Jul 7, 2007

Chek Jawa Journey: a new chapter

This morning, the Chek Jawa boardwalk was launched.

It didn't seem all that long ago in Nov 06 when the pillars for the boardwalk started appearing.
We were at that time wondering whether the boardwalk would really be THAT tall, not realising that eventually, the pillars would be 'trimmed' to a more practical height.

The boardwalk was built with minimal impact on the rich seagrasses and sandflats. So much so that throughout the construction, public walks continued to be held. I once even saw a carpet anemone very close to a pillar. It was healthy and unharmed.
The walks were only suspended in early 2007 because massive flooding of freshwater had killed of many animals on Chek Jawa. It was thought best at that time, to give the habitat a rest from countless feet.

In Nov 06, NParks brought volunteers and friends of Chek Jawa for a little tour of the works-in-progress. It was high tide so we took a boat to the worksite.
Work was well on its way at the time.
In Jan 07, a few volunteers had the traditional New Year Toast to Chek Jawa, with the boardwalk taking shape in the background.In Feb 07, when TeamSeagrass did its first monitoring session on Chek Jawa, the boardwalk was taking shape all around the coast.
And today, the boardwalk is all done and ready to take on visitors!

Although I've snuck around on the boardwalk several times before the official opening, today was the first time I got to see the fully restored House No. 1 which is also Chek Jawa's Visitor Centre.
Among the House's unique features are a fireplace! Apparently it's a real working fireplace. The House has lots of informative panels about Chek Jawa.

And a Rescue Tank to hold any injured animals for recovery before they are eventually released.
The tank has a section of seagrasses, which allows a fabulous close up look at these interesting plants without having to get your face wet.The panels also highlight some of the threats to Chek Jawa (and all our other shores too).

The gathering was great opportunity to celebrate with friends who have walked this journey of many years.

Minister Mah was the Guest of Honour. And some of us accepted stars (we were assured they were plastic and not made of living stars) on behalf of the many many others who worked in quiet dedication for Chek Jawa.
Of all of them, I vote these two as the cutest stars!

The volunteers also led guests on a tour of the boardwalk. I didn't take photos because I just can't guide and shoot at the same time. But we saw a Banded krait, which we later found out was a very special sight indeed. More on the habitatnews blog.

And one of the guests in my group spotted a monitor lizard swimming in the water. I learnt a lot about plants from Dr Chin who was in our group. And Prof Jean Yong showed us a new mangrove plant with a cute name Ceriops zipliana (which I remember as zippedeedoodah). Apparently this tree is quite rare, thus again demonstration just how special Chek Jawa is.

After the official business was over, friends gathered together for a Toast to Chek Jawa. Although usually only held on New Year, we thought this was a special enough beginning to have an Extraordinary Toast.
We were delighted when NParks CEO Ng Lang made a special effort to come back and join us for the toast.
The completion of the boardwalk is indeed a milestone!

As we start a new chapter of the Chek Jawa journey, I wonder what lies in store for Chek Jawa? Reclamation has been deferred for 10 years from Jan 2002 and assurances have been given that Chek Jawa will not be reclaimed so long as it is not needed.

This is the plan that was published in 1991, in the book The Next Lap.
It shows in industry (in pink) and high density housing (in orange) for Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong with an MRT line (in red) from the mainland to both islands. As Singapore's population grows and more land is needed, this might indeed, eventually be the fate of the two islands and Chek Jawa.

As it is, with the recent reclamation, Pulau Tekong already has the shape depicted in the plan.

So come, visit Chek Jawa and see it for yourself. Better yet, make a difference and volunteer for Chek Jawa. Volunteers are always sorely needed to help share this wonderful place with as many people as possible while we can.

More details on Chek Jawa for visitors and volunteers on the wildsingapore website.
More Chek Jawa photos on the wildsingapore flickr Chek Jawa specials collection

More about the boardwalk
Champagne at Chek Jawa on the habitatnews blog with more details behind the boardwalk.
Chek Jawa now open-any tide! on the wonderful creations blog with more details of the launch including photos of what we saw during the walk.
The Banded krait that graced the launch on the habitatnews blog.
Chek Jawa Wetlands: the next chapter on Joseph Lai's eart-h.com
Charming Chek Jawa on the cooler insights blog
Chek Jawa Wetlands launched on the tidechaser blog
Seagrass poster for the launch on the teamseagrass blog

1 comment:

Joseph Lai Tuck Kwong said...

Heehee, chay hoon and star is a photo gem! Very cute intertidal and precious creatures indeed. : )