Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jun 11

Anemone hunt at Cyrene!
from wild shores of singapore and wonderful creation

Cyrene Reef (6 Jun 2011)
from teamseagrass and extraordinary miracles

New Articles on Nature in Singapore
from Raffles Museum News

Yellow-vented Bulbul: Recycling old nests?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

little heron fishing @ SBWR June 2011
from sgbeachbum

Hunting Ogres in Singapore
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Wild boar spotted at Punggol Riverside gets 'friendly' with passers-by
from Lazy Lizard's Tales and Giant jellyfish seen at Pasir Ris

How do we save the Sumatran rhino?

Read more!

Ferry runs aground north of Pulau Tekong

Mustafa Shafawi Channel NewsAsia 7 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: A ferry ran aground north of Pulau Tekong Tuesday morning after experiencing engine trouble.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was informed at 11.25 am Tuesday that the Belize-registered passenger ferry, FB Falcon Princess, had beached north of Pulau Tekong about 1.8 km west-southwest of Johor's Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal.

The incident occurred within the Singapore port limit.

The passenger ferry was on a scheduled trip from Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal.

At the time of the incident, there were 24 passengers and 11 crew onboard.

MPA said all passengers were safely transferred to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal using another boat.

There was no report of any injury or pollution.

Vessel traffic remains unaffected.

MPA said it has issued navigational broadcasts to inform ships in the vicinity of the incident and to keep clear.

MPA said it is investigating the incident.

- CNA/cc

Passenger ferry beached at Pulau Tekong
AsiaOne 7 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - Engine problem forced a Belize-registered passenger ferry to stop at Pulau Tekong this morning.

The ferry was on a scheduled trip from Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal in Johor, Malaysia.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in a statement said that the FB Falcon Princess beached north of Pulau Tekong, about 1.8 km west-southwest of Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal.

The incident occurred within the Singapore port limit, MPA said.

There were 24 passengers on board. There were also 11 crew members working on the vessel.

All passengers have been safely transferred to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal, said MPA. There was no report of any injury or pollution. The incident did not disrupt naval traffic in the area.

MPA is investigating the incident.

Located northeast of Singapore, Pulau Tekong is the second largest of the Republic's outlying islands and is east of Pulau Ubin.

Ferry runs aground north of Pulau Tekong
Mustafa Shafawi Channel NewsAsia 7 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: A ferry ran aground north of Pulau Tekong Tuesday morning after experiencing engine trouble.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was informed at 11.25 am Tuesday that the Belize-registered passenger ferry, FB Falcon Princess, had beached north of Pulau Tekong about 1.8 km west-southwest of Johor's Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal.

The incident occurred within the Singapore port limit.

The passenger ferry was on a scheduled trip from Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal.

At the time of the incident, there were 24 passengers and 11 crew onboard.

MPA said all passengers were safely transferred to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal using another boat.

There was no report of any injury or pollution.

Vessel traffic remains unaffected.

MPA said it has issued navigational broadcasts to inform ships in the vicinity of the incident and to keep clear.

MPA said it is investigating the incident.

- CNA/cc

Johor-bound ferry runs into trouble
Straits Times 8 Jun 11;

A FERRY from Changi Point had almost reached its Malaysian destination when it developed engine trouble after hitting a half-submerged metal pole.

The 24 passengers had to be transferred to other vessels which answered a call for help from the FB Falcon Princess ferry yesterday.

It had left Changi Point Ferry Terminal at around 10am for Tanjung Belungkor in Johor. From there, holidaymakers take a taxi or coach to Desaru, about 30km away. Towards the end of the hour-long trip yesterday, the passengers - mostly Singaporeans - heard a loud scraping sound from the ferry's engine.

The 11-member crew called for help and nearby Malaysian boat operators responded. All 24 passengers and the crew boarded their boats which took them to their intended destination.

According to Mr Guo Li, whose Malaysian-registered vessel was among those which provided help, the Falcon Princess had hit a large metal pole or structure half-submerged in the water. This had damaged the engine and the bottom of the ferry, causing it to stall.

A 56-year-old passenger, who wanted to be known only as Madam Tan, said: 'We heard the sounds of the engine spluttering - it sounded like there was something jammed there, then the boat stopped.'

She added that though she felt nervous, others kept calm as they knew they were not far from the coast.

A Maritime and Port Authority spokesman said it was informed of the incident at around 11.30am yesterday.

There was no report of injury or pollution. It is investigating the incident, which took place in Singapore waters.


Ferry Beached North Of Pulau Tekong, Says Singapore MFA
Bernama 7 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE, June 7 (Bernama) -- The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) was informed at 11.25 am that a Belize-registered passenger ferry, FB Falcon Princess, had an engine problem and beached north of Pulau Tekong.

The ferry was located at 1.8 km west-southwest of Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal, Johor.

The incident occurred within the Singapore port limit, said the MPA in a statement.

The passenger ferry was on a scheduled trip from the Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal.

At the time of the incident, there were 24 passengers and 11 crew onboard the vessel. All passengers were safely transferred to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal using other passenger craft. There was no report of any injury or pollution.

Vessel traffic remains unaffected. MPA has issued navigational broadcasts to inform ships in the vicinity of the incident and to keep clear.

MPA is investigating the incident.


Ferry beached north of Pulau Tekong
liyana SingaporeScene Yahoo News 7 Jun 11;

The ferry was 1.8km away from Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal. (Yahoo! file photo)

The ferry was 1.8km away from Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal. (Yahoo! file photo)

An engine problem caused a ferry to beach north of Pulau Tekong on Tuesday morning.

The Belize-registered passenger ferry, FB Falcon Princess, was on a scheduled trip to Johor's Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal from Changi Ferry Terminal when the incident happened.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said in a statement that it was informed of the incident, which occurred within the Singapore port limit, at 11.25am.

In an email reply to Yahoo! Singapore, MPA said the the ferry captain chose to beach at Pulau Tekong as it was the nearest shallow water area at the time of the incident.

A boat from Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal transported the 24 passengers and 11 crew onboard the ferry Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal at noon.

There was no report of any injury or pollution, and vessel traffic was not affected, said MPA.

The MPA is investigating the incident.

Ferry Beached North Of Pulau Tekong
MPA Press Release 7 Jun 11;

At about 1125hrs on 7 June 2011 (Singapore time), the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) was informed that a Belize-registered passenger ferry, FB Falcon Princess, had an engine problem and beached north of Pulau Tekong about 1.8 km west-southwest of Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal, Johor. The incident occurred within the Singapore port limit.

The passenger ferry was on a scheduled trip from Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal. At the time of the incident, there were 24 passengers and 11 crew onboard the vessel. All passengers were safely transferred to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal using other passenger craft. There was no report of any injury or pollution.

Vessel traffic remains unaffected. MPA has issued navigational broadcasts to inform ships in the vicinity of the incident and to keep clear. MPA is investigating the incident.

End of Release.

Read more!

Singapore: Hard to tell if the weather is changing, say experts

But what has happened fits expected pattern of a warming climate
Grace Chua Straits Times 7 Jun 11;

IS SINGAPORE'S weather changing?

On Sunday, speaking after the year's worst floods, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said there was a 'very high probability that our weather patterns have changed'.

While experts say it is too early to tell if the weather is changing, they add that what has happened fits the pattern of a warming climate.

Associate Professor Matthias Roth, deputy head of the National University of Singapore's geography department, explained: 'We cannot link one particular weather phenomenon to climate or climate change, because the latter is a long-term average of the weather, which is experienced on a day-to-day basis.'

One heavy thunderstorm will not change the long-term average - but enough of them will, he said. So more data has to be collected over the years before there is enough evidence that the climate is shifting.

'Having said this, the recently observed pattern fits the expected increase in extreme events predicted to occur in a warming climate,' he added.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), which provides meteorological services, said it is studying the impact of climate change on local weather.

Already, the first phase of Singapore's climate change vulnerability study, released last year, has predicted that the temperature could rise between 2.7 deg C and 4.4 deg C from the present average of 26.8 deg C by 2100.

But it showed no discernible trend in rainfall patterns over the next century.

Scientists at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling have suggested mechanisms by which human activity could change monsoons.

For example, fine particles of black carbon or soot from burning fuel could absorb heat, warming the air, drawing moisture in and hastening and intensifying the monsoon, said MIT senior research scientist, Dr Chien Wang.

The NEA attributed Sunday's thunderstorm to the convergence of winds which brought unstable weather conditions and rain clouds over Singapore and the surrounding region.

The region is entering the south-west monsoon season, which typically lasts from June to September, and the onset of which is determined by the direction of prevailing winds.

On Sunday, rain clouds developed to the south-east and moved towards Singapore, Batam and the southern part of Johor.

'As the convergence of winds occurred close to Singapore, the rainfall over Singapore was particularly intense as compared to the nearby states,' an NEA spokesman said.

The heaviest downpour, over the central area, added up to 124mm, or about 77 per cent of the average monthly rainfall for June.

About 65mm of rain fell in just half an hour, which made the rainfall more intense than last June, when 100mm of rain fell in two hours and Orchard Road was flooded.

Sunday's thunderstorm was also different in origin from the storm on June 1, which followed hot weather and was caused by strong convective heating over land. A teenage boy was swept away by flood waters and drowned that day after he fell into a swollen drain.

But is it possible to predict such fierce thunderstorms?

That is difficult, said Prof Roth, especially in the tropics.

In temperate zones, the weather is associated with predictable low or high-pressure systems.

But in the tropics, rainfall is associated with the rising of hot air, a phenomenon 'which can appear at any time if the conditions are right', he said.

