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ST Forum

Jun 17, 2011

CONSERVATION V CONSTRUCTION

Walking the tight rope of progress

THE flurry of letters following the Urban Redevelopment Authority's decision to redevelop Bukit Brown Cemetery reflects the multitude of views regarding our heritage and the conundrum of conservation versus construction in land-scarce Singapore.

While it is true that our old buildings and structures are archives of the nation's history and their wanton destruction is sacrilegious, conservation without due regard to costs and well-considered precedents is equally untenable.

Bukit Brown Cemetery is indeed an oasis of calm amid the sprawling suburbia, serving not only as the final resting place of our ancestors including several luminaries, but also as a nature reserve where people can have a reprieve from the stress of the concrete jungle.

Yet, it is little different from the Fort Canning, Forbidden Hill, St Joseph's Church, Ulu Pandan, Bidadari and other cemeteries that were closed and subsequently redeveloped.

Historians may lament their passing as our memories of them evanesce; but beneficiaries of their replacements have concrete evidence to celebrate.

Should Bukit Brown Cemetery be conserved, much enhancement needs to be done. As it stands, it is overgrown and neglected, infrequently visited, of interest to only a few, and lacking in universal appeal.

Tasteful preservation through a memorial, together with beneficial advancement for the living, seems the balanced way to progress.

Dr Yik Keng Yeong

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