Balloon release plan draws flak

Balloon release plan draws flak
A flier for the party advertising a mass release of balloons at midnight.

RESIDENTS in Punggol as well as nature lovers are protesting against a planned mass release of balloons, part of a year-end countdown party by the Punggol Vista Community Centre (CC).

They are urging event organisers of the Punggol West Countdown Party 2014 Carnival Style to reconsider their plans which they say pose a threat to birds, marine life and the environment.

The event will be held at the open field beside Punggol MRT station and will include other activities such as performances and flea markets.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, 50, told The Straits Times that balloons eventually deflate and may fall into the sea where they are eaten by sea turtles and birds which could choke to death. This happens when deflated balloons are mistaken for jellyfish, due to their similar appearance.

"Some autopsies done on dead turtles have revealed items like plastic bags and balloons inside them," he said. As the balloons break up into smaller pieces, they could also be eaten by fish and crabs, he added.

Mr Rajathurai noted that the practice is already banned in some Australian states, Britain and the United States.

In Singapore, helium balloon releases are prohibited within a 5km radius of the Seletar and Changi airports, and from 7am to 7pm on weekdays and 7am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Many netizens have gone to the event's official Facebook page to voice their dissent.

Punggol resident Cherh Kah Leng, 29, who works as a marine biologist, posted: "Release of helium balloons may look very pretty and certainly add to the festive atmosphere, but what it actually also adds to is the amount of marine debris already in our water."

She was joined by others such as nature enthusiast Ria Tan, who said that releasing balloons was no different from littering.

She said: "For most people, it's out of sight, out of mind. But this is the same as taking a large amount of rubbish and throwing it out, except we don't see it."

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