Feb 10, 2007

Have you hugged a slug today?

Here’s a reminder to all fellow Reefwalkers and anyone else reading this. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, so don’t wait till it’s too late to appreciate what’s right there in your own 'backyard'. Appreciate your family and friends, treasure your loved ones and hug your cat today! Put your talents and resources to good use, and give back to the community and Mother Earth. Most of all, appreciate nature, be it the last piece of natural shore left in Singapore, what’s left of our forests, our tiny but ‘rich’ offshore islands, or even something as simple as clear blue skies and fresh air.

I’ve been living in Dubai for the past seven months, and I miss Singapore nature so much that I have recurring dreams of it. I’m not exaggerating. I have 2 to 3 dreams a month about rocky shores, little slugs and ‘stars’, and all the other little treasures you can spot on the shore during low spring tides. The dreams are so vivid, I wake up wanting to put my booties on right away and run out in the dark armed with my torch and chopsticks!

Singapore and Dubai are similar in some ways – its waters and reefs damaged by constant offshore dredging and reclamation works. Singapore added 20% more land to its original size or 135km2 as of 2003, with plans for adding 99km2 more by 2008 (PlanetArk.com). Likewise, the total coastline of the UAE is 60km, and new offshore projects (such as the 'Palm' islands and 'The World') will add over 1,000km!

Divers would know that the Gulf region has some really superb dive sites. However, these are located on the East Coast of the UAE and Oman. So for a non-diver like me who needs her regular dose of reefwalking, there’s nothing! I’m starved for free and easily accessible 'wild action'! There’s only Jumeira Beach, which is mainly reclaimed and artificial. Like wah… so nice and clear and blue… Just the thing ignorant tourists love. Just the thing a Reefwalker might have nightmares about. Nothing to spot or seek! Notice how the beach is so flat and white. No rocks, no little crabs scurrying about, no little holes in the sand… The beach is so barren you don’t even see seaweed! One can probably make money from literally selling seashells on the seashore.

So Singapore, this is what you’ll have to live with in the future if all our beaches and offshore islands opt for the ‘tourist-attracting’ plan. The next time you wanna see a sea sponge or sea star, you may have to pay to see them in a huge state-of-the-art aquarium. Of course there’ll still be marine life in Singapore waters. Some of them will adapt and hang around till the silt and sediment finally clears in many, many years time, if ever. Some of them will pack their bags in search of a new home away from Singapore. Most of them will die.

And I fear one day, future Reefwalkers and Singaporeans will have to go through what I’m going through now. Waking up in the morning after a vivid “blue” dream, sulking the whole day as I think of “back when”. Most people may think of Singapore as a concrete jungle, but we actually still have a lot of natural areas. Little diamonds in the rough scattered all over the island. Changi Beach may not be a 'tropical seaside paradise', but it's still 'heaven' to me, and home to a variety of seaweeds, seagrasses and sea creatures. The mosquitoes at SBWR can eat you alive, but the chance to appreciate the biodiversity here is more than worth it. So the next time you have a day off or even half a day off, dedicate it to nature! Spend a few hours exploring one of our shores or Sungei Buloh or Bukit Timah. Go “sayang” a goby or fondle some seaweed for me! And most importantly, share your experience with everyone - family, friends, neighbours, students, co-workers, MPs…

1 comment:

Papa Jeff said...

Hey B,

So, sometimes the grass is not greener over the other side, eh? Ok, ok, nothing is greener than Singapore waters ... :P

Come back to Singapore for a visit lah! Help you get over your nightmares!

Cheers, Jeff