Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jan 11

Sun 13 Feb 2011: 7.00am - The Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk from habitatnews

2 Feb is World Wetlands Day 2011
from wild shores of singapore

Will Chek Jawa survive the incessant rain?
from wild shores of singapore

Not your usual frog
from The annotated budak

Antics of a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Monday Morgue: 31st January 2011
from The Lazy Lizard's Tales

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Call to keep shark's fin off your Chinese New Year dinner plate

Esther Ng Today Online 31 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE -No shark's fin on your Lunar New Year menu?

A local marine conservation group, Project: FIN, has launched a campaign on social networking site, Facebook, asking people to change their profile picture to one which says: Celebrate Chinese New Year with no shark's fin soup.

Since the launch last Wednesday, the group claims the campaign has spread globally, attracting more than 20 organisations such as Shark Rescue from the United States and the Hong Kong Shark Foundation.

Project: FIN founder Jennifer Lee told MediaCorp: "Some restaurants have put baby shark's fins on the menu and that's very worrying because adult shark population is declining due to increased demand for shark's fin in Asia."

The depletion of stock is compounded as sharks take many years to mature and produce few young.

This means that their populations are slow to recover once over-fished.

WWF Singapore, an environmental group, noted on its website that Singapore was the second largest shark fin trading nation and was not aware of any shark fisheries that were sustainably managed.

"Given the critical situation facing our sharks, we recommend for the Singapore public to stop consumption of shark's fin and other shark products," it said.

But restaurateurs told MediaCorp that they would still continue to serve shark's fin as long as there was a demand for it.

Seafood chain Jumbo group's general manager Ang Kiam Meng, who is also the president of Restaurant Association of Singapore, said: "It's a question of demand and supply and people are looking forward to eating the dish this (Lunar) New Year."

He told MediaCorp that several customers had walked out of Singapore Seafood Republic - a combined venture between The Jumbo Group, Palm Beach, Tung Lok and Seafood International restaurants at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) - when they learnt that shark's fin was not served.

RWS is one of the resorts in the world with restaurants that do not serve shark's fin.

Project: FIN hopes that with more education and awareness, more people would give up eating shark's fin.

Said Ms Lee: "As we progress with time, it is important that people recognise that the importance of cultural practices should not supercede the importance of maintaining sustainability, as the Earth's resources are not inexhaustible."

Don't eat shark's fin, urges group
Esther Ng Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE: A local marine conservation group, Project: FIN, has launched a campaign on social networking site Facebook, asking to people to change their profile picture to one which says: Celebrate Chinese New Year with no shark fin soup.

Since the launch last Wednesday, the group claims the campaign has spread globally, attracting more than 20 organisations such as Shark Rescue from the United States and the Hong Kong Shark Foundation.

Project: FIN founder Jennifer Lee told MediaCorp: "Some restaurants have put baby shark's fins on the menu and that's very worrying because adult shark population is declining due to increased demand for shark's fin in Asia".

The depletion of stock is compounded as sharks take many years to mature and produce few young.

This means that their populations are slow to recover once overfished.

WWF Singapore, an environmental group, noted on its website that Singapore was the second largest shark fin trading nation and was not aware of any shark fisheries that were sustainably managed.

"Given the critical situation facing our sharks, we recommend for the Singapore public to stop consumption of shark fin and other shark products," it said.

But restauranteurs told MediaCorp they would still continue to serve shark's fin as long as there was a demand for it.

Jumbo group's general manager Ang Kiam Meng, who is also the president of Restaurant Association of Singapore, said: "It's a question of demand and supply and people are looking forward to eating the dish this New Year".

He told MediaCorp that several customers had walked out of Singapore Seafood Republic - a combined venture among The Jumbo Group, Palm Beach, Tung Lok and Seafood International restaurants at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) - when they learnt that shark's fin was not served.

RWS is one of the resorts in the world with restaurants that do not serve shark's fin.

Project: FIN said it hopes that with more education and awareness, more people would give up eating shark's fin.

Said Ms Lee: "As we progress with time, it is important that people recognise that the importance of cultural practices should not supercede the importance of maintaining sustainability, as the Earth's resources are not inexhaustible".


More about the Facebook campaign

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Rain in Singapore causes flash floods in the east

Straits Times 31 Jan 11;

HEAVY rain drenched most of the island yesterday, causing flash floods in at least five areas, mostly in the east.

National water agency PUB said it received reports of floods on the Tampines Expressway slip road at Tampines Avenue 12 and near the Punggol exit, Airport Boulevard, one stretch of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 and Changi Village.

Upon checking these sites, its officers found localised chokes in the drainage along Airport Boulevard, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 and in Changi Village. Lanes along Airport Boulevard and at the junction of Tampines avenues 9 and 12 had to be closed for one to two hours.

At Block 384A in Tampines Street 32, a multi-storey carpark that was shin-deep in water, workers were pumping out water from its basement level.

Although the rain yesterday was islandwide, the eastern area around Changi and Pulau Ubin was the wettest. As at 7.50pm yesterday, 200.8mm of rain had pelted down on Pulau Ubin, and 178mm in Changi.

The usual 'hot spots' - Bukit Timah and Upper Thomson - were spared from floods yesterday, as was Orchard Road, parts of which went under water twice in the middle of last year.

Bridge under construction at Punggol The Waterway collapses

A partially completed bridge at the construction site opposite his house collapsed under the weight of rainwater on Sunday morning, reported The Straits Times Reader Simon Low who took and sent in a picture from his flat in Block 638b Punggol Drive.

In an email report to The Straits Times website, Mr Low wrote: 'This morning, I noticed part of the bridge had collapsed due to the heavy rain.

'I believe the bridge also acted as a dam, but the water overflowed (from the right side) the partially built bridge, and pushed the bridge away.

'The banks of the waterway on the right side of the bridge overflowed due to this morning's heavy rain. I wonder whether it will happen again once the waterway is fully completed.'

Wet weekend
Today Online 31 Jan 11;

Incessant rain over the weekend caused flooding in many places in the eastern and north-eastern areas of the city.

Singapore's Meteorological Services Division said widespread moderate to heavy rain was expected to end yesterday.

According to PUB, flash floods occurred yesterday in several areas, including Airport Boulevard, Changi Village, the slip road near Tampines Avenue 12, TPE slip road near the Punggol exit and Ang Mo Kio Ave 5 leading to Buangkok Green industrial Park. The rain also flooded the basement of a multi-storey carpark at Tampines Street 32.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said current conditions were not expected to last until the Chinese New Year period this week. However, it has forecast short duration showers over the holidays.

The weather forecast for next week will be released today, the NEA said.

Flash floods in several areas
Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE: The PUB said flash floods had occurred in several areas on Sunday, amid continued widespread moderate to heavy rain.

These areas included Airport Boulevard, Changi Village, the slip road near Tampines Avenue 12, the TPE slip road near the Punggol exit, and Ang Mo Kio Ave 5, leading to Buangkok Green industrial Park.

The Singapore's Meteorological Services Division said the rain was expected to continue till midnight.

PUB said earlier that flash floods may occur in low-lying areas in the event of heavy rain.


Expect a wet CNY weekend
Gerrard Lai my paper AsiaOne 31 Jan 11;

REMEMBER to take along an umbrella when you make your Chinese New Year rounds later this week.

Wet weather over the weekend is expected to continue into the week, with "short-duration showers" forecast in the afternoons from tomorrow to Friday, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday.

Heavy rain last Saturday caused flooding in several parts of Singapore, including Tampines, Punggol and Changi Village, said national water agency PUB.

The rain also caused the temporary closure of some roads. Two of four lanes of Airport Boulevard Road, leading to the airport, were closed for less than two hours, police said.

As traffic was light at the time of the road closure, vehicle movement was largely unaffected, said a police spokesman.

Other roads affected by the flood included the slip road leading to Tampines Expressway (TPE) near Tampines Avenue 12, as well as Punggol Road near the Punggol exit along the TPE.

Elsewhere, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 and Airport Boulevard Road were also flooded for between 10 minutes and an hour, said PUB.

Explaining the cause of the floods, PUB officers told my paper that the heavy rain had swept fallen leaves, among other things, into the grating of drain inlets by the roads. This prevents the rainwater from flowing into the drains.

Meanwhile, several residents who had parked their vehicles at the basement level of a multi- storey carpark at Block 384A, Tampines Street 32, woke up to find their set of wheels sitting in water yesterday morning.

The carpark basement was flooded as early as 8pm last Saturday and the water level "surged to as high as mid-shin level", said technician Hadi Ahmad, 54.

Another resident, Mr Mohamad Fitri, could not use his motorbike yesterday, as it was parked in the basement.

Said the 45-year-old aircraft technician: "I hope to retrieve my bike...after the water subsides."

However, he could still use his car which was parked at a higher level of the carpark.

In its response to my paper queries, NEA said that the region has been "experiencing the effects of a North-east Monsoon surge" for the past few days.

This refers to a surge of cold air from an intense high-pressure area over Northern China, which results in a strengthening of winds over the region, said NEA.

