Wednesday, August 28, 2013

BES Pulau Semakau Field Trip (24th Aug 2013)

I figured that if I want to revive this blog, I might as well do it with a blast! And thus, the first post after such a long break will be the first field trip I have in this Academic Year. The BES class went to Pulau Semakau on 24th August 2013. It still remains my favourite island in Singapore.
BES Class of 2017
We had our first group photo ever as a class taken at the Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal before we took the boat to Pulau Semakau. It was a great day with great weather. We then split into two groups and I had the group that get to watch the presentation first.

Semakau Transfer Station
After attending a presentation, we had a tour around the island. The first stop was the Semakau Transfer station where the barges of ashes will enter and park in while the ash and waste are being emptied.
Tugboat with the codename of ENV 3
These barges of ashes and waste are being pushed by these tugboats from the Tuas Marine Transfer Station to Pulau Semakau. Each barge has a capacity of 3,500 cubic metres.
35-tonne off-road dump trucks
These dump trucks carry the incinerated ashes and waste to the tipping sites and unload the solid waste into the active cell.
Long-arm excavator and bulldozers
 The long-arm excavator is used to scoop the ashes and waste into the dump trucks. The bulldozers help to level and compact the solid waste at the tipping sites.
Long-arm excavator at work with the dump truck in the transfer station
The ashes will be transferred into the dump trucks or on the floor when there is no dump truck around. It takes approximately six hours for the long-arm excavator to empty each barge. We managed to take a whiff of what the ashes smells like and it just smells like something is burning.
Barramundi Asia nursery and hatchery on Pulau Semakau
Offshore fish farms
The world's first offshore Barramundi farm and hatchery is found on Pulau Semakau, just beside the Visitor Centre. It is owned by Barramundi Asia and it supplies about 350 tonnes of fish a year. The fries are raised on shore and when they weigh 10 grammes, they are vaccinated and moved to the floating cages or "kelongs" off Semakau near the Southern tip.
Malayan Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator)
As we carry on to move, a cute creature caught my eye and I managed to shoot it before the bus drove off. The first life form (other than humans) that I see on the island. It is probably a Malayan Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator).
Fruit Trees
There are fruit trees found on the island as the workers try to be self sufficient on the food aspect, at least for the fruits. They have mangoes!!!
Grassland of  Semakau which are cells that were already filled up
As we traveled to the Southern tip of Pulau Semakau, we passed by the cells that were already filled and there were already a whole lot of plants growing on them. These plants are first brought in by wind when the cells are filled and a layer of top soil was added. They then attracted more birds and insects to the island, and this in turn bring about more seeds of other plants. Hence, the cells are now filled with different species of plants, creating an ecosystem with different organisms living it. This process is called nature succession.
Forest Trail
We made a special stop at the entrance of the forest for intertidal walk as we are required to take a look at the wonderful shore that we have at Pulau Semakau. This coastal forest is part of the original Pulau Semakau and it remains pretty much untouched throughout the construction of the bund. As usual, the war with the mosquitoes starts all over again.
Wonderful Shores of Pulau Semakau

These shores would be exposed during low tide and it has various interesting organisms living on it.
After the grueling walk in the forest (not because of the terrain but the mosquitoes), we will be able to see the shores of Pulau Semakau. However, as we are the second group to arrive, the tide is high and we are unable to walk any further out to take a better look at the shores. However, we are still able to see some naturally growing mangroves while more information on Project Semakau were shared.
Half the BES cohort group photo
As usual, being the mean one, I forced my group to take a group photo on the wonderful shores of Pulau Semakau despite the billions of mosquitoes attacking them as they stopped moving for a split second.
Roads of Pulau Semakau
We then carry on our tour on the 7km rock bund to the Southern Tip of Pulau Semakau. One difference between the roads here and the roads on mainland is that there is currently no street lamps on them, hence, minimum light pollution and very ideal location for star gazing.
Water pipes joining the cells to the open sea
These pipes allow the sea water to flow freely into the cells that are not currently being used yet. This is important as it keeps the organisms living in the cells alive while the cells are not being used. It also helps to prevent the water inside from being stagnant as stagnant waters can breed mosquitoes and other water-borne diseases.
Helicopters action
We soon reached the Southern most tip of Pulau Semakau. We are lucky enough to catch some action of the helicopters having some practices at the nearby islands of Pulau Sudong, Pulau Pawai and Pulau Senang. These islands are mainly used for military live-firing exercises.
Electricity is generated by the wind turbine and solar panels at this small station
Though this wind turbine and solar power station is small, it is able to generate enough power for the lights at the Southern most tip of Pulau Semakau. Hence, allowing people to have activities like barbeque in the night.
Impermeable geomembrane (foreground) and Geofabric (background)
These membranes help to ensure that the leachate or any forms of leaking do not happen and thus, keeping the sea waters around the island clean.
Jatropha plants (Jatropha curcas)
Unripe fruits of Jatropha plants
Currently, a project is exploring on the possibility to generate biofuel from these plants. The oil-rich seeds are viable sources of biofuel but more research is required before it can be used.

Phase 2 lagoon and the monitoring well (the white pipe in the foreground)
TA Bee Yan briefing on the phase 2 lagoon
We were then briefed on the developments of phase 2 lagoon and how the various organisms living in it will soon die off. This stress on the fact that we need to carry to practise our 3 R's so that this landfill can last as long as possible.
"Ah who cares what she says" 
Just kidding :)
And we do not wish to listen to her. Nah. We just turned to take a look at the lagoon and the poor plants and organisms living in it that will soon be gone.
Rare mangrove plant in the middle of the lagoon. All the organisms will soon be destroyed when the phase 2 begins
BES Class of 2017 at Pulau Semakau
We then head back to the visitor centre and we got ready to move back to mainland Singapore. It was a good trip for all of us and I believe we have all learnt something from this trip and got a better idea on how waste is being treated in Singapore. 

Despite the number of times I have been to this island, I never fail to learn, see and hear something new. However, many questions are left unanswered and will remain unanswered. What are the future developments of the island? Will the biodiversity of this island be conserved or destroyed to make way for development? What is the next step?
But one thing is for sure: We need to do something to reduce our waste.

Walking off,
Rui Xiang

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


This first post shall be dedicated to someone special as a Christmas gift. And it will be about the mangroves of Pasir Ris Park. I went with Ron and Jiayi to find out more about the mangroves at the park and at the same time check how many species are present there.

We started off with...

Mata Ayam (Ardisia elliptica) also known as "chicken's eye" as its fruits turn shiny black when it is ripe, resembling the eyes of the chicken. It is easily recognised by the swollen base at its twigs.

There were a lot of sea almond trees (Terminalia catappa). Although they may not be true mangroves, they can be found along the coast of the shores. They can be easily recognised by the big elliptical shaped leaves and their stem usually branches out into two as they grow.

There are also two kinds of special ferns that can tolerate the seawater. The one on the top with the longer and rounded leaflet tip is the Golden Leather Fern (Acrostichum aureum) while the other one which is Acrostichum speciosum has shorter and pointed tip leaflets.

This is the Dungun (Heritiera littoralis). While some of us would like to call it the "Ultraman" plant due the the shape of its shape being like the head of the "Ultraman". However, this plant is not as strong as him as you can see that it is badly eaten. The feature that allow us to easily identify it is that its leaves has a silvery underside.

The mangrove habitat also has its own cannonball trees. This one above is the Xylocarpus moluccensis. This plant is easily recognised by its compound leaves and it can be distinguished with the other species (Xylocarpus granatum) as it has pointed leaflet tips while granatum has rounded leaflet tips.

One shrub that can be found at the shores of the mangroves is the Chengam (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea). It is identify by the teardrop shaped leaves that hs different shades of colour on one side of the leaf and the other. The leaf contains so much tannin in it that when it dies, it will turn black.

The next major mangrove plant is the Teruntm Putih (Lumnitzera racemosa). The leaves of this plant has a gland at the end of them and is believed that it contains nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This plant could easily be mistaken as Teruntum Merah (Lumnitzera littorea) as their leaves are rather similar and one sure way to identify it is by the flowers and we are lucky enough to see it that day.

This is the Excoecaria agallocha. This special plant is the relative of the rubber tree but do be careful of its sap as it is known to cause blindness if gets into your eye. Hence, the name "Buta-buta" meaning blind-your-eyes. It is also one of the mangrove plant that is deciduous.

The growing buds like a sword together with the red-collared propagules would have given this plant away as Ceriops zippeliana. Its bark and sap can be collected to make dyes in some countries.

One new mangrove plant that I personally have not seen it anyway is the Bruguiera parviflora. And amazingly, there are many of the young shoots growing out in Pasir Ris park and some of them may be planted while others are grown naturally.

Another major mangrove plant would be the Rhizophora mucronata. This plant will have black spots on the underside of the leaves and its leaves are the biggest out of the three Rhizophora plants found in Singapore.

One plant that I will have difficulties identifying it is the Avicennia alba. As it has many different shapes of leaves, depending on the amount of sunlight and nutrients, it is very hard to tell the Avicennia genus apart just by the shape of the leaves. However, it is always good to take a look at the underside of them if possibe and have a good knowledege of mangroves in order to identify them.

Just before we left the park, we went to see the rarest mangrove plant in Singapore. And it is the only one left that can be found in Singapore. It is the Kandelia candel. It is commonly known as the sea banana as the seedling in the fruit greatly resembles a banana and hence its common name.
It was a great experience to revise through what I have learnt throughout the holidays. And it is indeed a wonderful walk with the nature...