A handful of Singaporeans braved the haze on Saturday afternoon to chain themselves to a tree at Hong Lim Park as a way of appealing to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to re-route the proposed Cross Island MRT Line to avoid damaging the central forest reserves of Singapore.
The art protest “Chained To Our Roots” at the Speakers’ Corner at the park started with a performance in which local eco-artist Teresa Teo Guttensohn delivered a speech and performed a poetry recital. At around 4pm, she and three friends tied themselves to a tree and said they would be there for 24 hours, with designated toilet breaks.
Around 30 people were at the protest at 4pm. They also symbolically tied themselves to each other with eco-friendly ropes made from reused clothes, linking themselves to the eco-artist and the tree, and signed a petition appealing to LTA to re-route the Cross Island Line.
Prior to the event, Teo Guttensohn spoke to Yahoo! Singapore on the environmental impact of the construction of the Cross Island Line, which will partly run under the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and central catchment area.
The environmentalist and animal welfare activist, who is trained in Fine Arts, said the construction of the MRT line will potentially destroy Singapore’s precious remaining rainforest and its biodiversity. She said certain species have “evolved” to live in the forests, and any disturbance to their habitats could kill them.
These include endangered species such as the banded leaf monkeys. According to Teo Guttensohn, it is estimated that only 40-50 of such monkeys are left in the entire world and they are all here in Singapore’s forest. She added that these monkeys are unique and endemic to Singapore. Other endangered species include pangolins and slow loris.
Elaine Soh, an FF&E designer, 30, was one of the supporters of the event. She felt that it is important for Singaporeans to do something about helping the environment now when the Earth’s climate has been going haywire, as record-level haze in the city-state has shown.
Responding to queries from Yahoo! Singapore on the protest, an LTA spokesperson said that they "share the concerns" of environmentalists and that as with any rail line, they will understand a variety of factors "before a decision on alignment is made". It added that the planning for the line was still in the early stages yet.
The spokesperson added that LTA had met with representatives from some nature and environmental groups on 11 June 2013 and will continue to engage and consult them.
In a separate event at another corner of Hong Lim Park, activist Patrick Low, 68, held a silent protest against neighbouring Indonesia for the worst haze crisis Singapore has faced.
However, according to one of the supporters of the event, it only attracted a small turn-out and a handful of people had crossed over from the “Chained To Our Roots” protest.
But Low told Yahoo! Singapore it didn’t matter that he was a “one-man band” because he felt that something had to done as Singapore has suffered for “more than a decade” from the “fogging” from Indonesia.
Environmentalist Betty L Khoo-Kingsley said that she was there at Hong Lim Park for the “Chained To Our Roots” protest, but she pointed out that both protests were somehow connected because if the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve were to be damaged by the MRT line construction, “the haze will be worse” in the future.
Khoo-Kingsley also urged the government to reconsider the country’s economic strategy, explaining that “economic growth is what is fueling the haze”, as it is the “demand of palm oil” that led to the burning of forests in Indonesia that has caused the haze.
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