That brings "widespread moderate to heavy rain and occasionally windy conditions to Singapore", the agency said.

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Rain in Johor: Three rivers burst their banks

The flood that hit Labis this time has been described by some residents as among the worst in the last few years, and worse than the flood in 2006.

Water levels in Johor rivers up, with three bursting their banks
Austin Camoens and Sharin Shaik The Star 31 Jan 11;

JOHOR BARU: Water levels in Johor rivers are rising dangerously, raising fears of a repeat of the 2006 floods that left the state inundated and with damages worth millions in its wake.

The Meteorological Department warned late Saturday afternoon of heavy rain over Muar, Ledang, Segamat, Kluang, Batu Pahat, Mersing, Kota Tinggi, Kulaijaya, here and in the Pontian areas.

According to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (DID) online river level data, three in Johor burst their banks yesterday. Sungai Muar, Sungai Benut and Sungai Mengkibol overflowed at 5.50pm.

However, if the downpour continued, the department warned that five more rivers – Sungai Bekok, Sungai Lenik, Sungai Senggarang, Sungai Johor and Sungai Plentong – would also overflow today.

DID deputy director-general Datuk KJ Abraham said the department was monitoring the river levels and was prepared for any eventuality.

“Every district has an office that will set up an evacuation centre to help the affected in the event of a flood,” he said.

In Kota Tinggi, four families from Kampung Sungai Berangan were evacuated at 6am yesterday as the water level at Sungai Berangan rose to a dangerous level.

In Pasir Gudang, more than 20 houses were knee-deep in water as the drainage system there could not cope with the increase in water near Taman Kota Puteri.

The Pasir Gudang highway was flooded and caused a massive jam while 100m of the Masai Lama-Kong Kong road, just before the Octville Golf Resort in Seri Alam, was impassable to vehicles.

Public Advised Not To Use Labis-Segamat Road
Bernama 30 Jan 11;

LABIS, Jan 30 (Bernama) -- The public is advised not to use the Labis-Segamat Road, especially the bridge at Kampung Lembah Bakti, Jalan Taman Tenang, here, due to the swift current.

According to a statement from the Johor National Security Council emailed to Bernama Sunday, the flood water current in the area was swift and the road and bridge were therefore not passable to traffic.

Labis, including the Tenang state constituency which was having a by-election today, was hit by flood following incessant rain since early Sunday.

Rain, sometimes heavy interspersed with drizzles, has been pouring since six days ago, causing flooding in other areas of Johor like Segamat, Ayer Hitam and Yong Peng.

The flood that hit Labis this time has been described by some residents as among the worst in the last few years, and worse than the flood in 2006.


KTM Intercity Train Services To East Coast And South Disrupted By Floods
Bernama 30 Jan 11;

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 (Bernama) -- Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Intercity train services to the East Coast and South have been disrupted by floods and landslide caused by heavy rain.

KTM Berhad in a statement here Sunday said train services involving Senandung Sutera (Singapore-Kuala Lumpur Sentral), Senandung Sutera (Kuala Lumpur Sentral-Singapore), Senandung Timuran (Singapore-Tumpat) and Senandung Timuran (Tumpat-Singapore) have been cancelled.

For services involving Ekspres Wau (Kuala Lumpur Sentral-Tumpat), train services will start from Kuala Lipis to Tumpat and passengers from Kuala Lumpur Sentral to Kuala Lipis and back would be ferried by 13 buses.

The statement added that services to central and northern regions were not affected.

"Services to the East Coast and South had to be cancelled as a precaution to ensure safety of passengers as it would be risky to allow trains to use the tracks when submerged by flood waters," said the statement.

Passengers who bought tickets but were affected by the cancellation can either change their date of travel or reclaim the tickets that they had bought.

The public can contact the KTM services at 1-300-88-5862 for more details.


Johor floods: Two dead and over 37,000 evacuated
Nelson Benjamin The Star 31 Jan 11;

JOHOR BARU: Two people have died and 37,493 were evacuated to 200 centres statewide by 4pm Monday as continuous rain in the past few days flooded many parts of Johor.

Segamat, Johor Baru and Kluang were the worst-hit areas and the bad weather was expected to continue on Tuesday, said Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman on Monday.

All of Segamat is cut off by floodwaters. It is an island.

Police said no one can get in or out of the town as the roads to Muar, Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur are under water.

Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has disconnected electricity supply to Segamat. Its substations have been switched off as a safety precaution.

A TNB spokesman said Monday that it was a common procedure during a flood to prevent electrocution. The supply will be restores once the floodwaters ebb to a 'safe level'.

Roads in Labis town, which was flooded Sunday, are clearing but the outskirts are still submerged.

According to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (DID) online river level data, three in Johor burst their banks Sunday. Sungai Muar, Sungai Benut and Sungai Mengkibol overflowed.

With the downpour continuing, the department is closely watching five more rivers – Sungai Simpang Kiri at Sri Medan, Sungai Bekok, Sungai Johor at Rantau Panjang are at a dangerous level.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that rain-driven floods have disrupted Malaysian oil palm estates from transporting the vegetable oil to refineries and ports in key producing states of Sabah and Johor.

Planters said Monday that as much as 60,000 tonnes of crude palm oil heading to refineries in Sabah on Borneo island have been delayed as floods make it difficult for trucks to get through the estate roads, said two planters from the top producing state.

The transport delay to Malaysia's key palm oil export port of Pasir Gudang in Johor has slowed the transport and loading of cargoes, refiners said, according to Reuters.

Malaysia floods disrupt KTM train services
Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE: KTM train services between Singapore and Johor have stopped temporarily due to floods in Malaysia.

This was according to the KTM office in Johor.

MediaCorp understands that train services were disrupted since 3pm on Sunday.


Read more!

Industrial developments on Jurong Island

Jurong Aromatics complex to start building in March
Its US$1.56b finance package will be inked in mid-Feb
Ronnie Lim Business Times 31 Jan 11;

THE coming two months will see a couple of earlier-planned multi-billion dollar investments on Jurong Island finally fall into place.

Jurong Aromatics Corporation (JAC) is set to start construction of its US$2.4 billion aromatics complex in March, sources said, once its US$1.56 billion financing package is signed by the middle of February.

And Sembcorp - which has been contracted by JAC to supply it with steam, water and wastewater treatment services - is also set to sign off on a $900 million EPC deal with Alstom to expand its cogeneration capacity by some 800-megawatts this quarter, BT understands. This will double its cogen capacity to 1,615 MW, giving it economies of scale to better compete.

A source said that JAC has scheduled a debt package signing after the coming Lunar New Year holidays with 'some 11 banks, plus two Korean governmental groups' - with the latter being the Export-Import Bank of Korea and Korea Trade Insurance Corp.

This follows a roadshow last November which saw the JAC financing deal, jointly led by ING Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland, being fully subscribed to by apparently mainly European banks.

'Construction of the JAC complex will now start in March, with completion expected in 36 months,' the source added.

This means that the world-scale project - which will produce 1.5 million tonnes per annum of aromatics and 2.5 million tpa of transport fuels - will now come on-stream in early-2014. This is some three years later than it had earlier planned, as the project ran smack into the global credit crunch in 2009.

Sembcorp - which earlier indicated it would not build new capacity pending securing customers - now has the justification, with the JAC project steaming ahead, and Germany's Lanxess already building its synthetic rubber plant.

But as the genco's utilities deals with JAC and Lanxess are mainly for steam and wastewater treatment, Sembcorp will approach its expansion judiciously, and carry it out in two phases. 'The first 400 MW is expected to come on-stream end-2013, with the second coming later,' a source said, explaining that 'a 800MW expansion all at once will be too lumpy, especially given the many other power plants coming on at the same time'.

The 800MW cogen expansion is an addition to Sembcorp's announcement last August to build a $800 million multi-utilities complex next to an earlier-planned $40 million wastewater treatment plant at the island's Tembusu sector. The project, on a 5.3-hectare site, included initially a cogen plant producing 400MW of power and 200 tonnes per hour of steam.

The additional 400MW to be added will put Sembcorp on a stronger footing to compete with new power/utility plants coming up there.

China Huaneng-owned Tuas Power is currently building a $2 billion clean coal/biomass multi-utilities complex on Jurong Island to supply steam and cooling water to Lanxess, while on the mainland, it is also expanding its capacity to supply utilities to new investors like Renewable Energy Corporation and Neste Oil.

YTL-owned PowerSeraya has also entered the utilities game, having recently completed building 800 MW of new cogen capacity, while KepCorp is boosting its current 500MW of capacity in Tembusu to 1,300 MW. New player GMR is also building its new 800MW Island Power station there.

Defunct biodiesel plants get new lease of life
New owners recycle plants on Jurong Island to make other products, like chemicals
Ronnie Lim Business Times 31 Jan 11;

(SINGAPORE) A new wave of 'recycling' is taking place on Jurong Island.

Defunct first-generation (1-G) biodiesel plants - which became uneconomical when palm oil prices soared - are being revived as new owners upgrade them to make other products like chemicals used for oil and gas drilling.

The 'rejuvenation' of Northfield-based Stepan Company is the first of these. After acquiring Peter Cremer's 100,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) methyl ester plant in July last year, the American chemicals company is currently upgrading it and installing another fractionation column at the Singapore plant to potentially double its capacity to 200,000 tpa.

The plant's upgrading and expansion, scheduled for completion in February next year, will enable Stepan to produce surfactants used in oilfields. Stepan's surfactants are used in three major oilfield market segments, including drilling, production and stimulation. Methyl esters are for instance used as solvents in drilling fluids.

Another Jurong Island 1-G biodiesel plant which looks set to go the same route is the $130 million Jurong Island plant (once touted as the world's largest biodiesel facility) of Australian-owned Natural Fuel Pte Ltd. The plant which folded up in late-2009 is understood to have changed hands recently. But no details are available at this time.

President and CEO of Stepan, F Quinn Stepan Jr said at the time of its acquisition of Peter Cremer that: 'Methyl esters are a core building block of Stepan's surfactant business and the acquisition of this asset on Singapore's Jurong Island provides a great opportunity to reach our global customer base with methyl esters (ME) and value added derivatives.'

'Our plan is to install methyl ester fractionation capability on the site in order to supply our customers and our internal surfactant needs globally with fractionated methyl esters and derivatives made from tropical oils available in the region.'

The financial terms of the acquisition of the US$20 million plant - previously a joint venture involving Germany's Peter Kremer and Malaysia's Kulim Berhad - were not disclosed.

Stepan just over a week ago awarded a $14.6 million contract to Rotary Engineering to build a new four-storey 50,000 tpa (expandable to 100,000 tpa) fractionated ME plant and also upgrade the existing plant. The plant is expected to tap raw materials like palm oil and coconut from this region.

The early 1-G plants here like Natural Fuel and Peter Cremer, and a third plant belonging to Continental BioEnergy, essentially fell victim to soaring palm oil prices. Palm oil prices had tripled to US$1,400- plus a tonne by March 2008 from US$450 a tonne around 2005/06 when the Jurong Island plants first started.

Given also stiff competition from the many rival biodiesel plants in neighbouring palm oil producing countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore has been promoting more advanced 2-G plants, or second generation plants, with biofuels developed from non-edible or discarded plant parts.

Finland's Neste Oil which expects to ramp up its just-started $1.2 billion biodiesel plant at Tuas to full production by mid-year, exemplifies such 2-G technology.

Its 800,000 tpa Singapore plant - the largest in the world, with an identical new twin plant in Rotterdam starting up also around mid-year - produces biodiesel from 100 per cent renewable materials like palm oil and animal fat. Its advanced 2-G refineries allow Neste Oil to produce biodiesel from straight processing of the raw materials.

The Economic Development Board, in a background note to a recent tender for a consultant, said: 'EDB believes bio-based feedstocks could add a new dimension of chemical feedstock option on Jurong Island. The fast-growing bio-based chemicals industry would also create new economic opportunities for Singapore.'

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Sungei Whampoa undergoes $2.2m makeover with PUB project

Esther Ng Today Online 31 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE - Residents living at St George's Lane can now look forward to rain gardens and a canal with a more "natural" look from planters and three lookout decks dotting a 250-m stretch of Sungei Whampoa.

In this latest PUB Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters project, $2.2 million was spent on replacing upper parts of the concrete canal wall with natural rocks to courage plants to grow.

The canal now looks like a natural stream.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who officiated at the launch of the project yesterday, said: "So, now when we look out from our windows, the landscaping is beautiful - very different from the hard concrete that it used to be."

Another special feature of the project is rain gardens - pockets of depression with vegetation - that help filter and slow down the pace of run-off from paved areas and car parks from entering the drains.

Plants in the rain garden act to filter sediment in the run-off, improving the quality of water entering Sungei Whampoa.

Said Dr Yaacob: "Our water bodies do ot just store water or drain water - they have become places for family and community bonding."

St George's Lane resident Shanti Raja, 42, agreed: "These improvements are not only beautiful, but also good for the environment. Whenever I look at the surroundings, it makes me happy."

In the meantime, schools in the area like Hong Wen School will use the rain gardens as part of their outdoor learning while students from Bendemeer Secondary School's science and environment club will patrol this stretch of the river weekly.

Bendemeer's principal Goh Mee Mee added the school plans to launch a science-related project with PUB but details are being worked out.

The ABC Waters programme launched in 2006 has seen 13 projects completed to date, more recently, at Lower Seletar and Pandan reservoirs.

Projects due for completion this year include the second phase of the MacRitchie Reservoir makeover, Alexandra Canal and the Kallang River at Bishan Park. ESTHER NG

St George's Lane canal gets a makeover
Poon Chian Hui Straits Times 31 Jan 11;

WHENEVER Madam Hajijah Mohd, 62, peered out of the windows of her flat, she would be greeted with the unsightly view of a longkang, or drain canal.

Not anymore.

That area along St George's Lane at Sungei Whampoa has now been transformed into a garden full of shrubs and flowers.

'It is very beautiful; there is a very nice atmosphere here now,' said Madam Hajijah, who works part-time at a kindergarten. The mother of two has lived in the neighbourhood all her life.

Residents like her are set to enjoy the new community area centred on a humble - but beautified - canal.

The facelift of a 250m-long stretch of waterway from the Central Expressway to St George's Lane took 16 months - from June 2009 to September last year - and $2.2 million to complete.

It is part of national water agency PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters programme, which aims to transform Singapore's reservoirs and waterways into clean and beautiful streams, rivers and lakes.

The St George's Lane project boasts features such as gabions and two 'rain gardens'.

Gabions are wire cages filled with rocks that line the sides of the canal. This allows creeper plants to grow and cover the grey concrete walls of the canal.

Rain gardens are areas beside the canal planted with five selected plants. These plants filter and purify rainwater absorbed into the soil. As a result, the water that enters the canal is cleaner.

Rainwater that flows from nearby carparks and built-up areas will also get channelled into the rain gardens.

Speaking at the official opening ceremony yesterday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim urged the community to 'take over and own the project'. The MP for Jalan Besar GRC and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs was the guest of honour at the ceremony.

Grassroots leaders from Kolam Ayer St George West Residents' Committee and Whampoa McNair Residents' Committee are already looking into having morning exercises at the viewing deck and also patrolling the area to make sure it stays clean, he said.

Nearby schools are also offering their help to keep this new water feature in tip-top shape. Bendemeer Secondary School, for instance, will have students patrolling the area to pick up litter every week.

The ABC Waters programme, first launched in 2006, has already seen 13 projects completed so far. At least three more will be completed this year. They are the second phase of the MacRitchie Reservoir makeover, Alexandra Canal and Kallang River at Bishan Park.

Over 20 projects will be completed by next year under the first phase of the programme.

Read more!

Lakeside-Taman Jurong cycling path unveiled

Qiuyi Tan Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE: Cycling between Lakeside MRT station and Taman Jurong Town hub is now easier and safer, with a new dedicated cycling path.

The 1.4-kilometre path was completed and unveiled on Sunday morning by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

From Lakeside train station, the path runs parallel to Yuan Ching Road, along Jurong Lake Park and on to Taman Jurong Town hub.

This is the first completed stretch of the Taman Jurong cycling paths.

One resident said she welcomed the new cycling path, adding that she felt assured as her husband would frequently cycle to work.

Another added: "(The path) is quite cooling, and I don't need to cycle along the main road (anymore)".

When fully completed in 2012, Taman Jurong will have some 10-kilometres of cycling track connecting cyclists to the town hub, Lakeside and the Jurong Lake area.

Taman Jurong is one of seven HDB towns under the National Cycling Plan, which a $43 million plan to build cycling paths that will connect key amenities in residential towns.


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Malaysia: Photos of leopards raise need for more forest corridors

Ruben Sario The Star 31 Jan 11;

KOTA KINABALU: A sequence of 12 photographs showing a clouded leopard and her cub moving about in the lower Kinabatangan region in Sabah has strengthened calls among conservationists for the setting up of more wildlife forest corridors.

The photographs were captured last November by camera traps that were part of the Kinabatangan Carnivore Programme involving the Sabah Wildlife Department, conservation group Danau Girang Field Centre, French non-governmental organisation Hutan (that conducts conservation projects and research on orang utan) and WildCRU (the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which is part of the University of Oxford Department of Zoology).

Sabah Wildlife director Laurentius Ambu said pictures of the clouded leopard and its cub were captured in a narrow forest corridor between the Kinabatangan river and an oil palm plantation.

Hutan co-director Dr Marc Ancre­naz said the photographs showed that carnivores were still present in the Kinabatangan floodplain.

“The pictures show that these animals rely on forest corridors for moving around forest patches.

“As already shown for other species such as orang utan, gibbons, proboscis monkeys and elephants, these animals need corridors of forest for surviving in the Kinabatangan area.

“Without these corridors, species population will decline and become extinct.

“It is urgent for everybody to collaborate in order to create more corridors,” Dr Ancrenaz said.

Funding for the programme was started by American zoos in Houston, Columbus, Cincinnatti and Phoenix, as well as private donors from New York.

