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Biodiversity ‘can affect our quality of life’

Published on 26 November 2014 Southeast Asia

SINGAPORE — As the pace of urbanisation picks up, it is important to realise that biodiversity is linked to and can affect one’s quality of life, said Dr Lena Chan, the director of the National Biodiversity Centre at the National Parks Board (NParks) yesterday.

Biodiversity, she noted, is usually discussed in the context of pristine spaces. If you cannot stop people from moving to cities, then cities should be made richer in biodiversity to enhance the quality of life in urban settings, said Dr Chan, who delivered a lecture to more than 150 youths at the Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme — National University of Singapore (STEP-NUS) Sunburst Environment Programme.

This is why the Singapore approach has always been to create habitats or environments that are suitable for biodiversity within urban settings, she said. Dr Chan noted that Singapore developed the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in 2009 to promote biodiversity conservation. This includes considering biodiversity issues in policy planning, and improving education and public awareness on the topic, among other things.

A self-assessment tool for cities to measure progress of their biodiversity conservation efforts was introduced in 2010 and has been incorporated into the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark for Districts. To date, this tool has been used by 37 cities, including Montreal, London, Bangkok and Brussels.

The STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme, which is in its second year, sees students from Singapore and across Asia — aged between 13 and 15 — attending lectures delivered by leading scientists in the fields of biodiversity, conservation and sustainability. It will also see students participate in workshops and environmental study visits, such as nature walks at the Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve and St John’s Island.

Also speaking as part of the programme, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan raised issues such as urbanisation, climate change, pollution and the depletion of natural resources in his opening address. While he noted the importance of preserving biodiversity among the untouched green areas around the world, Dr Balakrishnan also pointed out that urbanisation could be beneficial.

“If you are an environmentalist, if you want to conserve resources in the world, urbanisation is a good thing ... it’s not a bad thing because it allows us to consume (fewer) resources and yet, provide opportunities for the population in the future,” he added.

For example, he cited an example of how compact, dense and well-planned cities could spend less on building infrastructure to provide piped water and electricity to everyone.

Source: Today | 18 November 2014