Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015

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I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

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Park Connector Network Turns 25

September 20, 2015

park connector network

In 1992, then Minister for National Development Mr Dhanabalan planted a Tembusu tree at Kallang Park Connector.  The event marked the birth of our Park Connector Network (PCN).

The Kallang Park Connector became the first of a nation-wide network of over 70 Park Connectors linking up all our major parks, coastal areas and activity nodes. PCN allows us to discover our city – the lush greenery and diverse flora and fauna that exist among us – in a fun way.  We are “the wild city”, as Sir David Attenborough put it in a recent TV documentary.

Our park connectors have become well-loved green spaces. Volunteers have been organising guided rides and cycle-in movies to liven up the PCN. Cycling group LoveCycling SG has bicycle maintenance workshops and cycling sessions. PCN advocates like Mr Han Jok Kwang have provided many suggestions to improve the PCN, and initiated fund-raising activities to support these improvements.  He described his initiatives as good old kampung “gotong royong”.

PCN

It is heartening that the community has developed a strong sense of ownership towards the PCN!  Because the PCN is a great idea, successive MND Ministers have embraced and enhanced it.  In the past 4 years, we have extended the PCN by 120 km, from 180 km to 300 km! Just now, we launched and added the Central Urban Loop to the PCN. This loop of 36 km passes through charming Bishan, Kallang, Hougang and Punggol.

At 25, the PCN is still growing strong.  In the next three years, an additional 30km of Park Connectors will be completed in Ang Mo Kio, Lorong Halus, and Ulu Pandan. I cycle regularly and aim to cycle every km of it.  Happily, I see the goal post being shifted, as I am about to reach it. 🙂

Come enjoy our PCN and discover our beautiful City in a Garden.

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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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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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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.

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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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Ubin is for all

June 14, 2015

Ubin is for all

Singaporeans love Pulau Ubin for its lush greenery, rustic landscape and laid-back charm.  Animals are fond of Ubin too.

Ubin is home to a treasure trove of biodiversity, some of which are not even found on mainland. For example, the Ashy Roundleaf Bat is a native of Ubin and the Lesser False Vampire Bat is only found in Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.

We are helping these animals, bats and birds, with some of their housing needs 🙂

NParks is setting up bat houses across P Ubin for the bats to roost.  We are also making provisions to encourage nesting for three uncommon bird species — the Red-wattled Lapwing, the Baya Weaver and the Blue-throated Bee-eater.

Other resident wildlife in Ubin — including herons, crakes, rails, kingfishers, dragonflies, and frogs — will also benefit from our housing programme.  We are installing floating wetland units at the Pekan Quarry. They can look forward to having more nesting and roosting sites.

In time to come, these efforts should see even more birds, bats, insects and many more on the island!

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Additional Findings

June 4, 2015

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Our researchers at the Singapore Botanic Gardens discovered two new species of plants recently – Hanguana rubinea and Hanguana triangulata. The two species are not just new to science but are found only in Singapore! This makes the discovery especially significant.

Picture1Until these latest finds, botanists had assumed that there was only a single species, Hanguana malayana, in Singapore. But while examining a group of forest herbs belonging to the genus Hanguana, our researchers noticed remarkable differences in the plants, such as their size, flower structure, colour of the ripe fruits, and even the shapes of their seeds. As these plants are sometimes situated close to walking paths, visitors to Bukit Timah or MacRitchie would have passed these plants many times without realising that some of these are in fact new species.

With the discovery of the Zingiber singapurense (a ginger) last year, we now have three plant species found nowhere else in the world. These discoveries prove that size does not matter when it comes to biodiversity.

Besides the discovery of the new species, our researchers’ forest surveys have yielded other amazing results. For example, thirty plant species presumed to be extinct in Singapore have been rediscovered. And six species were found to be new records to Singapore.

These discoveries testify to the importance of biodiversity research. It allows us to better understand our local flora and fauna.

Incidentally, the two new Hanguana plant species have red and white berries, our national colours. At SG50, they are nature’s timely gift to us.

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