Tuesday 18 June 2013

Lee Kuan Yew marks 50 years of greening Singapore

Mr Lee plants another tree, 50 years on
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2013

FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew continued a 50-year-long tradition yesterday as he planted a rain tree in Holland Village Park.

It was Mr Lee who kicked off Singapore's first greening campaign back in 1963 when he planted a Mempat tree in what was then Farrer Circus.

And the 89-year-old has always made it a point to take part in annual tree-planting campaigns in the 50 years since.

The National Parks Board (NParks) said he has planted more than 60 trees in Singapore.

The rain tree, with its umbrella- shaped crown, was chosen to match the existing rain trees in the park, and the venue was selected for its proximity to the 1963 site, NParks added.

Yesterday evening, Mr Lee was joined by fellow Tanjong Pagar GRC MPs - Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah and Dr Lily Neo.

A crowd gathered to greet the former prime minister as he shovelled soil onto the tree and then watered it.

Reflecting on the greening campaign that has really taken root in Singapore, Mr Lee told reporters: "You take away all the trees, all the roadside bushes, you have a darker and uglier Singapore."

Asked what he thought about conflicts between wildlife and people as developments come closer to the nature reserves, he said: "We have preserved a part of Mandai to prevent it from being a human habitat. That's about all you can do."

Mr Lee did not want to be drawn into commenting, however, on what the greening effort will be like in years to come.

Asked what he hoped to see in 50 years, he replied: "Nobody is going to have said that 50 years ago we will be here. It would be foolish of me to say where we will be in 50 years."

NParks chief executive officer Poon Hong Yuen said that since Mr Lee declared his vision for Singapore to be a garden city 50 years ago, the country has become well known for it. He added that the new vision is for Singapore to be a city in a large garden, instead of having gardens in a city.

A priority is to engage the community to own the vision, he said.

"Mr Lee was famous in being very passionate about the greenery at a time where perhaps no other city thought about it. But moving forward, we cannot just depend on the Government. It needs community involvement."

To mark 50 Years of Greening Singapore, NParks will get members of the public to plant 1,963 trees.

More than $470,000 has been raised for the cost of planting the trees and to enhance the biodiversity and heritage value of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.


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