Best of our wild blogs: 6 Jun 11

25 Jun (Sat): Gala Dinner of the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)
from the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)

Anemone hunt at Terumbu Semakau!
from wild shores of singapore

Long driftnet traps many colourful fishes on Terumbu Semakau
from wild shores of singapore

Coppersmith Barbet removing dead chick from nest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

yellow-vented bulbul @ SBWR June 2011
from sgbeachbum

Clouded Monitor
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

Weather situation may get worse: Vivian Balakrishnan

Angelina Dass AsiaOne 5 Jun 11;

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources considers today's flash floods worse than those that happened at Orchard Road in June 2010.

He said that it "can be safely presumed that the weather patterns in Singapore have changed" and that rainfall may get worse in the future.

"It is very likely that our drainage systems will have to be redesigned to cope with such intense flashes."

He was speaking to the media on June 5, Sunday about the weather and flash floods that occurred this morning.

A total of 124mm of rain fell over central areas of Singapore - this is equivalent to 77 per cent of the amount of rainfall that usually falls in the month of June.

This rainfall was more intense than June last year, with about 65mm recorded within 30 minutes Sunday morning, compared to the 100mm within 2 hours on June 16, 2010.

Mr Khoo Teng Chye, Chief Executive of PUB, said that while Orchard Road did not experience similar flooding as last year, some buildings were still affected.

Mr Khoo, who was also present at the media briefing, said there was flooding at the junction of Napier Road and Tanglin Mall.

"This is something we have not seen in at least 25 years and because of the flooding there, Tanglin mall was badly affected."

Flood waters reached up to a height of 100mm and subsided within 30 minutes.

Other affected buildings in Orchard Road include Delfi Orchard, Forum Galleria, Liat Towers, Orchard Towers and St Regis Residences.

Minister Balakrishnan, who visited Tanglin Mall and other affected buildings in Orchard Road, said that all affected buildings except Tanglin Mall were back in business by 5pm Sunday evening.

People's safety top priority, says Vivian
Straits Times 6 Jun 11;

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan toured flood-hit areas such as Tanglin Mall and spoke at a press conference yesterday. This is an edited transcript of his comments:

'I WANT to make points in five areas: One, has the weather changed? Two, do our planning norms need to be modified? Three, safety. Four, roads, and five, buildings.

The first question, has the weather changed? This is not an easy question to answer from a scientific point of view. It will require long-term analysis but, as far as the operational aspect goes, we can't wait for the answer to be finalised.

But as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to work on the presumption that our weather has changed.

A related question is, what is the likely outcome for the future? With global warming, we can expect higher evaporation and precipitation, especially in the tropics. So we have to assume that, in fact, it may get worse in future.

I think our planning norms have served us well for at least three decades. And that's why... we have the luxury of largely having been flood-free for the last three decades. That's a remarkable achievement for which the PUB deserves full credit.

But we're now at a point where we must review all our planning norms, taking into account the very high probability that our weather patterns have changed.

If we're going to expect sudden and intense precipitation, then it's very likely our drainage systems must be redesigned to cope with such intense pressures.

That's a technical and engineering issue, and we need to give the experts the resources and time to generate the planning norms.

But while this is going on, we do not have the luxury of taking measurements and making plans when safety is compromised.

It's why PUB has embarked on a comprehensive check of all flood-prone areas, focusing on human safety. Where railings need to be put up, we'll put them up. Where drains have to be covered, we'll cover them up. We'll also take feedback from the public on areas which they feel require work in order to secure safety, so let's make no compromises where this is concerned.

Four, making sure that wherever possible, roads remain passable, even in a storm: This is something the LTA and PUB need to work closely together on. Where necessary and possible, road platform levels need to be raised.

Five, buildings: It's further work for PUB, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and building owners to further flood-proof their buildings where possible. There're some platform levels, thresholds that have to be designed or retrofitted; the sooner we get on with this, the better.

Personally, I believe the weather has changed, and I'm psychologically prepared for it to get worse, so you can rest assured it'll be fairly high up on my list of priorities.

What would you say is the key priority, in the short term and in the long term?

Safety is No. 1. Two, keeping the roads clear and running and, three, keeping the buildings secure, to ensure they are able to cope, to prevent floods from occurring and if they do happen, to have the assistance of PUB to cope and restore their businesses as soon as possible.

The longer-term solutions lie in engineering, understanding our weather patterns and reviewing planning norms so our drainage systems can cope.

Are Singaporeans prepared for the worst-case scenario?

We're dealing with nature...and there's a limit to human engineering and what we can deliver. Having said that, we must make sure we have done the best we can. Singaporeans need to be psychologically prepared. It's our job and PUB's to make sure Singaporeans are psychologically prepared by giving them all the information.

We'll be completely transparent.

Minister, you mentioned improvements in the building codes.

This is something that the BCA and PUB will have to study. I'm not an engineer, so I'll take advice on a professional level.

If, for instance, we detect that there are clear trends that different areas have a different risk profile, then we may need to have different approaches or different planning codes for the different areas.

I don't want to jump the gun. I'm just saying that I'm keeping an open mind on this. And we'll take a practical, risk-based approach to this, knowing full well that we don't know all the variables, and are not able to guarantee all the outcomes.

Minister Balakrishnan outlines five key areas to deal with flooding
Saifulbahri Ismail Today Online 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday outlined five key areas that he will focus on in dealing with floods in Singapore.

Speaking at a news conference after inspecting the flooded areas at Tanglin Mall, Dr Balakrishnan said one of his priorities now is to ensure safety is maintained along drains.

Dr Balakrishnan stressed there's no compromising safety. He said railings will be installed where needed and drains covered in the short term so that no one gets hurt.

On Wednesday, a 15-year-old teenager drowned when he fell into an uncovered drain swollen with floodwaters in Balestier.

Said Dr Balakrishnan: "Personally I think our weather has changed. I'm actually psychologically prepared for it to get worse. You're dealing with nature and you're dealing with the weather, you have to be prepared that there is a limit to human engineering and what we can deliver. But having said that, let us make sure we have done the best we can and within those limits and then cope with whatever else that nature throws at us."

Dr Balakrishnan said because of the changing weather conditions, his ministry will need to review planning norms, which includes the designing of drainage systems.

He added another priority is to ensure that roads are passable even during heavy rainfall. He also intends to ensure that buildings are better prepared to cope with the occurrence of floods.

One building, Tessarina condominium, was affected during heavy rainfall last year. Its basement car park was flooded. The management has since made improvements like installing a flood barrier.

When the Bukit Timah canal overflowed yesterday, a siren was activated and residents were alerted so they could drive their cars out of the basement and the flood barrier was closed.

