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  Channel NewsAsia , 29 Apr 05
$7m plan unveiled to enhance Chek Jawa experience
By Julia Ng

Adventure seekers, outdoor and nature lovers can look forward to more amenities at Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin by next year. This is thanks to the $7 million Pulau Ubin Conservation and Management Plans launched on Friday.

Since Chek Jawa was discovered in 2000, some 6,000 people have visited the marine trove known for its rich bio-diversity. The place, however, is open only a few days a year - when the tide is low enough for the public to go on a guided tour. Last year, 400 guided tours were conducted but there's still a long waiting queue.

Nature lovers are also worried that the public could 'love Chek Jawa to death', trampling over the fragile ecosystem.

To solve this problem, the National Parks Board is building a 7-storey viewing tower at Chek Jawa. It's also building shelters and a boardwalk with lookout platforms.

National Parks Board chairman, Professor Leo Tan, said: "It will be built with minimal damage to the environment, with the experts advising the National Parks. Secondly, once the boardwalk is constructed, it would ensure that we can have many people enjoying Chek Jawa without trampling all over the sensitive life forms. It will be broad enough for people to walk all the way down, and it's only for people who are very serious about research or want to look at the life forms close up."

A unique Tudor-style cottage will also be restored and turned into a Visitor Centre for Chek Jawa Wetland. A 14.4-ha bike park at Ketam Quarry will also be built by September 2006, along with a campsite the size of 7 football fields.

To manage the influx of visitors, the island's former community centre will be converted into the Ubin-HSBC Volunteer Hub. HSBC has donated $800,000 to the Pulau Ubin Conservation Fund.

HSBC CEO, Paul Lawrence, said: "There has been a great deal of fun. We've been planting trees, we learnt something about the environment and we fulfil our role within the community." "We're delighted to partner the NParks and the government to provide support, volunteers and some cash and assistance.....more of a long-term commitment to making Chek Jawa successful!" he added.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said: "Pulau Ubin itself has the potential for more visitors. It's one of our last remaining rustic spots in Singapore. It's very good for adventure seekers, mountain bikers, and later on when we open up the quarry, there'll be further adventure sports that we can organise here." - CNA/ir

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