This afternoon, I was at the NParks programme for Integrated Coastal Management. They were kind enough to invite me to give a volunteer's perspective of our shores.
It was nice to see new and familiar faces at the session!
The Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) implementation in Singapore is a collaboration with the Partnerships in Environment Management in the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA). The course aims to further government agencies' understanding of ICM in an urban setting. It was a two-day event with many interesting talks and sessions aimed at strengthening ICM capabilities at the working/operational level in Singapore’s government agencies orienting them toward sustainable development and management of a coastal city through ICM. The course included case studies and exercises.
The participants were from Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Housing and Development Board (HDB), JTC Corporation (JTC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Maritime and Port Authority (MPA), National Environment Agency (NEA), National Parks Board (NParks), Public Utilities Board (PUB), Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).
Before it was our turn, we heard an interesting talk about ICM implementation in Xiamen by Dr Xiong-zhi Xue, Xiamen University.
Xiamen is a demonstration site for ICM and no wonder, given the many wonderful achievements they have made in reversing some serious environmental coastal issues there. They have also done some marvellous habitat conservation and restoration for some awesome marine life like dolphins and egrets.
I was sitting at the back during the talk with Peter and Serena. Wow, Peter is using an iPad.
Then it was time for us to do our work. We were part of the panel discussion "Toward a Common Vision for Singapore". The panel included Adele Tan from URA, Prof Peter Ng of RMBR and Dr Serena Teo of TMSI repesenting the academia and Dai Nguyen of Shell Corp.
I did a little slide presentation because I'm not very good with words, so have to let the photos do most of the talking. It was only 10 minutes so I had to pack in as much as I could. I shared about some of the work done by volunteers on our shores. This included volunteers of NParks, the Naked Hermit Crabs, Blue Water Volunteers and ReefFriends, Hantu Bloggers, TeamSeagrass, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Tropical Marine Science Institute. I wish I had time to include the many other volunteer efforts, by many other groups and individuals.
I touched on shores such as Tanah Merah/Changi East, which sadly has been hit by the recent oil spill, and mass coral bleaching that has affected reefs worldwide. I also shared about the Semakau Landfill: although it killed off some existing natural shores was constructed and managed to minimise impact on surrounding marine life.
I spent most of the brief talk to share about the miraculous existence of Cyrene. Despite Cyrene's location in the middle of the "industrial triangle", it is rich in marvellous marine life and much biodiversity work is done here by the Star Trackers, TeamSeagrass and NParks. I also shared why it makes sense to conserve Cyrene and how I hope by learning about and protecting our shores, we can share our solutions with other countries who face similar issues. In this way we can contribute to global conservation as well as make a living.
Of course I invited the participants to visit Cyrene! We have already had great field trips with URA not once, but twice. And also with JTC. I'm looking forward to share Cyrene with more government agencies so they can experience this marvellous shore right here in Singapore.
From the introductions by the rest of the panel, I also learnt about the perspectives of Shell, the academics and URA on coastal development. I liked Serena's point that Singapore as a major port can contribute to sustainable development by managing issues such as ballast water and invasive alien species. And I agree with her that it's good that Singapore has acceded to the international convention prohibiting toxic paints used on ships to control bio-fouling. As a lot of shipping pass through Singapore, by setting high environmental standards, we can also help reduce environmental impacts elsewhere.
We had quite a lively discussion after that. I learnt from Nigel's comments that studies have found that it's not true that marine life in Singapore originate from reefs in surrounding countries. In fact, it seems our reefs supply 'babies' that settle on neighbouring reefs. Wow. This makes it even more important for us to protect what we have left.
It was great to catch up with everyone and make new friends. I had quite an interesting conversation with Dai from Shell. I'm surprised he knew about wildsingapore and seemed to be familiar with postings about the flaring on Bukom on the blogs and forums. Well, it's good to know that Shell is interested in the views of volunteers and those who care about our shores.
Thanks to Jim and Annabelle for inviting me to be a part of this exciting effort to bring everyone together to work positively on our shores!