The chairman of Tessarina condominium management committee, Mr Leonard Yip, said they had lobbied the authorities to raise the nearby Wilby Road, which was done. They had also asked for improvements to Bukit Timah canal.

The Public Utilities Board (PUB) is currently carrying out drainage improvement works to the canal.

Work to deepen the canal will start by the end of this year and is expected to be completed by November next year.

Yesterday's floods in Bukit Timah Road hit the stretch from Blackmore to Maplewood Road, making some lanes impassable to traffic.

PUB chief executive Khoo Teng Chye said he is studying some solutions to prevent future occurrences. To alleviate flooding at Tanglin Mall, for example, a big retention pond could be built to trap some of the peak flows, with a diversion canal from this pond to the Singapore River.

"But given Singapore's built up situation, these are very, very expensive schemes," he said.

PUB explains flash floods
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 5 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB explained that the flash floods on Sunday morning were caused by two bouts of heavy rainfall.

It said this at a news conference on Sunday afternoon, which was also attended by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

The first bout of rainfall started slightly past 6am, and second downpour, which was more intense, occurred at about 10.30am.

About 65mm of rainfall was recorded within 30 minutes.

This was worse than the one on June 16 last year, which had 100mm of rainfall within two hours.

PUB said it had mobilised staff and contractors to the flooded sites once it received alerts of heavy rain.

PUB also deployed tankers to affected areas to pump out the water from carparks located in basements of buildings.

PUB chief executive Khoo Teng Chye said he is studying some possible solutions to prevent future occurrences.

"These include, possibly, building a big retention pond near where we can then trap some of the peak flows," Mr Khoo said.

"The other alternative is to really create a diversion canal from where this pond is to the Singapore River.

"But given Singapore's built-up situation, these are very, very expensive schemes."

Meanwhile, Dr Balakrishnan outlined five key areas that he would focus on, in dealing with floods in Singapore.

Speaking after inspecting the flood areas at Tanglin Mall, Dr Balakrishnan said one of his priorities now is to ensure safety is maintained along drains.

Dr Balakrishnan stressed there's no compromising safety.

He said railings will be installed where needed, and drains covered in the short term so that no one gets hurt.

On Wednesday, a 15-year-old teenager died when he fell into an uncovered drain swollen with rainwater.

"Personally, I think our weather has changed. I'm actually psychologically prepared for it to get worse," Dr Balakrishnan said.

"You're dealing with nature, and you're dealing with the weather; you have to be prepared that there is a limit to human engineering and what we can deliver.

"But having said that, let us make sure we have done the best we can and within those limits, then cope with whatever else that nature throws at us."

Dr Balakrishnan said because of the changing weather conditions, his ministry will need to review planning norms, which includes designing of drainage systems.

He added another priority is to ensure roads are passable even during heavy rainfall.

He said he intends to ensure buildings are better prepared to cope with the occurrence of floods.

During heavy rainfall last year, the basement of Tessarina condominium was flooded.

The management there has since made improvements such as installing a flood barrier.

When the Bukit Timah canal flooded its banks on Sunday morning, the siren was activated and residents were alerted to drive their cars out of the basement, and the flood barrier was closed.

Tessarina Condominium management committee chairman Leonard Yip said: "The primary strategy for us was to lobby for improvements to the Bukit Timah canal and also for raising of Wilby Road.

"So, we believe that most of the problems will be solved".

At Bukit Timah Road, flash floods occurred at the stretch from Blackmore to Maplewood Road, making some lanes impassable to traffic earlier Sunday morning.

PUB is currently making drainage improvement works to the Bukit Timah canal.

Works to deepen the canal will start by the end of this year.

The project is expected to be fully completed by November 2012.


Government to review drainage after year's worst flood
Chua Hian Hou Straits Times 6 Jun 11;

THE Government is warning of possibly worse floods this week, even as it ponders the need to relook Singapore's drainage systems and building codes after intense rain caused heavy flooding yesterday.

The five hours of rain led to floods in the eastern and central areas, and inundated several floors of Tanglin Mall in Cuscaden Road.

Speaking after the year's worst flood so far, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said that all planning norms must be reviewed, 'taking into account the very high probability that our weather patterns have changed'.

'If we are going to expect sudden and intense precipitation, then it is very likely that our drainage systems must be redesigned to cope with such intense pressures,' he said.

The Government will also be looking at building codes, possibly requiring building owners to do more to flood-proof their buildings if they are located in a flood-prone area.

Meanwhile, national water agency PUB is embarking on an 'exhaustive and comprehensive check on all flood-prone areas focusing on human safety', he said.

'Where railings need to be put up, we will put up. Where drains have to be covered, we will cover,' said Dr Balakrishnan, who took over the portfolio almost three weeks ago.

Road levels, too, might have to be raised.

He said the Government will take feedback from the public in areas which they feel require work in order to secure safety, 'so let's make no compromises where this is concerned'.

He said: 'The weather reports for the next few days are that there are other storms coming, and they might be worse than this weekend. So we have to take this on board and maximise our preparations.'

While there were no deaths or injuries reported yesterday, the floods caused untold damage to retailers in several malls in town, especially Tanglin Mall.

Thousands of residents and motorists also had to contend with floods in areas such as MacPherson, Bukit Timah, Cuscaden Road and Orchard Road.

The floods come four days after a teenage Indonesian tourist died after he was swept away by an overflowing drain in the Balestier area following heavy rain.

The PUB said heavy and intense rain fell over the central and eastern parts of the island from 6.30am to 11.30am yesterday.

The rain in the east lasted till 10am and resulted in flash floods in MacPherson, which is a flood-prone area.

The downpour then moved to the central area and intensified from 10.10am to 11.30am. This led to flash floods in some parts of Orchard Road and Bukit Timah.

A total of 124mm of rainfall was recorded for the central area, about 77 per cent of the average monthly rainfall for June.

About 65mm was recorded within 30 minutes yesterday compared with 100mm within two hours on June 16 last year, which had led to serious flooding of Orchard Road.

PUB said Orchard Road did not experience similar floods yesterday as the road had been raised since last year's big flood.

PUB said it has an ongoing drainage improvement programme in flood-prone areas. It had also enhanced its flood-monitoring system by increasing the number of water level sensors in key canals and drains from 32 to 90 at the end of last year. This will be increased to 150 by the end of this year.

Tanglin Mall was the worst hit yesterday. Water rushed into the building at about 10.50am from the first floor which is at road level.

Within five minutes, water fell like a mini-waterfall onto Basement One, which houses a supermarket, food court and various shops. Shoppers found themselves in ankle-deep water.

