Connecting urbanised youth with their natural heritage – Woodlands Ring Secondary School students reflect on the Sungei Loyang mangrove cleanup

03 Sep 2011 – As schools in Singapore close for the September break, about 50 students from Woodlands Ring Secondary School spent a meaningful Saturday morning at Sungei Loyang for the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS).

Each year, the Secondary Three Biology students kickstart their September holidays by doing their part for Mother Nature. This is the 11th year Woodlands Ring Secondary School has participated in the ICCS, led by Mr Jack Chong, HOD for Character and Citizenship Education, and assisted by former students who volunteer year after year to guide their juniors.

Most of the students were coming face to face with a mangrove habitat and its biodiversity for the first time – hence the event provides a platform to connect our urbanised younger generation back to nature.

Here are excerpts of some of the students’ reflections:

“I feel that ICCS is a meaningful programme as it enables us to know more about our environment, as we are living in a developed area. In this way, we can have a more holistic education and we can learn about taking care of what Mother Nature has entrusted to us. Initially, I did not like the idea of ICCS. After going through the process, I have learnt to enjoy the activity and learn about the importance of our environment.” – Camilia Koh Ching Wen

“I felt that the whole programme was relatively tiring, but it was worthwhile. I also came close to a real swamp life as I saw the habitat of mud lobsters and many seagrasses. Overall, the trip was an eye-opener and was meaningful.” – Azizul Hakim Bin Mohamad Said

“Before the cleanup, I felt very sad to see rubbish cluttered all over the mangrove and the strong stench from the litter made me even more depressed. I knew that I had to play my part as a concerned citizen to clean the mangrove and to preserve the wildlife. However, I had a great sense of satisfaction when I saw all the rubbish being cleared up and seeing the mangrove so clean once again. As a Biology student, I can help to raise awareness of the public and organise more projects to clean these areas more often.” – Matthew A/L Kumar

“When I heard that we will be going for the cleanup, I was pretty bummed about the trip as I knew it was going to be hot and tiring. However, on the actual cleanup, due to my stomach upset, I was unable to help with the picking up of trash and was instead assigned to help weighing and loading the trash. It gave me time to chat with some of the assistants which made me realise such cleanups are important as the amount of trash has been increasing each year. Thus my initial view changed and I now feel that such cleanups are very meaningful.” – Ong Qian Wei

“I felt that the cleanup of the mangrove is a once in a lifetime experience and this trip also made me realise the importance of decreasing the amount of pollution, as this will greatly affect the animals’ natural habitats and it will spoil the natural beauty of the environment. I am glad that ICCS provided my schoolmates and I a chance to experience and learn more about our natural environment. After the cleanup, I felt that I contributed in my own way and I am proud of myself. I hope that there will be more of such learning journeys” – Cheong Wee Kee

– Chua Yi Teng, Biology teacher, Woodlands Ring Secondary School.

The ICCS Year-Round Cleanups at Tanah Merah East

Where are the Tanah Merah beaches?

Tanah Merah is the newest zone in the ICCS programme as it was added to Singapore’s shoreline relatively recently. This stretch is host to a bunch of Singapore’s non-recreational beaches which are not cleared of marine debris regularly, as they are not setup for public use as yet. As such, it is a good place to get an education about the load of marine debris which washes up on Singapore’s shores.

ICCS Google Map of Tanah Merah’s beaches, 1-10 sites

There is life on the shore!

WildSingapore’s Tanah Merah marine life poster
poster

086iccs-tanah_merah-18sep2011[adinesh] | Flickr - Photo Sharing!In the eastern end of these beaches lie the most recently reclaimed beaches of Tanah Merah East, TM6-TM10. Though recent, marine life returning to the shore is subject to numerous stresses including a very high load of plastics and other debris as well as tar balls which persist and wash up from oil spills long forgotten.

These areas have been well recce’d by ICCS Recce Captain Andy Dinesh over the years, who also assists ICCS Zone Captains Xu Weiting and Cai Hongxia oversee the cleanup in September.

Trash from the Beach
114,709 trash items were removed from 4.6km of Tanah Merah’s beaches (1-10) last September. The top three trash items collected were:

  • Styrofoam pieces – 8,1465
  • Beverage bottles (plastic) 2 liters or less – 14,676
  • Bags (plastic) – 1,775

The ICCS Year-Round Cleanups at Tanah Merah East

In response to interest expressed by groups who tackled Tanah Merah East beaches (TM6-TM10) during the last international coastal cleanup in September, ICCS intends to initiate a programme of year-round cleanups at Tanah Merah East in order to grapple with the magnitude of trash on that shore.

These cleanups, separate from our data-driven September cleanup, will be either managed directly or in support of an Organiser of a corporate group or institution interested in contributing to this effort.

