Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Opening of the Mingxin Foundation Rambler’s Ridge and OCBC Arboretum at the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Gallop Extension

Oct 19, 2019

I am very happy to be back at the Singapore Botanic Gardens to join you this morning for the opening of two new items at the Gardens. 

It has been a busy year for all of us at the Gardens, because we are celebrating our 160th anniversary this year. So far, NParks has held almost 700 events, consisting of concerts, movie screenings, exhibitions, educational programmes, and tours. We also broke new ground in botanical research and conservation with the opening of Singapore’s first Seed Bank in July this year. 

Today, we are continuing this momentum with the opening of the Mingxin Foundation Rambler’s Ridge and OCBC Arboretum at the Gallop Extension. These are all part of our longer-term plans to grow the Gardens. When the Gardens was established 160 years ago, it had only 22 hectares of space. With the Gallop Extension, it will be almost four times its original size at 82 hectares. In fact, we first shared our plans for these extensions four years ago. Some of you might have joined me then in planting some of the Dipterocarp saplings. 

It is heartening to see the area now transformed by all our collective efforts – by our passionate NParks officers, in partnership with all of you here: our community and our stakeholders. After many years of hard work, I think we can reap some of the fruits of our labour with the rest of Singapore today. 

What can we look forward to in the two new items that we are unveiling? First of all, we have a new dipterocarp arboretum, supported by OCBC. Thank you very much to OCBC. Here, you will see more than 200 species of dipterocarp saplings - altogether about 2,000 dipterocarp trees - and these will one day grow into forest giants. These trees form the backbone of our regional forest ecosystems. They are endangered and this is an important part of the ecosystem that we are helping to preserve and enhance. 

On top of this natural ecosystem, we have added a science and tech layer. We have put in place environmental sensors, drones fitted with multi-spectral cameras, and LiDAR scanners, and these can produce highly accurate 3D models of the trees in the Arboretum. Using these, NParks will be able to track the growth and health of the trees, which will aid in their conservation.

The second area we are opening today is the Rambler’s Ridge, supported by Mingxin Foundation. Thank you very much too. Here, you can wander through unique forest habitats found on the tropical hills and cliffs of Southeast Asia. You can walk through the ridge via a tree-lined path. If you are feeling adventurous, you can hike through the ridge top trail. It is a beautiful place for you to walk, and you will be able to get close to a variety of fascinating plants that grow along tropical hill ridges. 

These are two very new and interesting features that we are adding to the Gallop Extension today, but there will be more coming up next year. Next year, we open two conservation houses. One of the conservation houses will become a Forest Discovery Centre, where visitors are able to learn about different forest habitats through exhibits, workshops, and activities on forest ecology.

The other will be a Botanical Art Gallery, where you can enjoy browsing rare books and art from the Gardens’ collection. In fact, we have over 2,000 art pieces, and they have been carefully archived since almost 130 years ago.  These works have immense scientific value as well. It will be a site that will be interesting for both arts and science lovers. 

There will be a new nature playgarden for our children next year, where children can swing, slide and climb on structures resembling parts of trees and fruits. We hope that this will help nurture their love for nature through play.

There will also be a new canopy bridge, which visitors can use to access the Gallop Extension from the Learning Forest. This bridge will extend across Tyersall Avenue to the Learning Forest, allowing visitors to ascend directly into the forest canopy.

These are all the new items in the Gallop Extension which will be coming up next year. I think we should once again thank our partners that are involved in all of these elements, not just the two that we are unveiling today, but also those that are coming up next year too. We have COMO Foundation, Hotel Properties Limited, Mingxin Foundation, the National Arts Council, OCBC, Mr Tan Jiew Hoe, and many others. Thank you very much once again. Thank you to all our partners and stakeholders here for your support, and for enabling NParks to realise its plans.

Thank you for believing in our vision for the Gardens. Certainly, we look forward to your continued support in future. This is a relationship that we want to continue building with you for a long time.

This morning, in tandem with the opening of the Gallop Extension, we are also happy to launch the first three volumes of “Flora of Singapore”. It is an ambitious project to catalogue the more than 3,000 species of plants that we have here in Singapore. It is the first time we are attempting something of this scale. I understand that it is a massive project, and more than 100 experts were involved. I would like to thank everyone who contributed their knowledge and time to our first three volumes.

Eventually, there will be 14 volumes altogether, and it will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in studying the plant diversity in Singapore. To everyone involved in this project, congratulations and thank you very much for your hard work.

We are also recognising the winners of the Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year 2019 Competition. We launched this competition in 2014 and every year, we receive countless beautiful submissions of our natural heritage from avid photographers. It is fitting that we recognise these accomplishments and all that they have done in recording, archiving, and taking good photographs of our natural heritage, and that we showcase them here, given that so many Singaporeans have fond memories amidst nature and greenery here at the Gardens. The overall winner of the Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year competition this year is Mr Benjamin Seah. 

In conclusion, I think all of us can be proud of how far the Gardens has come in the last 160 years. It has grown into a world-class botanical garden and a premier institution for research, conservation, and botany. I encourage everyone to continuing joining us for the events through the rest of the year as NParks continues its celebration of the Gardens’ heritage and achievements. 

We will continue to work with all of you, and with Singaporeans to make the Gardens more beautiful and special for current and future generations to enjoy.

Thank you very much and please enjoy the rest of the morning.