According to the NEA website, south- west monsoon conditions will prevail over Singapore and the surrounding region until June 15, with surface winds from the south and south-east.

And for the next three days, showers with thunder are expected over north, east and central Singapore: This afternoon, tomorrow morning and early afternoon, and on Thursday morning.

Read more!

'Heavy rain, inability of pumps to cope led to flooding'

Marina Barrage has helped prevent floods, not contribute to them
Straits Times 7 Jun 11;

WHILE national water agency PUB has cut flood-prone areas from 3,178ha in 1970 to 66ha now, floods in recent years, such as those on Sunday, have caused damage, stalled traffic and posed safety risks.

The Straits Times put some questions to the agency yesterday:

The PUB now has sensors in major drains and canals; what steps are taken once they show drains are filling up? Which specific drains overflowed?

PUB has expanded its network of water level sensors from 32 to 90 in December 2010, and will further increase these to 150 by the end of this year.

These sensors have been installed at key canals and drains, and this enlarged network of sensors provides timely information about water levels, which the public can also access on PUB's website.

Information on water levels is also sent via SMS alert to schools and building managements in areas which have a history of flooding.

SMSes are sent to subscribers when water levels rise beyond 75per cent and 90per cent of the canal's depth. Through such an alert mechanism, building managements can take the necessary precautions to prepare for the possibility of flash floods.

Owners of buildings in Orchard Road such as Tong Building, Delfi, Lucky Plaza and Supreme Hotel received the alerts. The only exceptions were Tanglin Mall and St Regis. This was due to a problem with the system software which will be immediately rectified.

When PUB receives heavy rain warnings, we mobilise our staff and contractors to the sites (for example, Orchard Road and Bukit Timah). They check for chokages in the drains and clear them if any so that the drains can be kept free flowing.

During Sunday's rain event, the Bukit Timah Canal (along the stretch from Blackmore Road to Maplewood Road) overflowed. The drains at Cuscaden Road and the junction of Tanglin/Napier Roads also overflowed.

What are hot spots and flood-prone areas? And what precautions are taken for the residents in those areas?

Hot spots are localised areas where flash floods occur due to intense storms or specific localised conditions such as constrictions and bottlenecks in the drains, depressions along the road profile, inadequate drainage outlets along the roads and so on.

Flood-prone areas are those areas which are low-lying and/or do not have adequate drainage, with past records of flooding.

After each flash flood, PUB systematically investigates the cause and takes measures to improve the drainage at that location - for example, improving stretches of roadside drains and road culverts to remove bottlenecks, raising stretches of depressed roads, increasing the number of drainage outlets and stepping up maintenance of drainage outlets.

At present, the known flood-prone areas (66ha) are scattered in pockets across various parts of the island. Some examples are:

Eastern/northern (for example, Upper East Coast Road/Bayshore Road, Farnborough Road, Lorong Buangkok, Nee Soon Road, Admiralty Road West): 14ha

Western (for example, Benoi Sector, Yung Ann Road, Jurong Port Road, Jalan Haji Alias/Coronation Road West [Bukit Timah area]): 9ha

Central (for example, Syed Alwi Road [Jalan Besar area], Cambridge Road/Dorset Road [Farrer Park area] Lincoln Road/Surrey Road, Cantonment Link/Keppel Road, Rose Lane, Meyer Road/Fort Road/Arthur Road, Jalan Gembira/Siang Kuang Avenue [MacPherson area]): 43ha

Many of these are low-lying areas. PUB will progressively implement drainage improvement projects to reduce the risk of flooding in these areas. However, in some cases, low-lying areas will need to be raised in conjunction with redevelopment proposals.

A full list of flood-prone areas can be found on PUB's website at

Pedestrians are advised not to walk through flooded areas because of the risk of hidden hazards. The public can also visit for more information about managing flash floods.

Could increased construction such as the upcoming Downtown Line be contributing to rainwater runoff and flood risk?

All developments are required to ensure that the drainage system in the vicinity of the construction sites will not be adversely affected by construction works. PUB works closely with developers to monitor their construction activities to make sure that drains remain free from debris and obstructions.

Have developers been responsible in ensuring their drainage complies with flood-control measures? Has PUB taken any action against anyone?

Yes, generally, developers are required to comply with drainage requirements as stipulated in the latest version of the Code of Practice at the point in time. This is done via a building plan/development control consultation process. However, if any non-compliance is found upon completion, PUB is empowered under the Sewerage and Drainage Act to issue notice to building owners to rectify the non-compliance. Such notices have been issued in a few instances.

What is being done to reduce flood risk at all the other flood hot spots and high-risk areas?

PUB has an ongoing drainage improvement programme to implement such works in hot spots and flood-prone areas. Tenders have been and will be called for other works as well. However, in the case of some low-lying flood-prone areas, these areas will need to be raised in conjunction with redevelopment proposals.

A list of scheduled and accelerated drainage improvement projects is at:

All seven of the Marina Barrage water pumps were opened in the late morning on Sunday and yet it still flooded upstream. Why? Why have Singapore's biggest floods in recent years all occurred after the construction of the barrage?

The Marina Barrage is part of a comprehensive flood control scheme to alleviate flooding in the low-lying areas in the city such as Chinatown, Boat Quay, Jalan Besar and Geylang. By removing tidal influence, the five rivers (Stamford Canal, Rochor Canal, Kallang River, Singapore River and Geylang River) are safe from back-flow of water as the water level within the Marina Reservoir can be kept constant or lowered when there are impeding storms.

By keeping seawater out, Marina Barrage acts as a tidal barrier to reduce flash floods in low-lying areas in the city. Its nine crest gates will be lowered if there is excess water in the basin. In the event that heavy rain coincides with high tides, seven drainage pumps will be activated to remove excess storm water in the basin.

In fact, during the recent floods, the operation of the barrage helped prevent low-lying areas like Chinatown and Boat Quay from flooding.

In fact, flooding in the affected buildings was due to a combination of an excessive amount of rain falling directly into the basements and the inability of the buildings' internal drainage pumps to cope.

PUB alert didn't reach two flood-hit buildings
Agency to fix glitch that left Tanglin Mall, St Regis without early warning
Leow Si Wan Straits Times 7 Jun 11;

THE PUB said yesterday that flood alerts were sent to Orchard Road building owners on Sunday, but not to the two that needed them most - Tanglin Mall and the St Regis complex.

The reason: A technical glitch.

'This was due to a problem with the system software which will be immediately rectified,' a PUB spokesman told The Straits Times.

The mall and the upscale St Regis Residences suffered the most damage when floods hit Singapore's premier shopping belt on Sunday.

Tanglin Mall centre director Jenny Ng said: 'This is very worrying... If we had known a bit earlier, we could have done more. Sunday's floods really caught us by surprise.'

A spokesman for St Regis said it regarded the missing alert as 'a significant matter' and would contact PUB to make sure that it receives future alerts.

Shops in Tanglin Mall's first floor and basement one were badly flooded, as were its three basement carparks.

Cold Storage's Market Place supermarket, which was flooded and saw part of its false ceiling collapse, remained closed yesterday.

Over at St Regis Residences, the basement three carpark was hit and about 40 cars - many of them luxury brands, including a Lamborghini, an Aston Martin and a Ferrari - were submerged.

The St Regis Hotel saw some water enter the loading dock area, but it caused only 'minimal surface damage'.

Although the PUB said that 'building owners along Orchard Road such as Tong Building, Delfi, Lucky Plaza and Supreme Hotel received the alerts', the Orchard Road Business Association said yesterday that at least one other mall had not received the alert.

The association's executive director, Mr Steven Goh, said Forum The Shopping Mall was not notified.

Some basement shops were ankle-deep in water.

Mr Goh pointed out that after Orchard Road was hit by floods on June 16 last year, the PUB had said stakeholders would be alerted via text message whenever its sensors detected a high level of water.

'But as far as we know from what the affected malls told us, they were not notified. The flood alert system did not work,' he said.

Dismayed by Sunday's 'anniversary flood', Mr Goh said: 'We are certainly very disappointed that this has happened again.'

Last year's floods caused severe damage to goods in buildings farther up Orchard Road.

Liat Towers was the worst hit, with luxury goods retailer Hermes, apparel house Massimo Dutti and fast-food restaurant Wendy's hit badly.

The PUB and Land Transport Authority swung into action after that, raising the level of Orchard Road.

This time, the floods hit the Tanglin/ Cuscaden end of the shopping belt.

The business association said it now doubted the effectiveness of the effort to raise the road and prevent flooding.

Noting that the work was almost completed, Mr Goh said: 'Our suspicion is that these works have transferred the problem from mainstream Orchard to the outskirts where Tanglin Mall is located.'

But the PUB said the work to raise the road had not contributed to Sunday's flooding and without it, the situation would have turned out worse.

The association will meet PUB officials on Thursday to seek answers.

Mr Goh said: 'The government has said it will carry out a review of the drainage system, but this might take years. We are concerned about what is going to happen in the near future. We need assurance about what will work for Orchard Road.'

Clean-up work in the affected buildings continued yesterday, and it was business as usual in most shops.

But some retailers remained upset.

At Orchard Towers, where the basement was flooded, retailers reported losses of between $6,000 and $40,000.

Tailor Rajiv K., 57, was unhappy that the building management had taken a long time to clean the common areas and had not offered help to tenants.

Another tailor, Mr J. Lim, 46, added: 'It is a nightmare. Last year it happened, but this year it got worse. It is going to take me many days to fully assess the damage.'

At Forum The Shopping Mall, the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant in the basement and Little Gym remained closed yesterday.

California Pizza Kitchen estimated it had lost $20,000 worth of business. Two-thirds of its seating area was affected, said assistant manager Rodel Azarcon.

Meanwhile, shoppers were hoping the area would not be hit again any time soon.

Said administrative assistant Candy Liu, 26: 'I was surprised it flooded again. I thought that something would have been done by now. Hopefully, there won't be a third time.'

Additional reporting by Neo Wen Tong and Goh Kai Shi

Pumps could not cope: Tanglin Mall
They were working, but could not handle the huge volume of water
Leow Si Wan, Neo Wen Tong & Goh Kai Shi Straits Times 7 Jun 11;

TANGLIN Mall said yesterday that the flooding in the shopping centre was not a result of pump failure.

Centre director Jenny Ng said: 'We told the PUB for the record that the pumps were working correctly.

'The flood did not occur because the pumps did not work. Rather, it was that too much water got into the pumps, causing them to fail in the end.'

The Orchard Road Business Association's executive director, Mr Steven Goh, said that pump systems are located in the basement of every shopping centre, but these would not have been able to handle the large volume of water that came gushing down on Sunday.

Pump failure had been blamed for the flooding in Tanglin Mall on Sunday.

By 11am that day, the first floor of the mall, which is located at the junction of Tanglin and Grange roads, had turned into a mini-waterfall, pouring water into the basement.

The basement carparks were also flooded, with the water level at the lowest level, basement four, reaching about knee height.

Some of the false ceiling boards in the Market Place supermarket came crashing down.

The 18-year-old mall, which is operated by Cuscaden Properties and is popular with expatriates, was open for business yesterday.

Most of the shops were operating, although Market Place remained closed. A spokesman for the supermarket said the store will reopen partially today.

Ms Ng added that a row of sandbags had been placed along the pedestrian mall and at the entrance of its carpark, which has re-opened.

Shoppers had also returned.

Ms Ng said: 'Our mall is safe, and there are no major renovations required. We are now carrying out cleaning and minor works like repainting. Hopefully, this can be all be done within the week.'

She added that the mall has yet to ascertain the cost of renovations as it is now focusing on recovery.

'We are also working with PUB to look at whether there are any preventive measures such as putting sandbags or any physical infrastructure,' she said.

'But this is not straightforward. We need to carry out studies and work with the authorities.'

As for compensating tenants, she said they have been asked to refer to their insurers.

However, some retailers such Madam Michelle Goh, 53, owner of clothes and jewellery store SuLin Serio, will not be able to do so.

She said she has been at Tanglin Mall since it opened and had always bought insurance.

'But I just happened to forget to renew it last June, and now this happened,' she said.

She is hoping that the mall management will be able to help. Her shop suffered losses estimated at between $5,000 and $10,000.

Meanwhile, she said she was worried about future floods, and wondered: 'Has the shoring up at the Lucky Plaza area shifted the flooding and the deluge to our side? How fast will this be rectified, and what are the authorities doing?

'The momentum of business and our shoppers is definitely affected and broken.'

Floods not linked to work to raise Orchard Road, says PUB
Royston Sim Straits Times 7 Jun 11;

ON-GOING work to raise a stretch of Orchard Road did not cause nearby areas to flood, the PUB said yesterday.

Rather, huge amounts of rainfall flowing into the basements of buildings and inadequate internal drainage pumps were to blame, it said.

On Sunday morning, water gushed into the basement levels of Tanglin Mall from the first floor, which is at road level. Flood waters also struck nearby Cuscaden Road.

Tanglin Mall had escaped the Orchard floods last year, and there has been talk of whether raising a segment of Orchard Road further up could have diverted flood waters to the Tanglin area.

Work to raise a 1.4km stretch of road between Orchard Parade Hotel and Cairnhill Road began last November, in response to floods last June.

The PUB is raising that segment by an average of 30cm, and up to 50cm in the lower-lying areas. This allows water to flow into the drains instead of pooling by the road.

A PUB spokesman said flooding in the affected buildings on Sunday was due to an 'excessive amount of rain which fell directly into the basements' and the 'inability' of their internal drainage pumps to cope.

The spokesman said the intense rain caused the drains at Cuscaden Road and the junction of Tanglin and Napier roads to overflow.

She added that water in the drains flows from Cuscaden to Orchard roads, so raising the latter would not have resulted in flooding in Tanglin Mall and the Cuscaden area.

Engineering experts also said raising Orchard Road was unlikely to have caused surrounding areas to flood.

Mr Lim Peng Hong, president of the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore, said PUB would have factored in where the runoff would flow before deciding to raise Orchard Road.

Dr Ole Larsen, director of the DHI-NTU Centre, which focuses on water and environment research, agreed with PUB's point that Tanglin Mall is sited upstream of Orchard Road.

This meant that flood waters were unlikely to have flowed back to the mall, he said.

Roads in Singapore are also not designed to carry or divert surface runoff from rain to other areas. Instead, water is conveyed away in drains and canals. The amount of runoff from the road is thus insignificant, he said.

This is unlike the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (Smart) in Kuala Lumpur, which was designed to tackle the problem of flash floods, he said.

There are two motorway decks in this facility. During storms, flood water is diverted into the lower deck, while the upper motorway remains open to traffic.

The entire motorway is closed to all traffic during major storms, as automated water-tight gates are opened to allow flood waters to pass through.

In Singapore, drains and canals serve as conduits to channel flood waters downstream to the Marina Barrage, said Dr Larsen.

Damage will most likely be covered by insurance
Daryl Chin Straits Times 7 Jun 11;

HE had bought it only two months earlier, so investment banker Matthew Song was not pleased when he discovered his $350,000 BMW M3 partially submerged in a basement carpark.

Mr Song said his vehicle was one of about 40 damaged on Sunday when water poured into the St Regis Residences condominium in Tanglin Road. They included an Aston Martin and two Bentleys, as well as Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

There was one consolation for Mr Song, however. At least he had paid the $3,000 annual premium to insure his car.

The 33-year-old's vehicle has been towed away, while he waits for the damage assessment to be sent to him.

'It is a great inconvenience, but at least I can get something back, even though the car is not going to be the same again,' he said.

He is not the only one who will be breathing a sigh of relief.

Cars, homes and shops affected by the floods should be covered by insurance, as long as the plans are comprehensive enough, agents told The Straits Times yesterday.

They said the size of payouts depends on many factors, including the value of the goods insured.

Insurance agent Daniel Tan, 39, said that over the past 14 years, he has seen more people buying comprehensive packages, which typically provide more cover for a greater premium.

'Perhaps it is due to the uncertainty of the weather over the past few years, coupled with savvier consumers,' he said.

Most homes and shops are also likely to be covered against floods if the owners are savvy enough, said insurance agent Donny Chai, 42.

Floods are normally covered under 'other hazards', which include earthquakes, fire and lightning, said Ms Chai.

'Of course, higher premiums hurt the pocket, but it doesn't hurt as much as losing everything,' she said.

The floods in June and July last year cost an estimated $22.9 million in insurance payouts.

The General Insurance Association of Singapore has said previously that $11.6 million was paid out in motor vehicle claims, and $11.3 million for property damage and interruption to business.

It added that 428 successful claims were made for damaged vehicles, and 440 for property and business losses.

Why Tanglin Mall didn't get flood alerts
Wayne Chan Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB has responded to concerns raised by the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) that building owners did not receive flood alerts on Sunday and were caught off guard.

PUB said building owners along Orchard Road such as Tong Building, Delfi, Lucky Plaza and Supreme Hotel had received the alerts.

The only exceptions were Tanglin Mall and St Regis.

It said this was due to a problem with the system software which will be immediately rectified.

PUB also responded to the association's concerns about the effect that its road-raising works had on the flood situation in Orchard Road.

PUB said the Orchard Road road-raising project did not contribute to the floods on Sunday.

It said without the raising, the situation would have been worse, given the higher intensity of rainfall.

It explained the junction of Cuscaden Road and Tomlinson Road is currently being raised and the works are expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Water along Cuscaden Road is designed to flow towards Orchard Road.

PUB added the flooding in the affected buildings were due to a combination of an excessive amounts of rain which fell directly into the basements and the inability of the buildings' internal drainage pumps to cope.

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


'We're disappointed with PUB'
Wayne Chan Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: The Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) has said it is disappointed with Singapore's national water agency PUB over floods on Sunday, which hit businesses in some areas on Orchard Road.

ORBA represents 52 stakeholders in the shopping belt.

Tanglin Mall was the worst hit, with some shops suffering a drop in business of up to 80 per cent.

Shop owners there said they are hoping for some help.

Home-Fix retail executive Ricky Soo said: "All of us do hope that as tenants,... out of good will, something (would be done).

"Obviously there's something wrong with the building -- that's why... all the water (gushed) in".

Mr Soo said he expects his business to suffer losses for another two to three days as the cleaning up and repairs to areas damaged by the flood continue.

Another shopping mall which was flooded was the basement of Forum Shopping Mall.

California Pizza Kitchen, located at the basement of the mall, suffered losses of up to 75 per cent.

It is now trying to dry the lower level of its two-storey restaurant, which can seat about 200 customers. Its dining area upstairs can take 60 customers.

ORBA executive director Steven Goh said the flooding on Sunday felt like a repeat of last June's floods.

"It's kind of like an anniversary for us," Mr Goh said.

"It happened last year on 16th of June, almost (around) the same time. And the PUB road raising works has almost been completed.

"This has caused a big concern because it seems like... the problem (had) been transferred from the downstream of Orchard Road to the upstream of Orchard Road, where Tanglin Mall and Forum are located."

Mr Goh also said a communication break down made things worse.

