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  Straits Times 8 Jul 07
Chek Jawa's back

Channel NewsAsia 7 Jul 07
35 new plant and animal species recorded in Singapore

NParks Press Release 7 Jul 07
New Amenities At Chek Jawa Wetlands Now Open
From 8 July 2007, Visitors Can Tour Chek Jawa Seven Days A Week

Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development, today launched several new amenities at Chek Jawa Wetlands, Pulau Ubin.

To be opened to the public from Sunday, 8 July 2007, these new amenities will allow visitors to conduct their own DIY tour of Chek Jawa every day of the week.

These include a visitor centre with a viewing jetty, a boardwalk (Mangrove and Coastal Loops) that is more than 1 km in length, and a 20-m viewing tower called the Jejawi Tower.

They will constitute part of a long-term sustainable visitor management plan to protect the rich biodiversity there.

Speaking at the event, Minister Mah said: ”While we have developed very rapidly as a city to keep up with global economic competition, we have not forgotten to set aside green spaces and nature areas to create a quality living environment.

Through such efforts, we have managed to conserve a very rich biodiversity in our densely populated urban environment.

To protect the fragile ecosystems at Chek Jawa and yet allow visitors to enjoy it, the Government invested S$7 million to put in place a sustainable visitor management plan for Chek Jawa. We have built new amenities, so that more people can visit this treasure trove.”

Prior to this, visits to Chek Jawa were controlled to minimise impact to the fragile ecosystems.

A few times each month during low-tide periods, guided walks were organized for a small number of visitors. Since 2002, over 20,000 visitors have benefited from this interim visitor management plan.

Now, visitors will be able to conduct their own DIY tour to appreciate the rich biodiversity at Chek Jawa seven days a week, between 8:30am and 6.00pm.

Visitors who still prefer to go on the guided walks can check the dates of availability on the NParks website at www.nparks.gov.sg and call Tel: 65484108 to register.

New Amenities: Visitor Centre (House No. 1) Located at the entrance of Chek Jawa, the visitor centre was converted from a Tudor-style house built in the 1930s.

Fondly known as House no. 1 (its postal address in Ubin), the building was awarded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in December 2003, and was carefully restored.

One of the unique features of the house is its genuine fireplace, which is probably the only one left in Singapore. The fireplace is no longer in use and is closed off as a family of Pouched Tomb bats currently reside in the chimney of the house.

Another rare species of Malayan False Vampire bats can also be found in an old water tower just beside the house. The water tower and the bats were not disturbed, and a new water tank was constructed for use instead.

The HSBC Gallery on the ground level of the visitor centre features a rescue tank and educational exhibits. The rescue tank simulates the natural environment at Chek Jawa including the high and low tides. It serves as a temporary habitat to help injured marine organisms recover before being released back into their natural habitat.

The educational exhibits include information panels and interpretive displays that depict the history and beauty of the natural heritage in Chek Jawa.

The other facilities in the house include a refreshment corner on the ground level (which will be ready at a later date) and a workroom and research room on the upper level for NParks volunteers and nature lovers to carry out nature-related activities such as research and networking sessions.

New Amenities: Boardwalk and Jejawi Tower

From the visitor centre, visitors would be able to access two routes, the Coastal Loop (600m) and Mangrove Loop (500m) boardwalk with lookout platforms, a floating pontoon, and shelters.

Educational panels and directional signs have been installed along the boardwalk to enhance visitors’ experience. Visitors would be able to complete both routes in about one and a half hours.

Along the way, visitors will be able to climb the seven-storey high (20m) Jejawi tower to view the tree canopy, or observe the biodiversity, such as birdlife. The viewing tower is named after the native tree (Malayan Banyan) that grows just beside the tower.

Green Mark Gold Award The new amenities at Chek Jawa were developed with minimal impact on the environment. The use of environmentally friendly features in the design of the new amenities earned the Chek Jawa Wetlands development the Green Mark Gold Award.

This includes the use of simulated timber for the planks of the boardwalk, as well as energy efficient lights, motion sensor lights, and solar powered battery cells.

The design of the visitor centre also made use of natural ventilation and daylight.

Partnership With People and Private Sectors

The plans for the project were developed by the Chek Jawa Working Group, which was established in 2002. The Group comprises representatives from NParks, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Nature Society Singapore, and Singapore Environment Council.

At the event, Minister Mah highlighted that the public has benefited from the efforts of this Group, as well as the many dedicated volunteers, groups, and organizations such as HSBC.

In line with their commitment to nature conservation and education, HSBC contributed S$800,000 towards the Pulau Ubin Conservation Fund for various initiatives, including the setting up of the Ubin-HSBC Volunteer Hub, the HSBC Gallery and the educational signage along the new boardwalk that depict the story of Chek Jawa and its fascinating inhabitants.

