Our Nature Reserves are SMALL


Not all GREENS are equal

We are fortunate to be surrounded by greeneries in Singapore. “Some 47% of Singapore is covered in greenery despite urbanization” according to URA. This is what Singaporeans are proud of. (http://www.ura.gov.sg/pr/forum/2012/forum12-11.html) However, “greens” that are for human is not the same as the “greens” that are natural homes of our native wild animals and plants. Parks, gardens, fields, grass verge, golf courses, state land and farm land are not the same as the four natural green areas that have been declared Nature Reserve in Singapore. Our 4 Nature Reserves:

  1. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR)
  2. Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)
  3. Labrador Nature Reserve (LNR)
  4. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR)
Nature Reserve Area/ km2 Area/ ha
BTNR 1.63 163
CCNR 28.80 2,880
Labrador Nature Reserve 0.10 100
Sungei Buloh 13.00 1,300
All 4 Nature Reserves 31.83 3,183

[Source: NParks website] The total land area of Singapore to date is 710 km2. The 4 Nature Reserves occupy only about 4.48% of the total land area of Singapore, out of the 47% greenery. [Source from MND: http://www.mnd.gov.sg/landuseplan/e-book/#/12/] The focus in this section is mainly only on BTNR and CCNR.

So HOW SMALL is our Nature Reserves?

2.01 km2 (201 ha) of Primary Forest covering 0.28% of our total land area

Singapore has 17 golf courses occupying 1,500ha of land, about 2% of our total land area.

Starting with some 410 km2 of primary forest prior to settlement during the early 19th century we are now left with 2km2 consisting of a number of small isolated patches. These patches of primary forest represent almost our entire native flora and much of our forest dependent fauna. We cannot afford to lose any more.

Today the remaining Primary forest and wetland forests are fully enclosed within the BTNR and CCNR.



2.01 km2 of Primary Forest covering 0.28% of our total land area

BTNR & CCNR occupies about 4.3% of our total land area in Singapore, 30.43 km2

According to NParks data online, we have about *31.83 km2 of nature reserves with BTNR and CCNR occupying 4.3% of the land area. So what else is found in BTNR & CCNR?

Sources: NSS Discussion & Position Paper 2013

Sources: NSS Discussion & Position Paper 2013

Note: The area estimated by NSS for BTNR & CCNR is 32.05 km2 instead of the NPark’s figure of 30.43 km2. NSS used the data from the Geographic Data System (GIS) to derive the areas of vegetation types.

Primary forest occupies only 6% of BTNR & CCNR

The Special Purpose category generally is for military use and that covers a higher percentage than the Primary forest and Wetland Marsh.

The proposed Cross Island Line will pass through part of this sensitive small area.

NSS Map showing various Vegetation Types with Trails and Proposed MRT line shown

By combining the data from NSS and the recently published MND report on “Land Use Plan to Support Singapore’s Future Population”, January 2013, a more comprehensive picture is obtained as to how much land is used for different functions. Unfortunately the data on land use and allocation on page 12 – 13 does not add up to the total and hence it is reflected as unaccountable in the graph below

Data from Land Use Plan to Support Singapore’s Future Population, MND, January 2013]

Data from Land Use Plan to Support Singapore’s Future Population, MND, January 2013]

In 2003, it was reported that we have a total land area of 62,000 ha and the 4 nature reserves occupy 5.5% of the total land area. Today the total land area of Singapore has expanded to 71,000 ha as reported in the MND white paper, 2013. The area of our Nature Reserves has remained the same. It covers only 4.5% of our total land area.

Singapore plans to increase its land supply by nearly 8 per cent to 76,600 hectares to accommodate its projected population of 6.9 million by 2030. There are no plan to increase the area of the nature reserves only the announcement of building a line across the nature reserves that may potentially create an adverse effect on the forest.

News Article

How green-or brown-Singapore should be
Grace Chua
The Straits Times

Experts argue that small forest fragments outside nature reserves can have real ecological value. They may be rich habitats in their own right, or help connect one nature area to another. And as they accumulate new plant species over time, the maturing habitat can support a wider array of animals.

“What is clear is that if green areas outside the strictly protected Nature Reserves were to be cleared, Singapore’s biodiversity would be lower than it is today – less habitat leads to fewer species, and smaller and thus more vulnerable animal populations,” says Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum.

He sums up a growing realisation – and not just among the experts – that not all greenery is created equal. Nearly half of Singapore’s land area is under green cover. But parks and gardens, no matter how gorgeously landscaped, will never offer the same air-cleaning, water-filtering services or block as much street noise as natural forest areas.

“Greenery has an important place in our planning, and we have set aside close to 10 per cent of Singapore’s total land area for parks and nature reserves. Beyond that, we do need to strike a careful balance among the many competing needs of a nation-state,” a URA spokesman said. Other nature areas, forested state land and military training grounds make up the other greenscape. In all, 47 per cent of Singapore is under green cover.

