Best of our wild blogs: 20 Jan 17



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Guidelines being developed to protect marine animals from recreational boaters: NParks

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 19 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: The authorities and non-governmental organisations are working together to develop a set of guidelines for recreational boaters to minimise the impact of their activities on the rich marine life found in Singapore waters.

In a statement to Channel NewsAsia, National Parks Board (NParks) said it is working with interest groups under the recently formed Marine Turtle Working Group, which also comprises academics and nature enthusiasts.

Channel NewsAsia understands the process is still at an early stage, as the working group was only formed towards the end of 2016. But recommendations could include the responsible manoeuvring of vessels, such as maintaining a safe speed when boaters see marine animals such as turtles surfacing and keeping a distance of about 50m.

In the statement, NParks said it is already working with the Singapore Boating Industry Association and marinas to educate recreational boaters on how they can reduce their impact. “Through regular engagement with boating marinas, we encourage boaters to reduce their speed near shallow coastal areas as that can result in resuspension of sediment which can aggravate marine life.”

NParks said it also encourages boaters to keep a lookout for distressed marine animals such as turtles, and inform relevant authorities. But Stephen Beng, who chairs Nature Society Singapore’s Marine Conservation Group, said not all marinas are proactive about educating their members on marine conservation.

“We have a large boating community and everyone has to practise responsible behaviour in terms of speed, slowing down when they do see animals,” he said.

Mr Beng, who is part of the working group, went a step further, saying there should be guidelines for all stakeholders. "This helps businesses - from shipping companies and marinas to fishing tours and scuba diving operators - to adopt responsible practices."

“Education can also come via civil society and the scientific community by collecting data on the behaviour and movement patterns of these reptiles and mammals so we can make aware to the boating community that, say, this channel is a common channel for turtles and dolphins so maybe slow down,” said Mr Beng.

SINGAPORE WATERS: TEEMING WITH MARINE LIFE

The waters around Singapore are some of the busiest in the world, with hundreds of commercial ships passing through and as many as 1,000 ships in its port. Despite the activity, marine conservationists like Ria Tan said the waters are a haven for marine wildlife.

“In the north you have seagrasses, it’s a bit mucky, muddy and silty, which some animals love and you can only find them in such estuaries. Whereas other kinds of animals require higher salinity so things like corals are found in the south,” said Ms Tan.

Larger animals such as marine turtles and dolphins have also been sighted in Singapore waters, and Ms Tan said this is a result of good regulations. “The Maritime and Port Authority is very strict about dumping of oil and other kinds of rubbish,” she said. “Every ship parked in port gets visited by garbage barges to collect trash just like how we get the garbage trucks at our homes.”

ACCIDENTS INVOLVING MARINE LIFE STILL OCCUR

But from time to time, nature enthusiasts come across instances that highlight the risks posed by ships and boats to the marine life that inhabits local waters. Earlier in January, a dead sea turtle washed ashore at Changi Beach with a deep gash across its shell, believed to have been caused by a ship's or boat's propeller.

Mr Beng said such incidents are uncommon. He also said oil spills, such as the one that occurred recently as a result of a vessel collision off Pasir Gudang, are also a concern.

“Young turtles go to convergence points and that’s where oil gathers and when it washes up to shore, it devastates the nesting areas or nesting sandy beaches. When it covers the corals, the source of marine life, it also affects what marine life like turtles ingest,” he said.

Mr Beng said the authorities responded quickly to the oil spill. But the incident also offered an opportunity to see whether lessons can be learned from what happened.

"There can be a multi-stakeholder process to assess the immediate and long-term damage to sensitive marine habitats, like coral reefs and mangroves. This allows our scientific and civil communities to accurately account for stressors to the marine environment," he said.

Mr Beng also said there needs to be better awareness among shipping companies about the environmental impact of their business. “Shipping companies can have policies where they require vessel masters to navigate cautiously when there are marine animals such as dolphins or sea turtles,” he said.

He said harbour masters that bring ships into port can also keep the safety of marine animals in mind.

- CNA/mo


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Dengue cases may increase in next few months

Channel NewsAsia 19 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: The number of dengue cases could increase in the next few months and peak in the middle of the year, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday (Jan 19).

A key concern is the higher population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in the past month. NEA’s Gravitrap surveillance system detected about 60 per cent more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in December 2016 compared to October that same year.

Another factor which may lead to an increase in dengue cases is the high diversity of circulating dengue serotypes or strains. DENV-2 dominated much of 2016, but it is uncertain which serotype will prevail in 2017.

"Historically, a change in predominant dengue virus serotype has been followed by a spike in dengue cases," said NEA. "The Ministry of Health and NEA will continue to monitor the situation closely."

