Dover Forest

Don't sacrifice trees for space

I refer to Mr Vengadesh Krishna Kumar's letter (Dover Forest is not just another little patch of woodland, Feb 5).

Ms Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said that "one of the best technologies for tackling overheating cities was invented long before humans appeared: trees" (From heat waves to rising seas: How trees defend us, Sept 10, 2019).

She said that a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than 10 air-conditioning units and that trees can filter air pollution, "improving our health and that of the planet".

Trees make us healthier. Should we not preserve them rather than fight with them for space?

Currently, a majestic mahogany tree stands like a giant in the Botanic Gardens, planted by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1980. The first Tree Planting Day was held in 1971, and by 1989, 271,705 trees had been planted as part of the annual campaign.

Mr Lee took part in the tree-planting campaign until his death in 2015.

Now, Singapore is mulling over clearing out Dover Forest to make way for houses. How did we progress from tree planting to tree cutting?

Dr Angel Hsu of Yale-NUS College, in her research project Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index, found that Singapore has lost 95 per cent of the primary forest it had in 1819, and that in recent years, Singapore has also experienced severe secondary forest losses.

As a secondary forest, Dover Forest has matured when left on its own, nurturing about 160 animal species and 120 plant species, some rare and endangered, on 33ha. Isn't that part of our national heritage?

Instead of clearing Dover Forest forever, it is worthwhile to consider Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza's proposal of using vacant sites for housing. Keep Dover Forest for the people.

Esther Chin Siew Lan

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2021, with the headline Don't sacrifice trees for space. Subscribe