Photo credit: Facebook/@outwardboundsingapore

The coast will never be clear

You would never have guessed what our writer stumbled upon during a Coastal Cleanup event at Pulau Ubin. (Hint: It's a common kitchen appliance!)

Ai Xuan Lau

Published: 8 September 2015, 11:11 AM

As I made my way to a coastal cleanup last Saturday, I had no idea what it was going to be like. It has been years since I last cleaned a beach – the last time I was involved, I was just a primary school student.

Initially, I felt apprehensive because it was my first time participating in such activities. Mixing around with a large group is not my forte, and I did not get enough sleep the night before. In short, I was not ready for the day ahead.

Upon arrival at Pulau Ubin, we were first briefed on what we needed to do (collection and recording of the rubbish), precautions to be taken and the aim of the coastal cleanup, which was a joint effort between Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) and International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS).

I was surprised to find that the data collected during the event, which will be sent to ICCS, can be used to push environmental-related movements in the United Nations (UN). For instance, the story of Peanut the Turtle, the only hourglass shaped turtle in the world, is one example of how data collection helped stop production of six pack rings.

Together with 20 other youths, we were split into two groups for the coastal cleanup. Group 1 was allocated Camp 1 (western coast of Ubin), while Group 2 took charge of Kekek, the northern coast of Ubin. After some icebreaker games, we set off for our respective cleanup sites on a boat!


Perks of being in group 2: extra boat ride!


Instructor Krish strikes a pose at Kekek.


When we arrived at Kekek, there was a lot of rubbish hidden in the sand and bushes. Armed with gloves, shears and a clipboard, we got to work quickly. Working in small groups of threes or fours, one records while the others collect the rubbish.

The highlight of our day was when we ventured deeper into the fenced area. After stumbling on huge plastic barrels, we started to form a human chain of barrel-rolling. One of them was almost filled with water! It was tiring, but our teamwork made us work closer.

Chua Li San, head for character and leadership at OBS, explained that these barrels might have been used as flotation devices for the kelongs on the sea. When water starts to leak in, some fishermen may let them loose, causing them to end up in places like Kekek.

The most unusual item collected was an old rusty fridge that we found. It took us a lot of effort to transport the heavy kitchen appliance. But we succeeded anyway, as we dismantled the fridge by parts. #win


Check out the size of that barrel!
Photo credit: Outward Bound Singapore


Attempting to remove deeply entrenched fishing net with shears.


We even found a bowling pin!
Photo credit: Outward Bound Singapore


Li San (dressed in orange) helping the group members weigh the fridge.
Photo credit: Outward Bound Singapore


Admittedly, the coastal cleanup was a taxing experience, but it was fun. I finally got the chance to help the environment and make new friends. And while the coast can never be completely clean, every little effort is still appreciated.

For some, this experience has changed the way they think about pollution. Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Toi Min Shean, 20, felt that younger Singaporeans do not know how serious the problem can be, because all they see is how clean the environment is now.


Last group photo before dismissal.


Raffles Institution (Junior College) student Ariel Lesmana, 17, shared the same sentiments. He said that he is now more concerned about environmental issues and he aims to take note of environmental suggestions.

As Li San said: “The problem isn’t on the surface, but deep down inside.” And solving these issues starts with us.

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