Changi, A Heritage

Hopea sangal felled, 20th November 2002

"The special wayside trees of Changi speak of a jungle that once stood on her shores. Large primary forest trees, many more than 100 years old, are nestled along footpaths! A group of naturalists, led by Joseph Lai, mapped the heritage trees of Changi by September 2002.

They heralded an amazing find &endash; Hopea sangal, also known as Chengal pasir, and possibly the Changi tree that gave the area its name. Listed in the Red Data Book as extinct, a very old tree had survived the ravages of time including lightning strikes!

On Wed afternoon, 20th November 2002, I was on my way to Changi Village. I decided to finally stop by to see the wonderful Hopea sangal. However, all I saw was a stump. A lorry was parked nearby and there were two trunks of large diameter and heavily fissured bark lying on the ground. I called Joseph and received a precise description of the exact spot of the tree.

There was no mistake. The rare Hopea sangal was no more. I was too late to see it in all its glory, but was instead witness to the disposal of the once towering trunk.

I looked at the healthy stump and wondered, why had this happened? We had celebrated its rebirth so recently, and now it was gone. In a blink of an eye."

- N. Sivasothi, Habitatnews 2002-23

Chengal pasir tree is no more.

Read about "The tree of time" - "Delicta maiorem immeritus lues?" Ode to Hopea sangal - Sculpture Society Symposium, 14 September 2003 - Photos from the symposium - The Hopea sangal timeline.

Download the high-resolution images: 30MB self-extracting zip file. Click to download and double click file to unzip.

Click image to scroll album
Created by
Otterman, Thursday, November 21, 2002: 2:03am

Reactions to the felling of the Hopea sangal

See Habitatnews 2002-24 (22 November 2002) - comments by Tan Beng Chiak.

"Delicta maiorem immeritus lues?" Ode to Hope sangal by Joseph Lai.

Court ruling on felled Hopea sangal tree, 24 March 2003

Media statement by the National Parks Board, 24 March 2003.

Report in The Straits Times, 25 March 2003 reproduced below.

Tree felling: Firm to pay $76,000 to state."
By Selina Lum, The Straits Times, 25 March 2003

A PROPERTY management company has been ordered to pay $76,035 to the state as compensation for the loss of the Hopea sangal tree that it chopped down last year. DTZ Debenham Tie Leung was also fined $8,000 for illegally felling the tree, which was more than a century old.

In imposing the fine, District Judge Kow Keng Siong noted the significance of the tree, which had stood as a ''silent witness'' to the birth of the nation, and is believed to have been the last of its kind here.

''Unfortunately, having weathered more than a century of the forces of nature, it was not able to survive the senseless act of man,'' he said.

DTZ pleaded guilty earlier this month to felling the tree, which measured 3.4 m around and stood in a gazetted conservation area in Changi, on Nov 20 last year without permission from the National Parks Board. It is an offence to fell any tree with a girth more than 1 m without permission. DTZ did not contest the amount of compensation.

When it came to the fine, Deputy Public Prosecutor Low Cheong Yeow pressed for the maximum of $10,000, but DTZ's lawyer, Mr Tan Chuan Thye, pushed for $5,000. Mr Tan had said on March 3 that the tree was felled because a building supervisor was worried about the safety of tenants of two houses nearby. The judge acknowledged that the motive was altruistic, but said DTZ should have considered how to save the tree instead of just cutting it down.

He also said he was not impressed by Mr Tan's argument that there was no sign to indicate the tree's status, and doubted that it was practical to put up such signs. He took into account that DTZ was a first-time offender.

In a statement to the media yesterday, DTZ said it wishes to move forward, having gained valuable lessons from this inadvertent act.

Mr Simon Longman, NParks' director of parks management (north and east division), said: ''The sentiments of the public over the felling of the Hopea sangal, and the court's decision, underscored the importance of tree conservation.''

Information on tree conservation areas, Heritage Trees and Heritage Roads can be found online at:

Article in Streats, 25th August 2003

Sculpture Society Symposium, 14 September 2003

See the Hopea sangal timeline for developments since.