Best of our wild blogs: 13 Oct 11

Sea level rise and Singapore's response
from wild shores of singapore

Job - 9-month TMSI Research Assistant (Marine Biology and Ecology Lab)
from ecotax at Yahoo! Groups

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MEWR to raise minimum level for land reclamation

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: The Environment and Water Resources Ministry (MEWR) will raise the minimum levels for land reclamation by at least one metre, as an adequate buffer against a potential rise in sea levels.

This is one of the steps the MEWR will take to enhance Singapore's resilience against the potential impact of climate change, the ministry said in its addendum to the President's Address.

As a low-lying and densely populated island, Singapore is vulnerable to climate change. Experts said a rise in sea level can result in some coastal erosion and land loss.

Chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Environment and National Development, Lee Bee Wah, said: "The minister is looking long-term - the rise of the sea level perhaps in (the next) 100 or 200 years. We want to address it now and the cheaper way of doing it is to do it (during) the land reclamation by building up the additional one metre."

The ministry will also develop capabilities in climate science to improve its understanding of future localised climatic conditions. It will form networks with relevant experts and institutions at the forefront of climate research.

In a separate addendum, the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCSS) said the government will invest in infrastructure as well as in research and development of low carbon technologies for deployment in Singapore. In addition, it will enhance understanding and expertise in climate science, and build up Singapore's resilience and adaptability to climate change.

Singapore suffered one of the worst floods in June last year, which led to parts of the Orchard Road shopping belt being submerged.

The ministry said it takes a serious view of flooding in Singapore and is conducting an in-depth review of all flood protection measures to be implemented over the next decade. This is being done in consultation with a panel of local and overseas experts, and also through public consultation efforts.

The review will be completed by the end of the year.

In the meantime, it will continue to enhance the drainage system and work with the public to ensure adequate flood protection for their properties.

Separately, the ministry also pledged to raise the standards of public cleanliness and hygiene. The public can expect improved standards of cleaning services.

The MEWR said a quality living environment relies on more than tighter standards and cleansing regimes and that ultimately, it is the people who make the city beautiful. So citizens and visitors alike must do their part to reduce littering.

Eugene Heng, founder of the Waterways Watch Society, said: "Education is very important... perhaps (make it) a little bit more mandatory (for) schools to go through this kind of education programme. I believe it has to be hands-on, place-based... The students must come down and actually participate in this so that it gives a lasting impression and encourages them to change their social habits, wherever they are."

The smoking ban may also be extended to cover more places to reduce the impact of second-hand smoke on non-smokers. The ministry however did not give details on the areas being considered.

Dr Lee said: "Quite a lot of my residents are asking if we can ban smoking in the park. We can (also) ban smoking at the bus stop because, for example, in the early morning the bus stop is normally quite packed."

Another area under review is noise standards and guidelines to protect public health and minimise nuisance.


Expertise in climate science to be beefed up
Grace Chua Straits Times 13 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE will need to raise the minimum levels for land reclamation by at least a metre to cope with a potential rise in sea levels arising from climate change.

In addition, the Government will develop capabilities to better understand this global phenomenon and its other effects on the island.

These were some of the key thrusts put forward yesterday by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) in their respective addenda to the President's Address.

'We will enhance our understanding and expertise in climate science, and build up Singapore's resilience and adaptability to climate change in key areas such as coastal protection, water resources and drainage, biodiversity, public health as well as urban infrastructure,' said the NCCS, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office.

Assistant Professor Koh Tieh Yong of Nanyang Technological University's School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences agreed with the need for more atmospheric scientists.

Tropical weather systems, which affect Singapore, is one area that is not well studied, he pointed out.

Most international expertise in weather forecasting is in temperate weather systems, which behave differently.

Forecasting of tropical systems has been studied for only the past three to four decades, he said.

Currently, the bulk of Singapore's expertise resides in its pool of government meteorologists as well as atmospheric scientists, who may belong to university geography, physics or earth science departments.

Government agencies have already started to beef up their climate science expertise. The National Environment Agency, for example, has placed job advertisements for a director for climate research, as well as for research scientists.

It is the result of such preliminary scientific studies that the ministry is recommending that the minimum levels for land reclamation be raised by a metre.

Reacting to the proposal, construction expert Ho Nyok Yong, who is president of the Singapore Contractors Association, asked what the extent of new regulations would be.

'Singapore has reclaimed a lot of land already, so does it apply to that or only recent or new projects?' he asked.

The change would not be a big deal if it applied only to recent projects, he said. But it would be difficult to apply to previously reclaimed land in many cases, because such land would have structures built on it.

The NCCS also emphasised that Singapore must do its part to alleviate the problem by cutting its carbon emissions, That means using more low-carbon fuels such as natural gas, and boosting energy conservation and efficiency in industry, transport, buildings and homes, it said.

And these initiatives will be bolstered by government investment in low-carbon technology and infrastructure.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond called the moves 'a promising indication' of the Government's commitment to addressing climate change.

But there must be adequate financial and technical support for small businesses and low-income households as they shift to these low-carbon technologies, he said.

Meanwhile, measures that remain 'inconvenient' or 'inaccessible' to Singaporeans must be improved, he added, such as increasing the number of compressed natural gas refilling stations, improving the public transport system and subsidising solar technology.

Plan for adequate buffer against rise in sea level
Esther Ng Today Online 13 Oct 11;

Based on preliminary studies, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said reclaimed land will have to be raised "by at least one metre" to create an adequate buffer against any potential rise in sea level.

