Singapore World Water Day – 29 volunteers remove 415.5kg of trash (43 trash bags) @ Sungei Pandan Mangrove [26 March 2016]

29 volunteers celebrated World Water Day Cleanup @ Sungei Pandan on 26 March 2016 – beaming with enthusiasm and with quiet intent that early Saturday morning, they certainly raised our spirits!

They had hopped onto a bus from from Kent Ridge and Dover MRT stations to our gathering point at the Jalan Buroh B25 bus stop. Against the noisy traffic, and with the help of a handy gigaphone, ICCS Coordinator Sivasothi aka Otterman introduced the site and its ecosystem before the ICCS -IKEA Intern Joys Tan (that’s me!) embarked on my first safety briefing!

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After many years of cleanups, the trash load at Sungei Pandan is now low and dominated by plastic sheets, cups, bottles, wrappers, straws, styrofoam (eps) and canvas bags. Many were embedded in the grass patch and mangrove floor, which requires a great effort for removal. Our volunteers were not dismayed but worked away, intent on improving the conditions in this rare mangrove spot in the south of Singapore – just look at the bright smiles on their faces!

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The ninety minute cleanup was an intense effort! So some of us took break after an hour to catch our breath and rest some weary muscles. Eventually it was time and we transferred and weighed the trash bags and set them aside at the agreed location for the NEA DPC contractors who ensure the trash gets disposed.

We debriefed the team by the roadside and reported a removal of 415.5kg of trash in 43 trash bags from the mangrove after an effort of 90 minutes! We discussed the type of trash we saw, remarked on the need to share the experience to encourage everyone to reduce trash at the source in our daily lives.

Otterman concluded with the biodiversity and heritage value of these precious remnant mangroves at Sungei Pandan and of the positive impact of the cleanups had made over the years. And we thanked the lovely volunteers for making a difference to Singapore!

Photos from the cleanup are available on Flickr and Facebook.

That was really some awesome work, volunteers! Thank you for protecting the environment!

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NTU Earthlink, Singapore Pools & Independents remove a ton of trash at Lim Chu Kang mangrove in two hours, hooray! [27 Feb 2016]

78 volunteers gathered at the end of Lim Chu Kang Road at 8.00am on a Saturday morning on 27th February 2016.

Led by environment club NTU Earthlink, the 47 students were joined by 11 staff of Singapore Pools and 20 independents (members of public and ICCS). NTU Earthlink’s Nature Guiding Director Wong Zhi Sian carefully went through the operation procedure and safety briefing, and identified the first aider for the day. Gloves and trash bags were handed and volunteers were ready for action!

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I have been to Lim Chu Kang mangrove several times of cleanups but am still appalled by the sight of the trash which is recruited there! As the landward side is a nature area with no recreation activity, it is the trash load from the Straits of Johor which is brought in by incoming currents. Bulky items such as chairs, barrels, canoes and fishing nets, often pepper the mangrove, possibly abandoned by the fishermen operating both near shore and offshore.

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Trash at the Lim Chu Kang Mangrove.

Most of the team worked the sandy beach which was heavily polluted with macro-trash – especially numerous were straws, plastic bottles and styrofoam pieces. Two fishing nets (about 3m in length) were also removed.  With the help of the North-West Zone Captain Adriane Lee, seven other volunteers successfully untangled, removed and transported one of the fishing nets out of the mangrove. This took approximately half an hour, phew!

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Look at our happy volunteers!

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The curse of plastic straws! Say no to single use disposable straws, please.

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Eight volunteers transporting a massive trash.

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Volunteers and North-West Zone Captain, Adriane Lee, removing a fishing net.

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After an excellent two hours of cleanup (60 minutes for a year-round cleanup is typical), volunteers formed a human chain to move the trash bags to Weighing Point and then to the Trash Disposal Point. After some quick calculations, Zhi Sian cheerfully announced that we removed a total of 982.5kg of trash from the mangrove.

What a great contribution, volunteers!

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Transporting trash via a human chain made our work easier.

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Weighing trash bags.

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Well done, volunteers!

Thank you for an excellent contribution to protecting the environment, NTU Earthlink, Singapore Pools and Independents!

Photo album on Flickr.

The first year-round coastal cleanup of 2016 @ Sungei Pandan Mangrove, by NUS BES students [08 Jan 2016]

IMG_6265.jpgThe first mangrove cleanup conducted this year was conducted at the Sungei Pandan Mangrove (site SP2) on 08 Jan 2016 by the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) Community Education/Engagement Branch (CEB) with the support of ICCS.

The BES team consisting of 23 undergraduates collected a total of 213.4kg of trash, with the most common items being plastic bags and wrappers (~300 pieces), plastic bottles (~150 pieces) and expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) pieces (~100 pieces).

Styrofoam pieces ranged from smaller pieces (1cm x 1cm) to take-out food containers and even larger packaging pieces (1m x 50cm). Drinking straws and “lollipop sticks” were also abundant.

Unexpected items were helmets, buckets and even a fishing trap. On the bright side, no lost or discarded fishing gear (fishing rope, line or net) was present, other than the single fishing trap.

The cleanup was a success with larger pieces of trash removed from the mangroves. However, due to manpower and time constraints, we could not remove all the visible trash from the site, and could see that a number of plastic bottles, bags and wrappers remained. Some of these were trapped in between the roots and branches, reducing their accessibility.

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Mangroves are an important ecosystem we want to protect and conserve, for the ecosystem services they provide and for the wildlife that call it home. We hope to return to continue the battle against marine trash at this precious site in our neighbourhood!

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On behalf of the BES CEB team, we would like to thank ICCS Singapore (Coordinator Sivasothi and South Zone Captain Mr Lim Cheng Puay) for their advice, time and expertise during the planning phase as well as logistical support during the actual event.

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By: Ang Hui Hao, NUS BES

Congratulations to the NUS BES students! Thank you for contributing to the marine environment. 

NUS @ ICCS 2011 – Going Green and Greener in our 9th year!

NUS Environmental Science and Engineering Students Club reflect on their efforts in leading NUS staff and students to the International Coastal Cleanup to a new cleanup site this year at Lim Chu Kang East mangrove. This is the 9th year of their efforts, which began in 2003!

On 17 September 2011, approximately 125 staff and student volunteers from NUS conducted a cleanup at Lim Chu Kang East mangrove as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS). They were also accompanied by a team of experienced personnel, including Mr N. Sivasothi who has been coordinating mangrove cleanups since 1997.

The International Coastal Cleanup is conducted in over 70-100 countries. Volunteers do more than remove debris from the shorelines and waterways, they also collect data on the type and amount of debris to bring about positive change. This is through recognition of the specifics of the marine debris problem as the data is public and also submitted to governments and international organisations


The morning briefing with the biodiesel-fueled buses
parked along Lim Chu Kang Lane 9

Each year, we re-use gloves and clipboards which are washed and kept away and ICCS data cards were printed on single-side used paper to minimise waste. An additional green touch was achieved by collaborating with Alpha Biodiesel – the three 44-seater buses which brought students and staff from and back to NUS were supplied with Alpha biodiesel – processed from used cooking oil, the net life cycle emissions of such fuel is 95% less than that of ordinary diesel fuel, thus reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released to the environment [Chua, C. B. H., H. M. Lee & J. S. C. Low, 2010. Life cycle emissions and energy study of biodiesel derived from waste cooking oil and diesel in Singapore. Int J Life Cycle Assess, 15 (4): 417-423.] .

We were glad to make this year’s ICCS event a little greener and hope this collaboration will continue!

The mangroves at Lim Chu Kang East have been choked by an accumulation of marine trash from various sources including shoreline activities, dumping and local construction debris over the years – this was the first time the area would be cleaned!

NUS staff and students endured the heat, dirt, mud, and even the occasional “rotten-egg” smell (due to hydrogen sulphide being naturally released from the mangrove soil) – for about 90 minutes. This effort to rid the mangrove of as much trash as possible eliminated a total of 1,887 kg of debris in 181 trash bags excluding bulky items such as oil drums and tyres – imagine the total amount of waste!


Plastic debris amidst the mangrove estuary before the cleanup


Count and categorise before clearing trash


Free of plastic once again, phew!

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Data collation

The most frequently collected items included plastic bags and plastic beverage bottles. Several interesting discoveries included a television set, car bumper, basin and even a toilet bowl! There was indeed a stark contrast in the appearance of the mangrove before and after the cleanup. For details of the debris collected, see the ICCS Results page for LCK East mangrove at http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/results/2011/nw-lckeast-nus.htm

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This was the 9th year that students from the NUS Environmental Science and Engineering Students Club (ESESC) have been organising the cleanup for NUS students and staff. During the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III held a week after ICCS on 24 September 2011, the club was recognised for its dedicated efforts and contributions.


NUS ESESC president, Algernon Hong receiving the ICCS citation
from the Minister of State for National Development, BG (Res) Tan Chuan-Jin

It was definitely great to see everyone toiling hard in the morning to play their part for the coastal environment. We hope the event serves as a reminder to each and every individual of the need to reduce the use of non-biodegradable items and to dispose trash appropriately to safeguard the health of the marine animals, ourselves and the environment.

Finally, we wish our juniors in the years ahead, great success at ICCS 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015…until our marine debris problem is eliminated!

By Derek Ang and Vionna Luah, on behalf of all the organisers of ICCS-NUS 2011. Photos by Andy Dinesh.

Backing up NUS’ foray into Lim Chu Kang East mangrove

I have waited years to deploy a team to Lim Chu Kang East mangrove. It is a lovely strip, erm, east of Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove next to the old Cashin bungalow.

However, opening up a new mangrove site to the coastal cleanup is hard work. It requires several recces to ensure the site is safe for volunteers to work on, a site assessment to evaluate possible impact and how to minimise this and numbers of people to limit the cleanup to. Then it’s running the cleanup or finding capable organisers to ensure the cleanup is effectively well.

Well, then there is finding the time to do all of this.


The motivation to eliminate this plastic insult to the mangrove is obvious.

I had run the Pandan Mangrove site for the past three years and was sure South Zone Captain Kelly Ong would be ready to handle the site solo this year. So last year, I examined LCK East once again and set about identifying partners.

The NUS Environment Engineering students from ESESC have been handing coastal cleanup Organiser duties down from seniors to juniors since Tai Jo Fen got them started in 2003. This year’s trio of Vionna Luah, He Miao & Derek Ang attended the ICCS Workshop and were game for a challenge.

So we did the first recce in July with Jessica Ker, the deputy Zone Captain for North West zone and planning started thereafter.

We met again last week to sort out a few points. They had things in good shape. Still, I felt a few experienced hands would be useful and a buffer in case of emergency.

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Site Buddy Yang Yi Yong with Organiser He Miao taking out a toilet bowl from amongst the construction debris, which I suspect came from the renovation of the Cashin bungalow toilet and kitchen.

New Site Buddy Yang Yi Yong was assigned to NUS in July. He had come for all the ICCS training and looked to be a good asset. But this was a tough site, I wanted even more backup. So I decided to recruit some mangrove angels.

Data Captain Airani S has been involved in ICCS since 2001 so knows all the operations well and even has experience with wet ops. Grace Leng is an outdoors-woman, my senior from campus and my TA during my honours year in Pulau Tioman.
Grace brought along two other young but savvy instructors from her company Creative Kids, Pamela Soo and Rachel Leng.

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L-R: Pamela, Rachel, Grace and Jocelyne

Fresh grad Jessica Ker completed a mangrove research project with me in her third year and displayed enough mettle that I recruited her as my Deputy Zone Captain for North-West. She recce’d this site with me and was familiar with the area.

I bumped into former student Goh Wee Kee several days earlier and roped her in to the operation too – I still call her Conneraceae after her study subject in her honours year. She did need new booties but is field-savvy from her research days in NUS.

