Friday, October 26, 2007

Endangered Ubin Lontong

Wikipedia defines Lontong as "an Asian dish made of compressed rice that is then cut into small cakes". Home-made lontong is possibly rather hard to come by these days. However, on the island of Pulau Ubin exist one such specimen of Lontong that possibly defines what Lontong should be like.

A glimpse of the rare specimen of lontong

Now why do I say this Ubin Lontong is an endangered species? It's not because you can no longer find good lontong else where in Singapore or in the world. Instead, it's this particular lontong that is endemic on Ubin. You cannot find it elsewhere but at Pak Ali's coffeeshop beside the jetty bridge on Pulau Ubin.

Pak Ali's coffeeshop

What more, it's such an rare species that you cannot even find it on other days apart from Sundays before 11am! Sometimes by 10am, it's already gone, grabbed off the shelves by its devoted followers or incidental fans.

Unfortunately, ignorant ape that I am, I have never known of the existence of this delectable lontong till last Sunday (21 Oct) when I visited Chek Jawa with Ria and a few special friends. Before we embarked on our journey, we had a leisurely breakfast, enjoying the heavenly lontong soaked in drool-inducing coconut curry gravy. In fact, just writing this is making me drool uncontrollably again!

Now why is this lontong endangered? Well this delicacy comes from the hands of the macik (auntie) of the establishment, wife of Pak Ali. The couple must be at least 90 years old now and they are still working every day at their coffeeshop under the Assam tree*. Not only do they serve fantastic lontong but the meesiam and mee rebus are also irresistible.

Pak Ali with Dr Chua Ee Kiam, author of the Pulau Ubin: Ours to Treasure book

During Hari Raya, the amazing couple also offers homemade candies and goodies in their coffeeshop. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the aging population, the lontong is under threat as it may very well disappear from the face of this planet when the cook is no longer with us. Where then would we find our Ubin lontong?

Hari Raya goodies at Pak Ali's shop

Even as life and death are part of the natural cycles of our existence, it is unavoidable that one day the Ubin lontong will cease to be. However, let it be remembered that we once had this fantastic lontong and it was delicious!

*I am still looking for the photo I have of the coffeeshop and the Assam tree beside it. Once I find it, I will be sure to share it on Ubin Stories.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Long lost classmates

It was this photo that started it all.

It was this photo that started this blog rolling and growing as early as May 2004.

It was also this photo that made a connection across the Pacific Ocean a few weeks ago. I received an comment from somebody in USA who had the exact same photo. Compare the two photos here.

It turns out that Dennis's mother was a classmate of my mother! The children of Ubin go far. Both his parents are from Pulau Ubin and they migrated to the US in the 1970s. Dennis was born in Mississippi, USA but now lives in Texas. Unfortunately his mom passed away a few years ago. But at least my mom's dream of finding news of her classmates is slowly coming true.

It'll probably come as a shock to many who has only seen the Ubin of today that the island used to be a big settlement with a population close to tens of thousands at its peak. The granite quarries on the island were a big source of income for the island in addition to the rubber plantations and other primary production industries.

While it is really unfortunate that my mom never got a chance to catch up with her classmate in person, Dennis and his father with my mother and I in Singapore exchanged stories via email. Dennis has fond memories of Ubin as unlike me, he has had the opportunity to live on Ubin for a few months in his life in the early 1980s. His mother and grandmother also often told him many stories of Ubin.

Dennis' paternal grandfather was the accountant of the Ho Man Choo Quarry. In the above photo you can see the actual name of the quarry. It was spelt "woo mon chew" but the chinese characters reveal that perhaps the name "Ho Man Choo" (Chua, 2000) is the Hokkien or Teochew pronunciation of the name. Today, NParks has renamed the quarry as Pekan Quarry. Naturally Woo Mon Chew was the name of the quarry owner. Dennis "thinks it was opened in 1947 and closed or sold in 1970".

"My mother's family lived near the quarry. I remember as a child when we would visit Ubin, there would be sirens that go off to signal the blast of the granites. We would all have to take cover or go indoors. Sometimes we would see small chunks of dirt and debris fall out of the sky. There used to be a well behind my mother's house." - Dennis, in email correspondence

Coincidentally, in July 2005, when I first brought my mother back to Ubin, the first time in more than 35 years that she has been back to Ubin, she actually pointed out to me Dennis' mother's home on Ubin. She remembered buying drinks and that there was a hairdresser in the area. Seeing the photos that Dennis has scanned and uploaded on flickr, she regaled me with fond stories of her childhood.

This was Dennis' paternal grandparents home which is just beside Pekan Quarry, where the Nparks office was, where the toilet and Jelutong Campsite is today. Next time as you walk by the area, think of the families that lived here before!

As my mother lived very much further west of the town, she would always walk home together with Dennis' mom up till their home before my mother continues on home down the road. She remembers buying drinks from Hai Liang's shop which is now near where the seafood restaurant is. In fact, the shop may still be there. Monkey will investigate.

Dennis' mother and father lived next door to each other. Their houses face each other along the road. In fact, Dennis' maternal aunt and uncle still lives in their family home on Ubin today!

Dennis' Mother's family

I have really been inspired to really try to scan and go through my family's photos and talk to my granduncles who lived on the island. There is so much to learn and record before this bit of Ubin's history disappears forever. Dennis' love for his family and his excellent memory (unlike my memory of a goldfish) has really benefitted all of us who now know so much more about Ubin. And of course my mother who now knows a little more about the girl who stood beside her in the class photo.

Thank you for sharing your stories Dennis! Hopefully I can convince him to become a regular contributor for Pulau Ubin Stories!

See more photos of Pulau Ubin from 1940s - 1970s on Dennis' flickr set. He found these photos of Ubin in his grandmother's home and scanned them all!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Six restoration projects win Architectural Heritage Awards

By Margaret Perry, Channel NewsAsia
01 October 2007 2020 hrs

SINGAPORE: Six restoration projects have won the Architectural Heritage Awards this year.
The sixth award winner is the House No. 1 located at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin.

It is believed to be Singapore's only remaining authentic Tudor-style house with a fireplace. Its uniqueness fits in nicely with its new function as a visitor centre to Singapore's nature treasure, Chek Jawa Wetlands.

Read the full story here.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Large trap found in Pulau Ubin, illegal poaching suspected

By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia
30 September 2007 2312 hrs

SINGAPORE: A nature lover had a rude shock when he went on a trip to Pulau Ubin recently.

Ben Lee, founder of Nature Trekker – a non-profit organisation dedicated to nature appreciation in Singapore – took pictures of a trap that was more than 2 metres (7 feet) high and was set deep in the forest.

According to him, the cage was big enough to house 15 wild boars and could be used for illegal poaching.

He also saw a man walking out of the forest with a sharp sickle.

Mr Lee has reported the incident to the National Parks Board.

NParks said it is illegal to carry out poaching activities in Pulau Ubin, parks and nature reserves.

- CNA/so

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pulau Ubin Fun Map

This Pulau Ubin Fun Map was produced by Grant Pereira and illustrated by artist Yong Ding Li a few years ago. It is now on sale at the GVN Green House at the town centre of Pulau Ubin.

It comes originally in a black and white line drawing but unable to resist the temptation, I filled in the "blanks" with my own choice of colours. Find birds and wildlife hidden amongst the coconut trees and mangroves on the island. You may even spot the headman's house or even the fence that keeps outward bound school out of bounds!

I sure had fun and kids of all ages will surely have fun with this map. It is available for sale at $2 each. On the reverse side of the map is an illustrated guide to birds, mammals, insects and reptiles found on the island.

The GVN Green House where the map is on sale.

It sure would come in handy on the island as well but try not to use the map to navigate around the island because it's not drawn to scale and surely meant only for a bit of fun with friends and family.

Info Kiosk near the Ubin Jetty.

For serious navigation and orientation around the island, pick up a map from the Information Kiosk near the Ubin Jetty where an updated map of the island is available. A map of Chek Jawa is also available but at the Information Counter near House No. 1 of Chek Jawa.

Chek Jawa Info Kiosk.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hungry Ghost Festival 2007

Sign for free bumboat ride this festival! Taken on 25 Aug 2007

Every year during the 7th lunar month, the Chinese community celebrates the "Hungry Ghost Festival" where it is believed that the gates of hell are opened for spirits to visit Earth for a limited one month period.

This time is also when the denizens on Earth will put up shows to entertain the ghostly "good brothers" (好兄弟). Traditionally, we have Chinese Opera performances like the ones on Pulau Ubin but increasingly these have been replaced by modern variety stage shows called "getai" with loud costumes and techno music.

Pulau Ubin remains one of the rare places which still maintain a permanent free standing wayang stage structure. Wayang is malay meaning "show" but in Singapore it is used to mean "play or opera" as well.

