Best of our wild blogs: 31 Oct 12

AMLive interview and basket star at the Northern Expedition Day 16 from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Filefish Feeding
from Pulau Hantu and Slipper Lobster

Talks at National Junior College High
from Pulau Hantu

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NParks to get companies, schools to volunteer with green activities

Sing Geok Shan Channel NewsAsia 30 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Starting next year, a new National Parks Boards (NParks) initiative will help companies and schools do good while reaping the benefits of nature.

The Nature Cares programme will match corporate staff and student volunteers with welfare organisations and to create activities that can help protect the environment.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam launched the programme on Tuesday at St Theresa's Home in Upper Thomson.

As the residents of the home for elders are less mobile, volunteers brought a little nature indoors.

Keppel Group employees and students from Queenstown Primary School showed the senior citizens how plants can be grown on driftwood.

NParks said activities will be tailored to match the needs of beneficiaries.

For instance, if volunteering organisations are paired with a children's home, suggested activities could be guided nature walks or rollerblading in the parks.

As with gardening, the programme is a long-term commitment.

Organisations which are joining the programme will have to pledge at least a year's support so that the interaction with the beneficiaries can be sustained.

Calling the initiative a "very worthwhile effort", President Tan hopes that more can volunteer and contribute based on their strengths and interests.

He said: "What is important is to let people know that working for the community doesn't only mean giving money, which is important, or making a donation, but also giving of your time, your energy, your special skills and in that way, everybody can make a contribution in their own area of interest."

Volunteers also picked up new knowledge from their stint.

"I found it very interesting because it's my first time planting air plants (plants which do not root in soil)," said Benjamin Seet, a Primary 5 student volunteer from Queenstown Primary School.

"I like to help the elderly with what they are doing. It helps to make them more active and it will help to bring a smile to their faces."

- CNA/ck/xq

NParks makes volunteering a walk in the park
Pearl Lee Straits Times 31 Oct 12;

TAKING a walk in the park with the elderly may not sound like a typical student-volunteer activity, but that is one of the options available under the new Nature Cares programme of the National Parks Board (NParks).

The programme partners staff from corporations with student volunteers to reach out to community groups, such as the elderly or children with special needs, through nature-related events.

Activities range from community gardening and nature walks to in-line skating and art and craft with plants. The programme calls for a minimum one-year commitment from both organisations and schools to their beneficiaries.

Dr Leong Chee Chiew, NPark's deputy CEO and commissioner of parks and recreation, said it wanted to "connect corporations, children and the community in a sustained and structured platform".

Speaking at the launch at St Theresa's Home in Upper Thomson yesterday, he said he hoped the programme would reap the benefits that nature can bring.

"Studies show that contact with nature confers health benefits," he said.

He also noted that while the rate of volunteerism has risen, young working adults form the lowest percentage of volunteers. This programme would change that in years to come, he believed.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who graced the event, commended NPark's efforts. He said the plan, which begins its pilot run in January, "not only introduces the residents of St Theresa's Home to a fun activity, but also gives them some companionship".

Already, it looks like it will be a success. Madam Bertha Hang, 64, a resident of the home since 2004, described the morning event with the students and volunteers as a "very nice and wonderful experience". She said: "I like nature, plants and animals. I like to admire the plants."

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Citizens' safety key factor in Singapore nuclear power study

'Deliberate and extensive' 2-year process looked at range of technologies and risks
Grace Chua Straits Times 31 Oct 12;

A STUDY which ruled out Singapore's use of nuclear power for now took two years to complete because those involved had to understand the full range of technologies and evaluate the risks.

The main factor in deciding to forgo the nuclear option for now concerns the safety of Singaporeans, said one expert in the national nuclear pre-feasibility study, which started in 2010.

Another said newer, safer power- plant designs may one day be applicable to Singapore if they become proven technologies.

This month, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said in Parliament that current nuclear-energy technologies were not suitable here and that the risks, given the country's size and dense population, outweigh benefits.

The study recommended that Singapore continue to monitor new technologies and develop capabilities in technology and emergency response.

A Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) spokesman said it was a "deliberate and extensive" two-year process that involved government agencies, external consultants and expert advisers.

Each of the three independent experts has more than 40 years of experience in nuclear energy.

Mr Konstantin Foskolos is former deputy head of nuclear energy and safety research at the Paul Scherrer Institute, a Swiss research institute.

The other two are Dr Gail Marcus, formerly of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, and Dr Dennis Berry, nuclear energy programmes director emeritus of the US' Sandia National Laboratories.

The study addressed aspects such as security and risk assessment, regulatory regimes, management of radioactive waste and emergency planning but did not generate specific figures for costs and risks.

Mr Foskolos said environmental impact did not affect significantly the decisions. "The main factor for the decision of the Government was the need to ensure the safety of the population."

There are no global standards that restrict populations around nuclear- power plants, the MTI noted. Some plants in the United States, Canada and Switzerland have towns within a 5km radius.

The study did not focus only on big costly reactors, said Mr Foskolos. It also included small modular reactors and reactors of various technologies, such as gas- and liquid metal-cooled reactors, which are still under development.

Said Dr Berry: "For nearly every country considering a new nuclear-power plant, today's designs are judged to be quite safe.

"But these designs have not been demonstrated and have not received regulatory scrutiny. Some of these 'futuristic' designs may some day be found acceptable to Singapore."

Dr Marcus noted that the performance claims of many new designs cannot be verified yet and not all are likely to be commercialised successfully.

"So it would be premature for Singapore to make decisions on such technologies at this time," she added.

The MTI spokesman also said that in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March 2011, "we also took the opportunity to include preliminary lessons learnt from the accident".

Currently, about 80 per cent of electricity here is generated from natural gas, with the rest linked to fuel oil and other sources such as waste.

Regional countries poised for nuclear energy
Straits Times 31 Oct 12;

EVEN as some countries have scaled back nuclear-energy plans in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, others, especially in South-east Asia, are forging ahead.

Singapore's immediate neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia are keen to develop the sector.

Malaysia is studying the possibility of operating two 1-gigawatt nuclear reactors, with the first expected to be operational by 2021. A feasibility study, including the selection of potential sites and development of infrastructure plans, is now underway.

Indonesia has been building capabilities in nuclear energy since the 1960s. Its nuclear agency has its eye on two sites in Java - Muria and Banten - and one in Bangka off Sumatra.

Farther afield, Vietnam may get South-east Asia's first nuclear power plant. It has awarded contracts for plants to be built by the 2020s and intends to build 10 nuclear reactors by 2030.

Singapore's nuclear pre-feasibility study recommended that it play an active role on issues of nuclear safety.

In 2010, Asean set up a nuclear-energy cooperation network.

Singapore is also part of the Asian Nuclear Safety Network and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an inter-governmental group for cooperation on nuclear safety and security.


An underground plant may be safer from attacks
Straits Times 31 Oct 12;

SITING a nuclear power plant underground may be the best option should Singapore decide to build one, said a National University of Singapore civil engineering professor who has done research on the topic.

Professor Andrew Clennel Palmer said an underground facility could be safer from terrorist and aircraft attacks than one on the surface, and that Singapore has experience building infrastructure below-ground - such as the MRT system and caverns for storing oil and munitions.

In a talk at the Asia Future Energy Forum last week, part of Singapore International Energy Week, he outlined the pros and cons of generating electricity from nuclear energy here.

Singapore, said the petroleum-engineering expert and Keppel Professor of civil engineering at NUS, is currently almost wholly dependent on fossil fuels. But nuclear energy produces no carbon-dioxide emissions and does not contribute to climate change. "Singapore is a strong and disciplined country, it could keep a nuclear power plant safe," he said.

But the country could also rely on natural gas, especially from unconventional sources, for a long time yet.

He has assessed 19 sites islandwide from Tuas to Pulau Tekong for suitability to house a nuclear power plant, based on factors from population density and proximity to neighbouring countries to risks of terrorism and tsunamis.

Together with colleagues, he is working on a book about the metropolitan siting of nuclear reactors, supported by a Ministry of Education research grant. It will be published next year.


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Indonesia: Coastal birds go urban

Dinda Btari Jakarta Post 30 Oct 12;

One lunchtime in Medan, Marjoko from the North Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Environment Forum pointed to a flock of coastal birds now becoming “urban birds” on the city’s outskirts, Deli Serdang regency. “They shouldn’t be here. They’ve flown here only to find something to eat. Their mangrove habitat has been destroyed,” he said with deep concern.

Mangrove forests in Indonesia constitute 75 percent of Southeast Asia’s mangrove area, or 27 percent of that of the world’s. Indonesian mangroves, according to Marjoko, have the highest diversity in the world.

Mostly covering the coastal regions of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, Indonesia has around 9.36 million hectares (ha) of mangrove forests, but 48% is categorized as “moderately damaged” and 23% as “badly damaged”.

