NParks to lead 
restoration of kampung houses on Pulau Ubin

NParks to lead 
restoration of kampung houses on Pulau Ubin
Mr Tan Chee Kiang, 69, nephew of the original owner of House 63C on Pulau Ubin, which has been earmarked for a community-involved restoration effort led by NParks, taking a peek at the property, on July 16, 2017. Photo: Robin Choo
Published: 11:50 PM, July 16, 2017
Updated: 9:49 AM, July 17, 2017

SINGAPORE — Restored kampung houses, a comprehensive survey of biodiversity and a revamped nature gallery. These will soon grace — or are already enhancing — Pulau Ubin.

At least five disused kampung houses on the island will be restored to their former glory as part of years-long restoration efforts, led by the National Parks Board (NParks) along with community groups.

One of the houses, House 63C, was identified by the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN) this year in a pilot 

Built in the 1930s, it was the home of Mr Tan Bak Tee and his family for half a century before it was returned to the State in early 2000.

The restoration project was announced by Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee at Ubin Day yesterday. He said that the efforts will “sensitively enhance Ubin’s tangible living cultural heritage”.

He added: “Moving forward, we are exploring the possibility of allowing groups and individuals to use and manage unoccupied kampung houses that have been restored if they can demonstrate that they can work alongside the existing village community to contribute to our larger vision for a rustic and nostalgic Pulau Ubin.”

He also said that the project had been discussed and mulled over by FUN — comprising Ubin residents, naturalists, heritage experts and researchers — for some time. FUN members have worked with NParks to develop proposals on which houses to restore and how to do it.

Speaking to the media, NParks Group director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah said that the restorations are in “preliminary discussions”. “Once the first pilot is done, we will see how the community takes to it. The community will deliberate and decide what kind of activities will take place,” he added.

House 63C, among 70 kampung houses on Pulau Ubin, now stands in disrepair about five minutes away from the jetty. The nephew of its former owner, 63-year-old Mr Tan Chee Kiang, said that he was “very happy” to know that his childhood home would be restored. “To see the house go back up again, I am heartened … if it continues standing empty, it’d be dirty with snakes, mice roaming around,” he said in Mandarin.

For the first time, NParks will also be launching a two-year-long comprehensive biodiversity survey on Pulau Ubin that will begin towards the end of the year, aided by volunteers, researchers from the National University of Singapore and citizen scientists from nature groups.

The survey builds on last year’s BioBlitz@Ubin, which resulted in the documentation of more than 450 species. Pulau Ubin is home to 720 native plant species and over 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as about 240 species of butterflies, dragonflies and 

“This survey will allow us to reconfirm the baseline data for the species that we’ve already done, but will also allow us to get new data for species like bees, moths, ants and some other animals (for which) we haven’t got baseline data. This will help in the long-term planning of biodiversity conservation on Pulau Ubin,” said NParks manager for conservation Noel Thomas.

Mr Lee also unveiled the revamped Nature Gallery by HSBC, updated from a previous decade-old exhibition through a S$100,000 donation from HSBC. The revamped gallery now comprises information panels, educational displays, interactive touchscreens and 3D models of species found on Pulau Ubin, such as dugongs and oriental pied hornbills.