24 October 2011
Partnering stakeholders to document graves affected by the new road at Bukit Brown Cemetery
To meaningfully capture the history and heritage of the graves affected by the new road at the Bukit Brown Cemetery, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) have partnered key stakeholders in the community to establish a framework to guide the documentation of these graves.
In a meeting with stakeholders from the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, The Peranakan Association of Singapore, Singapore Heritage Society, academics and grave experts, Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin affirmed the government’s interest in the documentation process. He said, “We are aware of the rich heritage of Bukit Brown and its links to the history of our country. We have sought to explore various possibilities for the road but there were no easy choices. Once the decision was taken on the road, we began discussing with key stakeholders. We aim to properly capture the history and memories of the affected graves and to do this before the planned road development begins.”
Work and discussions had been ongoing for a few months now. An Advisory Committee, comprising representatives from the key stakeholders groups as well as representatives from key government agencies such as URA, LTA and the National Heritage Board will guide and provide advice to the documentation process. This will ensure that crucial information that can be found at the graves will be meaningfully documented. It is estimated that the new road will affect about 5% of the more than 100,000 graves currently sited in the Bukit Brown Cemetery.
A Working Committee led by Dr Hui Yew-Foong, Fellow and Coordinator of the Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, will carry out the actual documentation work. A Cornell University-trained anthropologist, Dr Hui is also a member of the Inter-Agency Committee on Chinese Overseas Databank and Research. He has a deep interest in and passion for the documentation of both tangible and intangible heritage, and was responsible for leading a team of volunteers to document the 3,000 graves at the recently exhumed Kwong Hou Sua Teochew Cemetery.
The documentation project at Bukit Brown Cemetery will adopt a holistic approach and treat the cemetery as an organic socio-cultural space. This entails not just the documentation of graves, but also the social history, memories and rituals associated with the cemetery, as well as the exhumation process. The documentation works will align with the identification of graves affected by the new road to be built. Please refer to Annex A for the timeline.
Planning for the long-term land use in land-scarce Singapore often requires us to make difficult decisions. The government is committed to retaining and protecting our natural and built heritage, but needs to also balance it against other needs in the community, such as housing for people. Bukit Brown has been zoned for residential use since the Concept Plan 1991 and it has been public knowledge that the long-term plan is to use the area to meet future housing needs.
To support the plan, basic infrastructure such as roads will need to be built over time. In 2009, LTA widened Lornie Road (towards Adam Road) to four lanes. However, due to site constraints at Lornie Road, any further widening would require the removal of matured trees which shield the inner forest of our nature reserve and the acquisition of private land. The new road, which will help mitigate traffic conditions along Lornie Road, will also serve future housing developments in the area.1
Development will not be immediate, other than the road, and will begin south of Bukit Brown, around the Police Academy area, in about ten to fifteen years. This is primarily for public housing and future residents here will benefit from the proximity to the future Bukit Brown MRT station along the Circle Line. The rest of Bukit Brown will be developed for housing further in the future. Our immediate priority is to document those graves that are likely to be affected by the new road.
Jointly issued by Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority
- “Construction of New Dual Four-Lane Road to Relieve Congestion along PIE & Lornie Road and Serve Future Developments”