25 November 2010

Learning about Integrated Costal Management

Yesterday, I attended an inspiring talk about integrated coastal management organised by NParks. Entitled "Integrated Coastal Management and its application in Sustainable Urban Coastal Development" it was given by the energetic and charismatic Prof Rafael Lotilla, Executive Director of the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA).
This is Prof Lotilla at the end of his talk.

PEMSEA, Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia, has been working tirelessly to develop and initiate an integrated approach to sustainable coastal development thoughout the East Asian Seas, which is a huge area!
Prof Lotilla's talk covered Xiamen as a demonstration site for Integrated Coastal Management. The area is huge, includes large areas of land and water and involves many complex issues.
One of the amazing efforts was to 'uncork' the causeway built across the waters which created problems, such as the growth of 'giant algae' that clogged up the resulting bays. By reintroducing water flow, water quality was so much improved that high value recreational activities such as yacht clubs sprung up on the waterfront.
Pollution from aquaculture was a serious issue. Xiamen actually shut down and relocated many of these activities. In Singapore, there is conversely an effort to ramp up aquaculture in our waters.
There was also effort to restore beaches that were affected by development and removal of natural materials for building. One of the lessons was that is was more costly to restore a natural habitat that the gains of destroying it in the first place.
Extensive mangrove restoration was also undertaken. Prof Lotilla also talked about how mangroves are much better at sequestering carbon and thus should be included in the REDD programme to make it worthwhile for countries to protect forests.
Xiamen also made an effort to restore uninhabited islands. Singapore has lots of uninhabited islands and it would be great to protect and restore them.
Biodiversity was also an important aspect with efforts to understand and protect these. Charismatic wildlife like dolphins helps people to engage with the efforts.
Prof Lotilla recounted how impressed he was by the passion of young people in supporting the work to restore and protect the coasts. He shared how a young Xiamen woman explained why she preferred NOT to have pollutive petrochemical plants on Xiamen even though it might bring lots of money to the area.
Resolving problems has real monetary payback!
There is certainly much parallels and lessons for Singapore from experiences in integrated coastal management elsewhere.

The integrated coastal management framework seems daunting, but Prof Lotilla's explanation made it so obvious and easy. We start with problems that matter to the agencies on the ground, and integrate these with the necessary government support, slot in how solutions to these problems would also add to broad global commitments to Millenium Development Goals and other seemingly remote targets. The solutions would also automatically match with relevant ISO standards. Not forgetting the importance of support by the public and stake holders. Cool!
The talk was very well attended! And there was a lively Q&A after that.
At the talk was a lovely set of posters about Singapore's work towards integrated coastal management. These posters showcased our work at the PEMSEA East Asian Seas Congress 2009. How wonderful!
Cyrene Reef is featured in the panels about the need to balance conservation and development!
Not once, but twice! Awesome!!
There's also a panel about the massive reclamation project at Pasir Panjang Container Terminals near the natural shores at Labrador, Sentosa and Cyrene Reef. It's good to know that there is realisation that this project will impact our marine life.
Highlighting conservation efforts is the work by volunteer guides to introduce ordinary people to our shores. In the photo is a walk at Chek Jawa.
And the guide in the photo is Chay Hoon! Bravo!
It's always great to have an excuse to visit the Botanic Gardens. The much awaited event here is of course the unfurling of the gianormous Titan Arum lily.
This awe-inspiring flower is considered the world’s largest compound flower or inflorescence; the largest is reported to have reached 3.5m. Years may pass between flowering. Once the spathe (wing-like parts) unfurl, the spadix (pointy phallic part) heats up emitting a putrid stench. The local name ‘bunga bangkai’ or ‘corpse flower’ should suggest just how stinky it can be. It is thought that the smell helps to attract pollinating carrion beetles or sweat bees from far away. The ripened red berries are dispersed by birds like hornbills. This plant is endemic to Sumatra, growing on highland rainforests along steep hillsides. It is classified as Vulnerable on the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants and is threatened by massive deforestation in Sumatra. This and more information is available at the excellent Arkive page on the plant.

Just outside the talk venue, a little Red-legged crake wandered fearlessly nearby with her babies. Here's Annabelle taking a photo of it. My photos are so bad, I have to circle the crake.
Jeff also has a shot at a shot. We saw the busy birds foraging among the leaf litter in the light rain. At one point both Mama and Baby birds jumped back when something startled them from under a leaf. So cute!
Here's my best bad shot of the bird with feeble sneaky cam. There's a post about a family of these birds in the same location but in 2008, in the Bird Ecology Study Group blog. The blog has more about these birds, including about how they eat earthworms. Probably the rain would bring up these wriggly titbits? Sadly, these birds are sometimes found run over.
Fortunately, Dr Chua Ee Kiam happened to come by, and he took proper photos of the birds!
The talk ended with a 'makan kecil' where I managed to catch up with lots of people. I'm very impressed too that the National Biodiversity Centre staff always provide biodegradable cutlery for their events! Thank you for a great event!

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