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Deferment & progress at Chek Jawa
Dec 2001 - Jan 2002 and develpoments since

Pre-forum seminar: "What happened at Chek Jawa?"

For the National Youth Environment Forum Biodiversity and the Environment Caucus

Saturday, 26th August 2006 Lecture Theatre 25: 9am - 11am Faculty of Science National University of Singapore See map at

Welcome by N. Sivasothi


1."What happened at Chek Jawa." An overview – N. Sivasothi

The events surrounding Chek Jawa mark a significant milestone in nature conservation and spontaneous consultation between the public and the government of Singapore. Many individuals and groups came forward to participate in the discovery, study, public education and feedback exercises during this time. This overview highlights some but not all, of the main efforts and elements that contributed to the deferment of reclamation there and comments on volunteer management lessons from that experience.

2. "Speaking up for Chek Jawa" - Joseph lai

Joseph Lai will share, for the very first time, his personal struggle in facing up to the challenge of speaking up and taking action for the cause of Chek Jawa. He will recount his personal journey of knocking on doors for help and introduce to you some of the key persons who came onboard for the conservation of Chek Jawa. His keynote address will be: Be Not Afraid, Sincerity Will Find A Way, Work The Grounds And Be Resilient in Adversities and Seeming Failures, Put Your Best Foot Forward But Remain Rational And Wise ˆ Love The Journey But Let Eventuality Take Its Own Coarse, Be Hopeful To The Last, and Be Prepared To Be The Last Man Standing: That's Being True To Your Beliefs. It is a tested formula anyone can ascribe to when facing any kind of challenges for oneself or others.

3. "How we shared Chek Jawa" - Ria Tan

Ria was heartbroken when she first saw Chek Jawa about six months before it was due to be reclaimed. Already a volunteer guide at Sungei Buloh, she decided to bring as many people as she could to see Chek Jawa before it was gone forever. Friends, family, total strangers, people who happened to be hanging around Ubin jetty. Anyone was fair game! She joined the Raffles Museum's Public Education Walk effort as an executor, organising the logistics for the walks, working on the Chek Jawa website, managed registrations, uploaded her photo galleries and organised a roving public exhibition of photos of Chek Jawa. She also supported other efforts, including Joseph Lai's transect. It was a huge surprise to her when reclamation was deferred! Ria learnt from this experience, the importance of guiding and a personal introduction to the habitat. She also realised the power of the internet in raising awareness. It is only when people feel something for the habitat that they will feel moved to do something for it.

4. "From research to education" – N. Sivasothi

Staff and volunteers of the Raffles Museum are amongst the last to see many sites in Singapore which has seen a long history of development of coastal sites since the time of the British. The function and importance of a museum's work in salvage surveys is explained and the reason why an island called Pulau Seringat led to the large scale public education exercise at Chek Jawa.

5. "Answering the call" - Zeehan Jaafar

Recruited to help with the salvage operation at Chek Jawa, my task was to collect fishes using a beach seine net, a method I frequently use to study coastal fishes. It was surprising that the waters at Chek Jawa were very rich indeed, and unlike no other site in Singapore. With the closure of Chek Jawa approaching, I was one of the marine guides who shared stories about marine life with the public. It was heartening to see Singaporeans genuinely interested in our natural history and the encouragement they gave to their children as well. In 2004,  I co-led a team of 60 volunteers for the Chek Jawa Transect 2004 and now participate in the annual coastal clean-up of the mangroves there.

6. "Chronicles of Chek Jawa" - Chua Ee Kiam

Ee Kiam was fascinated by Chek Jawa the moment he set foot on the site. He photographed it tirelessly but with time running out, he brought individuals to Chek Jawa to help them discover a jewel in Singapore's midst. He was featured in a ChannelNewsAsia broadcast about the site, talking about the importance for Singaporeans to get to know their land and heritage. He worked hard at a book about Chek Jawa, thinking it to be an eulogy, but with news of the deferment of reclamation there, it turned into a celebration! Special about this book was a partnership with students of Tanjong Katong Secondary School, with help from the Raffles Museum, to celebrate the launch of the book

7. "A partnership with stakeholders" - Wong Tuan Wah.

Wong Tuan Wah watched the events fold at Chek Jawa unfold perhaps with some disbelief. The National Parks Board provides scientific input to government decision about nature sites and in this case, he was witnessing a growing possibility of deferment of reclamation at Chek Jawa. He has since discussed the process with other senior civil servants and also chairs the Chek Jawa Working Group which provides news and receives feedback from stakeholders. He will share how NParks has balanced public's interest and impact at Chek Jawa and how development there is being handled.

8. Final Words - Leo Tan

Leo Tan watched the events of Chek Jawa unfold, compared it against previous experiences and offered words of wisdom and experience to those who came to seek it out. He has a holitic prespective of the issues and able to put things into perspective. He has always encouraged young people, whether marine biologists, teachers or naturalists  and will provide a personal and holistic reflection of the morning's proceedings.

About the speakers:

Joseph Lai, is a father of a 13-year-old son. He is a botanist by training and an avid explorer of the wilderness and he is best known as 'discovering' Chek Jawa on a field trip at Pulau Ubin in December 2000. He subsequently raised the issue of its conservation at a public forum and went on to conduct a transect study of the site which he submitted to the authorities. In 2002, he submitted a feedback document about the heritage value of the Changi trees which led to the discovery of Hopea sangal, which has been listed as an extinct tree. Nature conservation and education are his key concerns. He loves to write and provides his own platform for outreach with a personal website he named To make ends meet, he takes on nature guiding as a full-time career. He loves walking long distance and swims at least 2 times a week at the public pool. He is a light-hearted but down-to-earth person and is an icon for public feedback in the environment.

