MacRitchie Forest was given a voice – no, three voices – at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV (BoSS IV) last Saturday (1 Aug 2015). Three speakers shared about the various ways in which the nature community is acting to engage the government and the public regarding the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) issue. The 5-minute talks by Tony O’Dempsey, Chu Hao Pei and Tan Hui Zhen were delivered in the session titled “Conflict and Reconciliation”, the very first of four sessions during the symposium. There were more than 250 people in the audience, including Guest-of-Hounour Mr. Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development. The three speakers gave an overview of how civil society is getting involved to help encourage the government to reconsider the proposed alignment of CRL through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) near MacRitchie Reservoir.
Tony O’Dempsey of Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) is a member of the working group, which has been working with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on the alignment of the CRL. The group comprises experts and representatives of various nature groups and individuals, and engages the government in non-emotional rational discussions. The group also contributed to the Environmental Impact Assessment that is currently underway to determine the engineering feasibility of the proposed and alternative alignments. Through means like the position paper by NSS, an ecological study of the reserve and stakeholder meetings, civil society can directly engage the government in decision-making processes. If allowed to proceed as planned, the CRL will be the first time an MRT line breaches the boundaries of a Nature Reserve, and in Tony’s words, “will open the flood gates” for similar developments in the future.
Besides directly engaging the government, another aim of the Love MacRitchie movement is to raise public awareness about the issue. Chu Hao Pei, a recent graduate from the NTU School of Art, Design & Media, brought MacRitchie Forest to the public through his mixed media installation. Titled “Developing MacRitchie“, Hao Pei’s work questions if development in Singapore is only defined by new creations. The immersive installation aimed to simulate the forest environment, allowing his audience to see, hear, smell and feel the wonders of the reserve – complete with swaying tree canopies, boardwalks, video monologues and cheeky renditions of signboards in the reserve. His work caught the attention of the media, which raised the profile of the issue and nudged the campaign forward, hopefully in the right direction. Check out his work at http://developingmacritchie.com
Tan Hui Zhen recently obtained her degree in Bachelor of Environmental Studies in NUS. For her final year project, she studied how different forms of engagement can mobilize civil society in environmental movements such as Love MacRitchie. For example, campaigns can make use of social media to amplify outreach. Personal experiences in nature are also a very influential tool to get people to take action. As Adrian Loo who was chairing the symposium session said, “You can bring MacRitchie to the people, and you can bring people to MacRitchie too!” Several nature walks have been conducted for the CRL campaign, such as the Love MacRitchie Walks by NUS Toddycats. These walks have garnered considerable attention and make up a crucial part of the movement. Such non-confrontational, positive and educational means could possibly help to achieve desired outcomes of environmental movements.
A big thank you to the speakers and to all who have been voicing out for MacRitchie Forest! Here’s how you can show your support too!