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Ubin Day 2020: A Celebration of Biodiversity Conservation and Community Initiatives for Ubin

25 Sep 2020

Ubin Day was launched in 2002 as a celebration of the rich natural and cultural heritage of the island. Today, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration announced key findings from the first Comprehensive Ubin Biodiversity Survey and a reforestation project involving the community that the National Parks Board (NParks) will be embarking on as part of the One Million Trees movement. He also provided updates to the floating wetlands project at Pekan Quarry and community initiatives undertaken by NParks and the Friends of Ubin Network members.

 

Annexe A: 20 NEW SPECIES OF FAUNA RECORDED IN FIRST COMPREHENSIVE UBIN BIODIVERSITY SURVEY (CUBS)

– Including one species of spider new to science

Twenty new species of fauna were recorded during the first comprehensive biodiversity survey conducted on Pulau Ubin. This includes the Piranthus sp., a spider species that is new to science discovered at a secondary forest on the island.

Other exciting discoveries include six new species of fauna recorded for Singapore and 13 species recorded for Pulau Ubin. They are:

Ubin flora and fauna 

These new records add to the diverse biodiversity at Pulau Ubin and underscore the importance of conserving its rich natural heritage. 

CUBS commenced in January 2018 and since then, field surveys for the taxonomic groups, reptiles, amphibians, birds, butterflies, orthopterans (grasshoppers, crickets and katydids), spiders, odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) and hymenopterans (bees, wasps and hornets) have been completed. The survey is in progress for the other taxonomic groups including phasmids (leaf and stick insects), mammals and moths and it is targeted for completion at the end of this year.

Over 200 NParks staff, researchers from the National University of Singapore and citizen scientists from nature groups such as the Vertebrate Study Group of the Nature Society (Singapore), Herpetological Society of Singapore, Entomological Network of Singapore and Butterfly Circle have taken part in more than 165 field surveys that make up the CUBS.

Findings from the survey will enable NParks to update Pulau Ubin’s biodiversity baseline data and its species inventory. This will allow NParks to better manage the island and plan for future research, habitat enhancement and species recovery projects.

 

ANNEXE B: REFORESTATION PROJECT ON UBIN TO INVOLVE THE COMMUNITY AS PART OF THE ONE MILLION TREES MOVEMENT

The National Parks Board (NParks) will be embarking on a reforestation project starting with three sites on Pulau Ubin under the Nature Conservation Masterplan* (NCMP) thrusts of habitat enhancement and restoration. The aim is to enhance biodiversity and ecological connectivity between these areas and the core forests abutting them.

The sites, Balai Quarry South (10 hectares), Sungei Teris (5 hectares) and Jalan Jelutong (1 hectare), were previously used for granite mining and aquaculture, and have since been abandoned. Sites that have been restored in the past include Jalan Noordin, Jalan Endut Senin, Jalan Wat Siam, Sensory Trail Pond, Ketam Mountain Bike Park & Chek Jawa Wetlands.

More than 16,000 trees from over 70 native species will be planted progressively at these sites. They include the Small-leaved Nutmeg (Knema globularia), Malayan Spindle Tree (Bhesa paniculata), Sea Trumpet (Cordia subcordata), Collared Fig (Ficus crassiramea) & Jack-in-the-Box Tree (Hernandia nymphaeifolia).

Currently, the sites are covered with non-native invasive plant species and do not support a high diversity of wildlife. Efforts to remove invasive species and restore the areas with native trees will provide additional habitats for the local biodiversity on Ubin such as the Greater Mousedeer, Sumatran Palm Civet, Leopard Cat, Sunda Pangolin and various species of birds, bats and butterflies to thrive. These wildlife species have been observed using reforested sites as new habitats for roosting and foraging.

Members of the public can participate in community tree planting at these sites as part of the One Million Trees movement. For more information, please visit the TreesSG Portal (www.nparks.gov.sg/treessg). 

 

About the One Million Trees Movement

The One Million Trees movement is a key component of efforts to further extend nature into our urban landscape as we transform into a City in Nature. It aims to redouble Singapore’s efforts to green its urban infrastructure on an unprecedented scale, to achieve the vision of making Singapore a City in Nature. As the lead agency for greenery in Singapore, NParks will work with the community to carry out the One Million Trees movement to plant more than a million trees across Singapore over the next 10 years. This will take place throughout the island, including streetscapes, gardens, parks and park connectors, nature reserves and nature parks, bringing the number of trees in Singapore from the current 7 million to more than 8 million over the next 10 years.

