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  Today Online, 29 Apr 05
The Ubin adventure begins
Jasmine Yin

AS one of the rare rustic areas in a built-up Singapore, Pulau Ubin has the potential to be a popular destination for nature and adventure lovers. The vote of confidence came from National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, who launched the Pulau Ubin Conservation and Management Plans on the island on Friday.

About 300,000 people visited the island last year, which the minister said was "quite amazing". "Pulau Ubin has the potential (to attract) more visitors. It is one of our last rustic spots, very good for adventure-seekers and mountain-bikers and later on, (if we) open up the quarries, there will be other adventure sports that we can organise here," he said.

The emphasis will be on attracting Singaporeans, but no target figure has been set. The island "cannot support that many more visitors, but it will do what it can to give visitors a different kind of experience", Mr Mah said.

The bid to develop the island starts with a $7 million project at Chek Jawa Wetland, a popular attraction on the island. A 2.5km-long, 2.2m-wide boardwalk cum trail will be built over land and sea at the ecologically-rich mangrove swamp. It will also have lookout platforms and shelters for the public to enjoy the area's biodiversity.

Assuring nature lovers that the construction of the trail to be completed by the end of next year will not adversely affect the area's ecosystem, National Parks Board chairman Professor Leo Tan said: "We have already done an environmental impact assessment, so that we build with minimal damage to the environment. Once the boardwalks are constructed, many people can enjoy Chek Jawa without trampling on the sensitive marine environment."

Other developments in the pipeline include a 7.5-hectare campsite in Jelutong, a 14.4-hectare bike park at Ketam Quarry and the conversion of a Tudor-styled English cottage into a visitor centre.

To promote conservation on Pulau Ubin, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) yesterday donated $800,000 to set up the Pulau Ubin Conservation Fund. Of this, $250,000 will go into setting up the Ubin-HSBC Volunteer Hub, a one-stop information centre to promote and facilitate nature volunteerism and outreach programmes.

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