SINGAPORE: If you have been to Pulau Ubin, you would have seen the old kampong houses dotting the island. While they lend a rustic charm to the area, some are in a state of complete disrepair.
So, NParks announced on Sunday (Jul 16) that it is calling members of the public - especially interest groups with experts in architecture, heritage and nature - to join them in restoring these dilapidated wooden kampong houses - starting with House 63C.
The former home of Ubin resident Mr Tan Bak Tee for five decades was first built in the 1930s and then later converted for other purposes like a storehouse. It was returned to the state in the early 2000s.
When refurbished, NParks said the house, which is only left with a wooden and zinc skeleton, will retain the "cultural heritage and rustic character of the island". Enhancements will also be done sensitively and sustainably. What the house will be used for is still up in the air, and is open to proposals by interest groups.
Four other empty houses on the island, which have been returned to the state as well, are also earmarked for restoration. The idea to restore these kampong houses was first conceived through The Ubin Project meetings, organised by the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN).
But this is not the first time such a restoration has been done.
At the sixth Ubin Day, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee noted Pulau Ubin's long history, dating back to the Orang Laut who inhabited its shores before colonial times, and the island's granite quarrying and farming past.
"Since last year, we've embarked on initiatives that represent our commitment to further enhance the heritage, history and community of Pulau Ubin", said Mr Lee.
He pointed to House 363B, which was restored after it was returned to the state. The house, which once belonged to Mr Chew Teck Seng, was relaunched in his name to "give visitors a glimpse into kampong life on the island in the 70s."
"Many people have enjoyed visiting Teck Seng's place. The house and the specially curated memorabilia and photographs have triggered fond memories of how life used to be in the past", said Mr Lee.
He added: "Recognising the community's interest, we will be embarking on a more concerted effort to restore the kampong houses on the island. It is the existing community's way of life on Pulau Ubin that makes for the living heritage that is special to Pulau Ubin - and this is something that can be sustained only if we continue to anchor the active participation of the community on this island."
Ubin Day is the culmination of Pesta Ubin, which saw more than 8,000 participants taking part in over 10 weeks of activities.
Besides restoration works, NParks is also working with the research community to conduct a first ever comprehensive biodiversity survey on Pulau Ubin late this year. There are more than 700 native plant species and over 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as 240 species of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Some of them are only found on the island.
Over the next two years, they will be collecting data to update the species inventory of the island, which will be useful for research, habitat enhancement and species recovery projects. NParks added that the results will be used for long-term monitoring and management of the island.
The nature gallery, which greets visitors as soon as they step on the island, has also been renovated to include 3D displays of biodiversity found on Pulau Ubin, like the otters and dugongs.