'Someone was shouting 'run, run, run', so we all panicked, closed the shutters and ran out,' said Ms Cheryl Gan, owner of an aromatherapy store in Basement One.

Water then made its way down the ramps to Basement Two, Basement Three and Basement Four, which house the carparks.

In Basement Four, the water was nearly knee high. Some cars that were parked there were damaged and had to be towed away later.

At about 10.30pm last night, there were about 100 people still cleaning up and restoring services to the mall, said Ms Jenny Ng, its centre director.

Other buildings in the area, such as St Regis Residences, Forum Galleria, Delfi Orchard, Lucky Plaza and Liat Towers were also hit, although they saw less severe damage.

While most of the flooding was in the 'known hot spots' of Bukit Timah and MacPherson, the flooding near Tanglin Road - an area that had not seen floods in 25 years - took the PUB by surprise, said chief executive Khoo Teng Chye.

Asked if he thought Singapore's weather patterns had changed, Dr Balakrishnan said this would require long-term study.

But the Government is not going to wait for a definitive answer, he said, adding that 'personally I believe the weather has changed, and am psychologically prepared for it to get worse'.

One approach is to have different flood prevention requirements for buildings in different areas, depending on how flood-prone the area is, he said.

The PUB, said Mr Khoo, was also studying several ways to alleviate future flooding in the Tanglin area, including building a pond in the Botanic Gardens into which flood waters would drain, and building a canal to the Singapore River.

'But given the built-up situation and high cost of land, these are very expensive schemes so we are very carefully evaluating whether we should do this,' he said.

Additional reporting by Tham Yuen-C, Daryl Chin and Leow Si Wan

Read more!

Raining in Tanglin Mall

Chaos as shoppers, staff run for cover as water pours down from first floor
Tham Yuen-C Straits Times 6 Jun 11;

FLOOD water gushed into Tanglin Mall so quickly yesterday that the staff in health supplement store GNC had no time to save several boxes of pine bark extract placed on the bottom shelves.

The boxes of antioxidants, which sell for $400 each, were soaked through.

'We heard a sound that was like a waterfall, came out to check and saw water pouring down from the first floor. It all happened very fast,' said Ms Diana Soenarto, 26, a salesgirl at GNC.

Within three minutes, the water in the store had reached ankle-deep.

The same scenario played out at all the shops in the first floor and Basement One of the shopping centre at the junction of Tanglin Road and Grange Road.

This was among several areas hit badly by yesterday's floods.

The mall's diverter pump, which pumps out water and is located in Basement Four, broke down after being inundated.

By about 11am, the first floor had been turned into a waterfall, pouring water into the basement.

The typical Sunday morning scene of mostly grocery shoppers turned chaotic, with people scampering for cover.

A moneychanger said: 'This is the first time in 20 years that something like that has happened here. We were all running out, there was no time to do anything.'

The worst hit was the Market Place supermarket at Basement One.

Water washed in, and gushed down from the ceiling.

'When the water started cascading down the escalators into the basement of the mall, we immediately evacuated all our customers and staff out of the Market Place store. Everyone is safe and there were no injuries,' said a spokesman in a statement.

Some of the supermarket's false ceiling boards came crashing down too.

The basement carparks of the mall were also flooded, with the water level at the lowest level, Basement Four, reaching about knee-height.

Some 100 shoppers who were in the carparks when the flood started had to be evacuated to safety via the ramps by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers, said an SCDF spokesman.

Shoppers who had parked their cars there were also escorted to their vehicles. By then, the ramps and two levels of the carpark had been plunged into darkness.

At about 11.45am, a civil defence officer led Mr Ryan Lee, 28, to his car using a flashlight.

'I think it was quite dangerous,' he said, after taking off his shoes and wading in ankle-deep water to his car in Basement Three, which still had light. 'I'm just glad that my car could still start.'

At about 2pm, after the water subsided, ceiling boards were strewn over the checkout counters at the Market Place, stands and goods had been knocked down, and leaves and branches had been deposited in the snack aisle at the back of the store.

The fridges in the supermarket had also been short-circuited, leaving meat and other frozen goods to thaw.

A supermarket spokesman said the store would be closed until at least today to be cleaned up, and for damage to be assessed.

At the Cedele cake shop, also at Basement One, fridges had been short-circuited, said employee Theresa Heng, 52.

Tanglin Mall centre director Jenny Ng said the mall had notified its insurers about assessing the damage, but said the focus now was on cleaning up.

'Nobody wants this to happen, we are focusing on achieving the fastest recovery and least damage, so that business can be back to normal,' she said.

The mall, which was closed yesterday by noon, is expected to re-open today.

The day it rained indoors
Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 5 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: Tanglin Mall, located at the junction of Tanglin Road and Grange Road, was the worst hit by floods caused by heavy rainfall on Sunday morning.

National water agency PUB said the extent of the flood at Tanglin Mall was something it had not seen in the last 25 years.

It added this was the first time the basement of Tanglin Mall had experienced this.

Many stores had to close temporarily for clean-up.

Zhai manager Karen Foo said: "We have to rescue all our stocks first, that's the first thing. All the shops were flooded as well, and they were closing down their gates".

Family-Com salesperson Dominic Ngiam said: "The shop was flooded to about ankle-level and everyone was running around. The car park was flooded (and) cars were stuck. So everyone was frustrated (and) confused".

Shoppers who had problems getting to their cars had to wait until they were given the green light to get to the car park.

One shopper said: "We went down to (the) basement and queued to try to get out, but some other cars had turned around and come back down to the B3 level, so it was clear that it was stuck above.

"We made sure we parked the car and got the children out before the (water) level got any higher".

Floods also hit a nearby car park.

A car service company employee sent Channel NewsAsia a video of the car park at St. Regis.

He said a resident whose car was stalled had called him for assistance.

Elsewhere, other retail malls at Orchard Road had to deal with the aftermath of the flood.

The clean up at Forum Shopping Mall lasted for about two hours.

This isn't the first time the area had been affected by heavy rain, but employees who were interviewed said the flood is worse this time.

The Little Gym instructor PJ Lucero said: "The last time it happened, it was actually more mild.

"We were still able to open the facility for the day. Today (Sunday), of course, everything got submerged, that's why we had to close down.

"In fact, after the first time it happened, we had sandbags ready. We did use those sandbags today (but) it didn't work. The water just went through it".

Spinelli Coffee Company retail store manager, Forum Shopping Mall Chen Jiahui said: "This is the second time (it flooded). It's really bad, so I hope that the management are doing something about it".

PUB said the rainfall Sunday morning was more intense than that of June last year, when various parts of Orchard Road were flooded.

About 65mm of rainfall was recorded within 30 mins on Sunday morning, compared to 100mm within two hours on June 16, 2010.


