Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. – Oscar Wilde
Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) has submitted a proposal, The Green Corridor: A Proposal to Keep the Railway Lands as a Continous Green Corridor, to the Singapore government on 21 October 2010. NSS proposes to retain the current KTM Railway Land as a Green Corridor after the train operations cease.
Background on the Railway Lands
On 24 May 2010, Singapore and Malaysia leaders agreed on the issue of the Malayan Railway Land in Singapore. Malaysia will move the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB station) to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint by 1 July 2011, and will co-locate its railway Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility there. Both leaders also agreed that the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station Passenger Terminal building would be conserved given its historical significance, and that the old Bukit Timah Railway Station building at Blackmore Drive can also be conserved.
Both countries will also set up a company, M-S Pte Ltd, by 31 December 2010, with Malaysia having a 60% share under Khazanah Nasional Berhard and Singapore having a 40% share under Temasek Holdings. The company will handle the joint development of the three parcels of KTM land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands, and another three pieces of land in Bukit Timah.
On 20 September 2010, Malaysia agreed to accept the land swap offer by Singapore for four land parcels in Marina South and two pieces in Orphir-Rochor in exchange for the land parcels of KTM land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji, Woodlands and Bukit Timah. This means that all the railway land would be available to the Singapore government for development after 1 July 2011. There is no announcement yet on how the government would develop the land.
The Green Corridor Proposal
The least challenging and most unimaginative “solution” would be for policy makers, planners and developers to parcel the land out as real estate, dismantle the line, erase the railway and its memory from the public domain and relegate it to textbook history. That would be a costly mistake. – Dr Geh Min
In The Green Corridor proposal, NSS refers to the Railway Lands as “several plots of land, at Tanjong Pagar, Kranji, Woodlands and Bukit Timah, the two main lines of track, the Woodlands – Tanjong Pagar and Jurong lines and other small disconnected stretches. The combined area for the Railway Land is 173.7 hectares, almost three times the size of the Botanical Gardens (63.7 hectares), and 0.24% the land mass of Singapore.”
It Connects Many Green Spaces Together
The Railway Land connects many green spaces together and is “already like a nature park; much of it a mix of secondary forest growth, grasslands, and small scale fruit and vegetable farms. Open areas are interspersed with canals, streams and marshland on both sides of the tracks.” There are 6 main green areas that the Railway Lands connect:
- Southern Sector
- Clementi Woodlands
- Jurong Line
- Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
- Bukit Panjang / Chua Chu Kang / Pang Sua
- Kranji / Mandai Mangrove & Mudflats
NSS emphasised that preserving the Railway Land as a Green Corridor “will not only make it possible for Singaporeans to hike from the wetlands in Kranji to Rainforests in Bukit Timah and the hilltops of Henderson through a continuous nature trail; the Green Corridor is also important for preserving our Natural Heritage by acting as a connector for flora and fauna movement across the island, to some extent mitigating the effects of the fragmentation of our Nature Reserves.”
It Connects Many People Together
The Green Corridor has the potential to serve 1.2 million people living in estates along the entire stretch of the railway by transforming the areas into parks, recreational areas, or for community gardening and farming. NSS explains that there are “currently scenic vistas of forests and rivers, canals and wetlands right at our doorstep. The construction of simple walking trails, lighting, resting points and directional signage would make all of this accessible and inviting to hundreds of communities nearby. A pedestrian link between communities could also enhance neighbourliness and a sense of “kampong” atmosphere along the Green Corridor.”
A Clean and Green Transport Route
NSS proposes that the Railway Land can be converted, with creative planning and without a high level of investment, into a transport route through the heart of Singapore from North to South. The transport route could include the following:
- A cycling and pedestrian path can be built on either side of the railway tracks
- The existing railway tracks could accommodate low speed forms of trams powered by clean energy sources or even human power
- The continuous length of the Green Corridor can host all forms of Sports and Recreational Activities including long distance running or cycling activities
NSS explains that: “With increasing numbers of Singaporeans adopting a healthy and active lifestyle, there is an urgent need to provide spaces conducive to such activities. The Green Corridor allows not just a place to play sports and exercise, it also opens up spaces for gardening, fishing and camping. Increasing the amount of greens spaces for recreation is imperative if we seek to increase our population and improve our standards of living at the same time.”
