Best of our wild blogs: 21 Oct 14

Lots of dead farm fishes washed up at Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Buloh
from wild shores of singapore

Green Drinks: Developing the Sharing Economy in Singapore
from Green Drinks Singapore

Pelagic Survey on the Singapore Strait – 19 October 2014
from Singapore Bird Group

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Pulau Ubin: Weekend spot for many, home to a few

Goh Wei Hao My Paper AsiaOne 21 oct 14;

QUIET SPOT: Pulau Ubin, located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore, housed 2,000 villagers during its heyday. Now, just over 30 remain.

SINGAPORE - Today, just over 30 villagers remain on the once bustling island - all of whom are elderly.

Pulau Ubin, located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore, housed 2,000 villagers during its heyday.

"People started leaving for Singapore and Malaysia to look for jobs when the ubin (Malay for granite) quarry closed," said Madam Tan, the daughter-in-law of the dead village chief.

These days, Madam Tan can be found sitting on the front porch of her two-storey home, where she lives alone. She spends most of her time planting crops, cleaning the house and playing with her dog.

On weekends, her three sons and two daughters come to visit.

"Whenever my children come, they will keep asking me to move in with them," she said.

She has resisted their overtures.

"I like it here because it is less crowded," she explained. "The air is also fresher after the quarry closed and people stopped practising slash-and-burn farming."

Madam Tan, 76, married the village chief's eldest son when she was 15.

"My husband had eight brothers, so I had to take care of 10 people," she said. "I also had to rear the pigs and chickens, and help to tend my father-in-law's provision shop."

However, she was very contented. "If I was unhappy, I would have left ages ago!" quipped Madam Tan.

According to her, the main source of income for the villagers used to be from the quarries, rubber plantations and farming.

"I started working at a very young age, helping my father tap rubber sap and my mother push carts in the quarry," she said.

Today, these industries are obsolete. Instead, the main village is filled with bicycle rental shops and seafood restaurants, all vying for the patronage of visitors to the island.

One such store can be found deep within the island: a food and beverage store opened by Mr Ahmad, 78, and Ms Saipiah, 75 who have been together for more than 50 years.

The couple enjoy spending time at the five-year-old store - selling coconuts, drinks and Malay snacks - because they get to interact with visitors. Their other pastimes include watching TV and listening to the radio.
On Fridays, the couple travel to a mosque in Bugis or Geylang for their prayers.

Even though the number of villagers has dwindled, the "kampung spirit" is still alive and well on the island.

Ms Juhaini, a 46-year-old production operator, is a prime example of this. Even though her parents have died, she returns to the island to help her neighbours on weekends, especially with translations.

The other big draw is that living expenses on the island are closer to those during the 60s. Ms Lee, an illustrator in her 30s, said both her parents spend less than $1,000 a month, with the bulk of it going to groceries and phone bills, as the rent is just over $100.

The island's tranquil pace of life makes it easy to see why it is still a draw with visitors, who come during weekends or holidays to fish and cycle.

"The visitors are normally from the Philippines, Indonesia and China," said Mr Heng, 69. "Singaporeans normally only come to cycle during the weekends or during Qing Ming Festival to sweep their ancestors' tombs."

Mr Heng, who lives in Hougang, visits the island every few months to stay at his friend's house - located a stone's throw from the jetty.

"When I am here, I like to fish, cut the grass, clean the house or just sit here (outside the house)," he said. "Sometimes, I bring my brother or my kids."

According to him, the villagers - although greying - are still very healthy and mobile.

"You will be surprised because many of the villagers in their 90s can still walk faster than me," he said.

He added: "The villagers who are ill have all left the island."

So have the children of the villagers, who have moved to the mainland.

One such person is Ms Lee, who left because "it was too troublesome to keep travelling to and fro".

According to her, she belongs to the "last generation of Ubin-born children".

The Lasalle School of the Arts graduate added: "During my time, there were only around 10 children left."

When she visits her parents with her older brother and sister on weekends, Ms Lee makes sketches of the island in her black notebook.

She still holds many fond memories from her childhood, especially of cycling and exploring the island with her neighbours. "I like that it is less congested and the air is much fresher. I might retire here one day," she said.

