Best of our wild blogs: 31 Dec 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [24 - 30 Dec 2012]
from Green Business Times

A new Clover-leaf Desmodium in Singapore?
from Urban Forest

2012 - The Year in Review
from Butterflies of Singapore

Intermediate Egret with odd looking wings
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Finlaysonia fun at Mandai
from wild shores of singapore

Feral Pigeon
from Monday Morgue

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ExxonMobil starts work at compound cracker project

Aaron Low Straits Times 31 Dec 12;

OIL giant ExxonMobil has started operations at one of the world's largest ethylene steam crackers.

The cracker, which breaks down complex organic compounds into light hydrocarbons, is part of a multi-billion-dollar expansion to its existing petrochemical complex located on Jurong Island here.

The project is the largest chemical expansion project in ExxonMobil history.

ExxonMobil Chemical Company president Steve Pryor said the expansion will double the size of

the company's finished product capacity in Singapore.

"This is among the most technically advanced and competitive manufacturing sites in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

The expansion, which had been delayed for almost 1 1/2 years, will increase headcount for the chemical plant by 50 per cent, bringing total employment at ExxonMobil's Singapore integrated refining and chemical complex to 1,800.

In all, ExxonMobil employs some 3,300 workers in Singapore.

Said Mr Matthew Aguiar, chairman and managing director, ExxonMobil Asia-Pacific: "The completion of this expansion is a significant achievement for ExxonMobil and it demonstrates our continued confidence in Singapore."

Among other innovations, the expansion includes a new "cogeneration plant" which allows for efficient generation of electricity to run pumps and other equipment, while producing additional steam for the production process.

The expansion is powered by a new 220-megawatt cogeneration plant and adds 2.6 million tonnes per year of new finished product capacity.

The expansion will also employ other new technologies, such as membrane bioreactor technology for water treatment, said Mr Georges Grosliere, venture executive and manufacturing director of the Singapore Chemical Plant, ExxonMobil Chemical Company.

Chemicals remain one of the biggest industries in Singapore, contributing $38 billion in manufacturing output in 2010.

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Indonesia: 22 Turtles Saved in Latest Bust on Bali Smugglers

Made Arya Kencana Jakarta Globe 29 Dec 12;

Denpasar. Police in Bali have successfully prevented the attempted smuggling of 22 endangered turtles into the island, bringing the number saved from the restaurant trade this month to 55.

Comr. Ambariyadi Wijaya, the Denpasar Police’s chief of detectives, said on Friday that community guards patrolling Pandawa Beach in South Kuta discovered the 22 turtles, all tied and bound, late on Thursday evening.

He said that the green sea turtles were an average of one meter in length and estimated to be at least 50 years old.

“Their resale value is quite high, fetching at least Rp 5 million [$518] per animal,” he said.

The smugglers are believed to have planned to sell the turtles to restaurants for slaughter and consumption, he said.

“We’re trying to get the perpetrators,” Ambariyadi said, adding that they were believed to have fled when the patrol came along.

He added that the perpetrators were in the middle of unloading their cargo.

“They didn’t have time to take the turtles away,” he said.

Ambariyadi also said that police suspected that the group was the same group that attempted to smuggle 33 turtles into the island on Dec. 9.

Soemarsono, the head of the Denpasar Nature Conservancy Office (BKSDA), voiced anger at the continuing attempt to trade the endangered species, saying that his agency was planning a special operation against smuggling syndicates.

He declined to give more details other than saying that some targets had already been identified.

Soemarsono said that some of the newly seized turtles were suffering from dehydration and had wounds. He said the BKSDA would take custody of the animals for rehabilitation before releasing them back to into the sea.

Green sea turtles are listed as endangered and are a protected species under Indonesian law.

There have been at least six turtle smuggling attempts in Bali this year involving hundreds of the animals, Soemarsono said.

Officials have acknowledged that Bali is a profitable smuggling destination because of the continuing high demand for turtle meat, both for consumption and for Hindu ritual sacrifices, despite an official prohibition.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Dec 12

From Dairy Farm Park to Mandai Park Connector
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

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Singapore's Pulau Ubin offers a step back in time

A primitive enclave minutes by boat from the mainland island nation, its sleepy low-rise villages called kampongs stand in stark contrast to the dense, high-tech hubbub of its neighbor.
Andrew Bender, Special to the Los Angeles Times 30 Dec 12;

PULAU UBIN, Singapore — Think back, if you can, to 1965. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis was the year's architectural marvel, the world mourned Winston Churchill, and Pampers disposable diapers made their debut. Meanwhile, at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, the republic of Singapore declared its independence from Malaysia.

Today, the Gateway Arch still inspires, Churchill's iconic status is unfettered, and what's a cloth diaper? But the Singapore of 1965? Barely recognizable.

Except in one place: the island of Pulau Ubin, in the Johore Strait, which separates the city-state from Malaysia to the north. Although it's less than 15 minutes by boat from mainland Singapore, the difference could hardly be more pronounced.

Among Singaporeans of a certain age, the mention of Pulau Ubin conjures nostalgia for the days before their nation's transformation from a jungle of simple villages, called kampongs, to a forest of high-rises. For Singaporeans born since the 1970s, Pulau Ubin is probably as foreign as it was to this American, who went in search of peace, quiet and, quite literally, another side of Singapore.

Forty-seven years after independence, Singapore is Exhibit A for modernization: With 5 million souls in 272 square miles, it is Earth's second-most densely populated country after Monaco. Yet somehow it works, a multicultural metropolis and an economic rocket ship, one of the world's most educated societies and busiest ports, renowned for its street food and a flag-carrying airline that induces jealousy among other travelers.

Its architecture mixes British colonial with space age, its luxury hotels and shopping strips always seem busy, and it's so famously tidy that litter on its streets is a shock.

Pulau Ubin, on the other hand, feels bypassed by the decades.

Its estimated population of 45 families in 4 square miles lives in what signage calls Singapore's last remaining kampongs, many under corrugated tin roofs without electricity or running water. The few paved roads give way to gravel and dirt paths, in turn giving way to wooden boardwalks through marshlands and coastal plains.

About 20% of the island's vegetation is mangrove forest, and there's also Singapore's only off-road biking course.

It's one of the few places in the city-state where nature runs unfettered. While Singaporeans across the strait walk dogs, the dogs on Pulau Ubin are (mostly friendly) strays, sharing their turf with monkeys and wild boar. Bird- and sea life include plovers and sandpipers, the crab-eating salted frog and the banded archerfish, which kills its insect prey by shooting a jet of water.

A bit of etymology: Pulau means island in Malay, and ubin derives from the word for granite floor tiles, once quarried here by Chinese laborers. (The causeway to Malaysia was built with granite from Pulau Ubin.) After the quarries closed in the 1970s, workers left and the island went into Rip van Winkle mode.

By the 1990s, the Singapore government had drafted plans to modernize Pulau Ubin like the rest of the nation, until naturalists discovered its wonders and preservationists sought to save one example of kampong culture.

Today, Pulau Ubin is protected from development.

From the moment I boarded the bumboat from the dock near Changi Airport, it felt as if I were not in Singapore anymore. Small wooden bumboats are Singapore's signature transport (what the bateau mouche is to Paris), but whereas the bumboats plying the Singapore River through the city center appear spit-shined and plush, the ones to Pulau Ubin are all business, hauling people and cargo on hard seats covered with patterned Con-Tact paper.

Something else un-Singaporean: no schedule for boats to the island. They depart when 12 passengers show up and pay about $2 each. If you pay about $25 to hire the whole boat, it will leave right away.

At Pulau Ubin's principal kampong by the boat dock, former homes have been converted to humble open-air restaurants and stalls selling packaged food and supplies for campers and day-trippers. (One set of trash bins was designated for cans of coconuts.) A ramshackle Confucian temple, overseen by a roaming rooster, looked ticky tacky compared with the gleaming, multistory Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore's Chinatown.

Several shops in the kampong rent bicycles, an easy and economical way to get around the island on well-marked roads. Island taxis (usually simple vans) wait at the dock in case you're not used to off-roading (useful if it's been raining).

Alternatively, it takes about 40 minutes on foot to get to Chek Jawa Wetlands National Park, the island's main attraction on Pulau Ubin's southeastern end. The park comprises six ecosystems from coastal hills to sand bars and a mangrove forest, nature all but unknown to Singaporean urbanites.

The wetlands' visitor center offers a peek into colonial history, a 1930s Tudor-style home built partly of (what else?) granite for the British chief surveyor. Signs note that the house boasts Singapore's only operational fireplace (unnecessary in this tropical climate, so the chimney is now home to a colony of bats).

Nearby, from the top of the 66-foot Jejawi observation tower, the tops of palms seemed to reach up to my feet (a jejawi is a Malaysian banyan tree), and brisk winds during my visit made the canopy roil like a second sea.

