Gardens' transformation commendable

I was heartened to read of the efforts of Dr Nigel Taylor and his team in  getting our Botanic gardens listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. ("Bringing the Gardens into full bloom", July 20).

Particularly commendable is the unsung effort of bringing the Gardens to its full glory  leading up to  its listing.

As a Singaporean who remembers a happy childhood around the Swan Lake, the Girl on a Swing sculpture, and the tembusu tree with the low branch, there was a time when visits to the Gardens aroused dismay.

This was because the Gardens seemed to be languishing.

The Girl on a Swing lay hidden by an unhealthy shrub, the Swan Lake was stagnant in some areas, and the Evolution garden, with its exotic array of cycads and  zamias, was clearly in ill health.

The lowest point was when a cluster of old black and white buildings near the Tanglin Gate entrance were demolished to make way for the new Botany Centre.

The website states that it was "carefully designed around precious historic trees", but as a frequent visitor to the Gardens, I know numerous large trees were felled to make way for the new building.

In recent years, however, the Gardens has undergone a subtle transformation.

Its many sculptures and garden sections have been brought back to life. The Evolution garden is healthy again, no longer choked by weeds and pests. And attention has been drawn to the many large beautiful old trees and plants, which are part of the Gardens' heritage. It is, after all , a botanic gardens, and pride of place belongs to the plants.

Its new status as a Unesco World Heritage Site cements Singapore as the custodian of this unique living heritage site.

Ours is a botanic gardens in the tropics, a collection of fecund biodiversity, which came about due to colonial curiosity and endeavour, survived World War II  and the period from then to now.

In our 50th year of independence, I am gratified that we now have an obligation to make sure the Gardens is protected for many years to come.

Woo Sze Siew (Ms)