Saturday, 6 December 2014

Pulau Ubin's rustic nature will be maintained

A day dedicated to one of Singapore’s last kampungs

After more than a decade, Ubin Day makes a comeback this year with a myriad of activities aimed at showcasing the island’s natural flora and fauna.

It was first started by Grant Pereira, currently of The Green Volunteers, in conjunction with the Singapore Environment Council in 2002. Ubin Day was last held in 2003.

In this 2014 revival, nature lovers are banding together to organise activities that are mostly free to attend or participate in, with some also requiring pre-registration.

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Pulau Ubin receives makeover after more than 2,000 suggestions
The rehabilitation of Pulau Ubin was based on more than 2000 suggestions from the public, November 30, 2014

As part of the island’s habitat enhancement programmes, floating wetlands and nesting platforms will be installed at the Pekan Quarry to encourage the nesting and roosting of birds like the herons. Amenities such as boardwalks will also be built to allow visitors to observe the biodiversity in the area. Members of the public can expect to visit the area by the third quarter of next year.

Working with Friends of Ubin Network (FUN) members, NParks has also identified areas for reforestation. This includes the ongoing reforestation at Tanjong Tajam, where a 3 ha of land–about the size of four football fields–was damaged in a bushfire in March.

Apart from selecting certain species of mangrove plants, orchid and seagrasses for its recovery programme, NParks will also target its recovery efforts on certain bird species, such as the Baya Weaver and the Red-Wattled Lapwing, bats and otters that are mostly found only on the island.

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Pulau Ubin to have new centre for research & education
It was first started by Grant Pereira, currently of The Green Volunteers, in conjunction with the Singapore Environment Council in 2002

Shoreline restoration, habitat enhancement, species recovery, cultural mapping and a new centre for research and education are among some of the initiatives that the Government will roll out in a bid to sustain the rustic charm of Pulau Ubin.

The initiatives were proposed by and refined in consultation with the public through The Ubin Project, which has garnered more than 2,000 ideas and suggestions since it was announced in March.

In the next few years, the National Parks Board (NParks) will carry out a study aimed at protecting and restoring the shoreline at Ubin and set up a new centre to support various educational objectives and outreach programmes.

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Enhancing natural habitats, recovery efforts among initiatives for Pulau Ubin
A quary at Palau Ubin on Nov 30, 2014. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

A series of initiatives and programmes for Pulau Ubin over the next few years were announced today (Nov 30), including enhancing the natural habitats in the area, recovering species of plants and animals and setting up an upcoming centre for field studies.

Speaking on a tour of the island during Ubin Day today, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that a vision of Ubin that will honour our past, treasure our present, and shape our future has been developed collectively.

Pointing to the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint that was launched earlier this month, Mr Lee noted that every individual has a part to play in creating a more sustainable environment.

Govt unveils plans to better protect Pulau Ubin
Celestial Resorts in Pulau Ubin has been closed since 2013 and will be one of the upgrades in the Ubin Project. Photo: Geneieve Teo

Plans are afoot to better protect and restore Pulau Ubin’s nature and heritage spaces, with the Government announcing its first phase of initiatives yesterday.

These plans, culled from over 2,000 ideas and suggestions gathered through the Ubin Project launched in March, include enhancing natural habitats to support recovering species of plants and animals — which will provide opportunities for volunteers and the community to be involved in research and the establishment of habitats — and setting up a centre for field studies.

Guidelines will also be developed to restore existing buildings and structures on Pulau Ubin. Given the loss of coastal habitats and vegetation due to the erosion of the island’s shoreline, the National Parks Board (NParks) will also be calling for studies to identify long-term measures to protect and restore the shoreline.

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Sustaining Pulau Ubin's rustic charm
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cycling at Pulau Ubin during Ubin Day, which celebrates the different facets of the island

Habitat enhancement, species recovery, shoreline restoration and a new centre for research at Pulau Ubin are some of the initiatives to help retain and enhance the island's rustic charm. The plans were unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Nov 30).

He was speaking at Ubin Day - a community event to celebrate the different facets of the island organised by community groups including Team Seagrass, Nature Society (Singapore) and Butterfly Circle.

For example, habitat enhancement programmes will focus on establishing wetlands for the nesting and roosting of birds such as herons. The first prototype of the floating wetlands at Pekan Quarry can be expected in the third quarter of next year. There are also plans to build observation points and boardwalks for visitors.

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Singaporeans can play a role in retaining Pulau Ubin's charm, says PM Lee
Cyclists touring Pulau Ubin on Ubin Day. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

The Government, working with the community, will roll out a series of initiatives to retain Pulau Ubin's charm as a rustic haven over the coming months.

These include studies that tackle the erosion of its shoreline, which has receded by as much as 40m in areas in northern Ubin, to planting trees and supporting the recovery of endangered bird species.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, who is overseeing the effort, said these are just the first wave of ideas thrown up by the Ubin Project that are being put into action.

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Rustic Ubin - A Step Back In Time
A kampung house, made from wooden planks at Pulau Ubin. Some residents on Pulau Ubin were fearful they would be evicted after receiving a letter in April. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LENNE CHAI

The future of Pulau Ubin was raised in Parliament today, after a near-scare in April where 22 households received what they thought was an eviction notice.

There are currently no development plans for the island, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman reassured the House.

“Our intention is to keep Pulau Ubin in its rustic state for as long as possible, and as an outdoor playground for Singaporeans,” he added.

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Portraits of island life over the years
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