A wayang notice for Pulau Ubin from 2006.

In order to find out when there are Teochew opera performances on Ubin, look out for these handwritten calligraphy notices on red paper, usually on display at the Ubin Jetty. Sometime, similar notices will be stuck on the side of the stage to announce when the next events will be held. Performances are made not only during the Hungry Ghost Festival but also during the birthday of Tua Pek Kong (a deity worshipped at the temple in the town center). Unfortunately they are always in Chinese so ask a resident of Ubin and they will be able to tell you what you need to know.

Somebody asked if the performances on Pulau Ubin were Teochew or Hokkien opera and I just realized that the answer was already given in my post about the performances from 2006! I must have bombarded my mom for the answer last year but she made no complaints when I waylaid her for an answer yesterday. She explained that a large majority of the population on Ubin were Teochew and that explained why the wayang was staged in Teochew.

This year, to entice more people to go for the wayang performances which will be held on the 15th and 16th day of the 7th lunar month, the hungry ghost festival committee of Ubin have kindly arranged for free boat ride to and fro Ubin! That explained the sign in the photo at the top of this post which was found at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal! Roughly translated it reads:
"Free Bumboat Ride
The [Ubin] Hungry Ghost Festival Committee, during the 2 days celebration period of 15th and 16th day of the 7th Lunar Month (27th and 28th August 2007), will be providing free boat rides to and fro Changi Ferry Terminal and Pulau Ubin during these times:
From Changi to Ubin: 6.30pm - 10.00pm
From Ubin to Changi: 7.30pm - 11.30pm"
The committee is usually made up of residents, businesses and even past residents who return yearly to organize and fund raise for the performance and celebration of the Hungry Ghost Festival. As such, this year, I've managed to persuade my mom to return with me to watch and join in the Hungry Ghost Festival celebrations on Ubin. Hopefully we will be there on Monday to bring back more photos and stories to tell.

Related articles
  • Sons of Ubin keep tradition alive, by Kor Kian Beng, The New Paper, 3 Sept 2004
  • Account of wayang performances on other occasions on Ubin, by Victor Yue, Focus Ubin Website 2005
  • Pulau Ubin Zhong Yuan Hui by Victor Yue, Focus Ubin Website 2005
  • Hungry Ghost Festival Celebrations, Pulau Ubin Stories, 9 Aug 2006
  • Where have all the wayang stages gone?, Good Morning Yesterday, July 2007
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    As Far Away As Pulau Ubin, Hotels Grapple With F1 Levy

    By Lee U-Wen (TODAY)
    15 August 2007

    ONE'S a budget hotel for backpackers in Joo Chiat, another in Chinatown caters mainly to locals, while a third is a resort tucked away on the tranquil island of Pulau Ubin.

    They are hardly close to the scene of next year's inaugural Formula One (F1) race in Singapore's Marina Bay area, nor are their guests likely to be international F1 "groupies".

    But the three hotels are among at least 92 hotels likely to be charged a 20-per-cent tax on their room rates for five nights in September next year, when the F1 comes to town.

    This tax - together with a higher 30-per-cent levy imposed on 11 "trackside" hotels expected to benefit the most from demand for rooms with a race view - is part of the Government's bid to recoup the cost of hosting the race, it was announced on Monday.

    Some of the other hotels located far from the action, however, are wondering whether the demand from the spillover crowd will be enough to offset the 20-per-cent levy they will have to pay.

    Said the supervisor of Astro Hotel in Joo Chiat, who only wanted to be known as Mr Ang: "We will have to raise rates because we have operating costs to consider. This is a small budget hotel and we rely a lot on walk-in guests, so it's hard for us to capitalise on the F1 fever."

    Yesterday, Minister of State (Trade and Industry) S Iswaran said the demand for hotel rooms would be felt across the island.

    He told reporters: "Singapore is a compact place, so even if you have a hotel in Changi, it's not difficult to get to Marina Centre. The effect will be quite broad-based, and in terms of occupancy and room rates it will be positive for all the hotels."

    In addition, the Land Transport Authority is looking into convenient transportation to the venue, such as giving F1 ticket-holders access to the MRT. About 100,000 visitors are expected, of which up to 40 per cent could be here for three to four days, Mr Iswaran added.

    The 92 hotels eligible for the 20-per-cent levy - which are those gazetted for the purpose of collecting cess charges - include those as far away as Pasir Panjang Inn, Changi Hotel and the Kampong Ubin Resort on Pulau Ubin.

    Most that Today contacted were not even aware of the possible levy. They said they would wait for formal notification before deciding on a marketing strategy and whether to increase room rates.

    A Ministry of Trade and Industry spokesperson said the Singapore Tourism Board would inform all the gazetted hotels on the exact collection mechanism of the F1 levy closer to race day on Sept 28 next year.

    Mr Alson Leong, manager of Gateway Hotel in Joo Chiat, was surprised when told his hotel could be affected. But he said it was unlikely their rates would go up as that would affect regular guests who are not F1 fans.

    "If they see our rates are higher than normal, they would simply choose not to come to Singapore during the F1 week. It would have been good if we were consulted on the levy," he said.

    But Mr Desmond Poh, who markets the Kampong Ubin Resort in Pulau Ubin, was unfazed. While his guests are mainly corporate clients and unlikely to be overseas visitors coming here for the race - his hotel is the furthest from the track - Mr Poh was unconcerned about the levy.

    "The 20 per cent is almost equal to the corporate discounts that we give out, so we won't be affected. And September to October is usually a hot period for us," he said.

    Even so, hotels like his hope the Singapore Tourism Board will help promote them to the visiting F1 crowd.

    At least one is looking at raising room rates. Ms Charmaine Wee, sales manager of the New Majestic Hotel in Chinatown, said: "Our average is about $340, and I imagine we will charge no less than $400 during the F1."

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Goodbye Ubin Thai Temple

    In April 2007, the Ministry of National Development announced its plans for reopening the Kekek Quarry off Jalan Wat Siam. As the road name indicates, this road was named after the Thai Temple located at the end of the road, just in front of the Kekek Quarry.

    As of late July 2007, the Thai Temple no longer stands at Jalan Wat Siam, a road now devoid of its namesake.

    When the announcement for the deferment of Kekek Quarry's opening came on 4 August 2007, the news was met with happiness and also frustration as yet again, a landmark on Ubin has been displaced because of planned development. Just like the Kampong Melayu en route Chek Jawa which was cleared in anticipation of the reclamation, the postponement of Kekek Quarry's opening came too late to save one of the last remaining landmarks on Pulau Ubin.

    Kekek Quarry in the morning of April 7, 2007. Thai Temple is located at the foot of this hill. Photo by November

    All occupants of the island must possess a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) from the Singapore Land Authority and it was said that the temple's license was due for renewal. While this fact needs verification, truth of the matter is that the temple is now no longer on Ubin. In an interview with one of the villagers on Ubin, it is unlikely that the temple will be issued a new TOL on Ubin even if they had applied for it after the quarry plans are shelved. It is true of course that the quarry is to be on standby, ready to be operational at the slightest need and having to relocate the temple later would be a bureaucratical hassle.

    2030V Pulau Ubin is no longer an occupied address. Photo by November

    The temple may seem relatively new, having only established on Ubin in 1986 when a monk from Thailand walked all the way down to Singapore and found its home here on Pulau Ubin. However, it's one of the last few remaining cultural icons on the island with large throngs of visitors on weekends and major Buddhist and Chinese festivals. This was also a large source of income for the island's taxi drivers who would ferry devotees to the temple. When asked, taxi drivers on Ubin expressed disappointment that now there is a less steady stream of income for them. Previously, they could count on major festival days to draw income from. Now, they feel Chek Jawa is the only way for them to garner income from but it is less reliable as return visitors or regular visitors are rare.

    Thai Temple one year ago on July 13 2006. Who would have known a year later the temple would no longer be with us? Photo by November

    A question was posted on the Ubin Forum asking where the temple has been relocated to. After some "detective work" and leg work from our guest editor, budak, we found that it has actually been moved to Jalan Kayu, near Seletar. Not very different from Ubin, Jalan Kayu is also a kampong place, still relatively undeveloped and rural but rich with heritage but under threat from urbanization and development.

    Familiar idols from the Thai Temple in storage at Jalan Kayu. Photo by budak

    Budak wrote:

    "The reprieve granted to kekek came sadly too late for the Thai temple located within earshot of the quarry. the statues and idols no longer face a tree-lined trail and the musical tributes of straw-headed bulbuls.

