NTU club pops plan to release balloons

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 May 14;

SINGAPORE - A plan to release several hundred balloons at a Marina Barrage charity carnival was burst after environmentalists convinced organisers of the harm that could be done to marine life.

Nature enthusiasts had voiced concerns that, after the helium balloons deflate and fall in the sea, they would prove deadly to sea turtles and other creatures in Singapore's waters that mistake them for food such as jellyfish.

Less than a day after receiving this feedback on their website and Facebook page last Tuesday, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Cultural Activities Club (CAC) decided to scrap the balloon release as a show of solidarity.

They had planned the release at sunset on June 15 as part of organising Arts From The Heart, a carnival in support of the Children's Cancer Foundation.

A statement posted on the event's Facebook page early last Wednesday morning read: "We have been receiving several concerns over our proposed release of balloons at our event and have made a decision to stop the mass release of balloons in a bid to care for the environment."

In its place, "other suitable, environmentally friendly alternatives" to mark the event will be looked at, said Mr Kenneth Lo, chairman of the event's organising committee.

NTU CAC's president Joel Lim told The Sunday Times no helium balloons would be used at the event, only standard, air-filled ones.

Last December, a balloon release for a New Year's Eve party in Punggol was similarly canned after nature lovers wrote in.

Ms Ria Tan, 53, who petitioned organisers both times, was glad that their U-turns were swift.

"I find that most people immediately understand when we explain nicely the harmful effects of a mass balloon release," said the nature blogger, who has found deflated balloons in mangroves and on beaches here.

These releases are "equivalent to mass littering", she added.

She hopes that with greater awareness, they will soon become a thing of the past.

Professor Chou Loke Ming, a marine biologist at the National University of Singapore, said that balloons and plastic bags that sea turtles swallow would clog up their intestines and kill them.

According to the non-profit US-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, more than 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to debris in the ocean.

"I think most people don't know that the impact is like this when they send balloons into the air. Where the balloons go or end up, they don't have any idea," said Prof Chou.

Related link
Help stop mass balloon release on 15 Jun at Marina Barrage on wild shores of singapore blog.