"The flood alarm system is not working. I mean, the stakeholders have not been informed of this flood and at least, there must be some form of communication to alert stakeholders that such a flood was coming."

ORBA said it wold be meet PUB on Thursday to discuss what needs to be done to prevent the flooding of Orchard Road, an area which it said is the pride of Singapore.


Flood solutions could be "costly"
Hetty Musfirah Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: Experts said the government may have to consider expensive solutions in its review of the drainage system to tackle floods in Singapore.

They said the review must be holistic and go beyond short-term measures.

Bukit Timah road was flooded on Sunday, following heavy and intense rainfall.

But Wilby Road, where Tessarina Condominium is located, was spared of the floods.

Authorities had raised the road level of Wilby Road by almost a metre in some areas.

The project began in October last year and was completed in January this year.

The floods on Sunday were said to be the first real test of the flood preventive measure there.

Residents who had petitioned for the improvement works said they were relieved when the measures worked during Sunday's downpour.

They said the authorities had been responsive to pleas to tackle the situation.

Tessarina Condominium floods sub-committee chairperson Audrey Tan said: "Previously, when Wilby Road was still a low-lying road, whenever Bukit Timah canal burst its banks and flood water hit Bukit Timah Road, there is always the risk that the flood waters will come to Wilby Road and enter Tessarina via the ramps that lead into our basement car park.

"However, now that Wilby Road has been raised, we are free from that risk, because water remains outside, along Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road.

"Therefore, our basement car park was free of flood water".

Still, experts said measures such as raising road levels are just "treating the symptoms of floods".

Nanyang Technological University School of Civil & Environmental Engineering associate professor Tan Soon Keat said: "Where does the water go? The water goes to the next lower area, so it is more of shifting the locations of flooding from one place to another place".

That could be the reason other areas such as Sixth Avenue off Bukit Timah Road were said to be flooded.

Solutions may thus require heavy investments that can delay run-off and regulate peak flow, especially in built-up areas.

"For Orchard and Bukit Timah area, those built-up areas, we may have to think of more expensive solutions that means physically diverting the flow towards a storage pond somewhere else," assoc prof Tan said.

"In Orchard Road, if we need to divert flow, we have no choice; we may need to use electric power (using) pumps.

"Water will go into the canal for example, and if the canal is going to be full, then you can have a pumping system to pump the water out to another reservoir or to another storage pond.

"But where to locate those ponds is a very difficult question to (answer)."

Experts said better landscaping can help manage water flow.

Having more green features on roof-tops of buildings in Orchard Road can also help retain rainwater.

The design criteria of drains to cater for certain storm-intensity may also need to be reviewed.

This means raising design parameters to cater to a lower risk of floods - such as from a drain that can cater for a flood once in 25 years to that of once in 50 or 100 years.

In an email response, Mr Martin P Li, a past president of the Singapore Chapter of the Institution of Engineers of Australia, observed that almost anything is possible with regard to an engineering solution.

But it boils down to the issue of value.

Mr Li said the government needs to consider whether it is prudent to construct a drainage system to mitigate the effects of a once-in-25-years occurrence by raising the design parameters to accommodate a 50 or 100 years flood, or accept the consequences of the event once every 25 years.

In general, the less likelihood of the event occurring, the higher the costs of the system, he said.


A flood of ideas but cost is an issue
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid Today Online 7 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - Now that floodwaters have receded, the spotlight is on the kind of solutions needed.

While there are no shortage of ideas, the issue is one of cost. In addition, the solutions must go beyond short-term measures, said experts.

For instance, raising road levels shifts the location of flooding from "one place to another", said Nanyang Technological University's water resources engineering Associate Professor Tan Soon Keat.

There are solutions that can delay run-off and regulate peak flow in built-up areas but these are expensive. For instance, diverting the flow of water from Bukit Timah or Orchard Road to retention ponds or underground storage tanks, which can be built below nearby school fields, will "regulate" the peak flow in the drainage system, said Singapore Polytechnic's School of Architecture and the Built Environment's deputy director Daniel Tan Kim Soon.

Electric pumps could be used to pump water out of a canal and channel the excess to "another reservoir or to a storage pond", said NTU's Dr Tan.

Other suggestions include greenery on roof-tops of buildings in Orchard Road which can also help retain rainwater.

Mr Martin Li, a past president of the Singapore Chapter of the Institution of Engineers of Australia, told MediaCorp that almost any engineering solution is possible but the question was one of cost.

Said Mr Li: "As unpalatable as Sunday's flood might have been for those who were affected, the Government needs to consider whether it is prudent to construct a drainage system to mitigate the effects of a once-in-25-years occurrence by raising the design parameters ... or accept the consequences of the event once every 25 years."

The changing weather patterns also make it "challenging" to forecast an acceptable level of "risk tolerance", he said. "There is no guarantee that a once-in-150-years flood would not occur in the near future, even if our Government ensured that all our drainage systems were able to cope with a once-in-100-years flood."

NTU's structure and mechanics Associate Professor Susanto Teng said it was "timely" to revise the Building Code to make buildings more flood-proof. For instance, the "ground-level" could be raised by half-a-metre and drains could be widened and enlarged, he said.

Business body disappointed over flood measures
Too early to assess if damages will exceed last year's, say businesses & insurers
Teh Shi Ning Business Times 7 Jun 11;

THE Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) yesterday voiced disappointment with national water agency PUB's flood prevention measures and flood alarm system.

Executive director Steven Goh said it is their suspicion that measures taken in the aftermath of floods near the Scotts Road junction last year have instead diverted the problem and floodwaters to the Tanglin Road end.

Properties along that stretch - Tanglin Mall, Forum The Shopping Mall and St Regis Residences - were hardest hit by Sunday's downpour, which flooded multiple basement levels, drenching retailers' goods and parked luxury cars.

But PUB said that the Orchard Road raising project did not contribute to Sunday's floods, and that the situation would have been worse without it, given that the rainfall was more intense than it was last year. 'Water along Cuscaden Road (parallel to Tanglin Road) is designed to flow towards Orchard Road,' and not the other way around, a PUB explained yesterday.

'Flooding in the affected buildings was due to a combination of an excessive amount of rain which fell directly into the basements and the inability of the buildings' internal drainage pumps to cope,' the PUB spokesman added.

ORBA's Mr Goh said stakeholders were also disappointed that a flood alarm system, intended to warn stakeholders of any possibility of flooding, had not worked.

PUB said yesterday that Tong Building, Delfi, Lucky Plaza and Supreme Hotel did actually receive alerts, but a software problem with the system - 'which will be immediately rectified' - meant that Tanglin Mall and St Regis did not.

ORBA has arranged for its stakeholders - property developers, building owners, retailers, hoteliers and restaurateurs with business interests along Orchard Road - to meet PUB officials on Thursday.

'The top-of-mind agenda is to lessen the impact of possible recurrence of floods in the coming weeks, since the authorities have said that further storms can be expected,' said Mr Goh. ORBA also wants 'the authorities' assurance that Orchard Road - as Singapore's pride and premium shopping street - does not flood again'.

On Sunday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said planning norms must be reviewed. A redesign of drainage systems and new flood-related building codes are now possibly on the cards. PUB will also conduct an 'exhaustive and comprehensive check on all flood-prone areas focusing on human safety'.

While most of Tanglin Mall resumed business yesterday, Cold Storage's Market Place supermarket - where gushing floodwaters sent false ceiling boards crashing, ruining stocks, equipment, furniture and fittings - stayed shut. Damage costs are still being assessed, said a Market Place spokesman, who added that the store would partially reopen today.

In the basement carpark of high-end St Regis Residences, meanwhile, several luxury cars including a Lamborghini, an Aston Martin, a Ferrari, a Porsche and an Alfa Romeo as well as several BMWs and Audis reportedly soaked in rainwater that was thigh-deep at some points.

Businesses and insurers say it is too early to say if damages from Sunday's floods will exceed the estimated insurance payouts of $8 million, $2.4 million and $12.5 million respectively, for the June 16, June 25 and July 17 floods last year.

General insurers told BT that they expect claims from motor insurance policyholders with cars damaged either in carparks or on flooded roads, as well as claims for property damage, to pour in over the next few days.

They say there could be a number of non-commercial property claims too, as the weekend floods also hit private residential areas in the Bukit Timah and Macpherson areas.

With additional reporting by Rebecca Liu

Software glitch led to failed flood alerts
Wayne Chan Today Online 7 Jun 11;
SINGAPORE - As retailers count the cost after a flash flood hit some parts of Orchard Road on Sunday, fingers are being pointed at PUB, the national water agency, for its failure to send out alerts to all the affected building owners as well as its work to raise portions of the road to prevent flooding.

The Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) said yesterday that it suspected that the project to raise a 1.4km stretch from Orange Grove Road to Cairnhill Road by an average 30cm - which began in mid-November and is scheduled for completion soon - had "transferred" the flooding problem to the area where buildings such as Tanglin Mall and St Regis Residences are located.

The two buildings were hardest hit by the flood which was caused by two bouts of heavy rain.

The association's claim was rebutted by the PUB: The flooding would have been worse without the project, it told MediaCorp.

However, the PUB revealed that there was a software glitch in the alert system which was why the building owners of Tanglin Mall and St Regis Residences were not alerted of the impending flash flood. The problem will be rectified immediately, the PUB said.

According to the PUB, all other building owners in the affected area, such as Tong Building, Delfi, Lucky Plaza and Supreme Hotel, had received the alerts.

The PUB said the flooding in the affected buildings were due to a combination of an excessive amount of rain which fell directly into the basements and the inability of the buildings' internal drainage pumps to cope.

It reiterated that Sunday's rainfall was more intense than that of June last year, with about 65mm recorded within 30 minutes, compared to the 100mm within two hours on June 16.

Expressing disappointment with the PUB, ORBA executive director Steven Goh said the measures taken following last June's flooding, such as raising the roads in the area, do not seem to have worked.

Said Mr Goh: "It's kind of like an anniversary for us. It happened last year on June 16 ... and the PUB road raising works has almost been completed." He added: "It seems like ... the problem (had) been transferred from the downstream of Orchard Road to the upstream of Orchard Road."

Mr Goh reiterated that there "must be some form of communication to alert stakeholders that such a flood was coming" at the least.

According to the PUB, the junction of Cuscaden Road and Tomlinson Road is currently being raised and the whole project is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Yesterday, water was still dripping from ceilings of some premises hit by the flood. Tanglin Mall tenants said business has fallen by as much as 80 per cent.

Home-Fix retail executive Ricky Soo said the tenants hoped to get some "goodwill" compensation.

He added: "Obviously, there's something wrong with the building, that's why all the water kept gushing in."

Mr Soo said he expects business to suffer losses for another two to three days as the cleaning up and repairs continue.

Over at the basement of Forum Shopping Mall, businesses such as California Pizza Kitchen were also hit.

The outlet's assistant manager, Mr Rodel Azarcon, said: "We were really surprised when the flood waters just came in and the whole area was flooded."

"Many of the guests left as the water started rising," he said

Read more!

Drainage system under urbanisation stress?

Straits Times Forum 7 Jun 11;

I REFER to yesterday's report on Sunday's flood ('Govt to review drainage after year's worst flood').

With increasing urbanisation in Singapore, more areas of natural vegetation are replaced with impervious concrete. Instead of infiltrating into our soils, rainwater is now channelled as surface run-off.

This dramatically increases the pressure on our drainage system, which faces a peak discharge that is both larger in volume and faster in onset after every major storm.

While recent developments such as Ion Orchard and new condominiums in Bukit Timah may not have directly contributed to the flood, they may have accelerated the increase in run-off volumes that the drains must now cope with by occupying areas that were formerly parks and green spaces.

The traditional conveyance approach of channelling stormwater into large, concrete- lined canals has shown its limitations in times of intense, heavy rainfall. It is time that we considered alternative, storage-based approaches that would slow down the surface run-off that reaches our drains following rain. I would like to suggest the following:

Create bio-retention basins and rain gardens - pockets of green spaces that collect rainwater and release them into the drainage system at a slower rate;

Impose a quota on impervious surface coverage for new developments, insisting on sufficient green areas for rainwater infiltration;

Encourage green roofs and other innovative rooftop stormwater collection methods among developers; and

Review the quality of soils used on planted slopes and grass verges to ensure their water-retention capabilities.

Lau Kai Guan

Look at ways to slow flow from higher areas
Straits Times Forum 7 Jun 11;

I HAVE lived in the Upper Bukit Timah area for about 16 years and have witnessed how this previously undeveloped area has been paved over with new roads and residential developments. New canals have also been constructed.

I am not an engineer, but I cannot help but wonder if the effect of all this development, including better drainage at higher elevations, has been to increase the rate at which water now flows into the Bukit Timah/Dunearn Road canal during downpours. I would guess that previously more water could seep into the soil, and perhaps be absorbed by the trees.

I could still recall in my early years of living in this area that Upper Bukit Timah Road was often misty at night, due to trees transpiring on both sides of the road.

If my intuition is correct, then national water agency PUB should not only look at the flood-prone areas but also upstream, and consider how to slow the rate at which surface water drains from the higher areas to the lower areas of Singapore.

Ong Hui Guan

Green lungs to quell floods

Building boom is part of the problem; more sustainable development model is needed
Letter from Liew Kai Khiun Today Online 8 Jun 11;

IT SEEMS certain that the islandwide floods are getting more routine as last year's images of submerged roads, water-choked basement car parks and ankle-deep waters in malls returned to haunt us on Sunday morning.

In spite of the extensive drainage work undertaken over the decades, the authorities have conceded that no amount of preparation can stop such freak floods that are attributed predominantly to global warming and "acts of nature".

Nonetheless, I would also like to draw a correlation between the floods and the high growth rates of the past few years, rapid urbanisation resulting from the property boom and the spike in population. Hence, the problems are not only global and natural but also local and man-made.

Studies in the environmental sciences have indicated that building and transportation infrastructural projects are instrumental in displacing organically permeable soil and vegetation with impermeable concrete surfaces that have less capacity to store rainwater.

In the case of Orchard Road, the floods seem to coincide with the replacement of an open and relatively well-vegetated green space between Orchard Road and Paterson Road with the megamall Orchard ION that has probably the deepest basements in Singapore.

Along Bukit Timah Road, which is seeing the more severe floods, are the new condominiums complexes that are squeezed tightly into the previously quieter and spacious neighbourhood of bungalows with spread-out lawns and gardens.

Added to this, the current paradigm to tackling the problem seems to be largely technical, involving drainage systems and building codes. However, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated recently, given the space constraints of Singapore, there is a limit to how wide and deep we can dig our canals.

In this respect, instead of seeing the problem as natural and the solution as pouring more concrete, there is a fundamental need for a more environmentally and socially sustainable development model. We have to see open spaces and natural vegetation not as potential exploitable land for property and industrial development but as green lungs and buffers with more intangible long-term benefits.

Increasingly too, trends in large-scale flood control worldwide are moving away from artificial canalisation and containment towards that of natural flood control management that entails the preservation of natural environments and natural water flows.

In Singapore, one such projects on the way to completion is the Waters@Kallang-Bishan Park project that involves the partial de-canalisation and the re-riverisation of water flows. Perhaps the Government should also start thinking of similar projects for Bukit Timah and Orchard roads with green lungs and corridor; and rethink development plans for existing green spaces like the current forested Bukit Brown Cemetery along Adam Road, as well as the lush stretch along the railway tracks from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands.

Read more!

Avoid forests, nature reserves during heavy rain: NParks

Straits Times 7 Jun 11;

AVOID the forest when it is raining heavily.

With intense rainfall forecast for the next few days, the National Parks Board (NParks) has advised the public to avoid visiting the nature reserves or forested areas during stormy weather.

If a storm hits, people should take cover at the shelters available.

They can receive updates of the latest weather by tuning in to radio broadcasts, by calling the National Environment Agency's weather forecast hotline on 6542-7788, by visiting its website at or by using the mobile weather service (Weather@SG -

For feedback and enquiries, the public can call the NParks helpline on 1800-471-7300.

NParks urges public to monitor weather forecast
Qiuyi Tan Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE : The National Parks Board has said intense rainfall is expected over the next few days and is advising the public to avoid visiting nature reserves and other forested areas.

For parks and gardens, NParks said the public should take cover at the shelters during stormy weather.

It also urged the public to stay alert and keep themselves updated on the latest weather reports on radio.

Weather information is also available on the National Environment Agency's website and on its weather forecast hotline.

- CNA/al

Read more!

Singapore tops air quality survey

Julie Quek Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's air quality has come out tops in Asia, beating business powerhouses like Hong Kong and Shanghai.

That's according to a research survey from workplace solutions provider Regus, which polled more than 220 business leaders in Hong Kong, and 250 in China.

Regus said this speaks well for Singapore's plan to attract top international business talent, and maintain a 'liveable city' reputation.

The report found three out of four companies believe the air quality in a city affects the company's ability to attract and retain international talent.

When asked to rank a number of Asian cities in terms of the air quality, respondents ranked Singapore as tops.

Coming in at second spot is Hong Kong followed by Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Shanghai and Beijing were judged to have the poorest air quality.

Regus regional vice-president for Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia William Wiillems said: "These results show that Hong Kong and China's business decision makers rank Singapore far above the competition (when) it comes to air quality".

Mr Wiillems added he can foresee further growth in the short term, as Singapore asserts itself as the cleanest and best place for international businesses in Asia.


Read more!

Chong Pang stops cat culling

Mustafa Shafawi Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: Chong Pang constituency has said it will no longer cull stray cats in the area.

In addition, it will set in motion a humane cat management programme in two weeks' time, making it the first in Singapore to stop the culling of strays.

Local groups Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) said the programme allows the public to play a more active and vital role, while working with the town council.

It will be launched by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam at a public forum on animal welfare policies on June 18.

The event is organised by Acres in collaboration with Chong Pang grassroots.

The forum will give Singaporeans the opportunity to be engaged in shaping animal welfare policies in Singapore.

This comes in the wake of Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan's blog entry on June 2.

He wrote that the culling of cats in heartland estates is not the way to go.

Last year, about 5,100 stray cats were put down, some 300 less than those in 2009.


Read more!

Perak Looks To Singapore On Environmental Preservation

Bernama 6 Jun 11;

LUMUT, June 6 (Bernama) -- Perak wants to share the experience and programme of Singapore's successful preservation of the greens and environment despite undergoing rapid development, said the Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.

He said in line with the programme, all parties in Perak were required to give due consideration to environmental management especially on looking into creating greening needs in every development plan.

"The Singapore government has an effective and excellent management of the environment to ensure the sustainability of the eco-system," he told reporters after visiting the Botanical Gardens of Singapore in conjunction with a two-day working visit to the country from June 2 to 4.

He said these aspects of environmental management could help create awareness among the people and the authorities to preserve the forest in Perak well.

The Singapore Botanical Gardens at Fort Canning is now 150 years old and receives more than three million visitors each year.

He was also impressed with the development carried out at the garden and hoped it could be applied in Perak.


Read more!

Malaysia: No slurping this soup

Shark fin soup is off the menu for some.
Meng Yew Choong The Star 7 Jun 11;

KIRK Lee describes himself as the typical Chinaman who loves good food, until he saw a Youtube clip that stunned him about how shark fin soup is made. “Being Chinese and a lover of good food, I’ve always loved shark fin soup, which I only get to savour during wedding banquets. The wealthier folks would of course order this dish on a more regular basis, but most people don’t because it is pricey,’’ said the freelance swimming instructor who is also an avid scuba diver.

“Even though I was a diver, I continued with my craze without any guilt, and I rationalised it by thinking that the shark is already dead anyway, and my mom had taught me not to waste food. After all, if I don’t eat it, someone else would, so I might as well enjoy this great soup,’’ said Lee, who subsequently stumbled upon a clip shot by divers in the Philippines.

The clip ( xysF2zyxn-s&feature=related) so moved Lee that he gave up eating the dish, and is now an ardent advocate of shark conservation.

“It is about this juvenile whale shark, which is one of my favourite fish to watch on my diving trip. It is the biggest fish in the world, and on Feb 15 last year, a group of divers found one of these gentle creatures on the ocean floor, belly up, minus all its fins. The fish is still alive, and slowly bleeding, and the group decided to bring the fish ashore in order to shorten its suffering. After watching the clip, I could not sleep, was up the whole morning thinking about it. It never crossed my mind how shark fins were obtained, harvested and at what rate the killing was taking place.”

Three days later, Lee started the Save Our Sharks From A Bowl Of Soup (SOSFABOS) on Facebook ( Since beginning his crusade, Lee speaks freely on how cruel and unsustainable shark fin extraction can be. “The fish is alive when their fins are cut off. Without the pectoral and dorsal fins, the shark can no longer swim, sinks to the seabed, and eventually dies. Given this, rejecting shark fin soup is not a waste because every time you consume it, you are contributing to the cruelty and pushing sharks ever nearer to extinction.”

Why sharks?

Sharks are slow reproducing creatures and reach sexual maturity late, thus making them vulnerable to extinction. An estimated 73 million sharks are harvested each year solely for their fins, with some being fished out before breeding age. Sharks perform a useful role in the marine ecosystem. It keeps other larger prey fish in check before these wipe the area clean of other smaller fish. If all large sharks are removed from the food chain, the oceanic ecosystem would suffer some form of imbalance.

Early this year, Lee persuaded a group of celebrities such as Amber Chia, Fauziah Latiff and Patrick Teoh to volunteer their services to produce a public service announcement which is currently airing on local free-to-air channels like NTV7 as well as Youtube. Lee’s friend, Alicia Tan got her producer friend Linus Chung to direct the effort.

The campaign is not just being waged on cyberspace. Last year, TV host Xandria Ooi and her musician husband Yuri Wong dropped the dish from their wedding dinner. If you had attended some recent Chinese wedding dinners, you might have come across some very striking cards designed by Tan, an avid diver who shares Lee’s vision. Tan started the My Wedding Saves Sharks movement ( in response to what she felt was a need to educate others about sharks.

Tan, 30, who got married last February, dropped shark fin soup from her wedding dinner but placed a card at each table explaining the absence of the customary delicacy. Placement of such cards at wedding dinners had been started by organisations such as WildAid ( years ago.

With this method, Tan and her husband shared their concern with guests in a tasteful manner, though she was chided by her elders who thought the effort was somewhat offensive. “I had to stick to my guns as my wedding has to reflect who I really am, and it cannot feature shark fin soup as that would be going against what I stand for.”

Since then, friends have asked for her help in designing similar cards for their weddings. “If I am not approached, I sometimes take the initiative to broach the subject with my friends who are about to get married, to see whether we could somehow work together. I think 20 couples have placed these cards at their wedding dinners so far.”

Elsewhere, the anti-shark fin soup movement is gaining ground. In April 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland dropped the dish from its wedding banquet menu following pressure from environmental groups. Seven months later, Hong Kong University banned shark fin from being consumed within its campus. In the United States, California is considering banning the sale and distribution of shark fins. If the enactment is passed, the state would join Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and the US Territory of Guam in banning the product. Island states like Palau, the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as Maldives already have legislative protection for the endangered fish.

Even international celebrities are lending their weight to the campaign, with faces such as US basketball star Yao Ming, director Ang Lee, and Malaysia’s very own Datuk Michelle Yeoh speaking out against the chiefly Chinese habit of associating luxury and prestige with shark fin consumption. The race is to make the habit of consuming fins extinct, before sharks go that way.

For more on the anti-shark fin soup movement, go to and

Read more!

Malaysia: A study to assess cleanliness of coastlines

How clean are our coastlines? A study attempts to find out.
Rouwen Lin The Star 7 Jun 11;

It’s a beautiful morning at the Desaru beach in Johor and the day has just started for the group of people gathered there. It will be a good hour or so before the sun will be high in the sky and they are anxious to start on the day’s mission. Armed with rubbish bags and clipboards, they have the routine down pat by now. Everyone is familiar with the drill: divide an area on the beach into sections, collect all the bits and pieces of trash within the selected sections, and then sort, count and analyse.

It’s almost like a regular beach clean-up, but with a twist. With most beach clean-up initiatives, the most common measure of the level of cleanliness is the amount of litter collected. Although this is easily measured and provides a basis for comparison, more often than not it emphasises the effectiveness of the operation rather than the level of beach cleanliness.

“Measuring the success of each cleaning operation by the amount of litter cleared from the beach is not a standardised method of assessing its cleanliness. More litter collected doesn’t necessarily mean that the beach is particularly dirty. There could have just been more volunteers that day, it could have been just a dirty coastal stretch or maybe a large area was covered,” says Joanna Tang, senior researcher at the Centre for Coastal and Marine Environment (CMER) at Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA).

So, for this beach clean-up, the focus is not on how many tonnes of rubbish is collected, but rather the quantity of plastic debris on the beach, presented as number of pieces of plastic debris per square metre of coastal area.

Plastic is chosen as the indicator as preliminary runs by the researchers suggest that plastic scraps account for the majority of rubbish on beaches.

It is also particularly harmful to the environment as it is non-biodegradable and will remain in the environment for a long time.

Clean coast index

This initiative is part of a study by MIMA researchers where the objective is to collect data to develop a Clean Coast Index (CCI) that can be used to assess the cleanliness of our coastlines.

“The objective of the study is to identify the amount, composition and distribution of coastal litter on selected beaches in an effort to establish a baseline for a CCI and start a virtual repository. There is currently no national funding for marine litter management and no comprehensive data being gathered on marine litter in the country. The absence of a central database is a major issue regarding litter management. After gathering and analysing the data, only then will we be able to identify the gaps in litter management and propose solutions to this problem,” says MIMA researcher and project coordinator Roa’a Hagir.

She suggests that local authori-ties or corporations tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the cleanliness of the beach use the CCI as a tool for measuring the progress and success of clean-up efforts.

Additionally, it can also serve to create awareness among the general public.

“The method we adopted for the CCI is not complicated and is easy to perform. Anyone can do it – for example, non-government organisations and schools during their beach clean-ups, as well as companies for their corporate social responsibility campaigns,” she says.

For the purpose of this study, plastic debris is defined as any artificial waste made (or partially made) of plastic, including plastic bags, plastic bottles and caps, nylon fishing lines and polystyrene remains. Plastic products account for the bulk of marine litter and it is estimated that there are 13,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square kilometre of ocean.

The Department of Environment has guidelines for assessing coastal water quality standards but there is no established index to assess the cleanliness of beaches in Malaysia. There is also no data identifying the sources of marine litter and where they accumulate.

With no systematic studies to ensure the cleanliness of beaches, no national coordinated marine litter survey and monitoring programme, and a lack of data on the extent and nature of the problem, efforts to assess the level of beach cleanliness and to ensure that it is adequately monitored have mostly been in vain.

Marine litter poses a dire threat to the marine and coastal environment. The hazards include entanglement and ingestion by marine animals, contamination of beaches, accumulation and dispersion of toxic substances, and interference with navigation at sea.

Marine litter can originate at sea (from ships and boats as well as offshore oil and gas platforms) or from land. When debris wash up and accumulate on the coast, it affects the aesthetics of the beach and costs local authorities thousands of ringgit each year through clean-up efforts. In Malaysia, this problem is escalating at an alarming rate.

Joint efforts

Working with the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), the researchers at MIMA plan to sample eight beaches in seven states (Johor, Kedah, Pahang, Malacca, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak) by the end of this month. Transects are performed on a 1km stretch of coastline from the water’s edge to the border of the coast.

“We decided to collaborate with the MNS on this project because it has branch offices in many states. It also has a pool of volunteers that we can tap into. We wanted a good representation of beaches across Malaysia and the eight beaches chosen were based on this requirement as well as the availability of volunteers,” says Tang.

From preliminary runs, the researchers observed that despite the availability of trash cans and Do Not Litter signs on the beach, people still leave their rubbish behind.

“I think even the local authorities are baffled as to why the bins are left empty and how it often ends up that there is a huge pile of rubbish beneath signs telling people they will be slapped with a hefty fine if caught littering,” she says.

There might be a general lack of enforcement of relevant laws and regulations, but the researchers believe that it would make a difference if the public adopted a more active role in looking after our beaches.

Roa’a adds that the long-term goals of the study include assessing marine litter management policies and legislation as well as recommending appropriate management proposals.

“Based on the findings of this study, we plan to come up with recommendations to increase public awareness on the magnitude of this problem. Awareness is very important if we want to improve the cleanliness of our beaches and we hope that the project will help with this. We plan to eventually fine-tune the method and move towards a more detailed, comprehensive study,” she concludes.

