21st March 2020 0900h: We got our gloves on and were given a brief introduction to when the reforestation efforts begun. Within less than 10 minutes, all the volunteers began to pull at the weeds, as instructed.
It surprised me that it was it was deemed as beneficial, and even important that we would pull grass and other non-native species such as the African Violet out. “They would compete with our native species for nutrients” we were told. I could not help put think of the care that goes into tending to grass for field in University Town, NUS and even Kallang Stadium…
After faithfully pulling the weeds, fixing up some trees and removing broken branches – caused by the Macaques – we moved over to the another area. This was when I was fully taken aback.
The weeds were flourishing. There were people pulling weeds of from every possible direction… the grass was reaching up to my calves and there were lalangs all over. I overheard someone shouting: “Is this our tree…? Omgosh there we have a tree here as well!” – trees planted a year or so back were now covered in this particular creeper, known as “a-mile-a-minute”. What an apt name. They were truly found everywhere…
I used to think it was rather beautiful to see a tree being covered in this “very leaf-y plant”. Little did I know it was causing the death of the tree… “We have to save it!” echoed many as we picked up scissors to remove the weed and set the tree free.
The problem was clear. The reforested area lacked a closed canopy. Too much sunlight was getting in and the undergrowth was THRIVING at the expense of our actual trees. I never knew how delicate or essential these right conditions were.
The creepers were such a pain to remove. Because they were easily able to take root once removed from the tree, we had to physically relocate these creepers to this dumping pile outside the reforestation area. There were a whole lot of other plants we had to remove including lalangs which were so prevalent. Those took a whole lot of muscle to pull out.
Right before we called it a day, we had bags of leaf-litter collected by RVRC students emptied out unto the forest floor. We then tried to spread a thin layer of the dead leaves cover atop the areas were we had just de-weeded to stop the undergrowth.
Note: Apparently it had only been about 6 weeks before this whole weed madness blew up to this proportion.
Upon reflection, my greatest frustration was that it appeared to me that we had cut down so much of our mature forests only to try to engineer them back to life… by definition this would take years and years and years… and more years. That fact aside, my greatest question is what gives us the right to think we can do as we will with nature whenever we want. To think we can destroy something because we think we might have the means to bring it back (if it becomes relevant again)… it is just so complacent and prideful of us. I am not sure if this attitude is just a urban phenomenon, or if I am just being ‘naive’. At times I do feel like a hypocrite for I have benefited from this expansion of urban housing at the expense of these forests. I have benefited from all our economic development policies and implicitly said my ‘yes’ to stemming nature out time and time again.
Yet, I do not think this disqualifies me from wanting a change. I wish we had humility towards nature and a deeper sense of connection, the kind that I find when learning of the relationship Islanders have with their environment. That primitive understanding not to take more than you can give back… But I guess “be the change you wish to see in this world” so it has to start with me.
Special thanks to the people who made this trip possible 🙂
About Chestnut Nature Park (Source: NParks)
Chestnut Nature Park is located on the eastern end of Chestnut Avenue. Skirting the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the nature park serves as a green buffer for the reserve.
There are two areas to Chestnut Nature Park – Chestnut Nature Park (South) and Chestnut Nature Park (North). Chestnut Nature Park (North) is about 64 hectares and opened on 25 February 2017. Together with the southern portion opened last year, Chestnut Nature Park now totals 81 hectares, making it Singapore’s largest nature park to date.
As part of the ongoing habitat enhancement programme to augment NParks’ biodiversity conservation efforts, Chestnut Nature Park has been planted up with native tree species. Examples of these native tree species are the Braided Chestnut (Castanopsis inermis), Singapore Walking-Stick Palm (Rhopaloblaste singaporensis) and the Jelutong (Dyera costulata). These native tree species will allow animals to thrive by improving the ecological connectivity between green spaces so that animals may move around safely.