In North Sumatra, one of the provinces with the largest mangrove areas, 77 percent are reported to be severely damaged, and 13 percent moderately damaged, leaving only a paltry 36,000 ha (10 percent) in good condition.

The decline shows a real degradation of mangrove forests, progressing annually at the rate of around 200,000 ha, due to conversion into fish ponds and oil palm estates, the charcoal industry and illegal logging. Weak law enforcement and graft has strengthened corporate control over mangrove swamps, resulting in environmental damage and the destruction of coastal communities.

The forests are shrinking in the eastern coastal region of Sumatra too, destroying potential resources and the diversity of mangrove forest vegetation, while obliterating the environmental protection aspects of the mangroves.

To restore the mangrove forests, the damage needs to be clearly measured. Local communities must join in conservation efforts. Mangrove land is vital in lessening global warming and climate change.

Indonesia ratified the international Convention on Wetlands by presidential decree in 1991, but conservation of mangrove forests hasn’t been properly implemented and their destruction through estate and pond expansion hasn’t been stopped or even slowed by law enforcement.

The law on environment protection and management was also introduced in 2009, including its enforcement. The 1999 Forestry Law prohibits tree felling within a certain distance from the shore. Today, mangrove wildlife reserve zones where some migratory birds stop over are also considerably damaged.

“Mangrove forest degradation on the eastern coast of North Sumatra is so serious and the rate of deforestation is so alarming that the habitat for wild birds is now gone. Such coastal birds as great-billed herons, purple herons, pied herons, striated herons, gray-crowned night herons, Malay herons, white-tailed kingfishers and little egrets are forced to move to safer urban areas to survive,” Marjoko raged.

The Cemara Asri luxury housing complex on the fringes of Medan is an area that could become an alternative habitat for wild birds. The management has reserved a plot of 5 ha as a reserve for wild birds. The land, worth billions of rupiah, is now a luxury home for birds from the coast of Langkat and Deli Serdang.

“There’re at least 5,000 birds of many different species now in the new habitat at Cemara Asri. This location is also a tourist and student destination, with facilities for monitoring and research. This kind of thing should happen in every new development,” he said.

Istanto, head of the North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA), admitted the loss of 30 percent of mangroves in Langkat, even in Karang Gading wildlife reserve, to oil palm estates and ponds. Istanto has promised to overcome the issue by arresting those involved, but so far nothing has been done.

The partial solution to some of the forest damage is replanting in ravaged areas, which according to Istanto has been carried out since 2010, with one million mangrove trees already planted. A model conservation village has been initiated in Tanjung Ibas, by providing seedlings and cattle. The community is now cooperating with local rangers for joint patrols in the wildlife reserve and mangroves.

Protected forest and conservation zone utilization coordinator of the provincial BKSDA, Ida Marni, said the destruction of mangroves had caused local people, particularly farmers, to lose their source of livelihood, besides the source of food for coastal birds.

“Oil palms pose a major threat. Similarly, coastal bird habitat has been occupied by men. Everybody should work together and share the vision of safeguarding nature — the source of income of coastal farmers and fishermen — against harm,” she added.

Fauzan, of the Mangrove Forest Management Center (BPHM) said his office had been training regional and national conservation groups while managing mangrove areas as resources for ecotourism, such as those in Hamlet II, Sei Nagalawan village, Deli Serdang.

Meanwhile, Conservation Mentality (Come), set up in 2008, has been drilling conservation ideas into students and the communities who face the impact of the destruction.

“Beginning with students, we are trying to teach people in Pakpak Bharat regency, which is a conservation zone, to respect and preserve nature, because it is for their own good. 85 percent of the area is forestland,” said Jenny RL Berutu, director of Come.

In North Sumatra, Come is replanting mangroves in Pantai Gading village, Sicanggang district, and Tanjung Ibus village.

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U.N. urges foreign fishing fleets to halt "ocean grabbing"

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 31 Oct 12;

"Ocean grabbing" or aggressive industrial fishing by foreign fleets is a threat to food security in developing nations where governments should do more to promote local, small-scale fisheries, a study by a U.N. expert said on Tuesday.

The report said emerging nations should tighten rules for access to their waters by an industrial fleet that is rapidly growing and includes vessels from China, Russia, the European Union, the United States and Japan.

"Ocean-grabbing is taking place," Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food and the report's author, told Reuters. "It's like land-grabbing, just less discussed and less visible."

The 47-page report on "Fisheries and the Right to Food", which said 15 percent of all animal protein consumed worldwide is from fish, will be presented to the U.N. General Assembly.

De Schutter said ocean grabbing involved "shady access agreements that harm small-scale fishers, unreported catch, incursions into protected waters, and the diversion of resources away from local populations."

The report cited the example of islands in the western and central Pacific that get only about 6 percent of the value of a $3 billion tuna fishery off their coasts. Foreign fishing fleets get the rest.

Equally, Guinea-Bissau nets less than 2 percent of the value of the fish caught off its coast under a deal with the EU. De Schutter said some countries where industrial fleets were based were already taking steps to tighten laws.

"What's getting worse is that the capacity of industrial fishing fleets is increasing," he said. Governments give an estimated $30-34 billion in subsidies to fishing each year.

That money is often spent on boat-building or fuel that skews competition.

"We need to do more to reduce the capacity of the industrial fishing fleets and to manage the fish stocks in a much more sustainable way," said de Schutter. Food security is also at risk from threats such as climate change and pollution, he said.


De Schutter said aquaculture was disproportionately concentrated in Asia which is responsible for 88 percent of all production. "Extremely little has been done in Africa and Latin America in particular. There is a huge potential there," he said.

Fisheries received less attention than farming, he suggested, partly because the sector employed only about 200 million people globally. By contrast, the world has 1.5 billion small-scale farmers, he said.

The report said that local fishing was more efficient and less wasteful than industrial fishing, urging measures to promote small-scale fishing such as the creation of "artisanal fishing zones".

"Small-scale fishers actually catch more fish per gallon of fuel than industrial fleets, and discard fewer fish," it said. It praised some measures which have already been taken to promote local fishing - such as in Cambodia's biggest lake or off the Maldives.

Estimates of the scale of illegal catches range from 10-28 million metric tons, while some 7.3 million metric tons, or almost 10 percent of global wild fish catches were discarded as unwanted by-catches every year, the report said.

It said industrial fishing was by far the most wasteful.

Total global fish production was about 143 million metric tons - 90 million from wild fish catches and 53 million from fish farming, the report said.

De Schutter said fish farming would have to expand to feed a rising world population, now just above 7 billion. Population growth would raise demand by a forecast 27 million metric tons over the next two decades, he said.

(Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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"Wild West" timber trade threatens Congo forests: report

Jonny Hogg PlanetArk 29 Oct 12;

Officials in Democratic Republic of Congo are colluding with foreign logging firms to support illegal logging, harming local communities and risking the destruction of the world's second largest forest, a report by a campaign group says.

Derelict ports in Congo's riverside capital Kinshasa are piled high with logs ready to be shipped out to China and Europe as part of the lucrative timber trade.

Much of the timber has been harvested using permits signed by the ministry of environment in direct contravention of Congolese law, advocacy group Global Witness said in the report.

Congo's forest is part of the Congo Basin that spans six countries in the central Africa region covering about 500 million hectares, over 130 million of which is in the Congo. It contains thousands of species and a quarter of the world's remaining tropical forest.

According to the report on Thursday so-called artisanal logging permits - meant only for small scale tree felling by Congolese nationals - are being awarded to foreign firms.

The companies then use industrial methods to cut and export large quantities of wood out of the country, while sidestepping the environmental and social obligations demanded of industrial logging operations.

Attempts to bring order to Congo's chaotic forestry sector have seen a ban on all new industrial logging licenses since 2002, but this has done little to improve the situation according to Colin Robertson, one of the report's authors.

"Basically this is a new system to get around the moratorium... Officials have been giving out artisanal permits to industrial loggers, and it's created a completely chaotic situation in the forests," he told Reuters.

Robertson said that licenses seen by Global Witness - many of them for Chinese or Lebanese companies - had been signed by a former environment minister.

"Wild West"

In the heavily forested province of Bandundu at least 146 artisanal logging permits have been issued in the last 2 years according to the report, which also shows evidence of some firms having cut far more than is allowed by artisanal licenses.

Local chiefs are paid off with anything from motor bikes or beer to allow the trees to be felled, while rural communities see no benefit at all, the report states.

Congolese conservationists say the situation is as bad if not worse elsewhere in the country, which is home to 86 million hectares of forest.

Victor Vundu, director of the ministry of environment's legal team said they were working on clarifying and tightening up legislation under a new minister.

"It's not surprising, in a post conflict country where the administration has been really weakened, that the state should be accused of not sufficiently controlling the application of the law," he said.

Industrial logging output from Congo has dropped in recent years and currently stands at around 350,000 m3 per year, as companies say that without far tighter regulation they cannot compete with the illegal market.

