Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Reopening of Wallace Education Centre

Dec 7, 2020

My presentation today covers four areas. First, I will talk about the Wallace Education Centre that we are reopening today. Second, I will share with you about the role of Dairy Farm Nature Park, within our Central Nature Park Network. Third, I will describe the ecological connectivity that we are working on, between our nature reserves and Tengah. And finally, I will speak about partnership with our community. 

Let me start right off by saying how happy I am to join all of you this morning at the reopening of the Wallace Education Centre at the Dairy Farm Nature Park. The Centre provides visitors with a history of the area’s previous use as a dairy farm; hence its name. In fact, the Centre was formerly a cow shed. 

Today, we are launching a permanent exhibition to showcase the discoveries of renowned naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, and his contribution to Singapore’s biodiversity conservation efforts. During Wallace’s journeys to the Malay Archipelago, he made several stopovers here in Singapore in 1854 and collected about 700 species of beetles right here in the vicinity of Dairy Farm. He was also the other “father” behind the theory of evolution, having contributed to Charles Darwin’s work on the subject.

Catered to students and children, this exhibition is interactive, colourful and will explain scientific theories in an engaging way for our younger visitors to grow their appreciation of science and nature. This is yet another place for parents to bring your children during this year-end school holiday. But do remember to maintain safe distancing.

We have also extended the Wallace trail to link the Wallace Education Centre to the Hillview MRT Station, and enhanced the signages to provide visitors with an integrated learning experience amidst nature. 

These are part and parcel of NParks’ efforts to provide Singaporeans with more nature-based activities to raise awareness on the importance of our natural heritage.

Central Nature Park Network 

Let me now move on to my next point. The Dairy Farm Nature Park is part of our Central Nature Park Network. This network comprises nature parks that we have been establishing around the Bukit Timah, as well as Central Catchment Nature Reserves, since 2001. These include Hindhede Nature Park in 2001, Zhenghua Nature Park in 2002, Springleaf Nature Park in 2014, Chestnut Nature Park in 2016, Windsor Nature Park in 2017, Thomson Nature Park in 2019, and the upcoming Rifle Range Nature Park which should open in 2022. 

These act as buffers to protect our central nature reserves, which are some of the richest sources of our natural capital, and we protect them against the impact of urbanisation. They also serve as complementary habitats to allow our native flora and fauna to thrive, and for Singaporeans to go out and about to enjoy. 

As we transform Singapore into a City in Nature, we will continue to enhance and extend our natural capital across our island from our reserves. To do so, we will add another 200 hectares of nature parks, 190km of nature ways and 160km of park connectors island-wide by 2030. 

This will enhance the ecological connectivity between our green spaces to facilitate the movement of our native biodiversity and ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come. It will also provide Singaporeans more access to nature’s benefits, and spaces to enjoy recreational activities amidst nature, such as hiking and birdwatching.

Connectivity between Nature Reserves and Tengah

One of the ecological links that we have been trying hard to conserve is between the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves and the forested areas in Tengah. Over the years, NParks has been working closely with HDB, URA and other relevant agencies to achieve this. 

For example, the Bukit Batok Town Park and Bukit Batok Nature Park, which have been around since the 1980s, are two well-known parks in the area. These act as key stepping stones within the existing network of green spaces between the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Tengah, which provide food and shelter for our native flora and fauna to thrive.

As part of our long-term plan, we have continued to add Park Connectors and Nature Ways to further enhance the connectivity between these nature areas. We have seen some success as rare native species such as the Malayan Colugo are now being spotted in the Bukit Batok Nature Park.

We also continued to study how to expand the network, even as we redevelop some areas in Tengah and Bukit Batok to meet Singaporeans’ needs for housing. 

Let me share more about our plans to enhance and protect our existing green spaces, and to integrate greenery in these upcoming developments.  

First, we are establishing another two new nature parks – the Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park and the Bukit Batok Central Nature Park, which will add 25 hectares to the existing network of green spaces in the area. These parks will remain rustic and forested, and NParks will undertake habitat enhancement to further support our biodiversity. 

Second, we will be opening the new Bukit Gombak Park next year, to complement the existing parks in the area. 

Third, we have set aside land to build new park connectors, as well as provide for a 30-metre wide biodiversity corridor between Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park and Tengah. 

Finally, as we announced in 2016, there will be a 100-metre wide and 5km long Tengah Forest Corridor within Tengah Town that will be densely planted to serve as a habitat and ecological link for our biodiversity. I would like to thank my officers from NParks and MND who have been working on this for the last few years. 

Taken together with our past efforts, this Bukit Batok Nature Corridor will comprise more than 125 hectares of parks and 10km of nature ways and park connectors. This ecological landscape will help conserve key habitats, strengthen ecological connections, and provide residents with greater access to nature.

I know that there have been concerns about the impact of the upcoming developments in Bukit Batok and Tengah on biodiversity in these areas. While small, we celebrate that Singapore is home to rich variety of flora and fauna. 

This is why we aim to strike a balance between development and nature conservation in our planning approach. While we need to develop to meet Singaporeans’ needs for housing, infrastructure, healthcare and jobs, we also aim to protect as many of our green spaces as we can. Any decision to clear forest cover is made only after careful study of the trade-offs and alternatives. 

Where development cannot be avoided, we aim to carefully manage the possible environmental impact and develop and implement suitable mitigation measures. In our master planning process for development, we also look to enhance accessibility and connectivity to greenery wherever possible. This has been and will continue to be the approach we take to conserve nature amidst developments, including those in Tengah and Bukit Batok.

Partnering the Community

To round off this morning’s opening remarks, I would like to invite our community to contribute to these efforts to grow our network of green spaces and corridors. We are organising tree planting and habitat enhancement activities under the One Million Trees Movement. You can also be involved in the propagation and nurturing of the saplings in our new network of community nurseries. 

The first of these nurseries is right here at Dairy Farm Nature Park. I would like to thank HSBC, for your strong support through the Garden City Fund to make this happen. We will be setting up at least 10 community nurseries across Singapore over the next three years, including at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. 

Today, I am also happy to launch our first City in Nature Book, ‘Celebrating Our City in Nature: Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year’. This is a delightful photographic depiction of Singaporeans connecting with nature. I hope you will enjoy the book as much as I do. 

I look forward to working with you to continue transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, through action, partnership and stewardship. Thank you.