So far this year, the number of dengue cases has been relatively low. According to latest data on NEA’s website, 202 cases have been recorded since the start of the year.

“If left unchecked, the high Aedes aegypti population may lead to a surge in dengue cases in 2017,” said NEA in a media release. “NEA therefore urges all members of the public and stakeholders to stay vigilant, and work together as a community to stem dengue transmission.”

DENGUE SITUATION IN 2016

Last year, there were a total of 13,115 dengue cases, far less than the projected number of more than 30,000 cases that experts had feared.

After a surge in the number of cases in early 2016, the situation was brought under control and remained so for the rest of the year, said NEA. It brought forward the annual Do the Mozzie Wipeout Campaign to February to tackle the problem.

In 2016, NEA uncovered more than 16,000 instances of mosquito breeding habitats and about 3,900 households were fined for mosquito breeding, said NEA. This followed more than 1.2 million inspections, including 7.400 conducted on construction sites.

STAY VIGILANT: NEA

With Chinese New Year approaching, NEA is urging residents to prevent mosquito breeding, such as in ornamental plant containers. It is also reminded homeowners doing spring cleaning to properly dispose of any refuse to avoid discarded material from becoming unintentional mosquito breeding habitats.

Those planning to go overseas should also mosquito-proof their homes before they travel, said NEA. They should also cover all toilet bowls at home.

“Persons infected with dengue should protect themselves from mosquito bites by applying repellent regularly, and those showing symptoms suggestive of dengue should see their doctors early to be diagnosed,” the agency added.

- CNA/ek


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Woman injured after crows attack her

Kimberly Lim, The New Paper AsiaOne 19 Jan 17;

She was in the shower when she heard a scream. Her daughter then told her she saw crows attacking a woman.

The birds targeted the woman's head, and by the time the crows were done, she had to be rushed to Changi General Hospital (CGH).

The Singapore Civil Defence Force told The New Paper it was alerted to the incident at Block 106, Pasir Ris Street 12, on Tuesday at 7.10pm.

A woman in her late 40s was taken to CGH in an ambulance with lacerations on her forehead.

Yesterday, the woman who heard the scream said: "My daughter told me she saw three or four children feeding crows.

"The crows flew around and attacked a woman. There was a lot of blood on the woman's head. The blood had splattered on the ground and she was screaming."

The woman was not the only one attacked that day.

Civil servant Ian Ng, 41, and his parents were also attacked by crows in the vicinity while on their way to a night market.

He said: "I saw a baby crow lying on the ground and four or five big crows perched on shelters and lamp posts. The crows swooped down when people walked into the area. A crow went for my head. I got a shock."

Mr Ng was attacked once while his 77-year-old father was attacked twice.

Fortunately, they did not suffer serious injuries.

The younger Mr Ng said: "The crows attacked us with their beaks, but luckily it was not painful."

He then called the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

CULLING EXERCISE

Residents told TNP they heard what they thought was the sound of shooting yesterday morning and believed it could have been the authorities conducting a culling exercise.

AVA told TNP it received two calls on crow attacks on Tuesday, and activated its contractor to conduct crow management works.

One crow's nest was removed.

AVA said: "We will continue to monitor the situation, and conduct surveillance and operations within the area.

"The public can do their part by not feeding the birds and ensuring proper food waste disposal. Easily available food sources will encourage the birds to congregate and result in an increase in their numbers, which could result in related nuisance and hygiene issues."

When TNP visited the area yesterday morning, bloodstains were found at the void deck of Block 105.

No crows were spotted.

Mr Chong Joo Chong, 63, a Block 103 resident, said he was attacked by a crow yesterday afternoon.

He told TNP: "A huge crow went for my head thrice. It was aggressive. I saw another man being attacked by two big crows and a small one.

"It felt like someone was pushing my head with a lot of force."

AVA received about 500 calls on crow attacks in 2015 and about 320 last year.

It said the public can call 1800-4761-600 to report crow attacks or crow-related issues.


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Second flash flood at Upper Thomson Road in less than a month

Channel NewsAsia 19 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Flash floods hit Upper Thomson Road after heavy rain on Thursday afternoon (Jan 19).

National water agency PUB first issued an alert at 3.44pm, informing the public of flash floods at the junction of Upper Thomson Road and Jalan Lembah Thomson. It added that one lane was affected.

This is the same area which was flooded with knee-deep water on Christmas Eve.

According to alerts sent out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the flash floods also affected the direction towards the Seletar Expressway after Jalan Pelatina, with congestion until MacRitchie Viaduct.

PUB later issued another alert at about 4pm, saying the flash floods have subsided.

