I read with interest the news articles recently on developing the Southern Islands off Sentosa into a playground of the rich and famous. Although I'm glad these lovely islands are in the limelight and receiving attention to promote them as attractions, I view the proposed plans with some trepidation.
As a nature guide with the Blue Water Volunteers' ReefWalk programme, I have brought numerous visitors to explore the marine life on the reefs of Kusu Island on several occasions. Over the months, we have spotted myriad creatures including dolphins, stingrays, anemone shrimps, clownfishes, seastars, and a hodgepodge of brilliantly patterned flatworms and sea slugs, as well as entertained and educated over a thousand enthusiastic visitors.
Many of the articles mention some form of development- luxury homes, hotels, spas, or even a second Palm Island. Ms Pamelia Lee was even quoted on Channelnews Asia as saying that plans to use coral stone as construction material would be considered! Remarks like these make nature lovers wonder if the existing, natural marine life holds any importance in the minds of the planners. Corals are living things, the very foundation of the coral reef ecosystem, and are so slow-growing they only extend by a couple of centimetres a year! Furthermore, it is doubtful that any medium to large scale works will have little impact on the surrounding reefs, which have already endured so much stress from decades from reclamation and dredging works.
Why am I making so much noise about these supposed 'murky water' reefs?
Simply put, I love Singapore's reefs. I've dived at Sipadan, Manado, Lembeh, Okinawa, the Andaman Sea and Florida, and in all honesty, I still rank Singapore among my best dives ever. I pursued the elusive soft coral cowrie on two trips to macro-heaven Lembeh Straits, only to find out that a volunteer Hantu Blog dive guide recently photographed 3 (!) at Pulau Hantu. When the waters clear (through some fluke of currents or a reduction in coastal development intensity), the colours and sights to be seen are truly dazzling. Researchers in Singapore still find new records of marine life, if only the reefs and shores remain for them to explore. These reefs, although small, are products of millenia of existence and evolution, creating a world full of wonder and complexities, something that man could never hope to replicate.
I hope Singapore's reefs could find a place in the hearts and minds of the people planning the latest slew of Southern Island developments.