Best of our wild blogs: 25 May 15

Wild fun for kids during the June school holidays!
wild shores of singapore

A night herp in Mandai
Herpetological Society of Singapore

What an Amazing Night it was
Nature's Amore

Birdwatching in Bidadari ( Javan Munia ) May 2015
Rojak Librarian

Thorny Oyster (Spondylus sp. @ Pasir Ris
Monday Morgue

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SG Heart Map: 50 places of significance to Singaporeans unveiled

The 50 places are frequently-mentioned locations in more than 80,000 personal stories contributed by Singaporeans.
Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 24 May 15;

SINGAPORE: Fifty locations across the island have made it to the SG Heart Map - a compilation of places which hold the most significance for Singaporeans.

They were revealed on Sunday (May 24), six months after the project was launched, and were picked from more than 80,000 stories contributed by people. The map was created to mark the nation's Golden Jubilee.

One in four of the stories shared is centred on the lives and memories in the different towns across Singapore, said SG Heart Map in a news release. The frequently-mentioned places include Orchard Road, Toa Payoh, and Gardens by the Bay.

The 50 places were unveiled in Sentosa on Sunday by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who is the co-chair of the SG50 Environment and Infrastructure Committee overseeing the SG Heart Map project.

Ms Fu thanked those who contributed their stories for the project. For Nina Liang and Ernest Choon, the Bedok housing estate holds a special place in their hearts. It was where their love blossomed more than 10 years ago - after they first got to know each other online.

Ms Liang chatted online with Mr Choon for about three years before meeting up with him in Bedok in 2002 and going to the library together. "I was in Sec 1, and he was in Sec 3 or 4. And at that time, there was something called IRC - a really old chat group kind of thing online. We met there in one of the chat groups."

Mr Choon said: "She went online to just chit-chat with me, and she said 'hey, I'm free', so that's when we said why not take this opportunity to meet up for the first time, and that's where we picked Bedok as a spot to meet."

The couple, who are now married, have a two-month-old daughter named Sage. The couple's story was among the 20,000 stories linked to HDB towns - which were submitted for the SG Heart Map.

But only one made the top 50 - Toa Payoh Town, which yielded the most number of stories. Twenty-three other towns - which came up frequently in people's stories - were also given special mention.

Ms Fu said: "We were very touched by how home has been featured so regularly. So many of the HDB towns have actually come across over and over again - reflecting I think for Singaporeans, that families and friends, and homes where we grow up, where we spend time with our friends, are still the most endearing places."

Others on the list include familiar places like Orchard Road, Singapore Changi Airport, and MacRitchie Reservoir.

Another SG Heart Map contributor, Lim Poh Lye, 49, spoke fondly about MacRitchie Reservoir where he trained for cross-country races as a secondary school student.

He said: "This is something very dear to me since I spent almost four years of running there for cross-country in the 80s. It's a place that represents many youth of my time, running cross-country races over there." In 2013, he revisited the green space with his wife and two daughters.

While many old favourites made it onto the SG Heart Map, there were a number of newcomers as well - including Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and the River Safari.

Ms Fu said: "It shows that we have some acknowledgements about the past developments, but also an appreciation of newer developments, so this is a good way for us to remember the past, but also looking forward to the future." Her favourite place is the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and she has many fond memories of it.

"I used to date there. My husband and I - then, he was my boyfriend - would go there and have a stroll. And there was one night we did not look at the clock, and we exceeded the time. So the gates were closed. I remember having to go around looking for the warden to open the gate for us," she added.

Following the unveiling of the SG Heart Map places, free guided tours to some of the places will be conducted between June and August, that will include stops at hawker centres such as Tiong Bahru Market and Jurong West Hawker Centre.

There will also be Heart Map celebrations in June at the Singapore Discovery Centre and a finale at The Float @ Marina May in November.

Artwork inspired by the SG Heart Map contributions, which has been co-created by Singaporeans and selected artists, will be unveiled progressively at these events. More details can be found at

- CNA/xq/al

50 often-cited places on SG Heart Map unveiled
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 25 May 15;

SINGAPORE — They both lived in eastern Singapore and had chatted online for about three years, but had never met each other. Their first meeting took place in Bedok in 2002 – waiting to enter a polytechnic at the time, Ms Nina Liang had gone online to see if anyone she knew wanted to go to the library, and Mr Ernest Choon responded.

They dated for nine years and are now parents of baby Sage, who is two-and-a-half months old.

Ms Liang’s contribution about Bedok is one of over 80,000 personal stories about various locations in Singapore that have been shared since the launch of the SG Heart Map project last November.

Today (May 24), they were among guests at an event revealing 50 of the more frequently mentioned places in the SG Heart Map project. Toa Payoh garnered the most stories among towns and earned a spot among the 50 places, as did MacRitchie Reservoir, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the two integrated resorts and Pulau Tekong.

The event’s guest-of-honour Grace Fu, co-chair of the SG50 Environment and Infrastructure Committee overseeing the SG Heart map project, noted that some newer landmarks have made it onto the list. This shows the project has engaged people from various age segments and parts of Singapore, she said.

