Steps to add more shine to Botanic Gardens 'heirloom'

Symphony Lake at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

With the Botanic Gardens now a Unesco World Heritage Site, the work to protect it is ramping up.

Plans are afoot to improve facilities at the 156-year-old gardens, improve research in horticulture and botany, and cater to an expected rise in annual footfall from 4.4 million today to six million by 2020.

A site-management plan was presented to the World Heritage Committee as part of Singapore's bid, and the Government has said measures are in place to address concerns raised by a Unesco- appointed expert panel that assessed the gardens.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the listing "will motivate us to do even more to strengthen our conservation efforts" in the gardens.

National Parks Board chief executive Kenneth Er pledged to preserve the key attributes of Singapore's first World Heritage Site, including its contribution to botanical research and its role as a gathering space for Singaporeans.

He said: "We are also committed to ensuring that we continue to conserve the gardens' heritage buildings, landscape and ecological heritage for Singapore and the world."

To address an expected rise in visitorship, NParks will conduct a site evaluation at the end of next year to evaluate visitor impact on soil erosion and biodiversity and potential damage to historic buildings there.

In addition, the gardens will implement a site-wide biodiversity conservation plan, and conduct more studies to maintain an "up-to- date understanding" of the species and habitats within its grounds.

The frequency of inspections of the gardens' historic buildings by a professional engineer will go up from once every five years to once every two years.

Visitors can also expect an improved experience, with plans to enhance the facilities and provide more information on the gardens' heritage, nature, conservation and scientific work.

The gardens, which run on an operating and staff annual budget of $15 million, will refurbish the National Orchid Garden by 2018.

This includes enhancing the Cool House, the Yuen-Peng McNeice Bromeliad Collection enclosure and the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House to showcase a greater diversity of orchids and other plants.

Other improvements in the pipeline include upgraded irrigation systems for the Plant Resource Centre.

These measures are important to protect the gardens from issues such as commercialisation, neglect and man-made disasters, said heritage conservation expert Johannes Widodo.

Describing the site as an heirloom, he said: "The gardens is something we should keep, nurture and pass on to future generations."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2015, with the headline Steps to add more shine to Singapore Botanic Gardens 'heirloom'. Subscribe