The railway line serves as a reminder and a physical historical record of the relationship between Singapore and Malaysia. NSS proposes that “the whole stretch of the railway line can be turned into an outdoor ‘museum’ with ‘walking commentary’. Because of its linearity, points of historical interests can be planned along the route to educate the public about life in the 50s, 60s and up to the 70s.” The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the Bukit Timah Railway Station, and the cast iron railway bridges across Bukit Timah Road, Upper Bukit Timah Road and Ulu Pandan Canal should be preserved. The Railway Land also has the potential to be an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
NSS concludes with:
There are so many compelling reasons to preserve the Railway Land as a Green Corridor. It is readymade Nature Corridor, Recreational Space, Eco-friendly transport route all rolled into one. It is a valuable piece of ecological and historical heritage that should be preserved for future generations of Singaporeans.
Why We Should Have The Green Corridor
The NSS proposal has eloquently stated the need to keep the Railway Lands as a green corridor based on environmental, social, recreational, and historical benefits. Others have also made good comments on the economic benefits of having a green corridor, that it is “a key competitive advantage that helps attract or retain top talent and brings more economic development to Singapore. It could well bring other financial benefits, too, including increased property value for nearby residents.”
We support the proposal by NSS and feel strongly that we should have the Green Corridor because it will improve Singapore’s long-term survival and resilience. The biggest threat to Singapore is not terrorism or slow economic growth. The biggest threat to Singapore is apathy, or you could call it indifference, bochap, can’t be bothered, or none of my business. When Singaporeans do not feel a sense of belonging and are not bothered with what goes on here, then Singapore is in trouble.
At a recent forum, the following discussion took place between a young Singaporean and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong:
“This is your country,” SM Goh replied. “What do you want me to do to make you feel you belong?”
“For my part, don’t worry about me,” Mr Lim said. “I will definitely do something, if I can, for Singapore. But I can tell you honestly that the sentiment on the ground is a bit different.”
“If this is happening, it is very serious,” said SM Goh.
“If the majority feel they don’t belong here, then we have a fundamental problem. Then I would ask myself: What am I doing here? Why should I be working for people who don’t feel they belong over here?” asked SM Goh.
We think that the government can make Singaporeans feel they belong here by preserving our shared memories and creating our shared vision.
Preserving Our Shared Memories
The Green Corridor will strengthen our shared memories by preserving our past with Malaysia, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the railway bridges, and also creating opportunities for history education and discovery. This is necessary and urgent as the pace of erosion of our memories quicken in our urban city.
When we talk about our shared memories, it brings a smile to us and brings us closer together, knowing we have experienced the same history. Without shared memories across different generations and between different immigrant groups, we would feel like strangers and find it harder to understand each other.
We remember watching Royston Tan’s Old Places and discussing it with friends, and how it brought back shared memories and how we feel a sense of belonging and connection even though we may not be familiar with all the old places.
[youtube width=”560″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVS9g7Qtp2s[/youtube]
We should have the Green Corridor because it helps us to preserve our shared memories.
Creating Our Shared Vision
The Green Corridor will strengthen our shared vision by creating opportunities for different groups, sectors and communities to come together, plan and work towards a common vision of a Singapore where nature and our economic activities can co-exist. The long stretch of the Railway Lands connect communities and spaces, and allows greater cooperation and collaborative partnerships from North to South. This is something new and not seen before, and if a bottom-up approach is adopted, it would allow Singaporeans to have a shared vision and to actually turn it to life, with creativity and innovation.
When we talk about our shared vision, it excites us and motivates everyone to work together for a common good. When we work with our own hands and sweat together, we are building bonds and resilience. Without a shared vision, everyone does things on their own and are not bothered with what the others are doing.
We should have the Green Corridor because it helps us to create our shared vision.
Support the Green Corridor
For Singapore to survive and prosper in the long term, it is necessary to have more opportunities in preserving our shared memories and creating our shared vision. And keeping the Railway Lands as a Green Corridor is one opportunity not to be wasted.
Show your support:
1. Read the NSS proposal – The Green Corridor: A Proposal to Keep the Railway Lands as a Continous Green Corridor
2. Send your feedback and suggestions to Nature Society (Singapore)
3. Share the proposal with everyone
4. Like the Facebook page “We support The Green Corridor in Singapore” and share it with your friends. You can share your memories, stories and photos of the railway lands, and share your vision for The Green Corridor. What types of environmental, social, cultural and historical activities do you wish to see happening there?
5. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/greencorridorsg and share our tweets with your friends.
In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy. – John C. Sawhill
Source and images credit: Nature Society (Singapore)