    The tale of the Thai temple now meets that of another Buddhist shrine, the Ban Kok Sua Chong Yee Temple that for now still resides at Seletar West Farmway 6, a small road two turns off Jalan Kayu surrounded by farmland and abandoned plots. Before secondary jungle retakes the area, however, it will likely be surrendered to planners seeking to turn this historic kampung area (see into another new suburb. In a sense, it already is, as Jalan Kayu is now within a stone's throw from the Sengkang LRT network, and vast fields of cleanly cleared land (formerly farms and orchards) now link the once quiet road to a new town of HDB towers.

    Now a lonely outpost in a village of ghosts and forgotten memories, Chong Yee Temple faces a dwindling lease and its custodians are currently seeking to raise funds to erect a new sanctuary for the temple's deities when the present plot is returned to the authorities.

    To this end, Chong Yee Temple has linked up with the caretakers of the (former) Ubin Thai temple and another temple (dedicated to Bao Gong) to acquire a piece of land where Jalan Kayu meets Sengkang West Avenue, where a collective development will take place, with each temple maintaining its identity and management, while occupying its own portion of new worship complex.

    Site of the new temple premise. Photo by budak

    The artefacts of the Thai temple are now at a temporary building at the site, with an interim altar and shrine being built, which is scheduled to be ready by 22 August. Stay tuned for more updates when we visit the place after it opens."

    See more photos of Chong Yee Temple and the new Thai Temple premise in Budak's flickr set.

    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    Kekek Quarry will not be reopened yet!

    Just received word that the Ministry of National Development has decided to defer the opening of Kekek Quarry in the north of Ubin. Although the government has momentarily withheld all immediate plans to extract granite from the quarry, the quarry will still be retained as a stockpile, ready for extraction and activation at any moment's notice.

    MND and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) released a media statement on the following this afternoon on 4th August 2007:


    Update on the granite supply situation
    The Granite supply situation has improved significantly over the last one to two months. There is adequate granite supply coming in from both nearby and near distant sources in the region. As a result of this diversification of supply, there has not been any drawdown from the national stockpile from May. Prices of these materials have also moderated and stabilised.

    Quarrying at Pulau Ubin
    In April this year, the Government announced plans to carry out limited quarrying works at the Kekek Quarry in Pulau Ubin. Over the past few months, we have carried out preparatory works for reactivating the Kekek Quarry. These included carrying out an environmental impact study, conducting water quality tests and regulatory reviews.

    Having gained useful experience and a better understanding of the process for reactivating a quarry, and as the industry is able to diversify and import adequate granite from many sources, we have decided that there is no need to commence the physical extraction of granite from the quarry for the time being.

    However we are still keeping all our options open, including reactivating our own quarries if necessary. The reactivation of our local quarries remains a part of our contingency plan to ensure supply resilience of essential construction materials.

    This is an absolutely wonderful piece of news to brighten up my Saturday. Perhaps this is an indication that our government is moving towards a more environmentally-sound ideology that without serious pressures, they would not choose development over our environment. In another words, they would think before they hack and rather conserve than to destroy and develop blindly for the sake of national security or economic growth. When the minister of state for MND said that they are trying to do whatever they can to prevent this from happening and that reopening the quarry was truly their last option, I suppose she actually meant it.

    The skeptic amongst us would say that perhaps this was just a pragmatic decision and at the same time soothe some ruffled feathers. Or even perhaps producing is more expensive than buying. Either way, there is hope yet.

    Kekek Quarry through the looking grass: taken just after the announcement to reopen quarrying in April 2007

    Of course this is a delightful piece of news as the quarry and Ubin itself has escaped the fate of being a mining outpost again. However, like all things in Singapore, there is no certain fate and we should always be prepared to lose the quarry to our country's needs again.

    As in all things nature conservation in Singapore, we should remember not to be complacent. Especially with change being a constant and regular feature in Ubin and every where else on this island state we live in, at any moment's notice, things which we think are here to stay may be taken away from us the next minute due to national needs.

    A good example is Chek Jawa. While we are all happy that reclamation at Chek Jawa was deferred, this was only for 10 years or up till there is need for it again. It has already been 6 years since the deferment was announced and before we knew it, half our time with Chek Jawa has already flewn by! What more, whole villages were displaced to make way for reclamation at Chek Jawa and even after deferment, a piece of our history and heritage was gone already. Likewise, there has been rumours that the Thai Temple near Kekek Quarry is to relocate due to reopening of quarry. Now that quarrying has been deferred, this monkey shall go find out if the temple will really be relocated.

    Chek Jawa Boardwalk amidst the beautiful coast line of Ubin

    If we wish to hold on to these beautiful places like Chek Jawa, we should all show our love for for these places by visiting it, sharing it with our friends and of course, be generous with our words and tell everybody about it. What more, with the opening of the Chek Jawa Boardwalk, it has never been easier to get to know the area better.

    I cannot be more happy to know that many Singaporeans enjoyed the Kekek Quarry very much and went to see it for the last time when it was announced to be reopened for mining. Now, it's here to stay for a while longer, we can once again go and enjoy its beautiful and serene landscape!

    Pedal Ubin guides and participants enjoying Kekek Quarry in June 2005

    Saturday, July 07, 2007

    35 new plant and animal species recorded in Singapore

    07 July 2007 2312 hrs

    SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said 35 new plant and animal species have been recorded in Singapore in an ongoing two-year survey by National Parks and its volunteers.

    Seven other species, thought to be extinct, have also been rediscovered.

    And now, nature lovers can go on DIY tours of the Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin after new facilities were launched by Mr Mah on Saturday morning.

    These facilities include a visitor centre with a viewing jetty, a boardwalk and a viewing tower.

    Altogether, S$7 million have been invested by the government to protect the fragile eco-systems at Chek Jawa.

    Environmentally friendly features have also been integrated into the designs, such as energy-efficient lights, motion sensor lights and solar-powered battery cells.

    Reclamation plans on Chek Jawa were put on hold in 2001, following appeals by nature lovers.

    Since then, more than 20,000 people have visited it.

    Significant care was taken to ensure construction work on the new facilities did not affect the wildlife there.

    Mr Mah said: "During the conversion of the former British cottage into the visitor centre, extra care was taken to protect a family of rare Malayan False Vampire Bats that had made the old watch tower its home for many years.

    "To protect these bats, the old watch tower was left untouched and a new one was constructed. A family of Pouched Tomb Bats was also found roosting in the chimney of the cottage. Work near the chimney was carried out with extra care. I understand that both species of bats are still around."
    - CNA/so

    Saturday, June 09, 2007

    "Ten cyclists injured each month on Pulau Ubin's 'danger spot'"

    Ten cyclists injured each month on Pulau Ubin's 'danger spot'
    Channel NewsAsia, 09 Jun 07

    SINGAPORE: From falling tree branches to falling cyclists at Pulau Ubin - each month at least 10 cyclists get hurt while negotiating a particularly tricky spot on the rustic island.

    Two weeks ago, radio DJ Zhou Chong Qing was sent flying to the ground while on his way down a slope in front of Belatok Hut.

    "When I came down from here, the speed was very fast. So when I pressed the brake, I just flew off the bicycle, and I broke two bones from my left arm, and I scratched myself and I broke four teeth. And also the bicycle scratched me at the right side of my body," says Zhou.

    Those familiar with the spot say over 10 accidents occur here each month. In fact, in just 10 minutes, Channel NewsAsia spotted two cyclists almost falling off their bicycles. This is despite warning signs that had been put up some 10 feet away from the danger spot.

    But the rugged slope is not the only issue here - operators of bicycle rental kiosks here say Singaporeans rarely rent protective helmets!

    "Caucasians are more aware of the safety aspects of things, so they are willing to pay $2 a day, compared to locals. Especially in this area here, it's a bit hilly you know, it's not like Singapore roads also," says Chan, Bicycle Rental Kiosk Operator.

    Adventure-seekers are advised to be more aware of personal safety needs to maximise their thrills - minus the spills! - CNA/yy

    Sunday, June 03, 2007

    Pedal Ubin on 2 June 2007

    Pedal Ubin guides and 2 participants after a satisfactory ride

    Yesterday was the first Pedal Ubin held this year as from now on, the event would be a quarterly affair. More than 40 participants turned up although many more actually signed up for the event. However, the smaller number made each group more intimate and personal.

    The Balai Quarry near Chek Jawa at Northeast Ubin

    My group consisted of 3 guides and we took on the east route towards the Malay kampong and went as far as the gates of Chek Jawa. It was the second time I took the route and the first time I actually cycled to Chek Jawa. It was a breezier ride than I expected and the first time I glimpsed sight of Balai Quarry near Chek Jawa. If there was a stamp for every quarry one visits on Ubin, I'm happy to report that I would have collected the entire set! I've now seen all of the quarries and each one just as spectacular.

    The gates of Chek Jawa, due to be opened soon

    The boardwalk at Chek Jawa is due to open soon, possibly in July, and I await with much anticipation. Next time we would be able to cycle all the way to Chek Jawa itself and visit the boardwalk.

