Monday, 19 September 2016 1:37 PM

GREENING A CITY – A VISION FOR HONIARA TO FOLLOW

The EditorSolomon Times on LineDear EditorThose who have been lucky enough to have visited Singapore must have been amazed to find a green city the envy of the world.I am old enough to recall Singapore was not always like that and found on my first visit in September 1959, en-route to Hong Kong, aboard a troopship carrying National Service soldiers on posting to the then British Colony, rather grubby streets and overgrown trees.Last week, in support of a vision for a cleaner and environmentally appealing Honiara and a return to ‘civic pride’ in restoring the national capital to its former colonial era charm, I contributed an article to the local media in the hope of raising public awareness and generate a genuine desire to make Honiara a city to be proud of and inviting to visit.How did Singapore make the transformation from grubby streets to what it is today? I’ll need to quote, in part, from an old Singapore Government website to give you the full story.“The “garden city” vision was introduced by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 11 May 1967 to transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment in order to make life more pleasant for the people. It was also envisaged that the presence of ample greenery in an environment clean of litter would signify that Singapore was a well-organised city and hence a good destination for tourists and foreign investments. “In the initial phase, the “garden city” vision was implemented in the form of an intensive tree-planting programme spearheaded by the Parks and Trees Division to recreate the tree-lined boulevards that Lee had come across during his overseas trips.] The programme was a great success: Over 55,000 new trees were planted by the end of 1970. To maintain the momentum, Tree Planting Day was reintroduced in 1971 as an annual event involving students, grassroots leaders, and residents living in both public and private housing estates. In addition, the Parks and Trees Act was enacted in 1975 to mandate government agencies like the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), as well as private developers, to set aside spaces for trees and greenery in projects such as the development of housing estates, and construction of roads and carparks. These greening initiatives had a significant impact on the rate of tree-planting: The number of new trees planted increased from about 158,600 in 1974 to 1.4 million by June 2014. “By the mid-1970s, the creation of parks had become an additional focus of the “garden city” vision. The park development programme aimed to provide more recreational spaces for residents and to establish green spaces that provided ventilation or act as “green lungs” in built-up areas. The programme, which was led by the Parks and Recreation Department set up in 1976 to replace the Parks and Trees Division, had a profound effect on Singapore’s landscape: The area of parks and green spaces increased from 879 ha in 1975 to 9,707 ha by March 2014, and the number of parks grew from 13 to 330 within the same period. From the 1990s, various efforts were made by the Parks and Recreation Department, which was reconstituted as the National Parks Board in July 1996, to enrich the Garden City experience that had been put in place by the tree-planting and park development programmes in the earlier decades.”Naturally, re-developing Honiara’s environment as a green city would not need the same intensive tree planting programme undertaken in Singapore and it can be achieved if only attitudes will change and all out support given to the Honiara City Council, the Honiara Beautification Committee and all those wiiling to go the extra mile in making the national capital once again a proud place to see, live and work.“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”Jane Jacobs Yours sincerelyFrank Short

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Frank Short and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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