Singapore's Natural Environment, Past, Present and Future: A Construct of National Identity and Land Use Imperatives

  • Min Geh
  • Ilsa Sharp

A famed Garden City, Singapore is located in one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots. But because of her small size and the dominance of government for more than four decades by a single political party with a singular vision, the impact of government policy on land use and nature conservation has been decisive. The bread-and-butter imperatives of economic progress and nation-building have been paramount until quite recently. Nonetheless, Singapore has retained impressive biodiversity for a small city-state. With the maturing of Singapore’s acknowledged powerhouse economy, better balance is now being achieved, partly thanks to a constructive dialogue between planners and conservationists.

This improved dialogue has been powered by the ideological quest for national identity and “roots” through a “sense of place” that has increasingly engaged both Singapore’s government and civil society. Understanding is growing that what distinguishes Singapore’s identity is “indigenous tropicality,” rather than a manicured parkland image derived from a colonialized, Westernized sub-conscious, or even a reinvented tropicality reminiscent of hotel-resort horticulture.

Environmental NGOs’ interface with the Singapore government on land use has evolved into a less elitist, more post-modern and diffuse networking style than in the past. The shared goal is sustainable development for Singapore. In this context, we take “sustainable development”1 to mean development that protects, conserves, integrates or adapts natural2 areas, wherever possible in their original, pristine form, with the final outcome of continued survival as a viable natural heritage for future generations to enjoy. Such heritage serves a human need for continuity and identity.

Much of what has been achieved so far can be attributed to a serendipitous convergence of factors; in the final analysis however, government remains the agendasetter, promoting nature insofar as it is economically and politically affordable – i.e. sustainability for the government is equivalent to affordability.


National Identity Natural Heritage Nature Society Singapore Government Granite Quarry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Min Geh
    • 1
  • Ilsa Sharp
    • 2
  1. 1.Mount Elizabeth HospitalSingapore
  2. 2.BentleyAustralia

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