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Malaysia: Sermon route to saving tigers

Isabelle Lai The Star 31 Jan 11;

PETALING JAYA: WWF Malaysia is taking the religious route in its tiger conservation programme.

For starters, it has met several local imam in Gerik, Perak, to help them draft Friday sermons to address the issue because it found that most poachers and traders were Malays.

It also plans to have a campaign targeting consumers, who are mostly Chinese who value tiger parts for food and traditional medicine.

WWF Malaysia senior communications officer Sara Sukor said the first Friday sermon on tiger conservation was read out in Gerik last year.

Sara said a survey done in Terengganu in 2008, after a similar sermon was made on turtle conservation and egg consumption, showed encouraging results in that many had changed perceptions about the issue.

“It is an Islamic way of life not to abuse animals.

“Setting up snares to capture these animals constitutes animal abuse,” she said.

She added, however, many did not think that poaching and illegal wildlife trade had anything to do with Islamic teachings.

She said many seizures of wildlife parts had been made along the Gerik-Jeli highway, near the Thai border, since 2008.

“Poaching is a very serious issue in Gerik as the Belum-Temengor forest complex is located in Perak and is home to a huge variety of wildlife species,” she said.

Sara said last year, which was the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar, was a good year for tiger conservation efforts with increased public awareness and concerns.

She lauded the Government for passing the Wildlife Conservation Act, which came into effect last December.

She also said that there had been many wildlife-related cases that were brought to public attention, including the high-profile Anson Wong case.

“The increased public awareness will help our ongoing efforts this year as we continue with our outreach programmes with Mycat,” she said, referring to the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers involving WWF Malaysia, the Malaysian Nature Society, Traffic South-East Asia and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Malaysia was one of the 13 tiger-range countries that took part in the Tiger Summit last year and signed a declaration to double the number of tigers in their respective countries by 2022.

Read more!

Malaysia: Launch of 'genetically-cultured rice padi with purpose-designed herbicide'

No 'padi angin' means more rice
By Roy See Wei Zhi New Straits Times 31 Jan 11;

SERDANG: The red menace that has plagued the padi industry for more than 20 years, resulting in almost RM100 million in losses per planting season, will cease to be a problem with innovative technology.

A padi lookalike, the weedy rice (padi angin) has had a stranglehold on cultivated varieties by growing alongside them and competing for nutrients and space.

But no more. The Clearfield Production System (CPS) will see the cultivation of two special varieties of padi called MR220-CL1 and MR220-CL2.

These new varieties are tolerant to a potent herbicide called imidazolinone that will not allow the weedy rice to even sprout.

This effectively eradicates the padi angin which has no commercial value and has been a scourge to farmers in the peninsula for more than two decades.

Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) principal research officer Dr Azmi Man said previously, there had been no truly effective way of controlling these noxious weeds.

"The old ways of fighting these weeds are either too costly or labour- intensive.

"It also has secondary effects that are detrimental to the main crop.

"Now, with the CPS, farmers finally have a cheap and easy solution to deal with the weedy rice that does not damage the cultivated padi."

Field trials have shown that the new varieties of padi produce up to 20 per cent more yield than standard padi because the improved method eliminates weedy rice from competing for nutrients.

The new padi also has a shorter maturation period of 105 and 100 days, respectively, compared with the 110 days for unaltered MR220.

With the CPS, since the new padi can be grown and harvested faster, Azmi believed the national average for padi yields can be increased from 4.4 tonnes to 6.5 tonnes per hectare.

This means that for every RM1 a farmer invests, he would get RM2.50 in returns, said Azmi.

"This will bring our country one step closer to being self-sufficient in terms of rice production. It also relieves the stress of food-shortage problems."

A study conducted in 2004 showed that more than RM90 million was lost per season because padi cannot be harvested due to weedy rice infestation.

Azmi said he had seen whole padi fields go to waste because they could not be harvested as the weedy rice had taken over completely.

CPS is the product of a joint-venture project which started in 2003, between Mardi and BASF Sdn Bhd.

It is a padi-growing method that combines the use of genetically-cultured padi, together with a purpose-designed herbicide from BASF.

BASF crop protection division senior manager T. George Varghese said because BASF was in charge of distribution, they would be selling both the padi seeds and herbicide as an easy-to-use package.

"We will run training sessions and hold demonstrations for farmers to learn how to use the CPS."

Read more!

Growing rice output vital for Asia

Michael Richardson, for the Straits Times 31 Jan 11;

IS ASIA on the edge of another food supply crisis that will stoke inflation, protection and political unrest?

Some recent developments suggest that it is. Many Asian countries, including China, India and Indonesia, are battling to curb soaring food prices.

Bad weather, rising affluence, increasing demand for grain-intensive meat and under-investment in agriculture have contributed to the rises. Low interest rates may also play a part, as investors use cheap money to trade in farm and energy commodities, driving prices higher.

If unchecked, this could hit consumer spending in Asia, which is leading the revival of the global economy. France, as chair of the Group of 20 leading economies this year, considers it a priority to have a collective response to 'excessive volatility' in food and energy prices.

Rising food costs have raised fears of a repeat of the global spiral in 2007 and 2008, when prices of rice and wheat, Asia's largest staple food items, rose sharply. Rice prices trebled in the six months to May 2008, prompting some exporting countries to restrict overseas sales to ensure there was enough for home consumption.

Rice is a key political barometer in the developing world, where it is the staple of more than three billion people, or over half the planet's population. About 90 per cent of rice is grown in Asia. When rice prices trebled in 2008, the World Bank estimated that an additional 100 million people were pushed into poverty.

Populous Bangladesh and Indonesia are importing substantial amounts of rice to build their stockpiles. Indonesia surprised the market last week by buying 820,000 tonnes of rice from Thailand, four times the volume initially sought, as it raced to complete a total order of 1.5 million tonnes by the end of next month.

The situation prompted the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to issue a call to governments last Wednesday not to repeat past mistakes by taking action that could aggravate the problem, such as export restrictions.

Mr Richard China, director of the FAO's policy and programme development support division, added that the agency strongly advised against such measures, which 'provoke more uncertainty and disruption on world markets and drive prices up further globally, while depressing prices domestically and hence curtailing incentives to produce more food'.

However, the supply outlook for rice and wheat in Asia today appears to be significantly better than it was before the last food crisis, at least in the short term.

Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, has pledged to maintain this year's exports at 9 to 9.5 million tonnes, after shipping 9 million tonnes in 2009.

The Philippines, the world's biggest buyer of rice last year, said it would cut its imports this year by at least half, compared with record purchases last year.

Rice production and national buffer stocks in Asia are higher than those three years ago. The FAO forecast recently that the region's rice harvest last year would reach a record level of 627 million tonnes, 2.1 per cent more than in 2009. The improvement was mainly due to better harvests in India and the Philippines.

Early FAO projections for this year's wheat harvest in Asia pointed to a crop similar to last year's level of 224 million tonnes. This, too, was a record although prolonged drought in China's grain belt may reduce Asian wheat output.

Moreover, the rate of production increase for both rice and wheat lags behind population growth. As a result, prices are higher than they would otherwise be.

Averaging US$330 (S$425) per tonne in the first half of this month, the benchmark United States wheat price was about 50 per cent above its level a year earlier, although still 31 per cent below its record high in March 2008.

The International Rice Research Institute, based in the Philippines, says rice prices need to be brought down to about US$300 per tonne, a level that would allow Asia's 200 million rice farms to make some profit, yet would keep the grain affordable for poor rice consumers. To achieve this target, an additional 8 to 10 million tonnes of rice must be produced every year for the next 20 years.

This big challenge can be met in two ways: by expanding output in existing rice-producing countries and by enlarging the small circle of net rice exporters.

Expanding local production would involve improving yields, building irrigation schemes to convert rice land depending on rain to produce just a single crop each year into double- or treble-cropping rice systems, and converting land to rice production that is currently used for other agricultural activities.

At present, just four Asian countries - Thailand, Vietnam, India and Pakistan - account for about 70 per cent of the world's rice exports. The US provides another 12 per cent.

In Asia, only Cambodia and Myanmar appear to have enough suitable land to become surplus rice producers. Outside Asia, the main potential for extra rice production is in South America and Africa.

However expanded rice output is achieved, it will make a vital contribution to food security in Asia.

The writer is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jan 11

The Harlequin: Butterfly of the Month - January 2011
from Butterflies of Singapore

Erythropalum scandens: A most royal liana
from Flying Fish Friends

An albino Red Junglefowl
from Bird Ecology Study Group and Red Junglefowl at Tanjong Pagar, Singapore

Mount Faber Park On 22 Jan 2011
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Read more!

Take a stroll to Sentosa island

Jason Tan Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE: Sentosa is now just a stroll away from VivoCity, with the opening of the Sentosa boardwalk.

And travelling to the island on foot could now be a more fun experience.

This S$70 million boardwalk is lined with themed gardens, shops and eateries.

It is convenient for the elderly and handicapped too.

There are travellators and a covered walkway for rainy days.

To encourage more people to walk to Sentosa, the entrance fee to the island for those who enter on foot will only be S$1.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean was on site to launch the new walkway.