Reiterating its commitment to enhancing Singapore's resilience against the potential impacts of climate change, the ministry said the Government will develop capabilities in climate science to improve understanding of future conditions.

The Government is also committed to reducing Singapore's carbon emissions through greater use of less carbon intensive fuels and improved energy conservation and investment in research and development in clean technologies."The Government will invest in infrastructure as well as in research and development of low carbon technologies for deployment," said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, chairman of the inter-ministerial committee on climate change. "Businesses and households will also have to change their practices and lifestyles respectively to be more environmentally sustainable."

1m buffer to keep the sea out
Gwendolyn Ng my paper AsiaOne 13 Oct 11;

RISING sea levels could lead to the loss of precious coastal areas used for residential and recreational purposes.

To thwart such a threat, preliminary studies here have pointed to a need to raise minimum levels for land reclamation by at least 1m to act as an adequate buffer.

This was highlighted in an addendum released by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).

Professor Wang Chien Ming, director of the National University of Singapore's Engineering Science Programme, said that experts have predicted a rise in sea levels worldwide due to global warming which, in turn, leads to the melting of glaciers.

He said: "This is something we cannot ignore. If we don't do anything, the coast will be flooded, and you will have to pull back people and dwellings from the area. It's good that Singapore is prepared."

Together with the addenda of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), which is under the Prime Minister's Office, the addendum outlined the long-term strategic plans after President Tony Tan's opening address in Parliament on Monday.

MOH reiterated that it will provide affordable health care for Singaporeans, especially in the face of an ageing population.

In August, MOH announced that it will inject $73 million into a series of subsidies to cover medication and outpatient care.

MOH said: "We will assess our health-care financing framework to ensure Singaporeans can afford the medical care they require, in the appropriate and cost-effective setting, while striking a balance with fiscal sustainability."

To allow Singaporeans to live their senior years in the comfort of or near their homes, MOH will work towards providing more support by developing capabilities in community and home care.

MEWR said it is looking into ways to make Singapore less flood-prone by tapping on the expertise of an expert panel it had set up after heavy rains caused a flood in Orchard Road for the second year in a row.

MEWR will also continue to enhance the country's drainage system and work with the public to ensure adequate flood protection for their properties.

To provide affordable food and common social space, MEWR will build about 10 hawker centres over the next decade. It also said it is exploring an extension of the smoking ban to reduce the impact of second-hand smoke on non-smokers.

It will also review the standards and guidelines on noise to protect public health and minimise nuisance.

NCCS said it intends to reduce Singapore's carbon emissions by investing in research and development of low-carbon technologies.

Singapore to enhance resilience against climate change
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) is taking steps to enhance Singapore's resilience against the potential impact of climate change.

It'll raise the minimum levels for land reclamation by at least one metre to create an adequate buffer against a potential rise in sea level.

This is one of several priorities spelt out in its addendum to the President's Address released on Wednesday.

MEWR will also develop capabilities in climate science to improve its understanding of future localised climatic conditions.

It'll form networks with relevant experts and institutions at the forefront of climate research.

Setting the tone in its submission to Parliament, MEWR also pledged to raise standards of public cleanliness and hygiene.

The public can expect improved standards of cleaning services.

MEWR is considering extending the smoking ban to reduce the impact of second-hand smoke on non-smokers.

It'll also review noise standards and guidelines to protect public health and minimise nuisance.

To address the problem of vector breeding, the National Environment Agency will complement ongoing efforts with increased community education and outreach.

It'll also ensure that stringent levels of food hygiene standards are maintained with a robust regulatory and inspection regime for food operators.

The ministry is also looking at ways to better empower the community.

This is done through developing a more robust framework for environmental reporting by businesses, and making environmental information more open to the public.

The public will also be consulted more closely on policies, with more channels of communication.

The ministry said it takes a serious view of flooding in Singapore and is conducting an in-depth review of all flood protection measures to be implemented over the next decade.

This is being done in consultation with a panel of local and overseas experts and through public consultation efforts.

The review will be completed by the end of the year.

In the meantime, it'll continue to enhance the drainage system and work with the public to ensure adequate flood protection for their properties.

The ministry will build more hawker centres over the next few years as such centres play a valuable social role.

- CNA/cc

Govt to invest in low carbon technologies
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: The National Climate Change Secretariat (NCSS) said the government will invest in infrastructure as well as in research and development of low carbon technologies for deployment in Singapore.

In its addendum to the President's Address, NCSS stressed that climate change is a major challenge and as a responsible member of the global community, Singapore will also play its part to lower carbon emissions.

The secretariat, which is under the Prime Minister's Office, highlighted that businesses and households will also have to change their practices and lifestyles to be more environmentally sustainable.

It aims to reduce carbon emissions in two main ways - greater use of less carbon intensive fuels, and improve energy conservation and efficiency. This will require promoting energy-efficient design, equipment and processes in industries, transport, buildings and homes.

In addition, the secretariat will enhance understanding and expertise in climate science and build up Singapore's resilience and adaptability to climate change in key areas such as coastal protection, water resources and drainage, biodiversity, public health as well as urban infrastructure.

NCSS said Singapore's experience and expertise in addressing the challenges of climate change will generate new economic opportunities in emerging industries such as clean energy, carbon services and energy services, as well as in existing industries.

The secretariat will work with the business community to seek out and capitalise on such opportunities locally and abroad.

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Strong winds, heavy rain 'not unusual'

Grace Chua Straits Times 13 Oct 11;

A SPATE of early-morning squalls has toppled trees from Ang Mo Kio to Pulau Hantu, but experts said the wet and windy weather is not unheard-of for this time of year.

