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Loving Chek Jawa to Death
Lydia Lim, the Straits Times, 29 Dec 01

On-line version on Straits Times Interactive

Crowds flocking there are threatening the survival of its natural habitats, so NParks is stepping in with visiting rules.

Chek Jawa is in danger of being ruined as a haven for marine creatures because too many people are visiting it within a short space of time.

The beach at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin was granted a reprieve last week, after members of the public urged the National Development Ministry to review a reclamation project there.

A unique collection of six different habitats including mud and sand flats, mangrove swamp and coral rubble, Chek Jawa has, in the past few months, drawn hundreds of visitors during weekends.

They go to see the area's rich collection of marine plants and animals, such as sea anemones, sponges and various types of starfish.

They trample all over the mud and sand flats, without realising that they are destroying the marine habitats that are the source of the area's bio-diversity.

A small number of visitors also collected animals and plants to take home as souvenirs, not knowing that the creatures will die and cause a stench.

Some nature lovers have even seen one or two people using sharp objects to jab the anemones and cut up the starfish.

The National Parks Board (NParks) has decided that before the damage becomes irreversible, it must step in to help the Nature Society and other volunteer guides control the crowds.

Dr Tan Wee Kiat, chief executive officer of NParks, said: 'We hate to be the agency that comes in to regulate enthusiasm about nature, but then, you can really love this place to death.'

From today, all visitors to Chek Jawa will have to follow certain ground rules. Those who plan to visit the beach today or tomorrow should check in at the NParks information desk, located at the basketball court opposite Pulau Ubin Community Centre.

Next month, there will be eight days with low tides in the afternoon : Jan 11 to 14 and Jan 27 to 30. Those who wish to visit then should call NParks at 542-4108 to book their slots on a first-come-first-served basis. This is to prevent over-crowding.

Once at Chek Jawa, there will be guides to take visitors on a 45-minute-long walk along a designated route. This will ensure that everyone gets a chance to view a variety of marine creatures without destroying their habitats. Visitors should wear proper footwear. They should not litter, touch or collect any plant or animal specimens.

Dr Tan said these guidelines are necessary to make sure that Chek Jawa, which was saved because of public feedback, is protected for the long-term enjoyment of Singaporeans. 'It would be such a tragedy if the public ruins what is going to be saved for them,' he said.
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