From next month to August, free guided tours to some of the 50 places will be organised. The tours will also include stops at hawker centres such as Tiong Bahru Market and Jurong West Hawker Centre. The public may sign up at

Other towns, including Bedok, will be recognised in a separate category. Said Ms Liang, 30, an assistant manager, of Bedok: “If it wasn’t for the library, I don’t think we’d have an area to really talk and just be the two of us.”

Added Mr Choon, 33, an education officer: “Things were a bit different then. Now I assume new couples would meet up at Starbucks. But, then, there weren’t that many cafes; the library was a fantastic place for two young teenagers to get to know each other in a safe environment.” The couple will move back to Bedok later this year after their home is renovated.

Meanwhile, Ms Fu said the Botanic Gardens holds fond memories as she went there with her family as a child and with her boyfriend before they got married.

“I used to date there… There was one night we didn’t really look at the clock and we exceeded the time and so the gates were closed. I remember having to go around looking for the warden to open the gates for us,” said Ms Fu, who is Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Environment and Water Resources. She still jogs there from her office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For Mr Lim Poh Lye, 49, MacRitchie Reservoir was his training ground for cross-country races in secondary school, and the senior research and development manager recently got re-acquainted with the nature reserve after about 30 years. A trip with his wife and two daughters in 2013 brought back fond memories of running and enjoying the scenery at the reservoir, he said.

More SG Heart Map celebrations are in the pipeline, with the unveiling of artworks inspired by the Heart Map next month at the Singapore Discovery Centre, and the finale in November at The Float @ Marina Bay.

S'poreans pick 50 most memorable spots to make up SG Heart Map
AsiaOne 24 May 15;

SINGAPORE - Tan Lay Hong, 57, loved to stroll in the parks at Toa Payoh when she was young and even took her wedding photos there.

It reminds her of the close familial ties present in Singapore even till today as she witnesses families of different generations frequent Toa Payoh for their outings.

Ms Tan's story is one of more than 80,000 personal stories of places contributed by Singaporeans from all walks of life in the past six months for the SG Heart Map, which is created to mark Singapore's 50th birthday this year.

Launched in Nov last year in celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee, the SG Heart Map seeks to weave stories of memorable past places, meaningful new places and aspirations for future places into a collection of shared stories by Singaporeans.

The completed map will be showcased at the project's finale in Nov this year.

Organisers said that about 25 per cent of contributions centred on the lives and memories in different towns. Toa Payoh, the first HDB satellite town, was mentioned the most frequently.

Other places mentioned include Katong, Singapore Zoo, Little India, Orchard Road, Singapore Changi Airport and Gardens by the Bay.

Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu unveiled the 50 locations on Saturday morning (May 24). She is also the co-chair of the SG50 Environment and Infrastructure Committee overseeing the SG Heart Map project.

She said: "The rich tapestry of stories that we have collected will enable us to weave together a fabric of memories and aspirations as a nation, as we celebrate SG 50 together, and shape the next chapter of Singapore's story. We have much to look forward to as a nation."

On the weekends of June 27 and 28 and July 4 and 5, there will be SG Heart Map tours available to the public by district. The tours are also available on Aug 7 and 10.

50 special places chosen by Singaporeans:
1) Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
2) Bugis
3) Bukit Timah
4) Changi Village
5) Chinatown
6) Chinese Garden
7) Chong Pang Market and Food Centre
8) Downtown East
9) East Coast Park
10) Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay
11) Gardens by the Bay
12) Haw Par Villa
13) Holland Village
14) Jurong Bird Park
15) Kampong Glam
16) Katong/Joo Chiat
17) Little India
18) MacRitchie Reservoir
19) Marina Barrage
20) Marina Bay
21) Marina Bay Sands
22) Merlion Park
23) Mount Faber Park
24) National Library Building
25) National Museum of Singapore
26) National University of Singapore
27) Orchard Road
28) Pasir Ris Town Park
29) Pulau Tekong
30) Pulau Ubin
31) Punggol Waterway
32) Raffles Place
33) Resorts World Sentosa
35) River Safari
37) Sentosa
38) Singapore Botanic Gardens
39) Singapore Changi Airport
40) Singapore Flyer
41) Singapore River
42) Singapore Sports Hub
43) Singapore Zoo
44) Singapore Discovery Centre
45) Suntec City
46) Tanjong Pagar
47) Tiong Bahru
48) Toa Payoh
49) Vivocity/HarbourFront
50) West Coast Park

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NTU puts green tech to the test on campus

The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 May 15;

A driverless electric shuttle that charges itself wirelessly at designated bus stops in only 15 seconds may soon become a reality at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Co-funded by the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (Eri@n) and the Economic Development Board, the shuttle is one of 10 joint industrial tie-ups to test-bed technologies under the $20 million EcoCampus initiative launched in April last year.

Other projects involve the testing of more efficient air-conditioning and lighting systems.

Currently in its first phase, which will last two to three years, EcoCampus will involve demonstration projects and testing.