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Malaysia: Caring for corals

Volunteers teach tourists ways to enjoy the marine realm without destroying it.
Natalie Heng The Star 7 Jun 11;

There is nothing more mesmerising than swimming amongst coral reefs, underwater metropolises of curiously shaped and brightly coloured creatures. Living towers of wildly shaped structures resembling wrinkled brains, cabbages, table tops and wire strands form underwater cities for the myriad of fascinating marine organisms snorkellers love to watch.

Unfortunately, many snorkellers have no idea how long it takes for coral reefs to grow, or the fact that these delicate habitats which have formed over thousands of years are slowly dying as our oceans acidify due to climate change. Pollution, coastal development and over-fishing pose constant threats to reef ecosystems all over the world.

It was reported last year that at least 19% of the world’s coral reefs are already gone. So, the last thing this ecosystem needs is snorkellers trampling all over.

That’s what inspired four marine enthusiasts from the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) to start the Marine Friendly Snorkelling Programme in 2003.

“We wanted to teach members how to appreciate what they see underwater,” says Leong Hon Yuen, a volunteer and committee member of the MNS Selangor branch marine group.

The idea is that if snorkellers understand the underwater environment better, not just how fragile it is but also the closely connected and fascinating features and dynamics of its inhabitants, they will be motivated to take better care of it.

The course which is entirely run by volunteers, occurs several times a year on islands such as Tioman in Pahang as well as Perhentian and Redang in Terengganu.

Though the snorkelling course itself is free, participants pay for the cost of the trips, which range from RM300 to RM600 depending on the location and number of nights stayed, to cover accommodation, jungle trekking and other such activities.

“It’s also open to non-MNS members, we just add in the membership price which is RM70 a year so they get automatic membership,” says another volunteer, Kanagalingam Kulasingam.

The snorkelling programme itself covers basic responsible snorkelling etiquette such as how to use a snorkel, how to communicate with your snorkelling buddies by hand signals and how to avoid damaging corals.

More importantly, it teaches snorkellers how to appreciate what they’re seeing underwater.

“For many first-time snorkellers there’s just so much to see, but after a while one fish looks like any other fish, and your interest may start to wane,” says Leong. “We teach people things to look out for. There are all kinds of special relationships going on underwater.”

An example of one such relationship is that shared between the goby fish and prawns. Snorkelling becomes 10 times more fascinating when you know that the little goby hovering above the seabed is actually standing guard for the prawn tucked inside its sand burrow. When the goby flicks its tail, this a sign to its prawn partner, which has poor eyesight, that the coast is clear.

“Unlike a lot of tourists who just swim around and don’t really see anything because they don’t know what they are looking at or can look out for, if you hover in one spot, you might see 10 or 20 fascinating things,” says Leong.

The snorkelling programme integrates informative stuff about the reef habitat such as how corals are formed and the essential role they play in marine ecosystems, as well as the 10 most common marine life snorkellers are likely to see.

“After three days (trips often last for three to four days) we do an underwater treasure hunt which actually tests their underwater snorkelling and marine life identification skills ... its a whole lot of fun.

“We also do a beach clean-up to show them what ends up under the sea and how it affects marine life. Turtles for example, suffocate and die when they mistake plastic bags for jellyfish which they eat. The amount of trash that comes out of the sea is amazing, it comes from rivers, the beach, the sea and tourists.”

One component of the course deals with awareness issues, focusing on the impact that tourism activities might have on reefs.

Kanagalingam points to direct and indirect impacts: “A direct impact would be when people get tired of swimming, they stand on corals. Unfortunately, corals are very fragile and it might take one whole year just to grow 10 inches (25cm). So if you break off a 10 inch-piece, that’s one year’s worth of growth gone just like that. A six feet (2m) wide table coral would have taken over 10 years to get to that size.”

Indirect impacts include fish feeding – fried chicken, prawn crackers and stale bread are popularly thrown into the water so that swarms of colourful fish congregate around the snorkellers.

“Fish feed on very specific diets, for example algae found on corals, sponges and other fish. It’s all part of an intricately balanced ecosystem. With regular fish feeding, fish behaviour starts to change. They tend to swarm around people and nibble at you because they have learned to associate humans with food. People think the fish are really friendly when they are not, and are actually more aggressive,” says Kanagalingam.

Andrew Sebastian, MNS head of communications points out that providing fish with this alien diet draws them away from the essential roles they play in the ecosystem. For example, many fish feed on algae which grow on corals. If they are eating bits of bread instead, algae populations can get out of hand and smother corals.

“We subscribe to the principles of eco-tourism, which is observing something in its natural space without tampering with it,” says Sebastian.

Over the years some progress has been made. For example, Sebastian says the Department of Marine Park Malaysia introduced a policy disallowing the use of fins in marine parks a few years ago. This was meant to help protect the corals from being damaged – corals can be quite sharp, so without fins, people are less inclined to step on them.

Sebastian believes all tourists have an important role to play because they create demand. Aside from educating ourselves about marine life, getting to know responsible snorkelling etiquette and refraining from throwing rubbish in the sea, tourists and holiday makers can do more – “Give business to resorts who are aware and want to make a difference,” says Sebastian.

Far-sighted resorts and tour operators will recognise that the coral reefs at their doorstep are assets central to the attractiveness of their establishment; who wants to stay at a resort with a skeletal mass of broken corals?

When choosing green resorts, Sebastian recommends asking some basic questions, such as: Do they treat their effluent before it goes out to sea? Do they dispose of rubbish responsibly? Do they educate their guests and staff on how to protect the reefs?

Meanwhile, the MNS marine group is working with the British Sub Aqua Club to develop a professional certification scheme for local snorkelling guides aimed at enabling them to teach responsible snorkelling etiquette and marine knowledge to tourists.

“Very often the guides are locals and don’t get formal training. If a programme trains them on what to show and talk about when they take people snorkelling, they will be able to make the experience richer for tourists,” says Kanagalingam.

MNS has held only one snorkelling guide training session to date, in 2006 in Tioman, as sponsors are hard to come by. So, getting a certification scheme up and running will provide resorts and tour operators an incentive to sponsor their own guides for the course, something which they can then market to eco-aware tourists.

For upcoming Marine Friendly Snorkelling Programme trips, go to

Measuring healthy reefs
Volunteers take a dive to keep an eye on our marine wonderland.
Natalie Heng The Star 7 Jun 11;

IT is a clear night out on a beach in Pulau Tioman, Pahang. The stars are out and a party is underway – and it’s filled with volunteers from audit firm KPMG celebrating their completion of a three-day intensive EcoDiver course and Reef Check survey.

Yes, coral reefs around the world are dying but the group of diving enthusiasts from KPMG are not sitting around lamenting – they are doing something about it. Trained as EcoDivers, they are capable of conducting underwater surveys to assess the health of corals reefs.

They adopted the reef off Pulau Soyak, an island within the Tioman Archipelago, five years ago and send about six divers out every year. However, this year, new recruits bumped the number up to 12 divers, so they could adopt Pulau Renggis reef onto the survey list as well.

Grace Loh, 42, an advisory department manager at KPMG, has been coming to Tioman since the surveys started in 2007.

“I’d learned how to dive with my husband the year before, so I thought it would be nice to join the CSR project when it came up,” she said. When she first started diving, all Loh saw was fish. “Lots of colour, lots of shapes and lots of fishes. The novelty wears off quite quickly. But taking the EcoDiver course is educational … realising that something you’ve spotted is actually incredibly rare becomes a real buzz!”

One detects a real sense of pride about what KPMG is doing with Reef Check Malaysia in her voice. This is the fifth year the company is working with the non-profit that endeavours to protect Malaysia’s endangered coral reefs.

Through corporate sponsorships, Reef Check has built up an army of volunteers to conduct regular surveys of reefs all over the country. General manager Julian Hyde says to date, some 300 divers have gained EcoDiver certification. Many volunteers are supplied through sponsorship programmes from companies as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects. The corporates sponsor up to 70% of the RM750 EcoDiver course for each employee (who has to have an Open Water Diver certificate) and organise a team of people to go on yearly Reef Check survey expeditions on “adopted” reefs.

Reef scrutiny

In the recent survey of Tioman reefs, scuba divers from KPMG, deployed in twos, swam along transect lines laid out under water. The first pair noted down substrate cover such as hard coral, soft coral, nutrient indicator algae, rock, sand or recently killed coral. The second pair counted the number of indicator invertebrates (such as crown of thorn starfish and sea cucumbers) and signs of impact, whilst the third pair arguably had the most challenging task – counting the number of indicator fishes as they swam around.

Reef Check was started in 1996 by marine ecologist Dr Gregor Hodgson and arrived in Malaysia in 2001. It grew out of an idea to create a global army of volunteers trained in the same set of data collection methods to conduct reef surveys. Up until the organisation’s first global survey of coral reef health in 1997, there had never been a concerted effort, just pockets of research using individual methods of data collection. The results of that survey were shocking scientific confirmation that coral reefs were undergoing alarming levels of decimation due to over-fishing, illegal fishing and pollution.

Each of Reek Check’s national coordinating bodies have since been monitoring the impacts that different enforcement measures make, so we can build up a picture of how best to protect our reefs. Most people in Malaysia will be happy to know that our reefs are faring pretty well. Data collected by Reef Check Malaysia for example indicates that most of the reefs gazetted as Marine Parks have remained in relatively stable conditions since gazettement.

