Best of our wild blogs: 30 Oct 11

Papa fishes mouth brooding babies at Semakau
from wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Lodge V 2.0
from Butterflies of Singapore

Marvellous finds from Lost Coast!
from wonderful creation and Singapore Nature and The annotated budak

Seafood vs. Mangroves
from Mangrove Action Squad

Read more!

Bukit Brown: Hope springs eternal

Nature lover Ho Hua Chew still optimistic the Govt may change its mind about Bukit Brown
Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

If Dr Ho Hua Chew, a bird specialist of more than 30 years, were a bird himself, he might be a white dove.

Like the symbol of eternal hope and peace, Dr Ho is still holding out that the Government may change its mind about redeveloping Bukit Brown.

'We should not take it as a done deal,' the veteran conservationist, who is in his 60s, told The Sunday Times. 'The Government now is more open, and I am more hopeful. There is room for more exploration and feedback.'

Dr Ho is a long-time member of the Nature Society (Singapore), having served as its president, conservation committee chairman, and now, its vice-chairman. He joined the group in 1971.

Like other heritage lovers, the former philosophy lecturer has expressed serious reservations about planned roadworks that will cut into the hilly, largely untouched, tree-strewn habitat.

But as other groups resign themselves to the inevitable, Dr Ho remains optimistic.

'Look at what happened with Chek Jawa,' he said.

In 2001, following a petition by nature groups to save Tanjung Chek Jawa, a beach at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin that is home to rare marine creatures, the Government, in a move that surprised even the conservationists themselves, called off its plans to reclaim the area.

Dr Ho's love affair with Bukit Brown began in the early 1990s, when he first moved to the Thomson area. He would go bird-watching there, and take strolls.

'I go and enjoy a charming spot here and there. It's quite nice.'

This year, he wrote an essay on the ecological importance of Bukit Brown's natural habitat, following fears that the cemetery would yield to redevelopment plans.

He spoke of the area's 85 bird species, a few of them already endangered. The lush greenery, he said, would also help reduce carbon dioxide, ambient temperature and flooding in Singapore.

Dr Ho said he will work with other nature and heritage groups to persuade the Government to retain Bukit Brown as a cemetery-park.

'I hope they will take a holistic, comprehensive, broad view of the situation.'

He added: 'Because Bukit Brown is not just ecologically important, it's also such a beautiful place.'

Bukit Brown battle 2.0
Race against time to preserve the cemetery the high-tech way
Yen Feng Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

The clock is ticking.

By this time next year, parts of Bukit Brown will be unrecognisable. Its thick undergrowth, and thousands of tombs that nest in the cemetery's leafy hilltops, will be gone. In a few years, the hills will go too.

State-funded efforts to document graves in Bukit Brown - the final resting place of many of Singapore's pioneers dating back to the 1890s - will begin next month. But its admirers are not standing idly by.

After the Government recently announced plans to build a road that will tear into nearly a quarter of the 86ha site, a number of amateur historians have devised new ways - beyond pen and paper - to preserve the history of Bukit Brown, using cutting-edge technology.

These methods employ social media, such as Facebook and blogs, mobile phone technology, and 3-D imaging software that can not only store information about the tombs on the Internet, but also pinpoint their locations via satellite, and even re-create a virtual environment that allows users to 'visit' Bukit Brown on their computers from anywhere in the world.

The handful of innovators are joined by a growing chorus of people, including activists of the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society, who have since come out to protest against the Government's plans to build a

dual, four-lane road into Bukit Brown to relieve congestion along the Pan-Island Expressway and Lornie Road.

The news last month followed a May announcement that the area had been gazetted for housing development.

Both times, the announcements were met with a rare show of public resistance.

Letters poured in to The Straits Times Forum Page: While some supported the Government's foresight in urban planning, the majority argued that Bukit Brown, with its rich history and biodiversity, should remain untouched for conservation reasons.

Even though the Government made public its plans to redevelop Bukit Brown in its 1991 Concept Plan, interest groups said the site was still zoned as 'cemetery' under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan as recently as 2008.

They were galvanised to speak up after they felt the authorities had not consulted them on the site's heritage value before it announced plans last month to build a road there.

The Singapore Heritage Society said the public anxiety displayed in recent months over the loss of the cemetery suggests Singapore's nation-building project has been fruitful.

Recent news of the road plans has driven people to the cemetery's hoary hills.

Mr Raymond Goh, 47, a Singapore history buff regarded by many academics to be an expert guide in Bukit Brown, said weekly sign-ups for his guided tours alone have increased from 20 to 200 in just the last month.

Next month, even more people are expected to fan across the area, bearing equipment to document information about the tombs that will make way for the new road.

Paid workers will be led by anthropologist Hui Yew-Foong of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, who has been tasked with recording the tombs' details for study and safe-keeping by the Government.

This documentation of Bukit Brown's graves is believed to be the first such project funded by the authorities, and the most extensive yet in redevelopment land works.

