Place in modern cities for old cemeteries

I was astonished to read Mr Heng Cho Choon's letter ("Bukit Brown not worthy of World Heritage status"; last Saturday).

I agree that Bukit Brown Cemetery is not currently worthy of World Heritage Site designation.

However, this is due to the unfortunate decision of the Government to build a major road through the cemetery, thereby severely disrupting the serene atmosphere of this splendid part of Singapore, as well as irreparably damaging the resident flora and fauna.

Bukit Brown is still a wondrous place, with its lush jungle foliage and exquisite tombs. Not only are there 86 bird species in Bukit Brown, 12 of which are endangered, but the craftsmanship of the stone work and tiles on the tombstones is extraordinary. And, of course, Bukit Brown is thought to be the largest Chinese cemetery outside of China.

Yes, at times, the cemetery is untidy, especially during the Qing Ming Festival, but Bukit Brown seems to be largely ignored by the authorities. I visit the place several times a week and rarely, if ever, see clean-up crews. There are also no dustbins around.

Finally, I disagree with the argument that "the needs of the living should supersede those of the dead". I gather that Mr Heng agrees with Singapore's planners that, in the long run, Bukit Brown should make way for large, modern, mixed-use developments.

But think of the many old cemeteries that are sprinkled through cities such as London and Paris, where land is even more scarce than in Singapore. Should these cemeteries be destroyed to make way "for the living"?

Do we have so little respect for history or for our ancestors?

Michael Blaine Evanoff