Joseph's webpage:

Ria Tan is founder of which covers all nature issues in Singapore, providing daily updates on nature events, blog entries on nature in Singapore and local and global media articles on the environment. Ria also volunteers as a guide at at Sungei Buloh, the Central Nature Reserve, Singapore Botanic Gardens and supports many nature groups in Singapore. She works closely with NParks on conservation issues. Ria is now visiting and photographing the rest of Singapore's shores and helped set up public guided walks on Kusu Island and Pulau Semakau. She initiated an effort to film the shores and is currently in the midst of writing a guidebook for all Singapore shores. After the deferment at Chek Jawa, Ria led a team that published the Chek Jawa guidebook, mentored the volunteer guiding system at Chek Jawa and help publish the Guidesheet to the Southern Shores. In 2003, she was one of the first two individuals conferred the Raffles Museum Honorary Museum Associate in recognition of her contributions. She is the Deputy Director, Corporate Affairs at the Centre for Strategic Infocomms Technologies.

Ria's webpage:

Zeehan Jaafar is the current chairperson of Blue Water Volunteers and a graduate student at the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore. She has been an active volunteer with the Raffles Museum for more than half a decade now. Zeehan was initially involved in the salvage survey of Chek Jawa, helping to compile an inventory of the organisms found there. She was part of the group of first marine guides at Chek Jawa and was a major contributor to the guidebook. In 2004, she co-led, trained and organised a team of volunteers to carry out a survey of Chek Jawa. Zeehan hopes to see increase in awareness of local nature areas and gears most of her public outreach to meet that aspiration.

Blue Water Volunteers webpage:

Chua Ee Kiam is photographer and book writer extraordinaire, having published several books on nature areas in Singapore including one of Chek Jawa. He wants to make a statement with his photography and pursues this passion with a mission. He constantly challenges himself ad believes everything is possible if one tries hard enough. He dares and wants to be different. He believe that opportunities are always available if one recognises them and grasps them fast enough. Chek Jawa became a platform for his focus on the conservation of nature. He canvassed for its preservation was involved in an outreach effort for youth. He actively involves like-minded people in his work and enjoys working with people. In 2003, he was one of the first two individuals conferred the Raffles Museum Honorary Museum Associate in recognition of his contributions. Dr Chua Ee Kiam is a Senior Consultant at the National Dental Centre.   Ee Kiam's:

Wong Tuan Wah is the Director of Conservation of the National Parks Board. He was trained as a Forester in Canterbury, NZ and completed an MSc (in Environmental Forestry in Wales. He has worked in the National Parks Board since 1981. As a Director (Conservation) he oversees the management issues in the Nature Reserves (namely, Sg Buloh Wetland Reserve, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment NR), and Pulau Ubin Recreation Areas (including Chek Jawa). Included in his portfolio is the management of Istana Domain and NParks' Biodiverstiy Centre which advises the government on issues related to biodiversity conservation. He also chairs the Chek Jawa Working Group, a group that updates stakeholders and receives their feedback about developments at Chek Jawa. Tuan Wah is a keen swimmer, scuba diver and underwater photographer.

Webpage of National Parks Board:

Leo Tan is a marine biologist, educator and public servant who has served various appointments including Chairman of National Parks Board and Director of the National Institute of Education, NTU. He is no stranger to conservation action in Singapore having argued passionately for the conservation of Labrador Rocky Shore which was one of two nature reserves, the only two since Singapore's independence, which was announced to a surprised comunity in 2001.

Leo Tan's webpage at NIE:

N. Sivasothi, a.k.a. 'Otterman' has a special interest in otters and tree-climbing crabs . While his museum work includes education, database, research, publications and expeditions, he has also been a volunteer nature guide since the 1990's conducting walks and talks, workshops, writes articles and setup webpages/blogs on nature, heritage and the environment with Habitatnews as the flagship. After he led the Raffles Museum's salvage surveys at Chek Jawa in Jul-Aug 2001, he decided to use the area to lead a massive public education exercise. Through the internet and field trips on the ground, volunteer marine guides shared the beauty and wonders of Tanjung Chek Jawa with thousands of Singaporeans. Recognising the need for a youthful injection in the the conservation scene, he started a museum volunteer corps called Toddycats!, and this group has expanded many of the nature, heritage and environment projects, and now reached even more people.

Sivasothi's webpage:

Background Reading

  1. "Chek Jawa—Lost Forever?" By N. Sivasothi. [link] Asian Geographic: The Journal of Our Environment, Sep-Oct 2001. - About the discovery of Chek Jawa , its biodiversity and issues and activities on Chek Jawa.
  2. "Deferment of reclamation works at Tanjung Chek Jawa!" By N. Sivasothi Habitatnews 2001-31. MND Press release and comments.
  3. "Pulling together to turn the tide for Chek Jawa." By Lydia Lim. [link] The Straits Times, 29 Dec 2001 - About the various efforts that contributed towards the deferment of reclamation at Chek Jawa.  
  4. "Reprieve for rustic Ubin." By Lydia Lim. The Straits Times, 15 Jan 2002. - Reclamation at Pualu Ubin put off entirely.  Alternative site found on mainland for military use
  5. "Govt open to feedback on conservation issues." By Lydia Lim The Straits Times, 15 Jan 2002
  6. Chek Jawa Webpage [] - site set up in 2001 to host the photo galleries, Public Education programme, testimonies and news.