Group making bid to save Sembawang Beach

by Neo Hui Min,
The Sunday Times, 22nd June 2003


Sembawang Beach: Times Past

The story of two rivers

Birds of Sembawang

List of sightings

Proposed Land Reclamation at Sembawang Beach

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Feedback to URA by Margie Hall


Wee Sau Cheng's letter to ST (Unpublished)


Goh Si Guim's letter to ST (Unpublished)


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  Singapore Heritage Society and regular visitors are trying to garner support to stop reclamation plan that may spell beach's end

SEMBAWANG beach, popular with families and fishermen who once lived in nearby coastal villages, may disappear if a plan to reclaim land in Simpang and Sembawang goes ahead.

Members of the Singapore Heritage Society and regular visitors to the area are trying to drum up support from people who oppose the reclamation through walks to the area. They are also giving feedback to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which said further detailed studies will be done before the reclamation is carried out.

Ms Margie Hall, a member of the society, pointed out that the area is important to the local community, especially to those who once lived there. 'The Government talks about building up people's rootedness to places in the recent URA Identity Plan. This is exactly the kind of place that should be left alone, because it has an identity. 'It means something to people who used to live around here. They often come back to use the beach,' she said.

Ms Nora Abdul Rahman, 38, knows what Ms Hall means. She was born and bred in Sembawang, and moved out when the land where her zinc-roofed home stood was acquired by the Government. The pre-school teacher lives near a bigger beach now, at Pasir Ris, but she still returns to the Sembawang beach at least twice a month. 'It's not about a bigger or a better beach with more amenities. It's what a place means to you. Sembawang is my home and when I feel homesick, I go back there,' she said. 'Everything about old Sembawang has been taken away except for this beach. I don't want them to do anything to it, just leave it alone.'

At least three kampungs were located near the beach, and the population was relocated mainly to nearby Woodlands, Yishun and Sembawang new towns in the 1980s. Beyond the former local community's sentimental links to the place, Ms Hall pointed out that the fishing jetty, which stretches out from Beaulieu House to the sea, is an important historical landmark which may be lost to reclamation. The jetty looks plain, even ugly. But its construction was started by the British in the early 1940s. When the Japanese invaded and took over the island in 1942, they completed it. 'It would be a shame to get rid of such a historically interesting structure,' said Ms Hall.

Visitors told The Sunday Times they had no clue about the reclamation plan. Madam Jameah Ghani, 47, a housewife in Yishun who often goes to the beach, with her husband, daughter and nephew, was surprised to hear of the reclamation. She said: 'They need more land? It will be a pity if the beach is gone. It's a good place to relax; it's like our neighbourhood beach.'