The Blue Tempeh
Sunday, September 19, 2004
PART ONE - Before Chek Jawa
At 2.45 a.m. I woke up panicking, thinking it was 7.30 a.m. and that I was horribly late for the ICCS and that everyone was about to kill me. What a thing to dream about huh.

At 5, I was up again. My throat was still killing me and the phlegm was not helping. Damn virus.

At 6.20 we reached Changi Jetty, bought another 2 dozen gloves for the cleanup at a (thankfully) open mama shop.

By 6.45, the volunteers for ICCS Chek Jawa trickled in. By 7, almost half were there and by 7.15, the place had been taken over by eager volunteers ready to help clean up Chek Jawa.

Attendance was taken and volunteers split into respective groups, courtesy of Jen Lee. The logistics were nicely split up into 6, one for each group, courtesy of Tse-Lynn. And the group leaders briefed.

Merey briefing her group

Each group was briefed separately by their own group leaders and then shipped off the bumboats to our adventure island, Pulau Ubin. Over at Ubin, they will then take either a van (rental from Mr. Yeo, of Pulau Ubin Taxi Service, THE way to travel with 11 other people around Ubin) or the trusty NParks truck (courtesy of NParks and Choon Beng).

The NParks TRUCK!

At 7.45, all was going according to plan and the groups were staggered off to Ubin when.....I SAW CHOON BENG AT THE CHANGI JETTY. Panic. Sweat. Means they're having a hold up at the other end. Call Tse-Lynn. Ring Ring. I think just get them to go on ahead with the vans and start work with whatever logistics they have. Don't wait for the truck! They will take time to recce the area anyway! Act calm and hope that the groups will forgive me and that they can keep themselves occupied. Thank god for the great group leaders who know how to kill time.

By 8.30, the last two volunteers from Poh Huat's group arrived in the nick of time as Choon Beng came back to ferry us to Chek Jawa. So far, everything's according to schedule.

I got to admit, I thought that everything would be in total chaos today. Have got to thank all the volunteers for being so cooperative and the group leaders for being so great!

PART TWO - At Chek Jawa: The Excitement
And so we arrived at Chek Jawa. Bags everywhere and everyone's already getting down and dirty. Hands in gloves, gloves on trash, trash in mud, mud everywhere.

And so I sent Poh Huat's group to their section: the BACK MANGROVES. Mud mud mud. More mud. They're tall, they're gung-ho, they'll survive........Anyway the Dr. Ong is with them so if anything happens, they had a medic. And I'm off to see whether everything and everybody else was in place. Although with Tse-Lynn around, I don't think I had much to worry...

"Christmas decoration" section markers

The cleanup was organised this way: 6 sections divided along the ~250m stretch of Chek Jawa mangrove and 6 groups of 10-12 volunteers to take charge of each section. 3 sections were located before (the muddier but shadier sections) THE DRAIN, and 3 sections after (the less muddy but also less shady sections). Incidentally, the drain looked much less perilous than last year and last last year. There were actually proper planks in place! Previously, it was a balancing act on a barely narrow strip of wood. Or, it seemed that way. Anyway, for someone as clumsy as myself, this is fantastic news.

THE DRAIN: notice planks & solid ground

My foot, the plank and the narrow concrete beam

I must have walked up and down that stretch of Chek Jawa at least 20 times. AT LEAST! Passing messages, water, spades, cutters, gloves, messages, weighing scales, wheelbarrow, trash bags, messages, wheelbarrow, spades, tongs.......................But it was fun. Plus, I needed the exercise. I could ALMOST feel my shorts getting looser at the end of the day. Almost.

While I was walking and chalking up my phone bill using Malaysian network to arrange boring logistics, the rest of the volunteers were hard at work. Dirty, sweaty, hot, but hard at work. Exciting.

"LOOK! What a cute worm! Wah! So long!!"

"OK, enough about the worm. Let's get cleaning!"

Jacks and the giant rope.
How many guys does it take to cut a rope?

Well, I admit, the tools and equipment could be much better. This was the first time Chek Jawa had so many people coming down to help clean it up so...bigger, better, more tools next time. But no. Still no chainsaw. Sorry guys.

Besides thick giant ropes. The volunteers encountered all sorts of odd litter...........

A sink.

Some chair.

A cooler.

55 gallon drums, crates, nets, tyres and....

Some odd-looking marker buoy thing.

Oh, and some giant tyres.

By 10.30 a.m., the sun was rising, and so was the tide. Fast. Some groups kept on working while others lugged their loot back to the collection point.

Human Chain

Bring it over, Baby!

I was again pleasantly surprised at how efficient everything went! Even the weighing! All I had to do was brief Angie's group and they took over the whole process! I even overheard some discussing the use of ropes, trees and levers to make things even MORE efficient. AMAZING. If only all groups were like this.

The collection point and trash from sections 1,2,3

The weighing: Quick! How much does it weigh!

At sections after THE DRAIN, they were doing the same thing. Tse-Lynn was there over-seeing the trash weighing there. Lucky for all, after a lot of calling and exploring (I did the calling and Choon Beng did the exploring hehe) we found another entry to the OTHER end of Chek Jawa, the northern end, the end furthest from the collection point. Get my drift. This saved A LOT of time, and trouble, for everyone. Thanks to Choon Beng and his exploring, and driving, skills! And NParks' reforestation project! (The road was there to bring in the plants for the reforestation project).

Trash from Sections 4,5,6

The volunteers were ferried out of Chek Jawa using a few vans and the NParks truck. AND multiple trips using the NParks LAND ROVER. I don't have a photo here, but you can trust me that it looks pretty cool, and comfortable. By 12.30 p.m. We were all out of Chek Jawa!

I take my hats to all the volunteers for giving all you've got and group leaders and Choon Beng and other NParks rangers and Tse-Lynn, who, with her sprained ankle, managed to be a "walker" and help dig out a giant tyre.

Hats off!

PART THREE - At Chek Jawa: The Results & Aftermath

AND THE RESULTS ARE IN! We managed to clean up 1.6 TONS of trash! A WHOLE LOAD OF TRASH! Compared to last year and last last year, when we collected about 200+kg each year, this year's numbers are quite staggering. Then again, last year we only had 9 volunteers, and 10 the previous year.

The break down of the trash collected. Look at those numbers man!

You can go HERE for a better view of the results. It even has pie charts and all. Very nicely done by Airani. Also, do go take a look at the results and photos from the other sites at COASTAL CLEANUP website.

The amount of trash is staggering. The mountains of plastic bottles, bags and styrofoam! OH the STYROFOAM PIECES EVERYWHERE! The general sentiment by the end of the cleanup was that styrofoam should be BANNED! Not only does it harm the environment in many ways (e.g. leeching out chemicals, CFCs etc), but all those broken pieces can actually become killer litter!

Picking up the pieces...

Marine animals such as fish and turtles can mistake styrofoam bits as food and since it's so durable and indigestible, remain their stomachs for years (if they don't choke on it first). As these styrofoam bits get trapped in their body, they can become permanently buoyant and die. Bags and other litters can have the same effects too. As Choon Beng said, the most important thing about the clean up is not that Chek Jawa is clean, but that all that litter do not go around floating to other locations. Or harming marine animals.

Bottles and bottles and bottles...

It would be hard to ban such environmentally unfriendly materials and items, or stop everyone from littering, but you can make a difference. You can start small. Maybe use less straws, use less plastic bags, bring your own bag when you shop for groceries, or even your own tupperware when packing take-away food! (And, as Jen Lee reminded me, UTENSILS too!)

Essentially, REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE. And let your family and friends know as well! Let your school or work know! The no. 1 reason for indifference is ignorance. If you feel really strongly about certain issues, write them in! Don't wait for others to do it! Tell someone!

May the trash rest in peace.

Well, to be honest, eventhough we collected so much trash and litter, we did not leave Chek Jawa without leaving a mark. This is one of the reasons why there is a limit to the number of people entering Chek Jawa.

Muddy trail of what used to be covered in seaweed.

Trudge marks.....

When nature calls, it SHOUTS

The dump site

Let's just hope we all did more good than bad! That's all for ICCS Chek Jawa 2004 report! See you all next year! By the by, anyone interested in organising next year's cleanup?
Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)
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