Professor Leo Tan, Chairman, Garden City Fund
Mr Chris Dobson, Vice-President and Managing Director, GlaxoSmithKline
Mrs Julie Hoo, Principal, Raffles Girls' School
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning to all of you.
2 It is a pleasure to be here this morning in this idyllic setting for the official opening of the Dairy Farm Nature Park.
Singapore - A Haven for Biodiversity
3 Despite Singapore's small landmass, our lush green cover and warm tropical climate make us a haven for rich biodiversity. It is not well known that we are home to more than 2,000 species of native plants, 360 species of birds and 280 species of butterflies. About a third of the world's species of hard corals can be found in our waters, along with half the number of seagrass species in the Indo-Pacific region. All these, and more, exist amidst our urban setting, which has one of the highest population densities and busiest ports in the world.
4 We have been blessed with rich flora and fauna. But good fortune alone is not enough to ensure that biodiversity continues to thrive in Singapore. In fact, if we are not careful in how we manage our economic development and population growth, much will be lost.
A National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan
5 To ensure that our natural heritage can be enjoyed by future generations, NParks has formulated a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. This plan sets out the key strategies to guide our efforts in conserving Singapore's biodiversity. It adopts a holistic approach and leverages on the efforts of the Public, Private and People sectors to safeguard nature's treasures for the long-term.
6 At the heart of Singapore's biodiversity conservation strategy are our nature reserves. Covering more than 3,000 hectares or 4.5% of Singapore's land area, they safeguard key eco-systems in Singapore such as the tropical rainforest, freshwater swamp forest, mangroves, and coastal hill forest.
Dairy Farm Nature Park - A Green Buffer and A Venue for Nature Recreation
7 Under the Biodiversity Action Plan, we will enhance the survival of plants and animals in our nature reserves. One way to minimise the impact of urbanisation on our nature reserves is to designate green buffers around the reserves.
8 The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is where the largest tracts of primary rainforest can be found in Singapore. Extremely rich in biodiversity, it is also very popular with nature lovers as a hiking destination. In 2001, the Hindhede Nature Park was developed as a buffer at the foot of Bukit Timah Hill. Today, I am pleased to announce that we will add another buffer to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - this 63-hectare Dairy Farm Nature Park.
9 Apart from protecting the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Dairy Farm Nature Park will also provide additional recreational space and relieve the pressure at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. It will offer a range of outdoors activities such as camping, trekking, mountain biking and rock climbing. I am confident that the Dairy Farm Nature Park will appeal to nature and outdoor enthusiasts.
10 For visitors who prefer lighter activities, the Singapore Quarry offers a scenic and tranquil setting for relaxation and reflection. Even the wildlife seems to agree that this is a good place to be. In a short time since the quarry was rehabilitated into a wetland, NParks tells me that many rare dragonflies and birds have been sighted here, including the Little Grebe which is a critically endangered bird that is known to be found only in Lorong Halus, until recently.
An Outdoor Classroom for Nature Education at Dairy Farm
11 The Dairy Farm Nature Park also supports another important element of the Biodiversity Action Plan - that of promoting greater public awareness and appreciation for Singapore's biodiversity.
12 A cowshed in the Park has been retained and beautifully restored for this purpose. It is named the Wallace Education Centre, after the English naturalist Alfred Wallace who had spent time collecting specimens at this very site in the 19th century. The cowshed now houses a learning lab and an education centre. Here, visitors can learn about the changing landscapes of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the areas around it.
13 Our students can also look forward to special education programmes that will teach them about nature in an outdoor setting. I would like to thank Raffles Girls' School for developing the programme, NUS Architecture Faculty for designing the layout of the learning lab, and GlaxoSmithKline for its generous sponsorship. I hope that these programmes will nurture an appreciation and love for nature in our young, and inspire them to take greater ownership in conserving Singapore's biodiversity.
Creating Ecological Links for Enhanced Biodiversity
14 Besides green buffers like the Dairy Farm Nature Park, ecological linkages across nature areas can also contribute towards enhancing biodiversity in and around our nature reserves. Such linkages can take the form of green corridors like lushly planted park connectors or tree-lined roads.
15 Today, the Bukit Timah Expressway divides the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, preventing a healthy exchange of wildlife between the two reserves. The movement of plant and animal species is necessary for the long-term sustainability of biodiversity in the nature reserves, in particular the smaller Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. NParks has been studying various ways to bridge the two reserves and provide an ecological connection between them. We explored the options of building overhead or underground ecological links between the two reserves, as well as the possibilities of re-routing the BKE as a flyover or underpass.
16 I am pleased to announce that NParks will be developing an Eco-Link across the BKE, in the form of an overhead bridge to connect the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. With a width of 50-metres at its narrowest point, this hourglass shaped bridge will be densely planted with vegetation to encourage animal crossings between the two nature reserves. Not only will the Eco-Link benefit the wildlife, people will also be able to enjoy extended hikes between the two nature reserves via trails on the new link. The first of its kind in Southeast Asia, this overhead Eco-Link affirms the Government's commitment to the long-term conservation of Singapore's biodiversity.
17 In conserving nature in Singapore, we are always mindful of Singapore's unique constraints as a small country with no hinterland. The Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan recognises these constraints, and champions the need for us to develop pragmatic and innovative solutions to address our challenges of biodiversity conservation. The Eco-Link is one such project. We will have to seek out more of such innovative solutions.
18 We will continue to exploit the synergies and opportunities between our economic development and our nature conservation. This will ensure that Singapore can prosper, and remain clean and green, and Singaporeans can enjoy a quality living environment.
19 I would like to now declare the Dairy Farm Nature Park open. I wish everyone an enjoyable morning exploring what the Park has to offer. Thank you.