Save MacRitchie Forest: 9. CHAINED TO OUR ROOTS

posted in: Conservation, Habitat | 13

Appeal to Singapore’s Land Transport Authority to re-route the proposed cross-island MRT line away from the MacRitchie forest – sign the petition HERE.

This post is to document the activities of the Eco-performance at Speakers’ Corner, Hong Lim Park, Singapore on 22-23 June 2013 LINK. The first part is a poem recited by Teresa Teo Guttensohn (below) followed by her introductory speech to the crowd.

1. Poem recited at Eco-art Performance
“Chained To Our Roots” – an art protest event with mass chaining to tree web chain to save Singapore ́s natural heritage, by appealing to LTA to re-route proposed Cross Island MRT Line to avoid ruining our Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

A tree
“A tree grows. A tree grows up from its roots. If a tree is cut off from its roots, it falls.

“Without a past, we are lost. A country is nothing without roots. Roots tied to our culture and nature, Roots chained to our heritage. Strong roots create strong confident people, Lost roots make for lost unhappy people.

“The wild rainforest is our natural legacy. Would you scorn that inheritance? Would you sever the roots? Would you see MacRitchie fall?

“Do not tear a hole in the heart of our heritage! Do not fracture the foundations of our Central forest! Do not tunnel her delicate bowels with the MRT.

“Her virgin forest has been cut off by BKE. Her fragile veins flow drops of anguish. Bukit Timah forest is now in a delicate balance. Please, let us learn from history…

“Our forest. Our forest grows. Our forest grows from the earth. If the earth is shaken, the forest trembles.

“The forest is born from eternity. The forest is our ancient legacy. Animals made from mysteries, Giant trees, sentinel of time. Riches molded from deepest depths of evolution.

“The rainforest is precious, priceless. The rainforest is a natural garden that sustains itself. The rainforest is a gallery of art, under the sun and moon. The rainforest is an open science museum, studies yet unmade. The rainforest is a living house of biodiversity. The rainforest is refuge for our tired human souls, Our work weary bodies.

“The rainforest is sacred home. Profound and tenacious, Yet fragile in the face of Man and Cutting, digging, boring machines! Please, please, be gentle to our forest, For we are rooted to eternal earth.

“See the misty rain of the jungle crying. Hear the silent pleas of our forest animals: Malayan Colugo, Pangolin, Slow Loris; Mousedeer, Porcupine, Treeshrews; Birds, Mammals, Fishes; Freshwater Crabs; Reptiles, mphibians; Cicadas, Butterflies; Banded Leaf Monkey.

“Smell the wandering scent of leaves unmade and roots left behind. Lift the whisper of Earth that is our Mother to our thirsty lips. Feel the quivering of her last wildlife, our God given brethren.

“Set wing to her flying marvels: Flying Lemur, Flying Squirrel, Flying Fox, Flying Dragon, Flying Paradise Tree Snake. These are our true airborne wonders.

“Trample not her feathers, pluck not her scales. Sully not her body of clear flowing streams. Let the lakes shine forever on her forehead: MacRitchie, Seletar, Peirce.

“Singaporeans, I implore you! Save our primeval forest, To protect our young nation ́s soul.

“We chain ourselves to this tree, For we love our Temasek island, As fiercely as we are chained to our roots.”

Note: This poem may be reproduced due acknowledgement to author for non-commercial and non-profit educational or school projects, articles, reports, personal blogs and social media such as Facebook. For all other purposes, please seek written permission from author.


Hello Singaporeans,

“Thank you for being chained to your roots despite the recent terrible haze conditions from fires raging in Sumatra. If you are feeling unwell, or experience difficulty breathing, please do return indoors after signing the petition.

“We all love Singapore, and her beautiful, amazing rainforests. We are here today to take personal action to save our central forest; to make an appeal to Land Transport Authority (LTA), in the hope of preventing a catastrophe.

“My name is Teresa Teo Guttensohn. I am a native Singaporean, a Chinese Peranakan, an Eco-artist and environmentalist. Next to me here are my dearest green friends, Vilma D ́Rozario, Celine Low and Andrew Tay. As environmentalists, we embrace our natural and cultural heritage, and we promote eco-living and conservation of biodiversity.

“Personally, I have a lot of appreciation for what the government has achieved for Singapore and Singaporeans. I love our island for its Southeast Asian flavour, its warm mixed people, its sunny clime and especially its steamy jungles. The rainforest to me is what makes our urban island and crowded city very special and livable. It defines us as a tropical isle. The rainforest creates an alluring environment that sets us apart from many other cities. In short, our environment shapes us.

Cross Island MRT Line
“Like many of you, I was deeply shocked and saddened by news of the proposed Cross Island MRT line running under our forest reserves. We are all aware of the value of the rainforest as a very precious natural heritage for Singaporeans. It is a critical refuge for our very last wildlife.

“The potential irreversible damage to fragile rainforest habitats, its freshwater streams, and its many endangered and threatened species is very real.

“Luckily, it is not yet too late. We sincerely appeal to LTA to re-route the Cross Island MRT line, and to avoid altogether any invasive and destructive soil investigations.

“Allow me to elaborate the reasons why:

(1) Record of Forest Devastation Must Stop
“Those of you who know the history of Singapore will be aware that our nation ́s early wealth was built with massive sacrifice of rainforest plant and animal species. A wealth profited from crops such as gambier, rubber and pineapple, which were gifts of the rainforest we devastated.

“Fifty years ago, three months after I was born, on 16 Jun 1963, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore, planted a Mempat tree at Farrer Circus, and 50 years later, on 16 Jun 2013, he planted a Rain tree at Holland Village, to mark five decades of greening Singapore.

“Since the start of that brilliant campaign, an amazing 1.4 million trees have been planted by Nparks, across public parks and along Singapore’s roads. This is a wonderful achievement after the historical devastation of our rainforest. I agree with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, when he said that without the green effort, Singapore would be a “darker and uglier” place. And I would add, a much hotter home as well.

“However, although our man-made parks and gardens are green and great, but they cannot replace lost ancient forest eco-systems, and native species that have become extinct. When endemic species are
gone from our heritage, they are gone forever.

“Our majestic, native Malayan Tiger is gone from Singapore, and the last remaining 500 tigers in Malaysia are tragically being hunted to the brink of extinction. Their plight is very critical. To save them, we need urgent and concrete conservation measures. What will be the consequence of losing this apex hunter of our rainforests? Fact is, we as humans, have yet to fully understand the full consequences of losing our global species biodiversity on such a frightening scale.

(2) Taking a Risk with Our Reserves
“The whole of our primeval island was once covered by dryland forest, wetland forest and mangrove forest. So exactly how much of our forest cover is left today? Let ́s hear the numbers from conservationists:

“96% of our rainforest is destroyed. 96% of our mangroves are gone. 70% of our reefs have vanished due to reclamation, and related sedimentation and pollution. Despite our green city, our total forest cover is actually less than 4 percent. Our original primal forest is down to a mere 0.5 percent! I repeat, zero point five percent. Species upon species have become extinct. When will it be enough? When will we stop?

“Let us save what little precious forest we have left. The very term “Reserve” means that it should be a safe sanctuary for wildlife. Let us ask ourselves, can we afford to take a risk with our already threatened species? Should we further fragment our last remaining forests?

(3) Our Regional Heritage and Identity
“Two years ago, on 18 Oct 2011, our Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) was officially declared an ASEAN Heritage Park. Together with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), it is now part of the prestigious regional network of 30 protected areas, forming the complete spectrum of representative ecosystems in ASEAN. This is indeed a significant milestone for Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR). Let us not undo that achievement.