    Remnants of a previous house at the Malay Kampong

    Still this ride to the east is a rare chance for casual visitors to see things that one would usually not see on Ubin! This includes the old Malay Kampong that was resettled to make way for the reclamation at Chek Jawa and the southern shoreline of Ubin. Sadly, since reclamation was defered, what change has been made cannot be undone.

    The little bit of brick longkang sticking out of the shoreline is what remains of Sungei Ubin and the mangroves beside it are all young'uns

    Houses were not the only things that were removed. What more, entire shoreline of mangroves were also removed to make way for prawn farms at Sungei Ubin since it was thought to soon make way for reclamation. However, since deferment, it would take another 50 years before the mangrove would regain its previous majesty.

    Yet all is not lost, despite Sungei Ubin being reduced to a small opening controlled by sluice gates, chek jawa like intertidal areas were spotted at low tide. A giant mudskipper happily swam by when it heard my enquiring for its appearance.

    I also finally encountered the tallest tree on Ubin - the Pulai Tree on the way to Chek Jawa - for the first time! After always trying to photograph it from out at sea, its height did not fail its reputation upclose. Interestingly there is also a malay grave at the foot of the tree! This must be a sacred tree indeed.

    Chek Jawa on the left with the boardwalk being seen visibly extending out from shore and Pulau Sekudu can be seen as a little islet on the right. The tallest tree, Pulai tree can be seen sticking out from the canopy on the left of the picture.

    At low tide, Pulau Sekudu, the frog island, was also spotted clearly and the new boardwalk at Chek Jawa could be easily seen. This surely brought on much anticipation in this monkey. For more photos of the 2nd June 2007 ride to the east, visit my flickr set.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    “天湖”可克石场 周末吸引不少游人

    联合早报 Lianhe Zaobao
    24 April 2007

    乌敏岛有五个废矿湖,被称为“天湖”的可克石场(Kekek Quarry)最受游人欢迎,周末可看到不少人不顾警告投入矿湖游泳、划木筏,或在湖边露营、野餐。










    她在矿湖区看到许多动物如原鸡(jungle fowl)、水獭、巨蜥、蜂鸟、山猪、犀鸟等,她希望采石活动对这些野生动物的影响能降至最低。







    Concrete plans to sustain construction; New scheme to step up use of alternative building materials over next 5 years

    Leong Wee Keat
    24 April 2007

    YOUR future home is likely to be constructed with less concrete as the Government seeks to step up the use of alternative and sustainable materials such as steel, glass and aluminium.

    The aim is to reduce the use of concrete as a key construction material by 30 to 50 per cent over the next five years, through a Sustainable Construction Master Plan laid out by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

    The plan comes in the wake of disruption in the supply of sand and granite - key components of concrete - following restrictions imposed by the Indonesian government.

    The restrictions caused the price of concrete to jump from about $70 per cubic metre to between $180 and $200 now.

    Steel is at least 10 per cent more expensive than the current cost of concrete, but BCA chief executive Dr John Keung said the gap between the two raw materials is "fast narrowing".

    Unveiling the BCA plan yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu said the construction industry, in the long term, "must adopt sustainable construction in a comprehensive manner to reduce its vulnerability to disruptions in supply of essential materials".

    Over the next three months, the BCA will work with industry partners and relevant agencies to review existing rules and regulations.

    For example, the BCA hopes to introduce a new code to encourage the use of recycled building materials - such as recycled concrete - in construction.

    The BCA is also working with relevant agencies, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Fire Safety and Shelter Department, to accord priority to amendment plans for on-going projects that are switching to sustainable designs and materials.

    Construction standards will also be reviewed, including those for manufactured steel.

    Currently, the steel allowed here for structural construction is based on British standards. But the BCA said it would release, in the next three months, a change in guidelines which will allow for other standards of steel and the import of steel from sources such as the United States or Japan.

    Industry experts agreed that the move towards sustainable construction methods would be good for the industry.

    DP Architects director Tai Lee Siang said the use of steel would bring about a cleaner and faster construction process. "In terms of long-term sustainability and recycle ability, steel is also better than concrete," he added.

    Mr Desmond Hill, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said he would like to see developers become more flexible in the use of recycled building materials for non-structural components. This would help promote the use of sustainable materials in construction, he said.

    On the manpower front, the BCA will run more courses to equip practitioners with better understanding of sustainable construction.

    It is also in discussion with local universities to strengthen the curriculum on structural steel design.

    Ms Fu also added that mining activity could start at the Kekek Granite Quarry in Pulau Ubin in three to six months. Reopening the quarry is part of the government's plans to make up for the granite shortfall facing Singapore.

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Mining work may start at Kekek Quarry in 3-6 months: Grace Fu

    23 April 2007
    Channel NewsAsia

    SINGAPORE : Mining activity could start at the Kekek Granite Quarry in Pulau Ubin in three to six months.

    This is according to Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu.

    Re-opening the quarry is part of the government's plans to make up for the granite shortfall facing Singapore, after supply was disrupted last month.

    Meanwhile, authorities are also working to reduce granite and concrete prices.

    It is still quiet at the granite quarries on Pulau Ubin, and a lot of work needs to be done before granite blasting begins.

    This includes draining the pond and making sure that the marine life and surrounding environment are protected.

    The National Development Ministry said there were no plans to mine granite in any large extent.

    But the re-opening of the Kekek Quarry was a way of building up mining expertise and meeting industry needs in the near term.

    The government has already released granite from its stockpile since supply from Indonesia was disrupted.

    With new shipment arriving from alternative sources, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) hopes to adjust granite prices from May onwards.

    Ms Fu said, "The way that we look at stockpile price is really to look at what is the replacement price, and because we have awarded several contracts on procurement of sand and granite, we think that there is some room for granite prices to come down and that is what BCA will do.

    "The whole intention is to make sure that the construction cost in terms of the use of granite and concrete will be as competitive as we can, despite the higher cost of transportation, that it will reflect the market price as closely as possible."

    This will, in turn, lower the price of pre-mixed concrete used in construction.

    It hit a high of S$200 per cubic metre after the supply disruption.

    But the price has now dropped to between S$170 and S$180.

    Observers expect the price to dip further but they added that the key was to look at non-concrete options.

    Tai Lee Siang, President, Singapore Institute of Architects, said, "In a very highly-urbanised environment like Singapore where buildings have to maximise its potential which means that buildings have to actually go high or go big - in these kind of buildings, it's very hard to go for alternative materials...yet, however for low scale development, I think (we) could see a combination of concrete and timber perhaps, and maybe in the future, more interesting alternatives that research could go into. So in Singapore, in this way, we are still very much lagging behind in looking for alternative materials."

    Looking ahead, authorities will conduct more R&D - drawing from the Ministry's S$15 million research fund.

    Industry players said the sand ban and disruption to granite supply has served as a wake up call to the construction sector to consider alternative building methods and materials used.

    However, it is also important that the public understands what sustainable construction means.

    The BCA has put up a three-week exhibition and published a coffee table book to do just that. - CNA/ms

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    'Minimal disruption'

    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


    联合早报 (Lianhe Zaobao)
    By 唐海国
    16 April 2007






    建屋发展局将指定采石商,在未来几个月内在乌敏岛废弃多年的 可克石场(Kekek Quarry)进行有限度的采石活动,以了解重启采石业的准备工作。采石商须遵守安全和环境保护程序,以确保岩石开采是在顾及环保的前提下展开。









    采石活动将是小规模的,这样才不会对环境和周围居民的生活造成太大的影响。 ——马宝山

    Reopening of Kekek Quarry on Pulau Ubin: No Cause for Worry

    16 Apr 07
    The New Paper
    By Teh Jen Lee

    WITH the reopening of Kekek Quarry for granite mining on Pulau Ubin, the island will once again live up to its name. The word 'ubin' means tile in Malay. Ubin was apparently named after the stone tiles that it produced before the last quarry shut down in 1999.

    The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will have limited quarrying works at Kekek Quarry, the smallest of the seven former quarries on Ubin, located near the northern coast of the island.

    This is done to understand the issues involved to restart work at other quarries since Singapore wants to ease its dependence on imported granite.

    Kekek was chosen as it is furthest from the resident villages and Chek Jawa, the popular nature haven.

    Residents of Ubin seem unaffected by the quarry's reopening. Madam Chen Siuzhen, 70, who has lived in Ubin since young, said in Mandarin: 'We stay far away from the quarry so we won't be affected.'

    A resident of Ubin's Malay village who gave his name as Mr Ahmad said: 'I feel it's good because with more people working here, the ferry service may become more regular.'

    From the choice of quarry to the details of the quarrying, BCA has tried to make the granite mining operations as safe and eco-friendly as possible.