The area is undergoing construction for the Upper Thomson MRT station. An investigation by PUB found that the contractor, Sato Kogyo, had carried out works that affected the public drainage system.

On Tuesday, PUB announced that it would take action against the contractor over the Christmas Eve flash floods under the Sewerage and Drainage Act. The contractor has also been instructed to carry out rectification work to improve the drainage in the area.

Separately, LTA had also instructed Sato Kogyo to expedite the completion of canal widening works, which would improve the problem of recurring flash floods at Jalan Keli.


Upper Thomson hit by second flood in two months
Shops spared but cars affected by knee-high water
Isabelle Liew The New Paper 20 Jan 17;

An "under-sized" drain in Upper Thomson that is currently being expanded to help with flood management was not enough to prevent yesterday's downpour from flooding the area again.

A joint statement from PUB and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it would take until the third quarter of this year for contractor Sato Kogyo to widen the existing canal located along Upper Thomson Road and Jalan Keli.

The statement said Sato Kogyo has been widening it to enhance the drainage system and improve overall flood resilience in the area.

"LTA has also instructed the contractor to expedite the completion of the canal widening along Jalan Keli," it said.

In the meantime, Sato Kogyo has changed the drain covers to facilitate the flow of water, and placed sandbags at several locations to prevent the water from flowing into the shophouses in the area.

PUB had earlier said it would be taking action against Sato Koygo as the temporary diversion drain constructed by the contractor within the worksite of the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line was found to be under-sized, and the contractor did not inform PUB prior to the commencement of these works.

Yesterday, heavy rain occurred from 3.10pm to 4pm, recording a total rainfall of 59.2mm.

Even with the anti-flood measures, a flash flood occurred at the junction of Upper Thomson Road and Jalan Lembah Thomson for about 20 minutes. No shops were affected.

Store manager of Tomoe Japanese Cuisine, Miss Susan Poon, said several cars parked outside her shop were affected by the knee-high water.

She told The New Paper: "We are lucky our restaurant is on high ground. We see a lot of floods here recently. If there is heavy rain, it is bound to flood. Business is also affected because customers cannot come if there is a flood."

The statement said the flood was from 3.44pm until 4.05pm.The shops near Jalan Keli that were affected by the flood on Christmas Eve, which are located on lower ground, were not affected yesterday.

'NOTHING WE CAN DO'

An employee at ice cream parlour Salted Caramel told TNP their shop has not taken any precautionary measures despite being affected by the flood last month.

She said: "We are worried because if there is a flood, there is nothing we can do. Maybe we will try to use something to block the gaps under the doors."

Mr Jamal Mohammed, 50, an employee at The Roti Prata House, said yesterday's flood was about ankle-deep, but it did not flow into their eatery.

"The rain last month was much heavier (compared to yesterday's), so we knew it wouldn't flood. If the rain is heavier, we would get worried and start moving goods up."

Mr Jason Tan, store manager of Tom Yum Mama, a Thai eatery located along the same stretch, said the restaurant had just opened on Dec 30.

"The flood last month affected the construction (of the shop), but LTA said they would take precautionary measures to prevent floods, so we are not too worried," he said.

Mr Erwin Budiawan, 27, store manager of cafe Badoque, said the sandbags placed by Sato Kogyo had lessened his worries.

He said: "Of course we are scared of flood, but compared to last time, there are more people taking care of it now. We know what to expect.

"But we are still worried that sales will be affected."

None of the shops that TNP spoke to had taken precautionary measures of their own.


Steps taken to curb flooding at Upper Thomson Road
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 20 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Sato Kogyo, the construction firm whose unauthorised work on the public drainage system contributed to flash floods along Upper Thomson Road on Christmas Eve last year, has changed drain covers to open ones to facilitate the flow of water and has used sandbags to prevent water from flowing into shophouses.

Providing an update after a flash flood struck the area on Thursday (Jan 19), national water agency PUB and the Land Transport Authority said the measures were “temporary improvement works to increase the drainage capacity in the area” since the Dec 24 incident. The sandbags are placed at the edge of the five-foot ways that front the shops along Upper Thomson Road.

Earlier this week, PUB announced that it had discovered unauthorised work on the public drainage system by Sato Kogyo, which is the LTA’s contractor for the Upper Thomson MRT Station project.

Sato Kogyo had constructed an under-sized temporary diversion drain within its worksite, and had not informed PUB before it started the work. The contractor had also altered the public drainage system across Upper Thomson Road, near Lorong Mega, without PUB’s approval and faces sanctions under the Sewerage and Drainage Act.

As intense rain fell over central Singapore on Thursday, a flash flood occurred at the junction of Upper Thomson Road and Jalan Lembah Thomson for about 20 minutes, from 3.44pm to 4.05pm. The Government agencies said 59.2mm of rainfall was recorded at Lower Peirce Reservoir from 3.10pm to 4pm.

But unlike the knee-deep waters on Dec 24 that damaged the equipment of shops such as The Roti Prata House, shophouses nearby were not affected this time.

The LTA said it has instructed Sato Kogyo to speed up the completion of canal-widening along Jalan Keli. Once it is completed early in the third quarter of this year, the area will have better protection against floods.

PUB advised the public to be cautious as flash floods may occur in the event of heavy storms. The public may also report flash floods or check on the flood situation via PUB’s Facebook page, its call centre (1800 2255 782) or its MyWaters mobile app.


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Malaysia: No plastic bag ruling ineffective

SHEILA SRI PRIYA The Star 20 Jan 17;

THE National Solid Waste Management Department does not expect a significant reduction of plastic bags in the landfill following the ban of plastic bags. This is because the public continues to rely on plastic bags to discard their waste.

National Solid Waste Management Department director-general Ismail Mokhtar said plastic bags were still being purchased for waste disposal and discarded in the waste bins.

He revealed this when StarMetro asked him about the effects of the recent ban on plastic bags in the Federal Territories and Selangor.

Ismail said there would have to be a substitute to plastics bags if the local authorities wanted to ensure that their programmes were successful.

“Our department supports any move by anybody to help reduce waste generation in order to protect the environment. However, substitutes to plastic bags that can be reused and easily recycled must be introduced to make sure the programme is successful,” he added.

Ismail said in terms of plastic waste that is recycled, heavier plastic products were more sought after than plastic bags as they gave better returns.

Ismail said the Federal Government had set the goal of reducing solid waste disposal at landfill by 40% within the next three years.

The existing solid waste management methods consist of waste separation from the source, waste treatment at sanitary landfills, thermal treatment and biological treatment. The Government hopes to tap the latest technology for more effective waste-management purposes. This will be done through services that are cost-effective.

The aim is to reduce solid waste at landfills through waste reuse and recovery methods.

The Government hopes to produce refuse-derived fuel through its biological treatment in the future.

Between Sept 1, 2015 and Jan 4, 2017, some of 2,529.25 tonnes of waste were recycled, he said.

The implementation of "Separation at Source" began on June 1, 2016 simultaneously in seven states which adopted the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Act 2007 (Act 672).

Besides the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Kedah and Perlis were also among the states that took part.

When asked about the success of the waste separation, Ismail said it was still not very encouraging.

“Based on a study conducted by the Ministry in October 2015, some 80% of Malaysians know about their obligation to separate waste at source. This shows that public awareness on solid waste separation is high.

“However, when it comes to implementation, it is less encouraging,” he said.


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Malaysia: Sabah floods worsen as high tide raise river levels


OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 19 Jan 17;

KOTA MARUDU: There are 2,750 flood victims from 843 families taking shelter at 11 temporary relief centres here as of 7am.

Malaysian Civil Defence Force state director Colonel Muliadi Al-Hamdi said the flood here since Tuesday has affected 18 villages, including Kampung Longob, Kampung Bengkongan, Kg Talantang 1, Kg Mosolog, Kg Magaratong, Kg Rakit, Kg Morion, Kg Piso, Kg Salimandut, Kg Tandek, Kg Asin-Asin, Kg Lotong, Kg Parong, Kg Goruntung, Kg Hatob and Kg Sumbilingon. Schools and multipurpose halls are being used as shelters for evacuees.

“Water at Sungai Bongon has risen to the alert level at 7.5 meters, while Sungai Bandau, at 8.05 metres, has breached the dangerous level.

“Rain stopped at noon yesterday, but water levels increase due to the high tide,” he said in a statement.

Five roads at Kg Beliajung, Kg Longob, Kg Damai, Kg Teritipan and Kg Tandek are still submerged.

There are 50 police officers, 30 firemen, 50 civil defence personnel, and three officers each from the Public Works Department and the Sabah Water Department monitoring the situation and assisting evacuees.

Meanwhile, in Pitas, six villages, namely Kg Sibaung, Kg Pandan, Kg Pandan Mendamai, Kg Pinapak, Kg Perupuk and Kg Nibang are still affected by floodwaters.

Seventy-seven victims, including 11 infants from Kampung Sibaung, have been placed at Sk Pekan 2 Pitas.

The water at Sungai Kebatasan is at 6.07 meters, while Sungai Bengkoka is at 4 meters – both having breached danger levels.

Four roads at Kg Merisimsim, Kg Salimpodon Darat, Kg Sibaung and Kg Pandan Mendamai are submerged in waters of between 0.1 and 0.5 meter.


River levels hold steady in Sabah's flood-hit northern districts
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 19 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: River waters in Sabah’s northern Kota Marudu and Pitas districts remain at dangerous and warning levels as at noon Thursday though rains ceased few hours earlier.

There are still over 2,880 villagers from 900 families at the 11 temporary shelters opened up in various locations in Kota Marudu as their houses are inundated in flood waters.

Seven roads – Jalan Kg Beliajung, Kg Longob, Kg Damai, Kg Teritipan and Kg Tandek and the Jalan Popol and Langkon roundabouts – are still flooded but vehicles can now pass through them.

In Pitas, six villages are still flooded and 77 villagers from 26 households are staying in temporary shelters.

Sabah Civil Defence Department director Kol Mulliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin said 24 villages in the two districts were hit by floods on Wednesday following overnight downpours.

“We are monitoring river levels and doing our best to ensure that affected villagers are moved to higher ground,” he said.

He also called for donations in terms of food and drinks among other essential items to be made if the situation worsens.


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Australia: Massive dieback of mangrove forests in Gulf of Carpentaria is slowing down

Daniel Bateman, The Cairns Post 20 Jan 17;

DIEBACK that has affected large swaths of mangrove forests in the Gulf of Carpentaria appears to have slowed.

More indigenous rangers have been recruited to monitor the unprecedented dieback of 7000ha of coastal vegetation that was first observed more than a year ago stretching from near Karumba to 1000km west.

The causes are still unknown, but researchers believe it has been linked to climate change.

The event coincided with the worst coral bleaching event recorded on the Great Barrier Reef. James Cook University researcher Professor Norm Duke said the dieback ­appeared to have slowed in recent months.

“The status is that it hasn’t increased,” he said.

“It’s basically stabilised and now the environment is just dealing with the consequences.

“In other words, there is erosion where there is dead roots and so forth.”

Loss of mangroves can expose shorelines to severe storms and waves, resulting in massive coastal erosion.

Dead mangroves can also have profound negative impacts on local fisheries.

JCU’s TropWater agency has received $25,758 funding from the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporate to continue training southern Gulf rangers to monitor the mangrove forests for further signs of dieback.

Prof Duke said it was crucial the mangrove forests were carefully monitored.

“The dieback is not something that we’ve seen before,” he said.


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NEWater to meet 40% of Singapore’s water needs with fifth plant

TOH EE MING Today Online 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE – The Republic’s fifth NEWater plant in Changi officially opened on Wednesday (Jan 18), enabling NEWater to now to meet 40 per cent of Singapore’s total daily water demand, as concern over water supply grows.

Speaking at the launch, Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that water being a scarce resource, it has always been an "existential issue" for Singapore.

He noted that the water levels of Johor's Linggiu Reservoir, which enables Singapore to draw water for import, have fallen from 80 per cent in early 2015 to 20 per cent in October last year, before making a "slow recovery" to the current 27 per cent. The situation has been made worse by the "frequent and prolonged" dry weather, he added.

"If the level of the Linggiu Reservoir continues to fall, the water supply for both Johor and Singapore would be affected," he said. The latest NEWater plant is one of the major investments in water infrastructure to strengthen Singapore's resilience against weather uncertainties, he added.

NEWater is produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultraviolet disinfection. The other four NEWater plants are located at Bedok, Kranji, Ulu Pandan and Changi.

Located on the rooftop of Changi Water Reclamation Plant, the new plant has a capacity of 228,000 cubic meters or 50 million gallons a day, among the biggest NEWater plants in terms of capacity. It spans 49,000m2 – the equivalent of nearly seven-and-a-half football fields – and was built with a total capital cost of about $170 million.

Mr Masagos noted Singapore’s "increasing reliance on non-traditional and more expensive sources” of water, such as the three desalination plants to be completed by 2020.

Water costs are being driven up by the rising costs of asset maintenance and replacement, as well as resources like energy, chemicals, materials and manpower. Expensive methods like pipe-jacking and tunneling would also be needed, given the laying and replacing of Singapore's pipelines in an increasingly urbanised landscape.

To overcome this, long-term breakthroughs are needed but these would take time to be proven and become deployable, said Mr Masagos. Water prices have always reflected the costs of water for consumers to appreciate its value, and adjustments in water charges would be made "when necessary”, he added.

Going forward, Singapore needs to continue to manage the water demand. "We must press on with water conservation and efficiency, both in our daily personal usage and in the non-domestic sector. Every drop of water conserved means less resources and costs needed to invest in additional supply," Mr Masagos said.

