Posts Tagged ‘singapore’

Photo: Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg.
Bukit Timah Truss Bridge on the Rail Corridor in Singapore.

Where I live, certain abandoned rail corridors have taken decades to be ready for biking and hiking. You know Americans: lawsuits. But perseverance pays off, and now you can go for miles on the Bruce Freeman Trail.

Meanwhile in Singapore, government moves faster.

Selina Xu reports at Bloomberg, “A former railway line running through the heart of Singapore has turned into one of its biggest conservation success stories, marking a departure from the more manicured approach to nature that the city-state is known for. 

“The 24-kilometer (15 miles) contiguous stretch of land was part of a rail track built by the British colonial government in Malaya and was returned to Singapore from Malaysia in 2011, more than four decades after the two countries parted ways. Singapore was now faced with a question: What should it do with the land?

“The Nature Society, Singapore’s oldest conservation group, submitted an audacious proposal to authorities: convert the railway into a green corridor that would connect existing green spaces from the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the north, through some of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods, all the way to the central business district in the south.

“Since 2012, parts of the rail corridor have been accessible to the public. The government has refrained from parceling out land for real estate development, keeping it as a green spine that’s 10 times longer than the High Line in New York, from which it drew inspiration. Authorities are now committed to preserving it in the long term, and continue to enhance more parts of the corridor, reopening them in phases.

‘When I gave that proposal to them, I wasn’t optimistic that they’d embrace the entire length,’ said Nature Society conservation committee chair Leong Kwok Peng, who spearheaded the campaign. ‘Never in my wildest dreams could I’ve actually imagined that would happen.’

“This month, an 8-kilometer northern stretch that had previously been under renovation was unveiled, with 12 new access paths connecting the corridor to surrounding residential estates and parks and an observation deck with views of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. More augmentations are still on the way, according to the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. 

“The focus on preserving the railway underscores a shift in Singapore’s relationship with nature. While half a century ago the city took a tamer and less ambitious approach to greenery, as encapsulated in the government’s ‘Garden City‘ vision which emphasized beauty and tidiness, the thinking now is to bring back the wilderness.

“The preservation of the rail corridor comes after Singapore’s development into a wealthy metropolis meant the sacrifice of acres of forests and wetlands. From 2000 to 2020, it experienced a net loss of 379 hectares (3.6 square kilometers) of tree cover, according to Global Forest Watch, roughly equivalent to 936 football fields. The railway, however, had been left largely untouched for decades due to land disputes between Singapore and Malaysia.

“ ‘The Rail Corridor passes through every terrestrial habitat you can find in Singapore,’ said Ngo Kang Min, a forest ecologist, pointing out on a map the patches of mangroves, marshland, forests and grassland alongside the railway tracks. By allowing the movement of species previously cut off from each other, Ngo envisions the corridor becoming a connector that can increase the genetic diversity of local flora and fauna.

“In October 2018, NParks and the URA began rewilding a 4-kilometer stretch in the central part of the Rail Corridor. Several endangered native primary forest species were reintroduced to return the landscape to its original rainforest state. To date, NParks has planted more than 52,000 native trees and shrubs along the corridor. The restored belt of native forest has since become a key passage, habitat and source of food for various animals, including the Sunda Pangolin, the world’s most trafficked mammal, and the Straw-headed Bulbul. …

“More rewilding will soon be happening in the north of the Rail Corridor, driven by the Nature Society — the largest-scale project of its sort under a nongovernmental organization to date. It plans to plant several thousand trees in order to bring back rare species and improve the canopy cover in a section of the corridor that’s mainly grassland. …

“The Nature Society is now lobbying the government to extend a trail along the Old Jurong Line, a disused railway track that runs through the western industrial tip of Singapore, where fragmented green spaces are scattered among factories, oil refineries and roads. The society is also focusing on preserving already-wild spaces along and adjacent to the corridor, parts of which will be disrupted by proposed housing development. …

“ ‘The attitude towards conservation in the past by the government has always been build, build, build first — economy comes first,’ said Ngo. ‘But now after Covid the conversation has shifted significantly. People want to see more green spaces. There can be room for more radical thinking and design in the way that we build those spaces.’ ”

More at Bloomberg, here.

We love the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Massachusetts.

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Photo: Singapore Chinese Orchestra.
Ionisers attached to ornamental snake plants in front of the stage improve air circulation with an “ionising curtain” between the performers and audience at a Singapore Chinese Orchestra concert. The idea is to keep people safe from Covid.

I was saddened and surprised the other day when I offended a woman wearing a mask by asking her if she was also vaccinated. We were in a small room where there was little air circulation, and she was there to give me a hearing test.

Sadness was my primary reaction as the question really upset her. But I was also surprised because so many clinics, performance spaces, restaurants, etc. bend over backwards to make patrons feel safe, even if their requests seem unreasonable.

Consider the introduction of snake plants at the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. Toh Wen Li reports for the Straits Times about their role in an unusual air-quality initiative.

“The air was charged with more than just emotion when the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) staged its first wind concert in months last Saturday (Sept 25).

“As the rousing sounds of the dizi, sheng and suona filled the concert hall, high-tech devices attached to 20 ornamental snake plants in front of the stage created an ‘ionising curtain’ between the performers and audience.

“The ionisers, designed to reduce the spread of Covid-19, induce a negative charge in the air particles around the plants. This pulls positively charged aerosols, droplets and particulate matter towards the leaves of the plants.

“The devices were introduced following a six-month collaboration between the orchestra and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

“SCO’s executive director Terence Ho hopes these — and a slew of other measures, such as a filterless high-volume air purifier developed by A*Star to be used in the foyer — will give people peace of mind and encourage them to attend live concerts.

” ‘We have to work towards bringing audiences back to the hall and more musicians back on stage,’ he tells The Straits Times, adding that the plant-based ionisers will remain for future concerts at Singapore Conference Hall, home to the SCO. …

“SCO’s suona and guan principal Jin Shiyi, 56, says in Mandarin: ‘Wind players are now a “high-risk” occupation, and we have had fewer opportunities to go on stage. I’m so happy we can perform on stage again.’

“Last Saturday’s wind concert, also available online for streaming, was part of the recently concluded Singapore Chinese Music Festival. It had drawn a physical audience of about 100 people, less than half the permitted capacity of 250 for that venue.

“Mr Ho says audiences are worried about the recent spike in Covid-19 cases. … For now, he is keeping his fingers crossed as the orchestra prepares for two concerts in early October to celebrate the SCO’s 25th anniversary, while taking precautions to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. It has split performers  into separate ‘teams,’ cut down on rehearsals and roped in understudies in case performers are hit by the virus or with a 10-day quarantine order. …

“The orchestra would have launched it even without the pandemic, [Chief executive Chng Hak-Peng ] adds, as a way to maintain ties with local and overseas audiences. Before the pandemic, as many as 10 per cent of SSO’s live audience members were tourists.

“Home-grown charity the Foundation For The Arts And Social Enterprise has also launched a 10-year Music Commissioning Series to support Singapore composers and build up a canon of local contemporary music — from Chinese orchestra and cross-cultural works to jazz and musicals. …

“Founder Michael Tay says: ‘While we have had Singapore composers write works for wind bands and orchestras in the past, we don’t see a systematic plan to encourage the writing of major works (of at least 30 minutes).’ The series, he adds, ‘is meant to plug this gap.’ …

“Despite the resumption of live concerts … life has not returned to normal for orchestras. While live performances with up to 1,000 audience members, subject to conditions, are allowed, most venues can accommodate only a fraction of this after factoring in safe distancing measures. …

“[Mr Chng] adds: ‘Even though we are having concerts, we still have not, for the last year and a half, been able to have our entire orchestra perform together.’

