Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Jurong Lake Gardens to be a "People's Garden"

Vision of a 'people's garden' at Jurong Lake
NParks shares idea of a green space with smart tech as it calls for design proposals
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 8 Mar 2016

When the Jurong Lake Gardens is finally complete and open to the public, it will showcase a new type of green lung in Singapore's largest regional hub outside the city centre.

The National Parks Board (NParks) yesterday gave a glimpse of the idyllic charms the area could offer, and called a tender for consultants to design the central and eastern parts of the gardens.

NParks said it envisioned the area as a "people's garden" to complement Jurong Gateway, the commercial hub of Jurong Lake District.

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The 90ha Jurong Lake Gardens, about the size of 144 football fields, comprises three parts: Jurong Lake Gardens West, Central and East. The west side, which will be completed first in 2018, is currently Jurong Lake Park.

The central area, which consists of the Chinese and Japanese gardens, and the east side, which will house the new Science Centre, will be completed in phases from 2020.

NParks wants the concept designs for all three to gel with one another. Among the suggestions are plans to revive gardening as a pastime by getting people to create "show gardens" and display their horticultural expertise.

The new Science Centre, which will have a 15m-wide promenade fronting it, will also have the gardens as a teaching tool.

"The outdoors of the Science Centre can feature science-based play," NParks said.

Those who work at the commercial hub next door will not be forgotten. NParks said it wants the gardens to offer respite to office workers and a green space for businesses to network. The gardens will also feature smart technology and serve as a test bed for green industries and their products, it said. This could include trials for driverless vehicles.

Plans for Jurong Lake Gardens West already flagged include having paths lined with local versions of "cherry blossoms" such as the Malayan crepe myrtle.

The submission of proposals for the latest tendercloses on April 25. NParks will shortlist five firms to participate in the second stage of the tender process in June. A firm will be appointed by year end.

Over 17,700 suggestions, some calling for the retention of existing nature hot spots and the provision of basic amenities - were gathered from a public engagement exercise last year. These will be included in the project brief for shortlisted consultants in the second stage of the tender.

Some Jurong residents are already calling the gardens the "jewel of the west". Said customer service manager Siow Wei Hoong, 27: "I'm glad we'll have a Gardens by the Bay in the west. It gives me, my family and loved ones something to look forward to."

Additional reporting by Benjamin Tan

Integrating tech and nature in Jurong
Jurong Lake Gardens to feature smart tech, serve as testbed for green products
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 8 Mar 2016

The new plans for Jurong Lake Gardens show how technology can be integrated with nature, while giving residents a green reprieve from the bustling city life.

The Gardens will feature smart technology, and serve as a place for green industries to testbed their products.

Mr Saulo Spaolanse, country president for smart technology firm Schneider Electric Singapore, told The Straits Times that the Gardens would be a "perfect location to showcase how technology and nature can be integrated seamlessly to reflect the relationship between Singapore's Smart Nation and Garden City vision".

He was responding to news of a tender called by the National Parks Board (NParks) yesterday for consultants to design the central and eastern parts of the Jurong Lake Gardens, a 90ha park in western Singapore that will be progressively completed from 2018.

Mr Spaolanse said solar photovoltaic panels could be, for instance, used to harvest energy to power electrical activities in and around the park. Sensors could also be deployed to collect data on noise, ambient temperature and humidity, which could help the authorities or researchers study how environmental conditions affect biodiversity, he added.

But even as technology meets nature, the Gardens could also bring biodiversity back to the once-thriving wetland and mangrove habitat, nature groups said.

The challenge, however, lies in striking a balance between protecting the areas that are home to wildlife and rare species, and providing the public access to them, said Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society (Singapore).

In NParks' tender, consultants must consider, among other things, how the habitats in the Gardens can be better enhanced to conserve unique biodiversity such as native coastal plants, birds such as herons and egrets, and butterflies.

Jurong was a mangrove swamp before it was developed into an industrial estate in 1961. When the Jurong River was dammed to create Jurong Lake, the decreasing salinity, coupled with land clearance and industrial development in the area, caused the mangrove and riverine habitats to die out, said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai.

"But plans to rejuvenate Jurong Lake Gardens can help bring back the wildlife and make the area attractive for people to enjoy nature," he added.

Dr Lum noted that it was important to strike a balance between nature protection and accessibility.

If all parts of the Gardens are made accessible, it could lead to decreased animal diversity in the long term as the site would not provide enough quiet areas. Yet large patches of inaccessible green areas would mean that visitors will not be able to appreciate nature.

Residents welcomed new plans for the Gardens, such as the green moves, and promoting gardening with "show gardens" and getting people to display their horticultural expertise.

Said business manager Priscilla Ho, 48: "In built-up Jurong, being in a garden is literally a breath of fresh air. The initiatives such as the show gardens could also help residents get to know their neighbours better."

Scientist Fong Chee Wai, 47, who often travels from his home in Tiong Bahru to the Jurong Lake area to run and take photographs of birds, appreciated the prospect of more wildlife returning. He added that the place has a "sense of history and nostalgia not found in newer gardens like Gardens by the Bay".

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