On Tuesday, an uprooted tree at Lower Delta Road fell and hit a taxi, trapping its driver inside until Singapore Civil Defence Force officers could free her.

Last week, towering casuarina trees on the southern island of Pulau Hantu were uprooted by strong winds, startling National University of Singapore researchers there to conduct studies.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the bad weather was due mainly to Sumatra squalls - lines of thunderstorms moving east - which are common during the south-west and inter-monsoon periods and are often accompanied by wind gusts of 40kmh to 80kmh.

In fact, during Sumatra squalls this month, wind gusts as strong as 80.6kmh were detected, the NEA said.

On two other days, Thursday and Friday last week, heavy rain was due to thunderstorms induced by strong heating of land areas in the afternoon.

An NEA spokesman explained that such intense thunderstorms could take place at any time of the year and tended to be unpredictable and sudden.

In all, 26 roadside trees were uprooted during eight days of intense rain, a spokesman for the National Parks Board (NParks) said.

The fallen trees were in Bukit Timah, Lower Delta, South Buona Vista, Holland, Bedok, Ang Mo Kio, Neo Tiew, Hougang and Craig Road.

But NParks has stepped up its tree inspections and pruning of mature trees since last May, especially in places with a lot of vehicle traffic, said Mr Simon Longman, the agency's director of streetscape.

Climate scientist Koh Tieh Yong of the Nanyang Technological University said of the wet weather: 'I wouldn't say it is unusual. Weather is never a constant but, nowadays, there is heightened public interest in it. I don't think the recent weather is cause for alarm per se.'

Assistant Professor Koh, who heads the university's tropical atmosphere research group, explained that October to November is a transition period, like a 'tug of war' between the south-west and north-east monsoon wind systems.

The convergence of the two carries rain, and typically reaches Singapore around December.

At the moment, the two fronts are pushing against each other near Vietnam, and this partly accounts for the heavy rain and floods in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

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Public cleanliness to get a good dusting

Focus will be on litter, food hygiene in hawker centres, dengue control
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 13 Oct 11;

FOR 30 consecutive nights last month, Mr Eric Brooks, 45, took pictures of litter in his Toa Payoh estate and sent them to the town council.

The rubbish, which included take-out boxes and black trash bags, attracted rats and made the neighbourhood look dirty, he told The Straits Times yesterday.

But the culprits continued to litter despite repeated warnings by the town council, said Mr Brooks, a magazine editor.

Such public hygiene issues will get a greater airing in the next five years, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources promised yesterday.

In its addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address on Monday, it highlighted public cleanliness here as a key plank in its plan for the new parliamentary term.

'Clean and liveable spaces have become part of life in Singapore, and we must not take this for granted,' it said. 'We can and should elevate standards of public cleanliness and hygiene.'

It said this could be done in four ways:

'Strengthened' public cleaning procedures.

Better coordination across relevant government agencies.

Support for smaller community groups that help clean neighbourhoods.

More ways for the public to provide feedback on specific locations.

Responding to queries about these plans, the ministry said it would provide more details at a later date.

People The Straits Times spoke to said the moves could help restore Singapore's reputation for cleanliness, which has taken a hit in recent months.

Last month, National Environment Agency chief Andrew Tan acknowledged a perception here that Singapore had become dirtier, citing readers' letters in newspapers here.

He said it could be due to trash accumulating in high-traffic areas such as bus interchanges and public parks.

The ministry added in its addendum that it would also focus on food hygiene in hawker centres and dengue breeding hot spots, two other public cleanliness issues that became prominent recently.

About 3,700 people became infected with dengue fever in July and August; a third were hospitalised, and three people died.

The ministry said it would improve and increase public outreach programmes to target mosquito breeding sites in homes, where most people are infected.

It will also target other creature outbreaks, for example, the rat infestations in Pasir Ris in June.

It added that it will also improve cleanliness and hygiene standards at hawker centres, and review (its) management approach to them.

Mr James Soh, chairman of the Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement, lauded the ministry's goals, but suggested that it move away from the 'top-down' approach of the past and support grassroots efforts instead.

He added that future campaigns should reach out to young people in particular.

'We don't have a culture of taking care of our public places, especially among young people.

'But if you put some passionate teenagers together and get them to lead a campaign, I think their peers will become much more receptive about keeping the country clean,' he said.

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SCDF to learn from Shell Bukom fire

It will share findings of review with others in industry: DPM Teo
Elizabeth Soh & Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 13 Oct 11;

THE Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will review and draw lessons from the recent Shell refinery blaze, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

The findings from the review of the fire that took 32 hours to put out on Pulau Bukom will be shared with stakeholders, including others in the industry, he added.

He attributed the fact that there were no serious injuries to regular fire-safety practices and cooperation between the SCDF and the oil giant.

'While there was damage to property, including several fire-fighting appliances and disruption to refinery operations, no serious injuries were sustained,' said Mr Teo, who is also Minister for Home Affairs.

He was speaking yesterday at the inaugural Fire Safety Asia Conference at Suntec City Convention Centre.

Just last month, he noted that a nationwide mass-evacuation exercise involving 53 industrial sites, 17 commercial premises and 13 hotels had been carried out to raise awareness of fire safety in the workplace.

He emphasised the need for conference participants from other countries to share their best practices and experiences.

The three-day event, organised jointly by the SCDF and National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council, has drawn more than 270 fire-safety experts and regulators.

Mr Teo also said the challenge for Singapore was to set a new benchmark for building standards here to be aesthetically pleasing but without compromising safety.

He gave the example of a convention hall at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) which has an enhanced smoke-control system that prevents smoke from engulfing the room by containing it in the ceiling.

For that, and other fire-safety design features that blended with the architecture of the sprawling complex which also houses a shopping centre and a hotel, MBS won a Fire Safety Design Excellence Award launched yesterday evening at Pan Pacific Hotel.

In explaining the judges' decision to honour MBS, Mr Ashvin Kumar, president of the Singapore Institute of Architects, said the integrated resort has the most 'complicated, complex and radical solutions' in fire safety.

Mr Agustin Cortes, senior vice-president of hotel operations, said MBS is honoured to have won the award through its work with building consultancy firm Arup Engineering.

They wanted to ensure that their designs exceeded the fire-safety requirements for commercial buildings here.

Other winners included the Underground Ammunition Facility designed by the Defence, Science and Technology Agency.

SCDF to review blaze at Shell's Bukom facility
Hetty Musfirah Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will be reviewing and drawing lessons from the 32-hour blaze at a Shell petrochemical plant at Pulau Bukom last month.

Giving his first public comments on the incident at the inaugural Fire Safety Asia Conference on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the review would be done in the coming weeks.

The facility at Bukom is Shell's largest oil refinery in the world - with a capacity of half a million barrels a day.

The blaze, which began on September 28, had put the Home Team - particularly the SCDF firefighters - to the test.

Mr Teo said: "While there was damage to property, including several fire-fighting appliances, and disruption to refinery operations, no serious injuries were sustained.

"In general, the response plan that was practised in regular exercises worked and the challenge was overcome through cooperation between Shell and the SCDF."

In the coming weeks, SCDF will review and draw lessons from the fire, and share them with stakeholders, including other industry players, Mr Teo added.

The review will likely take one to two months to complete, given that the incident also required the efforts of other stakeholders such as the police force.

The review will include looking at things that were done right, identifying areas that can be improved on and strengthening the contingency plan.

Some broad areas will include operations and logistics.

Mr Teo said the central concept underpinning Singapore's fire safety strategy is partnership. And the sharing of best practices and experiences is important - something that the three-day conference is facilitating.

Mr Teo said there is a need to find more creative yet equally robust fire safety solutions. He said fire safety in buildings will become more challenging as more buildings are built taller and closer together.

He said a mindset change is also needed. This includes working with building owners to take into account fire safety considerations right from the design stage.

The Fire Safety Asia Conference is jointly organised by the SCDF and the National Fire and Emergency Preparedness Council (NFEC).

The theme for the conference is "Partners in Fire Safety - Building a Safer Tomorrow".

- CNA/al

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Creating a 'city in a garden'

Cheryl Lim Straits Times 13 Oct 11;

THE Oriental Pied Hornbill, long one of Singapore's resident birds, was once thought extinct here, but conservation efforts by the Government have let the species rebuild its presence.

There are now almost 100 hornbills across the island, thanks to a reintroduction programme which started in 2008, according to the National Parks Board.

In his addendum yesterday to the President's Address on Monday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said such efforts would be part of his ministry's broader focus on greening Singapore and creating a 'city in a garden'.

Aside from the upcoming Gardens by the Bay project, Mr Khaw also offered a glimpse of the green projects to come.

'We will create an extensive network of regional and neighbourhood parks, streetscape and skyrise greenery. We will embed greenery into our city and HDB towns,' he said.

'Our park connectors will link up parks and green spaces within neighbourhoods... Daily close encounters with nature will be Singaporeans' way of life.'

Mr Khaw singled out two eco projects as examples of communities taking greater ownership of their living space.

The Rail Corridor has brought Singaporeans together to co-create a green 'spine' from the 26km stretch of former Malaysian Railway land.

And moves to keep the kampung spirit alive can be seen in the Punggol Waterway development, which includes public spaces along the 4.2km waterway.

Mr Khaw added that he would ramp up efforts to make buildings more energy efficient and environmentally friendly through programmes like the Green Mark Scheme, set up in 2005 to measure the environmental sustainability of buildings.

Figures from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) show that more than 840 projects have been awarded the Green Mark certification.

The scheme has evolved in tandem with the changing needs of Singapore's built-up environment, and is now included under the Green Building Masterplan.

Mr Khaw also added that the construction industry's productivity and capabilities will be raised to keep pace with the rising number of complex projects carried out here.

The BCA aims to raise the sector's productivity by up to 25 per cent over the next decade - a big leap from the annual average growth of 0.5 per cent recorded over the past 10 years.

It is part of the larger Construction Productivity Roadmap that also includes the $250 million Construction Productivity and Capability Fund.

The fund helps companies looking to switch to more labour-efficient construction technologies.

Since the fund's inception last June, more than $26 million has been committed to about 900 companies.

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Singapore to offer US$1m for container port design

Ambiga Raju Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is offering a US$1 million cash prize for a global challenge in a bid to find the best new design for the next generation of container ports.

Announcing this on Wednesday at a maritime forum at Fusionopolis, Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew said the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) will be organising the "Next Generation Container Port Challenge" in April next year.

He said those in the industry would know that the basic design of a container port has remained largely unchanged for decades - a simple plot of land with stacks of containers surrounded by cranes to lift boxes on and off ships.

He added while there have been some improvements in port technologies, these have been mostly incremental changes.

On the demand side, Mr Lui said, things have changed much more dramatically with container ships carrying more loads per trip.

Safety, security and the need to put in place environmentally-sustainable practices are also putting more demands on port infrastructure.

He said these are presenting real challenges for land-scarce Singapore.

