PM plants mangrove saplings in water at Punggol Reservoir

PM Lee, flanked by Dr Lam (left) and Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon, planting a series of api-api putih trees on floating turfs of soil at Punggol Reservoir yesterday. The trees will have their roots suspended in the water to
PM Lee, flanked by Dr Lam (left) and Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon, planting a series of api-api putih trees on floating turfs of soil at Punggol Reservoir yesterday. The trees will have their roots suspended in the water to help absorb nutrients that algae depend upon, thereby reducing the algae and improving water quality in the reservoir.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

This is the first time in Singapore that tree saplings are being planted on floating turfs of soil

The time-honoured tradition of Tree Planting Day treaded new ground - or rather, water - yesterday, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong planting mangrove tree saplings at Punggol Reservoir.

Mr Lee and his fellow MPs for Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West planted tropical mangrove trees on specially designed floating turfs of soil, the first time trees are being planted in Singapore using this method.

The Avicennia alba trees, commonly known as api-api putih, will have roots suspended in the water to help absorb nutrients that algae depend upon, thereby reducing the algae and improving water quality in the reservoir.

"This is the first time I've planted a tree in the water!" Mr Lee said later in a Facebook post.

"The mangrove plant absorbs pollutants and will hopefully make the area greener and more scenic for residents," he added.

Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min, who is the MP for Sengkang West, told reporters after the event that he had read about an installation of floating trees in Rotterdam, Holland, and decided to try it out here.

Besides, the constituency is next to Punggol Reservoir, which already houses the Sengkang Floating Wetland, he said.

"We are discussing with (national water agency) PUB to see whether we can locate it near to the floating wetland where people can view it when they walk across the bridge," he added.

Residents from both constituencies attended the event, which also featured a carnival with booths on protecting and safeguarding the environment.

Many also participated in games that challenged players to clean up the surrounding areas.

As part of the day's activities, Secondary 3 student Syabil Qusyairi, 15, and his Bartley Secondary schoolmates rowed kayaks for half an hour, looking for litter on the surface of the reservoir.

Before setting off, they were given a quick lesson on why throwing trash into bodies of water is harmful. He said: "I learnt that rubbish thrown into the water may be eaten by fishes and they, in turn, are eaten by bigger fishes that may eventually be caught for human consumption."

The tree-planting effort comes on the back of recent initiatives to improve the living environment in one of Singapore's newest estates. Last month, an 8.8km cycling network in Punggol linking homes to train stations, schools and other amenities was unveiled.

Mr Lee said the Sengkang-Punggol region has flourished over the past 10 years, and is home to many young families, with ample outdoor recreational options.

The tree-planting campaign was launched in 1963 by first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and has become an annual nationwide affair to highlight the importance of greening the city.

Tree-planting activities have been held across the island this month, including in Sembawang GRC yesterday which Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan attended.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'PM plants mangrove saplings in water at Punggol Reservoir'. Print Edition | Subscribe