From here, it's a fast 40-minute trip to a leisurely 1½-hour ramble along the boardwalks. Mangrove trees' extensive root systems help prevent soil erosion in strong seas, and their roots protrude from the ground to "breathe" the oxygen the silty earth doesn't provide. Unique species of crabs and lobsters can occasionally be seen skittering through the mangrove roots. The boardwalk continues on a coastal path, along a sea-grass lagoon and a shore of coral rubble punctuated by barnacles and tiny starfish.

Pulau Ubin can easily be a day trip (the bumboats run from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.), which I would recommend; the options for overnight guests (mostly campgrounds) reminded me of backpacking through rural Thailand in the 1980s. The open-sided restaurants in the dockside kampong are no gourmet experience either, although they're a decent value.

If you prefer a roof over your head, about your only option is the Celestial Pulau Ubin Resort. "Resort" is overstated, given the spare tile-floor rooms and meals at a beach club-for-backpackers-style snack bar. Still, it has a great waterside location a few minutes on foot from the jetty, with views across the Johore Strait. You'll find a simple beach, kayaks and bicycles for hire, as well as a foot spa full of "doctor fish" (garret ruga, or reddish log suckers), which tickle-nibble at dead skin and are supposed to leave your feet feeling smooth.

The best reason to visit Pulau Ubin is to escape the modern world, a rare feat anywhere these days.

Authorities estimate that the island gets about 2,000 visitors on weekends, but if you go on a weekday as I did, you'll probably find yourself blessedly alone. In Singapore, that's an accomplishment.

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Singapore's environmental issues in 2013: Minister Vivian

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 29 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the priority and challenge will be in inculcating more socially gracious attitudes among Singaporeans.

Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry is also studying other countries to cope with a potential sea-level rise.

National water agency PUB has been making preparations for rainy days and the monsoon season, such as widening drainage and installing closed-circuit cameras (CCTVs).

The Environment and Water Resources Ministry said there are another 15 projects in the pipeline for PUB in the coming year.

It is a race to get Singapore "water independent" by ramping up land catchment areas and building more Newater plants.

Singapore's first water agreement with Malaysia expired in 2010 and the second one is due to expire in 2061.

In addition, the ministry and its statutory boards will take a tougher stand on littering.

From 2013, fines for first-time offenders will increase from S$300 to S$500.

The Home Affairs Ministry will be installing CCTVs in almost every block for for surveillance, and the National Environment Agency (NEA) will ride on this technology to catch high-rise litterbugs.

"We have to put a stop to high-rise littering -- it's unacceptable. Nearly 90 per cent of us live in high-rise apartments, and I get no end of complaints from people saying people are throwing all kinds of stuff," said Dr Balakrishnan.

As penalties increase, 2013 will also see stepped up enforcement, including giving citizens the power to take action against those who litter.

"We're going to start a course next year, which will be very similar to the same course our NEA officers go through, before they're issued with warrant cards to take action if need be, when a minority of people litter, or act irresponsibly in our environment," said Dr Balakrishnan.

"From next year onwards, we will have to step up enforcement, in order to send a message to anyone considering dropping something, that the probability of being caught is actually going to be higher, and therefore we hope there will be a greater deterrence. Our reputation of being clean and green was a hard-won reputation, and we cannot afford to lose it."

NEA also introduced the tray-return scheme at nine hawker centres in 2012. Over the next two years, it will roll out the scheme to all new and existing hawker centres.

In both cases, the ministry said it is about instilling a sense of graciousness in behaving responsibly, and using peer pressure to effect change.

Assoc Prof Paulin Tay-Straughan from the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore said: "This is the part where we have to be very careful when we talk about growing active state ownership, getting ordinary Singaporeans to step up and be part of this informal policing.

"It has to be done in a gracious manner. It has to be done in a way that does not publicly humiliate others, because then each time you get humiliated, you alienate that person, or a particular segment of the population will get alienated, and when you alienate people, you will not be able to get their buy-in. So the way to do it is to really learn how to encourage others towards pro-social behaviour in a gracious manner."

Assoc Prof Tay-Straughan said one way of instilling socially gracious behaviour is to learn from the past.

She said: "A very good example would be the queuing culture. Not that long ago, we did not queue. Remember the masses -- that when the bus comes, everybody pushes, to try to get up the bus. But then we decided that's not the right way to manage public behaviour, so we started the notion of the queue culture. And we've done that very well, right? You don't get fined for not standing in line. The reason you end up standing in line is because other people would tell you, 'This is a line, and you should be behind me.'

"We need to encourage Singaporeans to do that. When somebody litters, to say, 'Excuse me, the bin is around the corner.' Or to go one step further to when somebody drops a pack, as you're walking along, just pick it up and deposit it at the next bin you see."

On a larger scale, the Environment Ministry said it will do more to deal with the effects of climate change.

In 2011, the ministry raised the minimum levels for land reclamation by at least one metre, as an adequate buffer against a potential rise in sea levels.

This year, the National Climate Change Secretariat released a strategy document, detailing the government's multi-fold initiatives -- from reducing carbon emissions, to beefing up research capabilities for clean technology solutions.

The ministry said it is also studying countries like the Netherlands, where one-third of the country is below sea-level.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "It's a whole challenge of engineering, design, planning and learning new techniques in order to cope with sea-level rise. We also have to cope with greater volatility in weather."

Dr Balakrishnan said being a small country, Singapore will have to prepare for the worst, and take nothing for granted.

He said: "We're so focused on building up our water, our freshwater generation capacity, desalination and recycling, it is also part of the long-term preparation for climate change. That's a really major challenge which is creeping up on us, but actually, can end up being literally a tsunami that we have to deal with."

- CNA/xq

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Malaysia: Hill stripped for oil palm projects

Nik Imran Abdulla New Straits Times 30 Dec 12;

INSENSITIVE: Aggressive land clearing choking up streams with silt

GUA MUSANG: A HUGE part of a hilly terrain in Sungai Relai near here has been almost entirely deforested. A few hills have had their vegetation stripped from top to bottom.

Travellers using the road linking this town with Kenyir Lake in Terengganu would not miss the spot near Km65, as the eyesore is clear even from a distance.

The deforestation is alleged to be part of a massive oil palm and rubber estate project, in which Perak DAP chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and his cousin, Nga Kor Ming, reportedly have a stake.

A check by the New Sunday Times revealed that a logging company had set up office at the foothill. There was also a cluster of workers' kongsi and plots of oil palm nursery, all within a perimeter fence, with a security guard manning the entrance.

A worker, who introduced himself as Jali, said 10 Indonesians were hired to tend to the nursery.

"The rest are mostly loggers. The pile of logs you see nearby came from this place."

He said oil palm saplings at the nursery were likely to be planted at the site once the logs had been cleared from the area.

The valley close by is bearing the brunt of the soil erosion, especially with the heavy rainfall over the past week. Mud and silt from the logging site had flowed into nearby streams, causing the water to turn brown.

A youth, who identified himself as Adi, said he was familiar with the area as his father owned durian and dokong orchards just outside the logging site.

"This stream used to have clear water but it has been muddy since the land clearing began."

He said the stream emptied into a river nearby, which had also become polluted.

The site is alleged to be part of a 4,260ha piece of land, which the state government had admitted awarding to the Kelantan Islamic Foundation, which in turn, had entered into an agreement with Upayapadu Plantation Sdn Bhd for a joint land development project.

There was controversy after an allegation that the state government had given the land to Ngeh to make way for Pas leader Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin to be Perak menteri besar in 2008. The Kelantan government has insisted that the project was a legitimate business deal.

Bernama reported yesterday that Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin denied having any part in the alleged approval of land in Gua Musang to Perak DAP leaders.

He said a letter, dated Jan 16, 2006, which he signed when he was the deputy rural and regional development minister, was to recommend research and development for an integrated farming project to be carried out in the area. He said the letter was meant to get aid to develop the site.

"The letter was issued following an application by Upayapadu Plantation general manager Bazlin Ab Hamid to be given assistance to carry out economic activities in Kelantan. That was what was stated in the letter and I have no knowledge about ownership or lease of the land to the DAP leaders concerned."

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Dec 12

from The annotated budak

九月双溪布洛华语导游 Madarin guide walk@SBWR,September(XXXIII)
from PurpleMangrove

Lineated Barbet - Preening and Stretching
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 26
from Raffles Museum News

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NEA to step up anti-littering enforcement on New Year's eve

Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) is stepping up its anti-littering enforcement at year-end celebratory events, including those in Marina Bay, Orchard Road and other such event sites around Singapore.

NEA says it will deploy nearly 157 enforcement officers at 10 major countdown locations across the island to take action against littering offenders and illegal hawkers.

This is approximately 20 percent more than last year's deployment.

More than 40 officers will patrol countdown events held at the Marina Bay area.

NEA says it will also work with event organisers to implement litter-free initiatives during the countdown celebrations.

At the Marina Bay area, event organisers will be placing more than 280 additional refuse bins on New Year's Eve to encourage party goers to throw their litter responsibly.