    For example, signs in the four main languages will update the public on the blasting schedule so that people can stay away from the quarry. Barricades will also be erected during blasting.

    BCA will work with the National Environment Agency (NEA) to ensure that the mining will not affect the environment. NEA will assess the pollution control measures related to the crushing plant, which crushes big rock pieces into smaller stones, to ensure that noise and dust levels are managed. Water sprays and noise mufflers will be used where necessary.

    A jetty will be constructed less than 200 metres from the quarry so that barges can be used to transport the granite to mainland.


    This means there won't be any heavy noisy trucks carrying the granite, thus reducing impact on the residents and wildlife at Ubin.

    When quarrying is completed, the area will be rehabilitated and restored to preserve its rustic nature, said Mr Ong See Ho, director of BCA's building engineering division.

    The National Parks Board (NParks) has surveyed Kekek and found that mining will have minimal impact on the diversity of plants and animal species.

    There are 153 plant species around Kekek, most of which can be found in other parts of Singapore. Less common trees like the seashore nutmeg will be relocated to other parts of Ubin where possible.

    As for wildlife, the 57 bird species found at Kekek are also found elsewhere, said NParks.

    Based on NParks observations, made at Ketam Quarry in 1999, when the quarry was still functional, the sound blasts from limited quarrying does not affect wildlife on the island.

    Work at Kekek is expected to start early next month.

    Meanwhile, Singapore has started to buy granite from various regional countries. Industry sources said Singapore has been been trying to get granite from Vietnam and Myanmar. Shipments started arriving last month.

    Granite is an essential component of concrete, along with sand. Since the supply of sand and granite have been disrupted, the price of ready-mixed concrete has skyrocketed from about $70 per cubic metre to over $180.

    In the past week, two Japanese trade organisations complained to BCA about profiteering by concrete suppliers. The Japanese External Trade Organisation and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry also urged the Government to quickly compensate contractors who lose out on public projects because of the increase in prices.

    To help the construction industry to cope with the increase in prices of concreting sand and granite, the Government will co-share up to three quarters of the increased costs for its ongoing projects. Sand used to cost about $20 a tonne, but now it's $60. A tonne of granite now costs $70, compared to $25 in the past.

    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Blasts from the past

    15 April 2007
    Straits Times
    By Tan Dawn Wei & Jocelyn Lee

    Loud explosions, flying rocks are set to return to Ubin with plans to mine granite there again. But will this add or subtract to life on the island?

    LONGTIME Pulau Ubin resident Goh Lam Heng, 54, never used to need a watch.

    'Every time I heard a blast, I knew that it was either 11am or 5pm,' said the owner of Sin Lam Huat Eating House and former quarry worker.

    Like Mr Goh, many of the 60 or so residents still left on the island have either worked in the granite quarries or remember the loud daily explosions and flying rocks.

    Now that the Government is re-opening one of the five disused quarries on the island for limited granite mining, Mr Goh and many fellow islanders are bringing out the Tiger beer.

    'It'll be like old times again,' he said.

    Mr Chin Tiang Hock, 75, who worked at two of the island's quarries for 38 years, suffers from breathlessness as a result of his long-term exposure to dust.

    Nevertheless, he welcomes the re-opening of the quarries.

    'People will come here again and this place will become lively once more,' he said.

    Granite quarrying was once Pulau Ubin's lifeline. At its peak in the 1970s, there were eight quarries and more than 3,000 people living on the island.

    That number has plummeted since then, especially after the last quarry was shut down in 1999.

    Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu said in Parliament last Monday that the ministry plans to carry out limited quarrying at Pulau Ubin's Kekek Quarry to test the feasibility of jumpstarting Singapore's granite mining industry.

    The plan has been drawn up in response to the disruption of granite supplies from Indonesia over the past few weeks, since the Indonesian navy detained a number of Singapore-bound granite barges suspected of carrying illegal sand shipments.

    Mining operators will be invited to tender for the job in the coming months, the Building and Construction Authority said.

    The good news for the industry is there is still plenty of granite on Pulau Ubin, said Mr Derrick Chee, managing director of Aik Hwa Group, the last company to pull out of the island in 1999.

    The bad news is that the investment required to resume quarrying will be hefty.

    Setting up a plant will cost in excess of $5 million because of the expensive equipment involved, said Mr Chee, whose father started the Ubin quarrying business in 1960 when he bought the 999-year lease on the site.

    They will need drilling and crushing machines, excavators, lorries, barges, a jetty, magazines to store explosives and water pumps to drain the quarry pool.

    Granite quarrying used to be a hazardous affair for its workers. Many suffered from silicosis, a respiratory disease caused by regularly inhaling silica dust over a long period of time.

    Some even suffered hearing loss from the explosions.

    The Government asked quarry owners to step up dust control measures in the 1970s. Workers were given earplugs, masks and goggles and required to go for X-ray examinations once a year.

    Flying rocks were another problem. Workers had to take shelter from the blasts in steel cages more than 500m away.

    'Whenever there was a larger explosion which blew up larger pieces of rock, we would ride our motorcycles and flee the area,' recalled retiree Ong Tin Huat, 53, who worked at various Ubin quarries from the age of 16 to 45.

    He is hoping to be re-hired as a tractor driver when the quarry re-opens.

    While residents like Mr Ong are happy, others are afraid all the activity will frighten off visitors.

    Mr Vincent Chew, 39, owner of Chew Teck Seng provision shop, said: 'It can bring more business for me as more people come here to work. But tourists may not want to come here any more as they may be scared of the flying rocks and loud explosions.'

    But with more efficient drilling machines and blasting techniques, there should be little to worry about, industry players said.

    That is scant comfort for environmentalists, who believe the quarrying will have a negative impact on the island's biodiversity.

    Dr Vilma D'Rozario, chairman of the education group of the Nature Society, visited Kekek Quarry last Saturday and saw many animals in the area, including in the quarry pool.

    'Can we look at alternative materials instead of getting it raw from the quarry? Then we can save a wild habitat, which we already don't have much of,' she said.

    But the National Parks Board has assessed Kekek Quarry's surroundings - documented 57 bird species and 153 plant species, most of which are common on Ubin - and given the green light.

    Mr Chee does not think that the environmental impact will be too significant as long as mining operators are allowed to dig deeper rather than widen the quarries.

    'If you go down to 100m below sea level, you will be excavating a lot of granite,' he said.

    Currently, there is a limit on mining, up to a depth of 50m below sea level.

    Mr Vincent Tan, 47, a parent volunteer for Tanjong Katong Secondary School who accompanies student groups to the island regularly for project work, said it will be a good opportunity for students to learn about mining.

    'They will also get the chance to see for themselves what granite quarrying is all about,' he said.

    Govt to further liberalise hiring of foreign construction workers

    15 Apr 07
    Channel NewsAsia

    SINGAPORE: Rules on hiring foreign construction workers may be further liberalised to meet rising demand.

    This is according to National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan who was speaking at the sidelines of a welcoming event for foreigners residing in Tampines.

    From the Integrated Resorts to projects at the Marina Bay area and residential developments islandwide, there is no doubt the construction industry is experiencing a boom.

    And due to the rise in construction projects, developers are also facing a labour shortage.

    Minister Mah said: "This boom in construction coincides with a worldwide boom in construction. In China, 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.

    "Ministry of Manpower has revised its rules to free up some of the foreign worker policies as well as some of the supervisory manpower policies to allow more of such personnel to come and work in Singapore." Mr Mah also expects wages to increase due to the tight labour market.

    On the issue of the increasing cost of construction materials like sand and granite, he said prices would stabilise soon because these materials are already being imported from other countries besides Indonesia. The materials will be used for current projects as well as for stockpiling purposes.

    He said: "We're talking about reopening the quarry in Pulau Ubin, 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 the quarry."

    Mr Mah added that over time, if there is more than sufficient supplies coming in as expected, there would be no further expansion of granite mining at Pulau Ubin.
    - CNA/so

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Leave Pulau Ubin and my wild-boar relatives alone

    Not a concrete plan
    Leave Pulau Ubin and my wild-boar relatives alone
    Today Online 14 Apr 07
    By Neil Humphreys

    CYCLING was a far less complicated task in Singapore. You bought a bike, pedalled, and tried to avoid the karung guni man who always cycled on the wrong side of the road.

    In Australia, you must wear a helmet. It's the law. That's not easy when you have an elephantine head like me. I'm now the proud owner of a shiny black headpiece that was designed for a hippo.

    You also need a bell to cycle in built-up areas. So when I venture into public parks, I'm usually accompanied by my wife because her bike is equipped with a bell.

    There's only one minor drawback. The moment her backside hits the saddle, she turns into Julie Andrews and pretends she's on a day trip with the Von Trapp family. We're no longer in an Australian park. We're in The Sound of Music.

