Psst, World Water Day is coming up soon! Here’s a little tip for you to celebrate the upcoming World Water Day on March 22nd:
Go on down to one of the Singapore World Water Day (SWWD) roadshows with your latest Singapore Power (SP) bill, and if the folks at the roadshow see that you’ve been a diligent water saver, you’ll be able to receive an exclusive premium. This sweet opportunity will be waiting for you during the entirety of March, but limited stocks are available (just like one other precious, precious resource).
The above link is also where you can find SWWD’s official partners, including Ben & Jerry’s and oBike, who are eager to offer you a steal of a deal for the right water-saving attitude.
Here’s something to think about this World Water Day: wetlands. Sure, we need to do all we can to keep that fresh, clean, thirst-quenching clear water running out of our taps. But is that enough? Nature needs water too, and we need nature.
Urbanising cities have a common trend of gradually encroaching on natural spaces like wetlands. These cities will only expand and multiply as time passes, and it may seem a waste to preserve a wetland when it could be a bustling hub. The truth is, however, that wetlands are important to us, even to those of us who live highly urbanised environments. Wetlands provide a wide array of ecosystem services, such as absorbing excess rainfall during storms and helping to reduce the risk of flooding. Now, that’s relevant.
In particular, Singapore boasts a sprawling Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which is not only a site teeming with heritage, but also with birds of every shape and size. Native birds, exotic birds that have travelled from across the world to spend the winter in sunny Singapore – our very own wetlands are a key stopping point in the East Asian Australasian Shorebird Site Network, which include Kakadu National Park in Australia, Mai Po in Hong Kong and the Yatsu Tidal Flats in Japan.
This World Water Day, maybe leave a little room in your thoughts for the wetlands around the world and in our own garden city, while you’re taking a short shower.
While the BES Drongos guide at Macritchie’s Petai Trail, our guides are equally passionate about helping others learn more about biodiversity in other parts of Singapore as well!
Last month, 2 BES Drongos guides joined participants from NUS’s University Scholars Programme on a trip to St John’s Island, located a short 25 minute ferry away from Marina South Pier. St John’s Island forms part of Singapore’s Southern Islands, a planning area comprising of other islands like Kusu Island and the Sisters’ Islands. Geographically, all of them are found just south of Sentosa (see map below).
There, students visited St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, which houses the Marine Park Outreach and Education Centre, and listened to both Dr Serena Teo and Dr Neo Mei Lin who are key staff based at the facility. Students then got to tour the grounds, with the highlight being the Giant Clam Hatchery, which breeds 2 species of giant clams, the Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa) and the Boring Giant Clam (T. crocea).
Fluted Giant Clam (Photo by Angela Chan)
Boring Giant Clam (Photo by Angela Chan)
For those who don’t know, Dr Neo is one of the world’s leading scientists in researching giant clams, and was recently named a TED Fellow. Part of her research is to maintain the Giant Clam Hatchery, which grows giant clams until they are large enough to be re-introduced into Singapore waters. In a similar fashion to animal rehabilitation, a hatchery relies on the genetic material of giant clams in the wild to produce offspring, and protect these new clams from predators and other threats, allowing them to grow without interference until they are old enough to defend for themselves.
Why focus on giant clams then? Giant clams worldwide currently play an important role for the coral reef ecosystem, being sources of food with for other marine animals because of its large primary productivity, shelter for a mixture of coral reef fish and epibionts (creatures that live on the clam’s shell) as well as having reef scale contributions by contributing carbonate and regulating eutrophication (acting as a nutrient filter) (Neo et al., 2015). Furthermore, their long lifespans spanning around a hundred years mean they are bioindicators to help scientists understand the health of the coral reef they reside in (“Giant Clam”, n.d.).
However, giant clams are being threatened by multiple drivers, including coral reef degradation, harvesting and aquarium trade, such that might become locally extinct if marine biologists do not intervene (Neo & Todd, 2013). Thankfully with passionate individuals like Dr Neo, and the infrastructure of St John’s Marine Laboratory, giant clams here may just be spared a fate of doom, and we hope that giant clams can soon be found thriving once again!
All in all, I personally enjoyed myself at the facility. Seeing and learning about giant clams for the first time was a good reminder that biodiversity is diverse, beautiful and needs to be shown respect and care for by humans. The island itself also has a pleasant, tranquil feel to it, offering several recreational spaces, many furry felines, and even a beach (on adjacent Lazarus Island) should you want to get yourself ready for the June holidays! The Marine Park Outreach and Education Centre is open 7 days a week and St John’s Island is assessable by ferry 2 times a day on weekdays and up to 5 times a day on weekends.
That’s all for now, stay tuned to our blog for more updates as we talk about biodiversity in other parts of Singapore too!!!
Neo, M. L., Eckman, W., Vicentuan, K., Teo, S. L. M., & Todd, P. A. (2015). The ecological significance of giant clams in coral reef ecosystems. Biological Conservation, 181, 111-123.
Neo, M. L., & Todd, P. A. (2013). Conservation status reassessment of giant clams (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Tridacninae) in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 6, 125-133.
The 22nd of March is just around the corner, and we all know what a special day that is!
No, you schmuck, I don’t mean International Goof Off Day, though I am glad something like that exists. I’m talking about World Water Day, a day where we celebrate, oh, just the fluid of life that runs through our veins and blesses us with health, wealth, beauty, and all things good on this planet… not a big deal, right?