Congo signed a contract with Swiss company SGS in 2010 to introduce a traceability program for the logging trade, but they are still waiting for the green light from the government to go ahead, according to Lionel Nardon, head of the SGS project in Congo.

Nardon said they had already identified more than 100,000 m3 of illegal wood in Kinshasa's ports and described the sector as being like the "wild west" in which contraband timber is traded in the port before being transported out by lorries under the cover of darkness.

"The cost (to the Congo) is millions of dollars, and to the forests, it is incalculable," he said.

(Editing by Bate Felix and James Jukwey)

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Oct 12

Tongue-eating isopod and otters (again) at the Northern Expedition Day 15 from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Introducing the Common Palm Civet Facebook Page!
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Return of the Eight-Spotted Crab Spider
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Random Gallery - Cruiser
from Butterflies of Singapore

Chek Jawa (28 Oct 12)
from teamseagrass

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Dolphin export issue still hangs as Quezon City court postpones hearing anew

Rima Jessamine M. Granali Philippine Daily Inquirer 30 Oct 12;

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society said any delay in the transport of the dolphins to Singapore would be good.

MANILA, Philippines—A Quezon City court postponed on Monday the hearing on the motion for reconsideration to ban the export of 25 show dolphins to Singapore.

Judge Fernando Sagun, Jr. of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 78 rescheduled the hearing for November 12 at 1:30 p.m. because representatives of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Agriculture (DA) and Resorts World Sentosa said they have not yet received a copy of the motion.

The court gave them until November 5 to file a written comment or objection to the motion.

Anna Cabrera, head of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), said any delay in the transport of the dolphins to Singapore would be good. “The whole point of this trial is to protect the interests of the wild,” she added.

Theresa Concepcion, Asia head of the animal rights group Earth Island Institute (EII) said she had mixed emotions on the postponement.

“It’s emotionally stressful and this is not even a human case,” Concepcion said. “It is not acceptable to me that the dolphins would be sacrificed for shallow entertainment and huge income.”

PAWS, EII, Compassion and Responsibility to Animals Welfare Philippines and other activist groups and individuals filed a motion for reconsideration on October 19 after Judge Evangeline Castillo-Marigomen of the Quezon City RTC 101 lifted the Temporary Environmental Protection Order barring the export of the 25 dolphins.

The dolphins from the Solomon Islands were supposed to be transported to Resorts World Sentosa, a giant casino resort in Singapore.

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Shell fined $80,000 for safety lapses that caused Pulau Bukom fire

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Shell Eastern Petroleum was fined $80,000 on Monday for safety lapses that caused a fire at Shell's Pulau Bukom oil refinery in September last year.

The oil giant was found guilty of one count under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

On 28 September 2011, a fire broke out at a pump house at Shell's oil refinery, and spread rapidly with multiple explosions.

The Ministry of Manpower's investigations revealed that the fire was caused by lapses such as an accumulation of flammable vapours and static charges.

Shell used an open draining method during a process called de-oiling, which is used in pipeline maintenance.

This caused flammable vapours to be released into the air, which posed the risk of ignition.

The Ministry added that Shell did not deploy portable gas monitors, which would have alerted staff to dangerous levels of flammable gases.

The fire was fully extinguished the next day after 32 hours of fire-fighting.

Although there were no serious injuries, the pump house was badly damaged and the Bukom refinery had to be temporarily shut down.

In mitigation, Shell, which is represented by WongPartnership, said that it has since "worked closely with the authorities to implement enhanced safety systems", to prevent future incidences.

For failing to ensure the safety of its processes and the premises itself, Shell could be fined up to $500,000 if convicted under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

- CNA/de

Shell fined $80k for work safety lapses
Straits Times 30 Oct 12;

OIL giant Shell was fined $80,000 yesterday for lapses in workplace safety that led to a 32-hour fire at the company's Pulau Bukom oil refinery in September last year.

Court papers stated that while draining a pipeline, its contractors had used a method that allowed flammable gases to accumulate in the air.

The pipeline was connected to a tank of naphtha, a volatile liquid, and passed through a pump house where petroleum products were mixed. The contractors had used metal trays to collect the naphtha flowing out of the tank.

Prosecutors from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that the release of naphtha in this manner not only allowed volatile vapours to escape but also led to an accumulation of static charges, which might have produced a spark to ignite the naphtha vapours.

MOM said Shell had also failed to deploy sufficient portable gas monitors that would have detected the dangerous levels of flammable vapours.

However, prosecutors noted that Shell did conduct a total of five tests with portable gas monitors before the fire broke out at about 1pm on Sept 28. It was put out around 9pm the next day.

Shell had pleaded guilty earlier this month. Its lawyer Christopher de Souza had then argued that before the incident, there was no industry-wide MOM directive which indicated that the methods used by the contractors were unsafe in certain instances.

MOM said the fine of $80,000 is the highest meted out to a company involved in an accident without fatalities or injuries.

MOM is also reviewing the involvement of the two Shell contractors - Mun Siong Engineering and Weishen Industrial Services.

Shell, whose Bukom refinery is its largest worldwide, could have been fined up to $500,000.


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Marine Stewardship Council sets up office in Singapore to promote sustainable seafood

June Yang Today Online 29 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE - The sustainable seafood industry in the region is set to get a boost with the launch of Asia's first branch of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) here.

The MSC is a international, non-profit organisation that runs the world's only certification and ecolabeling program for wild-capture fisheries.

In addition to the Singapore office, it already has branches in London, Seattle, Tokyo, Sydney, The Hague. Glasgow, Cape Town, Paris, Madrid and Stockholm.

Seafood that has earned the MSC ecolabel has been tracked through the supply chain to come from fisheries that are certified to fish responsibly and sustainably.

One of the MSC's goals is to increase the number of MSC-certified products sold in Asia by more than five-fold in the next five years.

Currently, there are 588 products being sold here, an acrease of 5.5 per cent since 2011.

In addition, the MSC will be working towards getting more fisheries in the region certified, said MSC's Asia Regional Director, Mr Kelvin Ng.

Although the certification programs have been a great success elewhere in the globe, particularly in Europe, it has yet to take root in Asia. 60 per cent of certified seafood suppliers come from Euope, 23 per cent from the Americas, but only 16 per cent from the Asia-Pacific region, with the bulk coming from China and Japan where the MSC already has an established presence.

Mr Ng said that the MSC's aims to help Asian consumers become more aware of the MSC ecolabel. "By purchasing and asking seafood suppliers to provide more MSC-labelled products, consumers can be the driving force behind more companies becoming certified," he said.

He added: "We plan to use Singapore as a hub to engage with the rest of Asia. We are confident that, with the help of fisheries, processors, retailers, restaurants and environmental NGOs, before long this region will have many more fisheries engaged and a high penetration of MSC eco-labelled products in the market."

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Clean and Green Singapore 2013 focus on community engagement

Seet Sok Hwee, Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 30 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Community engagement is the focus of Clean and Green Singapore (CGS) 2013, which kicks off November 3.

The public can participate in numerous activities, ranging from recycling craft workshops to environmental fashion shows.

New programmes include a hackathon, where programmers and developers brainstorm ideas to build and launch applications that will help the public adopt eco-friendly practices; and OpenIDEO Challenge, which is an online platform to bring the community together to discuss environmental issues.

There are also more opportunities for individuals to volunteer through various programmes with partners such as the Public Hygiene Council, Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement and Singapore Kindness Movement.

In one of the main campaign activities - a two-day carnival - some 600 volunteers from schools, grassroots organisations and non-governmental organisations are contributing to the preparation and running of the event.

About 90 per cent of the activities will be carried out by volunteers.

The carnival on November 3 at Gardens by the Bay will boast live music performances, exhibitions and workshops to promote green practices.

It also brings together residents from the five districts of Singapore (Central, South West, North West, North East and South East) to showcase their ground-up programmes and community projects from agencies and key non-governmental organisations.

The event is co-organised by NEA, Central Singapore Community Development Council, PUB and National Parks.

NEA is also giving out more awards from November 3 onwards to recognise and commend the efforts of individuals and community groups in areas such as cleanliness and energy-efficiency.

The agency hopes this will encourage more members of the public to go green.

- CNA/fa

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Malaysia - Wanted: Guardians of the forest

New Straits Times 28 Oct 12;

MONITORS: A volunteer corps similar to Askar Wataniah and the police volunteer corps should be introduced to curb illegal logging and poaching in the peninsula, write Arman Ahmad and Tan Choe Choe

THE introduction of a voluntary force of forest rangers will help battle illegal logging and reduce poaching in forests.

As such, the Forestry Department is seriously considering the idea as the lack of manpower for enforcement activities is one of its biggest problems in conservation efforts.

Director-general of Forestry Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Abdul Rahim told the New Sunday Times that out of a 6,000 strong workforce in his department, only a small percentage of staff were foresters and rangers.

It is learnt that only 218 officers throughout the peninsula are tasked with enforcement. There are almost six million hectares of forests in the peninsula. While not all of it is forest reserve, there is still a huge area to be covered by these officers.

Rahman welcomed suggestions to recruit volunteers among the public to help save our forests.

"It is good to get the people involved," he said, adding that the Forestry Department could train these volunteers to become forest rangers.

"There is no money to pay them, but we are willing to send them to school," he said.

Rahman was responding to a suggestion by a New Sunday Times reader that agencies entrusted to take care of our forests and wildlife should join forces and set up a volunteer corps of forest rangers (similar to the volunteers in the army and police force) to better protect the forest and wildlife reserves in the country.

He added that those willing to serve could undergo two years of training for the "pengawas hutan" certificate or undergo a one-year forest ranger programme.

The training is conducted at the Forestry Training Institute in Kepong.

"They can become the eyes and ears of the department in 32 forest districts in the country," he said.

Rahman added that with a starting salary of RM800 a month, not many chose forestry as a career as they could get more lucrative salaries elsewhere.

The idea to have volunteer forest rangers was welcomed by several non-governmental organisations.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) field researcher Meor Razak Meor Rahman said it was a good way to handle issues of illegal logging and encroachment into forest reserves.

"Right now, the role of voluntary observer is being fulfilled by certain NGOs and even individuals. Recently, Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-Malaysia) created a group called Voluntary Forest Monitors (TIM-VFM).

"This group consists of the staff and volunteers of NGOs, communities and individuals interested in forestry issues as well as people with a background in forestry," he said.

However, Meor Razak said if the proposed voluntary corps is to be well received by the public, the implementers must identify legal issues which need to be overcome.

Citing an example, he said forest reserves are restricted areas under current laws (Akta Perhutanan Negara 1984), therefore, civilians are not allowed to enter the areas unless they obtain a permit.

Usually, illegal logging and encroachment into forested areas occur deep in forest reserves and this makes it difficult for the public to know or even be aware of such activities.

If this voluntary corps is created, registered volunteers should be given powers just like forestry officers because permits to forest reserves are specific to particular forests.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, the senior programme officer at TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, revealed that her organisation had actually broached the subject of volunteers several times to the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) over the years.

"There is an example of how this works too. You can see it in the Honorary Wildlife Wardens in Sabah, who are empowered to patrol the forests.

"In Sarawak, there are the Honorary Wildlife Rangers. They (Perhilitan) don't seem too keen, maybe because they are worried about the potential for abuse such as who would come on board to participate in such activities."

But in all fairness, Kanitha felt that the issue hasn't been brought out in the open and exhaustively discussed to see how it can or cannot work in the peninsula.

A senior Wildlife Department official agreed that there should be more public participation to be the eyes and ears of the authorities.

In Taman Negara -- a place that is about three times the size of Singapore -- Perhilitan can only afford to send 30 rangers to patrol the area. Manpower and resources are severely lacking.

"If the public want to know more on how they can help us, we can even provide them with crash training on what to look out for. They can contact us on our hotline or even email us. Sometimes, the public can give us really good information," he added.

Reader P. Kesavan from Taiping who mooted the idea for a voluntary corps wrote that the lack of resources made it impossible for Perhilitan to effectively safeguard these areas from poaching and other unlawful activities due to the relatively low priority given to proper management of natural resources compared with other developed countries.

He said these volunteers could be funded by the private sector (especially the plantation and timber industries) as part of their corporate social responsibility.

"Apart from preventing illegal activities, these volunteers can also help detect the sale of bush meat," he wrote.

1,165 wardens, rangers show it works in Sabah, Sarawak
New Straits Times 28 Oct 12;

THERE are 565 appointed wildlife wardens in Sabah.

Completely voluntary, with no salaries drawn from the government whatsoever, these volunteers choose to spend their time working to help protect wildlife in the state.

The Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 empowers the Sabah Wildlife Director to appoint suitable candidates to be Honorary Wildlife Wardens (HWW).

The Enactment also allows the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) to train these wardens, who have the power to enforce local wildlife laws.

Their background is diverse. Some are staff of wildlife-related NGOs, staff of the Forest Management Unit, staff of oil palm plantations or nature tour guides, who are already on the payroll of their respective employers.

Once potential HWW candidates have been vetted, they are given wildlife law and basic investigation training -- in class and on the field. The training lasts for three days and candidates have to sit for a written test at the end of it. Only those who pass the test will be appointed as HWW.

But the success of the programme is apparent.

"In areas where there are HWWs, wildlife poaching is under control or has been minimised. These areas are mostly in or near protected areas," said Augustine Tuuga, Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director.

He gave some examples of how the HWWs have helped his department increase its enforcement capacity:

In one case, Sabah Foundation staff who were appointed as HWWs apprehended poachers who were hunting the endangered Sambar Deer near the Danum Valley Conservation Area, and handed them over to the Sabah Wildlife Department for further action.

In another area, HWWs in the Sabamas Plantation, which borders the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, constantly patrol their area to prevent poachers from entering their plantation or gaining entry into the neighbouring wildlife reserve through their plantation.

They have handed over several poaching cases to the Wildlife Department for further action, one of which (for hunting wild boar) had been brought to court. This also reduced incidence of poaching in their area.

Meanwhile, WWF-Malaysia's HWWs in Kinabatangan are working with Wildlife Department staff in enforcement patrolling in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This has increased the capacity of the department to protect the sanctuary.

The presence of HWWs has really helped ease the department's severe staffing problem, said Augustine.

For instance, he said, HWWs employed by the Langkayan Island Dive Resort are now helping to protect the Sugut Island Marine Conservation Area and although no enforcement staff from the Wildlife Department are present, the protected area is fully secured from encroachment.

Asked about the possibility of poachers infiltrating the ranks of the HWWs, he said there has been no such issue so far.

Instead, the biggest challenge the department faces with the HWW programme is perhaps in coping with the many training requests they get from various parties.

"It may appear as if we are not interested to have the programme, but the fact is we are fully occupied as we have other tasks to carry out as well. Again, it's a staffing problem. In this case, we do not have enough trainers."

In Sarawak, there are more than 600 appointed Honorary Wildlife Rangers (HWR). They have existed since the 1990s, and most of them are community leaders.

"However, their task is not enforcement, but more towards creating awareness," said Sarawak Forestry Department's head of protected area biodiversity conservation division, Oswald Braken Tisen.

"They work as individuals, or in groups to promote conservation of wildlife, forests as well as the environment. They also function as our eyes and ears. If they find any irregularity, they will report it. We find this as an effective way to work with the community and to get them involved," he said.

The Sarawak HWR's functions and duties are specified in rule 31 of the Wild Life Protection Rules, 1998.

It states that "... an Honorary Wild Life Ranger shall exercise such functions and duties as may be assigned to him by a Chief Wild Life Warden including to report any contravention of the provisions of the Ordinance and its Rules to any Wild Life Officer or the police, to educate the local community on the relevant laws and issues relating to wild life protection and conservation, to inform any Wild Life Officer on local wild life issues and problems as well as to assist Wild Life officers in the discharge of their duties".

Wildlife volunteers from NGOs
New Straits Times 28 Oct 12;

THERE are programmes in Sabah and Sarawak where the public can become forest reserve or wildlife protection volunteers, but none have been organised in the peninsula.

Some NGOs have set up their own voluntary programmes such as the initiative of the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT).

It's Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) programme was introduced in September 2010 to enable Malaysians to help the authorities curb crimes involving wildlife - although the emphasis appears to be on tigers, but it is not exclusive to them - in the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor, some 15km south of the entrance to Taman Negara in Sungai Relau, Pahang.

The group recognises that the forests around Sungai Yu provide easy access to the interior and are vulnerable to poachers as anyone can go into the area without a permit.

CAT enables concerned members of the public to do their part for wildlife, in that volunteer naturalists take part in CAT Walks to appreciate nature, picnic or swim in the forested areas and when they're there, "deter poaching by their mere presence" and provide "additional watchful eyes at poaching hot spots on weekends", MYCAT explained on its website.

If suspicious activities are found, they could contact the 24-hour MYCAT Wildlife Crime Hotline which channels them to the relevant authorities.

Managed by the MYCAT Secretariat's Office, it also goes one step further to follow up on the outcome of the reports and updates its database with information on the action taken.

From 21 reports received in 2008, the hotline recorded about 106 reports in 2011 and most of the cases were acted on by the authorities.

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Malaysia: Move to set up agency to protect orang utans

New Straits Times 29 Oct 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department will present to the state cabinet a paper to propose the setting up of Sabah Orang Utan Conservation Alliance (SOCA).

This was a conclusion derived from an orang utan conservation dialogue held here recently, said the department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu.

The dialogue drew more than 80 stakeholders who discussed implementation of strategies and objectives highlighted in the Orang Utan Action Plan 2012-2016 launched early this year.

"SOCA will coordinate orang utan conservation and research efforts in Sabah, implement and monitor the Orang Utan Action Plan and advise the government on conservation issues.

"The alliance's functions include sharing information on orang utans and promoting the orang utan conservation works in Sabah by raising awareness nationally and globally.

"We will prepare a cabinet paper on it and bring it to the attention of the state cabinet.

"We hope that SOCA can be rapidly established," said Laurentius in a statement.

During the dialogue, he said they also identified approaches to maintain viable wildlife populations in Kinabatangan area.

These include urging the government to impose a moratorium on forest conversion in Kinabatangan and to create forest corridors in areas where riparian forests have been converted.

"It is high time that the oil palm industry acknowledged that there are problems and take the necessary measures to address the issues of forest fragmentation and clearings of riparian forests in Sabah as well as orang utan killings happening in oil palm estates in Kalimantan.

"We also addressed the problems in Kinabatangan, where orang utans are also found outside protected forests in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain.

"Our recent analysis of satellite images have shown that 25,000 hectares of such forests still remain and if we want to secure the orang utan population in Kinabatangan, we cannot afford to lose another hectare of forest."

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, when closing the two-day dialogue, said some plantation owners might not realise riparian rivers were reserved and are strictly not to be used for any plantation development.

"These reserves must be rehabilitated and if they had been encroached on, action will be taken.

"I would also like to urge plantation owners to sign an agreement adopting a zero tolerance of wildlife (especially orang utans) killings in their respective estates.

"Orang utan are totally protected in Sabah and anyone killing one must be prosecuted," he said, adding that such a move would paint a good image of the plantation industry.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Oct 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [22 - 28 Oct 2012]
from Green Business Times

Stonefish and Owl at the Northern Expedition Day 14
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

In Mandai's shadows
from The annotated budak and Paradoxa botanica

The Black-backed, and goodbye Bidadari
from Trek through Paradise

Juvenile Little Grebe’s Feet
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A New Lycaenid (for SG) Found at Bukit Brown
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Damselfly (28) – Agriocnemis Nana
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

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Reclaim land at islands for a second petrochemicals hub

Straits Times 29 Oct 12;

WITH the recent plans to build a fourth storage facility at the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Jurong Island ("$500m plan to grow LNG terminal"; last Thursday), Singapore's energy sector is once again in the spotlight.

With the ever-tightening space constraints on Jurong Island, it may be time to explore additional areas for reclamation so as to maximise the potential of our energy sector.

Singapore is the third-largest global oil refining and trading centre, and the petroleum and petrochemicals industry is a key pillar of our economy.

However, with most of the land on Jurong Island already in use, the Government should launch a feasibility study into reclamation on the islands further south, namely Pulau Bukom, Pulau Busing and Pulau Sebarok.

These islands already contain crucial facilities, such as the Shell Refinery on Pulau Bukom, which churns out 500,000 barrels per day.

Joining these islands through reclamation would create much needed land for a further expansion of the petrol and petrochemicals industry, and fuel its continued growth.

The presence of another significant petrochemical hub is a potentially lucrative prospect, especially because of its close proximity to Jurong Island, which provides for the easy integration of operations between the two.

Furthermore, the scarcity of industrial land on Jurong Island has forced some global companies to search for alternative sites in the region.

Malaysia and Indonesia have already started developing their own respective downstream oil sectors. This is a cause for worry as both countries already have extensive upstream oil sector operations and the construction of a petrochemicals hub would be a logical and convenient step to take.

Furthermore, the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused many countries to re-evaluate their reliance on nuclear energy.

If Singapore does not rapidly expand its energy sector to tap this huge potential in the global oil market, it stands to lose out on the potentially lucrative returns, and may also see a decline in its status as a key global oil hub.

The Government has launched numerous initiatives to tap the potential of the energy sector, such as the Jurong Rock Caverns, an underground oil storage facility.

However, it is unwise to put all our eggs in one basket.

It may be prudent to reclaim land and subsequently develop a second petroleum and petrochemicals hub to complement Jurong Island for the long-term benefit of Singapore's energy sector.

Kuek Jia Yao

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Of low tides and high appetites

Straits Times 27 Oct 12;

NEWS of the launch of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey this week had so struck Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin - known for his interest in heritage issues - that he was moved to make a long posting on his Facebook page.

Inspired by reports of the largest marine life audit to be done and the seagrass, sponges and starfish that can be found in local waters, Mr Tan waxed lyrical over Singapore's marine life and posted photos of his field trip with a survey expedition.

He also got quite serious, reminding readers that Singapore will not be able to conserve all areas with biodiversity as some of them will be needed for development.

In effect, he was addressing a tough question that Singaporeans have been grappling with - how much heritage to preserve or sacrifice in the name of development.

But Mr Tan posed perhaps the most quintessentially Singaporean of all questions when contemplating a crab that had been found.

"A fine specimen," he commented. "I wonder if it is edible..."


Related links
The Wonders of our Waters by Minister Tan Chuan-Jin on facebook

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Oct 12

More sea anemones at the Northern Expedition Day 13
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore and Northern Expedition on Channel NewsAsia

Butterfly of the Month - October 2012: The Orange Emigrant from Butterflies of Singapore

Damselfly (30) – Libellago Lineata
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

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Marine biodiversity expedition finds new records, rediscoveries in Singapore

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 27 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's largest marine biodiversity expedition is unearthing new records and rediscoveries of marine fauna.

Experts say the three-week expedition will go a long way towards future policy planning.

The expedition involves some 170 renowned local and international scientists, as well as conservation officers and volunteers.

They have set up base at Pulau Ubin's Outward Bound School.

The mammoth task involves dredging and trawling through murky waters to collect samples, sifting through gravel, mud and sand and finally photographing and identifying the thousands of specimens.

For Dr Daphne Fautin, a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with the University of Kansas, the results have thrown up a few surprises.

She said: "I was very reluctant, because I knew Singapore has changed so much since I was here, including all of the expansion of the land. So I thought, 'I'm not going to find anything on the shores because it's all been filled in and extended'. And I was just astonished at the diversity.

"Species that previously were known only from India, we're finding them here. That's not so far away, and that's not too surprising, but I think we're getting a meeting of the Pacific fauna and the Indian fauna, which makes Singapore particularly rich and wonderful and very diverse in the marine realm."

The expedition is part of Singapore's first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS), launched in 2010, and which aims to take an inventory of the island's marine ecosystem.

Since the expedition started on 15 October, about 30 dredging and inter-tidal surveys have been conducted, with 12 more expected until the expedition ends on 2 November.

NParks, which is facilitating the survey, says about 1,000 specimens have been collected. Five new specimen records and two rediscoveries have also been documented.

With the expedition expected to amass a rich amount of data, experts hope the information will go a long way.

Professor Peter Ng, director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity at the National University of Singapore, said: "What this survey will do, at least for these three weeks, is add a new layer of information that we didn't previously have.

"One of the missions here, not overly declared but definitely in the pipeline, is we want to build this baseline so that we can make more coherent decisions down the road."

The biodiversity survey should be completed by 2015, at a cost of between S$3m-S$4m. This includes funding received from the government as well as corporate sponsors.

- CNA/ir

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Malaysia: Residents resigned to co-exist with crocodiles

Vanes Devindran 27 Oct 12;

KUCHING: When Sujana (not her real name) went house hunting at Cahaya Permai in Bandar Baru Samariang, she was mesmerised by the dark green mangrove forest with Mount Santubong as the backdrop.

The calmness of nature compelled her to sign on the dotted line and soon she was the happy owner of a corner lot.

However, serenity came with a price, for the river, Sungai Bodo, which flows in front of her house is said to be infested by crocodiles.

Last Tuesday, a 2m crocodile was spotted inside a monsoon drain a couple of houses down the lane from Sujana’s house.

It is said that the crocodile had attacked a cat and possibly also responsible for a string of missing cats before that.

Speaking to The Star in her gazebo facing the river and Mount Santubong, Sujana said no doubt the crocodile population had struck fear among the residents of Bandar Baru Samariang but there was nothing much that could be done about it.

“We have to acknowledge that the crocodiles were here first and they are part of the natural environment surrounding us,” she said.

“We fear that they might become bold and come up to the housing area, but so far they have not reached that stage of intrusion apart from the incident with the cat.”

She said the residents were so used to seeing crocodiles swimming by and lazing among the mangroves on the opposite bank of the river.

She said the river was about 6m deep. When the tide comes in, anglers would line up the bank fishing for prawns and crabs or just enjoy the view of Mount Santubong.

“The crocodiles tend to shy away from people. Some nights, my husband used a torchlight to check the surrounding and he could see the eyes of the crocodiles, which reflected the light. The crocodiles quickly go underwater when they see people.

“What’s scary about the whole thing is that children being children — they love playing by the river. We fear for them,” she said.

