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Singapore: Trying to Right the Wrongs of Urbanization

Many think of Singapore as a shining example of a modern “Green” city, but what many don’t recognize is the history of what led to Singapore taking a hard pro stance on increasing green initiatives. Before the monumental Green Plan, brought by the Singaporean government in 1992, Singapore was one of the worst violators of pollution, deforestation, and disregard for natural ecosystems. It was not for the good of the people that Singapore decided to move towards green initiatives, but for the need of the people.

Deforestation and pollution ran rampant in Singapore during the early and mid 20th century and many native forests, birds, and mammals were eradicated from their natural habitats. Not only this, but Singapore was a huge buyer of sand to fill in its banks, which destroyed coastal environments there and in neighboring beaches. They ended up buying so much from neighboring countries that a ban was put in place preventing them from buying any more. So in 1992, Singapore faced a problem that many places around the world are facing today: the choice to continue to allow pollution which leads to a decrease in value of life for its people, or to start moving towards a country that puts its environment and people first.

Putting human needs first and consulting the professionals in the areas of conservation are key to ensuring that a healthy, happy city are maintained. Although Singapore is not perfect — some believe that they may put aesthetics ahead of what is actually good for the environment to draw business into the city — no one can deny that the effects are visible and positive.

Singapore cleaned up its riverbanks and moved towards clean energy. This helped to provide cleaner water and air, along with bringing back livable habitats for native species, like the adorable Smooth-Coated Otter, which is a vulnerable species that has found a way to thrive in the rivers and streets of Singapore. This would not be possible without the cleaning of the river, which has lead to the increase of fish populations. Although Singapore has made strides in air quality and ranks as one of the places with the best air quality in Asia, it is still comparable to air quality in the United States. Singapore is making progress, but like in everywhere else in the world, there is still work to be done.


Barnard, Timothy P., editor. Nature Contained: Environmental Histories of Singapore. NUS Press, 2014. JSTOR,

National Environmental Agency “Air Pollution”, February 15, 2021, Singapore Government,

“The Otters of Singapore, Cities: Nature’s New Wild”, Youtube, uploaded by BBC Earth, January 15, 2019.


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