If you have been to Ubin recently, you may have noticed that the coast line near the Jetty and Ubin Town looks nothing like the original forested area it was 6 months ago. Instead, it looks very much like the parks we find often in the new towns and parks on the mainland.
A new look spotted from the Jetty. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005
Ria explained to me that a new campsite located near the Jetty and Ubin Town would be potentially a good thing as the litter and crowd would be limited to an area that is already seeing a lot of traffic and prevent a more mature and undisturbed forest nearer inland to suffer under the chainsaw. However, I cannot help but feel a sense of loss as I see the fallen trees.
Before - a secondary albizia forest. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005
Despite the reassurance that having a campsite would provide a steadier flow of tourist and camper income for the locals, I will always feel a personal connection with the albizia trees. Albizia trees are logically an expendable species as they are the fastest growing trees in the region, growing up to 7m a year and would only last 30 years before they would fall over and die.
After - a scene of albizia destruction. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005
As such, the wood is very light and therefore often used to make matchsticks and boxes. It is also one of the few trees I actually see my mother recognizing on our trip to Ubin. She actually excitedly asked me without prompting what I call those trees - pointing to the Albizias. Seeing how I did my research on Albizias when contributing to Pedal Ubin guides' notes, I was similarly excited that my mom recognized my "favourite" tree on Ubin.
According to her, my greatgrandmother told her that those are called "bak bong" in teochew or some chinese dialect. If I'm not wrong, that translates to matchstick tree! How logical. In fact, she reminisce that there were a big forest of albizia opposite her house in the Ban Gang and Pineapple Hill area where she was grew up.
Looking into the future, making way for a manicured garden catering to recreational users and a campsite by the sea. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005
It is rather exciting that with increased facilities for camping combined with the slacker camping rules, the number of people going to Ubin may now increase and hopefully would as such revitalize the island's dwindling population and economy. Even for a previous resident like my mother, she feels that the facilities, such as the resort for example, available on Ubin should be more heavily marketed and tourism could potentially reinject the bustling life that the island used to see.
Native plants or something else? Photo by November. 11 Jul 2005
Still, with regards to the slaughtered albizias, it is instead replaced with some saplings and bushes that do not seem to promise the shade that trees promises. In a discussion with another pedal ubin guide, I questioned if "manicured" gardens planted by NPark could possibly be rehabilitated with indigenous or native plants, she replied that perhaps they are unmanageable! From what I do know, that may not necessarily be a problem. According to the Singapore Green Plan, one of the suggestions is to ensure that nature reserves are replanted with indigenous species, so why not even the regular parks we have, or at least that on Ubin which is right beside the thriving "wild".
Albizia has been argued not to be indigenous to Singapore. In its stead, some interesting maize-looking plants have been planted. I shall find out the species of these plants and if they are indigenous. I do know from my dad's observation that these plants can be found locally. He calls the maize-like plant the wood-bead plant as the seeds can be turned into beads! I have a small collection sitting on my table.
Quasi beads from the "wood beads plant". Photo by November. 11 Jul 2005