Integrating tech and nature in Jurong

Jurong Lake Gardens to feature smart tech, serve as testbed for green products

The rejuvenated Jurong Lake Gardens, which will be progressively completed from 2018, will offer residents a green reprieve from city life.
The rejuvenated Jurong Lake Gardens, which will be progressively completed from 2018, will offer residents a green reprieve from city life. PHOTO: NPARKS

The new plans for Jurong Lake Gardens show how technology can be integrated with nature, while giving residents a green reprieve from the bustling city life.

The Gardens will feature smart technology, and serve as a place for green industries to testbed their products.

Mr Saulo Spaolanse, country president for smart technology firm Schneider Electric Singapore, told The Straits Times that the Gardens would be a "perfect location to showcase how technology and nature can be integrated seamlessly to reflect the relationship between Singapore's Smart Nation and Garden City vision".

He was responding to news of a tender called by the National Parks Board (NParks) yesterday for consultants to design the central and eastern parts of the Jurong Lake Gardens, a 90ha park in western Singapore that will be progressively completed from 2018.

Mr Spaolanse said solar photovoltaic panels could be, for instance, used to harvest energy to power electrical activities in and around the park. Sensors could also be deployed to collect data on noise, ambient temperature and humidity, which could help the authorities or researchers study how environmental conditions affect biodiversity, he added.

But even as technology meets nature, the Gardens could also bring biodiversity back to the once-thriving wetland and mangrove habitat, nature groups said.

The challenge, however, lies in striking a balance between protecting the areas that are home to wildlife and rare species, and providing the public access to them, said Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society (Singapore).

In NParks' tender, consultants must consider, among other things, how the habitats in the Gardens can be better enhanced to conserve unique biodiversity such as native coastal plants, birds such as herons and egrets, and butterflies.

Jurong was a mangrove swamp before it was developed into an industrial estate in 1961. When the Jurong River was dammed to create Jurong Lake, the decreasing salinity, coupled with land clearance and industrial development in the area, caused the mangrove and riverine habitats to die out, said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai.

"But plans to rejuvenate Jurong Lake Gardens can help bring back the wildlife and make the area attractive for people to enjoy nature," he added.

Dr Lum noted that it was important to strike a balance between nature protection and accessibility.

If all parts of the Gardens are made accessible, it could lead to decreased animal diversity in the long term as the site would not provide enough quiet areas. Yet large patches of inaccessible green areas would mean that visitors will not be able to appreciate nature.

Residents welcomed new plans for the Gardens, such as the green moves, and promoting gardening with "show gardens" and getting people to display their horticultural expertise.

Said business manager Priscilla Ho, 48: "In built-up Jurong, being in a garden is literally a breath of fresh air. The initiatives such as the show gardens could also help residents get to know their neighbours better."

Scientist Fong Chee Wai, 47, who often travels from his home in Tiong Bahru to the Jurong Lake area to run and take photographs of birds, appreciated the prospect of more wildlife returning. He added that the place has a "sense of history and nostalgia not found in newer gardens like Gardens by the Bay".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline Integrating tech and nature in Jurong. Subscribe