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Be wholehearted in rebuilding natural environment

The reconstruction of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) is an effective plan for saving Singapore's environment ("Bukit Timah reserve reopens after $14m revamp" and "Biodiversity survey of Bukit Timah reserve under way"; both published last Sunday).

However, it isn't enough.

BTNR is one of Singapore's four nature reserves. Compared with Singapore's size of around 72,000ha, the 163ha BTNR covers 0.23 per cent of our land.

Our land is urbanised to the extent that the surviving natural ecosystems cannot cope sustainably.

It will take years for the current initiatives to save the environment to have consequential effects, but this also means that the existing damage has yet to be fully apparent.

Reducing plastic usage, water misuse, food wastage and energy consumption has had little effect because many people have not embraced these habits wholeheartedly.

One way to tackle the problem is to rebuild natural environments. We have to cut down on urbanisation, face the fact that our land cannot accommodate a growing population, and focus on resolving the environmental issues we face today.

With a weak natural environment, our land is in danger. Over time, this damage will make other fronts of progress, such as economic growth, redundant.

What we need to do right now is not just fix the natural environment, but also build more of it.

So the underlying question is whether, as a country, we are willing to take this detour of focusing on our environment first before continuing progress on all other fronts.

Muhammad Afiq Feroz Ahmad

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Be wholehearted in rebuilding natural environment'. Print Edition | Subscribe