Singapore is already known for being one of the greenest cities in the world, but this little red dot is not resting on its laurels — it’s doubling up on its sustainability efforts.
Given challenges such as climate change and increasing urbanisation, our city cannot just be liveable or beautiful to look at; she must also be sustainable and more climate-resilient.
From an underdeveloped island to a thriving biophilic City in a Garden, we have come a long way in our greening efforts. Now, we want to transform Singapore into a City in Nature.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 charts ambitious and concrete targets over the next 10 years to build our sustainable future. By extending our natural capital island-wide and integrating more nature into our urban environment, the aim is to strengthen Singapore’s climate, ecological and social resilience.
#1: Plant A Million Trees
Singapore is focusing our efforts on restoring and intensifying nature in our city, and naturalising landscapes.
The OneMillionTrees movement was launched in 2020 by the National Parks Board (NParks). The goal is to plant a million more trees between 2020 and 2030, with the support of the community, along our streetscapes and park connectors, as well as in gardens, industrial estates, nature reserves and parks. To date, we have planted over 290,000 trees, and we will continue to partner the community to plant even more trees island-wide.
Trees provide numerous ecosystem services such as improving air and water quality, restoring habitats and strengthening ecological connectivity. Trees also help to mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect and cool the environment. As such, industrial estates — areas that are some of Singapore’s hotter spots — will have 170,000 more trees by 2030.
The planting of additional trees in a tiered, forest-like planting structure can reduce surface temperatures by up to 6 degrees Celsius along our roads. This is why having more trees is so important, as they help to lower ambient temperatures, and make the environment more conducive and comfortable to live, work, and play in.
We are creating more streets that emulate the natural structure of forests. These ecological corridors, known as Nature Ways, will link areas of high biodiversity to reduce fragmentation and facilitate the movement of birds and butterflies. These Nature Ways bring the flora and fauna closer to urban communities and encourage greater appreciation for our rich biodiversity.
#2: Get Close to Nature in Just 10 mins
Imagine if green spaces, rich with biodiversity and recreational opportunities, could be just a short walk from your house.
As part of our targets outlined under the Singapore Green Plan, residents can look forward to 200 ha of new nature parks, 300 ha of new and redeveloped parks and gardens, 300km of Nature Ways and 500km of park connectors. All households will be located within a mere 10 minutes’ walk from a park by 2030. Not only does this make our cityscape more aesthetically pleasing, research has shown that having more greenery has immediate social, ecological, and climate benefits.
NParks is also restoring and enhancing more habitats in our gardens and parks. People will be able to have more opportunities to experience native habitats, such as tropical rainforests and wetlands, as well as their rich biodiversity.
Residents can also look forward to 30 therapeutic gardens by 2030, which are specially designed to facilitate interactions with nature, catered to people with conditions such as mild autism, ADHD and dementia.
A 2020 award-winning NParks-led study, for example, found evidence that nature-based activities improve the well-being of older adults. After attending multiple sessions of therapeutic horticulture and nature-art activities such as growing pea sprouts and leaf sketching, participants showed improved cognitive functioning over time. The participants also maintained healthy sleep and psychological health, and reported a higher mean happiness score after each session.
Singapore’s largest therapeutic garden to date — measuring 3,100sqm — opened at Jurong Lake Gardens in October. It has a section specially tailored to children and special needs individuals, with features such as wheelchair-friendly trellises for the young ones to crawl through. The adults aren’t left out either. There is a section where they get to engage their senses while interacting with nature too. Two more therapeutic gardens are slated to open at Pasir Ris Park and Bedok Reservoir Park.
We are also expanding our network of Nature Playgardens — specially-curated nature play areas where children can play outdoors and enjoy learning about nature.
Take the little tots over to the Nature Playgarden at HortPark, where they can let their imagination run wild by building houses and castles from twigs and other natural materials, or challenge themselves physically as they climb, hop, and balance on steps fashioned from logs.
#3 A Walk on the Wild Side
Despite being highly urbanised, Singapore is home to a rich variety of animals and plants. There are between 23,000 and 28,000 species of terrestrial organisms, and 12,000 and 17,000 species of marine organisms.
Through habitat enhancement and species recovery efforts, our city’s rich biodiversity can continue to thrive. We are aiming to restore and enhance 30ha of forest, marine and coastal habitats. For example, ongoing restoration plans at Labrador Nature Reserve will benefit the rich variety of flora and fauna in the area, including six mammal, 15 mangrove and 100 bird species such as the critically endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.
In turn, Singaporeans will get to enjoy encounters with our biodiversity and get an immersive experience in nature. Just take a look at Singapore’s otters for a success story of habitat restoration and enhancement. Their population here has grown, thanks to long-term efforts to naturalise and clean our waterways, including those in parks. Artificial otter holts, built by NParks in Pulau Ubin have also proven to be comfortable resting shelters for the Asian Small-clawed Otters that hide there for safety during high tides.
NParks also has a Species Recovery Programme, which aims to conserve native flora and fauna by targeting endemic — those native to the country — or rare and threatened species. This is done through reintroduction, habitat enhancement and protection efforts, together with the help of nature experts, academics and volunteers from the community.
One endemic plant species that researchers are trying to protect is the Nervilia singaporensis, an orchid found only in Singapore. NParks is looking to propagate and conserve it to increase its population and enhance the species’ resilience to adverse environmental changes. By 2030, we aim to have 100 species of plants and 60 species of animals under the Species Recovery Programme.
“Our efforts in habitat enhancement and species recovery will help to safeguard biodiversity in the face of climate change. Together with our push to enhance ecological and recreational connectivity as we transform into a City in Nature, we aim to strengthen our climate, ecological, and social resilience, and provide a liveable and sustainable Singapore for all.”
— Mr Ryan Lee, Group Director of National Biodiversity Centre
#4: All for One, One for All
With the support of community groups and residents, we can all work together to transform Singapore into a City in Nature through our many community-driven projects.
For the OneMillionTrees movement, anyone can get involved. Take part in online activities such as webinars or physical activities such as planting trees, propagating tree saplings at community nurseries and invasive species management. The community can also help with citizen science programmes such as surveys and monitoring, or help to conduct outreach for the movement.
Gardening enthusiasts can also participate in NParks’ Community in Bloom programme. The programme brings together different groups of people where they get to destress, make new friends and show off those green fingers in community gardens! To date, the programme has drawn more than 40,000 gardening enthusiasts across some 1,700 community gardens throughout Singapore.
Similarly, the Community in Nature movement engages different community groups to promote the conservation of Singapore’s natural heritage. Volunteers can, for example, learn about different local heron species and contribute to the citizen science programme Heron Watch. Volunteers can also participate in reef or seagrass monitoring.
As for the Friends of the Parks Engagement initiative, members of the community are invited to take part in the design, development and management of Singapore’s parks and green spaces. That’s right, anyone can sign up to be a co-creator of a Singapore park, innovating designs and concepts that cater to the specific needs of their community.
Youth@SGNature initiative provides youth with platforms to engage with nature. They get opportunities to enhance the greenery in their school premises or are encouraged to implement projects to solve real-world problems through research, ecology or landscape design. We want our youths to be stewards of the environment. They are never too young to play a part in transforming Singapore into a City In Nature.
“To help us succeed in transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, we encourage everyone to join us as stewards of our natural heritage. With the community involved, we will be able to sustain our greening journey and conserve our native biodiversity for generations to appreciate.”
— Dr Adrian Loo, Senior Director of Community Projects, NParks
With all these exciting initiatives blossoming, there’s no better time than the present to join us in this greening journey!