NDP Exco turns a deaf ear on environment hazard warning

I guess most of you know that my pet peeve is balloon release. I do not understand why is there a need to release balloon into the air. OK, maybe it looks nice to see hundreds of balloons floating in the air. But does anyone think about the consequences of balloon release? Do they know that what goes up must come down?

Someone informed me that there is a segment in this year’s National Day Parade where they release balloons into the air. I wrote an email to the NDP feedback in late June informing them the harms of balloon release and hope they would consider removing balloon release as part of the NDP program. Below is the email that I send to them, dated 28 June 2009.

From: DK
To: feedback@ndp.org.sg
Subject: Balloon release during NDP09
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2009 00:51:42

Dear Sir

I understand from some of the participants of this year’s National Day Parade that hundreds of red balloons were released into the air in one of the segment. I hope the organizing committee would reconsider and remove this non-environmentally friendly activity from our Nation’s celebration. Balloon release is a form of pollution. The
balloons will fall back to the ground several hours after being release and become litter on the ground or the sea. There are also reported case where sea turtle die after swallowing balloon.

Please consider removing the balloon release segment. I’m sure we can celebrate our nation’s birthday without harming the environment.

Thanks & Regards
DK

Reference:
http://www.mcsuk.org/mcsaction/pollution/balloons+-+the+facts

One week later, I got an reply from the NDP Relations Officer.

From: feedback@ndp.org.sg
To: DK
Subject: Re: Balloon release during NDP09
Date: July 6, 2009 5:03:15 PM SST

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your suggestion. We are aware of your concerns and are working closely with National Environment Agency (NEA) on how we can balance pollution concerns viz-a-viz the artistic creativity the NDP 09 Show require for a meaningful and memorable celebration for Singapore. We will be taking you point into consideration and explore how we can mitigate the environmental challenge posed by the release of these balloons during the show with NEA.

Regards,
Relations Officer

I was glad that the NDP Exco decided to work with NEA and look into the issue. I went over to the Esplanade during one of the combined rehearsal and didn’t see them releasing balloons. I thought that item was removed from the National Day Parade. I was wrong. They did not remove the segment. I was shocked to see the performers releasing hundreds of balloons into the air during the actual NDP.

And if I’m not mistaken, the balloons they used are made of mylar instead of latex rubber. Mylar balloon is worst than latex rubber balloon. Mylar does not biodegrade! Mylar balloons should never be used for balloon release. Did anyone from NDP read the link that I’ve send them? It was already stated there clearly. Did they work with NEA? Did anyone from NEA tell them that balloon release is harmful to the environment? Did anyone tell them that if they die die must release balloon, they should at least use latex rubber balloon without any nylon or string attached to the balloon? Did anyone from NEA tell them that they should never ever use mylar balloon?

So what are the steps taken by NDP Exco and NEA to reduce the damages done by the balloon release? Did they have a net or a plane in the sky to collect the balloon after it is being released? Or did they send ships out to the sea to recover the balloons? Or did they just ignore all warnings and go ahead with the balloon release? Who cares right? Doing a good show is more important than the environment.

And can someone from NDP creative department explain to me why you guys die die must release balloon for National Day? I don’t remember balloon release being an important part of Singapore culture that it must be performed during our nation’s birthday. Perhaps the creative director for NDP09, Mr Ivan Heng, can explain to me why is balloon release so important that it cannot be removed from the NDP celebration? What is so special about releasing hundreds of balloons into the air? Why do we need to harm the environment in order to do a “meaningful and memorable celebration for Singapore”? Can’t anyone from the creative department think of another memorable action to replace the balloon release? Is that the only creative idea that the creative department can think of?

I’m totally disappointed with this year’s NDP exco, Ivan Heng and NEA. Warning has been send to you more than one month before National Day. Yet you guys choose to ignore the warning and go ahead with the stupid and meaningless balloon release.

16 Responses to 'NDP Exco turns a deaf ear on environment hazard warning'

  1. hansolo says:

    sorry dude, nowadays civil servants only listen to Ministers.

    Even MP’s opinions also get shoved into a corner.

    Seriously, did you really think they would care about your feedback?

  2. motd says:

    Another politically correct reply. Maybe the email should be cc to the local press. We should just set up a petition like what is done overseas or a facebook fan page that says Singaporeans LOVE releasing balloons on any occasions be it big or small.
    .-= motd´s last blog ..Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Trial With Ripplevox =-.

  3. AnonyMous says:

    NEA’s recent D&D was a blast…the grand finale involved all the 1000 guests throwing confetti up into the air….sigh. What a waste of paper!

  4. Vince says:

    You are naive to think that they will listen to your feedback.

  5. Insider says:

    Dear dk,

    I’m speaking as someone privy to some of the discussions regarding the balloon release for NDP. For the record, I’m not from the NDP exco army side but from the creative department.

    First of all, thank you for taking the trouble to engage the NDP exco. I definitely think that even if you’ve received a bureaucratic reply, a response like yours does exert pressure on the committee to re-examine some of their decisions. They know that they’re being monitored by civic-minded members of the public, even though they might not admit it in an outright manner in the email they sent you.