The Esplanade Co Ltd will also have their emcees remind the crowd to throw their rubbish into the bins, and deploy about 350 cleaners to restore the area after the events.

Members of the public are reminded to help keep the public areas clean by disposing of their litter into the refuse bins.

From January to November 2012, NEA says it had issued more than 7,800 tickets to littering offenders.

First-time littering offenders who discard minor litter such as sweet wrappers, cigarette butts, parking coupon tabs and others improperly are liable for a $300 composition fine.

Repeat littering offenders and first-time offenders who throw larger items such as plastic bags, food wrappers, drink cups will be sent to court where they may be imposed with a Corrective Work Order (CWO) and/or a fine not exceeding $1,000.

The CWO will require them to carry out public cleaning works for a maximum duration of 12 hours.

- CNA/de

NEA out to stop litterbugs at party spots
But revellers doubt extra patrols will curb littering on New Year's Eve
David Ee Straits Times 29 Dec 12;

REVELLERS at New Year's Eve celebrations may find themselves rubbing shoulders with some unexpected partygoers.

To guard against yet another Jan 1 dawn breaking over littered streets from Orchard Road to Sentosa, the National Environment Agency (NEA) is deploying 20 per cent more plain-clothes officers than last year to patrol party venues.

The 157 officers will be spread out across 10 countdown locations including hot spots like Orchard Road and Marina Bay, but also more far-flung Khatib, Woodlands and Tanjong Rhu.

As in previous years, they have the authority to issue on-the-spot fine tickets to litterbugs.

First-timers may be fined at least $300, while repeat offenders will be summoned to court where they may receive Corrective Work Orders and a fine of up to $1,000.

More than three dozen officers will be monitoring the Marina Bay area alone, where some of the island's biggest countdown parties will take place.

But with record crowds predicted, few expect the measure to make much of a dent in the behaviour of litterbugs.

NEA figures show that just 70 tickets were issued during last year's New Year's Eve - when 300,000 people filled the streets - compared with 74 tickets the year before, despite there having been more trash collected.

"You will never have enough officers," said Mr Liak Teng Lit, head of the Keep Singapore Clean Movement. Just last month he remarked that calling Singapore a clean city was a joke, as the island relies on an army of cleaners to stay that way. "We shouldn't rely on officers... Ten thousand officers would not be enough either. What we need is enough Singaporeans to say that littering is unacceptable behaviour."

He added that if Singaporeans who care set a good example and speak up to chastise the litterers, others would feel pressured to bin their trash responsibly.

Last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on Singaporeans to apply social pressure on litterbugs.

Noting the cleanliness in Japan and South Korea, PM Lee said: "It's most impressive when you go and see their cities - how they have kept it clean. They don't have as many cleaners or foreign workers as we have."

Conversely, said Mr Liak, bad behaviour is contagious: "If people see someone else get away (with littering), they will follow."

This situation is exacerbated at events with large crowds, as litterers believe they are unlikely to be caught, said Mr Jose Raymond, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council.

At recent K-pop and Jennifer Lopez concerts, audiences left the arenas strewn with rubbish.

But stricter enforcement, despite its limitations, does have its merits. "You do need officers to enforce the law and watch the 'ugliest' people," said Mr Liak.

Partygoers The Straits Times spoke to were sceptical that the increase in patrols would make any difference. Ms Linda Jeffri, 38, who works for a home-moving company, said: "It won't stop people littering. The officers can't be everywhere at the same time."

The problem, she said, lay in lazy Singaporeans who "take it for granted that cleaners will clean up after them".

To fix this, start drumming a sense of ownership into children from a young age, said national serviceman Chew Hong Kiat, 18, who intends to celebrate at Clarke Quay.

What will the morning of Jan 1 next year reveal?

"I don't think it is going to change very much," said Mr Liak. "I hope it will improve a little."

Litterbugs nabbed at countdown parties
Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 1 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: Getting a ticket for littering was not the best start to the new year for some party-goers as they were caught in the act.

The party is over and someone has to clean up after the litterbugs.

Some litterbugs got away but some didn't and were nabbed by officers from the National Environment Agency.

They issued 59 tickets to litterbugs this time, mostly for throwing cigarette butts. This was down from the 70 caught in the previous year.

Director of Operations at The Esplanade, Ravi Sivalingam, said: "The large majority of them actually make an effort to clean up after themselves. But of course, you know with any large-scale event, sometimes if the bins are full or if people can't find a bin, it still gets bagged quite neatly but then the bag gets left behind."

Most party-goers said all it takes is a little effort to stay litter-free.

Agnes Tan, who works in the banking industry, said: "We're all well-known for the cleanliness and all, and everyone just takes it for granted that someone will clean up after them."

Siti Salamah, who works as a nurse, suggested that placing more dustbins can help to reduce littering.

Jessica Koa, a secretary, said: "I think there are not many dustbins around here also. That's why people just anyhow put their rubbish over here."

Those caught littering could end up with a fine or a corrective work order slapped on them.

- CNA/fa

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Once in a lifetime bloom at Botanic Gardens

Grace Chua Straits Times 29 Dec 12;

A TALIPOT palm takes 30 to 80 years before it bears its first flowers - which turn into fruits - and then dies.

This quiet drama involving an 80-year-old palm is taking place at a small lawn behind the Botany Centre, near the Singapore Botanic Gardens' Tanglin entrance.

In October, a member of the Gardens' horticultural staff noticed a stump emerging at the very top of the 10m-tall palm, one of several in the Gardens.

Then, side branches developed from this stump and flowers began to bloom.

It is not known how long this palm has been at the Gardens, said a National Parks Board spokesman.

There are no particular environmental triggers for it to bloom - it is part of the palm's natural lifespan, she added.

The slow-growing talipot palm is native to India and Sri Lanka where its leaves are used for thatching and its sap for palm sugar and wine.

It can grow up to 25m tall before it flowers, and its leaves stretch up to 5m across on a stalk 4m long.

Its main flowering shoot, one of the world's largest, can be more than 6m tall and bears millions of tiny, cream-coloured flowers.

This plume of flowers, visible now, will last for several months before fruits begin to develop.

The green golfball-size fruits will take about a year to mature, then fall.

The Gardens team will collect viable seeds from the ripe fruits.

Some will be planted while others will be sent to botanical gardens overseas for conservation and research.

Other talipot palms last flowered at the Botanic Gardens in 2004, 1996 and 1985.

In fact, fruits from the 1985 flowering were collected and about 20 were planted at the Botanic Gardens.

Other rare and unusual plants have bloomed at the Botanic Gardens before.

In December 2010, a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), more colourfully nicknamed "the corpse flower" for its odour, produced a single, spectacular blossom.

It was the first time the giant plant - the height of a grown man - had bloomed in Singapore.

The Gardens is also home to a tiger orchid, the world's largest orchid plant, and the unusual double coconut (Lodoicea maldivica), which flowered and is now bearing fruit after being hand-pollinated two years ago.

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Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme kicks in 1 Jan

Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE: The new Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) will apply to all new cars, taxis and newly imported used cars registered with effect from 1 January 2013.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said car buyers are advised to look out for the mandatory Fuel Economy Labelling Scheme (FELS) labels with the LTA's logo at car showrooms.

The label is required to be put on cars that have been LTA-approved.

The label provides the carbon emissions and fuel efficiency performance of the car model to help buyers make informed decisions.

Only cars that are approved by LTA under FELS can be registered for use from 1 January and low emission models will qualify for CEVS rebates.

Buyers can also access the FELS online database and fuel cost calculator at the ONEMOTORING website to compare the carbon emissions and fuel efficiency performance data across car models that are LTA approved.

Under the new scheme, registered cars with low carbon emissions of less than or equal to 160g carbon emissions per kilometre (CO2/km) will qualify for rebates of between S$5,000 and S$20,000.

This will be given as an offset against the vehicle's Additional Registration Fee.

Cars with high carbon emissions equal to or more than 211g CO2/km, will incur a registration surcharge between S$5,000 and S$20,000.

The surcharges will only take effect six months later, from 1 July 2013 to give consumers and the motor industry more time to adjust.

The CEVS will be applicable till 31 December 2014.

- CNA/ck

Emissions-based car rebates from Jan 1
Straits Times 29 Dec 12;

A SCHEME that favours less-pollutive cars will kick in from Jan 1, with buyers enjoying up to $20,000 in rebates.

Under the Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme for new cars, taxis and newly imported used cars, those with emissions of 160g or less of carbon dioxide for every kilometre travelled will attract rebates of between $5,000 and $20,000.

The money will be used to offset a vehicle's Additional Registration Fee, which is based on a percentage of its open market value. This includes expenses like freight and insurance in bringing the car to Singapore.

Taxis, new cars or newly imported used cars with emissions of 211g or more will face registration surcharges of between $5,000 and $20,000.

The surcharges will take effect from July 1 to give consumers and the motor industry more time to adjust, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA). Rebates and surcharges for taxis will be 50 per cent higher than those for normal cars as taxis clock higher mileage.

Non-Euro V compliant diesel-driven vehicles will not get rebates under the scheme even if they fall within the rebate emission bands, as these models are less environment-friendly than petrol-driven cars. Diesel models that fall within the surcharge bands will face a registration surcharge, even for those that meet the Euro V emission standard.

Buyers can refer to fuel-economy labels on cars at showrooms to find out a model's carbon emissions per kilometre and fuel consumption.

Only cars approved by the LTA under the fuel-economy labelling scheme can be registered for use from Jan 1.

The LTA said it had been working with motor associations to encourage members to seek early approval for such labels, to facilitate transition to the new scheme.

Visit the OneMotoring website at for more information

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Tigers Making Comeback in Asia

Becky Oskin Yahoo News 28 Dec 12;

Camera trap images reveal tiger numbers rebounding across Asia, especially in southwestern India, where young tigers are leaving protected reserves due to population pressure, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The WCS attributes the rise in different tiger groups to better law enforcement and protection of additional habitat. For example, a notorious poaching ring was busted in Thailand last year, and the gang leaders have been given prison sentences of up to five years — the most severe punishments for wildlife poaching in Thailand's history, the conservation group said in a statement.

Tiger numbers have been rising steadily in Thailand's Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary since 2007, with a record 50-plus tigers counted last year, the WCS said. The sanctuary is part of the country's Western Forest Complex. This core spans 7,000 square miles (18,000 square kilometers) and is home to an estimated 125 to 175 tigers.

In India's mountainous landscape of Nagarahole and Bandipur national parks, tigers have reached saturation levels, with more than 600 individuals caught on camera trap photos in the past decade. Young tigers are leaving the parks along protected corridors and entering a landscape with a population of a million people, the group said. [In Images: Tigers Rebound in Asia]

Conservationists also worked with government officials in Russia to create additional protected areas for tigers. The country declared a new corridor, called the Central Ussuri Wildlife Refuge, on Oct. 18. The refuge links the Sikhote-Alin tiger population in Russia — the main group of endangered Amur tigers— with tiger habitat in China's Heilongjiang Province in the Wandashan Mountains. The refuge ensures that tigers can move across the border between Russia and China in this region.

An estimated 3,200 tigers are living in the wild, with only 2,500 breeding adult pairs, according to TRAFFIC, a monitoring group funded by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Tigers have lost 93 percent of their historical range, which once sprawled across Asia from Turkey to Russia and south to Bali, according to the group.

"Tigers are clearly fighting for their very existence, but it's important to know that there is hope. Victories like these give us the resolve to continue to battle for these magnificent big cats," Cristián Samper, WCS president, said in a statement.

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 28 Dec 12

Strange snakey thing at Pasir Ris
from wild shores of singapore

from The annotated budak

milky stork buffet @ sungei buloh wetland reserve - Nov 2012
from sgbeachbum

Feeding strategies: 1. Birds feeding on Figs (Ficus spp.)
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

The Year Gone Wild: Dispute over dolphins

This year, animals hogged national panda-monium over Kai Kai and Jia Jia and controversy over the culling of wild boar to the debate on keeping dolphins in captivity at Resorts World Sentosa’s Marine Life Park. Grace Chua looks at the year animals took centre stage.
Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

FOR four years, Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has been fighting a public relations battle with animal welfare activists over its move to bring in 25 wild-caught bottlenose dolphins. When two of them died in 2010 in Langkawi, furore erupted.

Before RWS could mend fences, another died en route to Singapore last month, prompting advocacy group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) to call for a global boycott of all properties owned by parent firm Genting.

In the Philippines, environment activists sued RWS and two government agencies, in a bid to stop the dolphins' export. But while the case was being heard, RWS shipped the dolphins to Singapore, and could face indirect contempt of court charges. RWS said the export complied with all regulations.

Its first project under its conservation programme is one to save Irrawaddy dolphins in a southern Thailand lake.

Acres has invited RWS to a public debate on Jan 19 next year, for the public to make its own decisions on the issue.

Marine Mania
Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

MORE of Singapore's marine life was unearthed, dredged up or netted this year, on a wide-ranging expedition in October.

The northern shores expedition was the first major one in the five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, an audit of Singapore's marine and shore life that began in late 2010.

The survey was led by the National Parks Board with the National University of Singapore.

From Chek Jawa to Changi, local and international researchers and an army of volunteers spent two and a half weeks digging up, preserving, photographing and cataloguing the specimens, which ranged from the tiniest, never-seen-before sea slugs to plate-size horseshoe crabs.

Originally three years long, the study was this year extended to five years to fully document marine life here. It is funded by private donations from firms like Shell, as well as public funds, and will help government planners identify and prioritise biodiversity hot spots to conserve.

Next year, there will be another expedition - this time to the Southern Islands.

Pig Tales
Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

IT WAS hardly a "boar-ing" year for animal welfare activists who, in May, were shocked to hear the National Parks Board (NParks) planned to cull the island's wild pigs using somewhat questionable methods.

The creatures, previously thought to live only on Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong, have been spotted in greater numbers on mainland Singapore in recent years and if uncontrolled could become a public menace, said NParks.

True enough, barely a month later, two found their way to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. One apparently charged at a boy, five, and knocked him over.

Still, NParks' decision did not sit well with activists and even residents of Upper Peirce, where the largest wild boar population has been seen.

NParks had told welfare groups it was planning to shoot them with bows and arrows, but activists desired a more humane solution. Residents, too, sided with the pigs, insisting they were hardly a nuisance. NParks relented, but only to the extent of considering other culling methods.

Now, an enclosure has been built to round them up before vets sedate and euthanise them. NParks said none has been caught and put down yet.

The birds of Bidadari
Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

THE former Bidadari cemetery near Woodleigh is slated to become an HDB estate with some 12,000 homes - but it is also a haven for the birds.

Nature lovers have been flocking to the 93-hectare patch of grassland, documenting the migratory and resident birds there. They want a 24ha section of the future housing estate conserved, saying it is a particular hot spot for hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and even rare migratory birds like the Japanese paradise flycatcher.

Birders have set up a Facebook group to share their sightings, and the Nature Society is submitting a proposal to the authorities specifying which parts of Bidadari are richest in wildlife.

The first infrastructure work to turn Bidadari into a housing estate is expected to begin by the end of this year, and the new town may be completed as early as 2018; its design is supposed to emphasise the area's heritage and greenery

Cats in Flats
Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

AFTER years of scratching at lawmakers' doors, meowing plaintively and begging, cat lovers living in Housing Board flats in Chong Pang are now allowed to keep kitties in their apartments, under a new two-year pilot scheme.

They have to microchip and sterilise their cats, make sure they stay indoors, and put mesh on their windows and doors to prevent the cats from sneaking out.

HDB owners keen on the scheme, which covers about 120 blocks, must register with the Cat Welfare Society by Jan 31.

In April, Action for Singapore Dogs and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals started a year-long pilot scheme to rehome stray mongrels in HDB flats. Most are medium-sized dogs, which the HDB does not permit in public housing. To date, 18 dogs have found new homes.

A committee reviewing animal welfare laws here is finalising its recommendations, and will submit them to the Government early next year.

Read more!

PUB tightens regulations on used water discharge from industries

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE: Stiffer penalties on improper discharge of used water from industries, trade and businesses, will come into effect sometime next year.

This follows changes to the Sewerage and Drainage Act in September, aimed at minimising the risk of used water pollution.

Under the new regulations, offenders could be fined up to $15,000, up from the current $5,000, and jailed up to three months, for the illegal discharge of used industrial water.

Such discharge may contain hazardous chemicals, which will in turn affect water reclamation and NEWater production.

National water agency PUB said since November, it has installed a system costing S$2.5 million to monitor the amount of chemicals in the sewers.

The system comprises 40 real-time remote monitoring units installed at industrial sites.

When it detects illegal discharge, an alert is sent to the PUB.

Since the system was deployed, the PUB has received 20 alerts.

In 18 of these cases, the PUB has been able to identify the culprits that had discharged the chemicals into the public sewers. Investigations are still on-going for the remaining two cases.

Mr Idaly Mamat, Senior Engineer at PUB, said: "In the past, we did not have a continuous monitoring system. We did - and still do - regular surveillance, regular monitoring and inspection of premises that discharge trade effluent.

"Since implementing this system, we are able to track the concentration of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) immediately. We are able to react faster to any sudden discharges of VOCs in the network."

To further secure the used water network, the PUB has also installed about 1,000 sensors in manholes to monitor water levels in the sewers. Each sensor costs S$3,000.

The sensors were deployed in March.

When the water rises beyond the normal level, SMS and email alerts will be sent to the PUB.

They can then investigate and rectify the problem.

This helps to prevent overflow from the sewers, which may pollute waterways and reservoirs.

Mr Idaly Mamat added: "In the past, we only found out about these cases through public feedback. Usually we see that there was water overflowing from the sewers or the manhole. We could only then rectify the situation. Now with these level sensor system, we are able to detect any surcharges before it overflows from the sewers."

Since the sensors were installed, the PUB has received about 10 alerts per day, most related to blockages in the sewers.

- CNA/de

Tougher penalties for dumping of waste water: PUB
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 28 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE - Fines for the dumping of waste water containing chemicals into public sewers will be tripled to S$15,000, while offenders could also be jailed for up to three months.

These are the tougher penalties national water agency PUB will introduce, as 11 factories were caught illegally dumping waste water containing high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the sewerage system. Seven offenders were brought to court, while the remaining four had their offences compounded with a fine.

The number of offenders caught this year has surpassed the total number of illegal dumping cases in the last two years. There were seven cases last year, up from two in 2010.

VOCs such as paints, methane chloride are commonly present in waste discharges, known as trade effluent, from electroplating, pharmaceutical, printing and food businesses, trades and industries.

Mr Idaly Mamat, Senior Engineer of PUB's Water Reclamation (Network) Department, said: "As some VOCs are toxic and flammable, the discharge of trade effluent containing high concentration of such VOCs into the public sewer poses fire and safety hazards to workers or operators working in the public sewerage system.

"It can also affect the treatment process at water reclamation plants, and subsequently, impact the production of NEWater or industrial water."

Waste water containing levels of these compounds should be collected by licensed toxic industrial waste collectors for off-site treatment and disposal.

The PUB will be amending the Sewerage and Drainage (Trade Effluent Regulations) to effect the stricter penalties. The amendment will kick in by next year.

To further monitor the quality of waste water, the PUB installed 40 VOC sensors last month in industrial sites such as Tuas, Pioneer Sector and Woodlands to monitor the concentration levels of chemicals discharged into the sewerage system.

An SMS alert will be sent to PUB if any illegal discharge is detected, and officers will be deployed on site to trace the discharge.

The sensors also enable PUB to closely monitor 1,783 factories identified as "concerns", out of 4,800 listed in its records,

Since the deployment of the sensors, 20 more cases of waste water with high VOC levels discharged into the public sewerage system were detected, with 18 offenders identified by the PUB. Investigations are ongoing to identify the rest of the culprits.

To further ensure public sewers are free from obstruction - which might lead to overflows and the subsequent pollution of waterways and reservoirs - the PUB has progressively installed some 1,000 sensors since 2010 in manholes island-wide to monitor used water levels.

"Before we had these water-level sensors, we had to depend on public feedback to notify us on water overflowing from manholes into the surroundings," said Mr Idaly.

"With the sensors, we are able to detect this before it happens, so we can stop a blockage before the water overflows into our canals and waterways. This prevents water pollution and prevents public nuisance as well."

Fines for illegal waste water discharge into sewage to be raised
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 27 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB said there were 11 cases of factories discharging large amounts of waste water containing high concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the sewage system this year. Of the 11 cases, seven were brought to court while four had their offences compounded with a fine.

To prevent the contamination of the waters here, the PUB uses a series of water level sensors and VOC sensors to monitor Singapore's used water network, which comprises public sewers and manholes.

Some 1,000 level sensors installed around the island provide PUB with early warning of any accumulation of used water, while 40 VOC sensors monitor the concentration levels of illegal substances discharged from industrial areas.

To enhance deterrence, fines for dumping waste water under the Sewerage and Drainage (Trade Effluent) Regulations will be raised to S$15,000 next year, from S$5,000 currently. This is to better aligned it with changes to the Sewerage and Drainage (Amendment) Act which came into effect Sept 1 this year.

Dump illegal substances into sewers? Sensors will smell a rat
Devices placed near factories help PUB protect S'pore's water network
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

COMPANIES that dump their waste chemicals into the sewage system will now be up against a smarter opponent.

National water agency PUB has installed a $2.5 million network of 40 sensors across the island to help it nab such offenders.

They can detect up to 400 chemicals and are sensitive enough to pick up highly diluted concentrations of the substances.

Previously, PUB officers had to check the sewers with hand-held devices to identify toxic compounds like solvents and paint.

The new sensors are placed at points in the sewers that serve large clusters of factories, such as those in Kranji and Jurong's industrial areas.

These include sectors which are heavily reliant on chemicals, such as pharmaceutical and food companies, and toxic industrial waste collectors.

Since the monitoring network went online last month, it has alerted PUB officers to 20 instances of pollutants being dumped in the water.

The agency has identified the culprits in almost all of the cases and investigations are ongoing, it said during a briefing on the sensors yesterday.

PUB senior engineer Idaly Mamat said toxic and flammable chemicals in the water could endanger workers.

"An overly high concentration and illegal discharge of the volatile organic compounds could also affect the structural integrity of the public sewers," he added.

The agency said it is studying the sensors' effectiveness and will decide later whether to install more of them.

The new surveillance system is only the latest weapon in the PUB's arsenal to protect Singapore's water network.

To deter polluters, fines for dumping waste water with illegal substances under the Sewerage and Drainage (Trade Effluent) Regulations will be raised from $5,000 now to $15,000 next year. This is to align it with harsher penalties in the Sewerage and Drainage (Amendment) Act which took effect in September.

A new law introduced in April also allows PUB officers to enter homes and other buildings without notice, even if the occupants are not around.

Previously, the agency had to give advance notice of at least six hours, which could be a handicap when it came to gathering evidence of wrongdoing.

It can now react faster to search premises and collect evidence such as documents and water samples, and also compel the relevant parties to help out with investigations.

Read more!

JTC tenders for Jurong Rock Caverns operator

Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE: JTC Corporation launched the second stage of its two-stage tender on Thursday to engage an operator for Jurong Rock Caverns (JRC), Singapore's first underground hydrocarbon storage facility.

JTC said in a statement that phase one of the project on Jurong Island, which comprises five caverns, will be completed in stages between 2013 and 2014. It aims to appoint an operator by mid-2013, which will be given a 15-year contract.

In the second stage of the tender, qualified participants will have to submit proposals which will be evaluated based on individual merits, with an emphasis on the fee as well as technical, commercial and legal propositions.

To ensure rigour in the selection process for a capable and qualified operator, JTC said the second stage will also include a pre-qualification stage for new interested participants who had missed the first stage.

The pre-qualification stage, which opens on Thursday, will close on 21 January 2013.

JTC added that four participants who were shortlisted under the first stage have been invited to submit their proposals for evaluation in the second stage. These participants were evaluated based on criteria such as financial stability, experience, capability and track record.

JTC's assistant chief executive officer David Tan said: "JRC will cater to the growing need for additional storage capacity for liquid hydrocarbons at Jurong Island.

"The project will help to optimise our land resource and ensure the competitiveness and sustainability of Singapore's chemical industry in the long run."

The Jurong Rock Caverns project is the first underground rock cavern for hydrocarbon storage in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Located at a depth of 130 metres beneath Selat Banyan at Jurong Island, it is expected to provide infrastructural support to manufacturers on Jurong Island, and meet the storage needs for liquid hydrocarbons such as crude oil, condensate, naphtha and gas oil.

- CNA/al

JTC seeks operator to run underground storage caverns
Melissa Tan Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

INDUSTRIAL landlord JTC Corporation is continuing its search for an operator to run the first five caverns of Singapore's first underground hydrocarbon storage facility.

These giant rock caverns, part of the Jurong Rock Caverns (JRC) project, will store oil and petrochemicals on Jurong Island. The first five make up the $890 million first phase of the project.

They will be completed in stages between next year and 2014, JTC said in a statement yesterday.

Two of the five are expected to be completed by June next year.

The first five caverns will offer 1.47 million cubic m of storage space to companies.

More caverns will be built in the second phase, though no further details are available yet.

JTC said it has already shortlisted four proposals in the first stage of its request for proposals.

It invited more firms yesterday to submit their proposals in a second stage of the process.

New proposals will be evaluated alongside the original four.

But to "ensure rigour in the selection process for a capable and qualified operator, the second stage will also comprise a pre-qualification stage for new interested participants who missed the first stage", JTC said.

JTC intends to appoint an operator to manage, operate and maintain the caverns by the middle of next year. The operator will be given a 15-year contract.

"We're confident that through this rigorous two-stage request for proposals, we will be able to bring on board a suitable and qualified operator for JRC by next year," said JTC assistant chief executive David Tan.

JTC also put up three indus-trial land plots for sale yesterday, at Ubi and Tuas South.

The 0.35ha site at Ubi Avenue 4 is zoned for "Business 1", or light industry, and has a lease period of 30 years.

The two sites at Tuas South are zoned for "Business 2", or heavy industrial use.

One is a 3.96ha land parcel at Tuas South Avenue 10, which has a 30-year lease.

The other is a 0.3ha plot at Tuas South Street 8, which comes with a shorter tenure of 22 years and five months.

This smaller plot is targeted at industrialists who need to custom-build their own facilities, JTC said in a statement.

These sites were all released under the confirmed list.

The tenders for the three sites will close on Feb 7 next year at 11am.

Read more!

Malaysia: Injured spinner dolphin rescued in Tuaran

Mugunta Vanar The Star 28 Dec 12;

KOTA KINABALU: An injured dolphin rescued on Boxing Day in Tuaran is being nursed by experts at the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI).

BMRI director Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa said the spinner dolphin weighing about 70kg was still stressed and efforts were under way to calm it as much as possible.

“I do not think the dolphin is out of danger. We do not know if it will survive despite our best efforts. All I can say is that probably it would not have survived at all had it been not been rescued.

“We can say with more certainty about its chances of survival once we see it regaining normal swimming posture, resting position and appetite,” he said.

Saleem said they would continue to monitor its health condition according to quarantine requirements. If any sign of infectious disease appears, the next course of treatment will be decided.

The seven-year-old spinner dolphin or Stenella longirostris was found along the Tuaran coast about 35km from here at about noon on Wednesday.

He said the dolphin was a bit restless from its ordeal and might have other problems which cannot be diagnosed by external observations.

“I could not see it sleeping. A healthy dolphin rests by floating at the surface, with one eye open.

“After some time, it closes one eye and opens the other one. I have not seen this alternative eye opening and closing activity. Obviously, the dolphin is restless,” he said.

Saleem said BMRI could not establish whether the dolphin belonged to the resident population in Sabah or migrated from other area.

He said the dolphin might have eaten contaminated organisms, suffered exhaustion or sickness, disorientation or injuries from being beached.

Injured dolphin getting care at varsity institute
New Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

KOTA KINABALU: An injured dolphin rescued from Tuaran near here is in a critical condition at a research facility.

A marine life expert said yesterday the mammal, which was at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI), appeared to be stressed and disoriented.

The adult male pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) was found in a mangrove area in Pulau Gandang, Teluk Selamat, Tuaran, about 34km from here on Wednesday.

A team from the state Wildlife Department, Fisheries Department and UMS were deployed to rescue the mammal, which is 2m long and weighed about 70kg. It was later sent to BMRI and placed in a large tank under close supervision by the team.

BMRI director Professor Saleem Mustafa said the dolphin would be kept at the facility to monitor its health and would only be returned to the sea only if it was strong enough.

Saleem said the dolphin seemed restless and did not appear to be sleeping, which were signs of stress.

"There are no visible signs of dehydration, no extreme dryness of skin or skin peeling and cracking. But certainly, there must be some degree of dehydration that we do not know.

"It was not in an emaciated condition, so if the animal is sick, the illness could be recent."

He said BMRI would continue working with other agencies in taking care of the animal and reducing its stress as much as possible.

"We will monitor its health according to quarantine requirements. If there are signs of an infectious disease, the next treatment will be decided."

Read more!

Malaysia: Replacing forests with latex timber clone plantations destroys biodiversity says expert

The Star 28 Dec 12;

GUA MUSANG: Conversion of natural forests to latex timber clone (LTC) plantations completely destroys an area's natural biodiversity and ecology and could wipe out endemic species altogether, said environment and forestry expert Lim Teck Wyn.

“We are talking about thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of species.

“Some are known to be rare, some found only in Kelantan and some only in one specific location.

“If we destroy a locality like that, there is a possibility that the plant would be made extinct immediately,” he warned.

In addition, he said plantations contained very little minor forest produce, such as rattan or bamboo natural resources that the orang asli depend on.

He noted that the law currently allowed forests to be cleared as long as it was replanted with “timber producing trees”.

It would then still be considered a forest reserve, despite the fact that LTCs would drastically change the character of the forest, he said.

“In Peninsular Malaysia, there are plans to create more than 400,000ha of LTCs, while I hear almost 200,000ha has been planned in Kelantan,” he said.

Lim claimed that some of the clearing work done in Kelantan was a violation of the guidelines, with scant regard for the hill slope degree or an environmental impact assessment.

He said very few animals could live in plantations as well, which further affect orang asli villages throughout the area.

“The orang asli don't just live on a dot on the map.

“They live in a more complicated system which encompasses the forest surroundings,” he said.

Orang asli in dire straits
Isabelle Lai The Star 28 Dec 12;

GUA MUSANG: Years of protests have come to naught for an estimated 10,000 orang asli who are living in dire straits due to extensive logging and forest conversion in Kelantan.

Orang asli activists, who have accused the state government of turning a deaf ear to their grouses, are now upping the ante in the battle to have their land rights legally recognised.

One of them, Dendy Johari, 20, claimed that Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat's administration was not taking responsibility for their welfare.

“The MB must understand our problems as they affect us directly, day in and day out. We are not greedy for a lot of land.

“We just want our native territory to be ours and left unspoiled.

“We want to live in a forest full of natural resources.”

He said the orang asli were also disappointed with the state Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) as it had not assisted them despite numerous complaints about logging.

Water tanks were installed at the villages in 2010 but the water ran out within weeks, he claimed.

“We joked that the water tanks in the villages were mere decorative items. What use are they?

“We still rely on the river for our water needs,” he said.

Another orang asli activist, Awir Awe, said their villages, while left untouched, were surrounded by vast areas of logged forest which had been converted to monocrop industrial plantations, including latex timber clone plantations.

This has affected their livelihood as they depended on the forests for their food and materials for their craftwork, medicine and other daily requirements.

The logging, he claimed, had also muddied the rivers, while pesticide use in plantations had triggered fears of water pollution and health issues.

However, Awir said the orang asli were no longer taking the pillaging of what they deemed as their “native territory (wilayah adat)” lying down.

They are outraged that all of these activities have been done throughout the years with scant regard for their well-being as well as no prior consultation with them.

Awir is one of a rising number of people who have been fighting for their land rights to be legally recognised by the state government.

Memorandums had been sent, protests and blockades held, and complaints made but to no avail, he claimed.

“Now we are compiling evidence of the history of our occupation in this territory to show how we have used the land for years. Then we will bring this to the court, we will never give up,” he said.

He said they had also documented the chronology of events whenever a new area had been breached, including details about the company involved and the complaints made.

Due to the logging, Awir said even small animals such as squirrels, monkeys and wildboar that the orang asli hunted for food were becoming rare.

“It takes us six hours to hunt for game. When the rivers turn muddy, our rice turns red when we cook it because we have no other water source,” he said.

Kg Guling resident Adi Buru, 54, said all land surrounding the village had been converted into an oil palm plantation without prior engagement with the orang asli.

“Because of the polluted river as well, our children have worms in their stomachs and often have diarrhoea,” he said.

Kelantan has tried to improve the lives of orang asli
The Star 28 Dec 12;

PETALING JAYA: The Kelantan government has tried to bring development to the orang asli in Gua Musang and change their lives for the better through its plantation schemes, said state exco member Datuk Nik Amar Nik Abdullah.

He said the state government had hoped that the orang asli would find jobs working in the oil palm plantations where they could earn around RM300 to RM500 a month.

“But they are not interested. There are jobs, but the companies are forced to take in foreign workers,” he said in an interview.

Nik Amar said the orang asli found it “very difficult to open themselves to change”, adding that plantation work would offer them permanent jobs.

When asked about their unhappiness about the ongoing logging and forest conversion, he said he understood their feelings.

“But if all the forests cannot be touched, how is the Government going to obtain resources?” he asked.

Nik Amar also dismissed the notion that the orang asli deemed the territory around their villages as native territory (wilayah adat), pointing out that this was only applicable in Sabah and Sarawak.

“We will not stop them if they want to file a case against us. But we have acted according to the law,” he said.

He expressed hope that the orang asli can adapt to changing times and stop relying on the forests.

“It's better for them to take a chance, join the development. Their kids need education and a better life,” he said.

State Housing, Public Works, Utility and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Anizam Abd Rahman said he would verify with Jakoa and the land office on all the claims made by the orang asli.

Read more!

China boom savages South China Sea coral reefs: study

(AFP) Google News 27 Dec 12;

SYDNEY — China's economic boom has seen its coral reefs shrink by at least 80 percent over the past 30 years, a joint Australian study found, with researchers describing "grim" levels of damage and loss.

Scientists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology said their survey of mainland China and South China Sea reefs showed alarming degradation.

"We found that coral abundance has declined by at least 80 percent over the past 30 years on coastal fringing reefs along the Chinese mainland and adjoining Hainan Island," said the study, published in the latest edition of the journal Conservation Biology.

"On offshore atolls and archipelagos claimed by six countries in the South China Sea, coral cover has declined from an average of greater than 60 percent to around 20 percent within the past 10-15 years," it added.

Coastal development, pollution and overfishing linked to the Asian giant's aggressive economic expansion were the major drivers, the authors said, describing a "grim picture of decline, degradation and destruction".

"China's ongoing economic expansion has exacerbated many wicked environmental problems, including widespread habitat loss due to coastal development, unsustainable levels of fishing and pollution," the study said.

Coral loss in the South China Sea -- where reefs stretch across some 30,000 square kilometres (12,000 square miles) -- was compounded by poor governance stemming from competing territorial claims.

Some marine parks aimed at conservation had been established but study author Terry Hughes said they were too small and too far apart to arrest the decline in coral cover.

"The window of opportunity to recover the reefs of the South China Sea is closing rapidly, given the state of degradation revealed in this study," he said.

More than 30 years of unbridled economic growth has left large parts of China environmentally devastated, with the nation suffering from some of the most severe air, water and land pollution in the world, global studies have shown.

Such destruction has led to widespread local frustration and a number of protests, some of which have succeeded in getting proposed new factories and facilities cancelled or postponed.

The government has laid out a road map to transform China's development mode to one that is more environmentally friendly and less dependent on headlong economic growth.

The South China Sea is strategically significant, home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in resources.

China claims most of the sea including waters near the shores of its neighbours. Rival claimants include Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and tensions over the issue have flared in recent years.

China's corals doomed
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Science Alert 3 Jan 13;

Overfishing, pollution and unrestrained coastal development have contributed to the decline of 80 per cent of China's coral reefs. Researchers refer to this as a 'wicked problem' given the window of opportunity to save them is closing rapidly.
Image: Mark_Doh/iStockphoto

The first comprehensive survey of the state of corals along mainland China and in the South China Sea reports a grim picture of decline, degradation and destruction resulting from coastal development, pollution and overfishing.

A new study by Professor Terry Hughes and Matthew Young of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University, and Dr Hui Huang of the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, published in the prestigious journal Conservation Biology describes the situation as a ‘wicked problem’ – meaning it has no easy solutions.

“A wicked problem is one that is very hard to solve without having a whole lot of other foreseen and unforeseen consequences to people, industries and to the environment itself,” Prof Hughes explains.

“China’s ongoing economic expansion has exacerbated many wicked environmental problems, including widespread habitat loss due to coastal development, unsustainable levels of fishing, and pollution,” the report states.

“We found that coral abundance has declined by at least 80 per cent over the past 30 years on coastal fringing reefs along the Chinese mainland and adjoining Hainan Island. On offshore atolls and archipelagos claimed by six countries in the South China Sea, coral cover has declined from an average of >60 per cent to around 20 per cent within the past 10-15 years,” it says

“So far, climate change has affected these reefs far less than coastal development, pollution, overfishing, and destructive fishing practices. Ironically, these widespread declines in the condition of reefs are unfolding as China’s research and reef-management capacity are rapidly expanding.”

The corals of the South China Sea region cover an area of 30,000 square kilometres, have high conservation values, and support the livelihoods of tens of thousands of fishers. The fact that some reefs are claimed by several different countries makes conservation and management particularly difficult.

“Typically, when a coral reef degrades it is taken over by seaweeds – and from there, experience has shown, it is very hard to return it to its natural coral cover. The window of opportunity to recover the reefs of the South China Sea is closing rapidly, given the state of degradation revealed in this study,” Prof Hughes says.

The scientists conclude that the loss of coral cover in the South China Sea, as elsewhere, is due mainly to a failure of governance on the part of the nations responsible for the marine environment.

China and other countries in the region have recently established a number of marine parks, but they are too small and too far apart to prevent the decline in coral cover, he adds.

“Governing wicked problems becomes more challenging as they increase in extent from local to regional or global scales, particularly where institutions are weak or nonexistent,” the scientists caution. Cases such as the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by six different countries, highlight the dilemma.

“There is no quick fix to a wicked problem as complex as securing a sustainable future for coral reefs in China and the South China Sea,” they add.

“We suggest that governance of China’s coastal reefs can be improved by increasing public awareness, by legal and institutional reform that promotes progressive change, by providing financial support for training of reef scientists and managers, expanding monitoring of coral reef status and dynamics, and by enforcing existing regulations that protect reef ecosystems.”

They suggest that China’s centralised system of government is well-placed to quickly rescue the region’s imperilled coral reefs in collaboration with neighbouring countries – but this will require innovative leadership and strong public support.

Their article “The Wicked Problem of China’s Disappearing Coral Reefs” by Terry P. Hughes, Hui Huang and Matthew A.L. Young appears in the online edition of Conservation Biology.

Map of the South China Sea coral regions at:

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Gales to wreak more havoc in Indonesia

Such winds caused 36 deaths and displaced more than 27,000 this year
Zakir Hussain Straits Times 28 Dec 12;

JAKARTA - Residents of Sumput in Sidoarjo, East Java, already forced to stay home because of heavy rain on Wednesday afternoon, got a double whammy when a sudden gale-force wind struck their village, toppling trees and electric cables and blowing the roofs off several houses.

No one was injured, but such strong winds - less deadly than tropical cyclones or tornadoes - have been identified by disaster officials as a growing and destructive weather threat.

The national agency for disaster management (BNPB) projects that such gale-force winds are set to cause more damage in the near future, going by their increasing frequency in recent years.

The forecast comes as officials nationwide urge residents to brace themselves for extreme weather over the next few months, which coincide with the annual rainy season.

The BNPB recorded 14 instances of such winds - referred to as "puting beliung" in Indonesia - in 2002, 122 in 2007, and 259 this year - before Wednesday.

"We expect the threat to grow in tandem with the rising impact of climate change globally," said Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the head of the BNPB's data centre.

"We're still trying to understand the phenomenon," he added. "Alas, these are still near-impossible to detect in advance, as they often last under 10 minutes and cover an area with a radius of less than 2km."

He told The Straits Times that global warming has led the tropics to expand over the past 30 years, and has also resulted in the formation of larger anvil-shaped cumulonimbus clouds, which are associated with thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.

Scientists in the United States have also said that climate change could spawn more tornadoes in future.

In Indonesia, such winds killed 36 people this year - mostly a result of falling trees or roofs - and displaced more than 27,000.

Some 115 million people spread over 404 regencies and cities are in areas at risk of such winds, Dr Sutopo added.

The highest-risk areas are located along the coast: the western coast of Sumatra, the northern coast of Java - where Jakarta and several major cities are located - East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi.

Dr Sutopo said his agency is in discussions with the Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology on developing a warning system for such whirlwinds.

"At the moment, we can only urge people to stay clear of trees or billboards during heavy rain," he added.

BNPB data also shows that 232 people died in floods or landslides, or a combination of both, so far this year. Another 28 died as a result of earthquakes, of which there were no major ones this year.

BMKG chief Sri Woro Harijono also announced that Jakarta is expected to see average monthly rainfall of 200mm to 300mm until April.

Officials are preparing supplies for those who may be displaced, and also getting down to cleaning drains and sewers so that water can flow off quickly.

"The government can only manage these disasters; it cannot prevent or predict them," said Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono, who oversees agencies dealing with climate and rescue concerns.

But Dr Sutopo is worried that many still fail to take precautions to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, such as using sturdy building material that can withstand quakes and strong winds.

"We are also quick to forget, and become complacent," he said. "For instance, we fail to see that littering in rivers contributes to flooding until it's too late."

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Thousands flee Malaysia floods, dam wall broken

(AFP) Google News 26 Dec 12;

KUALA LUMPUR — Floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains in Malaysia forced almost 14,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter at relief centres, the official Bernama news agency said Wednesday.

Heavy rain coinciding with high tide flooded hundreds of homes in three northeastern states -- Terengganu, Pahang and Kelantan -- with some 13,746 people moved to evacuation centres, it said amid forecasts of more downpours.

Bernama said the flood situation was deteriorating as the number of evacuees continued to rise and some major roads in Pahang were closed as rivers burst their banks.

Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, the meteorological department's weather forecast director, warned that there could be more rain in Terengganu, Pahang and southern Johor state in the next few days.

"We expect intermittent rain to heavy showers in (some parts of) the states," he told AFP, adding that the northeast monsoon season would last until March and the affected states could experience at least three more "heavy rain" episodes.

Part of the $108 million Paya Peda irrigation dam wall under construction in Terengganu had to be broken to release pressure, according to Bernama.

The move caused flash floods in some parts of the oil-rich state.

Bernama also reported that a 36-year-old woman had drowned in Terengganu after she slipped and fell into a rain-swollen river on Tuesday while fishing in a water-logged area. No other deaths from the floods have been reported so far.

In the Pahang state capital Kuantan, thousands of people and some businesses were affected by flash flooding after three days of continuous rain, forcing around 3,000 people to relief centres housed in schools and community halls, where hot meals and blankets were provided.

Hundreds of motorists were caught in the floods which caused massive traffic jams, while hundreds of cars in parking lots and underground parking areas were submerged by fast-rising water.

Nagandran Bangariah, 31, from Kuantan said the floods he had seen there were the worst he had experienced in ten years.

"It was a terrible sight. There was rubbish floating everywhere. Motorists struggled to get their cars to high ground," he told AFP.

"Today, a major clean-up is going on. Furniture showrooms in Kuantan were dumping their damaged sofa sets and cabinets. My neighbour is busy cleaning his house after water and mud entered his home," he said.

Razali Sulong, a 52-year-old flood evacuee in Pahang state said he had sought shelter at a school along with his wife and five children.

