Best of our wild blogs: 11 Apr 12

Middle reef
from The annotated budak

Random Gallery - The Malay Tailed Judy
from Butterflies of Singapore

An extremely tame House Crow
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The 7 Habits of Green Conscious Singaporeans
from AsiaIsGreen

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Indonesia Aceh quake triggers Indian Ocean tsunami alert

BBC News 11 Apr 12;

An earthquake with an magnitude of 8.7 has struck under the sea off Indonesia's northern Aceh province.

The quake triggered a tsunami watch alert across the Indian Ocean region.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) said it was not yet known whether a tsunami had been generated, but advised authorities to "take appropriate action".

The region is regularly hit by earthquakes. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 killed 170,000 people in Aceh.

The US Geological Survey (USGS), which documents quakes worldwide, said the Aceh quake was centred 33km (20 miles) under the sea about 495km from Banda Aceh, the provincial capital.

It was initially reported as 8.9 magnitude but was later revised down to 8.7 by the USGS. Strong aftershocks were also reported.

The PTWC alert said quakes of such a magnitude "have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean basin".

But Bruce Presgrave of the USGS later told the BBC that the nature of this quake made it less likely a tsunami would be generated, as the earth had moved horizontally, rather than vertically, therefore had not displaced large volumes of water.

"We can't rule out the possibility, but horizontal motion is less likely to produce a destructive tsunami," he said.

Sutopo, a spokesman for Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency, said the quake had been felt "very strongly".

"Electricity is down, there's traffic jams to access higher ground. Sirens and Koran recitals from mosques are everywhere," he told Reuters.
'Minute of chaos'

The earthquake monitoring agency in Indonesia said the tsunami warning would remain in place for another few hours, but that there had been no reports so far of a low tide, which would indicate the water was receding before building into a tsunami.

The tremor was felt as far away as Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.

"There was a tremor felt by all of us working in the building," a man called Vincent in Calcutta, India, told the BBC.

"All just ran out of the building and people were asked not to use the elevator. There was a minute of chaos where all started ringing up to their family and asking about their well-being."

The Thai office of disaster management said people along the coasts of Phuket, Phang Na and Andaman province should heed warnings and evacuate.

Tsunami warning sirens, set up in many vulnerable areas after the 2004 disaster, were heard in Phuket, where correspondents said people were calmly following evacuation routes to safe zones.

Indonesia straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone of major seismic activity.

The BBC's Karishma Vaswani in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, says there were reports of the ground shaking for up to five minutes. Contact with people in the immediate area around the quake has not been possible so far, says our correspondent.

Huge quake strikes off Indonesia, tsunami warning issued
Reza Munawir Reuters Yahoo News 11 Apr 12;

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - An 8.7 magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia on Wednesday, sending residents around the region scurrying from buildings and raising fears of a huge tsunami as in 2004, but authorities said there were no reports suggesting a major threat.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in Aceh, the Indonesian province closest to the earthquake.

The quake struck at 0838 GMT and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said soon afterwards a tsunami watch was in effect for the entire Indian Ocean. It later said the threat of a big tsunami had receded, although the warning remained in place.

"It doesn't look like a major tsunami. But we are still monitoring as tsunamis come in waves," Victor Sardina, a geophysicist on duty at the Hawaii-based institute, told Reuters.

Individual countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, issued their own warnings.

People near the coast in six Thai provinces were ordered to move to higher ground and authorities shut down the international airport in the beach resort town of Phuket.

The quake struck 308 miles (500 km) southwest of the city of Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island, at a depth of 20.5 miles (33 km), the U.S. Geological survey said.

Indonesia's disaster management agency said power was down in Aceh province and people were gathering on high ground as sirens warned of the danger.

"The electricity is down, there are traffic jams to access higher ground. Sirens and Koran recitals from mosques are everywhere," said Sutopo, spokesman for the agency.