Flood waters shut Tanglin Mall
Esther Ng Today Online 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - It looked like a scene straight from the movies. Water cascading down escalators, filling every nook and cranny, then pouring onto the floor below like a waterfall. By 10.30am yesterday, the basement and car parks of Tanglin Mall were in knee-deep water.

At The Market Place, a supermarket in the basement, water seeped into the ceiling and caused a portion of the false ceiling above the checkout counters to collapse.

"It was quite scary - we didn't know where the water came from, it just came so fast," said cafe assistant Annie Tan.

While the shops in the basement bore the brunt of the deluge, the shops on the first level of the mall were not spared either.

Homemaker Linda Tauvel, 39, was having coffee at Starbucks when she noticed an employee mopping some water that was seeping in from under the door.

"There was no panic or drama. Everybody was calm. What I thought was amazing is that the escalators kept going and people kept on using them casually even with all the water flowing on them," she said.

The flood caught the authorities by surprise.

The national water agency Public Utilities Board (PUB) said the extent of the flood was something it had not seen at least in the last 25 years.

The PUB explained that the flash floods were caused by two bouts of heavy rainfall - the first started slightly past 6am.

The second downpour which was more intense at about 10.30am saw about 65 mm of rainfall recorded within 30 minutes.

This downpour was worse than the one on June 16 last year, which recorded about 100 mm of rainfall within two hours.

When MediaCorp arrived at Tanglin Mall at 1pm, the first floor was strewn with muddy sediment and staff in various shops were seen busy mopping their floors.

"The water on this floor was going down to the basement. It was rising rather fast and soon reached our ankles. My colleague and I got scared - we shifted some merchandise to a higher display, then grabbed our bags and left," said Ocean Paradise sales assistant Emily Chow, 22.

Mr Han Lee, who owns Kidz Story, told MediaCorp that he estimates he lost some S$6,000 worth of merchandise and about S$5,000 in fixtures.

Minister for Water Resources and the Environment Vivian Balakrishnan arrived shortly after and toured the mall which had been closed while the clean-up was in full swing.

"Safety was important - we had to cut the electric supply first to assess the situation and then put in place recovery plans and have asked on the tenants to notify their insurers," said the mall's centre director Jenny Ng.

She added that a 3-inch concrete kerb at the switchroom prevented water from entering and knocking out the mall's four transformers.

A staff from the adjoining Traders Hotel told MediaCorp that Grange Road was knee-high in water at around 10am and reckoned that traffic had pushed the water into Tanglin Mall and into the lower deck of the hotel's Cafebiz.

At 4pm yesterday, hotel staff were seen blow-drying the carpet and sweeping the debris.

Down Cuscaden Road, the basement carparks of St Regis Residences were flooded. Water had also entered House number 9, the only bungalow on the street and left a metre-high watermark. The owner's silver BMW 6 series had to be towed away earlier.

While Tanglin Mall was closed, Forum Galleria was buzzing with shoppers. The mall hardly looked like it had been flooded some hours earlier.

Still, takings for the day were affected.

Subway Niche's cashier Madam Sim estimated that the cafe lost around S$600 in those few hours, while Watson's manager totalled some S$2,000 in losses.

Yesterday's downpour caused flash floods in Bukit Timah and MacPherson as well.

At Marina Barrage, up to five gates were operated during the early part of the morning when sea tide was lower, the PUB said. Seven pumps were operated at the later part of the morning to lower the water level at Marina Reservoir, it added.

Lucky Plaza, Liat Towers 'spared'
Straits Times 6 Jun 11;

THESE shopping centres were the hardest-hit in the Orchard Road floods last year, when merchandise was swept out by flood waters.

But they escaped the worst yesterday even though Singapore's prime shopping belt was again flooded after islandwide storms.

At Liat Towers, knee-high flood barriers - installed after last year's flood turned road-level shops into mini lap pools - were activated as soon as the storms started.

Water did seep into fast-food outlet Wendy's and fashion retailer Massimo Dutti.

At Wendy's, it only reached the kitchen, rising about 3cm high. Staff said last June was far worse, when equipment, furniture and fittings were destroyed.

Newly open for business then, the outlet had to close for over a month so repair works could be done. This time, it took the staff about 30 minutes to clean up the kitchen, said a server.

At Massimo Dutti, the store manager declined to comment. When The Straits Times visited at 4.45pm, workers were vacuuming rugs and mopping floors.

Down the road in Lucky Plaza, rainwater spilled into the basement.

The carpet at Treasure Place Gift Shop was soaked, but no goods were damaged, said worker Serene Tan, 53. The shop had moved its wares off the floor since the flood last year, and this time, the water was barely 3cm high.

The building management was prepared, turning sandbags into barricades soon after rainwater began flowing into the basement.

At Fauzi Gifts, Mr Khan, who did not want to give his full name, said: 'It was way better than last time. The sandbags were in place, so it wasn't as bad. But we still lost business for an hour or so.'


Residents' Sunday plans dashed
Lutheran Towers condo hit; Bukit Timah Canal overflows, causing jam
Daryl Chin & Leow Si Wan Straits Times 6 Jun 11;

RESIDENTS of Lutheran Towers in Bukit Timah had a rude shock when they woke up yesterday - dirty, yellowish water was swirling all around the entrance of their condominium.

For one resident in particular, it was deja vu. Mr Toh Ah Seng, 57, owner of a car rental company, said four of his cars which were parked on the road outside the condominium were damaged by the water and had to be towed away. He estimates damages to be more than $10,000.

Last June, during another period of heavy rain and flooding, two of his cars were affected by floodwaters at the same location and repair works set him back some $7,000.

Of yesterday's downpour, he said: 'The rain and flood came so suddenly and seeped into the engine. By the time I knew what was happening, it was too late. It was knee high on the road outside and ankle deep at the entrance of the carpark.'

Other residents of the condominium in Tan Kim Cheng Road also had their plans for the day dashed. Mr Khor Eng Ghee, 75, was supposed to meet friends in Orchard Road for breakfast but one look outside his window changed his mind.

'I could not possibly drive out to the main road. In the end, I just had to wait it out and cancel on my friends,' he said.

Another resident, student Neo Yi Wei, 19, sent photographs of the flood to The Straits Times' citizen journalism website Stomp. 'I took the pictures at 11am,' he said. 'This is the first I have seen flooding here with my own eyes. I tried to go down later, but the water was very uncomfortable to wade in.' He said most of the floodwaters subsided by noon.

Another resident, salesman Jason Lee, 29, was relieved that the water did not enter the condo compound. 'That's something we can be thankful for,' he said.