The next phase will involve implementing the green technologies campuswide to help NTU achieve 35 per cent savings in energy and water consumption and waste disposal by 2020.

Programme director of EcoCampus at Eri@n Nilesh Jadhav said that overall energy usage per square metre at the campus has fallen by 7 per cent compared with 2011, when the campus started initiatives on saving energy.

Most of the projects will start to deliver results in one to two years.

"These findings will not only be useful for NTU, but also for other industry stakeholders in Singapore who are interested to save energy on their premises, but are anxious about the results and cost-effectiveness of new technologies to do so," said Mr Nilesh.

The executive director of Eri@n, Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, said that besides the electric shuttle, he hopes to install on campus systems which harness the energy of footsteps via a special type of flooring.

As for Navya, which costs about US$250,000 (S$334,300) commercially, it is hoped that the bus will ferry students and staff around the NTU campus and make short-distance trips from NTU to the nearby CleanTech Park within a year.

Routes can be pre-programmeed into the vehicle so it knows when to stop before a traffic light or at a bus stop, for instance.

The bus can cover 100km to 110km on a single charge, and travels at a speed of about 20kmh.

Currently, the shuttle can charge itself in an hour, compared with the six hours it took when the project began in 2013. Work is ongoing to make the charging wireless.

"Saving money is fantastic, but the ultimate aim is to reduce climate change," said Prof Subodh.

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Underground goods movement system could ease traffic congestion: Experts

An underground tunnel transporting goods between the future Tuas Port - opening around 2022 - and industrial estates will help ease traffic congestion, experts say.
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 24 May 15;

SINGAPORE: Singapore already has an extensive rail network underground to transport people, but now it hopes to dig deep into its subterranean spaces to move goods.

JTC Corporation has called a tender for feasibility studies. It is asking for at least three tunnel alignments to link the future mega-container port in Tuas to the industrial estates at Tanjong Kling, Jurong West and Gali Batu. This includes looking at the depth, space allocation and maintenance.

The project - a first for Singapore - is expected to facilitate the movement of goods from point to point without relying on roads, therefore potentially relieving traffic congestion.

Assistant Professor Walter Theseira, transport economist at the Nanyang Technological University, said: “They want to move as much as possible underground, where the trucks are not competing for regular road spaces with buses and car drivers and so on.

"When you have a lot of heavy vehicles on regular roads, they add a lot to congestion, but they also pose some safety concerns. These are why if we can use something to help reduce the traffic load, that will be a good thing.”

The move is expected to optimise use of surface land for industrial purposes and other supporting facilities. Experts believe the underground goods movement system will be automated, with conveyor belts and self-driving cars being possible options. They said Singapore is ready for such a system given its experience in tunnelling work.

Said Prof Theseira: “If you look at the tender proposal, the term that the tender uses is a goods movers system, that's a clue that they might also be considering a system which is also being proposed by several European countries - that's basically an automated tunnel system where goods can be transferred from point to point without human intervention or people driving the vehicle, for example."

Mr Chong Kee Sen, president of The Institution of Engineers, said the system is “environmentally clean”, in the sense that “it minimises the environmental impact when you transport things on surface ground”.

He said: “Depending on the feasibility studies and the studies of the various consultants, it could be a mechanised system - not really a system where drivers are driving trucks underneath. It could be a train system where goods are being brought from one place to another place.

“In the Jurong area, we probably have relatively better soil conditions but you might still encounter soft spot or soft clay in the way so you probably have to be careful - like all tunnelling projects - you have to manage those.”

Besides the tunnel, there are also plans to construct another cavern in Jurong - this time, in Jurong West. Factors being considered include the ventilation system for the underground facility and the industries that can be housed there.

“Presently we are using these caverns for storage - like for Jurong island caverns, we store petrochemical products or oil, but this particular one in Jurong West and even Tanjong Kling will also most likely be for warehousing use,” said Mr Chong.

Mr Chong added: “In caverns, you have to go into quite a deep depth and then you are actually making a cavity within the rock mass, so the first concern and challenge is ensuring that you have a cavity that is structurally safe. And the other thing, of course, will be the infiltration of water into the cavity as it is - so these are the main significant challenges in terms of having caverns.”

The tender for the entire project closes on Jun 12, 2015.

- CNA/hs

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Malaysia: Sabah raises idea for shark park

RUBEN SARIO The Star 25 May 15;

KOTA KINABALU: The waters off Sabah may soon become the safest place on the planet – for sharks.

A Sabah Fisheries Department manager said they were planning a sanctuary here for the fish most often portrayed as menacing and deadly, famously by Steven Spielberg’s movie Jaws.

Head of marine resource management Lawrence Kissol said there would be a study later this year on such a safe haven.

Speaking at a workshop on ways to conserve sharks and rays in Sabah’s waters, Kissol said they would get feedback from groups such as the Sabah Shark Alliance.

The workshop was organised by the alliance.

He said the marine park would be closed to fishermen, except for limited periods, and would help protect sharks and rays.

