Mindef to return Sembawang Hot Spring land to State: Ong Ye Kung

The Sembawang Hot Spring, the only one on mainland Singapore, is currently found within a military camp. Residents can get to it by entering a gate along Gambas Avenue and walking down a path for about 100m.
The Sembawang Hot Spring, the only one on mainland Singapore, is currently found within a military camp. Residents can get to it by entering a gate along Gambas Avenue and walking down a path for about 100m.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has agreed to return back to the State the land that the Sembawang Hot Spring is on, said Senior Minister of State for Defence Ong Ye Kung yesterday.

The hot spring, the only one on mainland Singapore, currently sits inside a military camp. It can be accessed by entering a gate along Gambas Avenue and walking down a path for about 100m.

"The place is small. It is rustic but small. It is also very charming but desperately lacking in amenities... there is no toilet there," said Mr Ong, who was speaking at a seminar where Malay young people discussed ideas to shape Singapore's future. "So after some discussion, Mindef has agreed to give up the land... and return it to the State," he said.

He hopes the National Parks Board (NParks) will take over and help to maintain the hot spring, improve the facilities and "maybe beautify it a bit".

Putting the place under a public agency means that the land will not be tendered out to the highest bidder and become commercialised, he said. Instead, its rustic charm can be preserved while putting in small conveniences and more greenery.

Ms Kartini Omar, NParks' senior director of parks development, said the agency is working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore Land Authority and Mindef on the feasibility of using the area as a park.

President of the Nature Society (Singapore) Shawn Lum said: "It's great if the hot spring goes to NParks, whose mandate is in recreational outreach and education. Many of us can benefit from learning more about its geological features."

Earlier this month, Mr Ong's fellow MP in the Sembawang GRC, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, had suggested in Parliament that the area where the hot spring is located can be developed into a national hot spring park.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee had said then that his ministry is "studying if we can sensitively enhance the area, in line with existing natural features, heritage and land use".

He added that if the area was to be developed, it must retain its rustic characteristics.

Melissa Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Mindef to return Sembawang Hot Spring land to State: Ong Ye Kung'. Print Edition | Subscribe