"The boardwalk is a wonderful way of connecting Singapore together with the main island. It allows both Singaporeans and tourists an additional way of getting onto Sentosa to enjoy its delights. But it's also a place where Singaporeans and tourists can come to enjoy the view, the many facilities here at the boardwalk," he said.

So far, the boardwalk has been a hit with visitors.

"I think it's good, another experience, very nice, and it's sheltered," said a visitor.

"I like it, very beautiful. The first time I'm here," said another.

"It's a lot healthier to actually walk on foot. And I think it also helps to alleviate some of the traffic conditions. As you can see it can get crowded sometimes during the rush hours over here," said a third visitor.

- CNA/ir

Boardwalk link to Sentosa opens
Melissa Lin Straits Times 30 Jan 11;

Instead of taking the cable car, train or bus, visitors to Sentosa can now stroll across a new boardwalk linking the mainland to the island.

The Sentosa Boardwalk, officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday, will help the island cope with an increase in the number of visitors.

Apart from the footbridge, on which construction began in July 2009, the building of a cableway on the island will also start later this year, said Mr Mike Barclay, chief executive officer of Sentosa Development Corporation.

'It will run through the spine of the island, so it offers more transportation within the island,' he said, adding that there will be three stations and that the project will take about two years to complete.

In his speech at yesterday's opening, DPM Teo said the outlook for Singapore's tourism sector is promising.

'We expect to meet our target of 11.5 to 12.5 million visitors for the year 2010. If achieved, it will be our highest number,' he added.

Among the festivities at the launch were dance performances and a fireworks display.

A new Singapore record was also set when 680 members of the public stood in a row, one in front of the other, and created the nation's first foot-to-foot chain.

Mr Mohd Sahari Ibrahim, 51, and his family were the first to set foot on the boardwalk. The courier, his wife and three children started queueing at 3.30pm, although the boardwalk was scheduled to be opened only at 5.30pm.

'We wanted to be the first to see the new addition to Sentosa,' he said.

Read more!

Thailand's reefs: Green groups say government slow to act on coral

Bangkok Post 30 Jan 11;

The government has sat for four years on a master plan to save the nation's coral, and has yet to put money into it, wildlife officials and conservationists say.

The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning drew up a master plan on coral reef management in 2007, but it has never been implemented, said Thorn Thamrongnawasawat, a marine conservationist and head of Kasetsart University's marine science department.

The draft contains several measures on sustainable management of coral reefs, such as regulating diving and tourism activities, a zoning plan to preserve ecologically fragile areas, proposals to handle the coral-bleaching phenomenon, and financing coral conservation projects.

"The government has no reason to wait. The plan has been completed for several years. All it lacks is money," said Dr Thorn.

A budget of two billion baht might be needed, which he insisted was not a large sum.

"It's not much compared to the revenue earned from tourism and fisheries, which rely on marine resources," the marine biologist told a seminar on coral reef management held by the For Sea Foundation in Bangkok on Friday.

Delegates came up with a list of proposals on coral reef protection which they will put to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday.

They also urged the government to improve sea water quality, crack down on illegal fisheries, tackle the problem of sedimentation, and raise public awareness on marine life preservation.

Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department's national parks research division, said staff were finding it hard to enforce marine resources protection regulations amid staff shortages and protests from business groups.

"If we impose tough measures, business operators will resist," he said.

The department may increase entrance fees at marine national parks to raise funds to care for natural resources.

Saran Kittiwannakul, president of the For Sea Foundation, said local people were key players in coral protection.

The residents of Koh Tao in Surat Thani province have come up with projects to protect the island's environment, such as holding beach-cleaning days twice a month, he said.

Read more!

PM: Malaysia keen to list Sabah's Maliau Basin as a world heritage site

Muguntan Vanar The Star 29 Jan 11;

MALIAU BASIN (SABAH): Malaysia is very keen to list Sabah's Lost World, the Maliau Basin as a world heritage site.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, in endorsing the state government's proposal, said that a World Heritage listing by UNESCO would bring immediate world attention and interest in the 58,400-hectare untouched tropical rainforest, just slightly smaller than Singapore.

He said the heritage listing of Mount Kinabalu National Park, George Town, Gunung Mulu National Park and Malacca had seen a jump in worldwide interest in such areas of natural or historical importance.

However, he said there was a lot of work to be done to obtain such a World Heritage status as the government and various had to meet with various guidelines to be able to meet the requirements of Unesco in listing it as a world heritage site.

“I would support the Chief Minister in getting this place listed as a world heritage site," he told reporters after becoming the first Prime Minister to step foot in the Maliau Basin where he opened the Maliau Basin Studies Centre and also launched the study of the Stability of Altered Forest Eco-Systems (SAFE) conducted by Royal Socieity of UK and sponsored by Sime Darby Foundation.

Najib said that Maliau Basin was becoming an integral part of an ecological experiment in an area that contained rare flora and fauna, including six types of pitcher plants and more then 80 species of orchids and endangered wildlife, from rhinocerous to orang utans.

''Only about 25% of Maliau Basin has been explored. From four major expeditions between 1986 to 2005, we learned it has the greatest number of waterfalls any where in Malaysia.

“About 40 of them, in all, including the famous seven-tiered Maliau Falls and Sabah's only ox-bow lake called Lake Linumunsut."

However, he said conservation required funding and hoped the private sector, local and international, could play a significant role in sustaining and extending Malaysia's conservation efforts.

''This will be crucial in making Maliau Basin Studies Centre a premier facility for tropical rainforest, research and scientific discovery in the region," he added.

Read more!

Philippines crocodile may be extinct in 10 years

Charlie Lagasca Philippines Star 27 Jan 11;

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – The Philippine crocodile, classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, will be extinct in 10 years if no conservation measures are immediately undertaken.

The Mabuwaya Foundation Inc. (MFI), an organization engaged in protecting the species, said only 100 mature Philippine crocodiles are left in the wilds of Isabela and Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao.

Philippine crocodiles (scientific name Crocodylus mindorensis) are endemic to the country. They thrive in freshwater and are non-threatening to humans unless provoked.

“The Philippine crocodile is the world’s most severely threatened crocodile species. It is at a real risk of going extinct in the near future if no conservation action is taken,” said Marites Balbas, communication officer of Mabuwaya Foundation.

The foundation collaborates with international conservationist group Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The foundation will release today 19 baby Philippine crocodiles in the wetlands of San Mariano in Isabela where 49 young crocodiles of same species had been released two years ago.

These were caught in hatchling stage and raised in captivity for a year and a half until it was determined that they could survive in the wild.

The procedure, called “head-starting,” has been practiced since 2005 to raise the Philippine crocodile population by increasing the survival chances of newborn crocodiles in the wild.

The crocodiles will be released in honor of the inauguration of the foundation’s Municipal Philippine Crocodile Rearing Station in San Mariano.

The population of Philippine crocodiles is threatened by hunting and the conversion of their natural habitat –creeks, ponds, and marshes – into residential or commercial spaces.

Another crocodile species endemic to the Philippines is the saltwater crocodile (Crocoydlus porosus). It is, however, not endangered like the Philippine crocodile.

The law prohibits hunting, killing, selling, and buying of the species. Violators will be fined P100,000.

Endangered crocodiles released to fight extinction
(AFP) Google News 27 Jan 11;

MANILA — Nineteen of the world's most critically endangered crocodiles were released Thursday into the wild in the Philippines as part of efforts to save the species from extinction, conservationists said.

The freshwater crocodiles, which had been reared for 18 months at a breeding centre, were set free in a national park in the remote north of the country that is one of just two remaining natural habitats for the reptile.

If they survive, the number of known Philippine crocodiles in the wild will increase by roughly a fifth, according to Marites Balbas, spokeswoman for the Mabuwaya Foundation that is behind the conservation programme.

"The Philippine crocodile is the world's most severely threatened crocodile species with less than 100 adults remaining in the wild. It could go extinct in 10 years if nothing is done," Balbas said.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the Philippine crocodile as "critically endangered," just one step away from being extinct in the wild.

The Philippine crocodile has plunged to the verge of extinction due to destruction of its habitat, dynamite fishing and killings by humans who consider it dangerous, said Balbas.

However the released crocodiles -- which are only 35 to 50 centimetres (14 to 20 inches) long -- will be safe in the park, according to Balbas.

"There is enough food and people are educated on how to protect them. We actually have groups in the local community who guard the sanctuary. They are aware that killing crocodiles is prohibited," she said.

The crocodiles can grow up to 2.7 metres (nine feet) long.

Thursday's events continue a programme that began in 2005 in which dozens of captive-raised Philippine crocodiles have been released back into the wild in the Sierra Madre Natural Park in the northern province of Isabela.

Read more!

Fake seagrass could help boost fish numbers: New Zealand study

Andre Hueber NZ Herald 30 Jan 11;

Scientists are using fake grass mats under the sea to prove how New Zealand's fish stocks can be boosted.

The plastic mats are being used at Coromandel by NIWA scientists to test how seagrass attracts fish such as juvenile snapper and trevally.

