May 31, 2008

Draft Master Plan 2008 and our shores: why should I care?

Today I visited the Master Plan exhibition at URA, and spent a lot of time going through their website.

Why should I care about the Master Plan?

The Master Plan guides development in Singapore. It is important to understand the principles that guide master planners. And if there are gaps in understanding the situation on the ground, it is up to us to highlight these issues. Those of us who know and care, MUST speak up. To tell planners where there are good examples of our marine heritage. So that these are taken into account during the planning process.

So please do try to visit the exhibition (more details on the URA website), and give your feedback. I will be sending links to these posts as feedback to URA on the Master Plan. If you prefer, you can simply add your comments to this blog.

What is the Master Plan?

The Concept Plan

The Concept Plan is Singapore’s strategic land use and transportation plan to guide development in the next 40 to 50 years. The Concept Plan is reviewed every 10 years.

The Master Plan
The Master Plan is the statutory land use plan which guides Singapore's development in the medium term over the next 10 to 15 years. It is reviewed every five years and translates the broad long-term strategies of the Concept Plan into detailed plans to guide development. The Master Plan shows the permissible land use and density for every parcel of land in Singapore.

Concept Plan Review A mid-term review of the Concept Plan in 2006 concluded that there is sufficient land to cater to Singapore’s future needs while maintaining a good quality living environment. The broad strategies arising from the review are:

* Need to make better use of land: There is a need to make more creative use of land to meet future needs, such as using underground spaces and co-location of compatible uses.

* Decentralisation through new growth centres: New growth centres outside of the city are proposed at Jurong and Paya Lebar.

* Priority on public transport: Priority has to be given to the use of public transport to meet the increasing transportation needs.

* Enhancing Quality of Life & Sense of Identity: The quality of life can be enhanced by providing for a greater variety of leisure options. At the same time, there is also a need to selectively retain Singapore’s built and natural heritage to foster our sense of belonging.

How are our wild places seen in terms of urban planning?

Our parks and nature places fulfil the 'Play' element of the 'Work, Live and Play' theme in urban planning.
Nature is clearly a part of the leisure plan.Some of the designated activities include:As well asOther activities related to the marine environment include: marina and pleasure boating, sailing, kayaking/canoeing, water skiing/wakeboarding, fishing and scuba diving.

Other activities related to the outdoors include: dragonboat, water taxi, motorsports, golfing, horseriding, rollerblading and other sports

Non-outdoor activities considered include: shopping, lifestyle and dining, arts and culture and community.

Which are the areas designed with the sea star for "Marine Nature Spot"?

Chek Jawa at Pulau UbinLabradorPulau Semakau has a sea star. Pulau Hantu doesn't but it is the only location with a scuba diving icon.While there are a lot of different leisure icons for Sentosa, there are none for the Southern Islands nearby: Kusu, St. John's and the Sisters Islands.Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve doesn't get a "sea star" but has all the other relevant icons.Changi doesn't get a "sea star"Neither does Pasir Ris.Do our shores exist?

On the big table top model of Singapore ...All our Southern Islands have dropped off the table.
And there's only half of Pulau Ubin with Chek Jawa off the table.

In the panel devoted to Playing with Water ...
Some of our Southern islands have also dropped off the map, including Pulau Hantu, the only location with the scuba icon, which is on the Water Activities Plan legend, but doesn't appear on the map.Is it a bad thing that urban planners know little about our shores?

While no news can be taken good news, it also does mean that plans will not take into account the presence of good reefs and our other shore habitats.

However, the planners do seem to have some awareness of the shores as a part of the lives of Singaporeans.
In the panel featuring memories of physical places, there were lots of photos of people on the shores.Across time.Both natural and man-made shores.

Trips to the Southern Islands.Even Chek Jawa!The life-vests suggest these are government visitors, and they are visiting before the boardwalk was built.

It's a pity they did not include photos of the many public walks conducted for thousands of Singaporeans on our amazing living shores!
Enthralled on Chek Jawa.Living classroom at LabradorDelighted at Pulau Semakau.
Exploring our City Reefs on Kusu Island. Just minutes from the city centre.Exploring Sentosa's surprising natural shores.
For all ages at Changi.Communing with wildlife on Chek Jawa.

To learn more about our shores, come for my public talk on 7 Jun (Sat) 3pm at the National Library Victoria Street. I promise to share hundreds of photos of our living shores and some of the issues affecting them. More details of the talk on the wildsingapore happenings blog.