    "Hey, if you're going to come out with me, at least keep up," I shout. "Doe, a deer, a female deer/Ray, a drop of golden sun!," she cries.

    "Do you have to sing Do Re Mi every bloody time we go out on a bike?"

    "Far, a long, long way to run!"

    "There are kids staring at you."

    "Sew, a needle pulling thread!" This can go on for an hour.

    Her other problem is the phantom snake attacks.

    Her reasoning is extremely simple. There are snakes in Australia. And snakes can kill people. And my wife lives in Australia. Therefore, a snake will definitely kill her while she's queuing up to buy stamps in the post office.

    Or when she's out cycling with me in public parks, where the phantom snakes usually strike during my wife's big finale. "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do," she'll bellow. "Do Ti La … Snake! There's a snake!"

    "That's not a snake," I reply after a quick glance at the grass. "It's a rolled-up newspaper."

    "Oh, is it? Well, it could've been a snake. You can't be too careful." My wife certainly can't.

    Newspapers, reeds, leaves, bottles and, most memorably, a cat have all been mistaken for murderous snakes during cycle rides.

    Cycling was a less disruptive pastime in Singapore because I usually went out alone. My only concern there was to avoid the uncles who believed it was in keeping with The Highway Code to empty the entire contents of an HDB flat into a bike basket the size of an egg cup before pedalling through Toa Payoh. Oh, and they had to cycle on the wrong side of the road, of course.

    So, to escape my wife and twilight collisions with karung guni men, I often headed for one of the world's greatest cycling tracks: Pulau Ubin.

    To tell you the truth, I'm often reluctant to mention the island's name for fear of jolting an official from his slumber and into an action that will invariably involve cranes, bulldozers and a 10-year plan.

    "Hey, you see this Dumpwee is talking about Pulau Ubin," he'll say to a colleague. " What's it got there ah?" "Er, solitude, greenery, indigenous wildlife, the last remnants of a kampung lifestyle and granite."

    "Granite?! Really? Pass me the phone."

    Pulau Ubin is an old, agrarian world of plantations, prawn farming and fishing. It's also home to the spirit of my late grandparents.

    When I last cycled around the island, I was convinced I heard my nan and granddad arguing in the bushes. They turned out to be a couple of wild boars, but the similarities were startling.

    The unspoken grunts, the lack of eye contact, the way the female turned her back on the male — it was all there.

    But I love Pulau Ubin. There's no greater cycling destination. Any view that doesn't involve a laptop screen can be inspiring and the vistas at Ubin are breathtaking.

    When I return to Singapore in a few months, Ubin will be one of the first places I will visit.

    I always go for the silence. Granite mining at Kekek Quarry, however, is not a silent activity.

    And, children pedal around Ubin to enjoy its unique biodiversity, not its concrete ingredients.

    Whatever the final outcome, one of Singapore's biggest lungs must be protected. There should always be a place for my wife to sing Do Re Mi.

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    A Kekek Pictorial

    Without a doubt, one of the most scenic and accessible quarry on Ubin, enjoy the quarry lake at Kekek before it disappears. After all, change is the only constant on Ubin. You never know what is here today, will not be there tomorrow.

    Enjoy these photos of kekek before they disappear.
    Better yet, go enjoy Kekek before it disappears!

    Related Links
  • Kekek Photos on Flickr, Photos by November, last updated: 13 April 2007
  • Pulau Ubin residents welcome move to re-open granite quarries on island

    By Dominique Loh,
    Channel NewsAsia
    13 April 2007

    SINGAPORE : The recent impasse with Indonesia on granite supply has led to Singapore looking for alternative sources.

    An old quarry mine on Pulau Ubin will be re-opened soon, after almost a decade.

    Nature has taken over the granite quarries on Pulau Ubin.

    Thick vegetation now surrounds the once massive pits. And after years of rainfall, tranquil lakes now fill the empty void.

    Residents said the quarries were blasted and mined as early as the 1800s.

    One resident, Vincent Chew, said, "When they're going to start the explosives, they'll raise the alarm and everybody will start hiding here and there....(they are) worried about the granite flying here and there."

    The quarries are not depleted of their natural resources yet.

    Channel NewsAsia visited several around the island, and granite cliffs can still be seen amidst the greenery.

    Pulau Ubin lies northeast of mainland Singapore.

    It was once a thriving centre for granite quarrying, employing several hundreds workers.

    Aerial maps show seven distinct lakes, which are also where the quarries are located.

    Associate Professor Wee Tiong Huan, Department of Civil Engineering, National University of Singapore, said, "For the one in Pulau Ubin, as far as I know, it's no problem because it's been tested the absence of granite, we can also use gravel, limestone..."

    Residents said quarry operations stopped in the late 1990s.

    They added that if quarry operations were revived, it would be a good thing for everyone on the island.

    They also believe disruptions to their daily lives would be minimal.

    Mr Chew said, "Of course they'll bring more workers into the quarry to work and we've got more business, but secondly we also worry about tourists. Once the quarries start, maybe the number of tourists will be reduced because of the explosives or something like that."

    Residents hope Pulau Ubin will retain its rustic charms when quarrying resumes.

    The island still attracts day trippers and nature lovers.

    But over the years, more and more residents have moved out.

    The village chief said the island is now home to some 60 people. - CNA/ms

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Overview of Kekek Quarry

    Click to enlarge image

    Here is an overview of Kekek Quarry, soon to be reopened for granite quarrying, possibly in the following months. First, a tender would be put out. After that, a reliable source at a high level meeting informed those present that it will perhaps take 2-3 months in order for the water to be drained from the quarry. This will be done by pumping the water out to the Straits of Johor north of Kekek Quarry. Alternatives were suggested.

    Landmarks on the satellite image are annotated according to a reconnaissance mission on 7th April 2007. The mission was to uncover if there is any life on Planet Kekek.

    Results to be released. Meanwhile, a certain artist's impression of what Kekek will look like once it becomes active again. Impressions are based on how active quarries in the recent past looks like. Apologies for the poor artwork.

    Click to enlarge image

    Related Reads:
  • "A jewel that needs to be protected", Letter from Maryanne Maes, TODAY, reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 11 April 2007 *new*
  • "Pulau Ubin granite quarry may reopen", Business Times article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 10 April 2007 *new*
  • "为缓解石荒问题乌敏岛将恢复采石, Lianhe Zaobao article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 10 April 2007 *new*
  • "乌敏岛将恢复开采花岗岩, Lianhe Zaobao article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 10 April 2007 *new*
  • "S'pore may reopen Ubin granite quarry", Straits Times article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 10 April 2007
  • "缓解石荒 扩大来源 乌敏岛将恢复开采花岗石", Lianhe Zaobao article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 10 April 2007
  • "关闭十年 乌敏岛石场将恢复开采", includes a video of Kekek Quarry, Channel8 News Report reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 9 April 2007
  • "Singapore to reopen granite quarry-minister, Reuters article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 9 April 2007 *new*
  • "Isn't it time we start tightening our belts?", Habitatnews, 9 Apr 2007
  • "Kekek Quarry, Pulau Ubin: may be reopened for quarrying", Habitatnews, 9 Apr 2007
  • "Singapore looking to reopen granite quarry", CNA reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 9 Apr 2007
  • "Kekek Quarry, Pulau Ubin", Wildfilms Blog, 7 April 2007
  • "Ubin Journies Episode 1", PulauUbinStories, 7 April 2007

    Background Information on Ubin Quarries
  • "Dangers of Granite Quarrying", 1993 Lianhe Wanbao report reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 24 Feb 2006
  • "Aerial Map of Ubin", explains the geology of Ubin Granite, PulauUbinStories, 20 Feb 2006
  • "Govt to develop Ubin Quarry into recreational park", 1998 Business Times Article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 28 Jan 2006
  • "Going off the Cliff", a ST report on cliffdiving at kekek quarry reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 13 September 2005
  • "The Quarries", PulauUbinStories, 5 April 2005
  • "Quarry Lakes", talks about Tianci, otherwise known as Kekek Quarry, PulauUbinStories, 28 March 2005
  • Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    A jewel that needs to be protected

    Don't destroy Ubin in the name of development
    Letter from Maryanne Maes
    Today Online
    11 Apr 07

    I refer to the report, "Old Ubin quarry may be up and running" (April 10).

    It has come down to another age-old tussle in Singapore, between economic development and the natural environment.

    I discovered the joys of Pulau Ubin only two years ago. One may not find much on this tiny island, except for some restaurants, bicycle shops, camp sites and a whole lot of nature. Nature is what draws visitors to the island, it is Singapore's jewel to locals and tourists. This place brings calm and spiritual rejuvenation, away from the city we live in.

