Conservation Activities in Singapore
International Year of the Reef 2008
The Reef Survey and Conservation Project
A project undertaken by 3 NGOs--the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC), Singapore Institute of Biology (SIBiol) and Singapore Underwater Federation (SUF) from 1987-1991. The efforts were aimed at fostering a better recognition and appreciation of coral reefs by the general public and the government of Singapore. Funds were initially provided by RSYC, as well as other sponsors. The entire expenses for the project came up to US$12,000.
- Trained 150 volunteer recreational divers in basic scientific techniques to conduct coral reef surveys, using the 100m line transect method.
- Scientific training provided by researchers from SIBiol, SUF organised field training.
- Trained volunteers deployed in teams to survey >65 sites at 41 coral reefs in Singapore.
- Results collected from 1987-1989, entered into database and analysed by SIBiol researchers.
- 4 reef areas targeted as good enough to merit some form of conservation: St John's group of islands, Pulau Hantu and patch reefs, Pulau Semakau and patch reefs, live firing islands including Raffles Lighthouse.
- Report submitted to relevant government authorities for consideration, under endorsement by Singaporen Environmental Council (SEC).
- The Singapore Government commissioned a detailed feasibility study through the National Parks Board (NParks) in 1992, on the protection and management of coral reefs in Singapore, as recommended in the proposal.
The Reef Rescue Project
Initiated by the Marine Conservation Group (MCG) of the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS), to relocate corals and some reef organisms from reefs earmarked for reclamation and development.
- 1st initiative took place over 25 days in 1991.
- involved the translocation of randomly selected corals and reef organisms from ~200 sq m of reef to new site 1.5km away.
- ~140 volunteers from 20 scuba diving clubs and Republic of Singapore Navy.
- Cost of relocation: US$7,100.
- survival rates of 69-90% 6 months after relocation.
- 2nd initiative took place between mid-1993 and early 1995.
- Larger scale: 450 volunteers from 6 diving clubs with a total of 10000 hours of underwater time, covering over 500 sq m.
- Project costs of US$36,400 and US$8,500 sponsored by HSBC Care for Nature Trust Fund and Exxon Chemicals (Singapore) respectively.
- However, one year after translocation exercise, survival rates were low at <35% in some areas.
Mooring Buoys Installation
Initiated by the National Council on the Environment (NCE, presently called the Singapore Environmental Council, SEC). Involved the installation of mooring buoys at Pulau Hantu to discourage use of anchors and reduce damage to the reef. Also involved volunteer divers to help deploy and maintain the buoys. Shell Eastern Petroleum sponsored project costs of US$25,000.
Recently the buoys were removed from Pulau Hantu and current visitors would have to drop anchor if they intend to dive at the fringing reef.
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Marine Clean-up Programmes
SUF, in collaboration with other organisations, had spearheaded regular programmes to mobilise volunteer divers and snorkellers to clean up rubbish from the seabed. These were often conducted at the southern islands of Singapore and timed to coincide with Clean and Green Week activities organised by the Ministry of Environment or annual Earth Day celebrations.
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NGOs in Singapore have been initiating several programmes to educate school children and general public on issues related to coral reef conservation. Two examples:
(1) In early 1992, SIBiol and SUF launched a 'Coral Reef Naturalist (CRN)' aimed at giving recreational divers the opportunity to obtain basic training in reef biology and ecology. Training courses were given by SIBiol marine biologists and consisted of classroom sessions and openwater dives.
(2) The 'Reef Insights' programme was initiated by SEC and Singapore Science Centre with the assistance of National University of Singapore. This was a half day programme aim at teaching schoolchildren at primary and secondary levels the importance of the marine environment. Activities consisted of workshops, video and games sessions.
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Singapore's Governmental Efforts
In 1991, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) released a national concept plan 'Living the Next Lap' aimed at developing Singapore into a tropical city of excellence. A subsequent Green Plan was published by the Ministry of Environment in 1992, detailing the Government's long term plan for developing Singapore into a model green city, and the policy directions on environmental management (including nature conservation), education, participation in international environmental programmes and technology development. Four marine areas covering a total of 37 sq km with 7 sq km of coral reefs were identified as possible nature areas recommended for conservation.
Following the Green Plan, an action programme was published in 1993, which called for the protection of coral reefs against commerical harvesting within the four identified conservation areas and tighter enforcement of laws for the protection of the corals by the Coast Guard. The action programme also advocated monitoring of water quality and land reclamation projects to minimise pollution and excessive siltation in the sea.
In 1996, the URA announced that five southern islands have been designated as a Marine Nature Area (Five southern islands designated nature area. The Straits Times, 28 May 1996, Singapore). This indicates that all development proposals for the islands will be assessed and subjected to detailed controls by the National Parks Board (NParks), the body which manages national parks and nature reserves. However, no administrative structure presently exists to support the management of the Marine Nature Area.
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