250,000 trees and shrubs to be planted in NParks' 10-year forest restoration plan

From left: Dr Adrian Loo, group director, conservation, National Parks Board, watches as Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Foreign Minister, Professor Leo Tan, chairman of the Garden City Fund, and Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, plant a tree at Rifle Range Nature Park. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

SINGAPORE - To protect and restore Singapore's forest landscape, the National Parks Board (NParks) will plant 250,000 trees and shrubs in nature parks and reserves here over the next 10 years.

The Republic's first-ever Forest Restoration Action Plan will involve two nature reserves - Bukit Timah and Central Catchment - and the eight nature parks surrounding them.

NParks started restoration works at Rifle Range Nature Park on Friday (Jan 25).

Among other things, the works will involve planting tree species that can increase nitrogen levels in the soil, which encourages plant growth.

More dominant and rare species of rainforest trees and shrubs will be planted, said NParks in announcing the plan.

Its group director for conservation, Dr Adrian Loo, said: "The genetic diversity in our tropical rainforests is amazing.

"There are still things we are discovering and rediscovering, and we believe this natural heritage is important to protect for our future generations."

Secondary 3 students from Nanyang Girls' High School Nature Society (from left) Koh Wei Ying, Karis Soh Hui, Rebecca Bo, and Ng Shi Hui, planting trees at Rifle Range Nature Park. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

The move to restore the forest landscape comes under the Nature Conservation Masterplan laid out in 2015, which sets the course of Singapore's biodiversity conservation plans.

The masterplan covers four broad themes - conservation, restoration, research and community outreach.

Said Dr Loo: "It's important to ensure that our diversity (in these nature parks) is not lost, and that we keep on protecting it."

A community tree-planting session was also held on Friday at the same location.

It was attended by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, as well as advisers from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Ms Sim Ann, and students and members of nature groups.

Nanyang Girls' High student Foong Wei Qi, 15, who helped remove weeds at Rifle Range Nature Park, said: "We hope the native plant species will thrive better after we clean up this part of the forest.

"Singapore is known as a garden city, so we want to protect this place."

Wei Qi is a member of her school's Nature Society, which is involved in school-wide environmental initiatives.

Mr Joseph Koh, chairman of the Friends of Bukit Timah Forest community group, said it is important to get students to understand the science behind their efforts.

"This is a good step, but it should not be a one-off thing. We need a sustained effort," he said, referring to the involvement of students in the restoration works.

"We spend millions restoring our national monuments but what we have here cannot be calculated in monetary terms - this is our heritage."

Mr Koh is also chairman of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore.

The Friends of the Parks is an initiative to promote community ownership and stewardship of the parks in Singapore.

Restoration works for Rifle Range Nature Park will be completed in 2020.

NParks said works for the other areas involved in the Forest Restoration Action Plan will be carried out progressively.

Members of the public who are interested in volunteering can sign up at www.nparks.gov.sg/contribute/volunteer

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