Singapore's bid to have the Botanic Gardens become its first Unesco World Heritage Site has entered its final stage.
The National Parks Board and National Heritage Board revealed yesterday that a technical assessor from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) visited the Gardens last September.
By May, Icomos will make a recommendation on whether the site should be inscribed. The recommendation will be considered by the Unesco World Heritage Committee, a group of 21 countries, when it meets in Germany in late June or early July to discuss all World Heritage Site nominations. It can approve or deny the Botanic Gardens bid, or defer its decision and request more information.
To qualify as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the site must have outstanding universal cultural or natural value. The 74ha Gardens was established in 1859 and it attracts more than four million people each year. It showcases more than 10,000 types of plants, including the region's most significant living collection of documented palms, orchids and gingers. Its landscape has been well preserved since the 19th century, and includes Singapore's earliest ornamental designed lake.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong highlighted how the Gardens changed the course of South-east Asian history. "Rubber cultivation started here and spread to the rest of the region, leading to new industries and growth for the region and beyond. The bid... is an effort to recognise the Gardens and its immense influence, not just in Singapore but throughout the region."
In a Facebook post yesterday evening after a visit to the Gardens, he wrote about how much the place means to Singaporeans. "It's a place to meet friends, be with family, pak tor (go on dates) with boyfriends and girlfriends, or even take wedding photographs. I remember trips here with my parents when I was a boy. Till today, I come here regularly for evening jogs."
Pledge books have been placed in the Gardens for people to express support for the bid. He urged Singaporeans to sign them, adding that he hopes to return with good news and a Jubilee gift after the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn.