19 September 2008

Do Singaporeans give a hoot about marine conservation?

A recent letter to My Paper suggests Singaporeans don't.

Ms Kia Jie Hui says "conservation projects are portrayed as the lofty concerns of a small group of scientists or idiosyncratic environmentalists. The layperson is excluded from these efforts."

She adds "We do not see an issue like marine biodiversity as being relevant to our everyday lives, nor do we see how our individual actions could possibly make an impact on things like the welfare of coral reefs in our waters; and honestly, we would be hard-pressed to say we really give a hoot".

While she is responding to an article about a proposal for a Blue Plan, is this critique generally valid?

From the Singapore International Year of the Reef blog's FAQ about our reefs ...

Do Singaporeans care about our reefs and shores?
Yes! About 3,500 volunteers work to provide guided walks, guided dives as well as conduct regular monitoring of seagrasses and reefs and to clean up and collect data on marine debris on our shores.

There is also a growing number of Singaporeans who blog and share photos and stories of their work for the shores. Latest blog entries about our reefs and shores.

Even larger numbers of Singaporeans, residents and visitors (to the tune of 100,000 annually) join these walks to view our shores and reefs. All regular guided tours on reefs are quickly booked within days of being offered. The wait-list for guided walks at Chek Jawa and Kusu Island remain long.
Can an ordinary person see Singapore’s marine heritage?
There are many options for the public to see the reefs of Singapore. For scuba divers, the Reef Xplore programme, run by the Hantu Bloggers, offers a guided tour of the underwater diversity of Pulau Hantu.

For non-scuba divers (and even scuba divers!), many volunteer groups run "No need to swim, no need to dive!" guided walks of our shores, including trips by the Naked Hermit Crabs (Sentosa and the Chek Jawa boardwalk), Blue Water Volunteers (Kusu Island) and the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (Pulau Semakau).

Guided walks to other marine related habitats are also carried out at Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin (where vast seagrass meadows still thrive), at the internationally famous Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (mangroves and shorebirds), together with the mangroves at Pasir Ris Park.

All the guided walks are family-friendly too! More details about regular reef and shores activities.
Other questions addressed in the FAQs include:
  • What’s so special about Singapore’s reefs?
  • Why should we save our reefs?
  • What are some of the challenges in conserving Singapore’s reefs and shores?
  • Is co-existence/a balanced approach to development and conservation possible?
  • How can one person make a difference for our reefs and shores?
Personally, I think Ms Kia Jie Hui has highlighted an important element of conservation efforts. It IS vital to ensure ordinary people feel something for our marine heritage.

Fortunately, there are many on-going efforts in this regard. And I do have personal experience of a small but growing number of Singaporeans do give a hoot. Baby steps, one day at a time.

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