Other parts of Bukit Timah were also hard hit as the Bukit Timah Canal overflowed. At the music school Academy of Rock next to Coronation Plaza, water reached the entrance of the unit.

'We were fearful the water might rise higher than the steps and come in. Thankfully, it started to slow to a drizzle soon after,' said marketing manager Affandy Senawi, 29.

Further down the road, saleswoman Jennifer Low, 39, looked on in disbelief from her office in Tan Chong Motors.

Ms Low, who has an overview of Bukit Timah Road from her office, said: 'Traffic was at a total stop for more than an hour. There was stuff floating around, and some cars seemed to be half-submerged in the water.'

The PUB said flash floods occurred at the stretch between Blackmore and Maplewood Road, affecting two out of three lanes, and forcing an hour-long road closure. It added that drainage capacity from Jalan Kampong Chantek to Maple Avenue will improve by the year end.

Said lawyer Gilbert Koh, 34, who lives in the area: 'I go overseas for work often. I can only hope that the floods don't wreck my home and car while I'm gone.'

Flood water obscures drain where teen was swept away
Straits Times 6 Jun 11;

AT THE sound of gushing water and thunder early yesterday, 20-year-old Mandalay Towers resident Kevin Don's first instinct was to tell his younger brothers not to step foot outside.

After all, the condominium off Moulmein Road is just a stone's throw from the site where Indonesian student William Lim fell into a swollen drain last week, was swept away and subsequently found drowned.

Mr Don said: 'I've told my brothers to be extra careful and not head out if they hear heavy rain or can't see the road.'

Yesterday's torrential rain also reminded others about the dangers of being in a neighbourhood where, during a flood, it becomes difficult in some places to tell where the pavement ends and the drain begins.

New railings went up last week where William fell.

In Mandalay Mansion, another condominium down the road, resident Jeffrey Lai, a 37-year-old accountant, said yesterday's flood was as bad as he had ever seen: 'The road was covered with muddy water, and all I could see were the barriers erected last week. But at least that's better than nothing.'

Besides Moulmein, flash floods also hit flood-prone MacPherson hard. The rain between 6.30am and 10am put Wan Tho Avenue, Siang Kwang Avenue, Jalan Kemboja and Puay Hee Road under water, said national water agency PUB.

MacPherson resident George Leong, a 40-year-old bank manager, said: 'When I saw how heavy the rain was, I knew I had to waterproof the first floor of my house.' He put some towels at the doors and carted some of his family's belongings upstairs.

Others in the area could not take such preventive measures on time.

Public relations executive D. Lee, 27, said the flood waters were already ankle deep in her home when she awoke at 7am.

With last year's floods still fresh in her mind, she set up a barrier across her doorway anyway.

'It's not as bad. The flood subsided within two hours,' she said.


Heavy rain causes flash floods in Singapore
Sara Grosse and Saifulbahri Bin Ismail Channel NewsAsia 5 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: Singapore national water agency PUB said heavy and intense rain fell over the central and eastern parts of Singapore early Sunday morning, resulting in flash floods in various locations.

PUB said the rainfall on Sunday was more intense than that of June last year, with about 65mm recorded within 30 minutes on Sunday morning, compared to the 100mm within two hours on June 16, 2010.

PUB said the rainfall in the eastern area started early Sunday morning and caused flash floods at MacPherson areas including Wan Tho Avenue, Sian Kwang Avenue, Jalan Kemboja and Puay Hee Road.

The MacPherson area is a flood-prone area.

The rain moved over to the central area and intensified later in the morning.

Callers to the MediaCorp hotline reported flooding in areas such as Cuscaden Road, Hillcrest Road, Eng Neo Avenue, Sennett Estate near Potong Pasir, MacPherson, Toa Payoh, and Balestier.

They also reported fallen trees caused by the downpour and gusty wind.

PUB said Orchard Road did not experience similar floods this time.

PUB said it has substantially completed raising the stretch of Orchard Road (from Orange Grove Road to Cairnhill Road).

However, flash floods occurred at Cuscaden Road, Tanglin/Tomlinson Road junction, and Napier Road/Tanglin Road junction.

The basement carpark of Delfi Orchard was flooded.

The basement level 1 of Tanglin Mall was also affected for the first time

Forum Shopping Mall was also affected, and many stores had to close temporarily.

MediaCorp understands that water levels were about ankle-deep.

When MediaCorp visited Tanglin and Forum Shopping malls, store owners and employees there said that they had been cleaning up for more than two hours.

Spinelli Coffee Company retail store manager at Forum The Shopping Mall Chen Jiahui said: "The rain is too heavy; the water comes too fast so subsequently, the area is all flooded.

"The water just keeps on gushing in because (the) door is an auto door, so there's no way we can stop the water from coming in".

PUB said it deployed tankers to both Delfi Orchard and Tanglin Mall to pump out the water from their basement carparks.

Meanwhile, at Bukit Timah Road, flash floods occurred at the stretch from Blackmore to Maplewood Road and two out of three lanes were affected. The road was closed temporarily for one hour.

PUB said drainage improvement works are in progress at the stretch from Jalan Kampong Chantek to Maple Avenue and this will improve the drainage capacity along this stretch by end-2011.

PUB mobilised staff and contractors to the sites once it received alerts of heavy rain.

PUB, Traffic Police and SCDF officers were on site to render assistance.

In a statement issued at 12.15pm, PUB said the flash floods reported earlier along Bukit Timah Road (the stretch from Blackmore road to Maplewood Road) and Dunearn Road (from Rifle Range Road to Yarwood Road) as well as at Orchard Road (Cuscaden Road - at the Tanglin/Tomlinson Road junction; Tanglin/Napir Road junction) have subsided.

These roads are now passable to traffic.

In Bukit Timah, the management committee of Tessarina condominium told MediaCorp residents were alerted by a siren on Sunday morning when the Bukit Timah canal burst its banks.

Many then drove their cars out of the basement to higher grounds.

The flood barrier at the condominium was also activated as a preventive measure.

The condominium was one of the places badly affected by previous floods.

PUB said at Marina Barrage, up to five gates were operated during the early part of the morning when sea tide was lower.

Seven pumps were operated at the later part of the morning to lower the water level at Marina Reservoir.

PUB said it has an ongoing drainage improvement programme in flood-prone areas.

It has also enhanced its flood-monitoring system by increasing the number of water level sensors in key canals and drains from 32 to 90 in end-2010.

This will be further increased to 150 by end-2011.

Flash floods hit parts of Orchard, Bukit Timah areas
Flooding in Tanglin Mall basement and Delfi Orchard basement carpark
Teh Shi Ning Business Times 6 Jun 11;

(SINGAPORE) Sunday morning's downpours triggered flash floods in flood- prone MacPherson as well as some parts of the Orchard Road and Bukit Timah areas.