Asked if she wanted the Government to get rid of the crocodiles, Sujana doubted if anything could be done about them.

She said given that the river was the natural habitat of the crocodiles, there seemed to be nothing much that could be done except perhaps having wildlife guards patrol the area.

“I think a good way to solve the problem to a certain extent is to build a concrete wall along the bank. It would prevent any crocodile from climbing up to the housing area and at the same time prevent soil erosion.

“I do not regret buying what is now my house here. My husband used to tell me that we got a bonus, which is the view of Mount Santubong and the peaceful surrounding of the mangrove forest. In fact, I hope there would not be any more project here so as not to ruin the greenery. There must be some form of control or we will end up losing our natural surroundings and the animals and plants in our swamps,” she said.

Earlier on, another resident who wished to be known only as Aminah, said the crocodiles in the neighbourhood were practically like stray dogs in Bandar Baru Samariang.

“I see them almost everyday in the river and sunbathing on the banks. This is their habitat and we knew about it even before we bought our houses.

“This has not deterred locals from the nearby area from fishing in the river. So far, no untoward incident has occurred.

The reptiles are scared of humans too and they’ll just swim away when people or vehicles approach,” she said.

Aminah believed the food stock in the river was getting less, thus depriving crocodiles of sustenance.

As such, the crocodiles now look for food on land, she pointed out.

“They are God’s creations too, and deserve to live. We are scared no doubt but I guess we have to learn to live together. We don’t disturb them, they don’t disturb us,” Aminah said.

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 27 Oct 12

Mangrove anemones and special slug at the Northern Expedition Day 12 from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Yellow-vented Bulbul uses a plastic bag to construct a nest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Dragonfly (42) – Pornothemis starrei
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore and Behaviours of Libellago Lineata

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Malaysia: Batu Caves at risk of caving in

Loshana K Shagar The Star 26 Oct 12;

PETALING JAYA: Batu Caves could cave in if a 29-storey condominium project near the area is given the green light, said Selangor Malaysian Nature Society committee member Lim Teck Wyn.

He said the project would expedite the limestone massif's natural erosion process, causing it to possibly cave in sooner.

“Every year there is a small amount of limestone falling away from the structure, causing skylights.

“The piling and construction work for the building will increase this amount, causing the structure to collapse sooner rather than later,” he said yesterday.

On Monday, it was reported that the Batu Caves temple committee had given a notice of demand to the project's developer, Dolomite Industries.

The state government had ordered the developer to stop all construction-related works, and said it would conduct soil testing in the area.

The property was advertised as a serviced residence located “a stone's throw away” from Batu Caves and with a “panoramic view” of the site.

Lim said the project was not in compliance with the guidelines by the Minerals and Geoscience Department, which stated that high-rise construction should not be done within a radius of 500m from the foothills.

MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the state government should identify land in a different locality for the condominium project, or compensate Dolomite Industries.

“Conducting soil tests and coming out with a test result that the ground and caves are safe is not going to prove anything over the long term.

“The building and the caves may not collapse immediately after construction, but it may happen later,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He said limestone hills were not like the ones in Damansara area, which were of granite in nature.

Dark Caves conservation site management director Don Haider said the two proposed high-rise blocks would endanger some species of fauna within the caves.

“As the construction progresses, it will cause cracks and fissures in the cave structure. This will impact the limestone walls and a cave in can possibly happen,” he said.

The highest building near Batu Caves area is nine floors, and the rest at five floors as the surrounding area is a water catchment area.

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Indonesia: Beached Whale Found Dead on Central Java Beach

Jakarta Globe 26 Oct 12;

Another whale was found beached and dead on Sidayu Indah beach in the Cilacap district of Central Java on Thursday.

"Local residents found the dead body of the whale at 10 a.m.," Iqbalul Murid, a life guard at Sidayu Indah beach, said, as quoted by Antara news agency on Thursday.

Iqbalul said that the 10 meter-long body has started to rot on the beach.

A local resident named Sadiran took the whale's fin to decorate his house.

"This whale's fin cannot be sold on the market, so I [will] dry it and hang it in my house," he said.

Local residents decided to pull the body further up the shore toward dry land because the carcass's stench had started to disseminate.

"Learning from past experience, the remains will be buried," said Sadiran. A few years ago, another whale was beached on the same shore.

Regardless of the smell, some locals decided to gaze at the dead whale.

"I heard the news at 2 p.m. and I came here directly because I was eager to the remains of the whale," Kitam, another citizen, said.

Recently, 44 pilot whales beached themselves on the island of Savu in the province of East Nusa Tenggara. At least 41 of the whales died.

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Australia: Sick turtles washing ashore

Samantha Turnbull and Bruce MacKenzie ABC News 26 Oct 12;

A turtle rehabilitation centre is struggling to keep up with the number of sick reptiles washing ashore

Sick turtles are appearing on north coast beaches earlier than expected.

The Australian Seabird Rescue rehabilitation centre at Ballina is already overflowing with 14 turtles - two more than it's designed to fit.

ASR spokesman Keith Williams says turtle strandings are usually more common in the middle of summer.

"This is a bit of a worry," he said.

"The summer load has arrived a bit early."

The stranded turtles are a mixture of the green and hawksbill species and Mr Williams says many will not survive.

"The unfortunate aspect of our work is that possibly half of these turtles will die in the first few days, they're just that sick when they strand on the beach," he said.

"If they're turning up on the beach they're already very sick.

"There's no records of turtles stranding on a beach for a sunbake.

"If they're on the beach for four to five hours they'll die from sunstroke and dehydration very quickly."

He said investigations into exactly what's causing the strandings would take place over the next few months.

"The most common thing we see is them having eating plastic, that's about one third to 40 per cent of the turtles we're seeing," Mr Williams said.

"Most of the rest have parasite infestations and that's probably indicating to us that they're not getting enough food so they're susceptible to other kinds of organisms."

Mystery surrounds turtle stranding
Bruce MacKenzie ABC News 26 Oct 12;

There's growing concern about a wave of turtles being stranded on far north coast beaches.

Keith Williams, from Australian Seabird Rescue, says 14 gravely ill turtles have been taken into care this week.

He says a similar phenomenon occurred last year, but it's not known what's causing it.

Mr Williams says both green and hawksbill turtles are washing ashore.

"The hawksbill turtles are a particularly endangered species that we're concerned about, and they represented a large number of the turtles that stranded last year," he said.

"So it's a worry that we're starting to see some more of them again.

"There's clearly something going on out there, and we're going to have to use some detective skills maybe to work out what it is.

"The most common thing we see certainly is them having eaten plastic, that's about one third to 40 per cent of the turtles that we're seeing.

"For most of the rest it's parasite infestation, and that's indicating to us that they're struggling in their diet.

"They're not getting enough food and so they're susceptible to other kinds of organisms."

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Oct 12

'Panda' of the mangroves discovered, Neil Humphreys writes on Chek Jawa and more from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Huntsman Night
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Making A New Friend @ USR
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Leea indica
from The annotated budak

Unknown Damselfly – Amphicnemis gracilis or Amphicnemis bebar? from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

For NUS Students and Staff: An Invitation to NUSSU SAVE, Save3s’ Plant-A-Tree from Otterman speaks

Immediate Position for One Research Assistant
from Raffles Museum News

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Asia fuels illegal wildlife trade and Singaporeans have a role in it

TRAFFIC 25 Oct 12;

Conservation organisations call for governmental and public support against illegal wildlife trade in Singapore

Singapore, 25th October 2012 – World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore and TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia are calling for the Singapore public to make a pledge on WWF Singapore’s Facebook page ( and website ( not to purchase or consume illegal wildlife products.

The initiative is part of a joint global campaign by WWF and TRAFFIC calling for governments around the world to strengthen legislation and enforcement against illegal wildlife trade, and for consumers to play their part in reducing demand for illegal wildlife products.

Singapore’s trade network is believed to have been exploited by criminal groups in the illegal wildlife trade. For example, the world’s second largest seizure of illegal ivory was made in Singapore in 2002 while a July 2012 report identified Singapore as a key laundering point for illegally caught birds from the Solomon Islands.

Recent reports have seen Asia contributing significantly to the worldwide demand for illegal wildlife products. Rising affluence in Asia has resulted in an increase in Asian consumers with the means to purchase illegal products from highly threatened wildlife, such as tigers, elephants and rhinos.

An estimated 800 kilogrammes of illicit rhino horn reaches Asian markets annually mainly to feed a rising demand for its new-found but medically unsubstantiated use as a pick-me-up tonic and hangover cure. Ivory products can also be found in many Asian countries, including China, Thailand and Singapore – many are known to be from illegal sources.

Such demand has helped to fuel a dramatic upsurge of poaching and illegal trade of high value wildlife products. For example, rhino poaching in South Africa rose from 13 animals poached in 2007 to 455 to date in 2012 ; while tens of thousands of African elephants are estimated to be killed annually to supply the ivory markets in Asia.

