The wonderful spirit of the Independents @ Sungei Ubin

18 Sep 2010 – Every year, the bulk of the cleanup volunteers participate through organised groups. Some individuals, however, hear about the cleanup and sign up independently – the coordinators call them “The Independents,” to reflect their determined spirit which sees them step forward to participate without prompting and they are all a joy to work with at all the sites they turn up at.

ICCS Sg Ubin walkin

This year, about 30 Independents were allocated Sungei Ubin, where I act as Site Captain. This site requires volunteers to report to Pulau Ubin at 7.30am on a Saturday morning. With some volunteers staying in western Singapore and wet mornings for the past two days, I confess I was expecting some “no-shows.” However, everyone turned up – and the ones staying further were either on time or earlier than I was!

This sign of commitment was heartening for me to experience on an early Saturday morning!

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With a quick briefing about procedure and safety, everyone started working and soon began pulling out the fishing nets which were deeply embedded in the mud or entangled around trees.

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Barely half an hour into the cleanup, the Independents had accumulated a large load of fish/kelong nets, tires and metal meshes. This group of participants also did not falter at removing large items such as oil drums. Their spirit was wonderful to behold!

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The Independents paid attention to details like cutting open tires to remove the sand inside. And the girls helped with moving the accumulated trash to the Trash Collection Point at the end of the cleanup, even though they were exhausted by then.

ICCS2010 Sg Ubin

In just 90 minutes, 30 independents had cleared about 450kg of trash from the site. – a huge load for such a small group, reflecting the effort each one of them put in!

It was truly great working with this bunch of energetic participants and I was energised by the experience – well done, everyone and good job!

Zhang Dongrong
Site Captain, Sungei Ubin
ICCS Ubin West Zone

Photos from the Lim Chu Kang mangrove cleanup, 11 Sep 2010

“Sun, sand, sea… and tonnes of debris” (The Sunday Times, 19 Sep 2010)

“Sun, sand, sea… and tonnes of debris,” by Melissa Pang. The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2010. East Coast Park beach is Singapore’s dirtiest, due to seaborne garbage and human litter. [WildSingapore News link]

Sun, sand, sea... and tonnes of debris

Sun, sand, sea... and tonnes of debris

“Flotsam and Jetsam may be just a pair of evil eels in a popular Disney cartoon movie, but flotsam and jetsam are real problems for Singapore’s beach cleaners.

The seaborne garbage – from seaweed to plastic bottles and stuff jettisoned from ships – gets deposited on local shores, thanks to the seasonal monsoons.

As much as five tonnes of debris are collected daily from East Coast Park beach during the south-west monsoon from May to October each year.

During the off-season, less than one tonne is collected every other day, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Besides cleaning up the 10.7km East Coast Park beach, NEA also ensures that Changi, Sembawang Park and Pasir Ris beaches are maintained.

Changi, which has a 6.2km stretch, can accumulate up to three tonnes of rubbish daily from November to April during the north-east monsoon. Off-season, one tonne is cleared every other day.

Pasir Ris and Sembawang Park are affected by the north-east monsoon too.

‘The most debris is at East Coast and Changi. You won’t know this because cleaners are out by 7am to sweep them clean,’ said Mr N. Sivasothi of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS), made up of volunteers from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research of the National University of Singapore.

ICCS adds to NEA’s efforts by organising coastal cleanups as well.

Yesterday, more than 3,000 volunteers from over 60 schools, institutes, organisations and government and corporate bodies took part in cleanup efforts across the island to mark the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) day. This year’s programme has attracted more than 4,000 volunteers, and will take place over three weekends.

ICC is an annual event conducted on the third Saturday of September in up to 100 countries.

Coordinated by the non-profit United States-based agency, Ocean Conservancy, it is now into its 25th year. It aims to remove debris and collect data on it – from shorelines, waterways and beaches worldwide.

During last year’s ICC day, over 3,000 volunteers here picked up more than 13 tonnes of trash from 20km of coastline.

The volunteer team that coordinates the ICC in Singapore also helps to conduct other cleanups here during the year, especially at mangrove and sandy shore areas that are not cleaned daily.

A spokesman for NEA said it spends about $1.4 million a year to clean the four recreational beaches here.

During the monsoons, cleaners scour the beaches twice daily; otherwise, they do it once daily or every other day.

A team of cleaners starts work as early as 6am, and the process can take as long as six hours. Because of the size of East Coast Park beach and the level of human activity, up to 30 cleaners are needed to help clear the debris. The other beaches require between three and 10 cleaners.

One cleaner drives and operates a machine that scoops up the litter, while the others, such as Mr Mahmood Amin, collect the litter manually using rakes.

‘Some of the stranger items I’ve picked up are car tyres and huge tree branches. I enjoy the work, but it would be nice if people helped by not littering,’ said the 38-year-old, who has been a cleaner for more than a year.

Collected debris goes straight to incineration plants and the Semakau landfill.

NEA’s spokesman said that other than seaweed, debris brought in by the tides is the waste thrown into the sea by people.

Earlier this month, NEA released findings of a survey of water samples which showed that the waters off Pasir Ris contained unsafe levels of enterococcus, which can cause gastro-intestinal illnesses with vomiting and diarrhoea if swimmers come into contact with it.

The spokesman said the removal of debris along beaches will not affect the enterococcus count of water, as the bacterium is found in the faeces of humans and warm-blooded animals.

Ms Nicola Carter, 44, who visits East Coast Park beach occasionally, thinks the cleanliness of Singapore’s beaches can be improved on.

‘When the tides go down, you can see plenty of trash, especially at the more popular areas. Individuals have a responsibility for keeping the beaches clean,’ said the sales manager.

Mr Sivasothi encourages the practice of ‘the three Rs’: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. He said: ‘Semakau’s landfill is where the ash of our trash goes to.

‘It was built at some cost to our natural heritage – coral reef and mangrove ecosystems in the area. We can make better use of that sacrifice by extending its lifespan if we reduce, reuse and recycle.’

Results from the last three coastalcleanups – Kranji Bund mangrove, Sg Cina mangrove and Pasir Ris 6 revisited

The International Coastal Cleanups have been spread over three Saturdays this year and the last of the series were three unique cleanups. Due to the tidal regime, these cleanups were conducted in the afternoon/ CLick the pie charts to examine the results in detail.

It’s a lovely finish to ICCS2010. There are still gloves to dry, zone and national data totals to add up. debriefs to conduct and reports to circulate. The operational aspects are over and were all conducted safely and all the organiser’s data is in, phew!

Kranji Bund mangrove
This is the Nature Society (Singapore)’s signature site where they also regularly conduct horseshoe crab rescue operations from ghost nets. They also set the standard by enjoying a sing-a-long session and a makan kechil at the site itself after they have washed up – with everyone encouraged to bring their own utensils!

ICCS2010 - Kranji Bund results

Pasir Ris 6
This site was revisited by a determined team as promised, for the trash load there is so high. They came away with 700kg of trash!

ICCS '10 @ Pasir Ris 6 ( Revisited ) - KCAY - Picasa Web Albums

ICCS 2010 Pasir Ris revisited

Sungei Cina mangrove
This mangrove patch lies within Admiralty Park and this is the first year of the cleanup there, which is heartening; one more mangrove patch looked after!

Facebook | Lee Bee Yan's Photos - ICCS'10 Sungei Cina Mangroves