S’porean, Indonesian youths join hands in project

THEY are the young “eco-preneurs”. Thirteen Singaporean and Indonesian youths are doing their part to save the environment by joining an ecological project codenamed Operation Wallacea.

For two weeks, starting tomorrow, they will assist a marine and wildlife survey team on the Tukangbesi islands and Buton island in south-east Sulawesi, Indonesia.

A deeper significance, however, lies behind this youth expedition.

Besides promoting greater awareness of the environment, the project would also serve to “build bridges” between younger Singaporeans and Indonesians, said Singapore’s MP for Sembang GRC Hawazi bin Daipi.

Speaking to The Straits Times after launching the expedition here yesterday, he stressed that it was a “long-term investment” for both countries.

“We are building ties among the younger generation to promote closer links between the two sides in the future,” he said.

“This will enable them to deal with each other with greater confidence and withstand whatever bilateral problems that might arise.”

Mr Hawazi, who is also deputy chairman of the National Youth Achievement Award Council, noted that the expedition was also one way to promote a greater awareness among youths of environmental protection.

It is part of the bilateral youth exchange programme run under the Singapore-Indonesia Youth Forum, an on-going dialogue between the two countries which started in 1989.

The expedition, which will cost S$40,000, was sponsored by the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank.

The youths – seven from Indonesia and six from Singapore – will work with scientists in the first week to conduct bird surveys in the rainforest of Buton island.

The second week will be spent on marine surveys around the Tukangbesi islands.

This will include assessing the condition of coral reefs in the area and gathering data on the local fish population.

The data collected will be used by the local authorities to establish a wildlife reserve to protect Buton’s rainforests – home to many endemic bird species. It will also conserve Tukangbesi’s coral reef and fish communities.

Participants from both Singapore and Indonesia said that they hoped to develop a better awareness of environmental problems.

Said Mr Cheng Siang Nee, 20, a Singapore Polytechnic student: “I am here because of my love for the sea and wildlife.”

“I want to do my part to protect the environment.”

For Indonesian participant Dewi Satriani, 25, it would give her a chance to make new friends from Singapore.

“I want to learn about their habits and way of life. It will be first-hand experience doing things together,” said the 25-year-old University of Indonesia undergraduate who is a scuba-diving and mountain-climbing enthusiast.

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