SINGAPORE - Pulau Ubin is like a smiling, rustic uncle whom everyone loves because he has always been there. His "ulu" world frozen in time and a life gone feral somewhat, few would want to step into his shoes but none would want him to change.
It is all quite illogical, especially when a land-starved city state ought to be making far better use of every square metre of precious space.
All the more, it is reassuring that there is wide support for the latest push to preserve Pulau Ubin, with plans to dovetail community efforts with state initiatives under the watch of a minister of state.
There is no shortage of areas to focus on - tackling shoreline erosion and supporting endangered plants, such as the Eye of the Crocodile, and wildlife like hornbills.
More than 2,000 ideas have already emerged and more will likely pour in as efforts gain momentum. Some divergence in thinking can be expected.
But should camps emerge, one can only hope these are mainly of the outdoor kind to bring people closer to Ubin's natural offerings.
The hankering to preserve Ubin might well reflect a lesson learnt late about heritage bulldozed in the name of progress.
Once gone, it is irreplaceable. That central thought itself deserves preservation, should new ideas spring up to exploit tourism opportunities or develop a "world-class" conservation showcase or some simulacrum of nature for edutainment.
While facilitating access to the island to promote appreciation, one should be wary of a hydra-headed maze of concrete creeping up slowly across the island.
Some infrastructure, preferably with natural materials, is needed but the less disturbed, the better.
Sustaining Ubin's charm can draw inspiration from the saving of the Chek Jawa wetlands, a worthy example of well-considered green activism.
Given the changing nature of challenges, the island will always need the untiring attention of volunteers. As such, the community-state effort should be seen less as a "project", as evident in its name, and more as a lifelong link with a favoured isle.
This article was first published on December 7, 2014.
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