A feeling of betrayal
When the Land Transport Authority announced their new MRT lines, an inspection of the map revealed that the new 50-km Cross Island Line (CRL) would be built through the MacRitchie forest.
Impact was inevitable. And this was some of our oldest patches of forest. The foolhardiness I thought we were wise enough to avoid was upon us and I was filled with disbelief.
I did not expect this.
LTA would quickly suggest this was just a concept plan and route specifications were not firmed up as yet. They would also say they intended to minimise impact.
I wondered if they even knew how. Our nature reserves are already embattled due to their size and our use. To casually suggest building in or over this area felt no less like a betrayal.
Taking a Stand
Some friends reacted very quickly indeed, declaring that we needed to be “Chained to Our Roots“! Vilma, Teresa, Andrew and other friends were undaunted by a brief 400psi haze, itself an ironic and timely message about destruction of regional forests to support our lifestyles.
Thankfully the haze scattered in time and when I went down to visit, they were still breathing! And were sweaty, motivated and determined.
Alongside them to my surprise, were current and former students. If anything, they were even more upset about the suggestion to impact an old remnant forest patch.
Attitudes about Singapore are fostered by decisions like these. This is a very high, uncalculated cost.
In news intensive Singapore, it would take more than a single event to raise awareness. Various individuals and groups began planning walks, talks and statements to educate, inform and suggest alternatives.
During the fluster of the 12,000 visitors at the Festival of Biodiversity in July, volunteers discussed concerns with visitors who wanted to know more about our wildlife. We used museum specimens to convey news of a secret world right here in our city.
Decals were handed out and more importantly, promises about walks were made. Much better for them to see and appreciate a single living creature in its space and to awaken that connection with nature which is within us all. Love MacRitchie was a simple outcome.
For a long time the natural history community has realised we needed to accomplish much, much more with public education. Understanding the types of greenery which we have left and those which are emerging, the inter-connectedness of ecosystems, where these places are to be found and the vulnerability of fragments.
Against all that is the need to mitigate the heightened visitorship, improper behaviour and erosive use by increasing numbers of fascinated Singaporeans.
Formal education needs to bear most of this burden though, the numbers are too large to cope with and have increased.
In July, NSS published a marvellous position paper, and a further response will be submitted by the larger community in December, in response to dialogue with LTA.
How can I help?
Meanwhile, Raffles Museum Toddycats, have been meeting over HOWL, a private environment to facilitate “deep conversations”. At one session, we recognised the need to consolidate the various efforts of these hard-working and concerned people.
So volunteers stepped forward to produce the Love Our MacRitchie Forest webpage, in the original spirit of the theme suggested by Teresa, Vilma and friends with contributions from a wide group of people.
This page is now a one-stop directory and with lovely graphics, is also seeking to explain the complex issues further. Toddycats are actively sharing the page and promoting the effort to teach and learn.
Announcements will follow about opportunities to listen, learn and enjoy the forest. Keep a lookout at lovemacritchie.wordpress.com.
Help teachers share
In the meantime, Tan Beng Chiak, who threw up the first webpage on Chek Jawa back in the day (2001), has been working along similar lines. A veteran educator, she intends to provide resources for teachers to educate students.
Many issues are absent or scarce in our syllabus, even for science and biology students. This understanding is only truly achieved with an extremely small group, very late in life, usually in specific university courses.
Relevant information, concisely provided can help to address this.
Her webpage was announced yesterday at chope4nature.org
There is a wealth of knowledge out there, which has not been embraced, or even noticed. While an urban populace stumbles through the issues, the cost of this ignorance will be very high. It will take centuries to recover from this impact.
So we will have to engage, teach, share, and hope that enough will learn that our remnant forests are a place to love and a place to keep, now and for our future.
Posts and sites I referred to:
- Love our MacRitchie Forest webpage – facebook page
- Chope 4 Nature webpage
- “LTA: “Two new rail lines and three new extensions by 2030″.” Otterman speaks, 17 Jan 2013.
- “LTA’s proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) cuts through the Central Catchment Forest Reserve,” by N. Sivasothi. Habitatnews, 22 Jan 2013.
- “Holy cow! The 2030 Central Line cuts through the forest!” By N. Siavsothi. Otterman speaks, 22 Jan 2013.
- “MRT through the Nature Reserve: “the line goes ‘through’ primary forest and good secondary forest.” By N. Sivasothi. Habitatnews, 04 Feb 2013 – reporting Tony O’Dempsey’s georeferenced map.
- “Chained to Our Roots petition & picnic: “Reroute the Cross Island Line to protect our oldest forests” – Sat 22 Jun 2013: 3.00pm @ Hong Lim Park.” Habitatnews, 21 Jun 2013 – announce the petition and event.
- “Soil investigation works for the Cross Island Line (Tampines-Jurong MRT) will cause irreparable damage, fragmentation and wildlife loss in our Central Catchment Nature Reserve.” Habitatnews, 09 May 2013 – reporting Tony O’Dempsey’s comments at the time.
- “Nature Society (Singapore) Cross Island Line: Discussion and Position Paper.” Habitatnews, 18 Jul 2013 – reporting the publication of NSS’ position paper complete with excellent maps, edited by Tony O’Dempsey.
- More news at WildSingapore
Thanks to photos from Toddycats!