    During discussions, we did try to look for certain compromises when it came to the releasing of the balloons. For example, a suggestion was mooted that the balloons should be tethered to the house-shaped boxes from which they emerged. This would allow them to be retrieved afterwards. However, this was deemed unfeasible because there was worry over whether the strings we used would get entangled, and whether the very young students in the segment were proficient enough to deal with the procedure of reeling back the balloons.

    Thus we decided that to minimise environment fallout, we would try not to use the balloons during the NDP rehearsals and/or previews and also to keep the number of balloons an an optimal level–maximum visual impact achieved with the minimum number of balloons.

    The argument was that the fireworks used already constituted a form of both air and noise pollution. If we could make an exception for the fireworks for this once-in-a-year occasion, why not the balloons as well? Definitely the counter-argument is that 1) this doesn’t justify *adding on* to the pollution and 2) access to fireworks is often restricted to big events with the necessary capital; balloons, however are cheap, and the NDP should not set such an unwholesome precedent for other events in the future.

    I’m writing this to you because I don’t want you to think that your attempt at conscientising the organisers of this year’s NDP has been cursorily dismissed. Might I suggest that you write in to a public forum such as the ST? I cannot guarantee that next year’s ex-co will take greater heed, but I am quite confident that it will go some way towards educating the public about the profligate practice of airborne littering.

    Sincerely,
    A fellow Singaporean. : )

  6. dk says:

    Insider: Thanks for commenting and giving us an insight of the decision process behind the scene. I’m glad that NDP Exco did look into the issue and cancelled the balloon release during rehearsal to minimize the impact to environment. But I totally do not understand the absolute need to keep this segment which isn’t a regular in our NDP.

    Nobody will notice if the balloon release has been cancelled. I’m not a creative person, therefore I don’t know what does the balloon release signify. But I’m very sure that there are other things you can do to replace the balloon release, yet signify the same thing during the performance. For example, how about the performers going into the audience area and passing the balloons to the children watching the performance? OK, it’s not the perfect solution, at least its better than releasing all the balloons into the air. And I’m sure you guys can come up with a better replacement in 1 months time.

    And I didn’t compare balloon release with fireworks because studies shows that the impact caused by fireworks lasted around 20 to 80 days. Biodegradable balloons take 6 to 12 months to fully biodegrade. Mylar balloons, which I suspect was being used for NDP, does not biodegrade at all. Which means it will be there forever.

  7. Insider says:

    Hi dk,

    Once again, I would like to thank you for this invaluable input. I will try to suggest to the incoming exco to perhaps have a group of consultants next year, drawn from civil society, to advise on these matters. Would you like to recommend any environmental groups that might be able to offer their expertise and advice?

    : )

  8. XE says:

    When there is no one to question, they will exploit with no end. Just look at how they exploit Singaporeans.

    At least for this they reply. Do you know how they reply when Singaporeans send in letters about the state of their CPF??

    Thank you for your effort anyway, DK. Hopefully next year they bother acting on it.

  9. balloon says:

    The only regulation I am aware of with regard to balloon release is from CAAS and RSAF. They regulate the size and number of balloons that can be released simultaneously at any one time.

    http://www.caas.gov.sg/caasWeb/export/sites/caas/en/e-Services/ANO_Hazard_C/download/balloonrelease_2009.pdf

    I don’t see this balloon release as a problem though. It’s not like we are releasing balloons on a daily basis. What about the carbon footprint of the helicopters and F16 jets flown for the numerous rehearsals and parades?

    Ultimately, such committees will never think of this as a serious problem unless there is a severe economic or financial impact; For example, if everybody working in Shenton Way goes on strike because they release 500 balloons into the sky.

    But at the same time, if anybody in the committee felt the same way as you, then the whole idea would never have floated, pun intended. Education and awareness will go a long way, but if I were in the committee, I would have supported the balloon release, with the assurance that this was kept to a minimum as described by Insider.

  10. dk says:

    Insider: Thanks. I’ll email you the person whom I think is suitable. :)

  11. dk says:

    Balloon: Yeap, I’m totally aware that balloon release is allowed by CAAS if it is below 500. But I’m always against this policy and I strongly feel that balloon release is unnecessary and should be banned completely.

  12. Strange says:

    Ban all cars on the road then since it is not ‘environmental friendly’. We should use horse and dogs for transport.

  13. hansolo says:

    strange: why don’t you stop breathing cos you’re contributing CO2 to the atmosphere?

    dk: I suggest that if you are really passionate about this issue, don’t stop at a single email. Drum up more support from the ground, highlight more examples, engage them without embarrassing them, propose greener alternatives, educate people, spread the message.

    If you keep at it for a year, you might see positive changes for next year’s NDP. At the very least, more people would be aware of the dangers.

  14. dk says:

    hansolo: Thanks for the suggestion. I’m still trying to figure out how to get more organization to realize that balloon release is bad.

  15. TM says:

    Like what my friends say when they see the jets and balloons.

    Goddamn it, there goes my tax money again!

    LOL

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