To initiate this programme, we are recruiting motivated individuals from amongst ICCS Organisers and Site Buddies, National Volunteer and Philantrophy Centre’s ICCS Site Buddies and Green Champions as well as ICCS alumni and members of the public.

From this pool, we hope to have enough volunteer Site Buddies who can manage cleanups at Tanah Merah at least four times a year. Once this mechanism is set up, the ICCS Year-Round Cleanups at Tanah Merah East will be integrated into the National Volunteer Oil Spill Action Plan which we are developing, in order to prepare volunteers to better respond in a crisis on our shores.

To kick off the programme, we are meeting interested individuals in January 2012:

Recruitment Briefing
Wed 04 Jan 2012: 7.00pm

Conducted by N. Sivasothi (Coordinator, ICCS)
National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre @ Central
[map]If you are keen to participate and can commit to managing
at least four cleanups a year, sign up at:
http://tinyurl.com/iccs-tanahmeraheast


Tanah Merah East (Beaches 6-10): data and photos from ICCS2011

On 17 September 2011, a total of 411 volunteers from nine organisations collected, categorised and counted 25,980 items weighing 3,607 kg along 1,300 metres of shoreline. This was disposed of in a total of 752 trash bags and carted away by NEA contractors, destined for incineration and disposal.

Below are some photos to give you an impression of the site.

Tanah Merah 6 – link

  • Weatherford Asia Pacific Pte Ltd – link
  • Ministry of Education – link

Tanah Merah 7 – link

  • SUVEC – link
  • National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre – link
  • ITE College East – link
  • Independents – link
Tanah Merah 8 & 9 (18 Sep 2011)

  • Australia & New Zealand Association Action,
    AECOM & National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre – link

Tanah Merah 10 (18 Sep 2011)

  • Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources – link
Photos from Tanah Merah

Trash-filled shores!

More trash, covered in oil!

Coastal cleanup may be back-breaking work, but it is satisfying!

Trash bags from Tanah Merah 8 & 9

More photos from ICCS 2011 be found here:

Tanmaya Kabra, SEVEN years in ICC Singapore and on to the US next!

I have met many Singapore American School students over the years and have always appreciated their participation in the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore as they are hard workers on our shores. After two decades, that’s something like 3,000 American students who have pitched in for the marine environment here. They would have gone on to make a difference in the environment wherever they are in varying degrees as they moved on to colleges in the US and then on to careers and life.

Both the Middle and High Schools of the Singapore American School participate so there are some students who have had a long record of participation. Thus it was with great pleasure that I met a student veteran of SEVEN years!

Tanmaya Kabra accompanied veteran-teacher Martha Began to received the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium Award for the SAS High School’s for 20 years of dedicated service under the enthusiastic supervision of Martha, Steve Early and others. The Middle School which has been led by ICCS founder Kate Thome too received the Symposium Award, which is an acknowledgement by the community to exemplary effort.

SAS 7th Year ICCS

This is Tanmaya’s last year in ICCS as he heads off to college but he has told me he will be seeking out the ICC there in the US where it originated. There are programmes in all the states, although getting to a cleanup site could involve a bit more traveling to get there!

Tanmaya has been blogging at Green Notings and made posts about the SAS’ 20th year at ICCS and the receiving the Symposium Award.

Besides being a pioneer in the ICCS, SAS has provided an opportunity for continuity for participation in the programme as highlighted by Tanmaya.

This sort of involvement of experienced students in ICCS to help mentor and supervise others is something we have always encouraged as involving students in planning and execution better prepares them for independent environmental protection effort. And it provides support for overburdened teachers!

In the years ahead, I think we should look into surveying how widely this has been done and actively encourage this.

Well done Tanmaya, and I’ll look forward to your report from the US next year!

A Great Effort at Sungei Seletar Clean-up

Volunteers from Land Transport Authority, Pei Hwa Secondary School and individual signup participants arrived early at 8am at Sungei Seletar for International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2011 on Saturday 17th September 2011.

Sungei Seletar is one of the most difficult places at which to conduct a cleanup. Firstly, there is no public bus service. Then there is the lack of shelters in case of heavy rain. Zero toilet unless you consider the tall bushes and shrubs fair game. The difficult terrain of rocky beaches threaten to sprain the ankles and ankle-deep mud near the mangroves and the tides cut off the returning path on the beach. Lastly the Trash Collection Point is far, far away.

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Despite these challenging factors, enthusiastic volunteers cleaned up about 650kg of trash with the plastic (bags & beverage bottles)  comprising the bulk of trash out of this not-so-noticed spot of coast.

It was a great effort and much thanks to all volunteers who turned up to battle marine pollution that day.