This article is a guest post contributed by JM Wong.
Singapore’s reputation as a City in a Garden travels far and wide across the globe.
Seriously, people are travelling to Singapore to see our Supertrees.
But other than stupidly overgrown trees, the green city reputation actually came from the everyday trees and plants we’re used to seeing everywhere in Singapore.
Here’s a fun fact: Contributing to this high density of greenery are the two million trees planted along Singapore’s road, in our gardens and parks and yes, all over our state land.
Yes, you read right! WE HAVE TWO MILLION TREES!
But has it ever crossed your mind what goes behind the scenes: Why are so many trees planted, how are they planted and more importantly, who maintains the lush greenery?
Here are 7 things you didn’t know about the landscape and greenery of Singapore.
1. Trees and woods help to reduce noise pollution
Besides being pleasing to the eye, contributing to the well-being of people and helping to reduce air pollution, did you know that trees can also help to reduce noise pollution?
Trees are effective in addressing noise pollution because they act as a natural sound barrier that absorbs and deflects sound. The heavier the branches and the rougher tree trunks are, the better they are at deflecting and absorbing sound waves.
Perhaps that is why we see so many trees and shrubs along the expressways.
Expressways are some of the noisiest parts of Singapore. The air along an expressway is also likely to be more polluted. How ingenious of Singapore to plant so many trees along our expressways!
2. Plants are pruned the way they are for a reason
Everything happens for a reason.
So, whenever you see that some of the trees planted along the street may not be pruned consistently, just know that this is intentional. Yup, it’s not random at all.
We asked the experts and we’re told the plants are pruned alternately to stagger their growing period so that the greenery is not lost.
Otherwise, can you imagine having a whole stretch of a road divider being lined by a row of botak trees?
3. When a plant dies, the dead plant must be replaced
You might think that if a plant dies, just let it die and leave it there lor!
But nope. That’s not the case.
When a plant dies, the plant must be removed and replaced with another plant – and this is often done so manually.
And if there are a lot of dead plants in a huge plot of land… GG.
4. You need to have (at least) basic knowledge of plants to work in the landscape sector
Watering of plants may seem like a no-brainer to us, but how much water to use, how often and which part of the day it should be done to achieve optimum plant health, can be quite tricky.
More so when we have such a wide variety of plants here on our little red dot of an island. By wide, I meant as diverse as about 2,000 native plant species.
That is why, landscape technicians, the ones taking care of our greenery, are expected to have some basic knowledge and know-how to identify the different kinds of plants and how to handle them so they grow healthily and stay pretty.
Our landscape technicians are also required to learn the different types of diseases that can affect plants, as well as the ways to care for the plants since different plants may require different types of care.
That’s not as easy as it might sound!
5. It is a highly specialized industry which demands domain knowledge
If you think that all that a landscape technician needs to do is to water the plants, fertilise the plants, do some weeding and pruning – meaning anyone can simply come in to get the job done, then you can’t be more wrong.
And I’m sorry but you won’t be able to operate this lawn mower with your Class 3 / 3A driving license. You need the right license to drive it!
You see, the times have changed. So has the landscape sector.
Specialized skills are required in the landscape industry which uses more technology and workers are required to attend courses and get themselves certified before they can be allowed to operate machinery and equipment.
Other than being trained to operate machinery and equipment which can increase productivity, workers can also get higher pay and opportunities for career progression as they move up the wage ladder. With the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), the more training they attend, the more skilled and productive they become and yes, the more pay they will enjoy.
6. Landscape maintenance is hard work, very very hard work
A typical day for a landscape technician can start as early as 8 am and end at 7 pm – with an hour of lunch break and two short breaks of about 15 minutes in between. Most of the work is also carried out under the scorching heat of the sun and we all know how torturous Singapore’s heat can be.
Don’t believe? Watch the video below to get a glimpse into what a typical work day of a landscaper looks like:
7. Workers in the landscape sector deserve more
They certainly do.
Did you know that before the PWM was implemented in 2016, the landscape technicians – who are amongst the group of low-wage workers that NTUC’s Labour MP Mr Zainal Sapari has been championing for – were caught in a vicious cycle?
For many years, these workers’ wages remained uncomfortably low as service providers suppressed wages in their attempts to win bids through lower costs. For a long time, outsourcing equated to cheap-sourcing.
The labour movement has been advocating for outcome-based best-sourcing for years. Mr Zainal Sapari had repeatedly advocated improving the lives of our outsourced low-wage workers.
He has called on the government to practise best-sourcing and has actively been encouraging companies and service providers to adopt the tripartite guidelines and standards so that these workers are not shortchanged.
In his budget speech this year, Mr Zainal Sapari continued to push for the enhancements to the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme and called for the government to consider increasing the cash-to-CPF ratio to allow low-wage workers have more cash in their hands to better meet their immediate needs.
Mr Zainal Sapari said,
“As a society, we are judged by how we care for the less fortunate. Helping low-wage workers earn better wages, gain better welfare and be shown greater respect is not the government’s responsibility alone. It is our collective responsibility to create a better society – one that is inclusive and caring, and one that ensures all workers feel a sense of belonging.”
While Mr Zainal Sapari continues to be the voice of the low-wage workers, perhaps we as citizens can also help the low-wage workers live with dignity by acknowledging their hard work. We all can be heroes in our own little way.
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