The “garden city” vision was introduced by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 11 May 1967 to transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment in order to make life more pleasant for the people. It was also envisaged that the presence of ample greenery in an environment clean of litter would signify that Singapore was a well-organised city and hence a good destination for tourists and foreign investments.
In the initial phase, the “garden city” vision was implemented in the form of an intensive tree-planting programme spearheaded by the Parks and Trees Division to recreate the tree-lined boulevards that Lee had come across during his overseas trips. The programme was a great success: Over 55,000 new trees were planted by the end of 1970. To maintain the momentum, Tree Planting Day was reintroduced in 1971 as an annual event involving students, grassroots leaders, and residents living in both public and private housing estates. In addition, the Parks and Trees Act was enacted in 1975 to mandate government agencies like the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), as well as private developers, to set aside spaces for trees and greenery in projects such as the development of housing estates, and construction of roads and carparks. These greening initiatives had a significant impact on the rate of tree-planting: The number of new trees planted increased from about 158,600 in 1974 to 1.4 million by June 2014.
By the mid-1970s, the creation of parks had become an additional focus of the “garden city” vision. The park development programme aimed to provide more recreational spaces for residents and to establish green spaces that provided ventilation or act as “green lungs” in built-up areas. The programme, which was led by the Parks and Recreation Department set up in 1976 to replace the Parks and Trees Division, had a profound effect on Singapore’s landscape: The area of parks and green spaces increased from 879 ha in 1975 to 9,707 ha by March 2014, and the number of parks grew from 13 to 330 within the same period.
From the 1990s, various efforts were made by the Parks and Recreation Department, which was reconstituted as the National Parks Board (NParks) in July 1996, to enrich the Garden City experience that had been put in place by the tree-planting and park development programmes in the earlier decades. For instance, park connectors were established as green corridors to link parks, and nature reserves were set up to preserve the nation’s natural heritage. Furthermore, campaigns such as Clean and Green Week and community partnership programmes like Community in Bloom were introduced to instil a “green consciousness” among Singaporeans. Currently, Singapore’s greening policy is guided by the “city in a garden” vision. Unveiled in 1998 as the next phase of the “garden city” vision, the new concept aimed to integrate greenery into not just the built environment, but also into the daily lives of Singaporeans.
1. S’pore to become beautiful, clean city within three years. (1967, May 12). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lee, K. Y. (2000). From third world to first: The Singapore story: 1965-–2000: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (p. 188). Singapore: Times Editions: Singapore Press Holdings. Call no.: RSING 959.57092 LEE-[HIS].
2. Lee, 2000, p. 188.
3. Lee, 2000, pp. 188–190; Body to make people care for trees. (1967, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Public Works Department. (1969). Annual report 1968 (p. 58). Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570086 SIN.
4. Public Works Department. (1971). Annual report 1970 (p. 27). Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570086 SIN.
5. Public Works Department. (1972). Annual report 1971 (p. 63). Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570086 SIN.
6. Yeh, S. H. K. (1989). The idea of the garden city. In K. S. Sandhu & P. Wheatley. (Eds.). Management of success: The moulding of modern Singapore (pp. 818–819). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Call no.: RSING 959.57 MAN-[HIS]; Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1975, July 29). Assent to bills passed (Vol. 34, col. 1122). Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN.
7. Public Works Department, 1975, p. 52; Tee, S. P. (2014, June 23). Trees are inspected regularly. Today. Retrieved from http://tablet.todayonline.com/voices/trees-are-inspected-regularly
8. Lee, S. K., & Chua, S. E. (1992). More than a garden city (p. 13). Singapore: Parks & Recreation Dept., Ministry of National Development. Call no.: RSING 333.783095957 LEE.
9. Ministry of National Development; Planning Department. (1975). Revised master plan: Report of survey (pp. 68–69). Singapore: The Department. Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN.
10. Ministry of National Development. (1977). Annual report 1976 (p. 30). Singapore: The Ministry. Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570686 SMNDAR.
11. Public Works Department, 1975, p. 48; National Parks Board. (2015). NParks annual report 2013/2014 (pp. 48–49). Retrieved March 23, 2015, from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/about-us/annual-reports
12. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1991). Living the next lap: Towards a tropical city of excellence (pp. 28–31). Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority. Call no.: RSING 307.36095957 LIV.
13. Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1991, pp. 28–31.
14. Auger, T. (2013). Living in a garden: The greening of Singapore (p. 26). Singapore: Editions Didier Millet. Call no.: RSING 363.68095957 AUG; Ministry of National Development. (2007). From garden city to city in a garden (p. 32). Retrieved February 12, 2015, from Ministry of National Development website: http://www.mnd.gov.sg/MNDAPPImages/About%20Us/From%20Garden%20City%20to%20City%20in%20a%20Garden.pdf
15. Lee, J. (1998, December 11). ‘City in a garden’ plan set out for Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Prime Minister’s Office. (2014, November 6). Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the opening of Bishan Park – ABC Waters, 17 Mar 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2015, from Prime Minister’s Office website: http://www.pmo.gov.sg/mediacentre/speech-prime-minister-lee-hsien-loong-opening-bishan-park-abc-waters-17-mar-2012
The information in this article is valid as at March 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.