr Lena, biodiversity conservation is crucial to Singapore’s development and economy, and development without biodiversity “is a strategy for failure, the only question being how long failure can be postponed”. As crucial as development is to Singapore’s future, biodiversity is as well. Singapore can reap the benefits of it. By conserving biodiversity, we can “secure the base needed for human survival and economic development”. The time, money and manpower invested will not go to waste, for the “direct and indirect economic benefits” more than repays it.
Singapore possess a rich variety of ecosystems, in the form of reservoirs, wet and dry grasslands and mangroves, just to mention a few. With limited land space, coupled with intense development, these ecosystems may be compromised. The high population density in the city-state makes land-use crucial towards meeting the demands, and it is one of the reasons why biodiversity will be adversely affected. Infrastructure developments and extension of land use proposals are being carefully reviewed by the relevant agencies. The shifts in economic structure and rising human population meant that the “Concept and Master Plans are not immutable”. Even though development is important for the country, the government has recognised that biodiversity conservation is equally important for Singapore.
Surveys, restoration programmes, education and international and regional agreements. It shows just how Singapore perceives biodiversity conservation. In a clear signal of intent, the country is working with the Convention of Biological Diversity to develop the Singapore Index for Cities Biological Diversities, a “self-assessment tool” and an example of “how cities can contribute to international conservation”. The strategic decisions made by the government are worthwhile and necessary investments, considering the fact that biological diversity and the habitats are “part of our national heritage and a source of pride”. It gives Singapore the platform to build on its conservation efforts and “be a leader in urban conservation”. It will propel Singapore onto the global stage and boost its reputation, potentially attracting foreign investors which will only bode well for her economy.
Apart from that, Dr Lena also recognises the “importance of biological resources in biomedicines and biotechnology”. Products such as Contignasterol and Pseudopterosin E demonstrates the importance of biodiversity conservation to Singapore, as potential cures and medication can be found amongst them. In 2013, the government built the [email protected] – an ecological corridor over the BKE to allow connectivity between natural areas for animals like the Sunda pangolin. It was the very first overpass to be built in Southeast Asia for wildlife, which further reiterates the government’s commitment to biodiversity conservation.
In How Singapore Makes Biodiversity an Important Part of Urban Life, Grace concurred with the views of Dr Lena, stating that “Singapore’s decision to set aside land for nature reserves and parks — even while intensifying land use elsewhere — is a conscious choice”. She believes that Singapore understood the importance of biodiversity conservation, and the decision has been deliberately thought out, in light of “competing uses for housing, industry, defence and transport infrastructure”, especially in land-scarce Singapore.
Singapore has taken biodiversity more seriously than many other countries. Over the years, the city-state’s leaders’ vision for Singapore has changed. As much as Singapore’s development is important for the country, biodiversity also plays a crucial role, and they believed that development and biodiversity conservation should not be mutually exclusive. But rather, it should work in tandem so as to reap even greater benefits. Fostering “a host of plant, animal and even marine life is not only a key part of Singapore’s natural and national heritage, but also makes the city more livable and attractive to global firms looking for a place to set up shop”
Hence, with that statement, Grace also resonated with Dr Lena’s assertion that the conservation of biodiversity will allow for development of Singapore’s economy, where potential foreign investors will have their heads turned and look towards investing in Singapore.
Be it from a moral, ethical or cultural viewpoint, conserving biodiversity was not always about protecting the plants and animals in our country, nor was it about potential economic benefits. It is a part of our natural heritage, and if we are committed towards protecting the biodiversity in our country, we are essentially protecting her natural heritage, which is Singapore’s source of pride. As Grace took some time to reflect on Singapore’s commitment towards biodiversity conservation, she also understood the fact that biodiversity, which exists in the form of our nature reserves, coral reefs, wetlands, are part of our natural heritage and source of pride. It is in Dr Lena’s study where she also noted biodiversity as “part of our national heritage and it represents the soul of the nation just as much as buildings and history” in Singapore.
Therefore, as plans to build the Cross-Island Line beneath MacRitchie is greeted with public discontentment, the government is looking into ways to protect its biodiversity whilst ensuring this project can be executed smoothly. On a larger scale, protecting MacRitchie is part of protecting the rich biodiversity in our City in a Garden. We have a vast amount of plant and animal species which can be found in their natural habitats such as mangroves and dry land tropical rainforests. The importance of biodiversity conservation thus cannot be overlooked. Biodiversity also boosts people’s wellbeing. The provision of green space allows people to connect with nature and relax. It also gives opportunities for people to exercise, engage in recreational activities like fishing and jogging. Thus, Singapore’s biodiversity conservation efforts and the policies implemented do not just reap economic benefits — they provide health-related benefits as well. Hence, biodiversity conservation matters to Singapore. The government and people of the country have recognised biodiversity’s importance and have taken considerable measures to protect it. In the long run, the pragmatic investment of time, effort and finance will be worthwhile.

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