By DR GEH MIN, Immediate Past President, Nature Society (Singapore), 25 Feb 2016

2015 saw many momentous milestones for Singapore . Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death and SG50 compelled many of us to think and discuss seriously what we value as a nation and how we see our shared future. Our green legacy in which Mr Lee played a prominent role, was regarded as an important aspect of our heritage and identity.

The current debate on the Cross Island MRT Line and whether it should skirt or risk potential damage to our most valuable and iconic nature reserve is a challenge to translate our abstract ideals into reality. Many relevant views and opinions have already been expressed and their depths and breadths indicate that LTA is not qualified to be the final arbiter in an issue of such significance, not just to present but future generation of Singaporeans and that impacts Singapore’s sustainability far beyond issues of transport, cost and convenience.

2015 also saw some major environmental events. The haze, and environmental disaster from Indonesian forest fires that caused so much damage to lives, health, the economy and the environment was one. COP 21 where growing concerns of Climate Change and  the urgency for cooperative action by all countries was recognised was the other.

We should realise that Indonesia did not make a deliberate decision to damage or destroy  her forest, emit record amounts of carbon dioxide, pollute the air of her neighbours and jeopardize the health and lives of so many of her own people.

Rather, it was decades of misguided policies, short-term economic targets and cost cutting measures and failure to value her forest which led to degraded environments, extremes in weather and uncontrollable fires- and the prospect of more and worst environmental disasters in the future.

Singaporeans were rightfully angry at Indonesia for failing to stop the burning and to protect its forest. It would be ironic if we too are perceived as a people who do not value the last remnants of forest in our own country.

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