For its part, the alliance wants to set up shark-fin free areas around Sabah and short-term bars on catching of manta rays.

People at the workshop also wanted to push a more positive image of sharks and rays and how they help the environment and economy.

The workshop also discussed legal protection for sharks and rays, a national action plan for the conservation and management of sharks and the need for responsible consumption of marine products.

The alliance is made up of, among others, the Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah branch), the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the Shark, Education, Awareness and Survival (SEAS) group.

Other members are Scubazoo, the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre,

WWF-Malay­sia, Shark Stewards and Land Em­­po­­werment Animals People.


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Best of our wild blogs: 24 May 15

31 May - 5 Jun: Traditional Wayang at Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

Checking Terumbu Pempang Laut in a mizzle
wild shores of singapore

Night Walk At Venus Drive (22 May 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Birding Hotspot – Bidadari
Singapore Bird Group

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Forgotten Singapore: evicted islanders grieve for lost 'paradise'

South China Morning Post 24 May 15;

From the 1960s on, residents of Singapore's idyllic southern islands were forced out of fishing villages and into high rises. A documentary finds many still grieving for their old way of life, writes Jenni Marsh.

In 1963, five days after Singapore had merged with Malaya in what would become a fling of a union, the city went to the polls. In the South Islands constituency, which no longer exists, 5,048 voters, mostly fishermen and tribesmen, played their part in shaping the future of what would, two years later, be an independent nation. A nation that, in the years that followed, would devastate, and then forget, their rural existence.

"That generation had about seven to eight children per family, so I'm guessing the population of those islands back then was nearer to 10,000," says photographer Zakaria Zainal.

Singapore's modern identity is that of a single, diamond-shaped island; yet, in reality, it is comprised of 63 islets (land reclamation is increasing their size and squeezing their number; seven were joined to form Jurong, for example), many of which, just a generation ago, were home to Melayu asli - indigenous Malays - who lived in kampungs; fished for their meals; and spoke in distinct dialects. Each island sustained a community overseen by a pengulu ("village chief"). Some had amenities such as schools, a mosque and a police station; others were far more basic.

From the 1960s, Singapore industrialised at a frenetic pace, and outlying territory in the land-poor nation was rezoned for the sake of efficiency. Three of the 20 or so coral-rich southern islands were devoted to a petrochemical plant (owned by Shell) and the world's first eco-friendly landfill (which saw two islands become one), others became military bases and leisure destinations, such as Sentosa, which receives 19 million visitors a year.

By the mid-90s, all of the indigenous inhabitants of the southern islands had been evicted, compensated and rehoused in high-rise tower blocks on mainland Singapore.

As Singapore celebrates 50 years of independence this year, Zainal, 30, and fellow photographers Edwin Koo, 36, and Juliana Tan, 25, have traced more than 100 former southern island inhabitants, and recorded their stories for a multimedia documentary called Island Nation

"We were worried they'd say, 'It's been too long,'" says Zainal. "But they felt not enough had been said about their history. Even as we are documenting this, one lady we interviewed has passed away, so it's a race against time.

"When the state offered compensation to acquire their land, some were OK with it because their children would no longer have to wake up at 5am to take a one-hour boat ride to school. Others felt they had lost their paradise. People broke down and cried, talking about their old wooden boat, their corals, their fish; they felt their parents' and their grandparents' way of life, for which no money was needed, had been lost.

Fishermen from Pulau Seking and Lazarus Island free-dive in the 50s.

"These people had built their houses on the shore with their boats tucked underneath, because that was the ultimate freedom. Their new flats are like prison cages; the wounds haven't healed.

"Many still harbour hopes of returning to their islands, even if just for a day."

Anthropologist Vivienne Wee says the Singaporean authorities never considered letting the southern islanders remain on their land; only recently has an official nostalgia emerged for these communities, with the government last year announcing plans to preserve the heritage and nature of Pulau Ubin, a northern island still home to 100 villagers.

"What has been lost is a sense of history," says Wee. "There is a post-colonial perspective on our past, but Singapore is not only 50 years old. These islanders had a continuous genealogy on their territories going back to the 17th century; their families had lived there for hundreds of years. It's important we don't forget."

The islanders' stories
Teo Yen Eng and Teo Yen Teck, Pulau Seking

In 1950, Teo Yen Teck had just completed a bookkeeping course when he was given a task by his uncle, who ran a general goods shop in Singapore.

"My uncle asked me if I could go to Pulau Sekijang Pelepah (now Lazarus Island) to help a friend, Thiam Seng, who ran its only provision shop, but was having trouble keeping his books, as he was illiterate."

So Ah Teck packed his bags and left mainland Singapore to live another life. For five years, he was a familiar face among the islanders. During his free time, he would make fishing trips into nearby Indonesian waters; with more than 30 men, he would dive with a huge net to trap fish. Ah Teck would take with him any camera he could get his hands on.

"Photos are a priceless record of history," he says.

Ah Teck documented not only the countless fishing expeditions he went on, but also children on the island and his brother's wedding.

