05 December 2013

Help stop mass balloon release at Punggol on 31 Dec 2013

Thanks to an alert from Jesmyn, I learnt of plans for a mass balloon release at Punggol on 31 Dec 2013. The shores of Punggol are alive with sea creatures, just like most of Singapore's shores.
Please help stop this balloon release. Visit the Punggol West facebook page post and leave a comment to explain why they should reconsider this. If you can, also comment on the Punggol Vista Community Centre facebook page post of the same event. Thanks to Qiaoling X for the heads up.

My comment was: "Balloons released will eventually fall into the sea, where they resemble jellyfish, the favourite food of sea turtles. When sea turtles eat balloons, they will die a slow and painful death. More here.
An exploded ballon looks very much like a jellyfish!
This was seen at Cyrene Reef.
And in case you are wondering, YES, Singapore has wild sea turtles, they have come ashore to lay eggs and babies have hatched from our shores. More here. I hope you will reconsider the mass release of balloons at your event. Thank you.
In 2006 these baby sea tutles hatched at East Coast Park.
Photo by N. Sivasothi
A huge mama Hawksbill sea turtle had
come ashore at East Coast Park to lay eggs in Jul 2013.
Photo by David Tan.

Update 8 Dec:

Punggol Vista Community Centre announced that they were cancelling the mass balloon release, on their Facebook Page. And Qiaoling X highlights the opportunities for the CC to ensure the event is environmentally friendly in other aspects as well as to be an advocate against balloon releases.

Punggol Vista Community Centre: Dear all, thank you once again for all your feedback. We have conveyed your concerns to the Organising Committee and your sharing has raised our environmental awareness. As such, we will not be mass releasing the balloons. We will also like to invite you to our countdown party, and usher in the new year as one big Punggol family. You may get your tickets at Punggol Vista Community Centre at Blk 602 Punggol Central #01-02 Singapore 820602. Our opening hours are 2pm to 10.30pm daily (except public holidays). We look forward to seeing you!
2 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 3

Qiaoling X:

Dear Punggol Vista CC,
Thank you for hearing us out and making the decision not to release the balloons! You have proven yourselves as an environmentally-aware organisation which listens to the wishes of the people.
May your actions be a shining example to all other CCs and event organizers here to stop this harmful practice.

I'd also like to take the chance to humbly ask for the commitment of Punggol Vista CC to act as an advocate against balloon releases. Now that you understand and are aware of this issue, please speak up if the idea is raised up again during the planning stage of any events. Are you up to the challenge?

The Countdown Party will be a blast, I am sure! And I trust while we celebrate the new year, your Organising Committee will also be looking into other aspects of the event to ensure minimal environmental impact.

Thank you for making Punggol a true eco-town. Thank you too, on behalf of our natural heritage and our environment.

Merry christmas and a happy new year to everyone!
Cherh Kah Leng (Xu Qiaoling)
A proud Punggol resident

click on image for larger view

Cherh Kah Leng (Xu Qiaoling) also wrote a letter on this issue which was published in the Straits Times on 7 Dec.

Balloon release not good way to ring in new year

THE Punggol Vista Community Centre is organising a countdown party on Dec 31 at the open field beside Punggol MRT station, right next to the Punggol Waterway. There will be a mass release of balloons at midnight to welcome the new year.

The practice poses a risk to wildlife.

Helium-filled balloons burst in the atmosphere and fall back to the earth in shreds, which are easily mistaken for food by marine creatures such as dolphins and turtles. If swallowed, the fragments may cause gut compaction and lead to a slow, painful death. Strings from handheld balloons also entangle birds and marine life.

As a Punggol resident and marine biologist, I would not want to see egrets, kites, kingfishers and shrikes at Punggol Waterway being entangled and endangered by balloons.
The mass release of balloons has been banned in several United States cities, parts of Britain and some Australian states.

I implore the organisers, as well as any organisation intending to release balloons to celebrate the new year, to reconsider their decisions. They can celebrate the occasion with alternatives such as bubble machines or light effects.

Cherh Kah Leng (Ms)

The Straits Times also featured the issue in an article entitled "Balloon release plan draws flak - Residents, nature lovers say debris threatens nature"

click on image for larger view
Update 11 Dec: In an article about Punggol CC's decision to cancel the mass balloon release, Qiaoling X also suggests that the authorities ban mass helium-balloon releases in future, likening them to "an act of mass littering."
click on image for larger view.
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