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  The Straits Times, March 9, 2005
Fancy a nature trek on Pulau Landfill?
by Alexis Hooi

THE place is a dump. But beauty thrives there, as nature lovers are set to discover on Pulau Semakau, Singapore's sole working landfill.

From June, they can meander through the island's mangrove mudflats that span the size of more than 20 football fields, or explore the teeming western and northern shorelines of the island.

Fishing enthusiasts can also get hooked: there's sport fishing to be had at man-made salt-water lagoons created for rubbish but which have not been filled up.

The activities will be led by selected recreational and nature groups. Those keen must register with these groups to get there. This is because there are no regular ferry rides and they need to be guided to nicer parts of the island.

After all, the main activity on the six-year-old landfill is the dumping of around 2,000 tonnes of rubbish a day. It is using less than half its available space now and is expected to fill up only by 2040. Waste, such as treated sludge, non-burnable trash, and silt and bottom ash from incineration plants, is dumped there.

But the island has been developed with enough care that it is scenic and not smelly. At least that was the picture Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim painted yesterday when he told Parliament of the plan, which is part of moves to open up more areas for people to enjoy the environment.

The ministry's statutory board, the National Environment Agency (NEA), did a feasibility study last October after observing the island's 'pristine' conditions.

Said Dr Yaacob: 'Many people picture a landfill as a dirty and smelly place. 'This is not the case with Semakau... Preliminary biodiversity surveys conducted on the island revealed a significant variety of flora and fauna.'

Already, several groups approached have told the NEA they want a piece of the action. They are: nature group Wild Singapore, which wants to conduct bio-diversity surveys; the Nature Society, which is keen on birdwatching; and the Sport Fishing Association of Singapore. Others who have already been there on organised group visits include students and grassroots members.

The idea of a landfill as a nature retreat has fresh appeal, say the groups. Said Mr Chin Chi Khiong, of the Sport Fishing Association of Singapore, who has visited the place: 'I can't think of anywhere else in the world where they've done something like this.'

Added chairman of the Nature Society's conservation committee Ho Hua Chew: 'It's a very good initiative. The whole area contains a lot of interesting bird species, such as the great-billed heron and Pacific reef egret. 'The forest there is quite impenetrable and we expect to see more rare species, regularly, in the future.'

Interested in visiting Pulau Landfill? More details will be out soon.


Today, 9 Mar 05
From dump to play haven
Environment minister announces new lease of life for Semakau landfill
by Sheralyn Tay

FOR years it has been the resting place for Singaporeans' rubbish. But from next month, the Pulau Semakau landfill could serve as a recreational haven for nature lovers, bird watchers and sport fishermen.

Announcing this yesterday in Parliament, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) had approached various interest groups. So far, three Wild Singapore, the Nature Society of Singapore and the Sport Fishing Association of Singapore have expressed interest, and the NEA will put in place the necessary amenities, he said.

The Semakau landfill is Singapore's last operational landfill, to which about 2,000 tonnes of non-incinerable materials make their way daily from four incineration plants. While many might picture a landfill as dirty and rodent-infested, the Semakau landfill is a large checkerboard of lagoons teeming with fish, tracts of mangrove forest and grassy flats, the Today team found on a trip to the Sentosa-sized island last week.

Biodiversity surveys have found "a significant variety of flora and fauna", said Dr Yaacob including rare birds like the great-billed heron. Mr Yatiman Yusof, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Information, Communications and the Arts and MP for Tampines GRC, suggested that the island be developed as a "sea-sport centre for those who love to go yachting, boating, sea kayaking, wind surfing and even sports fishing".

The other good news for Semakau is that its lifespan as a landfill has been extended by 10 years thanks to increased rates of recycling among Singaporeans, up from 40 per cent in 2000 to 48 per cent. The first State of the Environment report showed that the amount of waste churned out last year 2.26 million tonnes was down from 2.31 million tonnes the year before.

The goal now, said Dr Yaacob, is to increase recycling, with 80 per cent of schools to implement programmes by the year's end and schemes aimed at private condominiums and apartments.


Channel NewsAsia , 8 Mar 05

Pulau Semakau rich in biodiversity
by Hasnita A. Majid

Semakau Island - Singapore's landfill - has been found to be rich in bio-diversity. Mr Yatiman Yusof, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Information, Communications and the Arts, and MP for Tampines GRC, said: "The rejuvenated natural habitat of Pulau Semakau with the mangrove mudflat and bakau trees provided attractive opportunities for the creative, and going beyond just a landfill, as Semakau -Seking is large enough area for recreation. "I would like to suggest that the island be developed into an intensive recreational area.
Facing an open sea, it could be developed into a sea sport centre for those who love to go yatching, boating, sea kayaking, wind surfing and even sports fishing."

And so by the second quarter of this year, groups like the Nature Society can start activities there and the National Enviroment Agency will put in the necessary amenities.

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