Singapore Government Press Release
Media Relations Division, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
MITA Building, 140 Hill Street, 2nd Storey, Singapore 179369
SPEECH BY DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, MINISTER OF STATE FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AT THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF HERITAGE TREES SCHEME ON 23 SEPTEMBER 2002, 9.30AM AT SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS
Professor Leo Tan, Chairman, National Parks Board;
Mr. David Eldon, Chairman, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation;
Ladies and gentlemen;
A very good morning to you,
When Sir Stamford Raffles sailed into the Straits of Singapore in 1819, nearly our whole island was covered with dense lowland tropical forests. As settlements grew, more and more of our greenery had to give way for the development of a vibrant city. But we never give up preserving as much of our lush greenery as we can while Singapore transformed dramatically into a modern metropolis. Today, our challenge continue in preserving this green ambience and maintaining the Garden City reputation as Singapore continues with her economic development. As Singapore progresses, it becomes increasingly important that we retain a sense of identity and continuity in our living environment.
I’m sure all of us have in some way, and in varying degrees, formed emotional attachments to the places and trees we have grown up with. It could be the row of Rain trees whose shade we enjoyed on our way to school or that Banyan tree under which we exchanged ghost stories in our school compound. Somehow, knowing that they will always be there and protected because we care enough to do so, provides us with a sense of security and a sense of rootedness to our home. That is why we have to conserve some of the more scenic and significant trees and tree-lined roads in Singapore. With this intent in mind, the government initiated the Heritage Roads and Heritage Trees schemes last year.
Heritage Trees Scheme
Majestic mature trees are the natural heritage of Singapore and serve as graceful green landmarks in our tropical Garden City. They provide a sense of permanence and identity to our home and truly stand out as giants in our urban landscapes. The Heritage Trees Panel, made up of members from the National Parks Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing Development Board, Singapore Environment Council, People’s Association and arboriculture experts, has endorsed an initial list of 36 such trees in Singapore that must be conserved. Some of these trees range between 80-100 years old. Most are located in parks and on roadside verges.
Tembusu at Botanic Gardens
This old Tembusu tree in front of you has been selected as a heritage tree. You will recognize it as it is featured on the back of the Singapore $5 note. The Tembusu tree is native to Singapore. At more than a hundred years old, it has stood the test of time, a war, pests and the demands of generations of visitors to the Botanic Gardens. With a long bow branch upon which adults rest and children perch, it has also become a favourite photographic haunt for wedding couples, tourists and families alike. A hardy and long-lived tree, it is there to entertain yet more generations to come.
Saving the Angsana from the axe
Another heritage tree is the majestic Angsana at Upper Serangoon Road. With a girth of 7.7 m, it takes 5 adults with hands joined to encircle the tree. The conservation of this tree is by no means accidental but only made possible through the policies set out by the Heritage Trees Scheme and the various agencies’ coordinated efforts to conserve our green heritage. It was to have been felled to make way for a road-widening project. However, the Land Transport Authority, the Drainage Department of the Public Utilities Board and NParks found an alternative by diverting a roadside channel, and realigning the carriageway. Travelling along Upper Serangoon Road now, it is indeed gratifying (for me) to see the over-arching view of this majestic Angsana tree that stands tall amidst surrounding developments and take comfort in the knowledge it will be there for my children and my children’s children to enjoy.
Partnership in Green Issues
In highly developed civic societies, the partnership between the community, corporate bodies and the Government plays an important part in shaping environmental conservation and outreach programmes. It is therefore heartening to note that increasingly, corporations are taking their social responsibilities seriously. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) is a sterling example of how corporations can take the lead and engender the community in a common cause. Over the years, HSBC’s support in NParks’ efforts to establish programmes and initiate outreach activities to raise the level of nature appreciation has been invaluable. Today, HSBC has chosen to celebrate its own heritage by marking its 125th Anniversary in Singapore through its partnership with NParks in the Heritage Trees Scheme.
Heritage Trees Fund
Under this partnership, HSBC will establish the Heritage Trees Fund which will go towards the protection of heritage trees such as installing lightning conductors, as well as initiating community outreach activities to increase public awareness about heritage trees.
The Heritage Trees Scheme is a prime example of how the tripartite relationship between the government, community and corporations can work. With the government providing the framework for the Scheme and HSBC, the corporate support, members of the community too can contribute by nominating mature trees they feel are worthy of conservation. The Heritage Trees Panel will then evaluate these nominations based on criteria such as the trees’ height and girth, and considerations such as social, cultural, historical and educational significance. I would like to urge you to look out for mature, significant trees around you and send your nominations to the panel. And as you explore and learn about these living monuments, you will not only realise just how much they improve our living environment, but also, in your own way, draw inspiration from them. With your active participation in this programme, I am confident we will be able to conserve more of these beautiful and majestic trees, which will make worthy legacies for future generations.
It is now my pleasure to officially launch the Heritage Trees Scheme. I urge everyone to be on the lookout for mature or interesting trees around you and play a role in conserving a piece of living history.