A large amount of New Zealand's seagrass has been lost from sediment from land development washing into harbours. Seagrass at Whangarei Harbour has gone from 14 sq km in the 1960s to virtually none, while Tauranga Harbour lost 90 per cent of its seagrass between 1959 and 1966.

There has been a resurgence in the greater Auckland region, with seagrass expanding in the lower Kaipara, at Snells Beach and St Heliers.

NIWA fisheries ecologist Dr Mark Morrison said scientists had created artificial beds at Whangapoua Estuary. The "plants" were made from plastic fronds 5cm to 30cm long and tied to wire frames to form an artificial mat.

"We made them with tantalising long blades of artificial grass, the things fish really go for," Dr Morrison said.

Fish numbers reached their highest towards the highest seagrass densities. This summer fish are being tagged to track their survival and growth rates.

"What we found, initially, is that fish are really looking for shelter and seagrasses provide good protection to fish."

New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council president Geoff Rowling said the research and steps to enlarge seagrass areas was vital.

Council vice president Sheryl Hart said fishermen needed to get smart, but it was ultimately up to local body authorities to stop agricultural run-off and sediment run-off from development - the best way to encourage regrowth.

Fish battling to survive with seagrass decline
TVNZ 30 Jan 11;

Fewer young fish are surviving because it's becoming harder to find enough food and shelter in New Zealand waters.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said the alarming decline of seagrass is having a major impact on fish numbers.

Fisheries ecologist from NIWA Mark Morrison said fish use seagrass for protection.

"To them it's not the fact that it's sea grass per se but it's structure and they can hide in it from and protect themselves from being eaten by bigger fish and other predators," Morrison told ONE News

But that protection has been deteriorating for the last century.

Whangarei Harbour had 14 square kilometres of it in 1960 and now it's almost all gone.

Tauranga Harbour lost 90% of its seagrass between 1959 and 1996.

Morrison said the decline and loss is a world wide problem.

"We're not alone in it and in fact some areas are much worse off," he said.

The cause of the long term decline is thought to be sediment from land developments running into the ocean.

"What you do on the land goes down through the catchments, the rivers and it goes into the estuaries and seas. It has these big cascade effects down to the open coast," Morrison said.

NIWA is trying to help fish protect themselves in some areas, by putting plastic seagrass in its Coromandel estuary reserve to imitate the natural plant.

Morrison said 16 species have already flocked to the reserve.

Read more!

Enemy invaders or rare new species?

Nicky Phillips Sydney Morning Herald 30 Jan 11;

INTRODUCED plant species are becoming stronger, more versatile invaders by rapidly evolving to suit Australia's harsh climate, research has found.

Sydney scientists studied more than 20 introduced species and found that 70 per cent had changed significantly in less than 100 years.

The silver lining to this find, said study co-author Angela Moles, is "if the introduced plants can change rapidly, it gives us hope that a decent proportion of our native flora might be able to change in response to climate change".

Researchers studied introduced herbs and grasses because they were fast-growing and would have gone through multiple generations since their arrival.

Some species had halved in height and leaf size, becoming more like Australian natives.

"That makes a lot of sense. If you are growing in a low-nutrient, low-rainfall environment like Australia, you don't want to be a big lush plant," Dr Moles said.

The researchers also analysed the rate of change of Australian native grasses, as well as of the introduced species in their native environment in Britain. Neither group transformed as much as the introduced species in Australia.

"It really looks like the changes are because they've been introduced into a new environment," Dr Moles said, adding that this study was proof that evolution was "happening all around us".

The findings also raised an interesting question about how introduced species are classified.

"If they keep changing … they are eventually going to become different species," Dr Moles said.

"At that point do we keep trying to eradicate these things or do we treasure them because they are a rare new species?"

Read more!

Big cities are not always biggest polluters

(AFP) Google News 25 Jan 11;

WASHINGTON — Big cities like New York, London and Shanghai send less pollution into the atmosphere per capita than places like Denver and Rotterdam, said a study released Tuesday.

Researchers examined data from 100 cities in 33 nations for clues about which were the biggest polluters and why, according to the report in the peer-reviewed journal Environment and Urbanization.

While cities across the world were to blame for around 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, urban dwellers who can use public transport rather than drive helped to lower per capita emissions in some cities.

For instance, the sprawling western US city of Denver's per capita emissions were nearly double those in New York City, home to eight million inhabitants and a gritty, heavily used subway system.

"This is mainly attributable to New York's greater density and much lower reliance on the automobile for commuting," said the study.

Even Denver's per capita emissions, at 21.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, were sharply higher than Shanghai at 11.2 tCO2e, Paris (5.2) and Athens (10.4).

Chinese cities stood out from the rest of the world because their average emissions were far higher -- for instance with Beijing emitting 10.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent -- than the country as a whole which emits 3.4 tCO2e.

"This reflects the high reliance on fossil fuels for electricity production, a significant industrial base within many cities and a relatively poor and large rural population," said the study.

Looking at greenhouse gas emissions per GDP, researchers found that "citizens of Tokyo are 5.6 times more efficient than Canadians."

The port city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands got a particularly bad rap because of its links to shipping and heavy industry.

"Rotterdam's per capita value of 29.8 tCO2e versus 12.67 tCO2e for the Netherlands reflects the large impact of the city's port in attracting industry, as well as fuelling of ships," said the study.

"This is similar to cities with busy airports and highlights the need to view the city-based GHG emissions cautiously and holistically."

Other trends included the tendency for cities in cold climates to have higher emissions, and for poor and middle income countries to have lower emissions per capita than wealthy countries.

When researchers looked at cities in Asia, Latin America and Africa, they found low emissions per person across the board.

"This paper reminds us that it is the world's wealthiest cities and their wealthiest inhabitants that cause unsustainable levels of greenhouse gas emissions, not cities in general," said editor David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

"Most cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America have low emissions per person. The challenge for them is to keep these emissions low even as their wealth grows."

An analysis of three neighborhoods in Toronto found that the highest emissions came from the suburbs, where streets are lined with large single family homes that are far from commercial centers.

The lowest levels of emissions came from areas with apartment complexes in walking distance to shopping and transit.

Read more!

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The 21st century bodes ill for non-human species

The Independent 28 Jan 11;

If the Earth is eventually to be overwhelmed by the human species, is it a crime to speak up for the Earth? Our morality is anthropocentric: at the heart of our notions of good and bad lies human suffering, and what we can do to avoid it.

This is so deep-rooted in us, so instinctive, that it has been internalised in the language: one of our most prized virtues is humanity, one of deepest tributes to another person is that they are humane. He (or she) is a humane human. It's only one letter, one squiggle away from saying he (or she) is a human human. We automatically define objective good by what is best for ourselves.

Where humanity's interests clash, therefore, with other interests, the second are likely to get short shrift from us, and it will be a brave soul indeed who will venture the idea that perhaps human welfare should not always, automatically, be the primary consideration. Just forming the thought makes you an eccentric, does it not? Out to lunch. Beyond the pale. Go down that road and before long you'll be up there with the batty old biddy who shares her house with 60 cats.

But what about when the interests of our species start to clash, head-on, with the proper functioning of the planet which is our only home? What view should we take of this? That it is of no consequence? For such a clash is now clearly in view, and will occur in the lifetimes of most people reading this.

Last week, the Government released its Foresight report on The Future Of Food And Farming, a sobering document if ever there was one: it put into sharp focus just how difficult it is going to be to feed the 9 billion-plus people who will occupy the Earth in 2050. The report called for a new agricultural revolution, for the essence of the situation is that the land in use today for growing crops, across the world, will have to work twice as hard; and reflecting on this led me eventually to a singular thought which I bet you have never seen formulated, never mind disseminated, a thought which you may think puts me squarely up there with batty old cat-obsessives, but which I will nevertheless articulate: what does the 21st century hold for insects?

Very few of us are bothered about creepy-crawlies, which is doubtless why there has been so little awareness of the staggering decline in insect numbers which has emerged, in recent years, as a disturbing environmental phenomenon, indeed, as one of the defining ecological features of our age and an alarming pointer to the future. But they don't only creep and crawl; these are "the little things that run the world", playing key roles in myriad ecosystems, and their disappearance has profound dangers – finally recognised, of course, in the concern over the widespread vanishing of honeybees and other pollinators (two-thirds of our crops and fruit are pollinated by the wind, but the rest need insect pollination).

There is little doubt that these declines in general have been caused by the tide of pesticides which has washed over the land with intensive farming: pesticides kill far, far more insects than the pests which are their actual target species. Pesticide manufacturers, incidentally, could not care less. They might belatedly care about pollinators; about everything else they could not give a tinker's cuss, and the dead moths, mayflies, butterflies, lacewings, leatherjackets, ladybirds, all these represent just so much collateral damage.

But what is going to happen when, to feed 9 billion people by 2050, the land has to work twice as hard? When intensive agriculture has to be doubly intensified? When crop pests have to be ever more ruthlessly suppressed? What room will there be in the world for insects then?

