Advocates of S'pore nature appreciate Desmond Lee's visit to Dover forest & 'eye opening' closed-door dialogue

The ministry will not rush into developing Dover forest.

Zhangxin Zheng | January 29, 2021, 08:48 AM

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Following the public outcry over potential residential development at Dover forest, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee made a visit to the forest on Jan. 27 evening.

The visit was also attended by high-level NParks staff, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Understand what we would be losing if Dover forest is developed

One environmentalist Ho Xiang Tian who was there told Mothership that he appreciates the visit as Lee was able to "feel the forest", which is "different from just doing a tabletop exercise" and deciding where to develop.

"I think the trip was useful in helping to show the minister what exactly we would be losing if the forest was developed."

Shawn Lum, President of Nature Society (Singapore) was part of the group that visited Dover forest with Minister Desmond Lee on Jan. 27.

Ho shared more about the experience at Dover forest, which was also his first visit to there:

"We didn't manage to see any wildlife in the forest but we did hear some birds. Being inside the forest also felt different from walking on a boardwalk in a park or nature reserve, and it actually started raining when we were in the middle of the forest, but the forest canopy sheltered us from the rain so we were quite dry until we went to the edge of the forest."

Environmentalist Ho Xiang Tian (in grey shirt) joined Minister Desmond Lee at Dover forest.

Possibly one of the largest rubber trees in Singapore found in Dover forest. Photo via Desmond Lee's Facebook.

Long-time nature lover Brice Li, who is better known for his stunning video of Clementi forest, was also with Lee yesterday.

Li said that he felt "connected" and was very "moved" by the visit.

He told Mothership that it was a "beautiful" moment when the group of environmentalists walked in the same direction, into the forest, with Lee, who is the decision maker.

"Eye-opening" closed-door discussion

Besides spending about 40 minutes in the forest, Lee also had a closed-door discussion with some members of the nature community, Mothership understands.

Karl Png, who is the co-founder of Singapore Youth Voices for Biodiversity (SYVB), said that the discussion with Lee was "definitely eye-opening".

Png, who is a resident in Dover, said that the forest is "an integral part of [his] life" and he hopes that it can be conserved, but the conversation with Lee also made him recognise that there are other considerations.

Png said:

"As part of the nature community, sometimes it is difficult to see the other interests for the development of Dover Forest. But I’m heartened that the minister was willing to listen to the feedback that was given by the residents.


Yes, sacrifices will be made. But I am glad that now nature gets a seat on the table unlike before. For too long, we have underestimated its value and I hope with Dover Forest, people start to realise the kind of sacrifices we had to make for urbanisation."

Png added that this engagement is a step forward for everyone, not just the nature groups, to be involved in the larger conversation about what Singaporeans want for our "City in Nature".

He told Mothership that he is hopeful with Singaporeans now realising the sacrifices in urbanisation, more will care for nature and value forests.

In the evening of Jan. 28, Nature Society Singapore (NSS) also said on Facebook that the group feels "encouraged" by Lee's commitment to not rush into any development project at Dover forest, also known as the Ulu Pandan estate.

NSS also said that they recognise the challenges involved in managing various land-use needs.

Mothership understands that some Singaporeans told Lee that they want to move to the Ulu Pandan estate so that they can live nearer to their parents who reside in the area.

The group is committed to working with the Ministry of National Development to identify what is worth retaining in Ulu Pandan estate and possible ecological connectivity in the area.

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Top image adapted via