Naval Diving Unit Project Eco-Frog @ Semakau, 30 Oct 2009

The Singapore Navy’s Naval Diving Unit turned up at Pulau Semakau on 30 Oct 2009 for Project Eco-Frog as part of their CSR effort for 2009.

96 NDU staff came ‘ashore’ on the NEA slipway via an open-top fast utility vessel.


Within minutes of the impressive landing, an operations command centre complete with medic station was set up and the various special focus teams (diving and shore) got busy with their CleanUp preparations.

Whilst some of the teams took turns to attend the landfill tour and video presentation by the ever-ready and friendly NEA Semakau operations staff, the diving teams un-rolled their zodiac inflatables which were duly filled with air and fitted with outboard motors and in no time at all, the boats were ready and in the water by the slipway.


The shore teams proceeded with the landfill tour and thereafter went straight for the Northern shore through the forest trail. There is an incredible amount of ‘marine’ trash which has accumulated on the Semakau shore over the years. These items do not originate from the landfill being operated by the National Environment Agency on Semakau but arrive as flotsam after being carried on visiting tides and ocean currents to the Semakau shore.  Some items have become buried in the sand over the years or have been blown by the coastal winds further inland to become lodged below the dense vegetation of the coastal shrubs and trees.

Although the tide was rather high at about 2.0m at 10am, the shore teams managed to make swift work of the strand line debris. These encompass plastic bottles, glass beverage bottles both whole or broken in pieces, detergent or chemical containers, styrofoam bits, plastic sheeting, tires, abandoned fishing nets, food wrapping, and various other mainly plastic material which have floated in with the daily tides.

Care had to be taken navigating the shore as there were occasional broken glass pieces amongst the pebbles and rocks. Some areas also had an unusually high concentration of wooden material which seemed to blanket the natural shore thus preventing the growth of mangrove vegetation.  Many of the wooden planks had rusty nails in them and so these were removed as well as they posed a safety concern to anyone walking on the shore.

working hard



The diving teams had some success at their dive sites just off Semakau’s amazing seagrass lagoon and the reef fringing it although the particular sites showed no significant build up of debris. Hopefully, the rest of Semakau’s deeper waters are in just as good a condition. Their condition can only be ascertained after further dive recce trips.

All the bagged items were removed by the zodiacs from the shore direct to the slipway. This proved a much more efficient way of transferring the trash. The alternative would involve carrying the numerous heavy bags a long long walk down the shore and through the forest trail to the landfill service road.

In total, Project Eco-Frog saw 96 staff removing 96 trash bags filled with 455 kg of waste material in about 1.5 hours. This was enough to fill the NEA bulldozer’s grab!

NEA Bulldozer

This is indeed a great first effort and will go some way towards ensuring that the Semakau shore is better looked after and its various interrelated ecosystem components will continue to thrive for years to come.

Thank you NDU!

NDU !!!

Related links:

Wild Fact Sheets updated – Dugong, Sea Turtles and Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin!

Ria Tan of WildSingapore has updated these Wild Facts Sheets on the Dugong, Sea Turtles and Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin! These are resource pages about sightings of these marine animals in Singapore and their status, brief notes about the biology and the issues they face.

Organisers and presenters of the International Coastal Cleanup who run an education programme with participants in the months ahead of a cleanup will find this really useful to accompany the powerpoint that deals with the popular question, "Is there marine life in Singapore?"

Thanks, Ria!

Dugongs on the Shores of Singapore

“Marine rubbish on the rise: report,” by Nicky Phillips, ABC 21 Oct 2009

Marine rubbish on the rise: reportNicky Phillips ABC 21 Oct 09;

The damage caused by marine rubbish and debris is costing the
Asia-Pacific region more than a billion dollars each year, a new
report has found. The report, commissioned by the Marine Resource
Conservation working group of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC), found debris is increasing in the region's oceans, despite
measures to control it.

Study author Professor Alistair McIlgorm of the National Marine
Science Centre in Coffs Harbour says 6.4 million tonnes of debris
reaches the world's oceans each year. Of that 80% is thought to come
from land based sources, he says. More than half of the rubbish is
believed to be plastic, but McIlgrom says rubber, wood and sanitary
products also add to the problem.

"Poor landfill practices are big contributors to marine debris,
especially in Asia," says McIlgrom. The report also tallied the
economic costs of damage caused to the fishing and boat industries by
marine rubbish in the Asia-Pacific region. "Whether they have to
untangle plastic from a ship propellers or totally replace an outboard
– it's costing industries a lot," he says.

The report used a Japanese economic model, which estimates the damage
caused by marine debris costs governments close to 0.3% of their GDP
every year.

Conservative estimate

"That came to a total of US$1.265 billion across the 21 APEC
economies," says McIlgrom. In Australia, clean up of marine rubbish is
costing close to AU$6 million (US$6.5 million) each year. But these
figures are very conservative he says, and don't encompass the total
impact of marine rubbish. "There are lots of other costs, costs to
wildlife, loss of tourism and lost capital development opportunities,
like building a hotel or resort."

And the report doesn't include the clean-up bill, says McIlgrom. "If
you added the clean-up bill of all of APEC it would be a lot more." He
says what's really worrying is that the amount of marine debris in
oceans is growing with the world's population. "If you took the levels
[of rubbish] in 1980 it was much less than it is today, basically
we've got lazy with our use of plastics."

McIlgrom insists marine debris is an avoidable cost.

Prevention better than cure

The report recommends that governments focus more on preventing
rubbish entering our waterways, instead of trying to control it once
it gets there. "For every 100 units of rubbish that enter the ocean,
15 % float on the surface, 15% collect in the water column near the
shore and the rest sinks to the bottom of the deep ocean," says

With most rubbish originating from land based sources, he says it
makes more economic sense for governments to introduce preventative
measures. "Once debris enters the water and becomes diluted, it
becomes much more expensive per unit of rubbish to pick up." McIlgrom
says governments should implement proper landfill practices, which
would go a long way to reducing the amount of rubbish that ends up in
our water ways.

He says recycling, especially of plastic "really needs attention and
thought". McIlgrom says, good strategy is to reimburse people who
recycle plastic bottles, like in South Australia.

The report also recommends building nets at the end of estuaries,
where rivers or streams meet the ocean, to catch any debris before it
makes its way into open water.

Posted via email from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore