Our Magnificent Trees

August 1, 2015

Our Chief Gardener Mr Lee Kuan Yew did not just have a broad vision of transforming Singapore into a Garden City; he played a key role when it came to the detailed planning.

He had a deep knowledge of plants and trees. He read up, talked to experts and was often on the lookout for interesting trees to plant in Singapore when he travelled overseas.

In the 1960s, fast-growing trees such as the Rain tree (Samanea saman) and Angsana (Pterocarpus indicus) were favoured to provide instant shade. The rain tree was not a local tree. But they flourished in Singapore and became our well-loved permanent residents.

In the 1980s, colourful flowers and foliage took on more emphasis. These were selected from all over the world; the Trumpet tree (Tabebuia rosea) came from Central and South America, while the distinct Golden Shower (Cassia fistula) is from India and Sri Lanka.

We are doing more to continue Mr Lee’s legacy.

Over the past 10 years, we have introduced more than 300 new tree species into our urban landscapes. Did you know that we now have about 800 species of trees in Singapore?

Collage of trees in SingaporeSome are native to Singapore like the hardy Kasai tree (Pometia pinnata) planted along the CTE for its attractive red foliage. We have also planted some smaller native tree species such as the Kopsia singapurensis along Alexandra Road and the Syzygium myrtifolium along Yishun Avenue 2. Their beautiful flowers certainly enliven our streetscape!

Conscious efforts are also made to sensitively introduce wildlife into our urban areas. For our nature ways, specially selected trees and shrubs are planted to attract birds and butterflies.

We will continue to beautify our City in a Garden and make Singaporeans proud of their home.

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Living Smart, Living Well

July 28, 2015

With technology, we can live smartly: e.g. to remote-control some household appliances; to save energy; or to be alerted if granny has a fall at home. The commercial applications are now in the market. But do they meet the needs of our residents? Are they convenient to use?  Are they simple to use?

To answer these many questions, we need to put the gadgets and solutions to the test. Punggol Northshore saw the launch of the first batch of Smart-enabled flats in May. We offered 1,400 flats and received 5,000 applications.

In parallel, we are testing Smart solutions in existing estates. Yuhua estate will be the first to go smart. It will be a living lab for us to refine the smart solutions to improve residents’ lives. For a start, ten households will be selected to try out the solutions that will help families care for their elderly members, and save energy and water. Using mobile apps, residents will be able to monitor their household’s energy and water usage on-the-go, and get suggestions on how to cut back on utility usage. Caregivers can also be notified should their loved ones meet with a mishap.

The potential applications are vast. It is thus important that we take the first step to study the necessary infrastructure needed in our future flats, so that we can maximise their potential. The Yuhua pilot will allow us to decide on how to extend these Smart solutions elsewhere, to more residents in more estates.

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Our Tree Doctors

July 26, 2015

Today, our roads and parks are lined by a total of 1.5 million trees.

That is a lot of trees! And they need to be looked after. This is where NParks’ team of arborists come in. Just like how doctors maintain case files of all their patients, our arborists keep detailed records of all the trees under their care.

Every tree is tagged and has an ID number. Our tree doctors will inspect the trees for any symptoms of disease or defects at its base, trunk and canopy. In some cases, advanced tree diagnostic instruments, such as the sonic tomograph and resistograph are applied to assist in the inspection to help detect internal defects and changes in wood density.

But how do they check the roots underground? An excavation tool, called the ‘air-spade” is used to produce a stream of compressed air to remove soil without damaging the roots. Air spades are also be used to loosen the soil around trees to rejuvenate them, especially mature trees growing in urbanised, compacted areas.

To enhance productivity, NParks is rolling out the use of computer tablets for tree inspections. The tablets will allow officers to update the database in real-time from field sites, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.

Strong, healthy trees keep our City in a Garden safe for our people. We have our tree doctors to thank.

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Taste of Home

July 16, 2015

Food is central to Singapore’s culture, and indeed, the variety of local delicacies have come to represent the multicultural fabric of our way of life.

This month, the Restaurant Association of Singapore is organising its first-ever ‘Singapore Restaurant Month’. The campaign will run till Aug 10 during which 50 local restaurants will serve 50 new recipes. It is a good SG50 event and AVA lends its full support.

I particularly note that the 50 new recipes will incorporate the use of locally farmed produce such as leafy vegetables, eggs and fish. In doing so, we hope to raise the awareness and demand for locally farmed produce in restaurateurs and consumers.

Locally farmed produce is fresher and more nutritious. A thriving local agricultural sector also helps build Singapore’s food security.

 

‘Singapore Cityscape’ is one such creative dish. It is a fitting culinary tribute to our present cityscape with a vibrant food culture.

Do enjoy the campaign and visit the participating restaurants: www.singaporerestaurantmonth.com. Bon Appétit!