But Yudhoyono said there were no signs of a disaster.

"There is no tsunami threat although we are on alert," said he said at a joint news conference in Jakarta with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said Britain was standing ready to help if needed.

"The situation in Aceh is under control, there's a little bit of panic but people can go to higher ground," Yudhoyono said.

He said he had ordered a disaster relief team to fly to Aceh, which was devastated by the 9.1 magnitude 2004 quake, which sent huge tsunami waves crashing into Sumatra, where 170,000 people were killed, and across the Indian Ocean.

In all, the 2004 tsunami killed about 230,000 people in 13 Indian Ocean countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.


Wednesday's quake was felt as far away as the Thai capital, Bangkok, and in southern India, residents said.

Hundreds of office workers in the Indian city of Bangalore left their buildings while the Indian port of Chennai closed down because of the danger of a tsunami, the port said.

The quake was in roughly in the same area as the 2004 quake which was at a depth of 18 miles (30 km) along a fault line running under the Indian Ocean, off western Indonesia and up into the Bay of Bengal.

One expert told the BBC the Wednesday quake was a "strike-slip" fault, meaning a more horizontal shift of the ground under the sea as opposed to a sudden vertical shift, and less risk of a large displacement of water triggering a tsunami.

The quake was also felt in Sri Lanka, where office workers in the capital, Colombo, fled their offices, and in Phuket, both of which were hit hard by the 2004 tsunami.

Mahinda Amaraweera, Sri Lanka's minister for disaster management, called for calm while advising people near the coast to seek safety.

"I urge the people not to panic. We have time if there is a tsunami going to come. So please evacuate if you are in the coastal area and move to safer places," Amaraweera told a private television channel.

In Bangladesh, where two tremors were felt, authorities said there appeared to be no threat of a tsunami. Australia also said there was no threat of a tsunami there.

(Reporting by Jakarta, Bangalore and Bangkok bureaus; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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The Bukit Brown issue: Not enough land? Let’s do the math

Kai Fong SingaporeScene Yahoo News SG 10 Apr 12;

Is there really a pressure on land? (AFP photo)Is there really a pressure on land? (AFP photo)

From SOS Bukit Brown


Let's be clear... Singapore's total floor area, if we add up the floor space of every kind of building in Singapore, is approximately 250 million sqm.

If we divide this by the island's total land area of 700 million sqm, it means that all our buildings will only occupy 1/3 of the island if all of them are 1-storey high. If they are 2-storey high, the proportion of the land covered by all our buildings will be 1/6. And if they are 4-storey high, they will cover 1/12. Given that there has to be spaces between buildings for light and ventilation of, say, 3 times the building's footprint, the proportion would end up as approximately 1/4.

It can be seen that there is actually a lot of land available in Singapore, especially since we have built a lot and our buildings tend to be 12 to 15 storeys high. Any increase in building floor space can be easily accommodated, and the scope for large area conservation such as that of Bukit Brown is easily possible.

But as the demand for land increases as a result of population increase, would the same hold true?

This increased demand for land is an important one, and has to be addressed even as one makes the case for heritage and nature conservation. But ultimately, the question is: Is there really a pressure on land?

I will answer this question like this: Already, 5 million people are provided for in flats, schools, factories, offices, shopping malls, etc. And the environment is OK.

If you take the total floor area of Singapore (ie 250 million sqm, as mentioned at the start of this article), and divide it by the population of 5 million, you get a per-capita floor area of approximately 50sqm. Now, this is a very important measure of the average land requirement that an individual needs. Since URA is planning for a population increase of 1 million people as stated in its concept plan, how much more land is needed is the question. For if indeed there is no land available, then Bukit Brown has to be sacrificed, notwithstanding heritage and nature.

But all that is needed is to plan for the additional 1 million.