If you dreamed of being a marine biologist as a kid but got told that being a lawyer would be more practical, this is your chance to live the dream. All you need to do is be a qualified diver. Reef Check’s methods of data collection were designed by scientists specifically for use by non-scientists. You can enrol for a three-day course to get certification as an EcoDiver, after which you can participate in Reef Check surveys anywhere in the world. The certification will equip you with the ability to gather data on 16 global and eight regional indicator organisms, which have been selected as specific measures of human impacts on coral reefs based on their economic and ecological value, and sensitivity to human impacts.

Reef Check Malaysia’s ultimate role is getting more people trained, so more surveys get done, so we have a better picture of the state of our reefs. The data is eventually turned into a report which is shared with the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia. The ultimate goal is to build a relationship with academia and the department, to the point where they can coordinate their data collection, academic research and enforcement efforts to do something about reefs that are not faring well.

Start them young

After five years of partnership with Reef Check, one can see a sense of ownership growing around the project among the KPMG staff. You can tell some of the veteran volunteers take what they’re doing really seriously.

In 2009, Lim Jit Cheng, an executive director in the restructuring and advisory department, came on board and took charge of the EcoDiver CSR project. He also spearheaded an initiative to bring students of SK Taman Tun Dr Ismail 2 in Kuala Lumpur, a school KPMG does monthly recycling projects with, onboard. So during the recent trip to Tioman, 25 excitable Year Five kids camped out on the grass lawn in front of the Tioman Marine Park Centre.

Hyde had wanted to bring an urban school to the island to learn about coral reefs for a while, as Reef Check’s Rainforest To Reef school programme had previously involved schools from the islands and nearby mainland. Lim pointed out that both programmes sponsored by KPMG (the EcoDivers and the schoolkids’ project) are conservation related; one is data collection which can be used for research on our reefs, the other is about investing in the future through educating children. In the Rainforest to Reef camp, the children learnt about four major ecosystems – rainforest, mangroves, reefs and seagrasses – and why they are important and worth protecting.

On Day two of the camp, up the stairs of the Tioman Marine Park Centre just past the interactive info-kiosks and life-size replicas of turtles and sharks, this year’s batch of students huddled in silence. In the darkened air-conditioned auditorium, marine parks officer Mohd Azizol pointed at images of tropical fishes and nudibranches, slugs with colourful elaborate fan-like appendages, which flicker on the projector screen.

“What you’re looking at here are some of the rarest things on earth,” he said. “You can find them on the Discovery channel and on programmes like National Geographic, but you know what kids? Because you live in this special country called Malaysia, all you need to do to see them is hop on the train, get on a boat and they’re right there. Tourists come hundreds of miles just to see them, bringing in billions of ringgit for the tourism industry, so we should look after our assets.”

He explained what “eco-tourism” meant, adding that sustainable management of reefs coupled with responsible tourism practices can act as a buffer and alternative income source for locals who might otherwise seek income through destructive practices such as dynamite fishing.

The session was educational and the kids sat quietly through it all, open-mouthed and listening attentively.

When the time came for everyone to don orange life jackets and jump in the water, chances are all the orange shapes bobbing up and down in close proximity to their teachers and KPMG minders knew what they were looking at. Hopefully, these kids will grow up appreciative and mindful of, the underwater realm.

For more on being an EcoDiver, go to

Preserving Pulau Perhentian
Allan Koay The Star 7 Jun 11;

Measures to clean up Pulau Perhentian and protect its environment are off to a slow but good start.

FOR a place like Terengganu’s world-famous Pulau Perhentian, a healthy environment is everything. More so for the tourism business which relies on the reputation of the island and its coral reefs as the pristine, perfect holiday getaway.

If a few years ago Perhentian was facing the danger of pollution and poor waste management, which in turn affected the island’s tropical-wonderland image and the health of its coral reefs, now things are finally looking up. Resort operators on the island are banding together under the umbrella of the Perhentian Resort Operators Association which was formed in 2009, and finding ways of going green to keep the island “healthy”.

In the past, resort operators dumped all their rubbish onto pontoons floating off the island, to be later collected by boats and sent to the mainland. When the sea got rough, rubbish spilt into the water.

Now, a boat comes to the island daily to collect the waste from every resort. It would sound its siren and everyone would get ready their rubbish bags to be transported to the mainland by the boat.

Also, beach and reef clean-ups are organised every now and then by resort operators, involving visitors who are rewarded with free stays and dives in return for their voluntary clean-up work.

Some resorts have also adopted greener waste management systems. One of them, Tuna Bay Resort, has just installed the Bio-Robic septic tank to treat sewage, which remains a big problem for the island. Using an anaerobic and oxidation filtration technology, the system produces treated wastewater that is low in ammonia nitrogen and can be used for watering plants and washing.

“This system works around the clock,” said Lee Khing Kit, a co-owner of Tuna Bay. “When the water comes out of the tank, it meets standards, which means it can be discharged into the sea. It won’t affect the environment. You can also let it go into the ground.”

The system was operational only last year and the tank alone cost more than RM30,000, not including the logistics costs and installation fees. But Lee feels it is money well-spent. “First of all, we have to think of the environment. If we discharge (untreated) wastewater into the sea, it can kill the coral reefs. In the long run, it will affect our business.”

Meanwhile, at Senja Bay Resort, kitchen wastewater is piped down to under the restaurant and into a grease trap. The accumulated grease is bagged and loaded onto the garbage boats while the overflow water is pumped to the back of the resort into a soak-away pit (where wastewater percolates through layers of stones and rubble).

Resort owner Faizul Abdul Rahman feels however, that sewage should be collected and sent via boat to the mainland, like how rubbish is transported by boat daily. Currently at his resort, grey water (wastewater from baths) and sewage go into polyethylene tanks, then pumped to a covered soak-away pit that is treated with chlorine.

“For water from baths and the kitchen, it is fine (to be pumped into the soak-away pit),” said Faizul. “But for sewage, it’s not so good in the long run, because the sewage does find its way back to the sea. According to scientists who have done research on the reefs around Perhentian, every year the percentage of algae on the reefs is increasing. Their conclusion is that this is due to sewage from the island.”

The smaller operators are also into better waste management now. Muhammad Kasmuri Abd Wahab, who runs the 12-room Maya Beach Resort, segregates the rubbish at his resort, and the recyclable items, including cooking oil and engine oil, are sold to an acquaintance who then sends the waste to a recycling plant.

Ruth Yap, outreach programme manager of Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) said the organisation received funding from the Small Grants Programme (under the Global Environment Facility) to carry out a project in Perhentian in 2009, focusing on the community and the environment.

“We started talking to all the resort operators over there. We had funds to set up the Perhentian Resort Operators Association, which involved resorts, dive centres, snorkelling guides and even taxi boats,” said Yap.

The initial project lasted only two years. This year, the association with the help of RCM obtained funding again to work on areas in waste management and environmental awareness talks for the students and villagers there.

“This year we are looking at composting, and we have already purchased a compost machine that takes in 25kg of waste per day,” said Yap. “After 48 hours in the machine, you get compost. This is a trial period, and we have yet to implement it. The resort operators are still trying to look for space to install the machine. If this is successful, we might apply for more funds from the local government. The idea is to reduce the amount of waste taken off the island.”

Info-sheets have also been put up in each room of the resorts, which explain in various languages, the things that visitors can do to reduce waste and safeguard the environment. One of it is to refill drinking water at the resort instead of buying bottled water, thus reducing the number of discarded plastic bottles. Yap said one operator provides RM1 refills, and he gets up to 78 requests per day, which makes good business sense for operators to provide the service.

Reef clean-ups

For Watercolours Resort, the main concern is the health of the coral reefs. Said its chief operating officer Mike Soh: “They are being polluted by rubbish, (and choked by) fishing nets and so on. What we do is organise reef clean-ups at least twice a year. We get help from Reef Check in terms of funds and divers.

“Sometimes we organise beach clean-ups for our guests. We provide them free food or a free outing on the beach. For reef clean-ups, we offer them free dives and food, and in the evening we gather together for a small barbecue.”

Watercolours is in the process of converting its septic tanks into a filtration system similar to the one used by Tuna Bay. About half of its 20 tanks have been converted and each new tank costs about RM1,000.

“What comes out of the tank is quite clean,” said Soh. “There are no more particles, and the water is almost clear. We use it for the plants in our garden. After filtration, the water doesn’t smell anymore. Also, after a few years, what is left in the tank (sludge) can be cleaned out and used as fertiliser.”

Overall, everyone agrees that the association has done quite a bit for the island, especially in raising awareness. Yap agrees but said: “Behaviour change cannot happen overnight. You need time and repetition. With the association, it’s easier for the local government to have a dialogue with the resort operators. There’s a platform for discussion now.”

Even so, some feel there is still more to be done. The operators say foreign tourists are environmentally conscious, but most local visitors still throw rubbish indiscriminately. And while it is all clean and good at the resorts and beaches, other parts of the islands remain an ugly sight.

“The parts where there are no resorts, such as the jungle trails, are very poorly looked after,” said Faizul. “They are full of plastic bottles and wrappers. It is very ugly. All tourists who come here are charged a marine park conservation fee of RM5 per head. I think some of the money should be used to hire workers to go around weekly and clean up the rubbish. Everyone knows about the problem but nobody bothers.”

“In terms of awareness, it has definitely improved over the last few years,” said Soh. “The only thing is whether we can afford some of the measures. The (new) sewage tanks are quite costly, so the smaller operators may not be able to afford them.”

Soh and some others feel rubbish disposal is still a burden to the operators, especially the smaller businesses, because each resort is charged a fee of RM15 per room monthly. But that should give them a reason to reduce waste amounts, for instance through composting and recycling.

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