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Saving Chek Jawa
Editorial in the Straits Times, 6 Jan 02

Now that the mud flats of Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin, one of Singapore's few unspoiled nature spots, have got an eleventh-hour reprieve from land reclamation, let not the unmitigated curiosity of stampeding hordes kill it.

Unless the visitors take care, they could 'love this place to death', as the National Park's chief Dr Tan Wee Kiat aptly put it.

This is precisely the danger Chek Jawa now faces because of the publicity it got in recent weeks following the Government's decision to heed the call of nature lovers and defer its reclamation for military use.

Chek Jawa can be a lesson in conserving the environment in a land-scarce city-state when people learn to respect nature and not abuse it.

It would be ironical if the rich marine life in Chek Jawa gets trampled to death, or is plundered by those who cannot resist taking home a piece of coral, or the sea anemones, sponges and starfish.

The truth is that the more visitors Chek Jawa gets, the greater the danger of damaging the natural habitat there. But its rich marine life can be enjoyed without it being unduly endangered if those who visit the island observe the rules to protect the place. The Nature Society has volunteered to work with the authorities on this. There should be designated paths and boardwalks can be built.

For how long will Chek Jawa be deferred from reclamation, the National Development Ministry does not say. Clearly, it is keeping its options open.

Chek Jawa also faces another threat if reclamation in other parts of Pulau Ubin despoils it. Careful thought should thus be given to the island's development.

The hope is that Chek Jawa can be kept the way it is for as long as it makes sense to preserve its biodiversity. It will be worth the trouble because Singaporeans have something to learn from conservation.

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