“Chek Jawa checkout”

The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore programme at Pulau Ubin collects annual data from Chek Jawa. In the process, we made yet another dent to years of accumulated trash on this precious marine environment. Determined volunteers huffed and puffed as they collected fine debris and dragged out tyres and long-abandoned fishing nets embedded in the sand and mud of Chek Jawa’s shores.

Getting to Chek Jawa means getting up really early! Volunteers reached Changi Village early to board bumboats to the island where eagerly awaiting Ubin taxi-vans brought them to Chek Jawa after a bumpy, 15 minute ride! The advance team from the Raffles Museum’s ICCS ‘Otters’ thought we were early but we were beaten to the first bumboat by an eager volunteer from the US who had only recently arrived in Singapore!

Looking down at the efforts of the 222 volunteers who removed 2.1 tones of marine debris were majestic white-bellied sea eagles, soaring high in the skies above. A few volunteers also saw a troop of wild boars foraging in the rubber plantation near House No. 1 who must have welcomed the removal of so much plastic from their island sanctuary. Other volunteers exclaimed over dinner plate-sized jellyfish they saw at the low water mark and a day after the cleanup, one participant is still abuzz by the mud lobster he saw in bright daylight!

Chek Jawa was once the site of a sizeable kampung village, and this is revealed by remnants of structures. The couple of wooden fishing jetties left behind jetty leg stumps and these are now host to numerous abandoned fishing nets, some stuck deep in the shifting sands and mud. Not all are old though, and new nets indicate the continued dumping of unwanted nets by local fishermen. Nets trap and kill organisms especially the many species of crabs that make Chek Jawa their home. Horseshoe crabs are especially vulnerable and the indestructible nets wreak havoc on this endangered living fossil we are lucky to still be able to see in our seas.

Forty blue drums irretrievably stuck in tangle of the tree line fronting the shore were proven to be extricable when volunteers bravely ventured into the thickets to remove a good number before the fast rising tide forced many to be left behind – this time! Less noticeable but easily outnumbering these large items were the omnipresent plastic bottles, styrofoam bits and plastic bags that plague our shores.

A conservative estimate suggests that we removed only 5% of the total load at Chek Jawa. Help to tackle this could come from small, low-impact, year-round cleanups as has been coordinated for some of the mangrove sites elsewhere. Tourists on NParks’ special intertidal tours at Chek Jawa might be happy to contribute to this effort once they learn about the issue. A 30 minute cleanup exercise after the regularly-conducted tour would do wonders!

Let’s all think about a regular check-out of the marine debris load at Chek Jawa. Slowly but surely, we will relieve the ecosystem of the burden man has imposed for so many years.

Andy Dinesh,
Pulau Ubin Zone Coordinator
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Thanks to Ivan Kwan for the photos!

Posted by email from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (posterous)

Kallang Basin’s Urban Coastal Cleanup!

The Kallang cleanup is a unique cleanup site for two reasons – with the Marina Barrage in place, Kallang Basin is cut off from the sea and this is no longer tidal. Instead the water level is controlled by the Public Utilities Board (PUB). Also the site is closest to the city center so participants work against an urban backdop of condominiums, the Benjamin Henry Sheare’s Bridge and the Singapore Flyer.

Coordination work here is easy because co-organiser Waterways Watch Society (WWS) is the area’s long-time environmental stalwart. Four organisations tackled Kallang – the German European School of Singapore (GESS), Compassvale Secondary School, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and NTU Earthlink.

PUB lowered the water level at 8am to provide a “low tide” so most of the teams started bright and early at 8am so that they could access the trash which would otherwise have been submerged.

GESS and Compassvale Secondary School headed for the long sandy beach of Marina Promenade and the enthusiastic students plunged into action immediately. Asked about the trash she found, a student answered “Lots of plastic!” – indeed, plastic is by far and large the most common item found here. A steady stream of plastic bags, straws, and food wrappers were picked and bagged. This load was probably washed in from areas other than the Promenade itself as it was too much to have come from one site!

NTU Earthlink’s older students handled the muddiest patch in the basin – Kallang Riverside Park. Amidst all that muddy work, the undergraduates uncovered the carcasses of two horseshoe crabs.

Meanwhile MEWR’s smallest group attended to small patches of coast around the WWS headquarters.

Participants saw for themselves the type and amount of urban trash entering our rivers that reach and impact our coastal and marine environments – with plastic items contributing the largest load. In Kallang, tired participants were left with some food for thought – the accumulated trash load from years of indiscriminate disposal of litter now plagues the river basin we reclaimed for a freshwater supply. It’s going to be a long journey to rehabilitating this precious resource and ICCS volunteers will make their small contribution to the effort annually.

Ng Kai Scene
South Zone Coordinator
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Posted by email from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (posterous)

Photos from the Zone/Site Captains

As the Zone and Site Captains reported in, some brought back photos that we uploaded in a jiffy and watched in the lab but erm, forgot to report here. The lab computers were crawling so they took a very long while to get online. For the record there was:

Kallang Basin by Ng Kai Scene

Lim Chu Kang mangroves by Dewi Anggraini

Kranji mangroves (a glimpse) by Dewi Anggraini

Posted by email from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (posterous)