Growing Alongside Our Greenery
Singapore may be a bustling urban metropolis, but lush greenery and trees continue to line our roads and the island is dotted by several precious reserves of nature. The National Parks Board (NParks) is responsible for maintaining our green spaces, ensuring that Singapore remains truly a City in a Garden.
25-year-old Ong Chong Ren has been enamoured with nature since he was a young boy. His frequent visits to places like Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir Park and the Singapore Botanic Gardens developed into an enduring interest in all things green. And after being dazzled by the stunning array of plants at one particularly memorable garden exhibition, Chong Ren decided to realise his passion in his own home, growing heliconias and orchards in his backyard.
“I play an active role in shaping Singapore’s urban landscape and coming up with new, innovative solutions to manage green spaces.” – NParks Scholar Ong Chong RenAn Empowering Scholarship
Chong Ren went on to apply for and receive the ,NParks Undergraduate Scholarship, which enabled him to pursue a Bachelor of Science with majors in Plant Science and Ecology & Evolution at the Australian National University, Australia.
He shares, “This course was close to my heart and allowed me to further my fascination with plants. The opportunity to carry out plenty of outdoor fieldwork and observe plants and animals in their amazing habitats was a true selling point for me. The scholarship gave me an opportunity of a lifetime, allowing me to study overseas and then return back home to an exciting career.”
Chong Ren adds enthusiastically, “I feel blessed simply to be working in my field of interest! I now play an active role in shaping Singapore’s urban landscape and coming up with new, innovative solutions to manage green spaces.”
A Fertile Learning Journey
Chong Ren has enjoyed immense opportunities for growth since taking up the NParks scholarship. As a Manager (Streetscape), he is a part of various workgroups in NParks. He explains, “One such group is the Operations Productivity Workgroup. It is tasked to reduce labour and increase productivity in landscape operations and greenery maintainence, a particularly eye-opening experience for me.
“The workgroup provided me with insight into how policy decisions are translated into strategies, before finally being implemented at an operational level. The work I do for these workgroups also gives me a sense of fulfilment in knowing that every bit of effort brings Singapore one step closer to being a City in a Garden.”
Chong Ren has also learnt how to skilfully negotiate conflicts that arise between differing public expectations and the need to protect Singapore’s natural flora. He shares, “Different individuals may have different attitudes towards greenery – some feel very strongly about protecting trees while others may not have very high tolerance for issues such as leaf shedding. In most cases, when I share about the importance of greenery in our environment, we manage to forge a compromise that is acceptable to all parties.”
Moving forward, Chong Ren can expect to enjoy more enriching opportunities as part of NParks efforts to develop him as a scholar. He says earnestly, “I hope to be able to experience as many aspects of the organisation as possible to achieve a more holistic view of how NParks works. Eventually, I would like to spend some time working at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Horticulture Standards and Management or the Policy and Planning divisions.”