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New Jurong gardens will retain heritage

Aw Cheng Wei The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Oct 14;

THE new Jurong Lake Gardens will not be developed in a rush, assured Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, promising to maintain the area's special character and heritage.

To drive this patient rejuvenation of a "people's garden" is a steering committee led by Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong, said Mr Tharman yesterday.

Its challenge, he said, is to retain the natural feel and history of the place, and yet inject life and enable many more Singaporeans to enjoy what he hopes will become "an endearing place".

"Jurong Lake Gardens and its surroundings will give a new face to our neighbourhood, something to be enjoyed by residents and Singaporeans everywhere on the island," he said, before joining over 700 families in an event to clean up Jurong Lake.

The Jurong Lake Gardens, which covers more than 70ha by combining the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden and Jurong Lake Park, will be completed in phases, said Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister and an MP for Jurong GRC.
The makeover was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally in August. It will begin with Jurong Lake Destination Park, which will be done by 2017.

Following that, Science Centre Singapore's new home near Chinese Garden MRT station is expected to be ready by 2020.

Mr Wong said his committee wants to put in place a long-term masterplan that will guide development in Jurong Lake District for many years. "This is not a typical (Urban Redevelopment Authority) planning committee. We should look at it more broadly."

This is especially since the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail terminus might be built in Jurong East, and Pandan Reservoir could also be integrated into the area, he said.

An example which the committee - which will be supported by the URA - can learn from is Marina Bay, said Mr Wong.

"If you looked at what we did for Marina Bay, it went on for a number of years... We had a vision and we worked very hard to make the plans happen," he said.

The 15 members in the new committee will come from the Government, the private sector and the community.

"We deliberately put together people with a range of expertise in design, urban planning... as well as representatives from the local community," said Mr Wong, who is an MP for West Coast GRC, which is adjacent to Jurong GRC where the gardens are situated.

The members include Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo; Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee; Nature Society president Shawn Lum; Centre for Liveable Cities executive director Khoo Teng Chye; and Taman Jurong Citizens Consultative Committee chairman Goh Peng Tong.

They will look at ideas and possibilities, gather feedback before the plans are finalised, and also put on roadshows.

"We will certainly want to hear from Singaporeans (on) what they would like to see for Jurong Lake District," said Mr Wong, referring to the plans as a national project.

Mr Habibui Hasim Matbar, 42, who was cleaning up the lake with his seven-year-old son yesterday, said his family, who lives in Boon Lay, is looking forward to the changes. "My family comes here about two or three times a month, and we are very excited," said the Keppel Shipyard project manager.

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Egg prices continue to rise after suspension of third Malaysian farm

KELLY NG Today Online 21 Oct 14;

The prices of fresh eggs here have continued to rise as the supply shortfall widens, after another farm in Malaysia was suspended last month — the third in six months — from exporting eggs to Singapore.

This is so despite the three suspended farms accounting for less than 8 per cent of Singapore’s total supply of 1.68 billion eggs last year. In the past three weeks alone, a few supermarket chains have raised the prices of eggs several times.

School canteen vendor Margaret Tan, 60, who usually buys eggs from Sheng Siong, said a box of 30 eggs now sets her back S$5.95, up from S$5.60 last week and S$4.30 last month.

At NTUC FairPrice stores, fresh eggs now cost between S$1.95 and S$5.70 for a pack, up from between S$1.90 and S$5.55 at the end of last month.

A FairPrice spokesperson said prices of eggs had increased by about 12 per cent over the past six-and-a-half months for “various reasons such as reductions in supply and economic conditions”.

Egg prices at Giant have also increased by about 4 to 7 per cent in the past three to four months, said a Dairy Farm Group spokesperson.

Last month, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) suspended Charoen Pokphand Jaya farm after its eggs had been found to contain Salmonella Enteritidis — a bacterium that causes food poisoning. The two other farms, Chong Ne Nam and Teo Seng Farm 8, were suspended in March and July, respectively.

Singapore imported about three-quarters of its eggs from Malaysia last year, with the rest produced locally. There are currently 20 Malaysian chicken layer farms approved by the AVA.

Mr Tan Lau Huah, chairman of the Eggs Import/Export Trading Association, said prices first took flight around August, after the second farm was suspended, and had risen thrice since.

Wholesale prices are now at a record high of almost S$2.40 per dozen.

“We face higher costs from our Malaysian suppliers and demand has risen because of festivities this month, so we have no choice but to raise prices,” he said.

Mr Tan expects prices to remain unchanged for the next two weeks as demand is likely to subside only after Deepavali. KELLY NG

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Best of our wild blogs: 20 Oct 14

What is AVA doing about dead farm fishes being dumped into the water?
from wild shores of singapore

Dead fish checks: Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Buloh
from wild shores of singapore

Dead fishes at West Coast Park Marsh Garden
from wild shores of singapore

Pied Pilferers On The Wrong Side Of The Tracks
from Winging It

Black and Yellow Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa aestuans) (?) @ Seletar West
from Monday Morgue

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A hazy start to the week: 3-hr PSI crosses 'unhealthy' range at 8am

Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Hazy conditions continued throughout the night into the early morning on Monday (Oct 20), with the 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading crossing into the ‘unhealthy’ range at 8am at 106.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the hazy conditions hovered in the high-end of the ‘moderate’ range throughout the night with the lowest point at 65 at 1am and 2am.

Singapore's PSI peaks at 113 on Sunday
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The haze returned to Singapore on Sunday (Oct 19), as the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) crossed over to the unhealthy range at 11am with a reading of 104. It climbed to a high of 113 at 3pm before dropping to 70 at 9pm.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the haze was likely due to smoke from Sumatra, blown in by prevailing winds. It said there were 14 hotspots detected on Sunday in Sumatra, and 126 in Kalimantan. It said the low hotspot count for Sumatra was due to partial satellite coverage and cloud cover.

NEA added that hazy conditions are expected to persist overnight. For Monday, light prevailing winds are expected and there may be occasional haze. Thundery showers are expected in the late morning and early afternoon.

The 24-hour PSI is likely to hover between the high end of the moderate range and the low end of the unhealthy range. The agency advised healthy people to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.

The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise such activities, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid such activities.

Those who are not feeling well, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.
- CNA/ir

3-hour PSI reading reaches unhealthy range with 113
Today Online 20 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — After a brief respite last night the haze has returned in force this morning (Oct 20), with the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading hitting 113 as of 9am, a figure in the unhealthy range.

Air quality had been gradually deteriorating since 1am this morning, culminating in the current high, according to National Environment Agency figures.

The 24-hour PSI for today is expected to remain in the high end of the moderate range and the low end of the unhealthy range. The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading was over 100 for a good part of yesterday afternoon, reaching a peak of 113 at 3pm.

Any reading over 100 up to 200 is considered in the unhealthy range. The elderly, pregnant women and children are advised to minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid such exertion altogether.

Haze returns, with PSI crossing over to unhealthy range
Channel NewsAsia 19 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The haze returned on Sunday (Oct 19), likely due to smoke haze from Sumatra.

The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) crossed over to the unhealthy range at 11am - with a reading of 104. It climbed to 106 at 12pm, and 110 at 1pm.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) expects the haze to stay for the rest of Sunday, with the overall 24 hour PSI likely to hover in the high end of the moderate range and the low end of the unhealthy range.

It said conditions may improve, as thundery showers are expected in the afternoon.
- CNA/by

3-hour PSI hits high of 113 at 3pm
Today Online 19 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit 113 today (Oct 19) as of 3pm, in the unhealthy range.

Air quality gradually deteriorated over last night and this morning, leading to the peak at 3pm. Since then, the number has eased to 75 as at 8pm.

The National Environment Agency’s (NEA) daily haze situation update as of noon today states that haziness is expected to persist in the high end of the moderate range and low end of the unhealthy range for the rest of the day, with conditions "likely due to smoke haze from Sumatra, blown in by the prevailing winds".

Thundery showers are forecast in the afternoon for Singapore, and this may provide some relief from the hazy conditions.

A PSI reading of 101 to 200 falls within the unhealthy range, while a 51 to 100 reading is considered moderate.

