Best of our wild blogs: 25 Dec 11

Special anemone at Labrador
from wild shores of singapore

crab's eyeview of waves @ Labrador Dec2011
from sgbeachbum

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Managing flash floods is PUB's priority: CEO

Joanne Chan Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: PUB's new chief executive is no stranger to water security.

As navy chief, Chew Men Leong played a pivotal role as guardian of Singapore's coastal waters. Now, as PUB chief executive, he is now in charge of the country's precious resource - water.

He said: "One of the important focus here in PUB is how to strike a balance between maintaining our complex system at a high level of operational effectiveness and efficiency, while keeping an eye on the long term future.

"In this aspect, I have, in some sense, a good level of experience in the navy that also deals with the same kind of balancing."

44-year-old Mr Chew joined PUB as its designated head in July, calling it "a rather exciting time."

He said: "We just handed over the infrastructure back to Malaysia, under the 1961 water agreement. And that in itself is quite an important event because it shows that as we handed over the infrastructure, the impact to our water supply is minimal. And that shows that we have been able to ensure water sustainability going forward."

With the trail of damage in the Orchard Road floods of 2010 still fresh in the minds of Singaporeans, Mr Chew knows he is taking on a hot seat.

He recalled being "a little bit surprised" when he first heard news of the floods.

He said: "Since I came into PUB, I have a better understanding of what we have done previously. The amount of effort that PUB has actually taken to help alleviate floods and make Singapore generally flood-free... I think it's important to understand that we have been relatively successful.

"But maybe we have also become victims of own success. Because we have been so successful, alleviating floods, that we have not seen a flood situation for a long time. So when it came, it did catch Singaporeans by surprise.

"But more important, we are learning the lessons from this particular episode, applying it, and seeing how we can improve upon it, working with all our stakeholders."

Mr Chew said the key to managing such a situation is getting information out as quickly as possible. And in the longer term, the country's drainage system has to be beefed up to deal with changing weather patterns.

He said: "Right now, we want to focus on improving our current infrastructure. And I think that is something that will take three to five years. At least, basically to cope with the increased rainfall intensity. But we will keep eye out in the future... The next two to three decades, to look at the scenarios we could possibly face.

"One of the measures we have started taking is to raise the reclamation levels by one metre. That actually is a measure in anticipation of potential changes that could come from adjustments in our climate."

Mr Chew has also set his sights on ensuring that Singapore continues to build self-sufficiency in water. This means growing the country's national taps - raising NEWater and desalination production to 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, and increasing Singapore's catchment area to cover 90 per cent by 2060.


This December the wettest in 4 years: NEA
Wayne Chan Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE : The National Environment Agency (NEA) has said this December is the wettest in four years.

The total rainfall recorded for December 2011, as at 4pm on December 23, is 274.4 millimetres.

That is higher than the total rainfall recorded in December in the previous three years - 181.4 millimetres in 2010, 189.8 millimetres in 2009 and 244.2 millimetres in 2008.

NEA said the long-term average rainfall for December is 287.4 millimetres.

The highest total monthly rainfall recorded in December was 765.9 millimetres in 2006.

The highest one-day rainfall recorded in December was 512.4 millimetres in 1978.

As at 5.30 pm on Friday, the highest total rainfall recorded was 155.6 millimetres at Orchard Road.

From 2.20pm to 5.20pm, a total of 152.8 millimetres of rain fell.

The rain was heaviest between 4pm and 5pm, where 66.2 millimetres was recorded at Orchard Road.

The latest weather reports, including heavy rain warnings, are available through the NEA website; NEA's iPhone App (myEnv); NEA's mobile weather service at Weather@SG (; Twitter via @NEAsg; the weather forecast hotline at 6542 7788; and radio broadcasts.

- CNA/ms

Retailers bracing for wet Christmas after Friday's flash floods
Nurul Syuhaida Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: Singapore retailers are bracing for a wet Christmas. This comes after flash floods hit several parts of the country's shopping belt, Orchard Road on Friday.

The National Environment Agency had warned of wet weather from December 24 to 26 due to a monsoon surge in the region.

On Friday, Liat Towers was affected by floodwaters due to prolonged heavy rain, though not as seriously as in 2010 as floodgates had mitigated the impact somewhat.

Channel NewsAsia has learnt that floodgates were not the problem for this building.

Jwee Quek, product manager of Parafoil, the company which worked on the floodgates, said: "The floodgates that we installed at Liat Towers here is to prevent water settling at the walkway from going into Liat Towers. At about 3pm yesterday, the floodgates were already activated.

"It is a problem with the drain beside the building, where water in the drain could not get out to Stamford Canal. So it actually overflowed into the basement."

Seng Woon Fa, marketing & branding manager at Wendy's, said: "We are quite disappointed because it had happened many times. I think this could be the second worst. We hope that the building management as well as the authorities can work out the real issue."

National water agency PUB said the ponding at Liat Towers was caused largely by the prolonged heavy rain which fell directly into the building's outdoor area. It added that area is designed as a sunken plaza and the primary means to drain water away there is through pumping.

PUB said its officers will work with the building management to review and improve its internal drainage system.

In the interim, some outlets have installed secondary flood barriers provided by the building management at their entrances. But retailers said it takes some time to set up these barriers and they will not be of much help if a flash flood occurs.

Over at Lucky Plaza, there were also similar scenes of cleaning up.

Flash flood are nothing new to retailers there and they have again called on their building management to be more responsive to the problem.

"The sandbags were not here. It's only today that the management sent some people to put the sandbags... It was quite chaotic. We had no time to think of what to do and the only way was to sweep water away from our shop," said one of the retailers.

PUB has advised the public to exercise caution as flash floods may occur in the event of heavy storms.

The public can also call the PUB's 24-hour Call Centre at 1800-2846600 or go to PUB's Facebook Page or PUB's iPhone app, iPUBOne, to report flash floods or to check on the flood situation.

The public can also get updates on water level information in key canals/drains at PUB's Facebook Page, via Twitter at, or through PUB's website.

For the latest weather reports, including heavy rain warnings, members of the public can call the National Environment Agency's (NEA) weather forecast hotline at 6542 7788, visit the NEA website or use the mobile weather service, Weather@SG.

SMS alert services on heavy rain warning and water level information are also open to public subscription at


Floods again? Shops seek answers
Orchard Rd deluge hits some retailers' takings although damage 'minimal' this time
Huang Lijie Straits Times 25 Dec 11;

The morning after flash floods hit Orchard Road, affected retailers were still turning customers away while workers were busy mopping up the mess.

At Liat Towers, where flood waters flowed into Hermes on Friday evening, the luxury retailer remains shuttered, until further notice.

Its neighbours, Wendy's fast- food chain and coffee chain Starbucks took yesterday morning to clean up before welcoming customers at around noon, while fashion store Massimo Dutti was open by 10am.

All three stores were at least ankle-deep in water on Friday when heavy rain overwhelmed these basement shops, despite flood barriers being activated in front of the building and the individual shops. The barriers were installed after Orchard Road was hit by its worst flood in June last year.

Wendy's threw out food in keeping with food hygiene practices while workers replaced soaked carpet pieces at Starbucks.

A spokesman for Starbucks said the damage this time was 'minimal' compared to last June's, and the outlet was reopened after it was cleaned, sanitised and assessed by a National Environment Agency officer.

Shops said their takings on the crucial last two days before Christmas were hit. Wendy's was estimated to have lost about 60 per cent in sales due to its temporary closure during the Friday dinner rush.

At Lucky Plaza, sandbags placed near the basement entrance did not stop shops in the basement from being flooded to about ankle-high.

While few shops had their goods damaged this time - store assistants were quick to move goods to higher ground - they suffered a loss in business of between 20 and 60 per cent.

Mr John Lim, manager of a jewellery shop at Lucky Plaza and in his mid-30s, said: 'This is not the first time the flood has happened and we have given feedback to the building management every time, but with limited success.'

The management committee of Lucky Plaza could not be reached but The Sunday Times understands that it is in the process of getting a contractor to implement flood prevention measures.

Retailers are upset that the slew of flood prevention measures introduced since last year's flash floods failed to stave off a repeat of the incident.

Mr Seng Woon Fa, 37, marketing and branding manager of Wendy's, said: 'We are quite disappointed because it has happened so many times. We hope that the building management and the authorities can work out the real issues.'

He added that the cause of the floods at Liat Towers may not be due to the inadequacy of the barricades but other drainage issues.

Liat Tower's estate management declined to comment.

National water agency PUB said it is working with the affected buildings' managers to find out how to help them to install more flood protection measures.

It raised a stretch of low-lying road between Orange Grove Road and Cairnhill Road in June, which it says has helped to prevent rainwater from overflowing from the canal onto the road and increased the canal's capacity. It attributed Friday's floods to prolonged heavy rain that fell directly into Liat Towers' open basement area.

Mr Steven Goh, executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association, said an expert panel formed by the Government should 'give an answer' on why the flood happened even though measures had been put in place.

He said an SMS flood alert by the authorities around 5pm on Friday indicated that the water level in the Stamford Canal near Orchard Tower had risen above 90 per cent, which was 'a dangerous level', even if PUB maintains that the canal did not overflow.

A panel of 12 local and international experts was set up in June to look into the floods. It is expected to convene next month to finalise its report, which will be submitted to the ministry.

Shoppers in Orchard Road were undeterred by the possibility of floods occurring again due to the wet weather forecast.

Ms Sylvia Tee, 27, a sales administrator who visited the Massimo Dutti store at Liat Towers yesterday afternoon, said: 'I had to take the chance because I still have last-minute Christmas shopping to do and Orchard Road has more variety of shops.'

Additional reporting by Feng Zengkun

PUB on track to completing flood sensor network
Evelyn Choo Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB is on track to completing its network of flood sensors in Singapore's drainage system. This year alone, it added 57 more sensors in flood-prone areas - bringing the total number to 150.

Along with newly-installed CCTV cameras, this will allow the agency to handle and monitor flood situations more effectively.

Subscribers to PUB's Water Level Alert Service will receive a message when the water level at certain canals hit 50 per cent. Alerts are also sent when levels progressively reach 75 per cent, 90 per cent and eventually, 100 per cent.

The alert service, which started out as a pilot project for the agency's own use, is now an effective communication tool for many who live or work near canals and waterways.

The free service started in July this year and has garnered more than 2,000 subscribers to date.

Contractors were given the challenging task of installing the water level sensors within three months.

Wilson Tan, sales manager at Linkwise Technology, the company contracted by PUB to install the water level sensor monitoring system, said: "First, it's the short time frame. Secondly it's the weather, because it's very much a weather-dependent system. So we need to set up more teams to do the installation concurrently."

The network of sensors were installed as part of enhanced measures to prevent floods in Singapore. This came about after the country experienced one of its worst flooding in 2010, which left parts of Singapore's shopping belt Orchard Road under water.

In 2010, one area in Commonwealth was badly affected by flash floods, with water levels rising up to the kerb. That is why PUB installed a CCTV camera system last month to monitor the situation in real time and more closely from its headquarters.

Choy Wai Kwong, assistant director of the Catchment & Waterways Department at PUB, said: "Once we get the images from the CCTV... we can redeploy our staff from other sites to this site. And once we get confirmation that there is ponding or flooding there, we can inform the public of a situation in this area."

Following a trial which saw six cameras installed along Bukit Timah in central Singapore in January 2011, PUB has since expanded the initiative and is installing 55 CCTVs in other flood-prone areas.

They are being tested and will be fully commissioned by the end of December 2011.


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Taking steps to root out falling trees

NParks says it ensures potentially dangerous trees are removed, makes regular checks
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 25 Dec 11;

With the monsoon season well under way, the authorities are taking steps to make sure falling trees do not harm pedestrians or cars.

Last month, a large tree fell across Clementi Road during a thunderstorm, blocking two lanes of traffic.

A reader who wrote to the press felt the mishap might have been due to housing estate improvements that removed part of the tree's roots.

When asked by The Sunday Times, town councils including the Holland-Bukit Panjang and Ang Mo Kio councils declined to comment on specific measures to ensure that trees are unaffected by estate improvement work, but said their officers trim branches of trees to increase their stability.

Thunderstorms, they added, can snap branches and cause trees to fall, no matter how well they are maintained.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which manages roadside trees, said it takes steps to ensure that potentially dangerous trees are removed.

Plans for roadworks and other projects have to be approved by the agency, it said.

If the work cuts into the major roots of trees, the contractor has to either alter the plans or remove the trees. It then has to pay for the same number of trees to be planted elsewhere to maintain the country's greenery.

NParks said it conducts regular checks to make sure roadside trees will not fall during heavy rain.

Its officers remove dead and diseased branches, and trim overgrown crowns to prevent falling deadwood from harming pedestrians and cars.

In extreme cases, where the tree has cavities or decay that may cause it to topple, the entire tree is removed. These weak spots may be caused by disease or lightning strikes. The trees are replaced with hardy species that thrive in urban areas, and are tailored to the land conditions.

In estates with narrow tree planting strips, for example, medium- sized trees such as the Pouteria obovata and Xanthostemon chrysanthus are used.

Along major roads, trees are also given a 2m-wide space for their roots to spread.

According to the latest NParks figures, the number of tree falls has declined from 3,100 in 2000 to about 1,000 in 2009.

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Fish farms that stack up nicely

Land-based plan allows farmers to save space, control water quality
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 25 Dec 11;

Call them building blocks for fish.

Researchers and students have come up with a stackable fish farm that is among the first such in the world. The method uses 1 sq m, connected cubes filled with water to rear fish on land, which saves space and allows farmers to control the water quality.

The cubes can be stacked up to four levels; the experimental farm in Choa Chu Kang, about the size of a football field, now produces up to eight tonnes of fish a year, but this can be ramped up to 36 tonnes.

Fish farmer Lee Van Voon, 45, who is partnering Singapore Polytechnic in the project, said his sea farm off Pulau Ubin is half the size but produces only one tonne of fish each year. Fish farmers said farms range in productivity but this is 'on the low side'.

Since the land farm started operations in October, it has also slashed fish death rates from the usual 60 per cent in sea farms to less than 30 per cent.

Fish sellers said there is no difference in taste between the land-reared and sea-caught fish.

Other countries, notably Sri Lanka and Canada, have experimented with land-based fish farms, but these are typically large, sprawling farms.

Land farms in Singapore are likely to have a higher cost as farmers will have to pay monthly rent on land leased from the Government, whereas sea farms are subjected to only an annual licence fee.

Mr Lee, for example, is paying $3,000 a month for a plot of land the size of three football fields in Choa Chu Kang. A sea farm the same size would cost just slightly more than $2,500 a year. The infrastructure for both types of farms costs about the same.

But Mr Lee said the land farm would be more profitable in the long run because of the much higher production rate, and this can be increased with stronger cubes that can be stacked higher.

The new method also allows farmers to beat nature's whims. 'During storms, rainwater can wash mud into the sea farms. Plankton can also suddenly bloom and poison the fish,' he said.

Farmers told The Sunday Times it is common for half of their fish to die within a week of purchase. Ms Maureen Ng, in her 60s, who owns a fish farm off Punggol, said: 'If we have 50 per cent still alive by the time they are ready to be sold, we are happy.'

The new system uses bio-materials such as stones, algae and sunlight to regulate nutrients in the water. The tanks are linked through water pipes, but individual tanks can be isolated in case of bacteria outbreaks.

Project leader Desmond Lim, 50, a senior research engineer at the Singapore Polytechnic's Centre for Applications in Environmental Technology, said no chemicals are used and the water can be recycled for up to six months. Waste from the fish is consumed by enzymes in the water. 'After each batch of fish, we also change the water for food security, in case there were viruses in the old batch,' he said.

But there are limitations. The cubes' 1m dimensions mean they cannot be used to rear larger fish such as the popular edible cobia.

Making the tanks larger would result in water pressure that may cause danger to the walls, Mr Lee said.

The system also cannot support cold-water fish such as salmon and trout because chilling the water to the required temperature would be too expensive.

The farm rears tilapia and marbled goby fishes, popular edible species in Singapore. It sold its first batch of fish earlier this month.

Mr Timothy Ng, president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore, said the method could encourage more sea-based fish farmers to switch to land farms, provided they rear suitable fish and it is more profitable.

The Singapore Polytechnic team was awarded $10,000 by the school to develop the idea.

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Malaysia: Tiger spotted on road in Perak forest complex

Rashvinjeet S. Bedi The Star 25 Dec 11;

PETALING JAYA: A tiger crossing may exist in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in Perak, said Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) .

Its conservation officer Lim Wee Siong, who is based in Grik, said he and some colleagues working on an elephant project were driving on the East-West Highway at 4am on Wednesday when they saw the tiger.

“We were the only vehicle on the highway at that moment. The tiger did not go very far away,” he added.

Using a search-light, the group managed to spot the tiger hiding behind some grass. They then took video footage and pictures of the animal.

“It happened really fast. It was the first time I saw a tiger on the road. Elephant crossings happen daily, but a tiger crossing is very rare,” he said.

MNS head of conservation Yeap Chin Aik said the Belum-Temengor area was one of the most important sites for tiger, elephant and tapir conservation.

He said tigers and elephants needed a large area to find resources.

“It probably wasn’t the first time the tiger crossed the road. But we want to know why it did so,” he said.

There are an estimated 500 wild tigers left in the peninsula.

The Belum-Temengor Forest Complex forms the last and largest remaining continuous block of natural forest in the peninsula, with a total area of about 300,000ha – almost four times the size of Singapore.

When the Royal Belum State Park, which has an area of 117,500ha was gazetted in May 2007, Belum-Temengor remained vulnerable to a host of threats, particularly logging and poaching.

“Globally, tigers are in trouble. They need their habitat to survive. They should be accorded better protection,” said Yeap.

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