In the years ahead, plans have already been made, and indeed some of these are already being implemented, to build-up Singapore further – literally.
The Tanjong Pagar area “is designated by the URA as the next waterfront city in Singapore, and the transformation is set to turn it into a vibrant business, commercial and residential hub,” according to property developer Far East Organisation. It was previously reported that the area may be Singapore’s Marina Bay 2.
There are also the government’s plans to build more public housing flats, or HDB flats, to meet the surging demand for housing; the construction of the North-South Expressway; the redevelopment of the Rochor area; the new Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Downtown, Thomson, and Easter Region Lines; the Gardens By The Bay; the ongoing construction of Southeast Asia’s first underground liquid hydrocarbon storage facility, or rock caverns, on Jurong Island; and the possibility of constructing a “Science city” about 30 storeys below the surface of the present Science Park is being studied.
Even the number of car park lots is being increased, to cater to the growth of vehicles in this tiny island. Singapore now has about a million vehicles.
Perhaps all these developments are Singapore’s way of staying ahead of its neighbours and to distinguish itself from the pack. After all, the government has always insisted that this is the only way for Singapore to survive.
But increasingly, there are signs that Singaporeans want more breathing space, literally, and they are questioning if Singapore indeed needs all these new developments. The island has ranked among the top three most densely-populated countries in the world in the last few years. With its open-door policies to foreign workers and foreigners in the last 5 years especially, space has become a much-treasured premium for locals.
Take a walk in Singapore and you will inevitably come across the ubiquitous construction sites dotted around the island. They have been around for the longest time.
Despite the country’s economic performance, there is a palpable sense of discomfort among the population that physical space is being swallowed up without due regard to the consequences. One of these is the erasure of places which Singaporeans see as worth preserving, such as parts of the Bukit Brown Cemetery which is making way for the North-South Expressway. Another is the lost sense of identity with the country in which we were born and where our memories lie.
The truth is that Singapore cannot afford to keep building overland and underground. To what end will all these lead?
Perhaps the authorities should take a step back and pause. What is it that we want – constant and endless construction, development and re-development, or should we also be looking at how our quality of life can be improved besides having another shopping mall plonked right in the middle of our housing estates, or another expressway built, or to have more flats sprouting out of nowhere?
Surely, there are other ways to be, to feel an affinity to our country, without having to turn it into a mind-numbingly dull and uninspiring concrete jungle which it is in danger of turning into, if it isn’t already.
To be fair, the government has also looked into and created “green lungs”, pockets of green space, such as the new Gardens by the Bay and the Punggol Waterway Park. However, critics say that these are artificial constructs which ironically had to also be built.
There is growing desire among Singaporeans to want something more authentic which speaks to not just our base, materialistic instincts. We want something more genuine, which speaks to the deeper parts of us as human beings. Perhaps even something which moves us, touches us, and inspires us.
We want a city which is not just built on concrete – but one which is built on something deeper.
Perhaps a good place to start is a city, a home, in which we can breathe.