“Illegally-sourced wildlife is laundered and smuggled into the global market on a very frequent basis. Large volumes of animals and plants are involved, many of which are threatened with extinction,” said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

“While some irresponsible consumers are knowingly sustaining this unlawful trade, the majority o others are inadvertently supporting it due to the lack of information and attention focused on the illegal wildlife business. Increased awareness and responsible purchasing is absolutely essential if threatened wildlife species are to survive into the future.”

In support of the WWF-TRAFFIC global wildlife trade campaign, the Singapore effort looks to raise public awareness around the issue of illegal wildlife trade. Beginning 25 October, members of the public will see outdoor advertisements at bus shelters located in the CBD area, Chinatown, Bugis, Holland Road and Bukit Timah, highlighting the severity of the illegal wildlife trade. The public can then view a short clip via the QR code to gain greater understanding of the illegal wildlife business.

“Through this campaign, WWF and TRAFFIC hope to shed light on Asia fuelling the demand that drives the brutal killing of important and endangered species. As we travel within Asia, especially to countries such as China, Thailand and Vietnam, where illegal wildlife products are in demand and readily available, we urge everyone not to purchase or consume these products. Any product that lists ingredients from the tiger and rhino is illegal,” said Ms Elaine Tan, CEO, WWF Singapore.

The public is encouraged to pledge not to buy products derived from illegally traded wildlife through WWF Singapore’s Facebook page ( and website ( Apart from products containing ingredients from the elephant, tiger and rhino, other products, such as those made from bear bile and pangolin scales, should also be avoided.

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Malaysia: Artifical Reefs Enrich Johor's Marine Heritage

Rohani Mohd Ibrahim Bernama 25 Oct 12;

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 (Bernama) -- A properly managed marine heritage and marine biodiversity that is well protected could help generate economic returns through tourism and fishing activities.

Based on the Marine Park Department's statistics, it is estimated that about 500,000 people visit Malaysia's marine parks annually.

Marine tourism activities could well provide additional income to locals and fishermen within marine parks.

The department is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the sustainability of marine biodiversity resources through regulation and enforcement, research, education and public awareness, habitat preservation, apart from keeping eco-tourism activities in check.

Currently, a total of 42 islands off the waters of Kedah, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and the Federal Territory of Labuan have been gazetted as marine parks.


In the eastern waters of Johor, there are a total of 13 islands gazetted as marine parks; Pulau Harimau, Pulau Tengah, Pulau Mensirip, Pulau Goal, Pulau Tinggi, Pulau Besar, Pulau Hujung, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Mentinggi, Pulau Sibu, Pulau Sibu Hujung, Pulau Pemanggil and Pulau Aur.

Each island, including Pulau Besar that is located 42 nautical miles off Mersing, exudes its own profound uniqueness.

Pulau Besar, rich in green flora, is home to 25 families. The island boasts of a female village head, Rashidah Sulaiman, who took over the helm from her husband who passed away in 2010.

According to Rashidah, the island has three resorts and homestay programmes with the visitors' activities there centered on the marine park.

The beautiful white sandy beaches of the island, the placid atmosphere and the subtle sound of the waves provide the perfect atmosphere to relax.

Pulau Rawa that is located half an hour boat ride from Pulau Besar also draws visitors and it is surrounded by colourful reefs that is clearly visible through the crystal clear waters.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment recently took a group of media persons from Kuala Lumpur to witness the launch of Pulau Besar's Recreational Reef Project and to witness the beauty of Pulau Besar and Pulau Rawa marine parks.


On Oct 12, 2012 a symbolic launch was held to anchor 200 units of square concrete reefs at the bottom of the sea. A total of 20 of these artificial reefs, measuring one foot by two feet each, are to be laid underwater in the shape of a big square.

These artificial reefs cost RM100,000 in total and are to be anchored 3.2 nautical miles from Pulau Besar, outside the marine park zone under the demarcation set by the department and the Johor National Park Corporation where fishing activities are allowed.

The recreational reef project is meant to help improve the economic standing of the Pulau Besar residents and those from nearby islands and lure visitors for fishing activities.

Mersing District Officer Mohd Nasir Ali Abdul Salam noted at the event that the artificial reefs would also help enhance fishery resources and in turn help improve the lives of the local communities.

"It is my hope to see that this effort will be emulated by other related government departments in Johor to collectively develop the islands and their communities.

"The recreational reef programme is a follow-up to the working visit by the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tan Sri Joseph Kurup to Pulau Tinggi in 2011," he said.


Johor Marine Park department's director Mohd Nizam Ismail noted that the artificial reefs would serve as a habitat for fishes with commercial value and generate better income for the locals.

"Based on the department's earlier findings, it takes only a week for smaller fishes to take refuge under this reef. The bigger ones, including economically valuable varieties, take up to a month to make their way there.

"The reefs are a fundamental asset to marine life. Other than artificial structures, decommissioned boats too can be anchored onto the sea bed to enhance the marine heritage and to woo divers," he said.

Mohd Nizam added that the reefs would not only entice anglers but would also help fishermen improve their income with bigger catches.

On the progress of the recreational reef, Mohd Nizam explained that so far 50 per cent of the artificial reefs have been anchored to the bottom of the sea.


Mohd Nizam said that the need to preserve the reefs and marine life forms should be relayed to the society as caring for the environment is everyone's responsibility.

"It is hoped that when the significance of the reefs is appreciated, the community and private companies will show interest in sponsoring recreational projects in preserving and enriching the marine biodiversity heritage," he explained.

He added that the department needs the support of all parties for maintaining and preserving the Malaysian marine heritage for the future generation.


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Support from Local Communities Needed to Protect Endangered Mekong Dolphins

WWF 23 Oct 12;

Kampi, Kratie town, Cambodia – Fishermen representing five Cambodian communities will publicly express their support for a ban on gillnet use in a ceremony highlighting the importance of the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin.

The event organised by the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of the Mekong River Dolphin Eco-tourism Zone, the fishing Administration and WWF is expected to attract government officials, NGO’s, monks and locals and will see Cambodian fisherman commit to the protection of the critically endangered dolphin, the ceremony will also celebrate the importance of the Mekong dolphin as a national treasure .

His Excellency Touch Seang Tana, Chairman of the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of the Mekong River Dolphin Eco-Tourism Zone, says that the Government recognizes the urgent need to protect the remaining population from extinction.

“The dolphins in the Mekong are sacred to the people of Cambodia and are an important source of income for communities involved in dolphin-watching tourism. The Royal Government of Cambodia promotes poverty alleviation through conservation activities,” he said.

“Dear communities along the Mekong River, the Irrawaddy dolphin needs your support for its survival. Commit to protecting dolphins and do not use gillnets within their habitat,” he added.

The dolphin population in the Mekong River has been declining due to human activities in the last few decades especially due to modern fishing practices. Gillnets are particularly dangerous to dolphins and could cause the extinction of this species in the Mekong in the near future.

In an effort to save the Irrawaddy dolphin, the Cambodian government issued a sub-decree in September banning the use of gillnets within the dolphin’s habitat, a 180-km stretch of river between Kratie town and the Laos border.

Mr Meas Min, Chief of Koh Pdao Village, intends to inform people in his village about the ban on the use of gillnets in dolphin habitat and encourage good fishing practices outside the habitat to avoid accidental catching of dolphins.

“Villagers must be aware that using gillnets in the dolphin habitat is against the sub-decree and can cause serious danger to the remaining dolphins that we need to protect for the benefit of our future generations,” he said.

The Cambodian Rural Development Team in partnership with the Cambodian Government and WWF has implemented an alternative livelihoods programme to reduce the dependence of local communities on fishery resources, in favour of activities such as aquaculture, livestock-raising, vegetable growing and community based ecotourism.

“The Royal Cambodian Government has taken a big step toward conserving this species and this is a great opportunity for stakeholders all across the country to join together to save the Mekong River dolphin – the smiling face of the Mekong,” says Ms Michelle Owen, WWF’s Acting Country Director.

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Oct 12

Dredging, more talks and isopods at the Northern Expedition Day 10 from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

The Northern Expedition on RazorTV
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

News from the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey of Singapore, Johore Straits from Raffles Museum News

Mangrove Madness (Part 2)
from Darwin Shrugged

Wild thing
from The annotated budak

Another Leucistic Javan Myna spotted
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Job opportunity: Asean Center for Biodiversity invites ASEAN nationals to apply for the position of Executive Director from ecotax at Yahoo! Groups

Indonesia remains epicenter for illegal wildlife trade in reptiles and amphibians from news by Jeremy Hance

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Singapore to build fourth storage tank at LNG terminal

Kristie Neo Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore will be investing half a billion dollars to build a fourth storage tank at its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on Jurong Island.

Speaking at the Gas Asia Summit, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade & Industry S Iswaran said the fourth tank will enhance Singapore's energy security by allowing further diversification of its fuel sources.

"We want to diversify our sources of fuel and energy, and LNG gives us a very important opportunity to do that," said Mr Iswaran. "And with the recent developments in US and other parts of the world, in terms of shale gas, that enhances the opportunity."

The tank is expected to begin operations by 2017 and it will boost the capacity of the LNG terminal to about nine million tonnes per annum (Mtpa).

Mr Iswaran added that the increased storage infrastructure could also catalyse business opportunities such as LNG trading, break-bulk services and LNG bunkering.

The first phase of the LNG terminal development at Jurong Island with two LNG storage tanks is nearly complete and it is on track to begin commercial operations in the second quarter of 2013.

A third LNG storage tank, targeted for completion by the fourth quarter of 2013, will increase the throughput capacity to six Mtpa.

Mr Iswaran also did not rule out the possibility of building more tanks in future.

Jurong Island still has room for another two to three tanks.

Along with Singapore's experience in oil trading, experts agree this new tank brings Singapore a step closer to realising its aim to become an LNG trading hub.

"(Singapore) has some expertise in oil trading and that can be extended into LNG trading as well and investors also have confidence in putting in their money, given that we have been fairly successful as an oil trading hub," said Chloe Hang, associate editor of Asia LNG at Platts.

Mr Iswaran said authorities will now be focusing on front-end engineering design, as well as calling for tenders for the new project.

- CNA/ck

$500m plan to grow LNG terminal
Fourth gas storage tank will help diversify Republic's fuel sources
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 25 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE will build a fourth storage facility at its new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal that will begin operations next year.

The new tank, which is likely to cost $500 million and be completed by 2017, will increase the terminal's capacity by 50 per cent to nine million tonnes a year.

This will enhance the Republic's energy security by allowing it to import gas from more countries and also tap into new opportunities created by the growing global supply of natural gas.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran announced this yesterday at the opening of Gas Asia Summit, part of this year's Singapore International Energy Week.

Now in its fifth year, the annual energy event is a platform for professionals, policymakers and commentators to discuss issues.

Currently, about 80 per cent of Singapore's electricity is generated using piped natural gas from Malaysia and Indonesia.

The other 20 per cent comes from fuel oil and other sources such as waste and renewable energy.

After the LNG terminal begins operations next year, Singapore will be able to import and store liquefied gas from other countries around the world.

This is the second time the capacity of the terminal has been expanded even before it starts operations. The initial plan was to have two storage tanks and handle 3.5million tonnes of LNG each year.

Just months after the terminal's ground-breaking ceremony in March 2010, a third tank was announced to boost capacity to six million tonnes a year.

Mr Iswaran said the fourth tank will improve Singapore's energy security by allowing further diversification of the country's sources for the fuel.

"The increased storage infrastructure could also catalyse business opportunities such as LNG trading, break-bulk services and LNG bunkering," he added.

A report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in June estimated that global natural gas consumption will rise 17 per cent to 3.94 trillion cubic metres by 2017 from 2011, with Asia powering the growth in demand.

Global gas supply increased by 93 billion cubic metres, or 3 per cent, from 2010 to last year, with the increase coming largely from the United States, Russia and Qatar, said the IEA report.

Mr Iswaran noted that, in the past few years, global energy players such as Shell, BP and Gazprom have set up trading desks here.

The new tank is also timely because shale gas, another fuel, has become more viable in the US and other countries, replacing their need for imported gas.

"With energy demand in Europe slowing due to the economic downturn, LNG suppliers have turned towards Asia, where demand for gas remains bolstered by economic growth and Japan's shift from nuclear power to gas," said Mr Iswaran.

"We're also seeing shorter-dated contracts as opposed to long- term (contracts) and I think there's room for greater development of a spot market."

Energy experts said Singapore could take advantage of these global trends to become a regional LNG trading hub.

Singapore is already one of the world's biggest oil-refining hubs and a major bunkering port.

Mr Iswaran also said yesterday that the take-up of LNG from the new terminal has been"faster than initially anticipated".

He added that the Government is now studying possible frameworks for the future import of LNG.

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First vertical farm to boost supply of local greens

Each tower produces up to 10 times more vegetables than usual methods

Jessica Lim Straits Times 25 Oct 12;

LAND-SCARCE Singapore has its first vertical farm on a plot of land in Lim Chu Kang the size of about five football fields.

Vegetables - Chinese cabbage, nai bai and xiao bai cai - grow on 120 towers and the harvest is sold at five NTUC FairPrice Finest outlets.

The innovation is also a boost for the country's efforts to widen food-supply sources.

Each 9m-tall tower, made of tiers of planting troughs rotating around an aluminium frame, produces five to 10 times more vegetables than conventional methods in the same land area.

A water-pulley system, using rainwater collected in overhead reservoirs, rotates the troughs so that the plants get a uniform amount of sunlight.

A prototype of the tower was developed in 2010 by private company Sky Greens, which owns the farm, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

The farm, which officially opened yesterday, produces 500kg of greens daily.

At FairPrice Finest, a 200g bag of xiao bai cai from Sky Greens costs $1.25 while a 250g bag of Pasar brand xiao bai cai from Indonesia costs 75 cents.

Although the local greens cost more, the supermarket chain hopes to leverage on their freshness. It takes three hours from harvest for Sky Greens produce to hit the shelves. Imported vegetables take three days to three weeks.

Sky Greens plans to have 300 towers by early next year and 2,000 by end-2014. By then, $28 million would have been spent on the project - an amount funded with the help of investors like Spring Singapore.

Interested parties, say, local farmers, can also buy the 2m-by-3m tower for $15,000.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan, who toured the farm yesterday, said: "We are always looking at ways to increase our sources of food supply; our vegetables are mostly imported. If we can produce some in Singapore, it can go some way to meet local demand."

Such devices, he said, make it possible to farm in other areas, such as industrial spaces, and they will also help Singapore meet its targets for local production.

The goal is to raise local output of leafy vegetables from the current 7.2 per cent to 10 per cent.

Singaporeans ate 131,000 tonnes of leafy vegetables last year and a large proportion of it came from China, Malaysia and the United States.

The director of Sky Greens, Mr Jack Ng, 49, said the farm will soon grow other produce such as Shanghai greens, lettuce and kailan. He added that farmers from the US and China have expressed interest to buy the towers.

"But we want to cater to the local market first. We need to ramp up volume. We will see what happens after we meet FairPrice's supply demands," he said, adding that other chains like Cold Storage have also contacted him.

NTUC FairPrice's managing director of group purchasing, merchandising and international trading, Mr Tng Ah Yiam, said some of its outlets started selling Sky Greens vegetables in April.

"Response has been very good. Store managers call to ask for more," he added, noting that the cooperative also wants to support local farms. The plan is to roll out the produce to more outlets when there is enough supply.

Consumer Rosalind Tan, 72, is not fazed by the higher cost. "The prices are still reasonable and the vegetables are very fresh and very crispy," she said. "Sometimes, with imported food, you don't know what happens at farms there."

First commercial vertical farm opens in Singapore
Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore now has its first commercial vertical farm, which means more local options for vegetables.

The technique uses aluminium towers that are as tall as nine metres, and vegetables are grown in troughs at multiple levels.

The technique utilises space better -- an advantage for land-scarce Singapore.

Sky Greens farm first started working on the prototype in 2009, and has opened a 3.65-hectare farm in Lim Chu Kang.

It produces three types of vegetables which are currently available only at FairPrice Finest supermarkets.

They cost 10 to 20 cents more than vegetables from other sources.

Despite the higher prices, the greens have been flying off supermarket shelves.

Ms Ivy Lim, a customer, said: "(The price) is not a very big difference, it's just marginal... I think as compared to organic (produce), the price is very attractive."

"The response has been very good. Even before the official launch, the vegetables were sold out in the last few days," said Mr Tng Ah Yiam, managing director of group purchasing, merchandising and international trading at FairPrice.

"Actually, the store manager called me and said we need more vegetables. So I think it's a good sign that the consumer supports local vegetables."

But prices may drop as the farm ramps up supply.

The farm currently has 120 vertical towers, and hopes to increase the number to 300 by next year.

This will increase its current daily supply of vegetables from 0.5 tonnes to two tonnes by 2013.

"The challenge will be to get investors interested. This type of farm needs (relatively) higher capital," said Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, the chairman of Sky Greens. "This is a new system, so people need to be trained (and) we need to attract people to come here to work."

The farm's expansion is expected to cost some S$27 million.

Currently, about seven per cent of Singapore's vegetables are grown locally.

It is hoped with more innovative farming methods, it will help meet the target of 10 per cent in the future.

"We are always looking at ways to increase our sources of food supply and if we can produce some in Singapore, then that can go some way to meet local demand," said Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry.

- CNA/xq

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