Who would have thought that in going to Pulau Ubin, I would get to see how dirty our beaches actually are, experience the process of reforestation and find out how NParks takes care of all the parks and forests in Singapore.
Initially on the first day, I was a bit disappointed as we spent the morning listening to a talk about why conservation is important, how it is being carried out in Singapore and what a conservationist does in NParks. After that, we finally got to do some hands on work. We went down to a part of Chek Jawa where we were given trash bags and instructed to remove the trash littering the mangrove. To me, this beach was a stark contrast to the relatively cleaner beaches at East Coast or West Coast. There were oil drums, tyres, plastic bags embedded in the sand, baby shoes, and numerous scattered pieces of styrofoam. There was even a deformed glass bottle from Thailand.
After this coastal clean-up, I realised how hard the cleaners have to work every morning even before the sun has risen, to clean up all the trash on the beaches that irresponsible people like us have left behind.
On the second day, we were involved in a lot more interesting activities. We were engaged in the process of reforestation—how trees are re-distributed from place to place. First, we went to the forest near Chek Jawa to dig up 100 tree saplings and put them into planting bags. The plants would later be transported to the nursery on Pulau Ubin to be cared for until they were deemed fit to be planted in the ground. To dig up the saplings, we were given small changkuls or hoes to loosen up the soil around the sapling so they could be pulled out.
After lunch, we moved on to the second part of reforestation—planting. Again, we used the changkuls/hoes to dig a large hole in the ground, into which we placed the plant and covered up the hole again. Following this, we ended with the last step of reforestation—weeding. This is to ensure that the plants are not competing unnecessarily with other unwanted plants so that they can get all the nutrients in the soil. From this activity, I learnt that there is more that goes into reforestation. It’s not simply throwing tree seeds into the ground and hope that they will grow, but a more complicated and active process that requires extensive action and care.
These two days provided me with ample new opportunities, from extracting buried plastic bags to digging up saplings with changkuls. Despite my initial hesitations, I thoroughly enjoyed myself in Pulau Ubin. I’ve realised that I shouldn’t take clean places for granted and that there is definitely more than meets the eye to what NParks does.