The island’s boys prepare for their circumcisions in 1950.

In 1955, Ah Teck left Sekijang Pelepah. But in the 70s, he returned to island life to set up a provisions store on Pulau Seking (now part of the landfill island Semakau), where he would live for the next 40 years.

"We were the only Chinese shop on the island," Teo Yen Eng, now 90, says in Hokkien, of his time working on Seking with his brother, Ah Teck.

The island was tiny: it took less than 30 minutes to walk across, and was home to 58 families.

While his brother lived on the island, Yen Eng would stay for a few weeks and then return to his family in Singapore.

His daughter Alice says, "Those days, [when he was on the island] we could not contact him - no phone, handphone, nothing."

But the brothers had everything they needed: boats in which to collect free drinking water from a station on Pulau Bukom; kerosene lamps at night; rainwater to wash the floor and their clothes.

"In a kampung, everyone is caring of each other," Yen Eng says. "That's most important."

"On the island, we were more free. We are not free here"
Eviction, he says, was inevitable. And on April 24, 1994, the brothers gave their rice, sugar and other provisions to friends from nearby Indonesian islands, and left. Clothes were all they took with them. Their livelihood - their boats - had to be burned; docking them off Singapore would have been too expensive.

The remaining four families, including the village chief, left the island the same day.

"None of us said anything," Yen Teck says, visibly distraught. He is still not used to living on mainland Singapore.

"On the island, we were more free," he adds. "We are not free here."

The brothers returned once, in 2004, visiting the Semakau landfill, which is open to the public.

"The houses are demolished," Yen Tek says. "Even the coconut trees are gone."

Mustari Dimu, Kusu Island

People arrive on Kusu Island to visit the Da Bo Gong Temple, before reclamation, in 1971.

"It has been over 60 years since I first started work here," says Mustari Dimu.

The 91-year-old lights joss paper for the 100,000 Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian pilgrims who flock to the Da Bo Gong Temple during the ninth month of each lunar calendar. At least 80 per cent of the devotees are women, praying for good husbands, healthy babies and obedient children. If they all lit their own joss paper, he says, it would be chaos.

The pilgrims tip him for his work.

Born on Pulau Rengit, Mustari moved to Pulau Seringat, now part of Lazarus, when he was five years old. Rengit, a small, flat island, had been threatened by high tides.

Mustari has worked for three generations of temple caretakers, all from one family, including the incumbent, Seet Seng Huat, who took over the role from his father, the late Seet Hock Seng. The fathers of Mustari and Hock Seng were friends; the latter regularly visited the former's family on Seringat. While the fathers spoke, the mothers would play cheki - a card game similar to gin rummy.

"Back then, this temple was surrounded just by water and nothing else"
Hock Seng's father asked Mustari's father to work at the temple. A young Mustari would often join his father on trips to Kusu. When his father passed away, he decided to step into his shoes.

These days, Mustari is joined on Kusu by his son, Sardon Mustari, 65, and grandson, Hazwari Abdul Wahid, 23. Every September, they wait for a call from Seet Seng Huat. Then Mustari packs his clothes, tea, sugar and biscuits and leaves Singapore proper for Kusu. He sleeps at the temple for that month.

"Frankly, I just sit there and do nothing," he says, with a laugh. "Most of the work is done by my son and grandson."

At night, he enjoys the sea breeze. His son and grandson either sleep or try to fish.

"Living on Singapore, you cannot experience this and would need something else in large supply," he says, rubbing his thumb and index finger together.

Mustari's family value this tradition, and they note that he returns from a month on Kusu healthier.

He smiles. "The air here is different."

Former residents of Pulau Sudong practicing traditional fishing techniques.

Minah Bte Gap and Rani Bin Omar, Pulau Semakau

When the residents of the Southern Islands were resettled, newspaper reports suggested some had secretly remained on one of the islands.
Minah Bte Gap and her late husband, Rani Bin Omar, did just that - on Pulau Semakau, where they had lived for decades.

In 1977, the couple and their son, Daud Bin Rani, now 63, were officially resettled in a one-room rental flat at Telok Blangah, southwest of the central business district in Singapore. But the parents rarely slept there. Instead, they gave the flat to their son and took shelter in a run-down beach hut on Semakau that had been used by workers from the environment ministry. They fished and, on good days, they would sell their catch to Pulau Seking islanders. They would swim and prepare simple meals such as fish and rice on a kerosene stove.

Minah, now 90, says, "Our hearts are attached to the island. We can't do the same things on Singapore, no?"

Although the couple were alone, they were relatively safe. But Minah does remember four Indonesian men coming to the island on a boat with parangs (knives), demanding their boat engine. Minah remembers saying to her husband, "If we don't fight back, we die. If we fight back, we die, too. Better to fight."

She took one oar and her husband took another as they prepared to defend themselves. To her disbelief, she says, the interlopers decided to leave.

Minah Bte Gap with her son, Daud Bin Rani, in Singapore.

Today, Minah lives alone in her Telok Blangah flat. Her husband passed away several years ago.