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It is confirmed! We have a World Heritage Site in our midst

July 4, 2015

World_Heritage_Site

Our Singapore Botanic Gardens has now joined the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew as an UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.  Though widely expected, the decision still came as a great gift for SG50.

There are many things special about Singapore Botanic Gardens. First, it is the best preserved example of tropical colonial botanic gardens, laid out in the English Landscape style. Second, the Burkill Hall is believed to be the only surviving example of an Anglo-Malay plantation-style house in the region. Third, the Gardens house more than 1,200 species of orchids and 2,000 hybrids – the largest collection in the world.

But what make the Gardens endearing are the people, who inject energy and soul into the place. The Gardens is well-loved and close to the hearts of many Singaporeans – the elderly who practices taichi every morning near the Swan Lake; young couples enjoying the cool shade under the Burmese Banyan tree; friends watching a performance under the stars at the Bandstand; and nature enthusiasts marvelling at the rare specimens of ancient giant Dipterocarp trees in the Gardens’ primary rainforest.

SBG_World_Heritage_Site

After all these years, couples still take their wedding photos at the Gardens and their children still play on the lawn by the Tembusu tree.

Indeed, each of us has memories tied to the rich history of the Gardens. The Gardens draws more than 4.4 million visitors annually, making it the most-visited botanic garden in the world.

We have lined up a series of activities for the public to learn more about our first World Heritage Site during the Jubilee Weekend. Come take a look!

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Less cars, more street life

July 2, 2015

Car-free Circular Road, Haji Lane and Ann Siang Hill during weekends have been a great success. As the streets get closed off, they come alive with activities: tables and chairs spilling onto the roads, diners enjoying a leisurely cuppa, youngsters hanging out at quirky boutiques, and tourists soaking up another aspect of Singapore. People stroll freely and safely. Closed to cars, the streets come alive.

These initiatives were started as pilot projects in 2013 by local stakeholders with the support of the URA. Progressively, we have seen more communities coming forward to initiate similar projects.

More recently at Everton Park, the local community came together to convert a quiet back lane to support a vibrant street festival. Many residents were pleasantly surprised to discover the community space and enjoyed many of the activities such as free haircuts, face-painting and kampung games.

We want to see more streets being turned into public spaces for community to enjoy. Today, the Urban Redevelopment Authority launched their “Streets for People” programme, to facilitate this.

This programme will help support new community-initiated car-free zones aimed at transforming streets and back lanes into temporary public spaces.  The programme offers varying levels of support, including providing road closure essentials such as safety barriers and signage, and up to $5,000 of seed funding. URA will also facilitate consultation with relevant government agencies.

For more information, visit http://ura.sg/streetsforpeople. Let’s participate in the Streets for People programme, and enjoy our streets.

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Supporting strong family ties

June 19, 2015

Strong families make strong communities and a strong nation. This is why we don’t just build flats; we also help families live closer together.

There are many benefits for such an arrangement. Grandparents can help look after grandchildren, and children can support their parents and grandparents.

Since 2011, we have enhanced various priority schemes and introduced a new flat type to help extended families live together or close by for mutual care and support. They have produced good results:

• 24% of BTO flat applicants applied under one of these schemes. They enjoy higher success rates than those who did not.

• This proportion is even higher (up to 36%) in mature estates like Tampines and Bedok.

• The Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS) is the most popular and accounted for about 90% of these applicants in 2014. Since its last enhancement in November 2014, 6,200 families have applied under the scheme. In addition, almost half of all parents applying to buy new flats to live closer to their married children in non-mature estates were moving from mature estates, and now enjoy higher chances of success.

• Other schemes are also becoming popular. The proportion of applicants applying under the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS) or for 3Gen flats has doubled from 5% in 2013 to about 10% in 2014. 284 pairs of families (parents and married children) have applied under the enhanced MGPS since September 2013, and over 600 multi-generation families will be moving into their 3Gen flats.

As the statistics show, more would like to buy a flat with or close to their extended families in mature estates. We have tried to meet these needs, by launching more flats in mature estates.

We have launched the first BTO project in Tampines North last year, and we will launch the first BTO project in Bidadari later this year. We expect application rates in Bidadari to be high. To help families live closer together, we will give priority to those whose parents live in Toa Payoh, Potong Pasir, or within the 2km radius.

However, there is limited land for us to launch BTO projects in mature estates. That’s why we also give an additional $10,000 under the higher-tier CPF Housing Grant of $40,000, to help first-timer families buy a resale flat to live together or close to their parents or married children.

We will also study whether we can further help those who wish to buy a resale flat to live near their parents.

Our goal is to promote mutual care and support across all towns in Singapore. Our mission is to build strong family ties, generation after generation.

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