Let the land be, please

Pang Kong Eng Today Online 20 Sep 12;

Mr M Lukshumayeh thought that the land next to Whampoa Community Club is "unsafe for recreation", has been "unused for almost 40 years" and suggested that "work" be done to "Put this land to safer, more effective use" (Aug 29, online).

In fact, that land has been serving important needs effectively over that period and had gone unnoticed, almost. One need only be observant to notice the facts lying beyond the veil of grass.

First, let us reconsider the assumption that good use of land equates to being built-up or set upon by human traffic.

A 2006 study in the Netherlands showed that green spaces in an urban environment have a positive effect on health, well-being and social safety. Scientific and medical research elsewhere have drawn similar conclusions.

Singapore is land-scarce and our people are stressed, precisely why we need green spaces like the plot in question. This is even more so in the heartlands. The land is providing essential health and social benefits which we enjoy without setting foot on it.

Second, the piece of land has been a precious educational resource. It is undisturbed, because of its unevenness and potholes, and blessed with rich biodiversity, such as egrets, herons and kingfishers in the mornings and evenings.

Children get to listen to crickets, frogs and birds singing in the rays of the setting sun, right in their neighbourhood. Such is the fabric from which imagination and mental resilience are weaved. Any work done to "make it safer" may unwittingly sterilise it.

Thirty years ago, there was a similar field in front of the current kindergarten at Block 85 of the same neighbourhood. Before work was done to that field, it had a healthy population of toads, frogs and other flora and fauna.

After reading about tadpoles and guppies, we would go to field to look at the real thing. Now, children may read or sing a rhyme about toads croaking, but we have denied them that authentic learning experience.

I once asked a class of 40 pupils if they knew from where a chicken comes. "The supermarket," came their reply, sadly. The only form of chicken they know, other than pictures and videos, is usually cooked, most likely from a fast-food restaurant.

Gardening, qigong, t'ai chi, taekwondo and silat have their values. Yet, the learning and inspiration from the presence of nature is immeasurable. That land is more than useful as it is.

Put this land to safer, more effective use
M Lukshumayeh Today Online 29 Aug 12;

The Singapore Land Authority has allowed the State land next to Whampoa Community Club to be used for recreation, a good gesture with a downside: The plot of land is unsafe for recreation, as it has potholes and is uneven.

The irony is that the land has been unused for almost 40 years.

Work could have been undertaken to make it safer, whether for recreation or sports use, so that this fairly sizeable State land could be put to more effective use in land-scarce Singapore, especially in the heartlands, for more people.

It is not too late for imaginative ideas that would put the land to greater use, including for interest groups such as in gardening, qigong, t'ai chi, taekwondo or silat, since the limited area within the Community Club is overused.