Yei Ling was at the site to kindly show me around. Here is one station for weighing oiled animals.
Oil Spill Response is a non-profit company which provides "resources to respond to oil spills efficiently and effectively on a global basis" to members which are mainly oil companies. Their services can only be activated by the oil spiller.
The exhibition was set up on East Coast Park, the site of a major oil spill in May 2010. Today, all is clean and blue with kids playing on the seashore. But in Singapore, big ships are never far away from the shore.
May 2010 oil spill?
Since the spill, I have been visiting Tanah Merah every month. The crude was never removed from these shores and still remain there to this day beneath the sand. But there's still lots of marine life there, and the coral reef that settled naturally at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal are still alive.
In my opinion, I feel it is more important to do what is best for the marine life and shores, and not just do what makes us feel better. We should try not to initiate a response that may worsen the impact of the oil spill. Dispersants applied in huge quantities means adding more chemicals to the water, adding more stress to marine life. Well-meaning volunteers may put themselves and marine life at risk unless there is a good understanding of the situation. Attempting to wash and clean delicate animals and invertebrates just adds further stress to them and may kill them. Relocating them to our other shores introduces imbalances to those other shores. Most of the organisms that form the foundation of our marine ecosystems, like seagrasses and corals, are immobile.
Good response requires sound and timely information, about the actual situation on our shores, the oil spill itself and good coordination among parties involved.
There were studies done on Tanah Merah, and possibly elsewhere, following the May 2010 oil spill. These should provide information that can guide us towards a better response to oil spills and their impact on our marine life. But the results of these studies have yet to be made public.
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, ACRES and wildsingapore have been working on a proposed plan to manage volunteer response during an oil spill. Details will hopefully be published soon.
- Oil spill spread and clean up: a summary
- Oil spill at Changi East: What impact of dispersants?
- Crude oil in sand: how fast does it biodegrade?