MacRitchie and I
My personal relationship with MacRitchie Reservoir goes all the way back to 2002. As a young energetic 13 year old, I had qualified to join in the secondary school’s X-country team, although I have to say I was the slowest runner in my batch, and we used to have weekly long runs at MacRitchie on Fridays. And for the next four years, I was a regular visitor to MacRitchie- I go there for my 8-12km runs, stepped on the running trails countless times, fell two or three times and had a deep gash once, and I remember feeling thankful I had that place to run in late afternoons because it was a nice place to run at and was breezy, as compared to the open field at school.
I have not been visiting MacRitchie regularly since 2007.
Fast forward to 2016 and the place pops up in my Facebook (FB) news feed for reasons which disappoints me.
The past few weeks my FB feed has been filled with articles and personal reflections of the Cross Island MRT Line alignment controversy. If you have not read the news or heard about it by now, this MRT line which offers the East-West commuters an alternative to the existing East West Line, will cut through part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir.
Other reads: My three picks for reflections on this issue:
- June 19, 2013: The Cross-Island Line: why does it have to go through a Nature Reserve by Ivan Kwan http://lazy-lizard-tales.blogspot.sg/2013/06/the-cross-island-line-why-does-it-have.html
- July 18, 2013: Discussion and Position Paper – Cross Island Line by Nature Society (Singapore) http://www.nss.org.sg/documents/(NSS)%20Cross-Island%20Line%20Position%20Paper.pdf
- February 16, 2016: Cross Island Line debate misses the elephant in the room by Christopher Tan http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/cross-island-line-debate-misses-elephant-in-room?xtor=EREC-16-1
My thoughts on the Cross Island MRT Line cutting through MacRitchie:
I think there has been much discussions on the biodiversity of MacRitchie, soil investigation concerns and considerations for alternative routes, so I will not touch on that.
The perspective I am coming from is one that I have gathered after my experience at the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015 and the upcoming World Cities Summit happening in Singapore in July 2016.
Thoughts based on experience from Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015
After participating in the Paris Climate Change Conference and observing the negotiations, attending the side events and participating in some of the actions, as well as delivering that speech at the High Level Segment, this feeling of “governments know what needs to be done, then why are they so slow at taking action” crept up again.
At international events, and well, local ones too, Singapore has this practice of putting upfront our national circumstances, such as “we are a small country without natural resource, we have limited land space and we are alternative disadvantaged”. I acknowledge those points and I get it. And I applaud adaptation efforts such as deploying solar PV despite the limited land space and facilitating the adoption of energy efficient technologies. I also applaud efforts to increase our resilience- our infrastructures undergo regular maintenance and are improved to ensure they are climate-resilient.
What I don’t get sometimes is how Singapore manages its biodiversity issues. We say we will continue to safeguard our biodiversity despite an urban environment, and yes this also appeared in Singapore’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) which we had to submit before the Paris conference, but look what is happening to MacRitchie? To date, more than than 95% of Singapore’s original forest has been cleared, and now we cannot even leave what’s left undisturbed? Look at what happened with Bukit Brown Cemetery the last three years. It was the biggest Chinese graveyard outside China and was a living tranquil nature site on its own, and we had to exhume graves to make way for a new 4-lane road (or 8-lanes.. depending on how you look at it).
I feel like there is just something wrong with this society which chooses to cut through a nature reserve and a living heritage just to build an MRT line and more roads, so that we the people living here and now, can use these transport networks and save our travelling times. Are there no other route options? Are we really hard up for time we cannot spend 5-10 minutes more travelling a bit further out? I mean, come on, Singapore is only 50km East to West and 27km North to South, but by 2030 our rail network will be 360km long. Do we really need that much rail network to make places more accessible and life more liveable? Does one’s interpretation of a good life depends on the ability to travel 5 minutes faster to the next destination? I am really eager to know what goes on in the mind of government officials who planned and approved this route of the Cross Island Line MRT- what information did they work with and how did they end up with this conclusion that we have to cut through a nature reserve? I am not finding someone to blame, but I really want to understand why we have to go through this.
Thoughts based on upcoming World Cities Summit happening in Singapore July 2016
From the website, “The biennial World Cities Summit is an exclusive platform for government leaders and industry experts to address liveable and sustainable city challenges, share integrated urban solutions and forge new partnerships.” Singapore is hosting the event and looking at the programme, there is a strong “Smart Nation” theme to this.
Firstly, from my understanding of “Smart Nation” events and articles I have seen past 1-2 years, the focus has always been on taking advantage of technology so that we can live meaningfully. In PM Lee’s speech at the Smart Nation initiative launch in November 24, 2014, he talked about our daily lives being convenient and sustainable, and our community and society being more connected. With this alignment controversy in MacRitchie, I am asking myself, if we are truly a Smart Nation, then shouldn’t we be able to to re-think and re-design our rail network so that it does not have to disturb what’s left of the forests in Singapore?
And secondly, with this much interest and debate on the Cross Island MRT Line past few weeks, I can only hope things take a turn for the better, so that by the time World Cities Summit happen in July, Singapore has a great case-study to show of how we managed to safeguard our biodiversity despite the built environment and still create a liveable and sustainable city.
Upcoming events to check out:
- The Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) Phase 1 Report for Cross Island Line is available for public viewing with effect from February 5, 2016, for four weeks. More information http://www.lta.gov.sg/apps/news/page.aspx?c=2&id=85079f03-0c50-46e2-b44d-328034a5a838
- February 19, 2016: Talk: Cross-Island Line Environmental Impact assessment organised by Nature Society (Singapore) https://www.facebook.com/events/1556497351310080/
- February 25, 2016: EIAs: Enigmas in Action? organised by Green Drinks Singapore https://www.facebook.com/events/530318610469930/
- Various groups are organising a series of events in March 2016 to raise awareness about the conservation issues surrounding the proposed Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) through MacRitchie Forest. Details here https://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/march-for-macritchie/