This led to indoor flooding of the basement of Tanglin Mall as well as the basement carpark of Delfi Orchard in scenes reminiscent of the flooding which led to a public outcry last June.

But Orchard Road itself did not experience similar floods this time, said national water agency PUB.

This was despite more intense rainfall - 65mm of rain fell within 30 minutes yesterday compared with 100mm in two hours on June 16, 2010.

Heavy rains over eastern Singapore started from 6.30am yesterday, triggering the flash floods at MacPherson. The rain then moved to central Singapore, intensifying from 10 to 11am. The 124mm of rainfall recorded for the central area yesterday morning made up 77 per cent of the average monthly rainfall for June.

Along Bukit Timah Road, two out of three lanes were affected by the flash floods, leading to an hour-long closure of the stretch from Blackmore to Maplewood Road.

PUB said drainage improvement works now underway in that area should improve drainage capacity by the end of this year.

The water agency also said it mobilised staff and contractors to the sites once it received alerts of heavy rain, deploying tankers to Delfi Orchard and Tanglin Mall to pump out water from their basements. Traffic Police and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers were despatched to the flood sites.

In a bid to assure the public that its flood monitoring system is being enhanced, PUB said that it raised the number of water-level sensors in key canals and drains from 32 to 90 last year, and will add more to bring this to 150 by the year-end.

Read more!

Mangroves to receive huge boost from new carbon credit rules

IUCN 6 Jun 11;

A new method for calculating the role that mangrove restoration plays in slowing climate change, by capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, has been adopted.

The methodology is adopted under the UN climate change convention’s Kyoto Protocol, as part of the Clean Development Mechanism that supports emission reduction projects in developing countries. .

This will provide a significant boost to restoration efforts for mangrove forests, which grow in tropical and sub-tropical coastal regions and provide a wide range of biological services such as nurseries for juvenile fish and a source of timber for local populations.

“The fact that this new methodology is now part of the Clean Development Mechanism should allow us to achieve similar results for other types of coastal and marine ecosystems,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. “Adopting new policies and financing mechanisms for protection and management of our oceans should be at the heart of nature-based solutions to climate change.”

Only recently has the important role of mangroves in trapping carbon from the atmosphere and locking it into sediments begun to be recognised. Many scientists believe that mangroves are far more efficient at trapping carbon than tropical and temperate forests, whose role as climate regulators has been recognised and established longer.

The methodology was developed by IUCN, Ramsar and Sylvestrum for the Clean Development Mechanism and was based on field experiences from a 3-year partnership with Danone. The project was initiated by food and water company Danone and its brand Evian in partnership with IUCN and Ramsar, which implemented large mangrove restoration initiatives together with local communities in Africa and Asia..

“The new methodology will open up opportunities for mangrove restoration on a far greater scale,” enthuses Bernard Giraud, Danone Vice President of Sustainability. “It will have a very significant impact on local communities and will stimulate companies to make corporate-level investment and grasp new carbon offsetting opportunities in coastal regions.”

Mangrove forests are just one of several coastal ecosystems that play an important role in regulating climate and are commonly referred to as “blue carbon” solutions. Others include salt marshes, seagrasses, kelp forests and wetlands.

Many mangroves become degraded through the upstream building of dams, roads and irrigation channels. The methodology also recognises the importance of automatic regeneration of mangroves, which can be achieved through changes to the upstream hydrology or “re-wetting.”

“Destruction of coastal habitats releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroys livelihoods,” says Prof Nicholas Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “Well-planned and implemented restoration and protection of these ecosystems delivers very tangible benefits to local populations in tropical countries, and increases the ecosystems’ capacity to store carbon.”

Note to editors:

About IUCN

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

About the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

The Ramsar Convention is a global intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. Signed in the Iranian town of Ramsar in 1971 and the first of the modern global environmental treaties, the Convention established the basis for the management and sustainable use of wetlands. To date, it remains the only global environmental agreement devoted to a particular ecosystem. This year, 2011, the Convention celebrates its 40th anniversary.

About Danone, Evian and sustainable development

Danone is present in over 120 countries on five continents. Its mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible. In 2010 Danone had more than 160 production plants and around 100,000 employees, generating sales of €17 billion, of which half were in emerging markets.
The company is committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% between 2008 and 2012. It has also engaged an innovative approach to offset its remaining carbon emissions through the restoration of ecosystems which sequestrate high volumes of carbon while providing significant food resources to the local communities. In partnership with local organisations, 100 million mangrove trees were planted in Senegal and India. Evian has a long experience in protecting water resources and supports specific program to store carbon by restoring wetlands.

About Sylvestrum

Sylvestrum is a small firm with a global network of specialists in the area of climate change mitigation. It assists in the creation of carbon assets in land-use projects for compliance and voluntary markets worldwide. Having pioneered in project development since the mid 1990s, Sylvestrum is specialised in afforestation/reforestation, reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, improved forest management, peatland management and bioenergy, under various standards. (CDM, VCS, CCBA, FSC)


Mitigating Climate Change through Restoration and Management of Coastal Wetlands and Near-shore Marine Ecosystems

Capturing and Conserving Natural Coastal Carbon: Building mitigation, advancing adaptation
The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks

Useful links:

Clean Development Mechanism
Wetland Carbon Partnership

Read more!

Madagascar's record of biodiversity: 600 species discovered in a decade

WWF hails the scientific variety to be found on Madagascar but highlights the forces that could threaten it
Alok Jha The Guardian 6 Jun 11;

More than 600 new species have been discovered in Madagascar's unique habitats in the past decade, among them 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals, according to a report published by the conservation group WWF.

Eyecatching new species include Berthe's mouse lemur which is 10cm long and weighs only 30g, making it the smallest known primate. There's also a 4cm-long Komac's golden orb spider that spins webs up to a metre in diameter and the cork bark leaf-tailed gecko, which looks just like the bark of a tree, allowing it to hide effortlessly from predators.

Unfortunately, WWF also highlights that such remarkable diversity on Madagascar is fragile, as the country reels from political and economic turmoil in recent years.

"We blithely think that we have a really good understanding of the natural world and what's there, but the fact that we can go out to these places and find, on a regular basis, new species suggests that we don't know the world half as well as we think," said Mark Wright, conservation science adviser at WWF-UK. "That reinforces our desire to protect it because what we don't want to do is destroy these places before we even recognise it existed there."