“Then there is the impact on freelancers, who in pre-pandemic times would often perform with the orchestra and give pre-concert talks. …

“Countertenor and freelance choral director and educator Phua Ee Kia, 41, had no income for eight months last year and has not performed since 2019. He has been doing his rehearsals online during the pandemic.

” ‘Conductors are really struggling,’ he says. ‘Not all of us are tech-savvy and we don’t just have to cope with our own (issues), but also have to deal with situations when our students say, … “My screen went blank.” ‘

“Phua, who tapped a training grant to take a course in audio production software Logic Pro, hopes there will be more upskilling opportunities and financial support for freelancers. …

“Phua says: ‘A choir is not formed of just five people. I hope in the near future, we are allowed to gather and sing in a bigger group, albeit with masks on. Some of us are forgetting what it’s like to be able to perform in a bigger group.’ “

More at the Straits Times, here.

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Photo: Singapore Philatelic Museum
When a new museum opens in 2022 in the philatelic space, children will be able to explore Singapore’s heritage and culture through play.

I’ve been following artist Diana Beltran Herrera on Instagram since I first blogged about her, here.

Recently her Instagram account led me to news about a children’s museum under development in Singapore. She wrote, “The Singapore commission I have been working over the past months is completed. This will be my first solo show in Singapore, to open early 2022, and it is the first exhibition of the new Children’s museum. …

“It is very important for me to educate through my work, make information accessible for all of us, and offer a new way to interact with nature. … Art is a very powerful medium of communication that can be used to discuss important subjects about our beautiful world.”

Art: Diana Beltran Herrera
The artist-naturalist’s paper creations may be seen on stamps in Singapore.

At Singapore’s ‘zine Mothership in March, Melanie Lim reported on an opening planned for 2021, but coronavirus seems to have moved the target.

“The Singapore Philatelic Museum (SPM), which is currently closed for redevelopment, will re-open as a dedicated children’s museum, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Grace Fu announced,” she wrote. “Speaking at MCCY’s Committee of Supply debate on Mar. 6, Fu elaborated that children will be able to ‘learn about a wide range of themes, including the heritage and culture of Singapore and the region, by playing with interactive and immersive exhibits.’

“According to the National Heritage Board (NHB), the new children’s museum will serve as a ‘starter museum’ to introduce young visitors and their families to the museum-going experience, and offer children’s programming all year round.

“Targeted at children aged 12 and below, it will also present them with the opportunity to learn about themselves, their nation and their place in the world. … For instance, there will be a permanent exhibition on ‘Singapore, Our Home,’ where children can learn how early pioneers lived and worked, and role-play as hawkers, coolies and merchants, Fu revealed.

“Meanwhile, SPM’s philatelic collection will continue to be used alongside other artifacts to support children’s learning in the new museum.

“Stamps make excellent educational resources for children who find them attractive and accessible, NHB added, and they will be part of the museum’s refreshed permanent galleries and special exhibitions.

“SPM will also complement National Gallery Singapore’s Keppel Centre for Art Education and Singapore Science Centre’s KidsSTOP, among others to create a more diverse and vibrant museum scene in Singapore.”

I admit to knowing little about Singapore other than that a childhood friend of Suzanne’s lives there now and that the people hang messages on outdoor trees at Christmas. I’m glad to be a little more au courant now.

More at Mothership, here.

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Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Rina Chandran
A small farm on top of a mall grows herbs and leafy greens in a high-tech urban farming model that could improve Singapore’s food security.

As agricultural land becomes more scarce around the world, we can all learn from the way tiny Singapore is using rooftop gardens to help feed the population.

Rina Chandran at Reuters writes, “Visitors to Singapore’s Orchard Road, the city’s main shopping belt, will find fancy malls, trendy department stores, abundant food courts — and a small farm. Comcrop’s [6,450-square-foot] farm on the roof of one of the malls uses vertical racks and hydroponics to grow leafy greens and herbs such as basil and peppermint that it sells to nearby bars, restaurants and stores. …

“Comcrop’s Allan Lim, who set up the rooftop farm five years ago, recently opened a 4,000-square-metre farm with a greenhouse on the edge of the city. He believes high-tech urban farms are the way ahead for the city, where more land cannot be cultivated. …

“Singapore last year topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Food Security Index of 113 countries for the first time, scoring high on measures such as affordability, availability and safety.

