Sunday, September 18, 2011

International Coastal Cleanup at Semakau on 17 Sep 2011

It was great to be back on Pulau Semakau, and this time, for a coastal cleanup! I was helping International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) to coordinate the cleanup effort on Semakau, and this year we had 85 volunteers from HSBC, and 21 from Renesas Electronics Singapore.

I met up with the group from HSBC at 7am to follow the boat they chartered to go to Semakau. As this was the second time HSBC participated in ICCS, administrative work at the jetty progressed a lot smoother and faster compared to the previous one.

We reached the island about 8.30am and met up with the volunteers from Renesas. After convincing everyone (almost) to visit the toilet (out at the cleanup site there are no toilets), I conducted a briefing at the Semakau Visitor Centre to go through the work procedures and safety issues that the volunteers should take note of.

Special thanks to NEA which kindly provided 2 buses to take the volunteers to the entrance to the cleanup site. The HSBC volunteers arrived at the cleanup site first, as their assigned location was further away (i.e. they had to walk further to reach the lcoation).

The volunteers from Renesas had with them various interesting rubbish-picking tools!

To reach the shore, we had to walk for about 5 min to cut through a mosquito-infested secondary forest. It so happened that the deciduous Sea Almond (Terminalia catappa) had just shed their leaves, covering the forest trail with a layer of pretty yellow and red leaves!

Out on the shore, the Renesas volunteers were assigned to clean up the southern portion of the shore, and the site was about 500m long.

The HSBC volunteers werre assigned to do the northern portion of the shore.

The first few groups from HSBC had to walk about 1km before they reach their cleanup site. The shore here was full of debris from the sea.

Some of the rubbish could only be retrieved with a stick and going on all fours!

The amount of trash on the shore was so bad, that I seriously thought we did not even managed to clear 30 percent of them by the time we were done and the tide was rising.

The groups did a quick check on the headcounts before heading back into the forest.

Out of the forest and back on the road, it's time to weigh the rubbish collected!

Couldn't resist taking a photo of Amitha in her brightly coloured pants as she was weighing the rubbish.

For the heavier bags, it's easier to weigh with a stick so that two volunteers could share the load.

And here are the Renesas with the rubbish they collected - a total of 13 trash bags and 96.5kg worth of rubbish.

While the HSBC group collected 72 trash bags of rubbish weighing a total of 337kg.

And here are all the collected trash. Compared to the last coastal cleanup, we certainly collected a lot more rubbish in terms of volume, but a lot less (about half) if we look at the total weight. This was probably because we have already cleared most of the heavier trash left by the villagers who used to live on the island (including things like furniture parts etc) during the last clean up near the forest trail.

Since there are no regular recreational beach goers on the island, and the shore is only visited by those participating in nature walks or research work, most of the new trash come from the sea, and these are usually not as heavy as the ones left by the previous islanders. And rather unfortunately, we could only clear the heavier trash nearer to the forest tail, as it's just not feasible for the volunteers to lug along the heavy trash and walk for like 1km to reach the main road, when they could spend more time collect the smaller and lighter rubbish.

Due to the limited transport available on the island, and there was another major event conducted concurrently on the island, we had to wait for quite a while (either under the hot sun or in the shady but mosquito-infested forest) before we could proceed for the post-cleanup activities. But anything was better than having to walk under the hot sun for a few km to reach the activity sites! :P

The HSBC volunteers proceeded to the southern-most point for the island for a picnic and kite-flying, while Renesas went for a educational tour of the landfill. Both activities took about an hour, and we left Semakau about 12.45pm, slightly delayed due to the transportation issues.

Both groups collected a total of 85 trash bags of rubbish weighing 433.5kg, but there were still so much rubbish left on the shore! We certainly need more volunteers to clean up this shore on a more regular basis, and also, more strong volunteers to carry out the heavy trash that got left behind when the islanders were relocated to mainland Singapore!

Detailed results of the cleanup had been posted here. Thanks Siva for the update!


Sivasothi said...

Great post and a fine effort! Your results are up on the web here.

Ron Yeo said...

Thanks Siva! :)