Mr Lui said Singapore wants to source ideas from the brightest and the best from all over the world through the "Next Generation Container Port Challenge".

"We want them not only to think out of the box, but around and even ahead of the box!" Mr Lui said.

The winning concept is expected to embody innovation, efficiency, productivity and sustainability.

More details will be announced closer to the launch of the challenge.

- CNA/wk

Jurong Port, MPA in $12m green port programme
Joyce Hooi Business Times 13 Oct 11;

JURONG Port and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) are coming up with a total of $12 million for a green port and productivity programme, which was launched yesterday.

Jurong Port and the MPA's Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund will each contribute $6 million to the Green Port and Productivity Solutions research and development (R&D) programme, under a memorandum of understanding signed by Jurong Port's chief executive officer Matthew Chan and MPA's CEO Lam Yi Young.

'MPA's MINT Fund has supported many maritime R&D projects since it was launched in 2007. I am pleased to note that under the Green Port and Productivity Solutions R&D Programme, Jurong Port will be working with tertiary and research institutions to identify greener solutions to enhance their port operations,' said Mr Lam.

Over the next five years, the funds will be used to research and test-bed green technologies that will reduce Jurong Port's carbon footprint and improve the productivity for its existing and future terminals, it said.

'We've already completed a study on our carbon footprint,' said Jurong Port's Mr Chan. 'Now we will develop and implement major green projects with MPA's funding support.'

The port has identified four areas in need of attention - rising labour costs, limited waterfront space, high energy consumption and the need to be more environmentally friendly.

MPA and Jurong Port were two of the 12 parties present at the inaugural Maritime Singapore Green Pledge signing ceremony earlier this year, which was held in conjunction with the announcement of the $100 million Maritime Singapore Green Initiative.

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For export to Singapore: Mt. Pinatubo sand

Philippine Daily Inquirer 12 Oct 11;

BOTOLAN, Zambales—Once the rains stop, sand spewed out by Mount Pinatubo that had silted waterways in Zambales will become a source of revenue when it is exported to Singapore, local officials said.

Mayor Nerma Yap said sand from the volcano’s eruptions in 1991, that had caused the siltation of Zambales’ river systems and flooding during storms, “will be finally put to good use.”

“In the past, this has been a big problem for us. But now, a solution has finally arrived,” she said.

Yap said Blue Max, a company backed by Korean and Chinese investors, will dredge the Bucao River here to extract the sand and ship it to buyers in Singapore.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) last month repaired an eroded portion of the Sto. Tomas River Megadike in San Felipe town to prevent the lahar-filled river from breaching the embankment and flooding farms and residential and commercial areas there.

The repair was carried out as the province reeled from the effects of Typhoon “Pedring,” which battered coastal areas here.

Carlos Zapata, president of Blue Max, said the venture is led by Filipino entrepreneurs “but the task is so big that we needed the cooperation of our [foreign partners].”

He said buyers in Singapore have been requesting for tests to determine sand quality. “We’re glad that they finally said yes. It was acceptable to them,” he said.

Zapata said the project would start with the dredging of the Bucao River. “If we’re successful, then we can help the community,” he said.

Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., a former public works secretary, said “sand is still flowing down the mountains” 20 years after Mt. Pinatubo erupted. He said at least 6.5 billion cubic meters of sand fell into the Sto. Tomas, Maloma and Bucao rivers.

Sand for reclamation projects in countries like Singapore usually come from Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, he said. Buyers of Zambales sand had to be foreigners because they have resources to ship the sand out, he said.

Blue Max, the governor said, could add P200 million in revenues a year to the province. “The material that made our lives miserable since 1991 will become manna from heaven,” he added.

Danilo Uykieng, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said the Zambales government has an agreement with Blue Max to dredge the river and the program of work had been approved by the DPWH.

Uykieng said Zambales officials have started processing permits for the dredging operations. Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

Zambales starts to sell Pinatubo sand
Sun.Star Pampanga 13 Oct 11;

IBA, Zambales -- The Provincial Government of Zambales will now be exporting Pinatubo sand, which had made the lives of residents here miserable for the past two decades as it brought floods especially during rainy season.

Zambales Governor Jun Ebdane announced this after signing a contract with BlueMax Tradelink Inc., a Filipino company with contacts in Singapore, for the dredging of the Bucao River in Botolan, Maculcol River in San Felipe, and Sto. Tomas River in San Marcelino.

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The Bucao and Sto. Tomas rivers are the major waterways that drain from Mt. Pinatubo.

Ebdane said the Provincial Government, as set in a resolution passed by the Provincial Board, will charge P10 as extraction fee for every cubic meter of sand collected from the dredging project.

“This translates to roughly P4 million in monthly revenue, based on the contract, which requires that 420,000 cubic meters of sand a month will be supplied to Singapore within the period of 18 months,” Ebdane said.

He added that aside from the extraction fee, local government units in Zambales will also have the opportunity under the project to collect other fees and taxes like mineral tax, and ore transport permit fee.

Ebdane said the Zambales government “would be more than willing to supply Singapore’s requirements, because it would rehabilitate local waterways and earn income for the province.”

“We have so much sand from Pinatubo, and this has caused severe siltation of rivers and has often resulted in severe flooding in several towns and barangays,” he said. “In the past, the government was paying for dredging companies to remove sand from the rivers. Now, the opposite is the case — those who will dredge our rivers will pay us instead.”

The governor added that the export of Pinatubo sand “is just one aspect of the project.”

He explained that because the Singapore clients would only need pure sand for their reclamation projects, the Pinatubo sand would have to be processed before exportation.

