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Straits Times 11 Aug 05
One man's passion ensures S'pore waterways stay clean
Man who set up green group Waterways Watch Society honoured
By Lee Hui Chieh
ALMOST every Sunday afternoon for the past eight years, former bank executive Eugene Heng has been patrolling the Singapore, Kallang and Geylang rivers looking for rubbish. Together with up to five other members, the chairman of environmental group Waterways Watch Society keeps an eye out for damaged or eroded embankments and rubbish in the water.
On their two-hour boat rides, they fish out styrofoam lunch boxes, beer cans and more natural 'litter' like fallen tree branches. They also alert the authorities to any damage or pollution so that repairs can be carried out quickly. Mr Heng, 56, said: 'We are like the extended eyes and ears of the authorities. Everyone should play a part for the environment.'
This year, he was awarded the Public Service Medal for his efforts in keeping Singapore's rivers clean and spreading the environmental message to the public. He set up the Waterways Watch Society in November 1997, inspired by his personal love for the water and walks on the beach.
He recalled that when he first started work at a bank as a young man in 1968, boats were still chugging up and down the river bringing in rice and coffee. Then, the Government cleaned it up and he watched it transform. 'I just felt that after so much money had been spent by the Government, we all could do more,' he said. 'After all, that piece of tissue that flies into the river could eventually end up in the reservoir and the water that we drink.'
To spread the word, the 75-member society sets up booths at community events and gives talks to students about the importance of keeping waterways free of litter. In the past 2 1/2 years, it has organised more than 25 such sessions and spoken to more than 1,000 students.
Mr Heng hopes that with more members joining the society, it will be able to carry out weekday boat patrols, bicycle patrols along the river banks and more talks for students.
He said: 'It was the last thing on my mind to win an award for setting up the society. I do it for the love and the passion, and my reward is to walk around and not see people littering. 'Having said that, I appreciate the award and hope more people will join us in furthering our society's goals,' he added.
Public Service Medal winners
Mr Peter Foo Chien Ho, honorary vice-president, The Boys' Brigade Singapore, receiving the Public Service Medal for the first time: 'I'm glad to receive the medal on behalf of The Boys' Brigade. It's really because of the collective efforts of the officers and boys, and we thank God for the blessing and favour shown to us. We are happy to have served the community for 17 years through The Boys' Brigade Sharity Gift Box, by fulfilling the wishes of the less fortunate. We are also glad to have had a part in inculcating integrity and moral values in our boys.'
Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel, patron, Bishan-Toa Payoh North Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC), receiving the Public Service Medal for the first time: 'It's a form of recognition for me. I've been in the CCC for 10 years supporting and participating in its activities. For instance, after the tsunami, we contributed money to help over 700 families in India. I went there for two days to help build shelters for the people affected.'
More on the Water Ways Watch website
see also these previous articles about the Water Ways Watch
Related articles on Singapore: water issues and Singapore: reduce, reuse, recycle
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