“Yet, as the country imports more than 90 percent of its food, its food security is susceptible to climate-change and natural resource risks, the EIU noted.
With some 5.6 million people in an area three-fifths the size of New York City — and with the population estimated to grow to 6.9 million by 2030 — land is at a premium in Singapore.

“The country has long reclaimed land from the sea, and plans to move more of its transport, utilities and storage underground to free up space for housing, offices and greenery. …

“Urban agriculture currently produces as much as 180 million metric tonnes of food a year — up to 10 percent of the global output of pulses and vegetables, the study noted. Additional benefits, such as reduction of the urban heat-island effect, avoided stormwater runoff, nitrogen fixation and energy savings could be worth $160 billion annually, it said. Countries including China, India, Brazil and Indonesia could benefit significantly from urban agriculture, it said.

” ‘Urban agriculture should not be expected to eliminate food insecurity, but that should not be the only metric,’ said study co-author Matei Georgescu, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University.

” ‘It can build social cohesion among residents, improve economic prospects for growers, and have nutritional benefits. In addition, greening cities can help to transition away from traditional concrete jungles,’ he said. …

“At the rooftop farm on Orchard Road, Lim looks on as brisk, elderly Singaporeans — whom he has hired to get around the worker shortage — harvest, sort and pack the day’s output.

” ‘It’s not a competition between urban farms and landed farms; it’s a question of relevance,’ he said. ‘You have to ask: what works best in a city like Singapore.’ ”

The article was reprinted by the World Economic Forum and can be found here. One weird thing about this story: There are still small farms in the countryside, but they are not as efficient as the rooftop gardens and will be cleared — to give the land back to the military. Now, that is truly bizarre.

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Here’s an interesting start-up by a couple of entrepreneurs who love to eat. The two women decided to build a business around helping travelers find truly authentic cooking.

According to Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence’s website, “Traveling Spoon believes in creating meaningful travel. We are passionate about food, and believe that by connecting people with authentic food experiences in people’s homes around the world we can help facilitate meaningful travel experiences for travelers and hosts worldwide.

“To help you experience local cuisine while traveling, Traveling Spoon offers in-home meals with our hosts. In addition, we also offer in-home cooking classes as well as market tours as an extra add-on to many of the meal experiences. All of our hosts have been vetted to ensure a safe and delightful culinary experience.

“Traveling Spoon currently offers home dining experiences in over 35 cities throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, and more countries are coming soon!” More here.

I have no doubt that Traveling Spoon is also boosting international understanding. What a good way to use an MBA! Business school is not all about becoming an investment banker, as Suzanne and Erik would tell you.

Photo: Traveling Spoon
Traveling Spoon founders Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence met at the Haas School of Business.

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Last year around Christmas my husband visited Southeast Asia on business and came back with descriptions of Christmas trees decorated from head to toe with written words on strips of paper.

That got me thinking about a new stealth project, one I hinted at here.

I printed out the quotes below and covered the paper with sticky plastic. I will put one set of quotation strips on our Christmas tree, but the first strips are now posted here and there around town. We’ll see what happens to them.

Feel free to use the lines here for a stealth project of your own, with or without sticky plastic. Or send some other quotes that I can use. If you are really ambitious, you might put strips of poems at the bottom of a poster headed something like “Help Yourself to Poetry” so people will be encouraged to take one.

“The roses had the look of flowers that are looked at.” T.S. Eliot

“The endlessly changing qualities of natural light, in which a room is a different room every second of the day.” Louis Kahn

“God inhabits the praise of his people.”

“Flowers have their agendas.” Mark Jarman

“I’d like to have a hand in things, what’s going on behind the screen.”  Kate Colby

“I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on the way.” Carl Sandburg



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