Botanic Gardens losing what made it special

Swan Lake was a refreshing respite to visitors in the middle of land-locked Singapore.
Swan Lake was a refreshing respite to visitors in the middle of land-locked Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

During Chinese New Year, my family was one of many jostling for space to have a picnic on the lawns surrounding the stage at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

I realised then that the space had changed, becoming much smaller due to the planting of new shrubs and plants as well as the roping-off of what used to be open sitting areas.

The grand view of the sloping lawn that greeted visitors as they walked towards the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage is gone, as is the feeling of openness in the middle of a crowded city.

The two lakes - Swan Lake and Eco-Lake - were a refreshing respite to visitors in the middle of land-locked Singapore. Now one of the lakes has all but disappeared, with wetland habitats created around it, and the swans, if they emerge, are usually found walking on the grass.

The Botanic Gardens is now a Unesco World Heritage Site that is adding new features. Along with new zones for children and new walks, there are many practical aspects of the Gardens that are being improved such as parking, and some of the new areas are certainly beautiful.

But parts of the Botanic Gardens were so good to begin with that adding things to them is like adding extra spices to an already well-cooked dish.

There was a natural beauty balanced by the constructed pathways, and I hope the National Parks Board (NParks) will keep that in mind when creating new areas to avoid the feeling of being overly man-made.

NParks could also consider allocating part of its budget to helping Singaporeans who face difficulties visiting the Gardens on their own to enjoy these spaces.

This would include the elderly and the sick, and could comprise outreach programmes .

This, I believe, would be a much better use of resources than continuing to build and potentially ruining what was a perfectly good thing.

Subina Aurora Khaneja (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2019, with the headline 'Botanic Gardens losing what made it special'. Print Edition | Subscribe