Clementi gardeners get to stay
By Grace Chua, The Straits Times, 16 May 2012.
A compromise has been reached between the Government and the people farming illegally in Clementi.
All 18 who had been tending to crops near Sungei Ulu Pandan will get to stay, but on a smaller plot of land. They will also pay $60 a year to continue farming there.
Member of Parliament Sim Ann said yesterday that when the farmers’ activity came to light in March this year, the Government’s task was to give them ‘a legitimate outlet for their passion for planting’. ‘The legal position is clear – whatever the background reason, encroachment on state land is illegal,’ said Ms Sim, who had been leading the talks between the gardeners and the various government agencies involved.
The land is mostly in the Bukit Timah ward of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, where Ms Sim is the MP.
‘But… we also recognised that these are just individuals and families who happen to love planting vegetables and crops. We knew that they meant no harm,’ she added.
Ms Sim, who is also Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Law, said that other people who want to join in may do so.
The new community garden is located near Block 301 in Clementi Avenue 4. It will be run by the Bukit Timah Citizens’ Consultative Committee, with support from Northwest Community Development Council and the Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council.
The committee is applying for a temporary occupation licence from the Singapore Land Authority, renewable each year, and expects to be able to use the land for at least three years.
Covering an area about 50m by 25m, the community garden will be divided into 30 or so strips, each 8m by 4m. Each gardener gets just one strip.
For decades, several people – mostly the elderly – have been gardening and growing herbs, fruit and vegetables at the 1,800 sq m strip of state land sandwiched between the Sungei Ulu Pandan canal, the former Malayan Railway (KTM) track, Clementi Avenue 4 and Clementi Avenue 6.
In March, they faced eviction after residents complained about burning leaves and mosquitoes, and Ms Sim had helped secure a three-month respite and June 20 move-out date.
Kindergarten teacher Ng Ang Mui, 48, who had made some initial complaints about smoke from burning leaves, said of the new deal: ‘They need to have a proper way of handling the leaves, rubbish and the mosquitoes… If there’s a proper way to handle these, I think there should be no problem.’
Laboratory manager Lester Yeung, 35, whose father tends to a plot just past the Clementi Avenue 6 flyover, said there has been no more burning of leaves since March. Even if the new garden is not as large, he said, ‘at least the objective of having folks be able to continue with what they do is met’.
Source: The Straits Times