Of course it’s a big deal. World Water Day was first brought into the world through Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Then, in 1993, the United Nations General Assembly gave World Water Day its first theme for celebration. This year, the theme for World Water Day is: wastewater! Amazing! Okay, I admit that it’s not a very sexy topic. It is, nonetheless, a topic worth talking about; the management of wastewater is a major environmental challenge, and geniuses all over the world are cracking their heads open to come up with sustainable solutions to wastewater management.
Some of these geniuses have come up with something so astounding that I’m surprised people aren’t running down the streets shouting about it: poop water. Poop. Faeces, converted into fresh drinking water. Fine, NEWater already does it. What if I told you it also produces electricity? That’s right, folks, your humble little Hershey’s Kisses have the potential to nourish a thirsty family AND power their home. The future is here and it’s one hell of a ride. If you think I’m exaggerating, just take a look at that video where Bill Gates literally drinks water that, moments, before, had been a pile of tepid turds, and then writes “I would happily drink it every day” on his blog. Sublime. If you’re miserably using mobile data on the bus, let me summarise it for you:
Sewage sludge is fed into the Janicki Omniprocessor, where it is first boiled to release water vapour, which is collected to make fresh water. The remaining dry solid is then transferred to a furnace. Hot steam is made from the burning of the solids, and this steam is moved to a steam engine, which creates electricity via a generator. This provides the power needed to work the entire machine, plus a little left over that can be delivered back to the community. The true beauty of this system is that it’s simple and self-sufficient. It is a feasible addition to needy communities with poor sanitation – the owner of this processor would earn from the collection of the sewage, the production of water and electricity.
It turns out that one man’s trash is also that same man’s treasure. Thank you, Peter Janicki.
So we can’t all be like Peter Janicki. That’s okay. The value in the World Water Day campaigns around the world is that everybody can take part in them. In 2014, the UNICEF Tap Project created an app that encouraged participants to go without using their phone for as long as possible. For every 15 minutes spent away from your phone, you contributed a day’s worth of potable water to those in need. In Canada, over a hundred non-profit organisations carried out rain barrel sales across the country. Having a rain barrel in your home means an added source of water, which you can use to maintain gardens, lawns and house plants.
In Singapore, schools, grassroots, corporate and non-governmental organisations launched special events in support of World Water Day. Walks, tours, carnivals, even, yes, yoga class discounts. There really is something for everyone. You can check them out on the official Singapore World Water Day website.
Have a happy World Water Day, and don’t forget to watch the city turn blue this coming Wednesday! Oh, you’ll figure out what I mean.
Hey everyone! World Water Day is today, and we’ve come up with this special post to share how forests, such as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and water, such as our Macritchie Reservoir, go hand in hand to ensure a thriving ecosystem!
First, a brief history lesson. The BES Drongos lead nature walks around the oldest reservoir in Singapore, standing at 147 years. First completed in 1868, Macritchie Reservoir was named after James Macritchie, an engineer that looked to expand it to accommodate an increasing population. When the impounding reservoir was built, the plantations around it were closed down and the forest was allowed to naturally recover from the agricultural deforestation that had been taking place. This dense thick vegetation served a purpose: it protected the reservoir as a precious water resource! Things have changed now. Since the nature reserve and Macritchie Reservoir were opened to the public, it has become a recreational hub for joggers and secondary water sports enthusiasts. But, people are not the only ones who benefit from the water; flora and fauna residing in the area also rely on the reservoir’s water. This is not just only for hydration, but as a living habitat for some species as well, such as turtles.
The presence of forests around the reservoir aid in maintaining this high quality. Leaf litter all around the forest is able to trap potential water pollutants like rubbish such that it does not reach even close to the reservoir. Also, bacteria in wet forest soils carry out denitrification, which is the process of converting nitrates into nitrogen gas to be released into the air. This prevents nitrates, a form of nutrient, from entering the reservoir and causing algal blooms which are capable of killing aquatic wildlife.
Additionally, forests improve infiltration and stabilize slopes with presence of plant roots, which reduces erosion of soil into the reservoir. The roots of trees create gaps in the soil so that when it rains, water can sink into the soil before subsequently being absorbed by the roots. These root systems of trees and other plants also keep soils porous. Water is filtered through various layers of soil before entering ground water and this process thus allows for toxins, nutrients, sediment, and other substances to be filtered of the water, and kept from entering the reservoir body as well. Without forests, soil is more prone to erosion, so sediment would make the water body murky and also affect the visibility of animals in the water.
These characteristics of the nature reserve are also re-created with deliberate greenery design in MacRitchie Reservoir Park as part of PUB’s Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters programme. One example is the submerged boardwalk, where plants on the reed beds similarly serve to absorb pollutants, removing these harmful substances from the water supply before it even reaches the reservoir’s filtration system.
With several countries experiencing issues of water scarcity and water pollution, clean water sources are without doubt important not just for our daily lives, but also for the survival of species in green spaces around us. In Singapore, the presence of the MacRitchie Nature Reserve and other forests help tremendously in keeping water in our many reservoirs clean. Thus, should we continue to cherish both the water we drink and our environment we live in, Singapore will indeed have many more prosperous years to go.
Words by: Chow Tak Wei
The BES Drongos adventures on the Petai Trail and more!