31 May 2010

Nature lovers band together amidst oil spill tragedy

Volunteers band together in clean-up efforts on Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin. Photo shared by Tan Hang Chong on the oil spill Facebook page.

Following the tragic news of the oil spill off Changi East in the early hours of 25 May 2010, many were bracing for the worst: just how much of our shores will be spared?

History has shown that oil accidents have never been kind to marine life, and all this happens in the middle of failed damage control of the biggest oil spill in US history off the Gulf of Mexico, everything just seems a tad overwhelming!

It is hard to ignore the heavy petroleum smell in the air along the shores frequented by locals looking for a pleasant day outdoors, and seeing dead animals covered in sludge is a heartbreaking sight for anyone.

While the oil slick first affected the East Coast shore, the next few days saw grim reports of the slick spreading the Changi and Ubin shores. And with recent reports of the oil reaching Johor shores, shore lovers worry about the slick spreading to more of our shores.

Clean-up efforts on Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin. Photo by Tan Hang Chong on the oil spill Facebook page.

Exceptionally tragic was news of sludge and animals in distress on a rich and normally thriving mainland shore of Tanah Merah.

The authorities were swift in closing off beaches and deploying clean-up efforts. But what was most heartening, perhaps, was seeing how Singaporeans banded together in this tragedy.

The response to action was inspiring: nature lovers started a Facebook page where concerned Singaporeans could post their updates of sightings, rescue efforts and the extent of the slick. Volunteers came forward to assist in rescue efforts of animals that may have survived, while nature lovers made their own trips to potentially affected shores to document shore health and alerting authorities to newly affected sites.

Many volunteers have blogged about their sightings or posted photos and accounts on social networking sites like Facebook. Users have also been sharing breaking news with each other. News of the slick being cleared from our shores and blog posts of affected shores looking relatively healthy, and signs of healthy marine life returning, are all small triumphs that we all hope to witness together in days to come.

A healthy moon crab feeding on a stretch of relatively unaffected Changi shore.

A feisty octopus sighted on Changi shore, photo shared by Sam Yeo on the oil spill Facebook page.

Thank you everyone who's done their part in monitoring our shores' health, in animal rescues and in the clean up of the oil spill! Let's hope the oil does not spread any further and that our shores recuperate quickly.

Read more about how you can help here.

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