By Tan Hui Leng, TODAY
16 April 2007
The Government’s initiative to restart the granite quarry on Pulau Ubin will have little impact on residents and the environment.
Two ministers gave this assurance yesterday to allay fears that excavation works will damage the rural charm of the island.
Singapore is exploring local sources of granite after Indonesia detained several barges carrying the material to Singapore.
National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that the decision to open up the Kekek Quarry is to keep the Republic’s options open.
“(It’s) not so much to make up for the shortage because there is ample supply coming, but really to keep our options open and to help us learn and understand how to restart a quarry,” said Mr Mah, who was meeting new residents, permanent residents and foreigners at Tampines East yesterday.
The quarry on the offshore island to the northeast of Singapore has not been mined since 1999. “We want to restart in a small way so there is minimal disruption to the environment, minimal disruption to the livelihood of people,” he explained.
In fact, if negotiations with alternative sources in other countries bear fruit, and there is more than enough supply of construction materials coming in over time, there would be no need to expand work at Kekek, said Mr Mah, adding that Singapore has had offers from other countries.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim also addressed the subject during a ministerial visit to Tampines Central. “We work very closely with the Ministry of National Development to make sure that (the) quarrying activities will meet environmental standards … As far as we are concerned, it’s important for us because we need the granite, but we will do it in an environmentally friendly way,” he said.
On how the snag in granite supply is affecting the construction industry, Mr Mah said that there is no delay in projects as the construction industry has sufficient supply of material at present.
And raw materials will not be the only resource that the industry would have to watch closely. To cope with the vibrant construction sector, the employment rules for foreign workers — which were recently revised by the Manpower Ministry — may be relaxed further if the need arises, Mr Mah added.
“This boom in construction coincides with a worldwide boom. In Beijing, they’re building for the Olympics. In the Middle East, they’re rapidly building their various cities. It’s happening in Europe as well,” he said.
As such, Singapore may need to pay these workers more competitive salaries and this may push up the cost of construction in the Republic, he added. - TODAY/ra