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.
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!
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!