Since its launch in April, more than 200 stakeholders have already pledged their support to the movement, including the Friends of the Park communities, Community in Nature schools, Community in Bloom gardeners, NParks volunteers, nature groups, corporate partners and other organisations. Corporations and other organisations have also made commitments to contribute to the movement via the Plant-a-Tree programme through NParks’ registered charity, the Garden City Fund (GCF).

Members of the public who wish to find out more about the One Million Trees movement can visit the TreesSG portal. Besides signing up for upcoming activities such as online webinars, members of the public will be able to register interest and receive updates about the movement through a mailing list. The public can also find out more about urban trees in Singapore as well as share, tag, and upload photos and stories from their tree planting experiences via the interactive online platform. NParks has also developed a suite of social media filters that the public can use to share their experiences of participating in the movement.

Garden City Fund

Corporate entities that wish to sponsor tree-planting efforts can continue to do so via the Garden City Fund’s Plant-a-Tree programme. They can donate to the cost of trees and plant these themselves or enable schools and other community groups to plant on their behalf. Through these community initiatives, individuals and organisations can play an active role in building a City in Nature, for future generations to enjoy.

 

ANNEXE C: FRESHWATER WETLAND HABITAT AT PEKAN QUARRY

Pekan Quarry is home to many wetland species that reside on Pulau Ubin. To further enhance Pekan Quarry as a habitat for herons and other biodiversity, NParks had piloted a floating wetlands system at the quarry in 2015. Since then, herons, kingfishers, waterhens, otters, as well as dragonflies and damselflies have been observed to be using these floating wetlands.

Adapting the HDB Floating Wetlands System

Previously, the floating wetlands (total 20 sqm in size) consisted of two layers of materials – floating mat and filter mats made of hand-woven coconut fibre nettings filled with loose coconut fibre, and one layer of plants, anchored to the bottom of the quarry. The filter mats have moisture and nutrient retention properties, thus supporting plant growth. However, this system is not able to support heavy weight, and thus nesting structures cannot be installed.

NParks has combined the organic materials used in the previous floating wetlands with a more robust system that was developed and patented by the Housing & Development Board (HDB), known as the Floating Wetlands System. Inspired by the organic form of honeycomb, the system comprises hexagonal-shaped modules that interlink to create a light-weight honeycomb structure with high strength and rigidity. Made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), each module can bear a load of up to 80 kg.

A geotextile layer has been laid over the modules for soil media and planting. Along the edges of the modules, floating mats have been used to soften edges and create a sloping effect down to the water. This allows the planting to extend to the water and enable easier access for wildlife onto the wetlands. By using this enhanced system, the floating wetlands are more suitable to support habitats for wetland fauna as well as nesting structures for birds.

More than 6,000 of the floating modules have been deployed at Pekan Quarry to form three clusters of wetland platforms, and a fourth cluster with 10 nesting structures for herons. The total size of the new floating wetlands system is more than 4,000 sqm, increasing the size of the floating wetlands at Pekan Quarry to cover about 20% of the quarry’s water surface.

 

ANNEXE D: COMMUNITY-LED EFFORTS FOR UBIN TO IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY AND ASSIST VILLAGERS

The community plays an important role in the efforts to conserve the rustic charm, biodiversity and cultural and natural heritage on Ubin. The National Parks Board (NParks) along with other members of the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN) and the Siglap Constituency Office (Siglap CO) have been working with NParks on conservation and outreach work and in meeting the needs of the villagers.

A) Friends of Ubin Network

FUN is composed of passionate individuals representing the different aspects of Pulau Ubin. The members represent diverse stakeholders including nature groups, heritage groups, villagers, students and academics. Since its formation in 2014, FUN has led and contributed to several ground up initiatives including assisting the Ubin villagers.

Accessible Ubin

Assisting wheelchair-bound villager

A villager, who was wheelchair-bound after an operation in March 2020, needed assistance with transport back to Ubin on his day of discharge in April. NParks partnered with FUN members from Accessible Ubin to help transport him from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to his home in Ubin. NParks also arranged for two nurses from the Home Nursing Foundation to visit the villager to follow up on his healthcare needs and provide caregiving training for his wife. Together with Accessible Ubin, NParks facilitated the villager’s transport for his medical appointment and return in May.

Accessibility Plan

NParks and Accessible Ubin group have been working on an Accessibility Plan which aims to make Pulau Ubin more accessible for people from all walks of life. A part of the plan includes constructing a wheel-chair friendly floating pontoon jetty at Ubin Living Lab. Since 2019, NParks has been engaging the community, stakeholders and agencies on the design of the floating pontoon jetty. The design of the jetty is being finalised.

Improvements to taxi stand

Students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Design and Environment initiated a project to improve the island’s makeshift “taxi stand” where van drivers rest and wait for passengers. The team consulted the van drivers on their needs and incorporated the feedback gathered to design the shelter. The project was supported by FUN and was well-received by the Ubin community. The upgraded shelter, while retaining its rustic identity, included an extended roof to protect drivers from the elements and a new notice board.

B) NParks’ Community Liaison Team

In August 2019, NParks set up a dedicated Community Liaison Team (CLT) to support and meet the needs of villagers. Through active engagement with the villagers, the team gathers feedback and collaborates with grassroots organisations and other agencies to coordinate the improvement of facilities and services to meet community needs. From time-to-time, they also facilitate requests from the villagers and their families to repair or restore some of the kampung houses, in addition to other projects such as repairing the tracks leading to villager houses, removing bulky items for disposal, and providing rubbish bins and extinguishers.

Kampung house repair project 

One of the projects undertaken by the CLT is the repair of kampung houses at the request of the villagers and their next-of-kin. The CLT started with works for eight kampung houses and the team carried out safety inspections and started works such as roof repairs, strengthening of the foundations, to ensure that the houses are safe for occupancy while retaining their rustic character. As of September 2020, two houses have been repaired. This is an ongoing project and NParks will continue to assess the requests from other villagers on a case-by-case basis

House 239 

House No. 239 was completed in November 2019. The licensee of the house had passed on and NParks had restored the house for structural safety before the licensee’s next-of-kin took over. The house was given a fresh coat of paint, and had its roofing sheet, timber roof rafter and timber members replaced. The floor was also repaired and the electricity cables for the entire house was rewired

House 760D

The occupant of House 760D had requested for NParks’ assistance with improving the structure of her house as the repairs required were extensive. NParks facilitated the reconstruction of damaged water tank structures and replaced the ceiling board, damaged floor structures and beams. As House 760D is a house bearing traditional Malay architecture and design, NParks also consulted Malay architectural expert, Dr Imran bin Tajudeen, to sensitively improve the structure and retain its traditional design.

Organising health checks for villagers

In January 2020, the CLT partnered with the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) for eight volunteer nurses to conduct basic health checks such as blood pressure tests, health counselling and health assessment for 22 villagers. In February 2020, the CLT also worked with a geriatrician to provide free health consultations for 13 villagers.

In February 2020, CLT worked with the Siglap CO to distribute masks to villagers on Ubin. During the circuit breaker period, the team facilitated another round of distribution of reusable masks and hand sanitisers. CLT also supported stakeholders’ efforts to give back to the Ubin community. Private outdoor camp companies FutuReady ASIA and Innotrek, which conduct programmes in Ubin distributed WeCareKits comprising items such as surgical masks and hand sanitisers to the villagers, including bumboat operators, taxi van drivers and shop operators.

Safeguarding animal health on Ubin with SOSD Singapore and private vets

Ops Vax Lyssa is an annual event organised by the Animal & Veterinary Service, a cluster of NParks, to provide free rabies booster vaccinations for dogs that live on Pulau Ubin and on fish farms. Between 13 and 15 November 2019, nine AVS and private veterinarians and volunteers from animal welfare group SOSD Singapore visited Pulau Ubin to provide booster vaccination, microchip, take blood samples and license dogs belonging to Ubin villagers. The CLT distributed circulars and conducted outreach to Ubin residents to ensure that their dogs are protected from rabies and encouraged them to license their dogs as responsible pet owners. 15 dogs have since been licensed, up from three in 2018. 

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Last updated on 08 February 2021

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