25 March 2012


 Today's weather - sunny
This issue has been extensively debated in the press for these last couple of weeks. But a decision was made by the government to proceed with the construction of the new four dual lane road through the 89 years old Bukit Brown cemetery to alleviate the traffic congestion along Lornie Road.

I guess the fundamental thing we need to acknowledge is Singapore has very limited resources where land is concerned, especially when compared to all our neighbours. Land scarcity will always be an issue for Singapore moving forward and there is pretty nothing much we can do other than carrying out land reclamation or acquiring more land. This is one big area where we will lose out to other countries. Hence, there will always be a tussle between the government and the nature activists in order to strike a balance between national development and nature conservation.

So the decision to build the new road, announced in Parliament on 5 Mar 12 by our Minister of State (National Development) Mr Tan Chuan Jin, was a most difficult one. A 670 m vehicular bridge will be constructed across the area to minimize the impact to the existing ecosystem, flora and fauna. I personally think this is an excellent idea unless there is a better solution. I understand the sentiments of the nature and heritage groups to conserve what is left of our natural heritage, but at times I also feel we should not demand the government put a complete halt to their plans. Whilst I do not agree with the government's decision in all cases, such as the demolition of the former Stamford Road National Library building, I think they have softened their stance and made a compromise in this case to meet halfway. I mean, they could have decided to go ahead to bulldoze everything to build the road and completely cut off the cemetery into two parts, thereby putting a barrier to alienate the fauna from both sides to come together. With this bridge raised above the ground, at least there is this natural corridor to allow the flora and fauna to continue to interact and thrive. At the same time, some of the three thousand over graves were spared from exhumation to make way for the project.

That to me, is a win-win situation for all and we have to gradually get used to more similar compromises ahead of us as we all band together and forge forward towards a better Singapore.

NB on 27 Mar 12: It was a pleasant surprise when I read what the news editor Mr Ignatius Low wrote in the Sunday Times on 25 Mar 12. I couldn't have written a better article or put across the salient points as effectively as him. While the outcome of the government's engagement exercise wasn't really what the various interest groups expected, the exercise wasn't a complete waste of time because the government did sit up, accept some of the merits of conserving the site and give in partially. After all, we simply cannot deny that the government agreed to spend up to 3 times the original budget to accommodate the voices of the nature conservationists. And yes, I wish the Van Kleef Aquarium at River Valley could have been spared demolition.