Singapore

Three cheers for our trees


Singapore has come out tops among 17 cities for its urban greenery, crowning its City in a Garden status.

Seeds of this success were planted decades ago.

The Republic has been spreading its green mantle since the 1960s, when then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew envisioned tree-lined expressways to impress investors.

The strategy was trademark Singapore - to pursue long-term growth with far-sighted planning, flexibility, an eye on the price tag and common sense.

Planting trees that are more drought-resistant, to give one example, has drastically cut down on the need for watering. It has worked.

Despite intense urbanisation and an expanding population, vegetation cover has increased steadily, and continues to grow.

The authorities are even sending tendrils into the sky: The plan is to have 200ha of skyrise greenery by 2030, up from the more than 100ha now.

Urban greenery is the backbone of this effort.

The National Parks Board manages about two million trees along streets and in parks and state land.

Roadside sentinels are an integral part of the verdant landscape, creating respite from the heat, a chance to enjoy nature and a haven for wildlife.

The latest study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the World Economic Forum found that almost 30 per cent of the Republic's urban areas are swathed in greenery - more than cities in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

Research from the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre showed another cool fact: 70 per cent of shade in the local streets comes from vegetation.

Animals, too, seem to have given their stamp of approval.

Recently, for instance, a pair of goshawks - a rare predatory bird here - and their chicks were seen in a tree at a Bedok carpark.

Above all, there are the intangibles, such as the feeling a weary Singaporean traveller gets when touching down at Changi Airport amid a sea of foliage.

After all, this little red dot would not be home, truly, without its green.

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