"Floods are an annual affair for us but this time the water rose very fast.

"We have been staying for two days at the evacuation centre where food and blankets were provided," he said.

Razali said the family was preparing to return home Wednesday as flood water has receded but knew that from past experiences there would be at least two more rounds of flash floods before the monsoon season ends.

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Malaysia: Egging on the terrapin revival

The Star 27 Dec 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: WWF-Malaysia’s conservation efforts of the painted terrapins have produced significant results, said its executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma.

A “buy back” scheme where the organisation purchases terrapin eggs and turtle eggs from the collectors has led to the conservation of terrapins and turtles by preventing a large number of eggs being eaten, he said.

He said that about 10 nesting locations were handed over to WWF-Malaysia in 2009 by egg collectors in Kuala Baru Utara and Mengabang Sekepeng.

Since last year, WWF-Malaysia had been in charge of 101 terrapin nesting locations.

“Our efforts have increased the population of terrapins by around 78%,” he said.

Setiu, located in the east coast, has the largest area of natural wetlands.

This is where a large number of painted terrapins live.

The terrapin, also known as the painted batagur or the saw-jawed turtle (Batagur borneoensis), is a species of turtle that belongs to the Geoemydidae family.

The wetlands comprise the brackish water ecosystems of Setiu, Chalok, Bari and Merang rivers, and a 14km long lagoon.

That ecosystem has a number of species of marine life, including shellfish and commercial fish such as ikan kerapu (grouper or garoupa).

Setiu’s lagoon is a breeding ground for terrapins and it has the most number of painted terrapins in the country.

It is also home to the southern river terrapin (Batagur affinis) and the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Terrapins and turtles are endangered species.

Dr Sharma said the Fisheries Department, WWF-Malaysia and locals were involved in the conservation of painted terrapins.

In 1993, around 200 painted terrapins’ nests were discovered, but two years later, this number dropped to 154.

The figure dropped to 114 in 2009 and only 67 nests were found in 2010.

WWF-Malaysia began its conservation efforts in 2009. The efforts led to an increase in the number of nestling locations. A total of 165 painted terrapins’ nests were discovered last year.

Terrapins are herbivores. However, they sometimes feed on fish and small invertebrates. They usually come to the shore at night (between June and August) to lay eggs.

Baby terrapins are allowed to grow in the hatchery until they are six months old. Then, microchips are inserted into the bodies of the baby terrapins before the animals are released into various water bodies.

As of September, WWF-Malaysia has released 80 young terrapins into the wetlands of Sungai Setiu. — Bernama

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Indonesia: Toxic waste pollutes waters off northern coast of Batam

Antara 26 Dec 12;

Batam (ANTARA News) - Toxic and harmful (B3) waste is polluting the waters off the northern coast of Batam, Riau Islands, and damaging the mangrove ecosystem of Putri Island.

The hazardous pollutant, in the form of black sticky oil, covered up the leaves and stems of mangrove saplings recently planted by the environmentalists on the island.

"Some of the mangrove saplings that we had recently planted withered and died due to it," said Evy R. Syamsir, an environmental activist, here on Wednesday.

He noted that the saplings were planted last week and had already taken root, before the pollutant had a destructive effect on them.

"The black oil has also tainted the rocks, the floating seaweeds and the beaches around the island, which will have a negative impact on the tourism sector," Evy stated.

Meanwhile, Barelang district resident Sukmawati said: "The oil sticks to my son`s shirt, and it is hard to clean."

She was not aware that the clear seawater of Putri Island was contaminated with pollutants.

Marine observer Eddiwan stated that approximately 365,000 tonnes of waste were disposed of in Riau Islands waters.

"The figure comes from the assumption that 10,000 ships passed by Riau Islands everyday and each of them disposed of 10kg of waste in the year 2010," he explained.

Eddiwan noted that the number of ships passing by Riau Islands had significantly risen over the past two years.

"The toxic waste, generated from offshore ship-cleaning activities, cannot dissolve and will eventually reach the shores," he continued.

"A lot of waste substances are not dissolvable, but people treat the sea as a garbage bin," Eddiwan said.

He stated that mangrove plantation was necessary to protect the island from environmental damage.

"The tree and the bacteria living around it can process and dissolve harmful pollutants," Eddiwan added.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Short-lived scorpions
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NGOs roped in to combat litter menace

Volunteers will undergo training, be empowered to take enforcement action against litterbugs
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 26 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE - Senior members of non-government organisations such as the Waterways Watch Society (WWS) and the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) have been roped in to undergo training to combat the litter menace.

Last month, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan wrote on his blog that, under the National Environment Agency's (NEA) new empowerment scheme, it will start conducting a "special training course" in January for senior members of environmental NGOs. For a start, more than 20 members from the WWS and SEC could be involved, TODAY understands.

The NEA's new scheme comes as the WWS - which is currently active at Kallang Riverside Park - hopes to set up another office at the Punggol housing estate, to help keep the precinct's award-winning waterway project free from litter.

After completing training, these volunteers will be issued authority cards which will enable them to "identify and take enforcement action against recalcitrant persons who insist on littering", as Dr Balakrishnan had put it.

In response to TODAY's queries, the NEA said the volunteers' training will be similar to that of its officers.

"The training will cover the respective legislation, the rules of engagement and enforcement procedures. The training will include both theory and practical sessions to equip the volunteers with the skills and knowledge to undertake their duties," an NEA spokesperson said.

She added that the NEA is "finalising the details of the recruitment" for the volunteers. The empowerment scheme will be rolled out in tandem with enhanced fines for littering. From March, the fines for first-time offenders will increase from S$300 to S$500.

WWS founder Eugene Heng, 63, said his NGO will recommend "less than 10 per cent" of its 260 members for the scheme. Mr Heng said that he understands that the prospective volunteers will first be interviewed by the NEA, before they undergo training.

He said: "We should not make the training so complex, as these are all volunteers here. Apart from equipping them with an understanding of the rules, more importantly we have to teach them how to approach people. We have to make them understand how not to abuse this enforcement privilege. We don't want to create a whole new force of vigilantes."

Mr Heng, who also sits on the Public Hygiene Council, said the council may also get involved with the NEA's new scheme in some form.

"We are targeting council members to help monitor and enforce. Whenever possible, we will get the members to share and speak out against littering. Aggressive enforcement is a last resort," he said.

"Ultimately, we should have a network of different representatives from all strata of society to combat this, instead of just relying on NGOs, and I have also shared this with the NEA."

SEC Executive Director Jose Raymond said the NEA had approached his organisation to assist in the empowerment scheme. For now, three of the SEC's staff members will be trained under the scheme.

"But this can increase depending on our workload for the year and our other projects," he said.

Mr Raymond reiterated that it is essential that the volunteers are trained "on how to approach members of the public when they spot the offender and ... how to manage difficult members of the public who may turn nasty or abusive".

He added: "Public cleanliness remains an issue which needs to be dealt with, and through various possible options ... We hope that with more hands on deck, and from ground up, we will be able to help bring about a cleaner Singapore."

Meanwhile, Mr Heng said his NGO plans to set up its second office at Punggol estate in "two to three months".

Currently, the WWS has an office under Merdeka Bridge and helps to watch over the Kallang Riverside Park. Thirty of its members were issued volunteer cards by the National Parks Board (NParks) and national water agency PUB, to enable them to approach members of the public to advise them not to litter, among other things.

Said NParks' Parks Director Chia Seng Jiang: "The WWS encourages park users to dispose of rubbish into bins and report instances of illegal entry into parks by motorised vehicles and damage to park property. The WWS also organises park clean-up activities at Kallang Riverside Park, and we have since noticed less litter there."

Mr Heng said that as more people move into Punggol, there is a risk that its waterway could be polluted.

"Punggol leads to two major reservoirs, Punggol Reservoir and Serangoon Reservoir ... So if we don't do well (to keep the waters clean), it's a lose-lose situation," he said. Additional reporting by Tan Weizhen

Weekly patrols to clean up waterways
by Woo Sian Boon
Soft-drink bottles and cans, balls, safety cones, and even car bumpers and a lamp. These are some of the items dumped into the Kallang River Basin which volunteers from Waterways Watch Society (WWS) have fished up over the years.

Set up 15 years ago, the environment group, consisting of 260 volunteers, has been going on weekly patrols to clean the waterway of litter so that it is safe for users - despite being mistaken at times for litterbugs serving their Corrective Work Orders. Split into land and water teams, the volunteers also look out for oil spills and other pollutants released into the river from drains on their rounds, and then pass on the information to relevant agencies.

Still, some trickier concerns remain, noted WWS founder Eugene Heng. For instance, with the PUB authorising more fishing spots recently - including the Marina Reservoir - fishing lines and hooks can pose a danger to those engaging in water sports, he said.

"The fishing lines might entangle in boat engines, kayakers can step on fishing hooks or even get cut by the lines if they fall into the water," said Mr Heng. WOO SIAN BOON

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