“As you know, the sand to be extracted from Bucao and the other two dredging sites are heavy in metallic elements, specifically magnetites or black sand. Now, these ‘waste’ from processing the Pinatubo sand will still be another source of revenue for Zambales,” Ebdane pointed out.

According to Clark Zapata, president of BlueMax, his company was commissioned by Singaporean firms to supply sand for use in their expansion projects.

“This is for the first contract alone,” Zapata said. “We are still in the negotiation stage for two more contracts that would bring the total extraction to 1.2 million cubic meters per month, for an extraction fee of about P12 million.” (Anthony Bayarong/Sunnex)

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India: Changes in mangroves may be behind falling tiger count

Prithvijit Mitra The Times of India 13 Oct 11;

KOLKATA: Tigers in the Sunderbans face a new threat, this time from within. An alteration in the composition of the mangrove forest has made it difficult for tigers to hunt and could be a reason behind their dwindling number, says an ongoing study by the School of Oceanagraphic Studies, Jadavpur University.

A sudden proliferation of Baine (avicennia) a" a mangrove variety which is a rich source of food and fodder but has a very high pneumatophore density a" has taken researchers by surprise. Further rise in its number could be disastrous for the big cats in Sunderbans, the study says. Baine has two sub-species a" avicennia marina and avicennia alba.

Till the late Eighties, Baine comprised less than 1% of all mangroves in the forest. It now accounts for around 10% which is alarming, said the experts. Its pneumatophores can spread across a radius of up to 20 feet and make movement extremely difficult for tigers. In the slippery and dense terrain where hunting has never been easy for tigers, Baine has been making it even tougher.

asBaine has the highest pneumatophore density among mangroves. As it is, tigers get little room to run and catch a pray in the Sunderbans. They have to rely on short bursts to make a kill, catching their pray by surprise. More Baine means even that has now become difficult in certain areas,a? said Pranabesh Sanyal, a member of the research team.

Sunderbans has 94 species of mangroves. Goran (ceriops) and Gewa (excoeceria egallocha) comprise nearly 70% of the mangroves. Baineas proliferation can be directly linked to a rise in salinity, said the study. "Among all the mangrove varieties, it can withstand salinity the most. Our study also shows a sharp rise in salinity a" both in rivers and in ground water. The more the salinity, the more conducive it will be for Baine," added Sanyal.

There was, however, a flipside to it. Being rich in food value and a good fodder, the mangrove variety could actually be a boon for the residents of Sunderbans. Used as cattle fodder, Baine leaves and twigs were better than straw, the study said. Its leaves are widely used as vegetables in Gujarat and Sunderbans could follow suit. "A toxicity test is now being done to assess its suitability for human consumption. If it passes the test, this mangrove could be a cheap and easy source of food for locals. The latter could also save money by using it as fodder," said Sanyal.

Baine could be planted in the creeks along villages, it has been suggested. Since these areas donat have a tiger population, it wonat affect them. But since it has been growing deep inside the forests, it has been largely inaccessible to the local population. "No solution is in sight, for you canat chop them off. That would be detrimental to the eco-system. We must wait for some more time and observe the consequences," Sanyal said.

Some experts, however, felt it was still too early to conclude that Baine has been affecting tigers."First, there has been no study to assess the impact of Baine on tigers. Secondly, tigers are remarkably adaptable creatures who can adjust to adverse conditions. The fact that they have survived in the Sunderbans is ample proof of that. But if Baine has indeed been proliferating then we need a proper study. It should be taken seriously," said Shilanjan Bhattacharya, member of the State Wildlife Advisory Board.

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Murky future for giant Philippine crocodiles

Jason Gutierrez (AFP) Google News 12 Oct 11;

BUNAWAN, Philippines — Deep inside the Philippines' largest marshland, tribespeople who once revered crocodiles as mystical creatures say they now feel terrorised by them.

Reports of attacks on people and livestock have become more frequent and tensions reached a peak last month when a three-week hunt netted what is believed to be the world's biggest crocodile ever captured.

"There used to be a time when crocodiles would swim near our boats, but move away when we made noise," village chief Rudy Ayala told AFP while patrolling the spectacular Agusan marsh in the southern Philippines where his Manobo tribe has lived for generations.

"Now they have become dangerous and are eating our animals and attacking humans. The bigger ones must be removed because they must have developed a taste for us."

Ayala is head of a village of a few hundred people who live on wooden house boats at Lake Mihaba, part of the 15,000-hectare (37,050-acre) Agusan marshland that is one of the Philippines' most ecologically significant wetlands.

As they have for decades, the villagers travel on small dug-out canoes, sustaining themselves by fishing and hunting for large carp, snails and other marine life.

Folklore about mystical reptiles containing spirits of tribal ancestors still abounds, with the elders saying they once peacefully co-existed with the crocodiles, the top predators in the area.

But that was quickly changing, Ayala explained as his boat glided through a maze of shallow creeks, lakes and channels.

Reverence turned to fear and hysteria, then anger, after a crocodile bit off a 12-year-old girl's head as she paddled her way to school in 2009, according to Ayala and other villagers.

Ayala said the mangled remains of Rowena Romano bore jagged bite marks when her body was was pulled out of the water, and part of her canoe was torn off by the force of the animal's powerful jaws.

Then, in June this year, a man from another village on the edge of the marsh went missing, presumably also taken by a crocodile while he was fishing in the wetlands.

There has also been a spate of attacks by crocodiles on water buffalo and other livestock.

