Keynote Address 1

"Rooting, Growing and Managing
Singapore's Garden City"

Picture Dr. Leong Chee Chiew

Dr. Leong Chee Chiew
  • Deputy Chief Executive Officer National Parks Board, Singapore

Dr. Leong received his PhD in plant physiology from the University of Malaya. He joined the former Parks and Recreation Department in 1983 as a research officer in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. When the National Parks Board of Singapore was formed in 1990, he became its Deputy Executive Director. When the Board merged with the Parks and Recreation Department in 1996, he was appointed the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Specialist Services Department). Since April 2000, he has been responsible for the Board's Parks Management Department. Dr. Leong also chairs the Singapore Green Plan Working Group on Nature Conservation and the Nature Conservation Review Committee of the 2001 Concept Plan Review.

While Singapore was undergoing rapid infrastructural development and high-speed growth in the 1960s, an island-wide tree-planting movement began. This represented the beginning of Singapore as a "Garden City." There are several reasons given as to why this green movement was successful: (1) The presentation of a clear vision with top-down support from the Prime Minister’s Office; (2) various activities to ensure that the "Garden City" concept remained in the consciousness of the people of Singapore; and (3) the protection of various plants and trees through a variety of different laws, including the Parks and Trees Act, and more recently, the National Parks Act. Among the national guidelines that were adopted for multi-agency implementation were the provision of tree planting within road verges and a national target for park provision of 0.8 ha/1000 people.

From the point of view of protecting Singapore’s remaining natural environment, efforts are being made to safeguard places where people can truly enjoy nature. One such effort is the government’s decision to set aside 5% of Singapore's land area as Nature Areas. Additionally, the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which played a central role in providing technical and scientific support when the Garden City Plan was implemented, is now expanding its educational activities to provide the general public with knowledge and skills in gardening, as well as to upgrade the horticultural and landscaping profession in Singapore.

A successful example of public outreach activities to date is the Adopt-a-Park scheme, in which schools, hospitals and community groups are given hands-on gardening opportunities in parks and National Parks Board staff provide adopters with information to encourage greater interest in flora and fauna and eco-systems of heritage significance. In this way, a sense of stake holding and ownership among all segments of the population is promoted and efforts, such as the creation of roof-top gardens, can be jointly made between the public-private sector in creating a green environment in which to live.

There are concerns that future population growth and associated urban development could put a strain on the environment. However, as long as the people of Singapore are keenly aware of the environmental, social and economic benefits of the Garden City, and are supportive of the resources and national effort towards it, the promise of a verdant and green future is bright.

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