John S. Webb | Singapore

Utopia is a fiction. From the beginning a novel from the 1500s describing a fictional island society which was an ideal place to live, the name became a definition of the dream about a state of things where all was perfect. Today we hear more about dystopia and the streaming tv channels and movie theatres show constantly films with dystopian themes. I cannot say I have ever seen one with a Utopian theme.

The Republic of Singapore is an island and a city-state with a population of just under five and half million living on area 728kmThat’s about half the size of Greater London (1572km) giving it a very high population density for it’s size.

The island inherited a legal system from English law after it became a sovereign nation, (a centralised government power). It was a crown colony to Britain up until it obtained self-governance in 1959. For a time it was even part of the new federation of Malaysia, but later in 1965 became an independent nation.

In Singapore there is a lot of control exercised by the authorities with severe punishments given for those that break the law, especially for drug trafficking, but that also means there is extremely little crime compared with other developed nations. For instance walking around at night doesn’t in any way feel unsafe. 

With a so a dense population you might think there would be a housing shortage, but today the subsidised housing managed by the government’s Housing Development Board has built high-rise buildings in new towns for owner-occupied flats on 99 year leases, which have met demand.Around 80 percent of the resident population of Singapore live in public housing. There is even an Ethnic Integration Policy whereby ethnic enclaves are discouraged and a racial mix of is ensured. The land is still owned by the government. When walking through these areas they appear clean and well cared for and don’t to suffer the same symptoms as high rise areas in some major European cities.
Many of Singapore’s “green” buildings with their hanging gardens have been featured in architectural reports, but it’s also quite common to find a block of flats with a residents garden on the roof. “Green awareness” has to be paramount on this little island where (just like the rest of the planet, only more so in high density population countries) competition exists for land use.

Over the years as urbanisation has resulted in a loss of forests and natural areas, efforts have been made to preserve the remaining areas. In 2020 The Prime Minister was reported in the major newspapers planting bonsai trees on a roof top garden. On the first Sunday in November, every year, since 1971 the annual Tree Planting Day takes place where each town council takes part.

John S. Webb