    There is Chek Jawa — the Nature Society had fought gallantly, a few years ago, against a Ministry of National Development (MND) plan to redevelop that parcel of land. Chek Jawa provides a rich source of mudflat species that feed many birds — including a lone pair of hornbills, among other wildlife that reside peacefully on the island.

    I have taken many foreign friends to Ubin and many of them now visit it every other weekend.

    The disruption of granite supplies to Singapore should be handled keeping in mind the environmental degradation to Singapore, should the quarry at Pulau Ubin be revived.

    Many wildlife species have sought sanctuary around that area ever since the quarry was abandoned. Now that the MND is thinking of reviving the quarry, it could be seen as chasing away residents away from their homes after they have spent many years settling there — without welfare benefits.

    Disruptive human activities will always create perpetual ripple effects that will irreversibly damage the environment.

    Notwithstanding Singapore's economic development needs, we should be a responsible society.

    Environmental impact assessments should be made prior to MND's plans to re-use the quarry, in consultation with nature experts such as the Nature Society and the public, and have the results publicised before MND makes any decision.

    Any development on Ubin and the surviving nature parcels in Singapore warrants this move, because any ecological damage to this island will adversely affect tourism.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    "Old Ubin Quarry May Be Up And Running"

    Kekek Quarry Today.
    Photo taken at Kekek Quarry, or tianci, in 2005.

    Kekek Quarry Tomorrow.
    Photo of Aik Hwa Quarry, the last quarry to close on Ubin in 1999.

    Old Ubin Quarry May Be Up And Running
    Loh Chee Kong
    10 April 2007

    Jolted first by Indonesia's ban on sand exports and then the disruption of its granite supply, Singapore is taking more steps to ensure it will not be caught off guard again.

    The Housing and Development Board, which owns the disused Kekek Quarry on Pulau Ubin, is looking into resuming mining at the site, Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu said.

    It will not be a major supply source but the move will pave the way for other local granite sources to be tapped, should the need arise.

    Said Ms Fu: "It is necessary to carry out some quarrying to understand the issues involved in reactivating quarries."

    There are five disused granite quarry sites on Pulau Ubin. Bukit Timah Hill and Gali Batu were also sources of granite during Singapore's early development.

    Nature-lovers who Today spoke to were concerned about the potential disruption to the rustic island. Said Mr Ben Lee, 45, who heads Nature Trekkers: "The natural surroundings, especially the eco-system, will be affected."

    Ms Fu said the Ministry of National Development was "very mindful" of conservation and safety issues. The Kekek site was chosen for its distance from residential areas and proximity to sea transport, minimising "disruption to life on the island".

    During blasting, warning sirens will be sounded and the area will be cordoned off. Blasting activities, she added, will not take place over the weekend or at night so as to preserve Pulau Ubin as a leisure getaway.

    According to the National Parks Board, there will be "minimal impact" on the quarry's biodiversity. At the end of the mining exercise, efforts will be made to rehabilitate the quarry site, said Ms Fu.

    Giving an update on the granite vessels being detained by Indonesia, Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said investigations by the authorities there found seven of the 22 tugboats and barges were in violation of the land sand ban. Three Singaporean barge owners may be prosecuted in the Indonesian courts.

    He said: "It is good that the matter is now transparent. If charges are pressed, they will defend themselves and the matter should be properly resolved in this way, according to the laws of Indonesia."

    Habitatnews provided a satellite image of the quarry while Sivasothi provides insights or perhaps a forewarning of Singapore's resource consumption.

    "So isn't it now finally time to consider tightening our belts? And start behaving as if resources are finite. And investing more in developing alternatives ahead of time?"
    Related Reads:
  • "S'pore may reopen Ubin granite quarry", Straits Times article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 10 April 2007
  • "缓解石荒 扩大来源 乌敏岛将恢复开采花岗石", Lianhe Zaobao article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 10 April 2007
  • "关闭十年 乌敏岛石场将恢复开采", includes a video of Kekek Quarry, Channel8 News Report reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 9 April 2007
  • "Isn't it time we start tightening our belts?", Habitatnews, 9 Apr 2007
  • "Kekek Quarry, Pulau Ubin: may be reopened for quarrying", Habitatnews, 9 Apr 2007
  • "Singapore looking to reopen granite quarry", CNA reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 9 Apr 2007
  • "Kekek Quarry, Pulau Ubin", Wildfilms Blog, 7 April 2007
  • "Ubin Journies Episode 1", PulauUbinStories, 7 April 2007

    Background Information on Ubin Quarries
  • "Dangers of Granite Quarrying", 1993 Lianhe Wanbao report reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 24 Feb 2006
  • "Aerial Map of Ubin", explains the geology of Ubin Granite, PulauUbinStories, 20 Feb 2006
  • "Govt to develop Ubin Quarry into recreational park", 1998 Business Times Article reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 28 Jan 2006
  • "Going off the Cliff", a ST report on cliffdiving at kekek quarry reproduced on PulauUbinStories, 13 September 2005
  • "The Quarries", PulauUbinStories, 5 April 2005
  • "Quarry Lakes", talks about Tianci, otherwise known as Kekek Quarry, PulauUbinStories, 28 March 2005
  • Pulau Ubin granite quarry may reopen

    Matthew Phan
    10 April 2007
    Business Times Singapore

    Need to tap local sources as Indonesia extends sand export ban

    SINGAPORE is looking at reopening a former granite quarry on Pulau Ubin as part of a wider plan to diversify its sources of building materials.

    One option is to 'tap our local granite sources, should the need arise', Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu told Parliament yesterday.

    According to news reports over the past month, Indonesian officials have discussed extending the country's ban on exports of land sand to Singapore to include granite, which could affect the local building industry.

    Indonesia has also detained several vessels carrying granite to Singapore, on suspicion they were smuggling sand.

    On the Ubin quarry plan, Ms Fu said yesterday: 'It is necessary to carry out some limited quarrying to understand the issues involved in reactivating quarries, such as the preparatory works and time involved, and the mitigating measures to put in place. HDB (Housing and Development Board) will look into restarting one of its former quarries in Pulau Ubin.'

    Foreign Minister George Yeo told Parliament yesterday that Indonesia has inspected the vessels it detained and updated the Singapore Government on the result. A note was received on Thursday, April 5, Mr Yeo said.

    Twenty-two tugs and barges were detained. Seven are alleged to have violated the sand ban and others to have infringed other laws. Only three of the 22 vessels are Singaporean, Mr Yeo said.

    Indonesia's foreign minister has 'assured me that the verification process would be transparent', he said. 'These cases will now be taken up through the legal process in Indonesia.'

    Asked whether the detention of the vessels marks a 'diplomatic failure' or a failure of Asean, Mr Yeo said the matter is bilateral and Indonesia is within its rights to ban sand exports for environmental reasons. 'Officials have talked about various motives, but the official reason given to us is environmental and we have to take it at face value,' he said.

    Indonesia and Singapore are mutually dependent and cooperate in other areas and must 'manage discrete problems on their own account', Mr Yeo said.

    Meanwhile, Ms Fu said the government will share up to 75 per cent of the price increase in sand and granite to help local construction firms. She urged industry players to cooperate in other ways to cope with any disruption, saying public agencies have started to make progress payments on projects and private developers should do likewise.

    The higher cost of sand and granite amounts to an estimated 2 per cent of overall project cost, Ms Fu said. 'That's not a very significant proportion and at its current state, the market is still in a very good position to benefit from the upswing.'

    Clarification on 11 April 2007
    Business Times Singapore

    IN 'Pulau Ubin granite quarry may reopen' (BT, April 10), we said the government would share up to 75 per cent of the price increase in sand and granite to help local construction firms. The sharing arrangement is with all contractors on existing public sector projects, and not just local construction firms.


    10 April 2007
    Lianhe Zaobao



    建屋发展局将指定采石商,在未来几个月内在乌敏岛废弃多年的可克石场(Kekek Quarry)进行有限度的采石活动,以了解重启采石业的准备工作。采石商须恪守安全和环境保护程序,以确保岩石开采在顾及环保的前提下展开。


    她说,政府的方针是尽量扩大花岗石的来源,维持储备石料的库存,同时也跟业者合作,鼓励他们采用可持续建筑法(sustainable construction)。





    10 April 2007
    Lianhe Zaobao

    为缓解石荒,政府将在乌敏岛废弃多年的可克石场(Kekek Quarry),恢复开采花岗石,以供应花岗石给本地的建筑业。





    S'pore may reopen Ubin granite quarry

    10 April 2007
    Straits Times
    Tan Hui Yee

    Limited quarrying to be done to test feasibility of restarting operations

    SINGAPORE is looking to reopen a former granite quarry in Pulau Ubin to pave the way for a local source of the rock.

    This move is in addition to others being taken to guard against future disruption in supplies, following Indonesia's detaining of barges and tugboats carrying granite here.