Madagascar is a jewel in biodiversity terms because of its isolation from the major continents. "It split from Africa a long time ago and then subsequently split from the Indian block 80m years ago. It has had 80m years for evolution to have a bit of fun," said Wright. "It is a very odd island. In terms of its geography, it helps speciation. There's a mountain ridge down the middle, so on the east of the island you've got rainforest, but everything on the west is a rain shadow. So you get an enormous variety of environments from the very wet to the very dry. It's a fantastic range of environments into which species can adapt."

But such species that the unique conditions create is are vulnerable. The vast majority of people in Madagascar still use wood for heating, cooking and building, leading to enormous pressures on forest habitats. As the human population has expanded in recent years, there has been a rise in slash-and-burn agriculture. Over the past 20 years, Madagascar has lost more than 1 million hectares of forest, and in the aftermath of a coup in March 2009, the rainforests were pillaged for hardwoods such as rosewood, destroying tens of thousands of hectares of some of the island's most biologically diverse national parks – including Marojejy, Masoala, Makira and Mananara.

Protecting the island's biodiversity will have to involve locals, said Wright, and it will have to include incentives for them to look after their forests. "If they have no practical way of making a living, of course they are going to turn to the natural resources sector and see what they can get from that, and who wouldn't do it?"

Among the species finds on Madagascar are potential economic crops. "They've found six new species of coffee," said Wright. "Economically, it's phenomenally important and, at the same time, we know that with things like climate change, they will always be vulnerable. So it's great to have that store of new genetic stock that you can draw on. You have six new species that are quite diverse – some are hairy, some have beans twice as big as the Arabica beans that we normally use for coffee. Suddenly there is a whole new batch of genetic material that we could dip into in order to work on the coffees we use at the moment."

There is a long way to go, Wright added, but he was optimistic. "There are some signs that things are good – there are growing local groups who are trying to conserve biodiversity. There is a local recognition and a need to protect it for their own reasons – that is very healthy."

'Treasure Trove' of New Species Discovered in Madagascar
Andrea Mustain Yahoo News 6 Jun 11;

Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world, has proved to be a taxonomist's dream in recent years. Since 1999, on a nearly weekly basis, scientists have uncovered a parade of 615 new species — from the colorful and cuddly to the downright bizarre.

The world's smallest primate, Berthe’s mouse lemur, a creature teeny enough to perch inside a shot glass at 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) tall and weighing in at just an ounce (30 grams), and a lizard that wears a tree-bark disguise are among the standouts of the hundreds of species to debut, all compiled in a new report from the conservation organization WWF. [See some of the amazing species discovered.]

And although some new species are more charismatic than others (a yam isn't quite as photogenic as a lemur), Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, WWF Madagascar's conservation director, said it's hard to pick a favorite.

"All the species are so special, and many are unique to Madagascar," Ratsifandrihamanana told OurAmazingPlanet. "They don't exist anywhere else in the world."

Treasure trove of species

The island's treasure trove of unique species stems from its relative isolation. Madagascar has been separated from Africa and the Indian subcontinent for the last 80 million to 100 million years, allowing its plant and animal residents to evolve into fantastical forms. About 70 percent of its species are unseen anywhere else on the planet.

In total over the last 12 years, researchers have identified 17 fish, 41 mammals, 61 reptiles, 69 amphibians, 42 invertebrates and 385 plants new to science since 1999. And the pace of discovery shows no signs of slowing.

In fact, due to growing scientific interest in Madagascar's denizens, and thanks to technological advances that allow for faster identification, such as DNA coding, Ratsifandrihamanana said the onslaught of new species described could continue or even increase.

But the news isn't all good.

"The sad part is that there could be many species that will disappear before they are discovered," she said.

Many of the creatures discovered are already endangered and are losing habitat quickly.

Disappearing forests

Madagascar's forests, home to many of its unique species, were cleared at a rate of about 2 percent a year from 1950 to 1990. According to WWF, the island has lost 90 percent of its original forest cover.

That's because humans depend on the island's forests, too. About 80 percent of the Malagasy population uses wood as its main source of energy.

In addition, large swaths of forest are cleared for subsistence farming.

Although Ratsifandrihamanana said the rate of deforestation was cut in half from 1990 to 2005, the last year for which figures are available, she said it remains a serious problem.

"We're really trying to empower local communities so they are better managers of the resources, because they are the ones who make the daily decisions for how they will use the forest," Ratsifandrihamanana said, adding that one major piece of the puzzle is improving the population's economic situation.

The country is one of the poorest on the planet, and a 2009 coup further complicated the nation's already bleak financial situation. Since the political upheaval, international funding for the country's environmental program was cut off, and there's been an increase in trafficking in exotic animals and prized, rare trees.

However, despite its troubles, Ratsifandrihamanana said WWF and other international organizations continue conservation efforts on a local level in Madagascar.

"It's an extraordinary place," Ratsifandrihamanana said. "We need a lot of support now for the environment."

Read more!

Malaysia: State park plan for Setiu wetlands

New Straits Times 6 Jun 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU: A proposal has been made to turn the Setiu wetlands into a state park to preserve biodiversity and promote sustainable development.

"Efforts to conserve the wetland's environment require more support and funding by the state government and other government agencies to allow for better management of wetlands," said Setiu member of parliament Datuk Mohd Jidin Shafee.

Jidin said this after attending the memorandum of understanding signing ceremony between World Wide Fund for Nature- Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) on the sustainable management of the Setiu Wetlands at UMT's Mahyudin Hall here recently.

"I hope the Federal and state governments will provide bigger allocations for the conservation effort so that the authorities and the community can protect the area effectively."

He said the proposed state park would be made up of 1,918ha of mostly government land and 174 plots which were privately owned.

Present at the function were UMT Vice- Chancellor Professor Dr Aziz Deraman and WWF- Malaysia chairman Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Mohamad.

Dr Aziz said the MoU was the renewal of an agreement of cooperation of sustainable development between the university and the organisation signed four years ago.

"This second phase of our cooperation is aimed at ensuring the continuation of activities held previously.

"We are also looking forward to holding more activities with WWF-Malaysia and the community in Setiu in terms of education, research, documentation."

UMT would be expanding its research facility in the wetlands, he added.

Read more!

Australia flood costs soar to Aus$7bn

Yahoo News 5 Jun 11;

SYDNEY (AFP) – The damage bill from massive floods which hit northeastern Australia a few months ago will likely be Aus$6.8 billion (US$7.3 billion) -- $1 billion more than previously thought -- an official said Sunday.

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser revised the cost of the natural disaster which affected an area the size of France and Germany combined and was followed within days by the destructive Cyclone Yasi after getting further estimates.

"As well as the tragic human cost, there has also been enormous damage to infrastructure and significant costs incurred in managing the response and recovery process," Fraser said in a statement.