Links to media articles on the Master Plan
From the Straits Times 24 May 08
To give your views on the redevelopment plans, visit the Draft Master Plan 2008 exhibition at The URA Centre, 45 Maxwell Road from now till June 20.

Opening hours are 9am to 7pm (Monday to Friday), and till 1pm on Saturday.

Those who object to the proposals should write in to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Development, 5 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069110 - with supporting reasons - before June 20.

Master Plan 2008: our Southern Islands

The cluster of Southern Islands near Sentosa seem very well in the focus of the planners. From the URA website, the map includes the major submerged reefs in the vicinity. But the map above is wrongly labelled. This is the correct names for the islands and reefs. (Higher resolutions of this same map on the website, however, had the correct names).The designated land uses are light green for "sports and recreation", olive green for "open space", purple for "hotel" or "business", light pink "residential" and dark pink "residential with commercial first storey", light blue "water body".

Most of the commercial and residential uses are concentrated on Seringat-Kias.This area was created by burying two submerged reefs: Seringat and Kias. This is what the two reefs looked like, from the Southern Islands Development Guide Plan (DGP) 1996 by the URA.The plans for Kusu Island are light green for "sports and recreation" with red areas marking "places of worship".
While the plans for the Sisters Islands are all light green for "sports and recreation".In the Parks and Waterbodies Plan, a chunk of St. John's Island is designated a Nature Area, while the Sisters Island and the water around them is designated a Marine Nature Area.
What does this mean?As for the other Southern Islands with natural shores, they are completely blank. Pulau Hantu isn't even labelled on the map, and Cyrene Reef doesn't appear on the map at all.
Here are the locations properly labelled.Pulau Semakau is the original island. The Semakau Landfill was created by building a seawall that eliminated Pulau Sakeng and the Eastern half of the original Pulau Semakau.

As for the landuse plan, the area is mostly maroon "business" and grey "transport facilities".
With olive green for "open space" assigned to the live firing islands and the natural part of Pulau Semakau.

Ominously, Pulau Hantu is beige, for "reserve site".

Significantly, Pulau Hantu was not featured in the exhibition in any other way. For example, no photos of people enjoying the island for fishing, diving or other water sports.

At the exhibition, under "Magnet for Business", the business plans for these islands are indicated.With dark blue for existing developments and maroon for projected developments. More about petrochemical industries and our southern islands.

Master Plan 2008: Pulau Ubin, Chek Jawa and our northern shores

Is Chek Jawa safe from reclamation?

The panel at the exhibition on Nature features Chek Jawa.As part of the effort to 'protect key areas of ecological signficance' and an example of 'some nature areas that have been selectively and sensitively integrated within parks so that it is easier to commune with nature'. Perhaps significantly, what is featured is just the more terrestrial Chek Jawa boardwalk and Visitor Centre.From the URA website, the bulk of Pulau Ubin is designated as Nature Area (NA). Although this designation does not extend to the Chek Jawa intertidal zone.What is additionally unsettling is that the outline in the Master Plan for Ubin at Chek Jawa extends to the low water mark...suspiciously like a reclaimed land boundary. The google map below shows the terrestrial and intertidal areas at Chek Jawa.
In fact, the outlines for Pulau Tekong on the URA website (and exhibition panels) ... .. match the reclaimed area on Pulau Tekong as can be seen from the google map.
In 1990, in the book "The Next Lap" this was the plan for Pulau Ubin, Chek Jawa and Pulau Tekong.
Back to today's Master Plan 2008, a closer look shows a Nature Area designated on Pulau Tekong.As for the land use plan, the olive green colour onPulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong indicates "open space", the light blue "water body"and beige "reserve site". The beige portions of Pulau Tekong includes the currently reclaimed areas.
With a designated conservation area (marked with a dotted line with "C" in the centre) located at House No. 1, the Visitor Centre of Chek Jawa.
Pulau Ubin is NOT included as part of the grand plan for Leisure in Singapore.Although existing leisure features on Pulau Ubin are indicated, including a 'sea star' for Chek Jawa, located on the intertidal.Changi is a part of the leisure plan. There doesn't appear to be any new shore development plans for Changi. Although other leisure activities are planned for the area.Further along the northern coastline, there are plans to open up Coney Island.and to develop facilities on the Punggol shore.And even further up, there are plans to develop the Sembawang shoreline.As well as the Woodlands coast next to Admiralty Park.