In partnership with PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, the latest NEWater plant is the first built by a foreign-local consortium, comprising BEWG International, a subsidiary of Beijing Enterprises Water Group Limited, and UES Holdings. It began operations in November last year.

The contract for the new plant was awarded in 2014 as a public-private partnership initiative. It is one of six Design-Build-Own-Operate projects between PUB and the private sector. Previous projects include the SingSpring Desalination Plant, Tuaspring Desalination Plant, Keppel-Seghers Ulu Pandan NEWater Plant, SembCorp NEWater Plant, and the recently-announced desalination plant that will be built in Marina East.

The launch was attended by 200 guests from government agencies, business associates, and industry players.

NEWater able to meet 40% of Singapore's water needs with opening of fifth plant
Nur Afifah Ariffin Channel NewsAsia 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: NEWater is now able to supply up to 40 per cent of Singapore's total daily water demand, up from 30 per cent, with the opening of Singapore's fifth NEWater plant on Wednesday (Jan 18).

The new facility, located at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, is the size of about seven-and-a-half football fields. It has the capacity to produce 50 million gallons of water a day - enough to fill about 92 Olympic-sized pools - according to national water agency PUB.

This is also PUB's first public-private partnership involving a foreign company. PUB had awarded the contract to design, build and operate the plant to a consortium formed by Beijing Enterprise Water Group International (BEWGI) and local environmental engineering company UES Holdings.

PUB said collaborations with the private sector have enabled them to explore, pilot and implement new technologies to increase Singapore’s water resources and improve efficiencies in water production.

The new plant brings Singapore closer to its aim of meeting 85 per cent of its water needs through NEWater and desalination by 2060. The four other NEWater plants are located in Bedok, Kranji, Ulu Pandan and Changi.

NEWater, or highly purified reclaimed water, is one of Singapore's Four National Taps - the country's strategy for water security - along with local catchment water, imported water and desalinated water.

"In our minds, the H2O molecule is never lost and water is an endlessly reusable resource. Used water can always be reclaimed and retreated so that it can be consumed again," said PUB's chief executive Ng Joo Hee. "Singapore leads the world in this."

CONTINUED CHALLENGES IN WATER SUPPLY

Even as Singapore celebrates its achievements in water technology, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said Singapore must remain mindful that the country continues to face challenges in water supply.

"Our largest tap - imported water- as well as water from local catchments are weather-dependent," he said at the official opening of the plant.

He noted that the water level at Johor's Linggiu Reservoir, which regulates the flow of water in the Johor River, fell from 80 per cent in early 2015 to a historic low of 20 per cent in October 2016, before making a slow recovery to 27 per cent currently.

Mr Masagos said PUB will continue to make major investments in water infrastructure to strengthen Singapore's resilience against uncertainties but that ultimately, Singaporeans must be prudent in their use of water.

"We must press on with water conservation and efficiency, both in our daily personal usage and in the non-domestic sector," said Mr Masagos.

"Every drop of water conserved means less resources and costs needed to invest in additional supply."

- CNA/gs


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Four new mega childcare centres to be built, including one in a park

KELLY NG Today Online 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Punggol, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang will have four new mega childcare centres by the middle of next year, offering 2,700 places for which registration will begin in the second quarter of this year.

The two centres in Punggol, to be operated separately by PAP Community Foundation and NTUC My First Skool, have 1,000 places each, the largest yet for any childcare centre in Singapore, while the centres in Sengkang and Bukit Panjang can take in 400 and 300 children respectively, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced on Wednesday (Jan 18).

As demand for childcare facilities grew, the Government announced in May 2015 the setting up of the first batch of five mega childcare centres.

Four of these have opened in Punggol, Sengkang, Woodlands and Yishun— all in areas with many families with young children — while the fifth, in Jurong West, will begin operations in the first quarter of this year.

Tenders for large childcare centres are open to anchor operators assessed by the Government to have a good track record in offering quality and affordable early childhood programmes.

Compared to the large centres, the ones in the void decks of Housing and Development Board blocks can typically take in about 100 children each.

The Sengkang centre, run by School4Kidz, will be located at Sengkang Riverside Park. The 4,000sqm facility will take in children between two months and six years old, and be staffed by 44 teachers. Its curriculum will take advantage of learning opportunities in its natural environment, such as by incorporating nature walks, a butterfly lodge and a school garden from which students can harvest ingredients for their own meals.

Speaking at its ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said the ministry is “on track” to meet the demand for childcare places, and is also exploring various locations in which to build centres.

“This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks (National Parks Board), so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities. This enhances their well-being and development, and also nurtures their appreciation for nature from a young age,” said Mr Tan.

Dr Lam Pin Min, Member of Parliament for Sengkang West, noted that demand for childcare centres is “still very high” in his constituency.

