Editorial in the Straits Times, 6 Jan 02
Now that the
mud flats of Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin, one of Singapore's few unspoiled
nature spots, have got an eleventh-hour reprieve from land reclamation,
let not the unmitigated curiosity of stampeding hordes kill it.
Unless the visitors take care, they could 'love this place to death',
as the National Park's chief Dr Tan Wee Kiat aptly put it.
This is precisely the danger Chek Jawa now faces because of the publicity
it got in recent weeks following the Government's decision to heed the
call of nature lovers and defer its reclamation for military use.
Chek Jawa can be a lesson in conserving the environment in a land-scarce
city-state when people learn to respect nature and not abuse it.
It would be ironical if the rich marine life in Chek Jawa gets trampled
to death, or is plundered by those who cannot resist taking home a piece
of coral, or the sea anemones, sponges and starfish.
The truth is that the more visitors Chek Jawa gets, the greater the danger
of damaging the natural habitat there. But its rich marine life can be
enjoyed without it being unduly endangered if those who visit the island
observe the rules to protect the place. The Nature Society has volunteered
to work with the authorities on this. There should be designated paths
and boardwalks can be built.
For how long will Chek Jawa be deferred from reclamation, the National
Development Ministry does not say. Clearly, it is keeping its options
Chek Jawa also faces another threat if reclamation in other parts of Pulau
Ubin despoils it. Careful thought should thus be given to the island's
The hope is that Chek Jawa can be kept the way it is for as long as it
makes sense to preserve its biodiversity. It will be worth the trouble
because Singaporeans have something to learn from conservation.