Earlier today, my parents and I explored the MacRitchie Trails, a 20-kilometer network of trails and boardwalks winding through the forest around the MacRitchie Reservoir, and The TreeTop Walk, a 250-meter suspension bridge that connects the two highest points in MacRitchie.
Friends urged me to take my parents to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (of which the Trails and the Reservoir are a part). This is the largest of the nature reserves in Singapore, occupies over 2,000 hectares of forest cover (mature secondary rain forest), and is now at the center of debate on land use, “pragmatism,” and environmental stewardship. A plan to build a subway tunnel the reserve has drawn sharp protests from activists who say “it could irreversibly damage the habitats of hundreds of plant and animal species.” They are appealing to the Land Transport Authority to re-route the Cross Island Line around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, rather than through it. According to Reuters, “LTA Chief Executive Chew Men Leong said… that taking the new line around the reserve would cost an extra SG$2 billion (US$1.4 billion) to build. Industry experts estimate the overall cost could amount could be as much as S$40.7 billion.” Who knows what the area will look like on my parents’ next visit—kitschy and plastic like Gardens by the Bay?
No decision on the construction of the line has been made, but I’m not optimistic that environmentalists will “win” this one. An online petition supporting the re-routing of the line has received thousands of signatures. This March, activists/protesters are organising a series of guided walks to bring more public attention to their issue, and the reserve.
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We hiked a seven kilometer loop from Venus Road to The TreeTop Walk and back, which took a bit over 90 minutes. The route is largely paved, gently rolling, and nearly entirely shaded, but unsuitable for strollers and wheelchairs. (The MacRitchie Boardwalks, near the reservoir, are stroller- and wheelchair-friendly.)
The Reserve is a most magical place. We traipsed across leaf litter dappled with sunlight. The forest is a refuge, a still retreat from the hurly-burly of the dominant city, and we saw many trail runners this morning. It was very quiet, and I appreciated just the sifting of a faint breeze through the trees and a bulbul singing from a on high.