Illegal gardens on state land have come under the spotlight recently, sparked by the case of a 75-year-old retiree who was told by the Singapore Land Authority to clear his cultivated patch - the size of a three-room HDB flat - in the Choa Chu Kang forest. Some social media commentators observed a seeming contradiction between official campaigns such as the One Million Trees movement and this enforcement action. Avid gardeners who plant illegally on state land probably think there is no harm in pursuing their love of greenery in what looks like unused patches of real estate. But besides breaking the law by trespassing, they could be harming forested areas by clearing native plants which support wildlife and planting possibly invasive species.
Biodiversity is a delicate, interconnected web and Singapore's green patches are all the more precious given how much of its primary forests have already been cleared. The Government has recognised the need to balance urbanisation and conservation, and these two aims need not be antithetical. The National Parks Board launched a Forest Restoration Action Plan in 2019, which involves planting native species to regenerate secondary forests as well as removing invasive plants. NParks is also reaching out to young people with its Youth@SGNature initiative, which aims not just to educate but to encourage active involvement in nature conservation.