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Reprieve for rustic Ubin
by Lydia Lim, the Straits Times, 15 Jan 02

One-line version on Straits Times Interactive

Reclamation put off to preserve Chek Jawa
Alternative site found on mainland for military use

Rustic Pulau Ubin, which had been earmarked for reclamation, will be left intact for at least 10 years. This is to preserve Chek Jawa, a beach at the island's eastern tip, in its natural state, the Ministry of National Development said in a statement yesterday.

A multi-billion-dollar project, approved in 1992, would have destroyed the beach and killed the many marine creatures that live there to create 3,310 ha of land at Singapore's north-eastern islands of Ubin and Tekong.

By not reclaiming Ubin at all, the Government will forego about 270 ha of land, the equivalent of five Bishan Parks, slated for military use.

MND reached its decision after consulting scientists and interested individuals from the National Institute of Education, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and the Nature Society.

They had recommended that if reclamation were to be carried out, it should be limited to only a very small area of Pulau Ubin, in order not to harm the 'fragile ecosystems' at Chek Jawa.

But the ministry came to the conclusion that it is not cost-effective to reclaim such a small area. It has, therefore, decided not to proceed with reclamation works at Pulau Ubin 'for as long as the island is not required for development', the statement said.

MND also announced that the National Parks Board would set up a committee comprising representatives from the Nature Society, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and other experts to work out a 'comprehensive plan' to maintain Chek Jawa's unique ecosystem. Among other things, the panel would look into the provision of amenities like board-walks and trained guides. It would also conduct research to monitor the health of the marine animals and plants.

When asked how long Chek Jawa would be safe from development, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan replied: 'I don't expect Ubin to be needed for development for a long time to come. But I think we have to keep our options open.'

At an interview in his office yesterday, Mr Mah also said that his ministry was not ready to discuss the gazetting of Chek Jawa as a nature area. 'I don't think we are in a position yet to make that decision. We'll leave that decision to the next 10 years, when we do our next Concept Plan,' he said. The Concept Plan, Singapore's blueprint for long-term land use, is reviewed every 10 years. The next review is due in 2011.

Meanwhile, to make up for the shortfall in land from not reclaiming Ubin, the Urban Redevelopment Authority has found an alternative site on the mainland for the Defence Ministry's use.

In addition to the land lost, Mr John Wei, the Housing Board's chief civil engineer, said there will also be 'cost implications' to varying the original reclamation contract. HDB is the Government's reclamation agent. A joint venture between Japanese firm Toa Corporation and Belgian company Jan Denul was due to start reclaiming Pulau Ubin last month. However, MND called for a halt to the works, following feedback on Chek Jawa's rich biodiversity.

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