To encourage continued partnerships, Minister Mah said: “Moving forward, the people-private-public sectors need to continue this close partnership to sustain our precious natural heritage. This is the only way to ensure that our future generations too can enjoy the treasures that we have today.”

Channel NewsAsia 7 Jul 07
35 new plant and animal species recorded in Singapore

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said 35 new plant and animal species have been recorded in Singapore in an ongoing two-year survey by National Parks and its volunteers. Seven other species, thought to be extinct, have also been rediscovered.

And now, nature lovers can go on DIY tours of the Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin after new facilities were launched by Mr Mah on Saturday morning. These facilities include a visitor centre with a viewing jetty, a boardwalk and a viewing tower.

Altogether, S$7 million have been invested by the government to protect the fragile eco-systems at Chek Jawa. Environmentally friendly features have also been integrated into the designs, such as energy-efficient lights, motion sensor lights and solar-powered battery cells.

Reclamation plans on Chek Jawa were put on hold in 2001, following appeals by nature lovers. Since then, more than 20,000 people have visited it.

Significant care was taken to ensure construction work on the new facilities did not affect the wildlife there.

Mr Mah said: "During the conversion of the former British cottage into the visitor centre, extra care was taken to protect a family of rare Malayan False Vampire Bats that had made the old watch tower its home for many years.

"To protect these bats, the old watch tower was left untouched and a new one was constructed. A family of Pouched Tomb Bats was also found roosting in the chimney of the cottage. Work near the chimney was carried out with extra care. I understand that both species of bats are still around." - CNA/so

Straits Times 8 Jul 07
Chek Jawa's back

Nature lovers will be happy to learn that the wetlands at Pulau Ubin have reopened after recovering from heavy rains
By Tay Suan Chiang

NATURE lovers can once again head back to the Pulau Ubin wetlands enclave of Chek Jawa from today. The nature preserve has reopened to the public after being damaged by heavy rains several months ago.

Freshwater rains had upset the wetlands' saltwater balance, resulting in the widespread death of marine creatures such as sea anemones, seastars and sponges.

Tours conducted by the National Parks Board (NParks) were stopped in March to let the 100ha of wetlands recover.

'Recovery is still ongoing and we are slowly seeing the return of affected marine life,' says Mr Robert Teo, an assistant director who heads the Pulau Ubin department of NParks' conservation division.

Sea anemones have returned, though Mr Teo says sea stars and snails have yet to come back.

Today's reopening of the area - located at the eastern end of Pulau Ubin, about 3km from the island's public jetty - marks a new era for the wetlands, too.

Unlike before, people going there no longer need to join the free guided tours conducted by NParks. These were conducted only a few times each month during low spring-tide periods.

Now, visitors can go to Chek Jawa themselves daily between 8.30am and 6pm.

Guided tours will still be conducted during the low spring-tide periods.

And there are a host of new amenities to check out, the result of the Government pouring $7 million into a visitor management plan for Chek Jawa. These include a 1.1km boardwalk, a 20m-tall viewing tower and a visitor centre with a viewing jetty.

The wetlands are unique as several ecosystems can be seen in one area - sandy beach, rocky beach, seagrass lagoon, coral rubble, mangroves and coastal forest.

There are several ways to view them. For example, the new boardwalk running along the coast and into the mangrove area allows visitors to get up close to plant and marine life such as fiddler crabs and monitor lizards, without damaging the area.

Special care was taken to construct the boardwalk, which is made from concrete but simulated to resemble timber.

NParks' Mr Teo says that doing this is more environmentally friendly as it cuts down on the use of wood while still retaining its natural feel.

And a seven-storey viewing tower called the Jejawi tower allows visitors to view the tree canopy and observe birdlife such as the Collared Kingfisher and Straw-headed Bulbul.

At the visitor centre, which was converted from a Tudor-style house built in the 1930s, visitors can learn more about Chek Jawa's wildlife.

The area was originally slated for land reclamation but was saved by nature groups.

NParks took over Chek Jawa's management in 2001 and about 20,000 visitors have gone on its tours since 2002.

Marketing director Sarah Wong, 35, cannot wait to take her three children there. 'They will be able to see nature instead of just playing computer games,' she says.

Getting there

Pulau Ubin

The island is situated off the north-eastern corner of mainland Singapore. Visitors can go there by taking a 10-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal near Changi Village. The boat fare is $2 per person one way (plus an extra $2 for a bicycle if you are taking one there).

Chek Jawa

On arrival at the Ubin jetty, visitors can hire a van for about $2 per person one way, or rent a bicycle from the main village. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the area. Or they can take a 40-minute walk to Chek Jawa.

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