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L-R: Jessica, Michelle & Yi Yong

Meanwhile, Jocelyne, the ICCS intern was joining me to experience and examine operations for analysis later. I had also asked And Dinesh, the Recce Captain to video operations here this year; and he had been on the earlier recces with me.

So that meant, with Yi Yong and myself, the NUS students running the site had ten experienced hands in attendance.

I was their safety officer and Grace, a bonus on all counts, a field first aider and mum.

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Organisers Derek and Vionna conferencing before the start of the cleanup

I spent the night fighting my flu and leaking like a faucet. I thought I might have to skip the cleanup but at 6am, I sprang up to get ready.

Once the cleanup began, my crew worked seamlessly. Grace had asked me at the start, “what are our roles?” And I responded with, “you’ll know”.

Best kind of briefing to be able to give. They all would know what to do when the time came. If there was an emergency, I know how to find them, having noted their colours.

The contingent was enthusiastic and spirits were high. It was a great way to work a site and we all chipped in various ways, wading in when others were hesitant, eliminating a supply deadlock, preventing unnecessary strain, introducing methods, helping with categorisation, working alongside with spirited teamwork, etc.

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Top to bottom: Jessica, Jocelyne and Andy

After an hour, since I was not in the pink of health, I enforced a break to drink some really hot soup I had brought along to warm the chest and gulp some water to rehydrate. I had been perspiring so badly that my cap was dripping! Knowing when to stop is important – easier when you are older, I suppose.

A person with a suspected insect bite was brought to me and after I washed his face down, he was okay, thankfully. A student did break out in hives and I activated Grace who zipped him off to NUS Emergency in no time. I was completely relaxed about this because he was in good hands. Grace would later report that he was observed, injected and stabilised. I also inspected one foot of a nonchalant lady and she was right, the reported cut in her foot was superficial and not deep.

LCK East mangrove - ChaingangThe chain-gang moves 1.8 tonnes of trash out to the Trash Disposal Point to await pickup by an NEA contractor later

Airani was organising the chain gang by that time. This requires a little forcefulness to initiate since some will feel solo runs are more efficient – it just feels that way. We realised over a decade ago that a chain gang makes light work of the work load, so I was glad that she rallied the crowd to work together. That eased things considerably.

The wheelbarrows I had demanded we purchase were handy. I just have to send them to Sungei Buloh now since we’ll have no use or space for them until ICCS2012!

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The NUS students started working on collecting, counting and categorising trash immediately

The NUS students were great to work with, their Organisers had done their homework and were able to tap on my experience very quickly. Volunteers were great. My part was to ensure that they had backup with redundancy, in case anything went wrong at this remote site.

The hives victim joined us at LS Lab 7 later where we processed the data. He munched on the pizza and looked much better!

My crew who came all had fun, it was written all over their faces! Everyone loves working with motivated individuals.

I am glad we had a safe and efficient cleanup which left Lim Chu Kang East in a much better condition. The almost two tonnes we took out included more than 2,300 plastic bags and food wrappers and will ease the burden on that site. Having waited years, it was lovely to be purged of this anathema.

It’s just the beginning though, and this will be the first of several years the historical load is eliminated, leaving only the annual recruitment. But obviously we now have the means and the will to take on this challenge!

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Uncovering the mangroves at the inaugural Lim Chu Kang East cleanup

130 volunteers woke up bright and early on the morning of Saturday 17 September 2011 with one goal in mind – to rid the Lim Chu Kang East mangrove of trash.

A few thousand others would be doing the same in locations around the island, for the 3rd Saturday in September, date of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, was finally here!

I knew we were visiting a completely new site, and was told there was a “historical load of trash” to clear. But I didn’t know what to expect, just that nine of us had been roped in specially by ICCS Coordinator N. Sivasothi and were all there early by 8am to meet Organsers Vionna Luah, He Miao and Derek Ang.

Half-hour later, three bus loads of NUS staff and students led by the Environmental Science &  Engineering Club students arrived. Organised into their working groups, they collected their materials and applied insect repellent while Siva chatted with the SPH reporter from Lianhe Zaobao.

