Labrador Beach: Nature lovers fear coral project will cause damage

But NParks says it is not true that artificial reef structures harm the environment
Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 26 Nov 07;

A GROUP of nature lovers say the coral and marine life of Labrador Park is being destroyed by the very structures which a Singapore Polytechnic (SP) team built to save it.

The enthusiasts, who have posted their views on an online blog belonging to a Ms Ria Tan, have observed that, at low tide, 2m-long structures made of PVC pipes and concrete can be seen lying on the shore.

The pipes and struts, which shift on the silty sand, are crushing the seagrass, they say.

Ms Tan, 46, told The Straits Times she saw such a structure on Labrador beach in the middle of last year, but didn't know what it was until this newspaper ran a report on them last month.

She said: 'My initial blog entry was to find out whether what I'd seen on the beach last year had anything to do with The Straits Times article, because it had a striking resemblance.

'I didn't expect to get such strong responses from readers.'

The nature activist leads a group of about 100 volunteers who scour Singapore's shores at low tide to document the range of marine life there and what affects it.

The structures she and some readers of her blog have seen are what the SP team calls 'seacils' - frames of concrete, PVC piping and plastic on which the team hopes that coral and marine life - which it rescued from a Labrador Park site slated for dredging by the Maritime and Port Authority - will take hold.

It is too soon to say if this conservation effort is succeeding.

But the 40 seacils in the SP project were laid in place about 100m offshore.

Of the seacils, National Parks Board (NParks) spokesman George Tay said: 'The project is not harming the environment, since the artificial reef and garden sit on the sea floor, away from the natural coral reef zone of the nature reserve.'

Those on the beach could have come loose and been washed ashore, he said, adding that NParks had asked the SP team early last week to remove them.

He said the structures are in the process of being removed.

When The Straits Times revisited Labrador beach yesterday, one such structure, with two larger moulds to build it, were still on the beach, just like they were last month. Some PVC piping had been removed.

Asked about the structures on the shore, their creator, a volunteer on the SP team, Mr Charles Rowe, said that was where the team has been building them since March last year. When completed, they are moved out to sea.

Captain Frederick Francis, who heads the SP volunteer team, confirmed that the team had been asked by NParks to remove the structures from the beach.

He maintained that the structures were not damaging marine life, and that sea grasses and algae can be seen growing on the beach.

Professor Leo Tan, former chief of NParks, said, while those trying to do good for the environment should not be discouraged, experiments should be monitored more closely, with NParks, scientists and sociologists working with them.

Prof Tan, himself a marine biologist, said: 'The only way to find the right technique to regenerate corals is to conduct experiments like this, but the project's methodology has to be made clear and follow-through must go on for up to 10 years before we know if an experiment is a success.

'Projects should not just be praised at the outset and forgotten.'

RELATED LINKS


Undersea garden takes root S'pore
Poly team creates marine site off Labrador for corals to regrow By Shobana Kesava Straits Times 29 Oct 07

Updates on large concrete slabs on Labrador shore
on the wildfilms blog 26 Nov 07

Large debris on Labrador explained?
on the wildfilms blog 29 Oct 07

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