Floating wetlands in Pulau Ubin to be expanded, more amenities for wheelchair users

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee with Mr Albert Liu, from the Accessible Ubin team, who is holding an artist's rendering of a ramp for wheelchair users on June 29, 2019. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - Bird enthusiasts and nature lovers will soon have more to enjoy in Pulau Ubin, where floating wetlands will be vastly expanded to provide more habitats for various species of migratory birds.

The mangroves at abandoned aquaculture ponds in the south-eastern part of the island will also be restored.

These are part of plans announced by the National Parks Board (NParks) on Saturday, which will also see improved accessibility to Pulau Ubin for wheelchair users.

Starting next month, the floating mats in Pekan Quarry will be combined with hexagon-shaped modules developed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) so that the wetlands will have organic and natural shapes.

The floating modules are able to withstand heavier loads of up to 80kg each, so that nesting structures can be incorporated for herons.

More than 6,000 floating modules will be used to form three clusters of wetland platforms, and another platform where 10 nesting structures for herons will be installed.

This will increase the size of the floating wetlands from 20sqm to around 4,000sqm by the middle of next year.

NParks is also working with the National University of Singapore to restore the mangroves in the abandoned aquaculture ponds. The team will provide the right natural conditions for mangrove species to be regenerated so that they have a better chance of self-sustaining in the long term.

NParks will improve existing floating wetlands to provide additional habitats for wildlife, such as herons, crakes, rails and kingfishers, by the middle of next year. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Besides the conservation efforts, NParks will improve accessibility to Pulau Ubin for wheelchair users and those with low mobility.

One idea is to retrofit bumboats plying the route between Changi Point Ferry Terminal and Pulau Ubin, as well as vans on the island, with portable ramps or platforms.

A wheelchair-friendly floating pontoon jetty will also be built at Ubin Living Lab, which has calmer waters and facilities to accommodate wheelchair users and persons with low mobility.

The Lab is an integrated facility for field studies, education and research, and community outreach located at the former Celestial Resort site on the south-west of the island.

The detailed design phase for the jetty will commence in the third quarter of this year.

The present Pulau Ubin Jetty is difficult for those who are wheelchair users to cross over from the bumboats. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

NParks and the Accessible Ubin group have consulted wheelchair users who have visited Pulau Ubin and volunteer welfare organisations. Accessible Ubin is a ground-up initiative to make the island more inclusive, safer and accessible to the elderly, families and wheelchair users.

The plans were announced on Ubin Day 2019 on Saturday, a culmination of Pesta Ubin, a festival organised by NParks, Friends of Ubin Network members, and the community.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who opened Ubin Day 2019, said: "Pesta Ubin continues to see strong support from the community in its eighth year... We saw a total of 4,500 people take part in 47 activities over the course of six weeks, including kayaking, nature walks, bird watching, cycling, crafts, and more."

A learning symposium to be held later this year will enable teachers to exchange ideas on how their students can learn more about the island's cultural and natural heritage.

NParks has also formed a Community Liaison Team to gather feedback from Pulau Ubin residents on various issues, address their concerns, and connect them to relevant services and assistance.

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