A Whole New World

8 Jul 2011                          

I live in the north, and going all the way to Anchorvale to experience the Sengkang Floating Wetland was like entering to a whole new world.

The wetland, located in Punggol Reservoir, is part of the Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Watersprogramme by PUB, Singapore’s national water agency. It is also the country’s largest man-made wetland measuring to half a football field.

Once I got off Farmway LRT station, I was greeted with a gentle breeze and the serene sight of youths playing Frisbee, people jogging around the neighbourhood and families leisurely strolling along the field.  A far cry from the noise, heat and furrowed eyebrows I’m used to where I live.

The guided walk at Sengkang Floating Wetland was led secondary three students from Pei Hwa Secondary School, and the visitors were mainly students from neighbouring Yuying Secondary Schooland grassroots members (and their children) from the Hong Kah North Citizen’s Consultative Committee.

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The Meeting Place

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Participants from Hong Kah North Citizen’s Consultative Commitee

On the trail, I half-expected the guides to read from the script, verbatim. One of the guides, Norman Chan, 15, said before the trail, “I’m worried that my mind would go blank!” He didn’t have to worry. I was completely surprised when the guides interacted with visitors confidently. They were highly knowledgeable and engaged well with the audience that it was hard not to get sucked into their enthusia

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The Starting Point

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School’s in session

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A dragonfly takes rest

Some of the topics they covered were the history of Punggol (did you know that “Punggol” means “throwing sticks at trees to catch fruits”?), the many uses of the wetland (it’s an ecological diverse habitat that is also used for sports and recreation purposes), and the ABC Waters programme.

Of course, teens being teens, some of the young visitors attempted to twist what the guides were saying into something else altogether, and then laughed at their own jokes. At these times, my eyes threatened to roll out of my skull but I quietly told the guides to soldier on.

And boy they did. They answered all the questions thrown at them with panache and didn’t falter under the pressure or the sweltering heat.

Once the tour was over, I went around asking visitors if they enjoyed themselves, and they unanimously agreed.

“The reservoir is developed very creatively…it’s used for so many purposes, for leisure and as a water source. It’s good to have back-up water sources,” said Om Bahadur Thepa, 17, a secondary four student from Yuying Secondary. Earlier, his schoolmate made the same point and referred to Singapore’s need to become entirely self-sufficient.

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Can you spot the snails’ eggs

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Young visitors resting in the mangosteen pavillion

However, the heat was a common concern. In fact, I fell onto one of the orange fruit sculptures at the end of the tour (the floating island has a tutti-frutti theme befitting Punggol’s history) because I was too tired to see where I was going.

“It would be great if they could put some attap shelters for people to rest,” said Tan Xieng Yiong, 15, who was one of the guides.

Even though the tour’s over, the experience from engaging in a whole new world – one that is green, serene and sustainable – will remain clearly etched in my mind and heart.

By Sujith Kumar

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