Forum: Go beyond just planting trees on Jurong Island

The current Jurong Island Highway (top). Jurong Island Highway after a greening initiative by JTC and NParks to plant 30,000 trees on the industrial island (bottom).
The current Jurong Island Highway (top). Jurong Island Highway after a greening initiative by JTC and NParks to plant 30,000 trees on the industrial island (bottom).PHOTOS: JTC, NPARKS

I am heartened by the greening initiative to plant 30,000 trees on Jurong Island over the next three years funded by businesses in the industrial estate (30,000 trees to help beat the heat on Jurong Island, Nov 3).

The trees are expected to cool temperatures and benefit the ecosystem. Moreover, the diverse range of tree species chosen to be planted can enhance local biodiversity.

Taking into account that Singapore ranks 27th out of 142 countries in terms of emissions per capita (Singapore's twin imperatives for climate action, Sept 5), this initiative will help businesses reduce their carbon emissions.

Trees are essential in our fight against climate change as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

However, while we are seeing progress in Singapore's environmental sustainability efforts, not all of these initiatives have an immediate effect.

For instance, it takes several decades for trees to reach maturity. Thus, the long-term survival of these trees is vital.

Perhaps the frequency of tree inspections in the National Parks Board's tree management programme could be increased to monitor the growth and health of younger trees which have yet to mature.

Planting trees also provides a natural habitat for native wildlife. This increases the possibility of wildlife lurking around industrial areas.

To prevent human-wildlife conflict from arising, pre-emptive measures such as public education for those working on the island can be taken. This can allow workers to understand how to co-exist with wildlife, by being aware of appropriate actions to be taken in dealing with them sensitively.

Moving forward, planting trees may be insufficient to address the larger issue of climate change. With businesses such as ExxonMobil Asia Pacific increasing their focus on environmental sustainability, similar companies should look into advanced technologies that minimise their carbon footprint.

To incentivise these businesses to switch to greener production methods, more investment and tax rebates can be given to offset the costs.

Victoria Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2019, with the headline 'Go beyond just planting trees on Jurong Island'. Print Edition | Subscribe