“Our National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) represents Singapore in the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, and is part of the action plan to curb rapid regional biodiversity loss and degradation. Losing more of our forest is not true to that action plan.

“Let us remind ourselves, our tropical rainforest is our Southeast Asian identity and common heritage, for we were once part of an ancient continent called Sundaland. An ancient continent that covers present day Southern Thailand, Peninsula Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Let us not tamper with our fast diminishing regional heritage.

(4) UN Decade To Reduce Biodiversity Loss
United Nations World Biodiversity Day was celebrated a month ago on May 22. The UN General Assembly declared 2011-2020 the UN Decade on Biodiversity to reduce global biodiversity loss. Let us not make this the decade where Singapore will lose more of our remaining biodiversity.

“Nparks will be hosting its Festival of Biodiversity 2013 in July, and we look forward to that. However, what do we tell our students when they visit the festival promoting our unique species in our rainforest canopy and streams?

“’Sorry kids, forget the Singapore Chilli Crab for one minute, and take a good look at our endemic Freshwater Crabs, because they won ́t be around for much longer.’”

“So let us embrace and protect our natural legacy, our very own native crabs living in our rainforest steams. Don ́t let our kids and researchers of Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) study our special crabs, and many other crustacea and freshwater fish species only after they are gone.

(5) Save Our Highly Endangered Pangolins and Other Fauna
“In two days, on Monday 24 Jun 2013, I will be attending the 1st IUCN- SSC Pangolin Special Group Conservation Conference, held here in Singapore. The international conference will bring together Pangolin experts from Africa and Asia, to discuss global strategies for scaling up Pangolin conservation.

“Pangolins are under severe threat globally, mainly due to illicit wildlife trade and habitat loss, and once again rapid action is needed for their conservation.

“In Singapore, the Sunda Pangolin, our Malayan Scaly Anteater (scientific name Manis javanica), is found in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and other wild areas in Singapore.

“Therefore, the digging and boring of holes every 15m or so, for soil investigations in order to build an underground MRT line will have a negative impact on the ecology of our highly endangered Pangolin, as well as many other sensitive forest wildlife.

“Even without cutting or clearing any trees, the forest disturbance will lead to pollution, erosion, siltation and an ecological disaster. Siltation may kill rare freshwater animals living in our pristine MacRitchie streams. Digging means the beginning of the end.

(6) Leave a Little Legacy for the Children of Singapore
“We are in the age of wanton destruction of our global rainforests and their endemic species in the name of development. We are in full awareness of the need for sustainability, and importance of biodiversity.

“We must ask ourselves: do we need the shortest train ride at any cost? Re-routing the Cross Island MRT Line to go around the reserve, via Lornie Road, will only add another few minutes of travel, but it will save our forest for generations and generations to come. Surely this is not too much to ask for?

“The rainforest is our children ́s last wild frontier to discover nature ́s mysteries. Please leave a little legacy of awe and wonder for the children of Singapore. Please leave a little biodiversity for Southeast Asians and humanity. These legacies did not come easily. These are the riches we have inherited from millions of years of evolution.

“Do not take a risk, and destroy our last green gem. For if we deliberately damage our roots, like killing off the last Malayan Tiger, and getting rid of the last Singapore Kampong, I fear it will break our hearts and crack our communal spirits.

(7) Our Country Needs Roots
“Would we deliberately plan to cut through a historical and cultural heritage site, such as the Istana or the Padang? The answer is no. Let us value our natural heritage as much as we value our cultural heritage.

“Why do countries gladly flaunt their oldest this and that? Why do people throng to visit the oldest pyramids, and flock to see the oldest temple? That is because we need strong roots to stand upon. The older the roots, the higher we stand, the bigger the awe and national pride.

“That is why Taman Negara and Borneo rainforests are advertised as oldest rainforests in the world at 130 million years. That is why our National Heritage Board is promoting the flea market at Sungei Road
as Singapore’s largest and oldest flea market.