The health impact of haze is dependent on one’s health status, the PSI level, and the length and intensity of outdoor activity. Reducing outdoor activities and physical exertion can help limit the ill effects from haze exposure.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, the NEA said healthy persons should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.

Three-hour PSI reaches 113 at 9am, eases in the afternoon
Today Online 20 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — There may be occasional slight haze tomorrow (Oct 21), the National Environmental Agency (NEA) said, as hazy conditions experienced yesterday eased at around noon today.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is expected to be in the high-end of the moderate range and low-end of the unhealthy range, said the NEA. Thundery showers are expected in the late morning and early afternoon.

Today, smoke haze was visible in eastern Kalimantan and southern Sumatra. The total number of hotspots detected in Sumatra and Kalimantan today was 48 and 171 respectively.

The three-hour PSI peaked at 113 at 9am, and based on the three-hour PSI reading, air quality was unhealthy between 8am and 11am.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, the NEA advised healthy people to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.

The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.

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Best of our wild blogs: 18-19 Oct 14

Ubin Symposium: “Honouring the Past, Treasuring the Present, Shaping the Future”
from wild shores of singapore

Vibrio in our waters, so avoid exposure of broken skin to seawater
from Otterman speaks

Exciting visit to Sisters’ Island Marine Park
from My Nature Experiences

Life History of the Malay Baron
from Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Venus Drive (17 Oct 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Waterhen preening and sunning
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Prices of fish sold at Jurong Fish Port slashed by at least 70%

Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The price of some fish has fallen by almost 70 per cent at Jurong Fish Port over the past few days.

While the fish are said to be fresh, they can only be sold at lower prices as they are not full-grown fish. These fish were saved from dying in the recent spate of low oxygen levels at the Lim Chu Kang fisheries, possibly due to the warm weather.

The fish like pomfret, milkfish and black mullet, were kept fresh in ice and sent for sale.

About 300 to 350 kilogrammes of silver pomfrets are sold on a daily basis. However, on Tuesday (Oct 14), almost 3,500 kilogrammes of silver pomfrets were on sale.

According to some suppliers, silver pomfrets are usually sold for S$7 per kilogramme, but due to the excess supply in the past few days, they are now selling at between 50 cents and S$2 - for the first time this year.

- CNA/xk

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Pulau Ubin offers more than a nature trek, say experts at symposium

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 18 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Pulau Ubin is known for its rustic charm, rich biodiversity and greenery, but nature and heritage experts at a discussion said the island has more to offer.

The experts were speaking at the first Pulau Ubin Symposium, which was organised by the Ministry of National Development (MND) to raise awareness of the heritage and biodiversity of the island. About 150 members of the public, including those from nature groups, turned up at the session on Saturday (Oct 18).

Participants at the symposium said the island, which is frequented by cyclists and nature lovers, offers more than just a nature trek. Some of the ideas raised to preserve and enhance Pulau Ubin include having a heritage trail for its temples and shrines, a history tour of the island's granite quarries and a home stay at one of the old village houses.

The symposium is part of the larger Ubin Project, an on-going initiative which was started in March by MND to collect the public’s views on how to maintain and improve the island. But some participants are concerned about how such plans will affect the island. "What frightens me most is the attempt to try to be everything to everyone. We don't want a monster like Sentosa,” said a volunteer at Chek Jawa.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said: "If you don't step in sensitively, intervene gently, it will be an empty island. It will be a green island, of course - for those of us who love nature, happy to see forests re-generating, covering what used to be farms, what used to be quarry sites. But it is more than just that. Ubin is a lot more.

“There is a lifestyle, there is a history, there is an existing community, and values with which people used to interact with each other that is so invaluable and ephemeral, that can be lost if we are not careful. So we don't want it to be an empty island, we don't want it to be a museum, we don't want it to be just a nature area. It is so much more."

Mr Lee said he met the island's residents recently, and the issue of continuity and succession was also raised by them. He said the islanders have also requested for more amenities such as food and beverage outlets and medical facilities. “Visitors come on certain days, they find nothing to eat, they go back early and the islanders lose the business. And the islanders themselves, sometimes they have nothing to eat as well. So they have asked, can we have more small cafes, or kopitiams on the island," Mr Lee said.

