Forum: Allow natural greenery in public spaces to flourish

As an advocate for regenerative public spaces, I, along with green space experts such as Professor Yun Hye Hwang of the National University of Singapore, am thrilled to observe the abundant life that has flourished during the cessation of normal maintenance routines (Spy the native biodiversity among the wildflowers, May 23).

The post-circuit breaker transition is an unprecedented chance for Singapore to shift away from a labour- and resource-intensive landscape maintenance model towards a lighter-touch, restorative approach.

Renaturalising our green spaces could strengthen resilience to climate change, which is a much greater long-term threat to Singapore than Covid-19.

The two-month hiatus has reduced the greenhouse gas-intensive transport of landscape workers, equipment and waste.

Compared with a monocultural lawn, the variety of species found in spontaneous vegetation offers greater resilience to urban stressors, including flash floods, dry spells and heat.

In addition to biodiversity benefits, a more naturalised maintenance approach would eliminate noise nuisance and air pollution, protecting residents and landscape workers from exposure to carcinogenic petrol-powered mowers and leaf blowers.

Allowing spontaneous greenery to flourish in our estates and roadsides could bring more Singaporeans into regular connection with the benefits of nature and offers opportunities for the development of an environmental education curriculum and citizen science movement.

There are also economic benefits. A transition from the ubiquitous labour- and resource- intensive regime to a lighter-touch approach could cut costs by reducing substantial man-hours and materials devoted to unnecessary over-maintenance.

This could also enable the landscaping workforce to pivot to more productive and rewarding livelihoods.

The adoption of naturalised landscapes will require the planners, designers and managers of Singapore's green spaces to implement thoughtful site selection and selective management practices to preclude potential nuisances and cultivate public appreciation for a "wilder" aesthetic.

We hope to see greater cross-sectoral support for and stewardship of such enlivened green spaces.

Sarah Ichioka

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