Monday 15 June 2015

Living Lab for Pulau Ubin by December 2015

Integrated facility will support researchers studying wildlife and biodiversity on island
By Carolyn Khew, The Sunday Times, 14 Jun 2015

A new integrated lab facility equipped with scientific equipment to help researchers and students study Pulau Ubin will be ready by the end of the year.

The Government will also enhance biodiversity on the island with the completion of some initiatives by December to help local fauna thrive.

These moves, which were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last year, are aimed at helping the island to retain its rustic charm.

If you did not manage to join us for Ubin Day today, fret not! Another day of fun activities await you on Pulau Ubin...
Posted by Ministry of National Development on Saturday, June 13, 2015

Yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said the new research facility, called the Ubin Living Lab, will help support various research activities being undertaken on the island.

Two buildings at the former Celestial resort will be refurbished for the facility.

When this first phase is completed, the lab will have seminar rooms that can accommodate about 100 people, a field laboratory and 12 beds.

An additional National Parks Board site office and an outdoor campsite will be set up at the facility as well.

The lab will have fridges to store animal specimens and other samples.

The second phase of the development will include providing potable water and electricity through renewable energy sources.

Mr Lee noted that many researchers are currently unable to store the samples they collect, and do not have the facilities to carry out proper research and identification of species on Pulau Ubin itself.

"They have to go back to the mainland. Once they have the Ubin Living Lab, they can operate out of this facility, and (this) will enable them to better study and support our biodiversity," he said at the Ubin Day event yesterday.

Apart from the lab, several initiatives will be rolled out to enhance the biodiversity of wildlife on Pulau Ubin.

These include species recovery programmes for bats and birds, mangrove reforestation, and a floating wetland at Pekan Quarry to provide nesting and roosting sites for birds.

Since 1998, the National Parks Board has issued more than 300 research permits to schools, tertiary institutions and international researchers.

Mr Joseph Koh, an honorary research affiliate at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, who has been studying spiders on Pulau Ubin for decades, said the Living Lab will be helpful for researchers.

"It will make a very fundamental difference because, if you want to do proper studies of spiders, you need to do night collection. You have to stay overnight as many spiders are active at night," said the 66-year-old.

"What's more important is that this will also allow scientists to reach out to teachers and students so they can learn about the wildlife here."

Yesterday, while on Pulau Ubin, Mr Lee, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan and Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman also spent the afternoon with Siglap residents as part of Siglap Day, which was held together with Ubin Day this year.

Initiatives to enhance biodiversity
By Carolyn Khew, The Sunday Times, 14 Jun 2015


Two bat houses, or enclosed areas for bats to roost, will be built in Jalan Noordin, a mangrove habitat, and Bukit Belukar, a forest habitat.

Spanning 3m to 5m in width, these structures provide roosting sites for existing bats such as the Ashy Roundleaf Bat (Hipposideros cineraceus) and the Lesser False Vampire Bat (Megaderma spasma).

They may also attract new bat species to the island.

Nesting areas will also be built for three uncommon bird species on Pulau Ubin. They are the Red-wattled Lapwing, the Baya Weaver and the Blue-throated Bee-eater.

A prototype nesting box to simulate burrows for the Blue-throated Bee-eater will be set up at Ketam Quarry by the end of the year.


A prototype of the floating wetland, about 20 sq m in size, will be installed by the end of the year.

This will provide nesting and roosting sites for herons and also benefit other creatures such as dragonflies, kingfishers and frogs.


A pilot mangrove restoration project will be sited on a former aquaculture farm at the south-eastern part of the island.

What have we been up to on day 2 of #ubinday? Here's a roundup of events. We hope that you enjoyed #ubinday 2015 as much as we did!
Posted by Ubin Day on Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pulau Ubin's place in local hearts and history
By Jean Chia And Chua Ai Lin, Published The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2015

IT WILL be Ubin Day again today, when the island has an open house for visitors.

At last year's Ubin Day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the need to document the island's cultural heritage in order to "honour our past, treasure our present and shape our future".

PM Lee's remarks reflect the Government's growing recognition of the importance of heritage awareness.

Earlier this year, the National Heritage Board (NHB) commissioned research on Pulau Ubin which includes an oral history project and video documentary. Concurrently, the agency is embarking on an unprecedented nationwide survey of the country's tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Cultural self-knowledge is important. Despite Ubin's accessibility, we know startlingly little about its rural culture.

The island's rudimentary infrastructure means that different skills are required to live there, and it is precisely these skills that distinguish the culture of Ubin from that of the mainland.

What special knowledge is required on a day-by-day, or season-by-season basis? What leads someone to live on Pulau Ubin? What is life like when the weekend crowd disappears?

One might be surprised to learn that, despite the island's size and dwindling number of residents, there are unique environmental and ecological practices, human-animal relations, settlement patterns, community networks and religious traditions that characterise "island life".

In the context of contemporary Singapore, these characteristics become particularly fascinating for citizens and tourists alike.

Over the years, there have been efforts to document the nature and history of Pulau Ubin. NParks has recorded and indexed the island's biodiversity with help from nature group volunteers.

These efforts have paved the way for conserving and even reviving some of the plant and animal species familiar to the island. In addition, NHB has previously commissioned historical research on Ubin, which will allow us to install heritage walking trails and informative signs at historically significant sites.

With the right mix of diligence and building code allowances, we may even be able to conserve and restore some of the climate-appropriate architectural heritage in the area.

However, we still do not have enough "cultural data", that is, information on the way people live on the island. There is no comprehensive study of the traditions and practices of Singapore's last remaining island community.

Hence, we know little about the livelihoods of Ubin's residents and the contemporary challenges they face. Without this information, it is difficult to know what to conserve, how development should proceed or assess how residents (and visitors) would be affected by development plans.

We do know that life on Ubin has never been static.

Before colonialism, Ubin was home to the indigenous, riverine, semi-nomadic Orang Seletar (people of the Seletar River), who fished and harvested from the forest and mangrove swamps along the Seletar River and the Johor Strait.

Following the arrival of the British, the population increased to serve the needs of the larger Singapore island. From granite quarries to farming and agriculture, parts of Ubin were linked to various economic industries on the mainland.

In the 1980s, farming practices and communities began to diminish, and Ubin became a place of recreation and tourism.

Pulau Ubin holds particular significance for Singaporeans. A visit to Ubin is to go "back in time" to an era before public housing and mass rapid transit.

There is very little motorised traffic to mask the sounds of nature and local architecture in the form of timber houses built by villagers themselves is well suited to the tropics before the era of air-conditioning.

Residents use well water (though visitors consume water brought from the mainland), and diesel generators are the primary source of power (or in the more experimental present, solar panels and biodiesel generators).

As our nation matures, we need to acknowledge the continuance of the past in our present. Beyond merely documenting cuisine, cooking techniques, "traditional" customs or "dying" trades, the nationwide survey on Singapore's cultural heritage must study how the national narrative of progress has encompassed the lives of Singaporeans over the years. This would include recognising the significance of our cultural loss.

As we sow the seeds for our future, it is critical not to underestimate the value of such self-understanding.

Discussions over Pulau Ubin's future are closely tied to the larger question of how we understand ourselves and the role we play in shaping our own future.

Is ours a root-less future without any consideration of our proud past, or is it a future arising from a shared history?

Ubin presents a wonderful opportunity for Singaporeans to be involved in shaping a way forward that considers our cultural heritage. We would be wise to take it.

Jean Chia is an anthropologist and member of the Singapore Heritage Society, where Chua Ai Lin is president.

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