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Pulau Ubin coast faces erosion risk

Ministry plans to carry out study to help it design control and restoration measures

Published on Aug 24, 2014 7:35 AM
 
Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee doing his part at the reforestation initiative on Pulau Ubin yesterday. He says that one solution to tackle the island's fast-eroding northern coastline could be to install breakwaters. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Pulau Ubin's northern coastline is fast being eroded by tides and currents.

If left unchecked, the island could lose parts of its coastal forest and mangroves.

To turn the tide, the Ministry of National Development plans to carry out a study to establish the extent of erosion, the types of vegetation affected and the impact it will have on hydrology.

Speaking at a reforestation initiative on the island yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said the study will help it "properly design restoration measures and erosion control measures".

One solution could be to install breakwaters, he said.

The fast-eroding shoreline is one of several pressing needs facing the 10.2 sq km island, which is about the size of Changi Airport.

Another is to fix the dilapidated buildings on the island, some of which have fallen into disrepair due to neglect.

Capturing the stories of the island's remaining 38 elderly dwellers is another urgent matter, Mr Lee said.

That is why the ministry has been gathering ideas from different Ubin interest groups and stakeholders on how to preserve and enhance the island's rustic character and natural environment, while sensitively providing access to the public. This intention was first announced by Mr Lee in Parliament in March.

Since then, the Friends of Ubin Network has been set up - comprising nature groups, heritage groups, academics, anthropologists, sports enthusiasts and artists. It has met twice so far.

The group and other stakeholders have suggested ideas to address these issues, such as by carrying out a "cultural mapping" of the village there.

Suggested by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS), it would involve documenting, extracting and understanding the historical, economic, social and religious layers that used to exist and those that are still practised on the island.

SHS president Chua Ai Lin said cultural mapping goes beyond a historical study of an area, looking also at patterns of everyday life, to see how the different facets come together.

"It's really about the conditions of the people and the social, cultural, economic systems, networks and ways of life, from a holistic viewpoint," she said.

"Putting such ground-up data together can mean more informed policymaking."

Some have also suggested building a field research centre for scientists and nature lovers to set up camp. This could serve as an outreach point for people interested in learning about Singapore's biodiversity and the island's history.

Others have called for greater access to nature and nature-based recreation.

Mr Lee said: "So for those who say leave Ubin alone, we need to certainly at least deal with these things to prevent the island from falling into disrepair."

melodyz@sph.com.sg

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