|• Pinyin||Déguāng Dǎo|
|• Malay||Pulau Tekong|
|• Tamil||தேக்கோங் தீவு|
Pulau Tekong, also known colloquially as Tekong, is the largest of Singapore's outlying islands with an area of 24.43 km2, and the island is still expanding due to land reclamation works on its southern and northwestern coasts which will eventually subsume many of its surrounding small islets, including Pulau Tekong Kechil.
Pulau Tekong is found off Singapore's northeastern coast, east of Pulau Ubin. Geographically, it is nearer to Johor, Malaysia than the Singapore main island itself. The Pulau Tekong Reservoir is also on the island.
Etymology and early history
Pulau Tekong appears in the Franklin and Jackson's 1828 map as Po. Tukang. The early name could have arisen because the island served as a trading station for both residents of Pulau Ubin and the state of Johor. Tukang means merchant in this case.
Tekong means "an obstacle", so called because the island blocks the mouth of the Sungai Johor. Pulo Tekong Besar came under the Changi district, and the island had a sizeable population, being the largest island off Singapore and two miles from Fairy Point. Ferries plied from the pier at that point and the island daily. After 1920, it was mostly known for its rubber plantations.
The island was once home to 5000 inhabitants, the last of which moved out in 1987. 60 percent of the inhabitants were Chinese, out of which 70 percent were Hakkas and 30 percent were Teochews, and 40 percent were Malays. There were a few Indians as well. The reason for Hakka being the majority of the Chinese population is that most of the Hokkien and Teochew businessmen already had flourishing businesses on the mainland. When the Hakkas arrived, they decided to eke out a living on an island less inhabited. Most were farmers, fishermen and shop owners selling sundry goods.
Wild pigs and deer were once plentiful on Pulau Tekong, and attracted hunters from Singapore. Pulo Tekong Besar had undergone so much development after World War II, with vegetable, fruit and poultry farms, that the wildlife has mostly disappeared.
Today, Pulau Tekong is used exclusively as a training base for various Singapore Army Units. Home to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), this is also where young Singaporean males are conscripted into National Service. The School of Infantry Specialists (SISPEC), which was situated two kilometres from BMTC, relocated to a new campus at Pasir Laba Camp in December 2005. A new training area, called Sanyongkong Field Camp, has been completed on the reclaimed land south of Dogra Bridge. Built by the Combat Engineers, this field camp will be used to train Infantry and Guards battalions. It also provides habitat to some wild animals that are rarely seen in main island Singapore such as the leopard cat, Sunda slow loris and Sunda pangolin. The extended Pulau Tekong will massively replace all training grounds, like Mandai, Marsiling, Seletar, Nee Soon, Lower Seletar, Upper Thomson and Simpang.
Past events on Pulau Tekong
On May 29, 1990, national servicemen spotted a family of three Indian elephants which had swum 1.5 km (0.9 mi) across the Straits of Johor. The Singapore Zoo worked with the Malaysian Wildlife Department's Elephant Capture and Translocation Unit to help in its plan to recapture the runaway elephants.
On June 10, all three elephants were captured and relocated back to the jungles of Johor.
Land reclamation issues
Land reclamation work is currently undergoing off the southern part of the island. Malaysia has referred the reclamation issue to International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on July 2003. Subsequently, the tribunal ordered a year-long joint study on the issue. The conflict was resolved on April 2005 following a signing of agreement between the two countries. The agreement includes modifications of the island in "Area D". The signed agreement was sent to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for final judgment.
Armed robbery incident
In March 2004 Pulau Tekong was the hiding place for a group of armed robbers comprising two Indonesians and a Malaysian. The robbers had fled from Malaysia, sparking off a massive coordinated manhunt involving Air Force helicopters, commandos, ground surveillance radar, troops from the 2nd Singapore Infantry Regiment, troops from the 40th Singapore Armoured Regiment and the Singapore Police Force. All three were caught by police officers; two by members of the Gurkha Contingent and one by the Police Coast Guard's Special Task Squadron. They were later charged with illegal entry and possession of firearms.
Pulau Tekong in Singaporean culture
In Singaporean folklore, the island is deemed to be extremely haunted. It is unclear if these beliefs actually date back to the days when Tekong was inhabited by civilians or if they sprang up after the island was taken over as military territory. The lives of the inhabitants of Pulau Tekong before it was turned into a training area for the Singaporean military was portrayed in the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (now MediaCorp) Channel 8 drama "Son of Pulau Tekong".
Coastal protection and restoration at Pulau Tekong
The National Biodiversity Centre and National Parks Board (NParks) will be conducting coastal protection and restoration works at the north-eastern coastline of Pulau Tekong which suffers from coastal erosion. The National Biodiversity Centre stated that the erosion resulted from the movements of ships and strong waves in the area. A study NParks commissioned in 2006 found that 1.65 km of the north-eastern shore is most severely affected. The coastal erosion poses a threat to the 92 hectares of mangroves in Pulau Tekong which is one of the largest remaining mangrove areas in Singapore with a mature and undisturbed habitat.
In 2007, memories of the island and a fascination with its history inspired former teacher Chen Poh Seng to produce a book with the help of Malaysian-born Taiwan academic, Dr Lee Leong Sze. The book, A Hidden Biotope: A Historical Remapping (1942-1987) of Tekong Island, chronicles the development of the island and what life was like for its residents from 1942 to 1987. The research, interviews of past inhabitants and transcriptions of oral history tapes took a year.
- "Tekong Revisited".
- "Home on Pulau Tekong".
- "Runaway elephants on Pulau Tekong". Singapore National Library Board. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- "Massive manhunt on Pulau Tekong for 3 armed robbers fleeing Johor". ChannelNewsAsia. Retrieved March 5, 2011.[dead link]
- NParks to conduct coastal protection & restoration works at Pulau Tekong
- Victor R Savage, Brenda S A Yeoh (2003), Toponymics - A Study of Singapore Street Names, Eastern Universities Press, ISBN 981-210-205-1
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