The official opening of the Kranji Marshes registers another triumph for nature in Singapore. The area, roughly the size of 60 football fields, reveals the surprising presence of substantial pockets of nature and wildlife in a city that has come to be synonymous with rapid urbanisation in Asia. That these pockets exist on the island, where the ambit of nature has to contend with the optimal economic and social use of extremely scarce space, lends credence to Singapore's efforts to live up to its reputation as a green city.
Ever since its independence, what has demarcated Singapore from many other cities is not the extent of its concrete development, but its will and ability to sustain the green lungs of a crowded metropolis. From the trees that line roads to the preservation or rejuvenation of green spaces, epitomised by the Botanic Gardens, this is a country where the natural habitat shares elbow room with the commercial and financial architecture of progress symbolised by its towering skyline.
Nature reserves such as the Kranji Marshes help to bring Singaporeans, particularly the young, closer to nature. The marshland is home to 54 species of butterflies, 33 species of dragonflies and more than 170 species of birds - astonishing diversity that belies Singapore's small size. Such gifts from nature ought to be cherished.
While nature has functional value - for example, mangrove reserves help buffer humans from storm surges and stem coastal erosion - what is more important is the appreciation of the existential balance between nature and man. This will stand future generations in good stead when they have to make hard preservation choices as rising sea levels threaten coastal ecosystems.