Sunday, October 04, 2015

Rivers, streams and unicornism

I came across this article by Common Dreams:

30 Things You Didn’t Know About Rivers
byPeter Bosshard

The article talks about 30 things we don't know about rivers. For example:

  •  Rivers are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Rivers and lakes sustain more fish species than the sea even though they contain 600 times less water.
  •  Rivers are the cradles of our civilizations. Our most ancient cultures sprang up along rivers such as the Tigris and Euphrates, the Nile, the Indus, and the Yellow.
  • Rivers shape our planet and have created some of its most beautiful landscapes. Think of the Grand Canyon, the Iguaçu and the Victoria Falls!
  • At most, 64 of our 177 longest rivers remain free-flowing, and many of them are threatened by fragmentation.
  • Because of over-exploitation, once mighty rivers like the Colorado, Indus, Nile, Rio Grande and Yellow are struggling to reach the sea.
  • Have you read Huckleberry FinnHeart of Darkness, and A River Runs Through It? Rivers have inspired great literature in many countries.
  • Another 3,700 hydropower dams are currently under construction or in the pipeline. Many of them are located in river basins with high ecological values such as the Amazon and Mekong.
  •  Rivers are the arteries of our planet. By connecting lands, lakes and the sea, they enable the circulation of nutrients, sediments, and living beings.
  • Rivers contain only 0.003% of the water on Earth – one out of every 33,000 water molecules – but sustain much of her life. They deserve our protection!
The above work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.  - Published on Thursday, July 16, 2015 by Common Dreams

I thought I read somewhere that Singapore has about 130 rivers & streams. I apologise about this if you have heard this from me.Well, I can't find it now so I think I may have remembered wrong. I need to verify this again.

However, I found about 24 rivers on our main island, 8 rivers that are dammed and 17 off shore rivers, 49 rivers in total here. I can't find anything on streams in Singapore [1] .

When we think of rivers around the world, I think of Singapore's rivers. Do we think of them in the same way? Are our rivers important cradles of civilisations, diverse ecosystems (any of the above points)?

Basically, the article argues that rivers deserve our protection. I am not sure how many people are convinced by this rhetoric of land scarce Singapore and has no natural resources. Therefore, we cannot have the luxury like other countries and as a result we must sacrifice many things.

This is 'unicornism'. A Singapore so unique in this world that no other logic but it's own would work. If you remember not too long ago, the Singapore's government spoke about Asian Values as opposed to the western form of liberalism [2]. Unicornism is equally screwed up.

Most of our rivers are made into canals and there are many man made interventions (like the cleaning up of the Singapore River) [3]. In that sense, the canals do not resemble river's natural state anymore. However, I am glad Nparks and PUB naturalised parts of the Kallang river at the Ang Mo Kio Bishan Park. That came at a hefty price of $76 million dollars just to make it back to what it really is [4 & 5].

In addition, some irresponsible and uninformed people released foreign and invasive species into our waterways [4].

As a result, our local species of fishes have been slowly diminishing [5]. See below are a short list of them.

The following fishes have all almost certainly vanished, unable to adapt to the changing conditions of an urbanised Singapore. Fortunately, they are still present in Malaysia. Every effort must now be made to ensure that the remaining natural fish fauna does not go the same way!

Clown Barb
Puntius dunckeri

Tinfoil Barb
Barbodes schwanenfeldii

Labiobarbus festivus
Photo: Esther Koh

Hampala macrolepidota
Photo: Esther Koh

Head-band Rasbora
Rasbora cephalotaenia

Banded Leaf Fish
Pristolepis fasciata

Our rivers and these fishes are also natural resources. Just that you can't eat them doesn't make them less of a resource. The next time we say that Singapore have no resources and the only way for progress is to develop the land. We should think again our basic perception of this development rhetoric. Our remaing rivers, waterways and wildlife in it are just as important.

No comments: