Speech by Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Develpoment, on 10 November 2001, announcing the impending legislation of Sungei Buloh Nature Park and Labrador Nature Area as Nature Reserves under the National Parks Act. [Click here to see pictures from that day]


Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen;

 A very good morning to you,

1 We are very fortunate to be gathered here in this beautiful park - Singapore's only wetland park where we are able to experience, close-up and first hand, a wide diversity of wildlife in their natural habitats.

2 Despite being a very small and highly urbanised city-state, we can also boast of 2,000 hectares of nature reserves, which we know as the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. The only other city in the world that has a gazetted Nature Reserve is Rio de Janeiro in South America.

The Balancing Act

3 The tropics are well known for its rich biodiversity, both terrestrial and non-terrestrial. Singapore, by virtue of its location in this region of high biodiversity, is naturally also endowed with rain forests, coral reefs and many other natural ecosystems rich with a wide variety of wildlife. However, with industrialisation and urbanisation, a large portion of these has had to make way for development. The remaining natural habitats, which include the nature reserves, function as crucial refuges for wildlife, both resident and migratory.

4 While we recognise this treasure trove we have right here in this tiny island, we also need to acknowledge that there are many competing demands for our limited precious land resource.

5 Housing a population of 4 million in a land area of just 660 square kilometres makes Singapore one of the most densely populated nations in the world. To maintain a high standard of living and ensure its competitiveness in the world economy, Singapore has to strike a pragmatic balance between the social and economic needs on one hand and the conservation of its natural heritage on the other. Tough land-use decisions will have to be made in land-scarce Singapore. These are the dilemmas we constantly face in trying to strike a judicious balance between the different needs of our nation.


Feedback on Nature Conservation

6 Nevertheless, the Government recognises the people's desire for more nature and greenery. We have noted the recommendations of the focus groups in the recent Concept Plan Review, as well as the requests and appeals of the public. We have deliberated on them seriously, weighing the pros and cons, tradeoffs and alternatives. Where possible, we have taken into consideration the feedback from nature -lovers, for example, by keeping nature areas for as long as they are not needed for development.


Legislation of 2 New Areas as Nature Reserves

7 Presently, only Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and the tropical rainforest at the Singapore Botanic Gardens are legally protected. The ecosystems found in these sites are the dryland tropical rainforest and the freshwater swamp. In 1995, two pristine parcels of secondary forests, totalling 43.8 ha, were added to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The government recognised the biological significance of the area and decided to protect it.

8 Today, I have an additional piece of good news to share with the nature-lovers amongst you. It gives me great pleasure to announce that two new sites will be legislated as Nature Reserves under the National Parks Act. The two sites are Sungei Buloh Nature Park, which we are standing on, and Labrador Nature Area. This move will ensure that more of our indigenous key ecosystems are protected.

9 Sungei Buloh Nature Park is being conserved for its mangrove ecosystem, while the coastal vegetation and rocky shores of Labrador Nature Area warrant it to be protected.

10 I appreciate the deep feelings of Singaporeans for our remaining natural areas and ecosystems. Places like the Nature Reserves, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Sungei Buloh and Labrador Nature Area are national treasures that make Singapore distinct. These places will complement our built-up environment in inspiring a sense of identity and rootedness among Singaporeans. The legal protection of Sungei Buloh Nature Park and Labrador Nature Area reflects the government's commitment to safeguard our valuable flora and fauna, and their ecosystems, where feasible.


Compatible Uses of Land

11 To maximise the use of land, each plot of land conserved must serve multiple functions. Hence, the legally protected forests of Singapore are conserved and actively managed for education and scientific research, recreation and to sustain our precious ecological life. Education and scientific research are intimately linked to conservation, mutually supporting each other. The support of a well-informed and responsible public is also vital for the conservation of our natural heritage. Each person must play his part in helping to protect these fragile habitats for his own enjoyment and that of future generations.

12 Recreational activities can also complement conservation. This has been shown in Sungei Buloh Nature Park, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Pulau Ubin.

13 Sungei Buloh Nature Park today is the result of a fruitful partnership between NParks and dedicated members of our community. It is a partnership forged on the shared ideals of nature conservation for the enjoyment of our local community, and doing our bit for the health of our global environment.

14 It is now my pleasure to declare open, the upgraded facilities at Sungei Buloh Nature Park as well as to launch the Young Naturalists programme and the Adoption of the Mangrove Boardwalk.


[Click here to see pictures from that day] | Back to Habitatnews