Tania Tan, Straits Times 19 Apr 08;
TURNING local waters into a coral paradise in 10 years - that is the plan of marine conservationists here.
The 2018 target is part of an ambitious drive to save Singapore's aquatic environment, said Mr Francis Lee, chairman of the consultative group Marine Roundtable.
Over 60 per cent of the country's coral reefs have been lost to development, with the remaining 40 per cent under constant threat from pollution and climate change.
'If we act now, it will be possible to turn Singapore into a coral paradise,' said Mr Lee, who is also overseeing Singapore's participation in the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) campaign.
Celebrated worldwide, IYOR was last observed in 1997.
Already, over 50 organisations have committed to the campaign, with more keen to join in, he said.
Drafting the so-called Blue Plan will be part of the campaign's main focus, he said.
To be submitted to the Government sometime this year, the plan will be the marine equivalent of the Singapore Green Plan - a national blueprint to achieve a sustainable environment.
While details of the masterplan have yet to be finalised, early plans to save the reefs include transplanting corals, minimising pollution and managing development.
Also on the agenda is a comprehensive look at marine biodiversity here, and educating the public about local marine life.
There have been several fragmented studies on marine biodiversity, noted Mr Lee, who has been in the local diving fraternity for over 25 years. 'We hope to give a complete overview of the underwater flora and fauna.'
He was speaking as guest of honour at the opening of the Asia Dive Expo 2008 at Suntec City yesterday.
The three-day exhibition brings together over 100 companies and organisations, showcasing the dive industry and marine conservation.
Work on some fronts has already started, including projects like Singapore's first coral nursery - a collaboration involving the National Parks Board, National University of Singapore, Keppel Group and the National Environment Agency.
But Mr Lee hopes to rally organisations and individuals alike to put in a a more concerted effort.
'Our seas have been turned into the world's cesspools,' he said. 'It's up to us to save them.'