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Ubin gets reprieve
by Joy Frances, TODAY, 15 Jan 02

While offshore islands like Pulau Semakau and Sentosa have fallen under the developer's bulldozer, Pulau Ubin has escaped urbanisation.

Yesterday, the Ministry of National Development (MND) decided that all reclamation work was to be deferred on the 1,019 hectare island enclave.

This was to protect the "fragile ecosystems" at the now-famous mudflat Tanjong Chek Jawa, said the MND in a statement.

The ministry said the decision came after assessing reports submitted by the Nature Society, as well as experts from the National Institute of Education, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and other interested individuals.

"Reports ascertained that if reclamation must 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", said the MND.

It explained that the reclamation of such a "small" area was not cost effective and it would put its plans on hold.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) 2001 Concept Plan had shown a road running from mainland Singapore to Pulau Tekong and through eastern Pulau Ubin. Housing and recreational development were also part of the plan.

What probably halted all redevelopment works was the public concern that came after the URA said reclamation work was to start on Chek Jawa at the end of last year. Mindef was planning to use the mudflat at the island's eastern tip for its "training needs".

Nature lovers were worried that the rustic island would be transformed into "another Pulau Tekong", an offshore island used by Mindef for training.

The movement to save Chek Jawa resulted in the Government's decision last month to reconsider its plans for the 50-hectare beach.

National Development Minister Mr Mah Bow Tan said yesterday that Singaporeans were custodians of the land for future generations. The minister said he had seen families appreciating the marine life at the beach.

So are nature lovers appeased by the MND's latest decision?

Mr N Sivasothi, a research officer at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, thinks the result was a good one, saying: "The government cannot make promises for the next 100 years."
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