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Siva providing the background to the site and a final safety reminder

 

After the welcome and briefing, we set out for the site itself, full of anticipation and energy.

And we were SHOCKED by what we saw – a complete cover of trash greeted us! Colourful plastics carpeted the stream, so it was completely hidden. A horrendous sight indeed!

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Trash-covered mangrove

We got to work with no hesitation and the trash bags filled up almost at once. Initially volunteers crowded the entry point so we herded them towards the inner reaches of the hidden stream to tackle the increasingly heavy trashload. It was literally heavy with oil drums, a tv set, a toilet cistern and a sink littered there! A load of of ceramic tiles on the banks, must have been illegally dumped there as well.

The NUS volunteers worked intently for almost two hours in the mangrove, while some took turns to move filled trash bags out to the weighing station. Slowly, the mangroves were uncovered.

I was very excited to unveil the mangrove and got pretty high from it, perhaps from the noxious hydrogen sulphide fumes! The greatest fun I had came from rolling out two oil drums with Jesicca’s help (:

Eventually we were called to halt the cleanup and came out with some very reluctant volunteers who wanted to continue. But it was now time to weigh all the trash collected and to form a human chain to move it to the roadside. Bulky items aside, we collected 181 bags of trash weighing 1887 kg!

While waiting for the data to be collated (the most important part of the job!), we took some time to pose with the pile of trash!

Eventually, we made it back to NUS to wash gloves and to do data processing

It was good fun cleaning up our precious mangroves. The best thing about it is was volunteers unfamiliar with the area realising that most of this trash was single use plastics from a consumer culture that needs to dispose of waste more carefully and better still, reduce waste production in the first place.

For more on the inaugural Lim Chu Kang East mangrove cleanup, do check out: Andy Dinesh’s blogpost

Speaking to 300 middle school students at the SIngapore American School

The Singapore American School’s Middle School students completed their annual Kranji mangrove cleanup in May this year. In September, they will participate n the annual ICCS cleanup as well. The school is a 20-veteran of the cleanup so we wanted to go down to speak to both middle and high schools this year.

Xu Weiting, the East Coast/Tanah Merah Zone Captain, was given the honour of conducting her maiden ICCS speech to this energetic and responsive audience. She is no stranger to addressing a large crowd, having presented at the Evening of Biodiversity on her work with common palm civets last year.

Weiting said that speaking to SAS was a heart-warming experience – the enthusiastic audience motivated their speaker as well!

Read Weiting’s account of preparation to delivery at the Raffles Museum Toddycats blog.

From my ringside seat, I was happy to say, “Well done Weiting!”

XWT ICCS talk at SAS

Battle marine debris this Saturday, 4pm @ Lim Chu Kang beach with “Pangaea Young Explorers”

Lim Chu Kang mangrove is a lovely mangrove I was unfortunate enough to see halved in 1990. Still regularly visited by researchers, it is a rare gem in Singapore which, like other shorelines around Singapore, is plagued by the problem of marine debris. The site is fronted by a beach on which a trash line is clearly evident.

In order to limit the impact of the trash on that non-recreational shore, volunteers visit the site during the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and during year-round cleanups in order to limit the problem of marine trash entering that mangrove.

The cleanups for 2010 have been:

  • 07 Aug 2010 – 116 trash bags, 811 kg, 42 volunteers.
  • 11 Sep 2010 – 53 bags, 588 kg, 53 volunteers.

The third cleanup will be conducted this Saturday, 9th October 2010 by the youth group, Pangaea Young Explorers Program. Led by Nicolette Meyer, their cleanup will investigate how much trash accumulates on the Lim Chu Kang beach in a month, in the last quarter of the year. It has been a month since the last cleanup and 15 of the will tackle the beach as the tide recedes.

Lend the group a hand this Satuday- sign up here, thanks!

Meet at Lim Chu Kang Road end (end point for Bus 975 from Bt Panjang Interchange) at 4pm and look for Nicolette. Cleanup operations begin at 4.00pm and will end at 5.30pm with weighing of trash.

