Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Importance of mangroves

To many people mangroves are a hot, humid and dangerous place teeming with insects and dangerous creatures. They are often referred to as swamps. Actually mangroves are one of the most intriguing and interesting habitats one can visit. Where can you see a fish “walk” on land, come on one of our free guided walks and you’ll see the mudskipper doing just that! It’s the only place where the nationally endangered mud lobster (thalassina anomala) chooses to build its home.

In 1819 it is estimated that about 13% of Singapore was covered in mangroves, today we only have about half percent. Luckily today the true value of mangroves is being discovered both by scientist and nature lovers.

Mangroves are the first line indicators on the well being of our coastlines, a thriving community of mangroves usually indicated good water quality. They slow down soil erosion and some species of mangroves actually help in reclaiming land with their complex root systems. Their prop roots offer protection to many species of insects and fish especially two species of commercially important fish, the Sea Bass and Mangrove Jack Its also home to unusual fish like the Archer fish that captures its prey by “spitting” water at it.

Even the vegetation is different, as plants and trees that grow there can tolerate a very high level of salt water. Many get rid of the high salt content by shedding their leaves

Here you’ll also find a versatile palm called nipah (nypa Fruticans) That’s used to make many things including the “ Attar Chee” fruit that goes into cold desserts

The matured leaves are made into roofing material hence the term “ Attap House”, they young salt leaves are dried and used by kampong folks as cigarette wrappers. The sap from the inflorescence stalk can be used boiled down to make brown rock sugar (Gula Melaka) it is already considered a “rare” species in Singapore.

The rich insect and bug life in the mangroves attract a great number of aquatic and other birds to hunt and nest there. On one of out monthly free walks you’ll see kingfishers, herons, egrets and other birds pouched and looking out for a meal

Experts also now say that if the mangroves had not been cut down (to make way for sea front bungalows) there would have been many less causalities during the last tsunami. This would be a good opportunity for lending organisations to make mangrove planting a requirement before rebuilding loans can be approved The Green Volunteers organize free monthly guided nature walks and mangrove clean-up at Pasir Ris park

If you want to go for a nature walk or help give mangroves a hand by clearing up trash (mostly plastic) go to our blog ( to sign up.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Trash for Cash

A really cool project that recycles ordinary plastic wastes into practical products like shower curtains, bags, pencil cases, computer haversacks and even umbrellas.
A brain child of an Indonesian friend of mine, Aswin, whose aim was two fold when he started this project. “One was to help people less fortunate than me and the other to make a decent living so that I can support my family”, he said.

It looks that he is beginning to succeed in both areas. Ordinary trash plastic is sold for about six Singapore cents a kilo by Aswin pay sixty Singapore cents for the type of plastic he is looking for e.g. detergent packs etc.

This ten fold increase in price benefits the trash picker and his family immediately, especially nutrition wise during this economic downturn 36 year old Aswin is a qualified air-craft technician who did part of his training with Singapore airlines in Singapore

His training reflects his demand for strict quality control of the recycled products, for instance, thread need to stitch the plastic together is of high quality, water proof synthetic thread, the same type used to sew aircraft seats. Zippers used are branded names.

Aswin presently employs 9 full time staff ie 5 sewers, 2 cutters and 2 washers. They are all paid above average wages with incentive bonuses for output and targets met; they also have a profit sharing scheme for end year profits. 3 free meals are provided for all staff.

Business is expending rapidly, he started by buying around 80 to 100 kilos of plastic trash and is now buying around 500 to 600 kilos each week

Plastic is a major pollution problem in Indonesia, they block drains and canals and are a major contributor to terrible floods in the city. Its people like Aswin who helps by recycling some of this trash that would otherwise be buried in dumpsite ( Where they take anywhere between500 to 700 years to disintegrate) or worst incinerated releasing deadly toxins in the air which is not only a serious health hazards but contributes directly to global warming

We are helping Aswin to sell these products in Singapore to help raise funds (and awareness of this plastic menace especially to the young) and more importantly to eventually start a “trash for cash” Educational foundation where we can send the children of the trash pickers to school. We both believe that education is the key to get there children away from their vicious ring of poverty. These stylish recycled products will soon be sold at Ubin Green House.