The Government hopes to document some 10,000 tombs - about 10 per cent of known tombs in the entire Bukit Brown area - though the Land Transport Authority said the number of affected graves may be closer to 5,000.

If this sounds like a lot of work - it is. Last week, Dr Hui said it may be a challenge to find enough skilled workers to do the job in time.

The bulldozers are coming in September next year. He has just under a year to beat the clock.

Digital life

That is one reason some heritage buffs have taken to doing a bit of sleuthing on their own.

Uneasy over concerns that the stipulated timeframe will not be enough to make a thorough record of Bukit Brown's history, they are bringing to the conservation effort additional firepower in the form of time and professional expertise.

Some of these projects are already under way, while others are still in the planning stages, said the projects' leaders, who share their ideas over Facebook, and whose day jobs range from engineers to teachers to map-makers.

For instance, a blog and e-database set up by Mr Goh earlier this year to document photographs, personal stories and old newspaper clippings about the buried dead in Bukit Brown have attracted thousands of visitors; on a Facebook page, lively discussions carry on, with members posting comments several times a day.

And if Mr Liew Kai Khuin, 38, has his way, the academic in media and cultural studies would re-create the entire Bukit Brown universe online.

Think multi-player Web games like Second Life, where users interact virtually in a 3-D environment, said Mr Liew, adding that a virtual Bukit Brown could include information about the graves and their locations for educational purposes.

He added: 'Many of the tombstones' designs come from a previous era that may be lost on the current generation. Such futuristic digital portals can actually help them to link to the past.'

Present tense

There are more present worries, however.

It is likely that whatever form these high-tech ideas take, in reality, just like Dr Hui, they face constraints in terms of time and resources available, said Mr Yue. And the challenge is greater if they mean to cover the entire Bukit Brown site, he added.

Heritage groups have asked the Government to push back its deadline set for March, because they want more time to ensure each grave is thoroughly documented.

Asked whether other alternatives had been considered, the land authorities said the decision was made through a 'rigorous and established planning process' that included evaluating different options, and consultation with other state agencies.

It also said the rest of the land would not be developed for another decade or longer.

But at least a couple of conservationists are still hoping that the Government may yet be persuaded to leave Bukit Brown untouched.

As for the others, they will be stepping up efforts to save what they can. Remember: tick-tock, tick-tock.

Guardian of graves
Tomb explorer puts database online to connect descendants with forgotten kin
Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

Using social media, an expert guide of Bukit Brown is leading a digital revolution to put and organise information about the cemetery online.

Since the Government announced plans to cut a road through the burial grounds this year, Mr Raymond Goh, 47, has doubled efforts to preserve the memories of those who call Bukit Brown home.

This year, he set up - a kind of blog and e-database of the buried dead in Bukit Brown.

On it, the health-care company director scans and posts old newspaper clippings of obituaries and photographs, in the hope of connecting families with their long-dead kin.

Many of these documents are retrieved from the National Archives.

The process is a laborious one. Mr Goh often relies on scraps of clues - such as the deceased's birth date, or plot number - to piece together the history of someone.

To many then, Mr Goh is not just a guide, but has become a guardian to the area's forgotten graves.

Mr Goh began exploring the burial grounds in 2006, out of an interest for Singapore history.

He has not only helped connect families to their lost relatives' graves, but has also uncovered the tombstones of several pioneers, including Mr Gan Eng Seng, a businessman who founded Gan Eng Seng School, and helped to build Thong Chai Medical Institution and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Mr Goh does not collect any fees for his detective work, though he does charge a nominal fee to guide weekend tours in Bukit Brown.

He said helping to keep the memories of Singapore's early settlers alive was his reward.

'These people helped build Singapore. Some gave money to build schools, and hospitals. I just want to give something back to them.'

After five years of exploring Bukit Brown, the father of three teenage children knows the sprawling grounds like his own home. He visits every weekend. Sometimes, he pays tomb keepers to take care of abandoned tombstones; often, he scrubs them himself.

In a recent entry on his website, Mr Goh posted photographs and information about a Mr Kam Peng Huat, who died in 1941.

Mr Kam is one of several thousand who will give up their resting place for the new road by the end of next year.

Mr Goh wrote: 'He has five sons and five daughters. I am sure Kam Peng Huat has a very big family of grand- and great-grandchildren now.

'Some of their little ones may want to know more about their great-grandparents. But his lease in Bukit Brown has run out.

'Many stories remain to be told, many roots remain to be found. Can we give him a new lease of life?'

In a way, Mr Goh already has.

21st century cemetery
Engineer Victor Yue's vision - scan a tombstone with your smartphone and get information about the grave
Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

Graveyards are hardly the place to use a mobile phone, but Mr Victor Yue hopes that will be the case for Bukit Brown Cemetery - and soon.

The telecommunications engineer wants to bring mobile technology to the cemetery's old tombstones - a QR code that, when scanned with a smartphone, will download information about the deceased, or link to videos or photographs online about the grave.

Short for Quick Response, a QR code is a small, square, black-and-white barcode that can store data, or link to online content.