    The detention of the more than 20 vessels came a few weeks after Indonesia banned the export of land sand. The combined effect of the supply dip in sand and granite hiked the price of ready-mixed concrete to about $200 per cubic metre - almost three times.

    Sand and granite are key ingredients in concrete.

    The detention of the barges has also made tugboat owners wary about carrying granite to Singapore, although Indonesia has not officially banned the export of granite.

    Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu, speaking in Parliament yesterday, said her ministry would keep all its options open and plan for all contingencies.

    One of these options was to tap local sources of granite should the need arise. But before this can be done, the Government needs to carry out limited quarrying work to understand the issues involved in restarting work in former quarries.

    The Housing Board has identified Pulau Ubin's Kekek Quarry for this purpose.

    Ms Fu assured the House that the discharge of water from the quarry pit will be managed to protect marine life, blasting work will be restricted to weekdays and the day time, and the area will be rehabilitated once quarrying is over to preserve the flora and fauna there.

    She also stressed that Pulau Ubin will continue as a leisure spot.

    The planned quarry, Kekek, is among the smallest of seven former quarries on Ubin. Quarrying activities in Singapore last ceased in 1999 when it became more economical to import granite from Indonesia.

    Meanwhile, granite has been arriving without a hitch from other sources in the region, even as the ministry has been working to increase the number of these sources.

    In response to MP Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC), who asked what was being done to prevent construction firms from jacking up prices without reason, Ms Fu said the Government was releasing suitable sites for the manufacture of ready-mixed concrete.

    Some contractors have said that producing their own ready-mixed concrete would help them get around possible profiteering by those who supply concrete, or sand and granite.

    About 10 ready-mixed concrete manufacturers are in business here.

    Construction group Lian Beng's director, Mr Tan Swee Hong, said of producing his own concrete: 'This will put pressure on the ready-mixed concrete makers, as well as the sand and granite suppliers. I can always say 'I'll import the material myself'.'

    In the House yesterday, MPs Lee Bee Wah (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) asked whether the prices of sand and granite released from the Government stockpile could be cut.

    Stockpiled sand is now being sold at $60 per tonne, compared to its pre-ban market price of about $20, while stockpiled granite is now going at $70 per tonne, up from its previous price of about $25.

    Replying, Ms Fu said stockpiled sand and granite was being priced at what it would cost to replenish the stockpile from various sources.

    The private sector is also being encouraged to import its own supplies.

    缓解石荒 扩大来源 乌敏岛将恢复开采花岗石

    An article in the Chinese Newspaper Lianhe Zaobao on the Kekek quarry reopening. Translation to follow later.

    缓解石荒 扩大来源 乌敏岛将恢复开采花岗石
    吴汉钧, 邬福梁(摄)
    10 April 2007

    印尼当局百般阻挠花岗石出口到新加坡,政府已制订“开源节流 ”的方案,包括重启乌敏岛的采石业,以供应花岗石给本地的建筑业。

    建屋发展局将指定采石商,在未来几个月内在乌敏岛废弃多年的可克石场(Kekek Quarry)进行有限度的采石活动,以了解重启采石业的准备工作。采石商须恪守安全和环境保护程序,以确保岩石开采在顾及环保的前提下展开。


    她说,政府的方针是尽量扩大花岗石的来源,维持储备石料的库存,同时也跟业者合作,鼓励他们采用可持续建筑法(sustainable construction)。







    国家公园局已对可克石场和周围环境进行了初步评估。石场一带主要是灌木丛林地,有153种植物,大部分是本地常见的植物,如星果木(simpoh air)、合欢树(albizzia)等。一些较罕见的植物如小叶红光树(seashore nutmeg)则可能受采石活动影响,当局将把它们移植到其他地方。沿岸的红树林则不会受影响。



    建设局将发出执照给中标的采石商,并监督采石商遵守沙地和花岗石场法令(Sand and Granite Quarries Act),以确保他们做好环境保护和安全措施。






    采石业过去曾是乌敏岛的经济命脉,其历史可追溯到1848年以前。当时,白礁的霍士堡灯塔(Horsburgh Lighthouse)和后来的莱佛士灯塔(Raffles Lighthouse)便是以乌敏岛的花岗石建造的。


    在1970年代,岛上有10多家采石公司,有千多名员工。过去,炸石的时间每天两次,第一次从上午11时至中午12时,第二次从下午5 时至傍晚6时。



    未来几个月,政府将在乌敏岛废弃多年的可克石场(Kekek Quarry)进行有限度的采石活动。

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    "Singapore looking to reopen granite quarry"

    Have you figured out yet where the quartet was going last Saturday? Here's the video in question: Ubin Journies Ep 1

    Singapore looking to reopen granite quarry
    Posted: 09 April 2007
    Channel News Asia

    SINGAPORE: Singapore is looking at reopening a granite quarry on Pulau Ubin, according to Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu.

    She said this on Monday in response to questions from MPs in Parliament on whether Singapore had alternative sources of granite.

    Singapore's supply of granite and sand from Indonesia had been affected recently when Jakarta announced a ban on sand exports and later detained some barges carrying granite to Singapore.

    Ms Fu said that while Singapore has sourced and received imports from other granite sources, efforts will be made to ensure that the supply line is further diversified to enhance resilience for the local construction industry.

    She said that while Singapore looks to buy from as many sources as possible, to build its stockpile and work with the industry for more sustainable construction methods, one other alternative is to look into the local granite sources.

    Ms Fu said there will be some limited quarrying and the HDB will look into re-opening one of its quarries on Pulau Ubin.

    Pulau Ubin lies on the northeastern tip of Singapore.

    The island was once a thriving centre for granite quarrying, employing several hundreds of quarry workers.

    When limited quarrying work is started on the outlying island of Ubin, Ms Fu said efforts will be made to ensure environment protection.

    Ms Fu said marine life, which is rich on Pulau Ubin, will be taken care of with measurements being made of the water content discharged as well as the discharge rate from the quarry site.

    Safety is another issue that's being kept in mind and Ms Fu said precautions will be taken such as the sounding of sirens to warn of blasting and the use of barricades to cordon off the area when blasting takes place.

    In addition, dust from the blasting will be both monitored and managed.

    Ms Fu revealed that the Kekek Quarry has been chosen for re-opening as it is far from the residential area of Pulau Ubin, therefore minimising the impact on the island's residents.

    At the same time, Kekek is close to a barge so granite can be transported with disruptions to life on the island kept minimal.

    She said the consensus is to keep Pulau Ubin as a place for leisure, so blasting and mining activities will not take place on weekends or at night.

    At the end of the exercise, Ms Fu said, efforts will also be made to rehabilitate the quarry area. - CNA/ir

    Singapore to reopen granite quarry-minister

    9 April 2007
    Reuters News

    SINGAPORE, April 9 (Reuters) - Singapore said it will reopen a small granite quarry on one of its islands to supply its booming construction industry after Indonesia interrupted granite exports and banned all sand exports to the city-state.

    The government fears that Indonesia -- which was Singapore's main sand supplier until it banned all sand exports to the city-state on environmental grounds -- may halt granite exports as well, potentially damaging the city-state's fast-growing building sector and the economy.

    Grace Fu, minister of state for national development, told parliament on Monday that the government would look at restarting a quarry on the tiny island of Pulau Ubin to provide local supplies of granite.

    "It is necessary to carry out some limited quarrying to understand the issues involved in reactivating quarries," Fu said, adding that Singapore was also importing granite from other countries in the region.

    The construction sector has already been hit by the sand ban, as builders are being forced to buy more expensive sand from the government's stockpile and from other countries.

    Goerge Yeo, Singapore's foreign affairs minister, said on Monday that Indonesia has not banned granite exports to the city-state. However, Yeo said that supply has been disrupted after 22 Singapore-bound barges and tugboats carrying granite were detained by Indonesia in February and March.

    Yeo said seven of the 22 tugboats and barges were alleged to be carrying sand, while the rest were detained for violating other Indonesian shipment and custom regulations.

    Indonesia has said that the detention was part of "administrative verification procedures".

    Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said last month that Indonesia would continue to export granite to Singapore as long as the shipments were checked by appointed surveyors to guard against damaging the environment.

    The price of concrete, which is made of sand, granite and cement, has nearly tripled to S$200 ($132) per cubic metre from S$70 ($46), according to the local Straits Times paper. The higher raw material prices would add about S$100,000 ($66,100) to the cost of building a S$2.5 million house, the paper said.

    Singapore has turned to other sand suppliers including China, Cambodia and Vietnam since Indonesia's sand ban in January. Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said last week that Myanmar could also be a long-term supplier of sand and granite.

    Ties between Indonesia and Singapore have soured since the ban, with Singapore criticizing Indonesia for using the sand export ban to pressure it into negotiations on an extradition treaty and border delineation.