It seems to me that one of the prices of feeding 9 billion people in the 21st Century will be to sacrifice them. You may say, at least we will always preserve the pollinators, but I will make you another bet, on that: I will wager you a pound to a pinch of snuff that there is a scientist somewhere, right now, working on the idea of how we can genetically modify insect-pollinated crops to make them able to be pollinated by the wind.

Insects, of course, will not be the only sacrifice; I am using them merely as a proxy for tigers, whales, rainforests, coral reefs, for everything else in the natural world, which the human species now so overwhelmingly dominates, appropriating to itself already most of the annual plant growth, most of the fertile land, most of the fish stocks, most of the fresh water, you name it.

This domination is only going to increase; this domination, it seems to me, is going to overwhelm the natural world in all sorts of ways, through pollution, through resource depletion, through climate change of course, and yes, through the need to feed nine billion.

Who could argue against the alleviation of hunger? Which of us can so far step outside our species as to deny even one of our fellows the right to eat? But what then about the Earth, what if our needs as humans do overwhelm it, and consign much of its life to the dustbin of history – what is our reaction to be? Too bad?

Who is to speak up for the Earth? We should remember that 2050, with its 9 billion-plus people, is only as far away in the future, now, as the break-up of The Beatles is in the past, and the time to think hard about these matters has arrived.

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jan 11

An Oriental Honey-buzzard entangled in a tree
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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New year, old conundrum: "Sharks are people, too"

Don Mendoza Today Online 29 Jan 11;
If memory serves, it has been written that we all have a constitutional right to eat well.

I quickly gathered that the writer in Blackwell Publishing's Food And Philosophy (a collection of essays by modern day philosophers and culinary professionals) was referring to civilisation in general. So, theoretically, it would seem that we First World folk in Singapore should know better. Well, we'd like to think that, wouldn't we?

At the risk of sounding like a hypersensitive car alarm that keeps tripping every time someone farts too close to the vehicle, I'm just saying that it surprises me that shark's fin is still being featured in this Lunar New Year's "auspicious bounty" of dining opportunities. Baby shark's fin in some cases. Seriously?

And so I am going to do what I did last year, and the years before that. I am going to do my utmost to not be a giant vinegar-soaked blanket when I once again remind my fellow food lovers - who may still be planning their festive dinner menus - that sharks are people, too.

Okay, so that's not really true. But, hey, no subspecies actually resembles a lawyer either.

All jokes aside, we cannot afford to overlook the fact that the well-being and ultimate survival of this pre-Homo sapiens species (which means sharks were here first) lies in our hands. The outcome will in fact help define our humanity.

And is that, honestly, a risk worth a fancy bowl of soup?

Fact: The annihilation of any subspecies of shark - an apex predator - could quickly spiral into a host of irreversible ecological devastation.

Studies have shown that sharks are vital to the preservation of healthy ocean ecosystems. The very same oceans we mammalian land animals depend on.

What's not to get, I'm often forced to ask. It would, in fact, be easier for an atheist to fathom why some women and a whole lot of men regard Nigella Lawson a goddess of sorts - goodness knows she looks the part. Or why more diners are ready to fork out the equivalent of the price of gold to dine on a certain Italian fungi from Piedmont in a fancy restaurant.

Frankly, I can even appreciate that not all pastry chefs - including a young award-winning American toque named Alex Stupak - like sweets.

So in what would seem like a desperate attempt to prove to myself that culinary morality is not rocket science, and that I'm no Einstein, I asked my five-year-old girl what she thought about the downside of shark's fin consumption.

Statistics eluded her, but the unnecessary cruelty was not hard to comprehend. "It's like eating only the chicken's wings," she replied broodingly. And the wingless birds, my seven-year-old continued in her attempt to clarify, are left to die a slow death.

To eat well is to eat responsibly on both an ethical and a nutritional level. And good food, I've always said, starts with good taste. Frankly, eating sans a conscience is distasteful.

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Where's the diversity?

NParks has begun planting more native trees and plants lately, but experts say public attitudes need to change to accept more organic landscapes
Straits Times 29 Jan 11;

IN THE Garden City, trees used to take the limelight while wildlife took a backseat. But the latter is shaping up to be an increasingly important part of the deal.

More native trees, as well as a greater variety of them, are now being planted along roads and in parks to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife that will sustain the ecosystem. The National Parks Board now draws from a palette of more than 400 species of trees for roadside planting, double what was used in the early days of the Garden City.

Singapore is also spearheading conservation efforts in urban settings, having helped develop a global index on cities' biodiversity which has already been tested by cities like Curitiba in Brazil and Nagoya in Japan.

The reasons for this are simple but often overlooked: Plants cannot exist without wildlife, and greater biodiversity can make it easier to maintain urban greenery.

As it is, declining bee populations in Europe and the United States have worried food producers because bees are crucial for pollinating plants like almonds, citrus fruits, pears and cucumbers.

Closer to home, the proliferation of pest birds like Javan mynas and house crows in some areas is due in part to the streetside planting scheme adopted in the early years. As the city needed to green rapidly in the 1970s, it focused on a limited choice of fast-growing trees like the rain tree, angsana and African mahogany. This dense, monotonous green canopy provided Singapore's city folk with shade, cut out noise and reduced dust. But the neat and orderly 'lollipop' style of street plantings made it hard for many native birds to survive.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, the vice-chairman of the Nature Society's conservation committee, blames it on the 'destruction of the untidy patches of woodlands and hedges all over urban Singapore and the countryside'.

Within years, these organic landscapes were replaced with a neat and orderly mixture of concrete, evenly spaced trees and lawns, he says. These trimmed lawns and fields provided the Indonesian Javan mynas with ideal ground to hunt for their natural food like grasshoppers and worms. But their increase is believed to have ended up muscling out the melodious - and native - Oriental magpie robin here.

In the 1980s, the Garden City's subsequent choices of trees were based more on aesthetic and sensual, rather than ecological, reasons: The pink poui and boungainvilleas made their debuts to add colour to the landscape, while fruit trees and fragrant plants were introduced in housing estates, parks and schools for variety.

The National Parks Board's director of streetscape, Mr Simon Longman, says: 'We didn't specifically choose trees that would be a refuge for birds or a food source for birds along the streetscape. But there are some which incidentally provided food for birds, like the buah salam tree.'

This medium-sized tree bears small red berries.

Over in condominiums, the plantings are driven more by fashion than environmental concerns. Arborist Jacqueline Allan from landscaping company Nature Landscapes says: 'Everybody tends to go for a certain set of trees. And then when somebody tries something new, everybody tries that too.'

More than 20 years ago, she notes, coconut trees were all the rage. About 10 years later, developers started taking a liking to palms. Today, she says, the Central American bucida genus of trees seem to the 'in thing'. It's no wonder then that the landscape of modern Singapore, just like its people, has become very cosmopolitan, or even exotic.

'Most of the species here are brought in from somewhere. Some, like the Jacaranda, have already taken up citizenship,' she quips, referring to the South American import with lilac-coloured flowers planted in many older condominiums.

But how the infusion of foreign talent has affected local biodiversity remains unclear. For sure, the rapid development of the city has had an impact on native flora. A 2009 guide to native vascular plants - the dominant type of plants - published by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research revealed that 29.8 per cent are globally or nationally extinct.

As if that is not bad enough, the local ecology also has to contend with humans who demand greenery at their doorsteps but recoil at the untidiness that can come along with it.

According to Mr Tay Ah Bah, the senior horticulture manager of town management firm EM Services, public housing residents often ask for trees to be trimmed when they block the view from their flats. They also complain regularly about insects flying into their homes when trees get too close. In response, town councils select trees that do not support as much insect life, he says.

But insects sustain birdlife. Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, says the little critters are an important part of the diet for birds like orioles, flycatchers and magpie robins.

In recent times, NParks has introduced different and more plants native to this region to support wildlife, in the process also making Singapore's streetscape more resilient to disease outbreaks and insect attacks. But it maintains that it will continue to choose trees primarily for their stability and ability to thrive in an urban environment.

Dr Lena Chan, deputy director of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, hopes the Republic's growing crop of high-rise gardens and network of green trails linking its parks could potentially serve as stepping stones for wildlife to feed, rest and move around this densely built-up island.

But for that to happen, there needs to be greater variety in Singapore's urban greenery. Dr Lum says: 'The more complexity you have, the more animals you can support.'

But the experts concede it will be an uphill task getting urbanites to accept this more organic or even spontaneous environment.

'It kind of goes against our ingrained aesthetic... people in their 30s or younger are accustomed to seeing fairly uniformed or structured, orderly landscapes,' says Dr Lum.

Beyond that, Singaporeans will also need to get used to the idea of sharing the island with a variety of creatures, big and small. The recent sightings of deer and wild boar around the nature reserves, for example, were cause for excitement but also some unease about having wildlife at close range. On this front, Dr Chan thinks a good old-fashioned dose of give-and-take is in order.

'We need to remind people that if you want to live in a house right next to a nature reserve, remember to take into consideration that you are also infringing on an area where the monkeys were before. (Don't) complain about them. They were there first.'