Daud remembers Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, visiting Semakau on a boat, with his supporters, ahead of the 1963 election.

"The islanders gladly carried him on their shoulders off the boat," he says, "because there was no jetty back then."

Like his father, most of the islanders had been hopeful Lee's People's Action Party would affect change. They'd been promised amenities such as a police post, community clinic and Malay school. Within a decade, they didn't even have an island.

Nenek Hitam, Pulau Sudong

Hitam Binte Gongjeng was born on December 14, 1940, on Pulau Sudong, where she grew up. It was an idyllic island but there was one problem: it had no hospital.

"One night my sister-in-law woke me up," she remembers, "My niece was about to give birth. Her name was Zaiton."

Pulau Sudong

Seeing her niece was in pain, the women decided to send Zaiton to Alexandra Hospital, in mainland Singapore. During low tide, the women took their boat and headed towards Pasir Panjang, on the southwestern part of Singapore island. At the hospital, Zaiton was rushed into a ward, and successfully gave birth; Hitam tried to watch the operation through the window of the operating theatre.

"There was a tap on my back," Hitam says, "and a nurse asked, 'Who said you could look here?' We were kampung folk, islanders, we didn't know what was going on.

"Normally, when we gave birth, the island midwife would have made preparations and would be on standby. When the day came, she would observe if the baby could be delivered in a normal way.

Hitam Binte Gongjeng with her son, Rosli Bin Manan, at West Coast beach.

"However, the women would always have their water with incantations [blessed water] ready; that made things easier. That way the delivery was safe - at least, that was the advice from the older folks."

Hitam says all the deliveries she witnessed on the island were safe - "nothing went wrong". She was resettled in the 70s, when Sudong became a military base.

Choo Huay Kim, St John's Island

The year was 1972. Eleven boys were squeezed into a Volkswagen Beetle, being driven by their teacher, Choo Huay Kim. The football team were on an adventure; the 11- and 12-year-olds rarely ventured onto mainland Singapore.

Their small island, Pulau Sakijang Bendera (now St John's Island), had no doctors and only two midwives. It was, however, home to St John's Island English School, one of two English-medium schools in the Southern Islands.

Choo, now 68, wanted his boys to be the best football team in Singapore.

Hussein "Eddy" Ibrahim recalls that training under Choo was tough. Every morning they would wake up before sunrise to run barefoot along the beach. Being poor islanders, they couldn't afford jerseys for their matches, so their parents sewed their numbers onto regular T-shirts.

Teacher Choo Huay Kim and students of St John’s Island English School.

The team was facing its biggest match to date. "We were up against St Michael's School [now St Joseph's Institution Junior] - the Manchester United of schools back then - and it was not going to be easy. All of us were tiny islander boys," remembers striker Hashim Daswan, now 53.

But the St John's team were skilful, sometimes winning matches 22-0. They beat St Michael's School that day and became the 1972 football school champions of Singapore.

"It was a big thing for the islanders," says Choo.

At that year's Pesta Sukan sports festival, Choo's team were invited to play the curtain-raiser match with St Michael's School.

Choo continued teaching and coaching the football team at St John's Island English School until it was closed, in 1976.

He says: "It was a paradise. I would have stayed there forever."

The Southern Islands - then and now

St John’s Island - Sir Stamford Raffles’ anchorage in 1819. By the 1930s it had become a screening centre for Asian immigrants and pilgrims returning from Mecca, and a quarantine station for those with infectious diseases. Today, it’s popular for its holiday bungalows.

Lazarus Island - Formed by land reclamation that joined Pulau Sekijang Pelepah and Pulau Seringat and created a crescent-shaped beach, this is a picturesque getaway for tourists.

Pulau Sudong (off-limits) - Sudong and Pawai became a range for live-fire exercises and training in the 1970s.

Pulau Semakau - Once a small fishing village, today it’s the world’s first ecological landfill, clean and free of odours thanks to an efficient waste-processing system. Pulau Seking was joined.

Pulau Satumu (off-limits) - Raffles Lighthouse was built on One Tree Island, as the name translates, in 1855. Today, only lighthouse staff and visitors with permission are allowed to visit.

Pulau Kusu - Once two outcrops on a reef, which served as the burial site for immigrants and those who died in quarantine on nearby islands, this is now a 8.5-hectare holiday resort.

Pulau Bukom (off-limits) - Kerosene was stored here in the 19th century. In 1974, the Shell oil refinery located on the island was bombed by the Japanese Red Army terrorist group. Fishermen once lived on the island, away from the industry, but today, it’s exclusively the site of the refinery; only Shell employees can live here.

Pulau Blakang Mati - A fortress and military base in colonial times, it was used by the British in the second world war, and was later a killing field for the Japanese. Today, it’s the pleasure island known as Sentosa.

Pulau Brani - Once home to Malay fishing villages, a navy fort and the Straits Trading Company’s tin smelting plant, it’s now a container terminal.