It is already being used in some cemeteries in the United States and New Zealand, but Mr Yue said he was inspired by a recent trip to Japan, where he saw the codes used with retail goods and publicity posters.

'They were everywhere. Since then, I've wondered how to use this techno-logy in Singapore.'

The codes are especially useful in Bukit Brown, said Mr Yue, 59, because most of the inscriptions on tombstones there are carved in Chinese script.

With online content about the graves put together by other Bukit Brown lovers, the codes can work as a guide to decipher what is written on the tombs for people who do not understand the language.

'If you don't know Chinese, you can't read; how are you supposed to know more?'

It was this same question that inspired Mr Yue's other hobby.

He is the moderator of an online Taoist e-list forum group, taoism-singapore, which, since its launch in 2004, has found a community of Chinese heritage lovers who speak mainly English.

The group's some 500 members post photographs, ask questions, and those in the know help to decode them.

Mr Yue said that, through the QR codes, some Chinese messages inscribed on the tombs in Bukit Brown can be preserved, and shared with everyone.

Many of them exhort their descendants to lead moral lives. 'They teach values like filial piety and Confucian ethics,' he said.

'These messages are our heritage. They are part of who we are today.'

View from the top
The first time map-maker Mok Ly Yng saw Bukit Brown was - of course - on a map
Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

Like most first-timers to Bukit Brown, Mr Mok Ly Yng's reaction on seeing the Chinese cemetery's gently undulating hills, was 'wow, what a wonderful view'.

Except, he wasn't physically there. He was at home.

The 'view' he was referring to, was a three-dimensional (3-D) screen image he had produced using geographical data points, rendered in commercial-grade mapping technology.

Mr Mok, 44, has one of the most uncommon jobs in Singapore - he is a freelance geographic information system (GIS) mapping consultant. Or, a map-maker.

As a long-time map enthusiast who has been a member of the National Geographic Society since 1982, Mr Mok's interest in Bukit Brown Cemetery was triggered after he came across some global positioning system (GPS) points posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Bukit Brown last month.

The GPS points were recorded by a netizen who had recently gone on a tour of the cemetery. 'I was interested in the details of his records, so I messaged him to ask if he would pass me the data.'

After that, the map-maker was hooked - as he probably knew he would be, he said.

But his interest in Bukit Brown was not simply map-related.The former Ministry of Defence (Mapping Agency) employee was feeling reflective as he had recently moved out of his Holland Village home.

'Did you know that Holland Village used to be a cemetery, too?' he said. 'Very hilly here, you see.'

Back in his room, Mr Mok dove into his library of maps and retrieved a topographical map sheet he had previously purchased from the British Library in London that showed the 3-D contours of the Bukit Brown site.

Using that data, along with other information about the area he was able to download from the Internet, he produced a series of 3-D images of Bukit Brown, which he later posted on the cemetery's Facebook page.

He also sent them to Dr Hui Yew-Foong, an anthropologist who is leading a team to document the graves.

Mr Mok said it took him three days to finish the images. He added that what he produced was very basic - a 'miniature preview' of what mapping technology can do.

Even so, to Bukit Brown's Facebook fans, what a wonderful view indeed.

If at first you don't succeed...
Earlier failure to save two other cemeteries has not deterred Dr Irving Chan-Johnson
Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

After an online petition he started in June to save Bukit Brown fizzled with fewer than 1,000 signatures, Dr Irving Chan-Johnson now hopes an Ivy League polish will put life back into the cause.

'I am mailing it to my friends so it gets more international recognition, since I feel the issues we are dealing with are critical to humanity,' said the Harvard University graduate.

'This is a critical time in the history of the cemetery as the state has already made its stand pretty clear,' said Dr Johnson, 40, a Singaporean. 'The petition does not call for a compromise.'

The assistant professor of South-east Asian studies at the National University of Singapore has good reason to put his fists up - he's already had his heart broken twice.

The first was in 2008, when Bidadari Cemetery was exhumed; then, in 2009, when the Teochew Kwong Hou Sua cemetery in Woodlands Road followed.

To Dr Johnson, Singapore's burial grounds play an integral role in an individual's sense of nationhood.

In a letter published in The Straits Times Forum page in 2008, he wrote of Kwong Hou Sua's impending closure: 'Since independence, Singapore and its people have been on a constant quest to define a national identity.

'An integral part of any national identity is historical awareness.'

With the destruction of each cemetery, goes one slice of national history, he said.

To create greater awareness of Bukit Brown's historical significance, the anthropologist is also organising a symposium with the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society on Nov 19.

It will feature heritage experts, including those currently working to document Bukit Brown's graves before next year's exhumation exercise.

'Hopefully, it will force the authorities to rethink their development plans,' he said. 'I want to point out to the state via the petition, that heritage management and definition are not the sole property of national governments.'

Read more!

Queenstown gets park on former railway land

Park is the first project on former KTM land to be announced
Rachel Chang Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

By next April, Queenstown residents will have a 1.3ha neighbourhood park built on former Malayan Railway land.

The Rumah Tinggi park is the first project giving former railway land a new lease of life to be announced.

It will be a central neighbourhood green space, and will free up smaller parks elsewhere in the neighbourhood for sorely-needed carpark spaces, said Queenstown MP Chia Shi-Lu.

The tract is long and lean, with a wide space at one end.

When ready, it will be punctuated by playgrounds, adult fitness facilities and community gardens, and perhaps even have a boardwalk rending through.

But the design is not final, said Dr Chia, who is meeting residents on Saturday to tell them the news and solicit suggestions on what they want to see in the park.

What to do with all 170ha of former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) land, which reverted to Singapore on July 1, has been the subject of national debate since a landmark resolution of the 1990 Points of Agreement was reached last year.

The Nature Society has spearheaded a lobbying effort for the former train route to become a largely contiguous green corridor.

But some of the land sits in prime districts, such as Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah, and are of substantial commercial value.

Other stakeholders want to see the land used to enhance infrastructure in the form of wider roads or an MRT track.

The final word on how most of the railway land will be used will likely come only with the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Draft Master Plan in 2013.

Dr Chia believes that the authorities have been swift in giving the go-ahead to the Queenstown park because of the plot's odd shape and location.

'There's not much else they can do with the land, because it's sandwiched between industrial and residential buildings,' he pointed out.

The land sits in a valley. On one side is the Alexandra Road Ikea and car showrooms; on the other are blocks of HDB flats.

Other MPs are in the midst of negotiations with the authorities for the use of KTM land in their wards.

In Yew Tee and Bukit Gombak, MPs Alex Yam and Low Yen Ling want roads widened onto former KTM land to ease traffic congestion.

The Stagmont Ring road in Yew Tee, for example, is the only route for residents to get to the Kranji Expressway and it needs to be expanded, said Mr Yam.

But in Ulu Pandan, a ward through which about 4km of former KTM land runs, MP Christopher de Souza has thrown his weight behind the green corridor plan, which he says is important also for the country's heritage.

'Younger generations of Singaporeans may not see the trains running through, but at least they will see the historical link.'

On their part, Queenstown residents welcomed the plan.

'It's fantastic news,' said 33-year-old civil servant Allan Tan, who had written to Dr Chia in May to lobby for such a park.

Mr Kwek Li Yong, 22, one of a group of students that set up the heritage website My Queenstown, said he hoped the new park would have reminders of what the land used to be.

He suggested park signage about the KTM railway and the former Archipelago Brewery Company nearby.

The brewery, where Anchorpoint now sits, was built in 1931, a first in Singapore. It was built near the railway for easy export of its beer.

'Such signs would educate residents about the historical significance of Queenstown,' said Mr Kwek.

'Otherwise, the park will just be an ordinary park.'

Read more!

Litter-control: Add garbage bins, chuck banners

Study distinguishes litter-control methods that work from the ineffective ones

Grace Chua Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

Bin there, done that.

Researchers wanted to know what it was exactly that would lead people to litter less.

Well, a year-long study which ended last year, has come up with the answer.

Adding more bins had the best effect, nearly halving the rate of littering.

The most ineffective method was the use of banners reminding people not to litter.

The 'dustbin test' carried out at four town centres was part of a sociological study conducted by the National Environment Agency, with experts from the National University of Singapore led by sociologist Paulin Straughan.

The study, which ran from 2009 to 2010, has been published. Co-pies of the book were distributed to schools and public libraries yesterday.

A soft copy can be viewed at

Its key findings: 62.6 per cent of the 4,500 people surveyed say they never litter; 1.2 per cent are hardcore litterbugs who admit to dropping their trash most of the time; and 36.2 per cent do it out of convenience.

Smokers insisted that it was culturally acceptable to flick their cigarette butts away after smoking, and students and young people were more likely to litter.

To cut down littering, the researchers tested four different litter-control methods at four town centres: more bins; banners encouraging binning; having more uniformed NEA officers around; and stationing volunteers to spread environmental messages.

They found that having more bins cut littering most at Tampines while using volunteers cut littering in Bedok by about 30 per cent.

Banners, generally, failed to have an effect.

'Singaporeans may be suffering from campaign fatigue, being tired of being told what they should do as good citizens,' the study suggested.

Paradoxically, having enforcement officers around reinforced the idea that littering was okay.

Singaporeans do tend to litter and the presence of enforcement officers only serves to remind them that this is the fact, the study suggested.

Also, enforcement officers cannot be everywhere, so 'their ability to discourage littering is outweighed by the fact that their presence also encourages littering'.

The study also showed that some communities are just cleaner. For instance, Tampines town centre was much cleaner than the town centres in Yishun and Bedok.

No one knows why this is so, but Associate Professor Straughan suggested that people might feel more guilty about littering if a place was well maintained.

Focus groups that were tapped suggested litter bins could be redesigned with bigger openings or foot-pedals so people need not touch them.

Using the study's data, the NEA has tweaked its anti-littering approach.

For example, the agency worked with town councils to add more bins in five HDB towns.

They watched bins before and after the additions to see how many times the bins overflowed.

Before more were added, the bins overflowed 22 times, but that stopped once there were extra bins.

NEA, in its anti-littering campaign last year, launched the Litter- Free Ambassadors programme, in which volunteers reach out to family, friends, neighbours and their communities.

By 2015, the agency said in its study, it aims for a 'measurable and perceptible reduction in litter'.

'The physical measures must go in tandem with normative (or cultural) shifts, which take a longer time to change,' said Prof Straughan.

'It's not just about the act of littering, but it's about civic consciousness; it's about how we protect or abuse common shared space. It's about pride in our country, this place we call home.'


How do you make not littering a cultural norm in Singapore?

Such a question has vexed Public Hygiene Council chairman Liak Teng Lit since the council was formed last month.

A sociological study of littering carried out by the National Environment Agency found that it is already a norm to some extent: six in 10 respondents never litter, nearly four in 10 would litter if they could, and about 1 per cent are die-hard litterbugs.

But the norm-abiding majority need to speak up directly, Mr Liak urged. 'One of the first things we need to change is for the majority who are not littering to express their disapproval.

'You can do it without inviting a fight - I've been doing it for many years, and no one has punched me in the nose yet,' said the affable health administrator, who is also chief executive officer of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Such social norms already exist, he said. 'Take, for example, queue-jumping - almost nobody does it now because the minute you do, you get dirty looks.

'If you believe in something, you'd better stand up for it.'

The council, which comprises 21 people from the public sector, environment groups and industry, is also trying to figure out where people do not litter and why, to make an example of such places.

'There are bright spots and we need to replicate these, to find out what's working there,' Mr Liak said.

Council members are appointed for a two-year term, but they say it is a long-term task.

Mr Liak quipped: 'We want to work ourselves out of a job as soon as possible.'


The National Environment Agency's study, done by researchers from the National University of Singapore, looked at different ways to slash trash in various areas.

In town centres

Enforcement officers (Ang Mo Kio): The result was inconclusive.

Community volunteers (Bedok): Decreased littering by 30.5 per cent.

More bins (Tampines): Decreased littering by 49.8 per cent.

Banner ads (Yishun): Inconclusive.

At places where foreign workers congregate

Enforcement officers: Increased littering by 101.3 per cent.

Banners telling workers of the penalties if they are caught littering: Increased littering by 105.4 per cent.

The researchers explained: Because enforcement officers could not be everywhere in a large open field, their presence actually encouraged littering if the act could go undetected.

And banners paradoxically led to workers thinking it was the norm to litter, which encouraged further littering.

At East Coast Park

Enforcement officers: Inconclusive.

Bins with environmental messages: Increased littering by 61.5 per cent.

Larger bulk bins to keep up with barbecue and picnic waste: Inconclusive.

Banners: Inconclusive.

The researchers explained: The interventions were 'intrusive' and might have turned people off.

'Future community and communication interventions need to be less intrusive, more personal and pitched correctly,' the study said.

Read more!

Clean and Green Singapore campaign launched

Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: A nationwide initiative to increase awareness on environmental issues was launched on Saturday.

The Clean and Green Singapore campaign, co-organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and North West Community Development Council, kicked off with a two-day carnival that encouraged citizens to take care of the environment.

13-year-old Ng Jia Wei said he prefers gardening to playing computer games, and wants to encourage others to share his hobby.

He said: "I've created a Facebook page group and website for my community garden and I've posted some videos, gardening tips."

Jia Wei is the youngest recipient of the Community in Bloom Ambassador award, which recognises individuals who foster the love for gardening in their community. The award recognises his efforts in mentoring children who want to learn about gardening.

While Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who launched the Clean and Green Singapore campaign, said individual efforts can go a long way in keeping the environment green, he also urged for more participation on the community-front.

The NEA launched a community-led "Keep Singapore Clean" initiative that will encourage schools, grassroots and private organisations to take action and keep the environment clean. At the same time, the North West CDC also plans to build the largest green network, comprising 45 community green clubs and 2,000 volunteers to reach out to 90,000 households by 2014.

Mr Teo said: "This can only be achieved through continuous effort on the part of everyone of us. The government will continue to invest in environmental systems, structures, but it's only with the public taking active ownership that we can continue to keep Singapore clean and green."

Besides recycling and anti-littering messages, the carnival also highlighted dengue-prevention to the public.

Since the start of the year, there have been 4651 cases of dengue.

Even though the number of dengue cases are tapering down this year, the government still wants the public to take precautionary measures. The NEA is launching a new exercise called "Educational Inspections", which will see NEA officers working with home owners to identify what are some of the high-risk activities in the home.

Minister of Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said: "If at these educational inspections, even if any larvae is found, an amnesty will be given. So we will not fine the house owners because the important point here is this is an educational exercise, to work with you. We don't want you to be worried about being fined just because you invited an NEA officer to come in and take a look and to give you advice."

The educational inspections will target homes in non-hot spot areas. If larvae is found in homes in hot-spot areas, fines will still be issued.

Read more!

Shell to return refinery to full capacity in December

Today Online 28 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE - Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, expects to return its Pulau Bukom refinery in Singapore to full capacity in December after a fire shut the plant in September.

"We have restarted most of the units now," chief financial officer Simon Henry said in London yesterday, declining to give output rate and product-export volume details.

Shell will restart the third crude distillation unit (CDU) at the Pulau Bukom refinery, its largest worldwide, within the next day or two, industry sources said.

With the restart, more than 50 per cent of the plant's 500,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) capacity will be back onstream, following progressive restarts of the other two CDUs over the past two weeks.

Shell expects the fire and resulting shutdown to cost it about US$150 million (S$187 million) in the fourth quarter. The company said it has still not fully lifted a force majeure on oil products from the refinery.

Shell reported a doubling in profits yesterday thanks to higher oil prices, robust demand for gas and stronger refining margins. Its current cost of supply (CCS) net income was US$7.2 billion (S$9 billion), a 100 per cent rise on the same period last year when non-cash accounting charges weighed on the result, the company said.

CCS earnings strip out unrealised gains or losses related to changes in the value of inventories, and as such are comparable with net income under US accounting rules. Shell exports 90 per cent of products to the Asia-Pacific region from the offshore Pulau Bukom refinery. AGENCIES

Shell restarts final crude unit at Singapore refinery
* Singapore plant to operate at about 52 pct of capacity
* Operations expected to return to normal in Nov-Dec
* Fire hits Q4 earnings by $150 mln
* Most major secondary units up and running
Yaw Yan Chong Reuters 27 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc will restart the third crude distillation unit (CDU) at its Singapore refinery within the next day or two, just under a month after a blaze shut the plant, industry sources said on Thursday.

With the restart, just over 50 percent of the plant's 500,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) capacity will be back onstream, following progressive restarts of the other two CDUs over the past two weeks.

Shell's largest refinery will return to normal in November-December, the company said at a briefing in London, adding that the fire and resulting shutdown cost it about $150 million in the fourth quarter.

"We have restarted most of the units now but progressively they'll come back up to full production during Novermber and December," Simon Henry, Chief Financial Officer, told reporters on a conference call.

Major secondary units include the 35,000-bpd hydrocracker, 25,000-bpd fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) and highly profitable lubricant oils complex (LOC).

The company said it has still not fully lifted a force majeure on oil products from the refinery.

"We are delivering products again but haven't lifted all of the force majeure," Henry said.

The sources said the 110,000-bpd CDU, which will restart on Friday or Saturday, is expected to run at a reduced rate of around 70-75 percent, similar to the second CDU that was restarted over a week ago.

With the restart, the plant's three crude units will be operating at a combined capacity of about 259,000 bpd, or 52 percent of capacity.

"That's about as far as the plant can go, for the near term at least, and any further ramp-up will be very gradual from here until major repairs to the fire-damaged areas are completed," a refining source said.

"The main idea is to get as much of the plant running as possible while repairs are underway."


The lubricants oil complex has been up and running for about two days, producing the refinery's highest-margin product, the sources said.

The hydrocracker, which was shut due to its proximity to the fire but was undamaged, has been running for about a week, primarily to produce heavy kerosene as feedstock for Shell's 750,000 tonnes-per-year (tpy) ethylene cracker.

"The initial efforts were on the higher-margin products, such as lubricants and petrochemicals, and now the plant needs to be producing adequate volumes of the bread-and-butter oil products, mainly middle distillates," said another refining source.

Shell is a major supplier of middle distillates and gasoline to the region. The refinery produces 6.5-7.0 million barrels per month of middle distillates, of which gas oil is about 4.5 million barrels, and another 4.0-4.5 million barrels of gasoline.

About 90 percent of the refinery's output is exported.

Bukom refinery fully operational in Q4
Shell signals commitment to grow integrated Singapore refinery/petrochemical hub
Ronnie Lim Business Times 1 Nov 11;

SHELL is set to get its Bukom refinery/petrochemical site fully operating again this quarter following the Sept 28 fire there.

The incident has also not deterred it from making more investments here, as the group definitely plans to further grow the Singapore facility which is its largest worldwide, top Shell officials, including the group's CEO Peter Voser stressed yesterday.

While Shell indicated at its Q3 results briefing last week that it expected to book a loss of about US$150 million for the fourth quarter as a result of the Bukom fire, Mr Voser conceded that 'it was difficult to quantify both lost margins - because we couldn't sell barrels we don't have - as well as reputational loss', when asked by BT if the figure included these items.

He however maintained that the total losses, including opportunity costs, 'will not be much higher' than the earlier cited figure of US$150 million.

Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the Singapore Energy Summit here, Mr Voser said that as far as reputational loss or loss of goodwill was concerned, 'Shell's global team was also doing everything it can to repair this as fast as possible', adding: 'We've kept customers pretty well supplied in the last few weeks.'

Shell Singapore chairman Lee Tzu Yang added that the company was working closely with customers to minimise the inconvenience and economic impact of the force majeure that it declared on product supplies as Bukom had to shut down some plants for safety reasons, but it is now well underway on getting these back onstream.

Mr Lee said that investigations into the fire by the authorities, as well as by Shell itself, are still proceeding and that 'it's too early to share any results at this time'.

'We've also ended force majeure in certain products and for certain contracts - and have resumed supplies for these - while FM remains in force for some others; and we continue to work with our customers to minimise the impact from this,' he added.

Shell earlier indicated that the Bukom facility was expected to return to normal in November-December, and Mr Voser confirmed yesterday that 'we are making good progress in the start-up, and are confident that we can get it going again in Q4'.

Despite the setback, the Shell CEO signalled that the group would continue to grow the integrated Singapore refinery/petrochemical hub here - which it considers a 'legacy' or long-life asset - even as it continues to shut down smaller, less efficient plants in its global portfolio.

'We've not yet finished in Singapore,' Mr Lee stressed, adding that even as it recently added the US$3 billion Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex to its 500,000 barrels refinery here, the group was already looking at a range of different projects, incorporating more innovative technology, to further grow its manufacturing facility here.

Force majeure lifted on most contracts
Probe into September refinery inferno still ongoing, says Shell Singapore chairman
Grace Chua Straits Times 1 Nov 11;

PETROCHEMICAL giant Shell yesterday said it has lifted force majeure on the majority of its supply contracts after a fire at its Pulau Bukom plant in September.

The force majeure clause, common in many contracts, excuses the firm from fulfilling its contractual obligations in circumstances beyond its control.

The Dutch oil giant also outlined some of its expansion plans in Asia yesterday, saying growth in the Asia-Pacific may slow due to economic uncertainties but that the region will remain key to the firm's long-term growth.

Shell Singapore chairman Lee Tzu Yang confirmed the emergency clause had been lifted from most of its products and contracts after the 32-hour inferno at its Pulau Bukom island refinery, which has a capacity of 500,000 barrels a day.

'For other contracts that are still subject to force majeure, we continue to work with them,' he said.

He was speaking during a Shell press conference on the first day of Singapore International Energy Week, which is being held at the Suntec Convention Centre until Friday.

Both Shell and government investigations are still proceeding, Mr Lee added.

Previously, a report by the Ministry of Manpower's Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate mentioned that the fire was caused by preparation work for maintenance, which involved draining residual oil in a pipeline using a suction truck.

Shell chief executive Peter Voser said at the press conference: 'I think we are making good progress in starting up the refinery again.'

He expects the company would 'get things going again' by the end of this year.

Mr Voser, who also spoke at the Singapore Energy Summit dinner dialogue yesterday, detailed some of the firm's expansion plans in Asia, such as shale gas exploration in China and investment in the second phase of its Malampaya offshore gas field off the Philippines.

He explained that, given the global economic uncertainty, the refinery margin next year would be 'a tough one', but should have no impact on long-term investment.

And the Asia-Pacific is still 'a key growth region in the portfolio of Shell', he said.

'Growth in Asia-Pacific will maybe slightly slow down in 2012, but the region will be the key growth engine of the world for many years to come.'

At the dinner dialogue, Mr Voser added that sustainability is critical to meeting the energy demands of the world's growing population.

'We think 30 per cent of the world's energy mix could come from renewable sources by 2050,' he said. 'But that target assumes a very rapid growth rate. It will require a large amount of effort and sustained investment.'

Shell is working on biofuel projects, such as ethanol from sugar cane in Brazil, and focusing on the production of natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels when burned.

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Malaysia: Rope bridges a critical lifeline for orang utans

Roy Goh New Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

KINABATANGAN: The construction of seven bridges in eight years has made a difference in the effort to ensure the survival of the orang utans here.

This temporary measure has helped the primates and other species to move within forests fragmented by man-made rivers.

Sabah Wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu said ultimately, however, reconnecting forests via corridors or patches of forests was the next crucial step to better preserving wildlife in the state.

“Even though it will be an expensive and long process, reconnecting isolated populations which were originally linked together, will ensure the long-term survival of not only orang utans but other unique species, such as the Bornean Pygmy Elephants, the sunbears, the clouded leopards and many others,” he said.

Surveys carried out by the department and non-governmental organisation, Hutan-KOCP (Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme), shows that there are 700 orang utans within protected and non-protected areas of the lower Kinabatangan.

Sabah has an estimated 11,000 orang utans, which is 80 per cent of the nation’s wild orang utans.

However, due to agricultural activities, many forests are fragmented, trapping animals such as the orang utans because of their inability to swim.

To tackle this problem, rope bridges were built for orang utans to cross small rivers and large drains since 2003, and also to connect pockets of isolated forest, said Azri Awang of Hutan-KOCP.

In the past, orang utans would use old-growth forests as “nat ur al br idges” over small rivers.

