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Missing the forest for the trees

It’s unfortunate that barely a week after the Government proudly unveiled its Green Plan 2030, which includes the targets of planting one million trees by 2030 and adding 1,000 hectares of “green spaces” by 2035, came the startling revelation that 4.5 hectares of woodland in the Kranji Forest, a green lung in the northwest of Singapore, had been felled without authorisation, right under the noses of JTC Corporation.

Kranji Forest no more. Credit: Brice Li.

For at least the near future, I foresee that all attempts by the authorities to promote their green initiatives would be shot down by snide remarks about “chopping down a forest” or something to that effect.

Eventually, the blame will be apportioned, and someone’s knuckles will be rapped. But a forest ecosystem destroyed by error will take decades to recover, if at all.

The silver lining of this sorry debacle is that it has shown that popular awareness of the importance of conserving whatever’s left of Singapore’s natural heritage has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 10 to 20 years. People are more discerning now, realising that carefully-manicured parks cannot compare to natural forest, woodland, or even shrub - the latter are far more valuable in terms of the quality and diversity of wildlife they sustain, even if they had flourished for only a few years, as was the case for the Kranji Forest. More are also demanding that the authorities consult the community and listen to their feedback before taking action, rather than expect them to go with the flow after decisions have been made in an ivory tower conference room.

From now on, thanks to online resources and social media, every significant clearance - or potential clearance - of forest cover will be scrutinised and discussed. First Clementi Forest, then Dover Forest, then Kranji Forest, and next: A patch of forest south of Lower Seletar Reservoir, lying inside military training grounds.

The forest clearance can be seen clearly from the Orchid Country Club, on the opposite side of Lower Seletar Reservoir.

At about time. Because planting one million trees in artificially-created parks means nothing if we lose all our remaining natural forests. That would truly be missing the forest for the trees.


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