Champion of the environment
Dr Geh Min is a respected eye surgeon but she is far better known as one of Singapore’s foremost conservationists. Granddaughter of philanthropist Lee Kong Chian and great-granddaughter of rubber tycoon Tan Kah Kee, a love for nature was part of her family legacy. Her father, banker Geh Ik Cheong, took her on deep-sea fishing expeditions and jungle walks. The exposure to nature left a permanent impression.
Occasionally participating in the activities of the Nature Society when she was an undergraduate, she got more involved in the 1990s when the organisation started a lobbying arm. In 2000, she became the Nature Society’s first female president and remained at its helm until 2008.
As president of the organisation, she forged paths of communication and collaboration between government and civil society. Her work led to successes such as the preservation in 2001 of the Chek Jawa Wetlands off Pulau Ubin. The area, which boasts great bio-diversity, was due to be turned into a military training zone but the plan was called off after submissions by conservationists.
Min has served on numerous committees related to the environment. As a Nominated Member of Parliament from 2004 to 2006, she spoke extensively on issues such as climate change, alternative energy sources, nature conservation and the need for a strong civil society. In 2007, she led Singapore’s delegation to the Citizens of the Earth conference in Paris.
Min continues to be involved in environmental conservation, adding her voice to discussions about issues such as the Railway Corridor, the long strip of land where the railway to Malaysia used to be, and Bukit Brown, the cemetery where some of the graves of Singapore’s early Chinese immigrants are being exhumed to make way for a road.
In 2006, for her contributions to environmental sustainability, Min was one of three recipients of the inaugural President’s Award for the Environment. She also received that year the Stellar Award from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
“I would like to be remembered as someone who tried to make the environment a better place for future generations.”