- CNA/nd

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The catch that wiggled its way to Facebook fame

Danson Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Oct 14;

Angler Ramlan Saim (right) was settling down at one of his usual fishing spots off Pulau Ubin late last month when he reeled in a bunch of seaweed.

At least, he thought that was what it was. But the tangled mess started wiggling about and it seemed the assistant project manager had caught a strange octopus-like creature with more than 100 arms.

"I know that area has a lot of seaweed, so I thought that was what I had hooked," he told The Straits Times. "But then when I put it in the boat, it started to move like an alien."

Mr Ramlan, 53, released the creature but not before taking a video of it which he posted on Facebook.

It went on to capture global attention, attracting more than eight million views and almost 130,000 shares.

Like Mr Ramlan, many Facebook users - some as far away as Germany and the United States - expressed their shock at the catch, calling it "gross" and "creepy".

It has since been identified as a basket star - a distant relative of the starfish. According to Wild Singapore, only one species of basket star - Euryale aspersa - is listed in local waters. The creature has five arms, each split into more dexterous "branchlets".

British newspapers The Daily Express, Daily Mail and Metro had quoted a Mr Ong Han Boon, 54, as claiming he had caught the basket star off Sentosa. But the photo accompanying many of the stories in fact showed Mr Ramlan's post.

Mr Ramlan has since clarified that it was he who hooked the bizarre catch, adding that only reporters from The Straits Times had contacted him.

He is not bothered that Mr Ong was credited. "He must have been one of the people that shared the video, and they thought he was the fisherman that caught it," said Mr Ramlan, who was surprised at the attention his video has received.

"All of a sudden, I had a lot of friend requests from foreigners. I thought I was getting spammed."

Mr Ramlan said the basket star was the only catch of his fishing trip that Sept 27.

He added: "My wife is the lucky one - she caught a baby grouper that day."

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Oil spill exercise held to test response capabilities

Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: A multi-agency joint oil spill exercise to test Singapore's readiness to respond effectively to oil spills at sea was held on Friday (Oct 17) morning, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced in a media release. The exercise, code-named JOSE 2014, was held from 9am to 1.30pm.

The exercise involved a scenario where a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), named "Blue Moon", was discharging her oil at Shell Bukom Single-Buoy Mooring (SBM) when one of the sub-sea hoses located at the mooring ruptured. About 6,000 tonnes of light crude oil was spilled into the sea. The Master of the VLCC immediately reported the incident to MPA and requested for assistance, according to the release.

The spill response teams then deployed equipment such as oil containment booms around the VLCC and the SBM to prevent further escape of the oil, as well as the recovery of oil by specialised skimmers. MPA also deployed 16 anti-pollution craft and an aircraft fitted with an aerial dispersant spraying system to combat the spill, the release stated.

About 180 personnel from 19 agencies participated in the exercise. These include:

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA)
Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA)
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)
National Environment Agency (NEA)
National Parks Board (NParks)
Police Coast Guard (PCG)
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)
Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC)
Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF)
Singapore Police Force (SPF)
Ministry of Transport (MOT)
Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd. (SEPPL)
Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL)
Singapore Oil Spill Response Centre (SOSRC)
Singapore Petroleum Company Limited (Pulau Sebarok)
Singapore Salvage Engineers Pte Ltd (SSE)
Tankstore (Pulau Busing Terminal)
Vopak Terminals Singapore Pte Ltd (Pulau Sebarok)

Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive, MPA said, “As the world's top bunkering port and a major oil refining centre, it is important for Singapore to remain vigilant and prepared in the event of a marine pollution incident."

The exercise was held in conjunction with the 18th Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON) hosted by MPA, the release said.

- CNA/dl

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Singapore may release sterile mozzies to combat dengue

Salma Khalik The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE - If the males shoot blanks, female mosquitoes will not be able to create new dengue-spreaders.

That is why Singapore could be releasing millions of sterile male mosquitoes here, if field studies are successful, say experts who have backed the plan.

