Monday, October 25, 2010

The Civil Servant by Roger Jenkins

When surgery’s a necessity, who hesitates?
When it’s an option, well,
that takes some thinking, doesn’t it?
So it was with the river.
we lived with it for years, you see,
its notorious whiff of decay,
the bankside scum and lighter congestion,
the quaint unloading of the boats
a nostalgic reminder of a way of trade
backwatered by containers and computerization.
When the PM said, “In ten years time
let us have fishing in the Singapore River.
It can be done,” well – it had to be.
But how? A labour of Hercules lay before us.
A river is a system fed by many streams;
clean the rivers meant clean most of the island.
A major operation.
When we began The Clean Rivers Campaign
we felt as if the surgeon had cut open the belly
to find the cancer spread through the body.
It involved so many – from environment,
health, sewage, drainage, housing,
pollution control, primary production –
oyou can imagine the problems of co-ordination.
And the result?
Farewell Bugis Street, goodbye Chinatown.
Relocate the bumboats to Pasir Panjang.
Resettle hawkers, close down the pig farms,
rehouse squatters far from their communities.
These were the costs we couldn’t count.
Luckily, the river’s a marvelous patient:
stop the infection and it heals itself.
“After the rains, fresh blood flows in old veins.”
Now the city’s heart pours its cleaner, greener waters
through a body working ever harder,
transformed in the ‘90s into – well,
a human, leisure-friendly environment,
yet incomplete.
The river’s renewal made the body whole
but in the process we misplaced its soul.
We can’t devise an action plan for that,

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