East Coast Park clean-up initiative wins inaugural award for tackling municipal issues

Since the initiative started, volunteers have helped to clear more than 20,000kg of trash from the park. PHOTO: CLEAN & GREEN SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Around June 2020, a perfect storm of the monsoon season and a shortage of cleaners due to the Covid-19 pandemic hit East Coast Park, resulting in rubbish covering the shoreline.

Dismayed by the pollution, local marine enthusiast Samantha Thian, 26, started the movement #EastCoastBeachPlan to rally Singaporeans to clean up the rubbish at the coastal park.

The Telegram chat group for the initiative now has over 3,000 members, and individuals can organise their own beach clean-ups by documenting their activities on an open Google document. 

Co-lead of the initiative Yasser Amin, 26, said he was taken aback by the amount of rubbish when he first took part in a beach clean-up in August 2020. 

“It’s quite shocking because the beach is supposed to be just sand. But when you see trash, you realise that human activities have such an impact on environments,” said Mr Yasser, noting that the movement promotes a sense of shared responsibility for the environment.

Since the initiative began, about 2,000 volunteers have helped to clear more than 20,000kg of rubbish from the park and beach at East Coast Park.

On Tuesday, the initiative was among 23 award recipients recognised at the annual Municipal Services Award, held at Gardens By the Bay, which acknowledges community members who have taken a proactive role in resolving municipal issues.

The #EastCoastBeachPlan bagged the inaugural Love Our ‘Hood award, which acknowledges sustained efforts from community groups that consistently improve the local environment. 

Another winner of the Love Our ‘Hood category is animal welfare group Cat Welfare Society, which works to address issues related to community cats and errant feeding in common areas. They also conduct community mediation, manage cat population, and conduct public education on responsible cat ownership.

President of the society Thenuga Vijakumar said one of its notable latest efforts is the creation of guidelines that set out parameters for feeding community cats responsibly without any inconvenience to other residents.

Ms Thenuga said the society is grateful to be recognised for the inaugural award and extremely proud of its community engagement managers who have been at the forefront of resolving cat-related feedback humanely and efficiently.

“They have proven that community cats are an integral part of our community and that there can be a happy co-existence with human beings,” she added.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann said in a speech at the event that since the pandemic, the volume of feedback on municipal issues has increased and remains high. 

Municipal issues have become more complex, resulting in longer resolution time for extremely challenging cases and the need for multiple agencies to collaborate more closely across boundaries, she added. 

“One of our key observations from the pandemic is that even as feedback has grown in number and complexity, so has the willingness of the community to step forward and participate in tackling the issues that they care about,” said Ms Sim.

She also noted that the strengthening of community partnerships is very much aligned with the ongoing Forward SG efforts to refresh Singapore’s social compact.

Citing the example of the Municipal Services Office working with community partners to form an Alliance for Action for responsible joss paper burning, Ms Sim said that since its public education campaign, there has been a significant 13 per cent drop in feedback volume compared to the Hungry Ghost Festival in 2021.

“As we move forward to a Singapore with an even stronger and renewed social compact, where agencies and the community work together to improve our living environment, I believe we have what it takes to overcome any challenge presented to us,” she added.

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