“A country is nothing without people, and people are lost without roots. Roots tied to our nature and culture, roots chained to our cultural and natural heritage.

“Recognise it or not, our island ́s oldest roots, before the colonial era, before the Malay Kingdoms, before Majapahit and Srivijaya maritime empires, is still our natural heritage – our jungles, our coral reefs, mangrove buffers and their amazing wildlife. Our wildlife.

(8) Ancient Legacy for A Young Nation
“The rainforest is an authentic, ancient legacy that belongs to all the shopping and makan and Facebooking citizens of Singapore, regardless of which ethnic culture they came from, and what knowledge they have of the forest. Empty out that common legacy, and you are cutting off old roots at a peril.

“As a young nation, our unique wildlife is something truly ancient that naturally belongs to us. We do not have to conjure this heritage in a tourism campaign (with due respect of course to our mythical Merlion). We just have to protect it. The rainforest is not just a bunch of trees, it is sacred home to wildlife, a heritage that enriches our stressed lives, and a root to foster our fledging identity.

(9) Paying Extreme Price for Cross Island MRT Line
“I am all for a great public transport system. I acknowledge that ours is indeed one of the very best. I find our MRT very clean, efficient and comfortable compared to many other mass transport systems around the world. My family, friends and I use the MRT and public transport a lot as it is eco-friendly and very affordable.

“However, we do not wish to take a shorter ride only to pay the extremely high and toxic price of damaging our heritage, certainly not if it is going to be a faster ride to species extinction.

“Let us recap all the reasons:
(1) The record of forest devastation must stop.
(2) We can ́t afford to take a risk with our reserves.
(3) The rainforest is our regional heritage and identity.
(4) This is the UN Decade To Reduce Global Biodiversity Loss.
(5)Save our highly endangered Pangolins, freshwater fauna and
other wildlife.
(6) Leave a little legacy for the children of Singapore.
(7) Our country needs roots to be grounded.
(8) The rainforest is an authentic, ancient legacy for our young nation.
(9) We do not want to pay an extreme price for Cross Island MRT.
LTA, let ́s try again. It is not too late. Please halt the runaway train in its tracks, and save the day for our heritage.”

Thank you all.

Teresa Teo Guttensohn
Eco-artist, Singapore

Post Script:
“The four of us are going to be chained to this tree for quite a while, rain or shine, till tomorrow, Sunday afternoon. If you feel up it, please stay chained to the web for as long as you can to support the cause. Before you leave, remember to sign the petition, and please take all picnic waste with you.”

Earlier Posts:
1. Saving MacRitchie forest: A youngster’s view LINK
2: Introduction LINK
3: Flying Lemur LINK
4: Mammals LINK
5. Fragile frogs and tender tadpoles LINK
6. Refuge for reptiles LINK
7. Eco-performance LINK
8. You can’t see the wood from the trees LINK
9. Sanctuary for spiders LINK

13 Responses

  1. Kim Mosabe

    It take many millions of years for Nature to create a primeval forest;
    it takes an unthinking human with a chainsaw to destroy it!
    LTA, please stop being unthinking & unkind. Please refrain from building an MRT line across the Central Catchment Area. Our future Singaporeans will thank you for your benevolence…..

  2. Happy New Year! | Dancing Bunny's Dug Up

    […] There was this show – +5 degree that talks about sustainable lifestyle and conservation. Telling people to preserve our environment so that species of wildlife and biodiversity extinction could be delayed (I won’t say prevented because at the rate we are destroying the earth, it will come eventually, but to delay the process is already an uphill task). Good presentation. But it come across as an irony to me that we have such presentation in Singapore. Where activists have to fight for the right to keep Chek Jawa from being converted into a useless golf course (Do you call this kind of crap “lush greenery”?) and the most recent case was to prevent a section of valuable primary forest from being hacked to give way to more transport system construction. Save the MacRitchie Forest. […]

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