Saturday, 31 January 2015

Singapore - The Phobia of Living Together

Learning to Live with the Dead, Sick, Old, Young and Foreign.
The NIMBy Syndrome Strikes Again

The recent uproars by some Singaporeans against a columbarium cum temple being built next to their apartments signal the return of the seasonal NIMBy flu-like Syndrome.   

NIMBy is the acronym for Not-In-My-Backyard”.  The NIMBy Syndrome is an affliction which strikes some residents to cause them to object actively to certain amenities and socially desirable development proposals near or adjacent to their residential areas.  The NIMBy Flu Syndrome is non-contagious and can only be infected by voluntary subscription. It is available only in developed countries and arrived in Singapore sometime in the 1990’s and manifested in more cases at the turn of the 21st Century.

Many can recall other NIMBy cases involving foreign workers hostels, eldercare centre, nursing homes, facilities for the elderly, condominium towers, studio apartments for elderly, MRT construction launch shafts and international school.

NIMBy victims are often highly intelligent and imaginative. They usually cite good reasons for their seemingly “anti-social” conditions. These include noise and exhaust pollution from buses ferrying workers or students, a possible increase in crime (by foreign workers presumably), traffic congestion from school drop-offs and pickups, as well as higher noise levels from students’ play areas, sports facilities and canteen. Born again naturalists emerged to advocate preservation and prevent a forested area to be cleared for the 12-storey international school building; its tall shadow looming over mostly terrace or semi-detached homes notwithstanding. 

Current condominium residents in the Dairy Farm, Chestnut and Cashew areas should know that none of their tower blocks exceed 15 storeys because many earlier residents in the areas living in their low-rise as well as terraced and semi-detached homes did not want their however limited view of the Bukit Timah secondary forest blocked.  Seemingly avowed naturalists, they were also worried that plant and animal life could be harmed.  Also, any increased surface runoff would choke a nearby canal which already fills quickly when it rains. Many health and fitness enthusiasts are also upset that a planned road in the area (cancelled later) would cut into their popular canal-side jogging trail popular.

Nursing Homes also have their capacity trimmed by reducing the planned number of storeys in order to placate the NIMBy patients. Other common reasons associated with the NIMBy Syndrome include noise pollution during construction, and traffic congestion on the roads that serve the affected areas.

Overall at the bottom-line, the unfounded fear of lower market value for their properties is the key reason for the unhappy NIMBy Syndrome.

TRUTH is: Singapore properties, both HDB and private as well as landed have all appreciated in value in spite of whatever reasons that the subscribers of NIMBy Syndrome have professed.
Bishan Town
Do you know that some of the most expensive HDB flats are built on former cemeteries ie Bishan?  Large areas of Bishan, Ang Mo Kio and Yishun are former graveyards.  Jurong was also largely a mangrove swamp in the 1960’s.  The “Mllionaires’ Row” of huge bungalows along Tanjong Katong Road and the East Coast also lost their sea and beach frontage years ago in order for Marine Parade to be built.

Hundreds of private terraced and semi-detached houses have actually been over-shadowed permanently by HDB flats and commercial buildings over the past 30 years.  None of their value has depreciated, but their property values have multiplied manifolds even as Singapore developed.

The NIMBy Syndrome recurrence suggests a growing trend towards weaker community relationship as many become more selfish and short-sighted in their view towards Singapore’s social development.  Being a small island, the building of desirable social amenities must mean increasing density in land use.  Existing conveniences as well as views and forested areas may have to make way for the greater good for the benefits of a larger number of Singaporeans.  A NIMBy-oriented people makes children and our future generations the VICTIMs of NIMBy and they cannot therefore depend on their parents to build for them better facilities, better homes and better communities.  In the event, all the sacrifices of our pioneers and current generations will be for nothing. Say “NO” and “Goodbye” to the NIMBy Syndrome on our 50th Birthday, please.


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