Pulau Senang (off-limits) -The site of a penal reform experiment in the 60s, which failed when a riot broke out and four prison staff were killed. A cemetery suggests it had once been home to islanders. Today, it’s a military training area for live-fire exercises.

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Best of our wild blogs: 23 May 15

31 May - 5 Jun: Traditional Wayang at Pulau Ubin
wild shores of singapore

Punggol's living rocky shores
wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - May 2015
Butterflies of Singapore

Informal Bird Survey at Lorong Halus – 22 May 2015
Singapore Bird Group

Yellow Bittern gaping
Bird Ecology Study Group

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3 inexpensive things to do in Singapore for an overseas holiday experience

Joanne Poh, MoneySmart AsiaOne 21 May 15;

When you only have x vacation days a year, not using them to go on holiday can make life seem, well, not worth living.

What's the point in all those long hours at the office if not for those short-lived periods of respite, when you finally get to enjoy life away from the daily grind?

If you're on a budget, you might be facing the conundrum of how to enjoy the holidays without having to eat into your savings.

Well, here are 3 experiences you can enjoy without leaving the country or spending hundreds of dollars, but that will still give you the sense that you're away from home.

1. Visit an unspoilt island
Every public holiday, planeloads of Singaporeans eagerly flock to neighbouring countries to enjoy a tropical island experience, lounging on beaches, snorkelling and riding bicycles through dusty roads lined with jungle foliage. Well, guess what, Singapore does have its own tropical islands, notwithstanding the fact that the "mainland" has been urbanised.

Here's a list of the most accessible.
- Sisters' Island Marine Park - Snorkel, swim and sunbathe on the beach on the Sisters' Islands. Book an NParks-organised guided walk here and boat transport will be provided free of charge.
- Pulau Ubin - Ride a mountain bike amidst jungles seething with mosquitoes. Bumboat ride from Changi Point Jetty costs $2. Kusu Island - Picnic on the beach or check out the Malay shrines and Chinese temple. $18 for a return ticket; you can throw in St John's Island too.
- St John's Island - Popular with people looking to go camping or stay in a chalet. $18 for a return ticket; you can throw in Kusu Island too.
- Lazarus Island - More undisturbed than St John's, the island can be accessed by walking across a link bridge connecting it to the latter.

2. Explore an unfamiliar neighbourhood
I've never really been a fan of the suburbs. Something about the white picket fences and Stepford wives unnerves me. But seriously, the suburban areas in Singapore aren't that characterless. You just have to check out the likes of Bishan Park and the Telok Blangah hiking trails to realise that there are quite a few attractions in the wilds. Embarrassingly enough, there are quite a few neighbourhoods I've never set foot in, including Tampines, Sengkang and Ang Mo Kio. Oh, the shame.

Instead of paying good money to wander around in another city, map in hand, do that right here with a copy of the street directory (in mobile app form for those of us under 100 years of age).

Here are some suburban spots to check out.
- Punggol Waterway Park - Punggol is about as ulu as it gets (hey I'm a westie), but brave the long ride and you'll be rewarded by a riparian landscape that actually looks quite rustic.
- Buangkok - The last kampongs in Singapore. No need to go all the way to Malaysia. Check them out before they disappear.
- Queenstown - Sick of the Botanic Gardens? Walk around the gardens at HortPark, explore the butterfly garden (not for those who are afraid of insects) or chill out at Vineyard, a chic French bistro.
- Jurong East - If shopping malls are more your thing, you'll go nuts at the malls Westgate, Jcube and JEM. Then hop over to the Science Centre, which recently lowered its admission fees.

3. Go hiking
It's easy to forget that there are tons of hiking trails all over Singapore (even if you will be walking on tarmac), probably because most people here melt and die à la Wicked Witch of the West the moment they step out of air conditioned areas. Then they pay good money to go jungle trekking in Sabah or attempt to climb Mount Everest.

It took me over 20 years of living within walking distance of the Bukit Timah Hill to finally try walking up the darned slope, and I'm sure there are others like me as well. Here are some of the better known hikes and trails.
- As the name suggests, the Macritchie TreeTop Walk will have you walking across a bridge suspended high above the trees
- The Southern Ridges trail takes you to Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and HortPark
- The Rail Corridor will have you plying the path of the former KTM Railway Track.
- The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, still under renovation, is now open to the public on weekends.
- See more at:

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Media to share content on climate change

Shefali Rekhi The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 May 15;

Twenty-five leading media companies sealed an agreement yesterday to form a global Climate Publishers Network to promote awareness of climate change.

Members will work together to enhance coverage of global warming in the run-up to the Nov 30- to-Dec 11 United Nations climate change conference in Paris, called COP21.

Representatives from more than 190 countries will attend the meeting aimed at sealing a global deal to limit carbon emissions from industry, transport and agriculture that scientists say are heating up the planet.

The Straits Times is a founding partner of the network, brought together by The Guardian of Britain, El Pais of Spain and the Global Editors Network, a leading global group of editors.

Major newspapers from around the world have been invited to join the grouping.

