Monday 13 February 2012

Bukit Brown Cemetery too eerie to attract culture buffs

MINISTER of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin stated in his Facebook post the idea of bringing in more Singaporeans to appreciate the heritage, culture and biodiversity of Bukit Brown Cemetery ('Green light for road through Bt Brown'; last Saturday).

He also wants to maintain its rustic charm and preserve the environment and heritage.

But a cemetery is a cemetery; a place to bury the dead. Most ordinary Singaporeans, especially the Chinese, may not want to live next to a cemetery, or any grave.

I have lived next to Bukit Brown Cemetery for almost 20 years. Some graves are barely two to three metres from my house. Few people visit the cemetery, even during Qing Ming, the annual Chinese festival dedicated to cleaning ancestors' graves.

Hardly anybody takes a stroll there, even during weekends.

What I have seen regularly are horses and riders from the Bukit Timah Saddle Club. Horse droppings proliferate and are washed off only when there is a heavy shower.

Naturally, the cemetery is deserted when night falls. A vehicle repair yard filled with rusty scrap metal and engine oil sits at the entrance of the cemetery; lorry and car owners take their vehicles for repairs there on weekdays.

That would describe the 'rustic' charm of Bukit Brown Cemetery.

It was only after a new road was proposed, cutting into the cemetery, and subsequent brouhaha, that I began seeing a few more Singaporeans visiting the area.

Only with the cacophony of concerns about heritage, culture and biodiversity has some human activity been recorded.

But let us be clear - this cemetery remains by and large uninhabited and neglected by humans.

As a long-time resident, I doubt that Bukit Brown Cemetery, or for that matter Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, can be part of our active heritage, culture and biodiversity.

They are, by and large, too eerie for the likes of average Singaporeans.

Andrew Goh
ST Forum, 11 Feb 2012

Development of Bukit Brown Cemetery will proceed as planned
By Grace Chua, The Straits Times, 4 Feb 2012

The Government will go through with the building of a controversial road across Bukit Brown Cemetery, suggested Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin in a Facebook post on Friday.

An exercise to document some 5,000 graves there that could be affected by the new road is almost complete, he shared, adding: 'The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will also use the findings from the documentation exercise to fine-tune the road alignment so as to reduce the impact on the graves.'

The dual four-lane carriageway, plans for which were announced last September, is meant to ease congestion on Lornie Road. Construction of the road will begin next year.

The Bukit Brown site as a whole is slated for redevelopment, though heritage and environment civic groups are pushing for its conservation.

In his blog post, Mr Tan noted that it can potentially house 15,000 homes for around 50,000 residents, or 40 per cent of the homes in Toa Payoh town.

'These are homes for many many Singaporeans,' he said.

He implied, too, that development plans would also go ahead, adding: 'Let's see how we can develop Bukit Brown in the interim, to make it more accessible to visitors, even as we maintain its rustic charm.'

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