"Such a big damage bill underlines the enormity of the task ahead."

Australia suffered historic floods in December and January which swamped coal mines, ruined roads and other infrastructure and destroyed crops and farmland in Queensland.

The first estimate was that Aus$5.8 billion of damage had been caused by the floods which swamped thousands of homes and paralysed the state capital Brisbane.

Fraser said the revised figure was due to local councils increasing their estimate for repairs by $900 million to more than $2.7 billion.

The floods, which claimed more than 30 lives, also helped Australia's economy to its heaviest contraction for 20 years in the first three months of 2011, according to data released last week.

"It wasn't surprising the economy contracted by 1.2 percent in the quarter, with the floods and cyclones estimated to have sliced 1.7 percentage points from growth," national Treasurer Wayne Swan said in his weekly note.

Swan said the floods and cyclones in both northern and western Australia had cost $12 billion in lost production, some $6.7 billion of which was in the March quarter, chiefly in the key coal mining industry.

Australia is home to the world's largest coal export port and sends millions of tonnes of the fuel annually to Asian steelmakers and power companies, with total 2010 shipments worth Aus$43 billion.

Read more!

Fears over Myanmar deep-sea port plan

Alex Delamare Yahoo News 5 Jun 11;

YANGON (AFP) – Mechanical diggers on the pristine beaches near the sleepy fishing town of Dawei are a sign that change is coming to the remote corner of Myanmar -- but not necessarily for the better.

The area has been chosen for a vast port complex that is the latest example of how foreign investment from Asian allies like China and Thailand is transforming the military-dominated nation despite Western sanctions.

Some believe the 10-year, $8 billion Dawei Development Project, led by a Thai industrial giant, could invigorate the country's impoverished economy and revolutionise regional trade.

But hopes that the planned deep-sea port and giant industrial estate will inject much-needed investment have been tempered by fears about a potential influx of "dirty" industry and concerns that it will displace thousands.

"Myanmar still ignores environmental issues", said Tanit Sorat of the Federation of Thai Industries in an interview with AFP, citing lack of regulation as a key advantage of Dawei.

"Dawei is the world's solution for industry that affects the environment, heavy industry and the industry that is banned in other countries," he said, adding the entire project could be worth $60 billion dollars or more.

A local aid worker and campaigner, who estimates 23,000 people will have to move, said the first phase of construction was already altering the quiet tropical town of his childhood.

"The shores are so beautiful, with their long white sands, but in a couple of years it will all be gone," said the activist, whose name AFP has withheld to protect his security.

He said that because of a lack of regulation and entrenched cronyism in Myanmar the development is likely to be "very corrupt", while soaring property prices are already putting pressure on local people.

"The government does not consider the people, it just does what it does," he said.

David Mathieson of Human Rights Watch said there were few details available on Dawei's potential impact on communities, but previous experience of large scale developments was of misery for local people.

"Human rights abuses always accompany these projects, including displacement, land confiscation, forced labour and abuses related to increased military/security presence," he said.

Such abuses have already been linked to two of Myanmar's major energy projects currently under construction -- pipelines to transport gas from the coast of western Rakhine state and oil from the Middle East and Africa across the country to China.

Dawei, on the Andaman coast facing the Indian Ocean, has long been a strategic prize -- it was one of Britain's first colonial conquests in the country in the 19th Century.

Somchet Thinaphong, who is managing the project for its developer, Italthai Group, said the port project could create up to 100,000 jobs.

"It will lift employment and education very much -- think about Thailand 30 years ago," he said, adding that the Myanmar government sees the project as a link to the outside world.

Economic mismanagement and cronyism during half a century of army rule has left the country, also known as Burma, isolated and impoverished, despite abundant natural resources.

The handover to a nominally-civilian government, following last November's controversial election, has raised tentative hopes among some for change.

But Sean Turnell, Myanmar economic expert at Macquarie University in Sydney, was sceptical over how much of the investment in the port project would trickle down to local people.

"The idea that there will be hundreds of thousands of jobs is absurd," he said.

Indeed, the main beneficiary of Dawei looks likely to be Thailand.

Goods from Thai exporters are currently shipped from the Gulf of Thailand, around Singapore and through the Malacca Straits before heading west, but it is hoped a road and rail link to Dawei could end the costly detour.

Dawei would also provide a "short cut" for crude oil coming into Southeast Asia from the Middle East, according to an Italthai presentation seen by AFP, which also envisaged a train link to Kunming in southern China.

Plans for the 250 square kilometre (100 square mile) site include a steel mill, fertiliser plant, a coal-fired power station and oil refinery -- potential boons for Myanmar's energy-hungry neighbour.

It comes as resistance to large industrial estates grows in Thailand -- as seen in an ultimately unsuccessful but high profile case against the vast Map Ta Phut development on its eastern seaboard last year.

Turnell said lack of regulation might help lure investors nervous about doing business in Myanmar as "you are not likely to have environment inspectors knocking on the door."

An environmental assessment is under way, Italthai's Somchet said, but will take a year to complete.

Craig Steffensen, of the Asian Development Bank, told AFP last month that Dawei had "huge potential" for the region, although there were concerns about the local area.

"You have to be very, very careful when it come to the environment and affected communities... but whether the authorities in Myanmar will undertake the same sort of steps (as the ADB would advocate) is unclear," he said.

Construction of a road link to Thailand is almost complete and the first phase, including one of three planned docks, is set to be operational within five years.

The local campaigner, whose organisation is busily training local people to boost their employment chances, said the challenge is to work out "how we can engage in this process -- it will happen anyway."

Read more!

$40 billion needed to ensure transition to green economy: UN

Yahoo News 5 Jun 11;

NAIROBI (AFP) – Investing $40 billion annually in the forest sector is needed for the world to transition into a low carbon, resource-efficient green economy, according to a UN report released here Sunday.

The additional investment "could halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by around 140 per cent by 2050," said the report published by the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

"Carefully planned investments would also contribute to increased employment from 25 million today to 30 million by 2050," it also added.

The cost of ensuring a green transition would equal $40 billion a year or around 0.034 per cent of global GDP, the report said.

Such an investment, equivalent to about two-thirds more than what is currently spent on the sector, would also remove an extra 28 per cent of carbon from the atmosphere, the Nairobi-based UNEP said.

Earlier this week the UNEP warned that fires, felling and agriculture are whittling Europe's forests down into isolated patches, threatening to speed up desertification and deplete wildlife.

The UN Environment Programme is working with scientists to draw up maps of areas that need to be replanted to help reconnect fragmented forests. The maps will submitted at a June 14-16 ministerial meeting in Oslo.

Read more!