In March, the Minister of State for National Development, Mr. Tan Chuan-Jin announced to the public that public housing will be built
on the southern part of Bukit Brown where the Old Police Academy once stands, an extension to the public housing in Toa Payoh. Plans
for this future town have been contained in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s master plans since 1998.
In the same month, LTA announced that about one-third of the controversial new road will be converted into a vehicular bridge up 10
metres off the ground, in response to feedback from citizens and interest groups. Although this is expected to cost 3 times more than
the previously proposed road construction, the new initiative will benefit the fauna in Bukit Brown. With the eco-bridge, wildlife along the two sides of the road will be able to transverse across the sectioned areas.
Furthermore, the bridge will also mean that fewer graves will be affected by the road works. All in, 3,746 graves out of the more than
100,000 graves currently sited at Bukit Brown Cemetery will be exhumed in early 2013, lower than the earlier estimation of 5,000 graves.
Exhumation works has also been postponed to early 2013 to allow time for next-of-kin to identify and claim the affected graves. As such,
the construction of the road is expected to be delayed. Under the current exhumation programme, all exhumed graves will be cremated . The cremated ashes can be put inside a niche, at a government or private (churches/temples) columbarium or even stored at home. The National Environmental Agency (NEA) will bear the cost of exhumation and the subsequent cremation. However, the claimants may choose to engage a contractor to carry out the exhumation privately at their own expense.
Notwithstanding its decision to redevelop part of Bukit Brown, the Government has expressed its affirmative interest in capturing the history and heritage of the affected graves by partnering key stakeholders in the community. The documentation project 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.
With the LTA’s announcement of the final alignment of the new road across part of Bukit Brown Cemetery following the completion of topography studies and grave identification works, it seems apparent that the dead have made way for the living in the name of development, a decision which we would have to explain to our children and the future generations to come.
Credits: Photo taken from http://mymindisrojak.blogspot.sg/2012/03/road-that-will-cut-through-bukit-brown.html