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The New Paper, 24 Sep 04

Our newest man-made beach
Teh Jen Lee

Soon you may be able to sun-tan on a pristine new beach a short ferry ride away. Given that trash is often found on mainland beaches, you'll be glad to know that an 800-metre long beach on Pulau Seringat in the southern islands is almost complete.

It will be one of Singapore's longest man-made beaches, along with Siloso Beach on Sentosa. The new beach is expected to be open to the public at the end of the year but plans have not been confirmed. It is likely to be accessible from points served by the ferry service to the southern islands. For now, overland access is blocked by security checkpoints and the jetty on Pulau Seringat allows only authorised boats.

The New Paper got to see the work in progress. We understand that the thousands of cubic metres of sand used for the project had to be checked for sandfly eggs as the insect bites can be very itchy.

Problem of Erosion
What about the problem of erosion, which has affected other man-made beaches? Works International and Soilcrete, a New Zealand company, has been studying if the monsoon would erode the beach or make it unsafe for swimming and sports.

Ms Pamelia Lee, former senior director (development) of the Singapore Tourism Board, has been quoted as saying: 'It is easy to reclaim land to create beaches. But we want to make sure the beach formation is good so that it does not get eroded away.'

What about water quality? It will be regularly monitored like the rest of Singapore's coastal areas by the National Environment Agency (NEA). Geographer Teh Tiong Sa said various tests are done, including one for faecal bacteria, to make sure the sea water is okay to swim in. 'In Singapore everything is treated except for sewage from Pulau Ubin so it's quite safe. Bacterial count is not an issue,' he said.

An NEA spokesman said: 'The quality of all our coastal waters is good ...(it) supports aquatic life and generally meets the recreational water quality guidelines.'

But therapist Tan Li-Anne, 34, who swims regularly at East Coast, also wants to see people take ownership of these places by keeping them clean. 'Instead of just going and using a beach, there should be a greater connection so people will want to take care of it. 'They think it's okay to throw rubbish because someone else will pick it up. I don't know if it will be the same for this new beach. 'I would be more concerned about people's attitudes towards it rather than its actual cleanliness.'

Mr Andrew Tay, education officer for the Singapore Nature Society, related his experience during a clean-up last weekend at West Coast Park Beach. He said: 'The park beaches get cleaned daily but the amount of trash that's still there is amazing. There's a lot of it, like cigarette butts, plastic bags, styrofoam containers.' Some of it apparently floats in from neighbouring countries, but a lot of it is trash left carelessly, sometimes near litter bins. 'People are not considerate enough to dispose of trash properly. They have to think about what will happen if the trash gets blown away into the sea,' he said.

Hazardous Trash
Mr John Yeo, a teacher from Zhonghua Secondary School, took part in the annual International Coastal Clean-up (Singapore) last Saturday. In just 2 1/2 hours, 160 students and teachers collected more than 400kg of trash from Punggol Beach. He said: 'That shows you how dirty it is. There was even hazardous trash like syringes and bottles of bleach. People need to act more responsibly and be aware of the consequences of their actions.'

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