SINGAPORE : Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the decision to build Gardens by the Bay was not an easy one.
Speaking to some 700 guests at the official opening of the Gardens on Thursday, Mr Lee pointed out the land could have been used for more valuable developments.
But he said that looking at it now, the decision to build it was correct.
Gardens by the Bay is Singapore’s latest manifestation of its ’City in a Garden’ vision.
Spanning 101 hectares, the S$1 billion superpark houses over a quarter of a million rare plants.
It is now an icon of the redeveloped Marina Bay.
But the decision to build it was not easy.
Mr Lee said: "(We) could have used this for far more valuable commercial or residential developments, right in the middle of the new Singapore city. But our planners in URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) believed that a large and beautiful park was an important element of our new downtown in Marina Bay South, just like Central Park in New York, or Hyde Park in London.
"Mr Mah Bow Tan, who was then the Minister for National Development, strongly supported this project. He saw value in having Gardens by the Bay right in the city, value beyond enhancing the value of the rest of the land in Marina Bay."
Mr Lee said Gardens by the Bay is not just a pretty flower to admire from afar, but the "people’s garden" for all to enjoy every single day.
And he urged all Singaporeans to visit the Gardens and embrace it as their own.
Mr Lee said: "This is just one example of how we are transforming Singapore’s living environment. It may be a densely populated city, maybe one of the densest in the world, but we are determined that our people should be able to live comfortably, pleasantly, graciously.
"Not just good homes, efficient public transport, which we are working hard to improve, or safe streets. But also be in touch with nature, never far from green spaces and blue waters."
Gardens by the Bay features two conservatory domes — known as Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.
Cloud Forest contains a man—made mountain that houses a variety of high altitude plants that are not normally found in tropical Singapore, while Flower Dome features an indoor Mediterranean garden and seasonal changing floral displays.
There is also an Outdoor Gardens which members of the public can go to free of charge.
The Gardens cost about S$1 billion to build.
CEO of Gardens by the Bay, Dr Tan Wee Kiat, explained: "First of all, this is reclaimed land; in order to be the first project in here, you have got to drain the place, provide canals, bring in roads, electricity — in other words, a lot of the money is spent, half of it is on infrastructure.
"The major portion of the other half are the two glass domes. Twenty per cent of that budget, which is very high for most developments, goes into securing plant material. And it is money rightfully spent because Singaporeans want a bit of spring and autumn, which you can never in the land of perpetual summer."
The new green space opens to the public on Friday, and more than 30,000 visitors are expected to flock here.
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