Leonisa Daga-as, 42, expressed the sentiments of many villagers in the marshland, saying that the only way to rid the community of the threat was to hunt down all the crocodiles and remove them.

She said her husband had twice survived a "crocodile ambush".

"The animal followed his canoe and nearly turned it over by chomping on it," said Daga-as, who is also one of the community leaders.

In response to the growing anxiety the local government of Bunawan town, which has jurisdiction over the area, assembled a hunting party that caught a one-tonne, (6.4-metre) 21-foot giant in a dramatic hunt last month.

Named Lolong after one of the trappers who died of a heart attack on the eve of its capture, the beast is now believed to be the biggest crocodile in captivity.

Guinness World Records last month declared an Australian crocodile measuring just under 5.5 metres as the biggest in captivity, saying it would not measure Lolong until it was in "acceptable captivity".

Lolong belongs to the species Crocodylus Porosus, or the Indo-Pacific crocodile, the world's largest reptile which experts say can live up to a century.

While not on the brink of extinction globally it is critically endangered in the Philippines, where it is hunted for its hide, which is sought after in the world's fashion industry.

Rollie Sumiller, an animal science expert at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center who helped organise Lolong's capture, said the remote Agusan marsh was one of the best refuges for the crocodiles in the country.

"Because the marsh is largely unspoiled, it is an ideal spot for the crocodiles' unhampered growth," said Sumiller.

However with human activity increasing on and around the marshland, Sumiller explained the apparent rise in attacks was due to people encroaching into the crocodiles' natural habitat.

"They are highly territorial, and once you stray into their territory, they can attack," he said.

The captured Lolong now spends his days in a pen in Bulawan, where he has become an instant celebrity among locals but a cause celebre for some animal rights groups who have demanded he be released back into the wild.

They have branded it cruel for a creature used to roaming vast distances to be kept in an area the size of a swimming pool, and point to the fact that he did not eat for more than a month after being caught as proof he is suffering.

However the mayor of Bunawan town, Edwin Cox Elorde, insisted that Lolong would have been killed by the terrified villagers if he had not been caught, and reiterated the animal would not be released.

"It is not cruelty, he is being protected in the pen... we call it a rescue and not a capture," Elorde said.

He said local authorities were planning to capture more crocodiles and create a nature park for them.

Aside from being a tourist attraction, he said the nature park and Lolong would also hopefully dispel some community fears about crocodiles and show that humans could peacefully co-exist with the animals.

Dutch anthropologist Jan van der Ploeg told AFP that keeping crocodiles in a cage in itself did not educate people, although it could be a start if the Bunawan government also made a genuine effort to protect the species.

"The challenge is to link the crocodile in the cage to the conservation of species in its natural habitat," said van der Ploeg, who works with the Philippine-based conservation group Mabuwaya Foundation.

"Many people do not know that crocodiles are threatened with extinction and that they are therefore legally protected. It is important to get this message across to the public."

He cited as an example a conservation project in San Mariano town in the northern Philippines, where the dwindling crocodile population has shown signs of recovery after a decade of public education campaigns.

"The local government of San Mariano declared the Philippine crocodile its flagship species, proclaimed several protected areas and banned the use of destructive fishing methods," he said.

As a result, they are no longer killed or hunted in the area, and their population has risen from only 12 non-hatchling crocodiles in 2000 to 64 in 2009.

Authorities in Bunawan are giving pamphlets to tourists coming to see Lolong that explain the endangered status of crocodiles and the need to protect them.

However there is no overarching conservation strategy yet for crocodiles in Agusan marsh, only plans to hunt down the next big one.

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Thailand says one-third of country a 'disaster' area

Janesara Fugal (AFP) Google news 12 Oct 11;

BANGKOK — Thailand on Wednesday declared a third of its provinces to be disaster zones, as auto giant Toyota called a halt to work after production was affected by the country's worst flooding in decades.

The government's move aims to speed up relief operations, as the floods have left at least 281 people dead and damaged millions of homes and livelihoods in more than two months.

"The government has announced that all provinces affected by the floods are critical disaster areas, allowing governors to exercise more authority to issue materials and manage budgets," deputy premier Yongyuth Wichaidit said.

Currently 26 out of 77 provinces are affected, while the capital Bangkok is bracing for a large amount of run-off water to reach the city in mid-October, when high tides will make it harder for the flood waters to flow out to sea.

Areas just north of the capital have already seen water up to several metres deep. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said that those living outside the beefed-up defences needed to prepare themselves for flooding.

"If inner Bangkok is flooded, it will only flood a little, but we should be concerned for those who live outside the barriers," she told the press on a visit to a flood relief operations centre at Bangkok airport.

The premier met King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

Japan's biggest automaker Toyota said that production at its three Thailand plants would be halted at least until Saturday.

While floods have not directly impacted its Samrong, Gateway and Ban Pho operations, Toyota said they have caused disruption to parts supply.

Operations at the three plants have been halted since Monday and the company will decide Saturday on whether to resume production.

The flooding has also stuck countries neighbouring Thailand, including Cambodia, where more than 200 people have died. In Vietnam, the toll has risen to 34 and officials say most of the dead are children.

Thailand scrambles to prevent humanitarian disaster from floods
Reuters 12 Oct 11;

(Reuters) - Thai rescue workers scrambled on Monday to prevent a humanitarian disaster as the worst flooding in half a century swamped large sections of the country, shut factories and stranded thousands of people.

Nearly 270 people have been killed in heavy monsoon rains, floods and mudslides since July that have battered 30 of Thailand's 77 provinces, authorities said.