The special mosquitoes have been genetically modified to contain a form of bacteria that makes them incapable of fertilising eggs. They also cannot spread dengue and are harmless to people.

These special mosquitoes will compete with virile males for mates and hopefully decimate the Aedes mosquito population, which this year alone has landed thousands of people in hospital, killing three.

The National Environment Agency, which tasked a panel with studying the use of the Wolbachia bacteria to fight dengue, yesterday said it will review the details of its recommendations.

It will also continue working with experts and stakeholders to develop the framework for the safe and effective adoption of the technology. The bacteria is found in many insects but not the dengue- spreading Aedes mosquito.

Panel member Ary Hoffmann, from the departments of zoology and genetics at Australia's University of Melbourne, explained that female mosquitoes breeding with the sterile males will lay eggs that will not hatch, thus reducing the mosquito population.

Dengue, which is endemic in the region, has infected more than 16,000 people in Singapore this year. Roughly one in five patients diagnosed with the disease ends up in hospital, adding to the bed crunch.

Work on genetically modifying the Aedes mosquito has been going on for almost a decade, with five countries - Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia - doing field tests.

Another panel member, epidemiologist Duane Gubler from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, said that releasing the new mosquitoes would not harm people or the environment.

Professor Hoffmann estimates that Singapore has between 250,000 and 500,000 male Aedes mosquitoes. For the plan to be effective, five times those numbers of sterile males will have to be released - and more than once.

But he noted that the country could concentrate on dengue hot spots rather than flooding the whole country at one go.

Professor Gubler stressed that the Wolbachia bacteria is not a magic bullet. Other methods such as removing water that allows breeding must continue, he said.

Fight dengue with mozzies carrying Wolbachia, say experts
Today Online 18 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — A panel of experts has recommended that Singapore conduct studies involving the release of male Aedes mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia bacteria into the field, to combat the dengue problem.

The aim is to get these Wolbachia-carrying males to mate with female Aedes mosquitoes, causing them to produce eggs that do not hatch and, ultimately, clamp down on the Aedes population and dengue transmission.

In June, the NEA appointed experts from Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to form a Dengue Expert Advisory Panel, to look into the use of biological control methods to limit the spread of dengue.

While the use of the bacteria has been tested in the laboratory by the NEA’s Environmental Health Institute, it has not been tested in the field. The NEA stated yesterday that the panel concluded that the proposed approach holds promise, and field trials are needed to prove its feasibility and effectiveness.

“Wolbachia-carrying Aedes has been released in several places, such as Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam, with no negative impact on public health and ecology. This is consistent with our knowledge and assessment. Wolbachia provides a safe strategy, because the bacteria are naturally present in a large fraction of insects,” said Professor Ary Hoffmann, an expert on Wolbachia-insect interaction from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Male mosquitoes also do not bite or transmit disease.

The NEA said it would review the recommendations and continue working with experts and stakeholders to develop the framework for the safe and effective adoption of Wolbachia technology. It also noted that the panel said the implementation of new tools should not preclude continuation of the ongoing surveillance and mosquito control efforts.

Professor Duane Gubler, chairman of the Dengue Expert Advisory Panel, and founding director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, added: “The approach with Wolbachia-carrying Aedes males will likely be most effective when used in combination with other methods of control such as the current community-based removal of potential breeding habitats and a vaccine when available.”

Singapore is in the middle of a dengue epidemic, with 16,263 dengue cases this year so far. More than 22,000 cases were reported last year.

Jurong West on dengue alert after 12 new cases in two weeks
Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: In just the past two weeks, 12 new dengue cases have been reported at Jurong West Street 52 and Corporation Road.

This brings the total number of cases there to 36 - making it the biggest dengue cluster.

As of last Friday (Oct 17), 26 cases were reported at Jurong West Street 52, of which 14 came from Block 518. Ten more cases were reported at Corporation Road.

Some residents suspect that an abandoned police station in the vicinity could have become a mosquito breeding ground. "There are a lot of weeds growing in the drain next to the carpark and I believe it's waterlogged but we have no way of getting in to take a look. So, I hope the relevant authorities will come and clear it," said a resident.

Residents also expressed their concern over the rise in the number of cases.

- CNA/ec

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