If you want a butterfly, don't kill the caterpillar
Straits Times 29 Jan 11;

Three things you can do to support local biodiversity:

go easy

# Don't freak out when you see a caterpillar: It is a butterfly in waiting.

If a caterpillar nibbles the leaves of your festive plants, don't reach for the bug spray. Simply hide the hole-ridden plant behind other flowering plants.

Experts say the caterpillars usually don't cross over. They hang onto certain types of plants and chomp on only particular types of leaves.

go wild

# Loosen up: Not all gardens need to be manicured. Letting wild grasses and plants grow would support more varied types of wildlife beyond those already adapted to city life.

go native

# Go native and make your neighbourhood nursery go native: The plant nursery business is demand-driven, so if more customers request native plants, the nurseries will bring in more of such plants.

A comprehensive list of native vascular plants - the dominant type of plants - can be found at

Alternatively, you can browse the National Parks Board website

Information from Dr Lena Chan, deputy director of the National Parks Board's National Biodiversity Centre, and Associate Professor Hugh Tan from the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences

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Vertical farming boosts production of vegetables in Singapore

Jason Tan Channel NewsAsia 28 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE : Singapore has successfully developed a vertical farming system prototype, which could help the land-scarce Republic maximise its production of leafy vegetables.

Vertical farming is a technique of producing agricultural products at multiple levels, conserving land space in the process.

A six-metre tall structure rotates at one millimetre per second, distributing sunlight to all the plants.

Water powers the system and is constantly being recycled, keeping energy consumption low.

The system is also affordable too. One of the frames costs about S$10,000.

The prototype was developed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and private firm DJ Engineering.

During his visit to the farm, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said he is impressed with the system.

Mr Mah said: "It can produce about five times the output of a normal farm, using the same area - per square metre of space, it's actually able to produce five times (more). So it's very suitable for Singapore's condition.

"So far, very encouraging. And hopefully, this will then be expanded and help us to achieve our target - we're trying to achieve 10 per cent local production of leafy vegetables."

Mr Mah and other visitors also had a chance to sample some of the vegetables.

Owner of DJ Engineering, Jack Ng, has set up the company Sky Greens to drive the commercialisation of vertical farming.

Sky Greens expects the first crop of produce from the system to be available in major supermarkets by this year.

- CNA/al

Veggies from a vertical farm
Esther Ng Today Online 29 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE - Vertical farming has become a reality here, after DJ Engineering and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) successfully developed a prototype that could help land-scarce Singapore maximise its production of leafy vegetables.

Vegetables can now be grown in a six-metre-tall tower: Exposure to sunlight is optimised when rainwater collected in an overhead reservoir flows down through pipes, powering a wheel which rotates the stacks of vegetables a millimetre per second.

DJ Engineering's managing director Jack Ng said the potential output of this system is at least five times more than that of conventional soil-based farming. For instance, a five hectare plot using this system can produce at least 2,500 tonnes of leafy vegetables compared with 500 tonnes from a conventional farm.

Moreover, the tower has a low carbon footprint - the pump that pushes water up to a holding tank at the top of the structure uses only one kilowatt per hour.

Mr Ng has set up a company, Sky Greens, to sell these towers for around $10,000 each. Each tower comes in 22 or 26 stacks.

Sky Greens is in the process of applying for 3.5 hectares of land in the Lim Chu Kang Agrotechnology Park to grow vegetables. It expects to put its first crop of Chinese cabbage, lettuce and kai lan on supermarket shelves this year.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan visited the prototype at the Sembawang Research Station yesterday.

Said Mr Mah: "So far, very encouraging. And, hopefully, this will be expanded and help us to achieve our target of 10 per cent local production of leafy vegetables."

The figure currently stands at 7 per cent. There are 37 leafy vegetable farms here and production has been steady, 8,300 tonnes in 2006 to 7,100 tonnes from January to September last year.

On Friday, this newspaper reported that farmers from the Kranji Countryside Association were concerned about the lack of young blood joining the farming industry.

In response, Mr Mah said he would "support" the move by farmers here to encourage young people to take up farming. Said Mr Mah: "Governments cannot force you to go into something you're not interested in."

What might work better was to nurture an interest in nature, Mr Mah noted.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the AVA told MediaCorp that, while land will be set aside for some local production of key food items, some existing farmland - due to land scarcity - may be required to "meet other needs of our population when their leases end".

The agencies said: "If the farmland is not needed for other purposes, we can continue to put them to interim farm use."

Most of the farms in Singapore are located in Lim Chu Kang. Many of the farms there have leases ranging from two to 11 years. The agencies said they will study the leases for the Lim Chu Kang farms and may consider extension of the leases on a case-by-case basis. Where possible, SLA will work with the URA and the AVA to consider two- to three-year lease extensions.

Rooftop farming a possibility: Mah Bow Tan
Esther Ng Today Online 29 Jan 11;

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said he would consider rooftop farming - an idea mooted a decade ago by Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, then head of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) - but he pointed out that there were other competing uses such as recreation and solar panels.

He added that rooftop farming might not be suitable for a commercial building because of the air-conditioning plants on the roof.

As for aquaponics - growing plants or vegetables and fish in a contained system with fish waste as fertiliser - Mr Mah said that a number of companies here had tried it but there were "issues" to be resolved.

One of them was taste, he noted, though that could be overcome by educating consumers.

Mr Mah said that Singapore was not able to meet its earlier target of 20 per cent for green vegetable production because the amount of land for agriculture could not be spared under the island's masterplan for land use.

The AVA hopes to strengthen Singapore's food resilience by raising local production of fish to 15 per cent, eggs to 30 per cent and leafy vegetables to 10 per cent of consumption here.

Currently, the local production of fish, eggs and leafy vegetables makes up 4 per cent, 23 per cent and 7 per cent respectively of total local consumption.

Vertical farm produces 5 times more vegetables
Novel device could help land-scarce S'pore meet food production targets
Jessica Lim Straits Times 29 Jan 11;

THERE is now a new way to farm vegetables in land-scarce Singapore: farm skywards.

A private engineering company, D.J. Engineering, has teamed up with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to come up with a device that can grow at least five times as many vegetables as conventional farming methods are able to given the same land area.

The device is 6m tall with tiers of planting troughs which rotate around an aluminium frame to provide the plants with uniform sunlight.

A water-pulley system, using rainwater collected in overhead reservoirs, rotates the troughs.

Harvests - of leafy vegetables like xiao bai cai and bayam - have already been made at a prototype 1,000 sq m vertical farm set up a year ago at AVA's Sembawang Research Centre. The farm employs 19 of these structures.

None of the vegetables is sold at supermarkets or restaurants here yet but will be at year end, if all goes as planned.

The project is budgeted to cost about $1 million, an amount borne entirely by D.J. Engineering, which set up a company, Sky Greens, to produce the vegetables commercially and market the vertical farming system.

With the turbulence in food supply and prices in recent years exposing the island state's vulnerability, such moves should mitigate supply shortages and hoarding in the long term.

'We cannot depend totally on imports. We are a land-scarce country and therefore we need to be able to maximise use of our land in the area of food production,' said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan at the launch of the prototype farm yesterday, adding that local production acts as a buffer against severe disruptions in food supply.

'Farming leafy vegetables tends to be very land-intensive so innovative systems like this can improve the productivity of local farms,' the minister said.

Such projects, he said, would also help the Republic meet its targets for local food production.

The target is for the local supply of leafy vegetables - produced by 37 vegetable farms here - to hit 10 per cent of local consumption in three years, from about 7 per cent currently. Local production stood at 9,800 tonnes in 2009.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food from suppliers from over 30 countries.

Mr Jack Ng, the owner of D.J. Engineering, said he has been sending samples of the leafy vegetables to restaurants and supermarkets. Feedback, he said, has been positive.

'They say the vegetables are crunchier,' he said, adding that plans are under way to start a 3.5ha vertical farm in Lim Chu Kang and to sell the structures to other farmers and individuals.

The 48-year-old, who also designs buildings, is in the process of patenting his invention. The father of two, who dropped out of school after Secondary 4, came up with the idea during the financial crunch in 2009.

'Food prices were going up because of supply disruptions overseas, so I had the idea of growing more food here,' he said, adding that he was also friends with some farmers who helped him to develop the idea. It took him two years.

The vertically farmed vegetables, he said, would be priced at the same levels as those grown at conventional farms due to increased productivity and low operational costs.

Operational costs include raw materials like soil and seed and electricity to pump the water driving the structures. But electricity costs will come to only $3.50 per month per structure, he said.

The owner of restaurant Da Pao in Amoy Street serving home-grown food, Ms Christina Crane, 39, said she was hooked once she tried a sample of the vegetables: 'I looked at it and the vegetables looked really green. The taste is beautiful and it doesn't wilt in sauce.'

Others, like vegetable farmer Wong Kok Fah, 49, are excited too. The owner of an 8ha farm in Chua Chu Kang growing cai xin and xiao bai cai said he has appealed to the Government numerous times for more land to expand.

'We are always looking for more land, and we will definitely consider anything that can increase our productivity,' he said, adding that his farm is operating at maximum capacity.

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