50sqm x1 million = 50 million sqm. This would be the floor area that the additional 1 million population needs. Dividing this again by 700 million sqm (total land area of Singapore) gives us 7%. This is the percentage of the land that will be taken up, if the floor area for this additional 1 million population is provided for in the form of 1-storey buildings. If we assume 4-storey buildings on average, the percentage will only be 1.75%. Not much.

This land can easily be found in the Marina East golf course land plus the old KTM railway workshops, relocated Keppel Harbour, Kampung Bugis land, etc. Housing can also be easily built above many of our MRT stations. Furthermore, the ongoing development of existing housing estates will whittle down the 1.75%. The 1.75% is therefore very conservative. So it is clear that the Bukit Brown land can be preserved through better land planning.

It is simply a matter of political will.

This article was written by a prominent local architect.

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Getting - and keeping - volunteers

Last week, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said Singaporeans tend to volunteer less once they graduate from school. 'What we're seeing is a 'bathtub' effect... Their activism dips when they are occupied with their careers and families, and their participation comes back up only when their children are grown or when they retire,' he said. Are Singaporeans 'bathtub' volunteers? Feng Zengkun and Miranda Yeo report
Straits Times 11 Apr 12;

GREEN issues may be red-hot, but at Singapore's foremost green group, Nature Society, most members of its executive committee are past their youthful prime.

Its 55-year-old vice-president Leong Kwok Peng acknowledged that the society's volunteer corps has a 'middle-aged' profile. He and most of his colleagues on the committee are in their 40s and 50s.

After the student volunteers graduate, they have work and then families and children to take care of.

'It's hard to blame them for not doing as much social work as they'd like,' said Mr Leong.

Two national surveys between 2005 and 2010 suggest that this problem is not the Nature Society's alone.

They found that while as many as 70 per cent of teenagers help out in at least one social welfare group, the numbers fall steadily to about 40 per cent for those in their early 30s.

Most of the 13 organisations The Straits Times spoke to that are involved in the arts, sports, human rights, green issues and grassroots work also broadly agreed with Mr Chan's 'bathtub' assessment.

They added that it is especially difficult to find young working adults who are willing to consider taking up leadership posts within the groups.

'Volunteerism is a commitment which does not pay. It's understandable if young people prioritise working and saving money for their children,' said Mr Eugene Heng, 62, founder and chairman of the Waterways Watch Society, which monitors and promotes water bodies here.

The Singapore culture of spending long hours at the workplace also prevents more young people from volunteering, said administrative assistant Gary Yeo, 29. 'If I'm not working, I'd rather spend time with my friends, family or girlfriend. Or else, I would never know someone well enough to get married,' he said.

But activists said the nature of volunteer work also plays a role. About half of the 150 volunteers in women's rights group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), for example, are working adults between 20 and 40 years old who have been with the group for years.

Aware executive director Corinna Lim, 47, attributed this to the visceral impact of the group's work and its flexible volunteer hours. Most of the volunteers either conduct research for the group's projects, provide legal advice or counsel women seeking help.

Those in the research committees meet in person only once a month or even less frequently, and most of their work is conducted online. This makes it easier for volunteers juggling multiple roles to stay with the group, she said.

'When you counsel a crying woman and give her hope, it's quite visible,' she added.

Others such as the Singapore Sailing Federation and Waterways Watch Society said they face greater difficulty retaining their young members.

'Frankly speaking, sports clubs do not attract many young people because it is not a cause for the underprivileged that would motivate them to help out,' said a spokesman for the federation. Its executive committee is made up of people in their 40s and 50s.

Mr Heng said people may think his society's work would be handled more effectively by government agencies. His group retains only two out of every 10 student volunteers.

'Some people in Singapore still think that the environment is a job for the Government, not the people. Or they may think that they can serve the environment in their own lives and don't need to join a society to do so,' he said.

But most of the societies said their members usually return when their careers and family life are more stable. For example, Mr Heng said many of his group's volunteers and executive committee members are people in their 30s or older who join or return after becoming more established at work.

