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Giving up the forest for the trees

The HDB said Tengah, which is about the size of Bishan and billed as Singapore’s “forest town”, will dedicate about 20 per cent of its 700ha to green spaces.


Located next to Tengah’s Central Park green lung, the Park district will occupy 104ha and feature a number of green ways, such as a 1.5km-long rainforest walk.


Tengah is the first HDB town to be developed since Punggol more than two decades ago.


The Tengah masterplan was first revealed in 2016, and since 2018, over 7,000 new flats have been offered. When fully developed, the town will have about 42,000 new homes, with the first residents expected to start moving in from 2022.

Credit: The Straits Times.

I know the urban development of the sprawling Tengah forest - which has flourished since the last villages in the area were resettled in the 1990s - was inevitable. Plans for a Tengah town had existed for a long time.


But I still feel sad when I see an actual secondary forest being cleared for a “forest town”.


Tengah town may be a “forest town”, but it’s still a town. Almost none of the original forest cover will be retained.


This:

And this:

Credit: Google Maps.

Will be replaced by this:

Credit: Housing and Development Board.

A key feature of Tengah is the car-free town centre. Roads will run beneath it to free up the ground level and to allow for a bicycle-friendly environment.


So the town centre won’t exactly be “car-free” - the roads will just be pushed underground, out of sight.


It’s good to free up surface land for community use, but it doesn’t tackle the macro problem of Singapore still having too many cars, and too many roads. This is not an issue that adjusting the configuration of one town centre can solve. It has to be a nationwide policy involving all towns mature and new. One car-lite town does not make a car-lite city-state.