Lee Bee Yan & Jessica Ker of the NUS Biodiversity Crew who will be at the mangrove for a research trip will conduct an informal chat with volunteers after the cleanup about the mangrove ecosystem there.

All sizes | 02iccsLCK-11sep2010[lcp-rgstaff] | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Republic Poly @ Lim Chu Kang beach & mangrove

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Yeo Chee Hiong of Republic Polytechnic Conservation Interest Group writes,

11 Sep 2010 – “Republic Polytechnic (RP) headed out to Lim Chu Kang at 10am in very pleasant weather. It was heartening to see some participants getting hyped up as we made our way there. As volunteers picked up and counted marine trash, the tide rose rather quickly. Still, some volunteers ventured some 10-20 metres into the mangroves to retrieve bulky debris, such as tires and oil drums. That was tough work with branches blocking our access, mud lobster mounds to avoid and soft mud into which we sank!

Not all knew each other in the group and it was fun to see them making friends with each other on the shore, having fun while doing their part for the environment. By 11am, the pathway which we had come through was gone! All submerged! So we ended our cleanup before it got any deeper and soon after, we got the volunteers off the shore.

With our combined efforts, we had removed and categorised almost 1,500 items of matine debris and with the bulky items weighed in as well, the total weight of the rubbish was 325.3kg – mind you, all this in just 90 minutes!

Many thanks to those which made this possible!”

Republic Poly after the Lim Chu kang beach cleanup

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Ed’s note – Republic Polytechnic has been a regular at Lim Chu Kang beach and mangroves for several years now. Their students lead the effort and conduct the recce by participating in the pre-National Day cleanup alongside the Raffles Museum Toddycats. Along with RGS Staff, Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove is thus handled by an experience pair of Organisers for the ICCS. Their combined efforts rid Lim Chu Kang of 2,324 items of marine trash weighing more than half a tonne; yeah!

Coastal cleanup, nature hunt and ‘makan kechil’ – a Nature Society (Singapore) tradition at Kranji Bund mangrove & mudflats

25 Sep 2010 – Sixty people gathered on the afternoon of this Saturday at an unnamed track off Kranji Road for a briefing. This was an unusual sight amidst the peaceful air of an industrial area during a weekend.

Kranji Bund gathering

Nature Society (Singapore) - Home

The group consisted of members of the Nature Society (Singapore) and their friends and family who had made their way down to Kranji that afternoon, as well as volunteers from amongst the members of the public who had read about cleanup efforts in Singapore, searched and found the society webpage to sign up for this effort to aid the environment!

This group was about to embark on some sticky work as part of the world-wide International Coastal Cleanup to collect, categorise and count the marine debris that plague our shore. And we were going to carry this mission out in the sticky and muddy environment of Kranji Bund’s mangroves and mudflats where we do our regular horseshoe crab rescue and research work.

Working hard during the short window of the low tide, we cleared 1,812 items of marine trash filling some 80 trash bags. There were many assorted items which were too large for the bags such as automobile parts and electrical appliances. All in all, the trash which we had collected, catergorised and counted weighed 648.5 kg!

Typically, even after this amount, we had not completely eliminated trash on the mudflats by the time the tide rose once again. As wit other mangrove sites, we do not want to bring an army of people down as this would cause too much impact. So it is steady and committed work every year, coupled with education efforts over the years, which will help us battle this blight on our shores.

Kranji Bund Trash, 25 Sep 2010

Kranji Bund data, 25 Sep 1010

As is traditional for this event, we added a few more activities to the data-collection exercise and the Plant Group conducted a Nature Hunt with mangrove flora and fauna. Three students from Kranji Secondary School introduced horseshoe crabs to everyone, how these ancient creatures were affected by marine trash and talked about the school’s participation in NSS’ Horseshoe Crab Rescue & Research Project.

We ended the evening with a sing-along and a ‘makan kechil’ session. The winners of the Nature Hunt were announced and each received a copy of the Nature Watch magazine.

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By Cheryl Lao & Anu Jain,
Nature Society (Singapore)