Nature Society's Mr Leong said young people may volunteer for certain issues, as seen in the recent Bukit Brown and Rail Corridor campaigns.

Other groups added that it may not be realistic to groom young professionals as leaders as they may be too inexperienced.

Said Mr Jeffrey Leow, 60, president of the Singapore Swimming Association: 'We look for expertise and experience in our organising committee.

'Those who have just started work are not our target group because they are focused on their careers.'

A spokesman for the People's Association Youth Movement said the problem of engaging and grooming young people to become leaders is a perennial one.

'Young people have short attention spans, diverse interests, changing aspirations and are driven by fast-changing trends,' she said.

But all the groups said more could be done to encourage volunteerism during the early working years.

Aware holds a monthly get-together to introduce new volunteers to the organisation, as well as for members to mingle.

It also organises discussions pegged to the news, such as its recent Budget roundtable, which help keep its volunteers engaged.

'The social bonds are very important in keeping people in the organisation,' said Ms Lim.

Ms Jean Chong, 37, co-founder of Sayoni, a platform for lesbian, bisexual and trans-sexual Asian women, added that a culture that appreciates volunteers is crucial.

'Don't treat them like cogs in a machine. Help them understand how their involvement contributes to making things better, and listen to what they say,' she said.

Ms Zheng Huifen, 29, a lawyer who does ad hoc work for Aware, said the Government could encourage working adults to volunteer by offering practical incentives such as tax breaks.

'Just look at the schools here. Parents always want to volunteer because it gives their children a better chance of getting into the school,' she said.

Mr Laurence Lien, 42, chief executive of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre and a Nominated MP, said companies could encourage volunteerism as well.

He added: 'If ministers and senior civil servants publicly show or talk about their volunteering experiences, I am sure they will lead many by their example.'

Others added that social groups could retain their young volunteers by offering them more ad hoc opportunities as they graduate and start working.

'As long as they help out in some meaningful way, they are more likely to return regularly when they have more time,' said Mr Heng.

But Ms Lim said she was not worried about the state of volunteerism in Singapore. When she was 23 years old, she considered emigrating for personal reasons but her volunteer work at Aware inspired her to stay in Singapore, she said.

'I think young people, as long as their material needs have been met, will always feel the need to do something more with their lives,' she added.

Additional reporting by Tessa Wong


While as many as 70 per cent of teenagers help out in at least one social welfare group, the numbers fall steadily to about 40 per cent for those in their early 30s, according to two national surveys between 2005 and 2010.


'Volunteerism is a commitment which does not pay. It's understandable if young people prioritise working and saving money for their children.'

Mr Eugene Heng, 62, founder and chairman of the Waterways Watch Society, which monitors and promotes water bodies here


'The social bonds are very important in keeping people in the organisation.'

Ms Corinna Lim, 47, executive director of Aware, which holds a monthly get-together to introduce new volunteers to the organisation and for members to mingle. It also engages volunteers by organising discussions pegged to the news

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Venus Drive: Tall grass, ferns cut all the way to stream

Letter from Tang Hung Kei Today Online 11 Apr 12;

I AM a frequent visitor to the Venus Drive nature area. I was horrified during the last visit to see that the tall grass and ferns have been cut all the way to the stream.

This stream (picture) has fresh water flowing from the forest, through a grassy meadow and then underneath the HSBC Tree-Top-Walk Carpark. For a long time, both banks of the stream were protected by tall grass and ferns.

This protection is vital for the micro-ecosystem because it prevents soil erosion and unavoidable littering by humans.

The latter is particularly detrimental to the environment because it fouls and blocks the otherwise pristine stream.

Furthermore, plastic bags, food and beverage containers store stagnant rainwater and become mosquito-breeding grounds.

If we leave the grass and ferns uncut they attract damselflies and dragonflies to the area and these are the nemesis of mosquitoes.

