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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mistreatment of our Nature Reserve?

Today Straits Times (31 October 2009) carries a letter from Mr Shawn Lum, President of the Nature Society (Singapore) where he called for races to be banned from sensitive nature reserves.

Everytime I read in the papers from 'concerned' citizens calling for a ban on this or that, I get pissed off. Why banned something just because you don't like it or it goes against your own personal belief? Just like the chap who criticized the Mediacorp newsreader for wearing a black dress on Deepavali. Are we so insensitive to the needs of others and so selfish that we can only see one side of the story and impose on our beliefs and values on others?

Back to the letter.

The writer cited 3 reasons why the TNF 100 should not be held in 'sensitive nature reserves'.

1) The law. He cited the National Park Board Act which calls for the protection of the plant and animal life of our nature reserve. He questioned whether the high impact run an appropriate form of recreation in sensitive nature reserve. To this - my reply is "In what way is the run through the reserve detrimental to the protection of the plant and animal life?". In fact, the runners ran mainly on the mountain bike trails which were developed by Nparks and did not bash through the reserve at will. So how was plant and animal life threatened by the run?

2) Sustainability. He claimed that the rich biodiversity may be harmed by the noise, compaction and erosion that accompany high impact activities. Again I asked how he came to the conclusion. Runners are solitary creature by nature. They do not run, scream and shout or sing out loud while running. And they will be too tired to bash through the undergrowth. In fact, they will be do busy concentrating on the run to cause any harm to the environment. What is more damaging in fact are the weekend hikers and trekkers, family and maids in tow who laughed loudly, and bring in food to the reserve.

3) Limited Resources. Again without giving example, he concluded that the race is a mistreatment of the limited rainforest and not a prudent way to preserve the natural heritage. Again I beg to differ. It is precisely because we have a limited but well preserved forest reserve that we need to encourage more people to this area (abit in a controlled manner). Only when we go through the various different parts of the reserve can we appreciate the majestic wonder of nature and learn to appreciate nature and consequently take care of it. I am sure the runners while running through the various reserves from MacRitchie to Bukit Timah to Zheng Hua will have noticed the beautiful scenery, the lush greenery and appreciate nature more.

I did not run in this race but was there to support many of my friends who did. We picked up all the litters left behind by the runners and I am sure the organiser did the same - sending in cleaning crew after the event to clean the area. Runners were also briefed prior to the race not to leave any litters behind so I am not too sure exactly in what way did the runners or the orgainser mistreated the reserve.

Singapore is a small country. In the words of the writer, "Living in a small country means we have to accept and work around certain limitations". It is precisely because we are a small country that we need to accept and share what scare resources we have. We should not just because we do not like certain things - call for a ban because it inconveniences us or do not suit us.

Just as we need wet markets as much as supermarkets, and we tolerate cyclists on pedestrian walkways, we need to learn to live side by side in harmony and work together to enrich our quality of life be it sharing our limited green area with other users or our neighbourhood with people of all races and nationality.


  1. Running the TNF event, I was deeply impressed by the beauty of many of the trails - never knew that Sg has such beautiful sights! It was certainly a cherished opportunity for me to see these undiscovered parts of Singapore. I believe many of the runners treasure the running routes and take pains to keep it in good condition. For example, many runners held on to their used energy gel packs and other pieces of litter and only disposed of them when proper litter bins (which were few and far between) became available. Rather than ban races from such reserves, it would make more sense to educate people so that they understand how to enjoy and preserve such national treasures :) As our society matures, I hope that the 'leave nothing behind' policy for national parks can become a way of life.

  2. The fallacy in the argument espoused by the writer in the forum lies primarily in the fact that TNF was on conducted on established trails that are used by bikers and hikers. If National Parks were to interpret the law in his way, then the logical conclusion is to ban all bikers and hikers in our nature reserve to avoid detriment to the protection of plant and animal life.

    Quite on the contrary, NParks has worked hard to make our nature reserve and parks more accessible - take the tree top walk and southern ridge track for example. Running in the nature reserve the past month or two has significantly enhanced my appreciation of the beauty of nature and elevated my respect for the environment.

    So I'd say we should applaud TNF for bring ordinary folks like us closer to nature.