Turn Ubin into ecotourism spot?

Regular visitors to Pulau Ubin hope to see as little government intervention as possible. But NMP Faizah Jamal pointed out that some structures, including abandoned kampung homes, are crumbling.
Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - Pulau Ubin could be promoted as an ecotourism destination, a biodiversity hub or a village where Singapore residents weary of the city can go to relax.

Such were the suggestions in response to the Government's call on Monday for views on how to "sensitively" protect and enhance the isle's rustic character and natural environment.

"We will consult and engage widely. And we will not rush, because the process is as important as the outcome, and we want to hear from as many Singaporeans as possible," Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament on Monday.

The 10.2 sq km island, about the size of Changi Airport, has seen its population dwindle from 2,000 in the early 1950s to just 38 today. But it still draws over 300,000 visitors every year, more than the average of 104,000 who go to isles like Kusu.

Nature groups and experts said more can be done to tell visitors how unique Pulau Ubin is. It could also be made into a biodiversity hub or an ecotourism spot.

Indeed, Pulau Ubin is unique, said nature enthusiast Ria Tan, 52, as it is one of the last few offshore islands with ecosystems no longer common in Singapore.

"It is home to an intact spectrum of habitats, where inland forests merge into mangroves, leading to mudflats, sandy shores and seagrass meadows," she said.

The isle's habitats, heavily affected by activities like granite quarrying, can do with some sprucing up though.

Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum suggested enhancements such as reintroducing rare plant species and those that have disappeared.

Even as individuals and groups suggested how to enhance the isle off Changi, most also stressed that its charm should be kept.