What we can learn from the ‘city in the garden’?

With the growing threats posed by global warming, the need for nations to take action is becoming increasingly apparent. Singapore prides itself on being the greenest country in Asia, ranking 14th in the UN Environmental Performance Index and beating its neighbours Malaysia (63rd), Thailand (91st) and Indonesia (107th) by considerable margins; results quite astonishing for a nation of its size.

The reasons behind this great environmental performance lie in the government’s unwavering commitment to ‘green’ projects. Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew made it his goal to earn Singapore the nickname of “City in the Garden”, which is extremely well-deserved. In fact, 47% of Singapore is covered in vegetation and 80% of all homes are less than 10 minutes from a public park. Given that the island is only 278 square miles in area and has the third highest population density in the world, this is a fantastic achievement.

Green spaces are arguably one of the things Singapore is most famous for. The iconic Gardens by the Bay, which opened in 2012, are a testament to the city’s forward-thinking ideology when it comes to the environment. Their world famous Supertrees, tree-like vertical gardens that light up every night, reflect the harmony that exists throughout the city between the urban and natural environments. Not only are these trees brilliant works of engineering, they also contain photovoltaic cells to collect solar power. What is more, Gardens by the Bay boast a Flower Dome and Cloud Forest that display some of the finest flower and plant specimens from around the world.

Singapore’s Supertrees. Each houses vertical gardens and harvests the power of the sun through solar panels. Image: Rod Waddington

Walking through Singapore, you quickly become aware that nature is ever-present. The majority of skyscrapers have green spaces or vertical gardens. One example is the Park Royal, which recently earned the title of Asia’s Leading Green Hotel for its living walls and waterfalls that naturally cool the building. Also maintaining this eco-friendly standard is the illustrious Marina Bay Sands Hotel, a must-see for anyone visiting Singapore. This hotel is committed to environmental sustainability, with green initiatives that include harvesting rainwater for use in the hotel, using skylights to reduce artificial lighting and flow regulators to reduce water consumption.

Whilst Singapore is no doubt world-leading in terms of its environmental performance, the government has plans to improve it even further. Speaking at the Ecosperity conference in 2017, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean stressed that future development will focus on “Building a sustainable economy, creating a sustainable living environment, ensuring sustainable development for our people, and contributing to international collaboration.”

Plans are already in place for the introduction of a carbon tax in 2019 to reduce emissions and ensure the quality of life remains high. Furthermore, the Land Transport Authority has revealed it will completely ban the introduction of new cars on the roads from February of next year. The fact that the island’s population has grown by 40% since 2000 leaves no doubt as to why such a policy may be necessary. The underground system is also expected to expand by 2030, paving the way for a car-free country.

With measures such as these, it’s no wonder Singapore is Asia’s most eco-friendly country. From its numerous green spaces to its world-renowned architecture that fuses nature with modernity, it is clear that Singapore is on the way to mastering environmental, sustainable development.

Apart from simply benefitting the environment, Singapore’s dedication to nature-inspired architecture and its successful attempts at environmental preservation has led to a boost in eco-tourism, with natural hotspots such as the 400 acre Bukit Timah Nature Reserve within the city’s limits being home to upwards of 500 animal species and 840 flowering plant species. One can only hope that the rest of the world will be inspired to do the same.

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