However, at present, orang utans no longer have this luxury since most of the tall trees in such forests have been logged.

Oil palm plantations had also contributed to the isolation of the orang utans when large drains were built to draw off excess water from the plantations, Azri said, adding that there was no other way for the species to make it through such obstacles, making the bridges vital for their survival.

Since then, seven bridges had been built with the help from or - ganisations, such as Danau Girang Field Centre, Chester Zoo of the United Kingdom, Borneo Conservation Trust, Shining Hope Foundation, Ropeskills Rigging Sdn Bhd, Barefoot Lodge of Sukau and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo of the United States.

According to Dr Marc Ancrenaz, co-director of Hutan-KOCP, oil palm companies could actually reverse the situation if they adopted the recommendations of the Wildlife Depar tment.

“In May last year, at the conclusion of the state Action Plan workshop, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister stated that he would like to see plantations, particularly those located in the Kinabatangan, to set aside at least 500m along riverbanks for wildlife corridors,” said Ancrenaz, who has been working on wildlife issues in Sabah since 1998.

“Using rope bridges is a quick fix, but eventually the most ideal solution will be to reconnect the forests and we are all working on this,” he said.

“And when I say ‘we ’, I mean everyone from the government sector to environmental non-governmental organisations and the palm oil industry as well.” Furthermore, genetic modelling carried out jointly by Hutan-KOCP, Wildlife Department, Cardiff University and DGFC had shown that unless action was taken urgently to reconnect these species, most of the iso - lated orang utan population within the lower Kinabatangan would go extinct within our lifetime.

Learning the ropes to save the orang utan
The Star 30 Oct 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife researchers have turned to Britain to literally learn the ropes in orang utan conservation in the lower Kinabatangan region in Sabah's east coast.

The researchers here had noted that the ropes used at the orang utan enclosures of the Chester Zoo reputedly Britain's top zoo with over 7,000 animals and 400 different species were of lighter material, durable and able to withstand the sun's ultra-violet rays apart from being non-biodegradable.

British zoo officials visited here recently and, with the help of professional riggers, constructed seven rope bridges across rivers, streams and drains at various locations in lower Kinabatangan.

The rope bridges were to enable isolated groups of orang utan at various forest patches to move about freely.

The orang utan population had been trapped in isolated groups throughout lower Kinabatangan because the forest is split due to the actions of some oil palm companies that plant all the way down to the river banks.

Hutan-Kinabatangan orang utan conservation programme (KOCP) director Dr Marc Ancrenaz said since 2003, wildlife researchers had been experimenting with various rope materials including fire hoses from Japan and rope bridges of different designs to help the orangutans move from one forest patch to another.

“We found that they prefer to use the simple two line rope bridges,” said Dr Ancrenaz, a wildlife veterinarian.

He added that using rope bridges was only a quick fix as the most ideal solution would be to reconnect the forest pockets in the Kinabatangan area through the establishment of wildlife corridors.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said reconnecting the forest patches via jungle corridors was a crucial step.

“Even though it will be an expensive and long process, reconnecting isolated populations will ensure the long term survival of not only Sabah's orang utans but other unique species, such as the Bornean pygmy elephants, the sun bears and the clouded leopards,” Dr Laurentius said.

Wildlife researchers noted that genetic modelling, being carried out jointly by the department, Hutan-KOCP, Cardiff University and the Danau Girang Field Centre, showed that unless action was urgently taken to reconnect the isolated orang utan populations, they would soon become extinct.

Surveys carried out by the department and Hutan-KOCP showed that there were only 700 orang utans within the protected and non-protected areas of lower Kinabatangan.

Sabah has an estimated 11,000 orangutans.

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Malaysia To Chair Coral Triangle Initiative Council For Two Years

Bernama 29 Oct 11;

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 (Bernama) -- The 3rd Ministerial Meeting of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) has elected Malaysia to chair the Coral Triangle Initiative Council of Ministers (CTI-COM) for a two-year term effective on Nov 20.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili has accepted the chairmanship from outgoing chairman, Indonesia's Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Sharif Cicip Sutarardjo, at the CTI-CFF in Jakarta Friday.

According to a statement from Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry here, Ongkili said Malaysia was committed to the initiative to sustainably preserve, protect and develop the rich marine resources in the CTI region.

"The chairmanship will be a challenge especially as the CTI is in the transition process of establishing a permanent regional secretariat, and in its quest to achieve sustainable financing of its initatives," he said at the CTI-CFF.

He assured that Malaysia would provide its leadership and direction towards achieving the CTI goals of promoting long-term economic growth while sustaining environmental health for the resource-rich region.

Ongkili also put forward Malaysia's proposal for the setting up of a CTI-CFF Business Council, which was endorsed by the Council of Ministers in its joint statement.

"The establishment of the Business Council is timely as member countries have expressed the need to engage the private sector to enhance private sector participation in sustainable development of resources through public-private partnership arrangement," he said.

The meeting was attended by ministers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, The Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.


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