“... Based on feedback from residents, I think we need to (have) even more childcare centres ... Many parents actually (give) feedback that they have been placed on the waiting list for the past six to 12 months. Even with the completion of newer childcare centres, they are still deprived of a place,” he said.

Punggol resident Neo Chai Ying, who is looking for a place for her 10-month-old son, said childcare facilities in her neighbourhood are “really stretched” due to the growing number of children in the area.

The 36-year-old said she hopes to get her son a place in one of the mega childcare centres as they have “more impressive facilities”.


4 new mega childcare centres to be built, including first in a park
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 18 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: See, smell, hear, touch and taste what nature has to offer - this is what Singapore's first childcare centre in a park will offer when it opens its doors at the end of this year to 400 children aged between two months and six years.

The two-storey facility at Sengkang Riverside Park will be run by anchor operator Skool4kidz, and is one of four mega childcare centres that will be built by the middle of next year, announced the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Wednesday (Jan 18).

Two centres will be in Punggol and will take in 1,000 kids each, and one will be in Bukit Panjang and will take in 300 kids. Together, the four new centres will provide 2,700 infant and childcare places.

The Skool4kidz Campus @ Sengkang Park will be about four times bigger than the average childcare centre in Singapore. It will also have learning spaces that are integrated with nature, like a Butterfly Lodge where kids can learn about the insects’ biology, and children will be served fruits and vegetables harvested from the centre's own garden. The centre will also tap on the National Parks Board’s (NParks) expertise to incorporate educational materials on Singapore's biodiversity.

“Anything you do with young children in the early years of their lives leave a very lasting impact on their development. A lot of what we do with our children don’t start young enough,” said Dr Jane Ching-Kwan, director and curriculum consultant of Skool4kidz.

“We have got a lot of research that points to the very positive relationship when children interact with nature. It carries on not only in learning, but also to their overall psychological, social, mental and physical growth.”

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said ECDA is constantly looking into ways to provide better learning opportunities for children.

"This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks, so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities. This enhances their well-being and development, and also nurtures their appreciation for nature from a very young age,” he said.

DEMAND FOR CHILDCARE PLACES STILL RISING

Another five mega childcare centres are being built in estates like Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun – areas with higher demand for childcare due to the larger number of young families, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

Sengkang West Member of Parliament (MP) Lam Pin Min said demand for places in childcare centres is still growing, and “the consensus is that we need to build more childcare centres”.

“Many parents have given feedback that they have been placed on the waiting list for the past six months, to even 12 months. And even with the completion of some of the new childcare centres, they are still deprived of a place. That tells us that the demand is still there,” Dr Lam said.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development is carefully tracking the demand for childcare places, said Mr Tan.

“We’re working very closely with HDB, all the new estates. Clearly, we continue to build childcare centres in the void deck. But we’re looking at various locations – parks is a new development and something we’re quite excited about. We’re tracking very closely and reviewing the demand as it evolves. So we’re very much on track,” he said.

Parents interested to register their children in the four new childcare centres can do so from the second quarter of this year at www.childcarelink.gov.sg.

- CNA/cy


4 mega childcare centres to open in 2018
Linette Heng, THE NEW PAPER AsiaOne 19 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE - A garden piazza, a butterfly lodge and a dining theatre that serves dishes from the school's garden will be some of the things you will find at a new childcare centre that will open by mid-2018.

Set in Sengkang Riverside Park, it will have 400 places.

Three other mega childcare centres will also begin construction this year and are due for completion at the same time - two in Punggol that will have 1,000 places and one in Bukit Panjang with 300 places.

This brings the number of large childcare centres to nine, said the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Details of the Sengkang centre - the first in Singapore to be located in a park - were revealed at a ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.

The state-of-the-art campus will have a cocoon-like structure so that it will look like a "rolling hill" on the park, and blend seamlessly with the environment.

The campus will have a site area of 4,000 sq m and built-up area of 3,600 sq m - almost four times the size of an average childcare centre.

Operated by anchor operator Skool4kidz, which runs 11 childcare centres islandwide, it will be completed by the fourth quarter of this year.

Full-day fees will cost an estimated $720 for children aged between 18 months and six years. Infant care fees for children aged between two and 17 months will cost an estimated $1275.

Skool4kidz's curriculum founder, Dr Jane Ching-Kwan, said that being close to nature will allow the children to develop holistically.

She told The New Paper: "They will be able to learn about botany and insects by curiously examining the wide variety of plants and insects in the park's eco-system...

A POSITIVE IMPACT

"Research has also shown that immersing in a natural environment has a positive impact on a child's overall health."