About 3.4 million acres (1.38 million hectares) of farm land is under water -- about 13 times the size of Hong Kong. More than 700,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.

In the hard-hit central province of Ayutthaya, 198 factories in a big industrial estate, including an assembly plant of Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T), closed after flood waters breached a wall of sandbags at the weekend.

"There will certainly be some impact on production due to the flooding in Ayutthaya," Ammar Master, a senior market analyst at the Asian unit of J.D. Power and Associates, a California-based industry research firm.

"While automakers will have components in stock, we expect a slowdown in production in the immediate term," he said. "Measures taken are likely to be similar to those implemented in the immediate aftermath of the (March earthquake) disaster in Japan."

Industry Minister Wannarat Channukul estimated the initial cost of damage had reached more than 20 billion baht in Ayutthaya province alone.

"This is just a rough estimate. We still can't get to all parts of the area due to heavy flooding," he said, adding that he would travel with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to Ayutthaya later on Monday.


Bangkok, much of which is only two metres (78 inches) above sea level, has seen only minor flooding but officials are preparing for worse this week and considering evacuation plans for some sections of the city of about 12 million people.

The Chao Phraya river running through the capital, already high because of water coming from overflowing dams in the north, could be swollen from around October 13 by further heavy rain plus high sea tides affecting its estuary.

First Army Region Commander Lieutenant General Udomdej Sritabutr said three evacuation centres had been set up to support 7,000 evacuees in Ayutthaya province. At least 2,000 rescue workers have been sent to the area with nearly 1,000 boats and 155 trucks.

Ayutthaya provincial hall has been turned into a makeshift evacuation centre, packed with thousands in tents.

Economists are cutting forecasts for economic growth this year because of the floods but say reconstruction work will push up demand eventually, especially early next year.

Nearly 200 factories, including one run by Japanese car maker Honda, closed in Ayutthaya because of flooding. The Rojana estate in Ayutthaya, run by Rojana Industrial Park Pcl ROJNA.BK, was flooded after a wall of sandbags collapsed.

A Honda spokeswoman said it had moved about 3,000 assembled cars from the estate to other areas. Hana Microelectronics Pcl HANA.BK has also had to close its plant in Ayutthaya.

The commerce ministry said on Friday it had slashed its forecast for the main rice crop, which farmers are just starting to bring in, to 21 million tonnes from 25 million because of the flooding.

Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter. The crop damage will add to the pressure on export prices, already being forced up by the high buying price set under a government intervention scheme aimed at helping poor farmers.

Other Southeast Asian countries have suffered serious flooding in recent weeks because of heavy monsoon rains combined with tropical storms.

The death toll from two strong typhoons that cut across the north of the Philippines' main island and left behind widespread flooding had risen to 101 as of Sunday, the national disaster agency said.

(Additional reporting by Ploy Ten Kate, Writing by Alan Raybould. Editing by Jason Szep and Jonathan Thatcher)

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Vietnam: Climate change threatens wetlands park

Vietnam news 12 Oct 11;

HA NOI — Representatives of Xuan Thuy National Park and scientists from Ha Noi-based national university's centre for natural resources and environment studies (Cres) have been struggling with a pilot project aimed at growing taller, stronger mangroves in the park.

The park's current mangrove forest (Sonneratia ceseolaries) has been devastated by rising sea levels along the northern coastal province of Nam Dinh in recent years.

Experts estimate that 30ha out of 1,000ha of mangroves, as well as 10ha of casuarina trees, have withered away due to a 40cm increase in the water level over the past two years.

"The number of bird species – which formerly stood at 215 and included black-faced spoonbills, western white pelicans, black-headed gulls and redheaded egrets – has dwindled," said the park director, Nguyen Viet Cach.

"Despite our efforts, the problem has been getting worse over the last two years, and we need to start a new project that will result in larger mangroves," he said.

Scientists from Cres in co-operation with the park administration have been developing a bigger and taller mangrove species, sonneratia apetala, in the park's sapling garden since 2004.

The first plants have shown rapid growth even in the saltier water and colder weather that now characterises the park's environment.

"I grew the first seeds of sonneratia apetala at the sapling nursery in the park and it reached a height of 8m with big dense roots after just two years," said associate professor Phan Nguyen Hong.

"My colleagues and I have also tested exotic plants for seven years and results prove that the sonneratia apetala mangrove can protect the park from devastation caused by rising sea levels," Hong, who is former deputy director of Cres, explained.

The 79-year-old scientist, who has extensively studied wetland ecological systems, said the sonneratia apetala mangrove had grown in the southern province of Ca Mau in the past, but it died out as a consequence of Agent Orange during the American War in the early 1960s.

Researchers at the park's nursery also plant various mangrove species such as kandelia obovata, rhizophora stylosa, bruguiera gymnorrhyza and acanthus Ilicifolius, aegiceras, which have helped protect sea dike systems in the park from storms and floods since 2005.

Hong said there are 78 mangrove species in Viet Nam, which could help contribute to the restoration of the mangrove forests.

The 7,100-ha forested wetlands, about 150km south of Ha Noi, are home to a wide range of migratory waterfowl and other species. The park is a Ramsar Convention site – a wetland area recognised internationally for its ecological importance.

As a result of rising sea levels, managers of the park, which is recognised by UNESCO as a Red River Biosphere Reserve, have had to raise the height of dams and roads by between 0.5m and 1m, at a cost of VND7 billion (US$350,000) over the past two years.

The park has been seeking $6.7 million to finance an 80ha reforestation, introducing bigger mangrove species over a three to five-year period. — VNS

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