14 May 2010

Singapore No. 1 global eco-destroyer?

The Straits Times today featured the Singapore Government's 'sharp response' to a study which ranked Singapore as the worst environmental offender among 179 countries.
Living reefs of Cyrene next to the humungous industries on Jurong Island which was created by massive reclamation, and a world-class container terminal also built on reclaimed shores. More on Cyrene Reef Exposed!

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources spokesman said that the study was based on a proportional environmental impact index, which is defined only in terms of total land area. Countries with limited land size and high intensity land use would be 'disadvantaged in this proportional index'. The main indices thus 'unfairly penalises Singapore's high urban density'.

In response, Professor Corey Bradshaw at the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute and one of the paper's three authors, was adamant that the data spoke for itself. 'We didn't make it up,' he said. 'It's publicly available data so anyone can look at this.'

Although a country like Brazil, for example, has chopped down more rain-forests, Singapore, proportional to its size, has wreaked greater destruction as nearly all its forests have made way for urbanisation, explained Prof Bradshaw. He added: 'Singapore's development over the last 20 to 30 years has meant that it has done the worst damage to its environment.'

Professor Navjot Sodhi, 48, from the NUS department of biological sciences and co-author of the paper, said Singapore's rapid development in the last 30 years has seen it lose 90% of its forest, 67% of its birds, about 40% of its mammals and 5% of its amphibians and reptiles.

Enough?

What concerns me is, what happens next?

Not mentioned in the Straits Times article but highlighted in other articles about the study, Prof Bradshaw says on his blog that the study shows "quite convincingly that wealth is the key driver of environmental degradation, not population size per se. There was no evidence to support the popular idea that environmental degradation plateaus or declines past a certain threshold of per capital wealth. It’s quite striking really – the richer you are, the more damage you do (relatively and absolutely)."

Money never enough?
Reefs at Sentosa being buried for the Resorts World casino, Jul 07.

It seems getting richer isn't going to resolve the issue. So what should we do?

The optimist's point of view: Half full

It is true that we have lost a lot. And too much. Lamenting the loss is one thing, but I feel we can and should learn from the loss and deal with it constructively.

The tremendous losses makes the little that we have left all the more precious. More urgent the need to focus on protecting these. And perhaps even correcting past errors, rehabilitating and re-'wilding' where we can?

Some recent signs that I found heartening include:

The 'eco-link' bridge to reconnect the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area, which have been separated by the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) since 1986. The bridge will allow plants and animal species to once again move between the two areas, crossing over the BKE.

A never-before-attempted approach to stop erosion and rehabilitate Singapore's last, largest pristine mangroves on Pulau Tekong.

In fact, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) addresses the tension between development and biodiversity, and the important steps necessary to protect our remaining biodiversity:
Looking forward, Singapore will need to continue to grow economically and demographically. But nature conservation need not necessarily suffer as a result if we can continue to find unique solutions to meet our set of challenges.

This requires a pragmatic approach in balancing development and biodiversity conservation, finding unique solutions to create a nature conservation model that champions environmental sustainability in a small urban setting.

Community involvement is key to Singapore’s long-term success in conserving our natural heritage. Already, there are many examples where the public, private and people sectors work hand-in-hand in successful projects to conserve our native flora and fauna.

But to have a city where people and nature co-exist in harmony, we will need to press on to raise the appreciation of the wonders of nature within our urban setting.
Indeed, raising awareness is a key element.

If Singaporeans don't even know what we have, it will be hard to encourage and gain support for protection.
Do people know about the stunning living reefs, lush seagrass meadows just off our container terminals and business district? May 2010. More on Cyrene Reef Exposed!

Thus we need to document and learn as much as we can about Singapore's biodiversity. AND share what we have seen. So that ordinary people can understand and appreciate what we have (left).

We have lost much. But I will not give up.

Each one of us CAN make a difference!

Simply explore our wild places, express how you feel about them and act for them.

For a quick and easy introduction to Singapore's biodiversity, check out the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity blog and facebook page. Which also features a steady stream of daily blog posts by ordinary Singaporeans sharing about our amazing biodiversity. While there are lots of biodiversity activities especially for the kids.

More links

See also
Related articles
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1 comment:

  1. Stop doing things that would harm or destroy what natural habitats we still have today. Do whatever we can to protect them. This is the most courageous thing a nation can do right now - starting today. I cannot say this enough. If there is a will, there is a way forward.

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