China Daily and India Today are the other publications from Asia. Other members include The Sydney Morning Herald from Australia, The Seattle Times from the United States, the Politiken from Denmark and the Al Ahram from Egypt.

The aim of the alliance is to share stories, graphics and other material on climate change with other members without any licence fees, broadening the reach of climate change issues and themes.

"Climate change is going to have a major impact on our lives, and so is of considerable interest to our readers," said ST editor Warren Fernandez.

"This is an important year for the debate on climate change. We want to provide content, in words, pictures, videos and graphics, to help our readers make sense of the debate," he said.

"This partnership, with some of the best newspapers in the world, will help us do that.

"It will also showcase some of our own content by ST correspondents on how global warming is affecting us in Asia to readers around the world."

An alarming increase in temperatures has made climate change one of the leading global concerns for people, governments and businesses.

March this year was the warmest March since record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

And the first quarter of this year has been the warmest first quarter on record during the same period.

Meanwhile, snow and ice continue to disappear.

According to NOAA, the Northern Hemisphere's snow coverage in March was the seventh lowest on record.

Scientists and researchers have warned that failure to curb carbon emissions will have serious consequences - triggering rising sea levels, more extreme storms and droughts - leading to the loss of habitats in parts of the world. Climate change could lead to some species becoming extinct.

The agreement expected in Paris at the end of the year will define the way the world responds to climate change and influence efforts by nations and businesses to curb carbon emissions.

The United Nations says nations must present firm pledges showing how they will cut or curb the growth of greenhouse gas pollution.

The next round of discussions on climate change will take place in Bonn, Germany, early next month.

COP21 stands for the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties.

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Malaysia: NGO calls for transparency in meeting environmental goals

The Star 23 May 15;

PETALING JAYA: Dirty rivers, black smoke and rubbish strewn everywhere. It is always the “same old, same old” every year.

While many plans have been drawn up for the environment and conservation, lack of enforcement has always been the problem.

Malaysian Nature Society national council member Vincent Chow said the only way forward was for the authorities to be transparent.

“Release quarterly reports and tell us truthfully where we stand. Statistics show that we have brought down the emission of greenhouse gases but do we actually see this?” he asked.

Chow said what was seen were lorries and factories spewing black smoke, rivers polluted with waste and rubbish strewn everywhere.

“We need strict enforcement ... the authorities need to stop making policies and go to the ground to see what is actually happening,” he said.

Chow also said that when it came to the environment and conservation, constant updates were a must.

“Make reports public and tell us what has been done, what has failed to be done and what can be done,” he said, adding that awareness programmes were also crucial.

Chow said pollution affected all Malaysians and most of them were more than willing to pull their weight if given full information.

He urged the Government to tell the public which environmental goals in the 10th Malaysia Plan had not been achieved so that these could be worked on.

Preserving the environment is one of the six strategic thrusts under the 11th Malaysia Plan.

Among the goals are delaying climate change, enhancing conservation efforts and reducing greenhouse gases by up to 40% over the next five years from the 2005 levels.

Sabah green groups: We can’t fast-track projects
The Star 23 May 15;

KOTA KINABALU: The 11th Malaysia Plan’s target of cutting greenhouse emissions, tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity is needed to ensure a greener Malaysia, but success will depend largely on the Government’s commitment.

Sabah Environmental Protection Association president Lanash Thanda welcomed the target but noted that many development projects under the 11MP, including power plants, ran contrary to the green efforts.

“We cannot fast-track these projects. The letter of every environmental law must be adhered to because past examples of fast-tracking projects have done irrepa­rable damage to the environment,” she said.

She also hailed the Government’s assurance of doing away with the “grow first, clean up later” development model, which would help the country move towards a resilient, low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive society.

This socially inclusive development model, she added, should be the basis for any development for the proposed Kaiduan water supply dam that had been rejected by the communities affected.

Lanash also said that economic transfor­mation projects should not be pushed through without complying with environmental laws.

Among the other green initiatives under the 11MP are the conservation of at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas, as well as designating 10% of coastal and marine areas as protected.

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Malaysia: Turtle eggs sold in Terengganu are brought in illegally

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 22 May 15;

KUALA TERENGGANU: About 90 per cent of turtle eggs sold in the state are brought in illegally from neighbouring countries.

The state Fisheries Department said the turtle eggs were believed to have been smuggled in by fishermen who later distributed the eggs to traders in markets.

State Fisheries director Abdul Khalil Abdul Karim said most of the eggs sold in the markets were from the green turtle species and are shaped like ping pong ball.

“Only the sales of eggs from the leatherback turtle species are illegal.

Although the sales of eggs from the green turtle species was not illegal, it is illegal for them to smuggle it into the country.

“We hope to eventually ban the sales of all species of turtle eggs,” he said.

As for the other 10 per cent, he said the eggs were obtained from turtle landing points in the state.

Khalil said of the 46 landing points in the state, 12 were active landing points that were controlled by the department as incubation centres.

“As for the remaining 34 landing points, the locals would collect the eggs and sell them to traders in markets.

“The demand for turtle eggs are high from people outside the state.”

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