The other mega childcare centres will also be run by anchor operators - PAP Community Foundation in Punggol and NTUC My First Skool in Punggol and Bukit Panjang.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Sengkang centre yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin reiterated the Government's commitment to providing more quality and affordable pre-school options.

He said: "This centre at Sengkang Riverside Park is the result of a partnership with NParks, so that our children can easily participate in physical and outdoor activities."

Mr Tan told Parliament last year that by this year, about 10,000 more places will be added, of which about a third will be in Punggol and Sengkang.

Mother of a 33-month-old girl and a two-week-old boy, Ms Joanne Goh, 34, told TNP that she faced many challenges enrolling her older daughter into a childcare centre in Punggol, where she is currently living with her parents.

She hopes that she will be able to enrol her children into the new Sengkang facility when she moves into the neighbourhood next year.


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Singapore aims to be leader in air, sea incident probes

Karamjit Kaur, Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Jan 17;

Singapore is beefing up its capabilities to investigate air and maritime accidents that happen globally.

On the air side, the aim is to be not just an aviation hub for commercial flights but also the centre for industry training and expertise in areas like air traffic management and air incident investigations.

From a two-man team in 2002, the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) now has 16 staff, including a pilot and several engineers.

There are also 20 volunteers, including officers from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, who can be activated when necessary.

The TSIB, a unit under the Ministry of Transport, was launched in August last year after a restructuring.

From just focusing on air accidents, its new mandate includes investigating marine incidents.

Before the change, it was called the Air Accident Investigation Bureau.

Over the years, the bureau has also built up its expertise and knowledge.

The capability was further strengthened last year with the opening of a new laboratory at TSIB's Changi Airport office, which The Straits Times visited last week.

While, previously, the team could work only with black boxes that were still intact, it now has equipment to also analyse damaged boxes, for example if they have been submerged underwater.

Black boxes are flight data recorders which contain cockpit voice recordings and other information critical for investigations.

So far, the TSIB has been involved in not just incidents involving Singapore carriers but also assisted in other investigations.

For example, the team was involved in the probe into the crash of an AirAsia Indonesia plane in December 2014 while flying from Surabaya to Singapore and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in March the same year.

Compared with established entities like the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Singapore bureau may still be considered to be in its infancy stage.

However, within the region and, in particular, South-east Asia, the TSIB is ahead of many of its counterparts.

TSIB's deputy director (air safety investigation) Michael Alan Toft said: "I think we have positioned ourselves well and from feedback that we have received from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (a United Nations arm which oversees global commercial aviation), I think they see us as being quite progressive within the region."

As the number of flights continues to grow in the Asia-Pacific and globally, and ship movements continue to increase, ensuring safe practices and processes is critical, experts said.

This is a key role that the TSIB plays, said Captain Kunal Nakra, the authority's deputy director (marine safety investigation).

While the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore ensure that rules and regulations are adhered to, the TSIB is tasked to go further and dip deeper, he said.

"We ask all the 'whys'. So if a ship catches fire, why did the fire occur? Did the crew fight the fire as they were supposed to? If not, there is a lapse there. Why? Maybe there is an issue with the training. So we strip it down to those levels," he said.

Mr Toft added: "We don't just stop at the sharp end of the stick."


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Malaysia: The third wave: Terengganu on standby for possibility of floods

ZARINA ABDULLAH New Straits Times 18 Jan 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Following the ‘yellow stage’ warning for heavy rains issued by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), the state Fire and Rescue Department has frozen all leave for its staff.

Its director Azlimin Mat Noor said the notice for the department’s 1,000 staff state-wide takes effect today.

Azlimin said the Fire and Rescue Department is prepared for action again should flood return to the state again following the alert that issued by MetMalaysia on forecasted heavy rainfall between today and Saturday.

“Those who are on leave have been recalled. All our assets, including an amphibious vehicle, 40 lorries and 60 units of rescue boats are ready to be mobilised,” he said today. “We are now also on a standby mode.

We are the front liners in flood rescue operations together with the Civil Defence Department (APM) and other agencies,” he added.

Meanwhile, the state Civil Defence Department director Lt Colonel Che Adam A. Rahman said his men were ready for the third wave of heavy rain could potentially flood low-lying areas.

“We will also be monitoring the beach areas because the warning from MetMalaysia also included on the occurrence of high waves,” he added.

On Monday, the MetMalaysia issued the yellow stage warning for several states including Terengganu.

It also said strong northeast winds with between 40 and 50 kilometre per hour (kmph) and waves as high as 3.5 metres are to be expected in waters off Kelantan and Terengganu until next Monday.

As such, the weather condition could prove to be dangerous for water activities and small boats.


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