Today the public green areas of Singapore are mostly under the management of the National Parks Board (NParks). These exceed 9,500 ha or about 13.6% of the total land area of Singapore (www.nparks.gov.sg). Of this, about 3,326 ha (almost 5%) are classified under Nature Reserves. These are the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, a lowland dipterocarp forest, Central Catchement Nature Reserve, a lowland dipterocarp and freshwater swamp forest, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, a mangrove habitat and Labrador Nature Reserve, a coastal hill forest. The last two were only gazetted in 2002, a significant achievement for conservation, in land-scarce Singapore. Other green areas forming a part of the 9,500 ha include parks, park connectors, playgrounds, and roadside gardens and vacant state lands.

Biodiversity conservation in Singapore, Volume 5 Number 2 – July 2008, See-Chung Chin

The 4 legally protected Nature Reserves cover an area of about 33.26 km2

Over the past 20 years, Singapore’s green cover has increased from 36 per cent to 47 per cent of the total land area (National Parks Board, 2008).

NParks manages the 4 Nature Reserves,

2 National Parks, a network of over 100 km of park connectors, 24.16 km2 of roadside plantings and some 320 parks, totalling about 13 per cent of the land area of Singapore (NParks, 2008).

  • this data is misleading or contradicts the data from MND’s Land Use paper which states that Park & Nature Reserves take up 8% or 57 km2

Managed terrestrial habitats comprise roadside plantings, public parks, gardens, golf courses and farms. NParks manages 3 types of public parks covering an area of about 18.5 km2 – 54 regional parks (including 2 national parks2), 243 neighbourhood parks, and 23 park connectors. Over 1.3 million trees have been planted on more than 24.16 km2 of roadsides, including unique tree-scapes along five Heritage Roads totalling about 10km.

About 33.26 km2 (approximately 4.7 per cent) of Singapore’s limited land space is devoted to nature reserves, parks, park connectors, and open spaces.

NParks is also linking up parks with Nature Reserves via tree-lined roads and 23 park connectors. NParks maintains about 24.16 km2 of roadside greenery, 33.26 km2 of Nature Reserves, and 18.5 km2 of park connectors, open spaces, neighbourhood and regional parks. (Pg 26)


SGP 2012 – original 2002

Singapore identified 19 sites, totalling 3,130 hectares or 5 percent of our terrain, as Nature Areas 10 years ago. These are areas where natural flora and fauna remain relatively undisturbed by human activity, and which provide food, shelter and breeding sites for diverse biological species. The 19 sites include different ecosystems: primary forests, secondary forests, freshwater swamps, mangroves, and marshlands.

Three principles guide our selection of Nature Areas: They must be rich in biodiversity; they must be mature, not transient, sites, and they must be sustainable. Sites identified as Nature Areas will be kept for as long as possible. They represent the balance struck between nature conservation and our other land use needs.

The core of Singapore’s 19 Nature Areas is made up of the Nature Reserves in the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Areas; here a full 2,100 hectares (?) of forest enjoy legal protection from other development claims.

In the last 150 years, more than 8,300 species have been recorded in Singapore. These included more than 85 mammals, 360 birds, 920 fishes and 2,300 vascular or “higher” plants. Scientists believe there are new species out there waiting to be discovered.

Between 1991 and 1997, the National Parks Board coordinated a survey of the flora and fauna at the Nature Reserves, involving the Nature Society (Singapore), the National Institute of Education and many other individuals; this was the first comprehensive biodiversity survey ever carried out in Singapore in recent years, and a necessary step in planning for long-term sustainability. For the fauna alone, the survey chalked up 10 additions to Singapore’s trove of vertebrates, and 13 rediscoveries of species thought to be extinct in Singapore. Four species of semi-aquatic bugs were new records, of which one – Hydrometra papuana – is very rare not only in Singapore but also in the region.

To maximise the amount of rainwater collected, Singapore has built reservoirs to tap different types of catchments: impounding reservoirs within the central part of Singapore to collect rainwater from protected catchments, estuarine reservoirs along the coast, and storm water collection ponds within highly-urbanised housing estates to capture storm run-offs from unprotected catchments.

Another new freshwater reservoir is on the way in the south of Singapore. This will be in the Marina Basin catchment area, which will cover one-sixth of Singapore island. The reservoir is formed by the building of the Marina Barrage. The latter is to alleviate flooding in the Bukit Timah/Kallang area.

Half of Singapore is currently utilised for rainwater catchment. By 2012, the ratio will rise to two-thirds.


There are now 17 golf courses in Singapore, covering about 1,500 hectares of land with leases that expire from 2021 – 2024.
[Reference: Ministry of Law Announcement]

For more information read “Two golf courses to be phased out by 2024published in TODAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2014.

SLA Newsletter

Share This