We spend so much money and efforts in restoring Bishan Park closer to its natural state and clearing drains of debris. But, here we are disrupting a stream and risking the generation of debris at a water source.

Aren't we doing ourselves a disservice by cutting the grass and ferns by the stream so aggressively?

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No import ban in Singapore despite sailfish's special status

Lisa Oon my paper AsiaOne 11 Apr 12;

The sight of several sailfish being hung out to defrost in front of the Great Atlantis Seafood Centre in Marina Country Club in Punggol on Sunday has irked some Singaporean anglers.

The anglers say the fish should be released after they are caught.

Photographs of the sailfish at the restaurant were posted on citizen-journalism website Stomp on Monday.

Sailfish are so named for their dorsal fin, known as a sail, which often spans the entire length of the back.

The manager of Great Atlantis Seafood Centre, Mr Victor Yi, said: "The fish were not caught by us but by Malaysian fishermen in Malaysian waters."

He added that the restaurant bought six or seven sailfish for $10 per kilogram from the fishermen. The restaurant plans to use the fish to prepare fish and chips. Mr Yi said he believes the fish have already been cut into fillets.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) lists sailfish as a "priority species", along with marlin, swordfish and spearfish.

Ms V. Prema, director of communications at WWF Singapore, said sailfish are "at risk from overfishing and as a target in recreational fishing".

She added that WWF Singapore discourages people from buying sailfish if they are caught in the wild in a way that depletes their numbers.

However, an Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore spokesman said that sailfish are "not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), and are allowed to be imported".

Cites is an international agreement drawn up in 1973 to protect wildlife. Singapore has been a signatory of the convention since 1986.

Angler R. Teo, 36, said one of the practices among anglers is to release fish which are fished for recreation, such as sailfish.

Another angler, Mr William Ow, 32, was not angered over the sailfish incident. He said other anglers might have been angry because catching the fish for food would deplete the supply available for recreational fishing.

"Nobody eats sailfish, as it does not taste as good as other fish. Anglers who catch it usually release it," he said.

Some netizens did not have any issue with the sailfish incident. Said netizen loverangel10: "It's just fish."

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Malaysia: Sharks Vulnerable To Overfishing, Says UMS Prof

Newmond Tibin Bernama 10 Apr 12;

KOTA KINABALU, April 10 (Bernama) -- Sharks are vulnerable to overfishing because of their low fertility, and capacity to produce only few offspring in one breeding cycle, says Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Director of Borneo Marine Research Institute Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa.

He said in bony fishes such as tuna, mackerel and sardines, the breeding and population recruitment systems were different.

"That's why, sharks deserve special attention. Sharks play a significant role in the ocean ecosystem, being at the top of the food chain.

"They eliminate weaker specimens from the prey populations, and define the evolutionary pathways. Obviously, their elimination alters the ocean ecosystem balance," he told Bernama here Tuesday.

Saleem was responding to the raging debate about shark sanctuaries and shark fishing ban in Sabah, while timely, puts the focus on conservation of marine ecosystem and socio-economic imperatives.

He said the marine ecosystem had traditionally provided goods and services in Sabah, and the lifestyles of the people and sources of food and income of certain sections of the coastal communities were closely tied to marine resources.

Saleem said the entire issue put the spotlight on important and highly relevant topics, including ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management, the need for alternative livelihood and public awareness.

"Because sharks have a behaviour which in many respects is very different from coral reef fishes, the plans for managing shark conservation will have to be unique, as well as within the overall context of marine conservation and ecosystem based approach to fisheries management. "Probably, it is not practical at this stage to consider 'shark sanctuary' in Sabah as some sort of a limited area in the sea that is "off limits" and which generally raises concern among the coastal communities using marine resources for sustenance.

"Due to a variety of reasons and obvious practical limitations, very few "shark sanctuaries" exist in the world today. A conservation plan for Sabah will have to be developed, according to ground realities here," he added.


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