Best of our wild blogs: 3 May 12

White bellied sea eagle & eaglet & mynah @ pasir ris
from sgbeachbum

Lizard tongue and lily at Admiralty Park
from wild shores of singapore

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President Tan urges govt not to rush plans for Rail Corridor

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 2 May 12;

SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam has urged the government to not rush into coming up with a plan for the Rail Corridor.

He said it is more important to take time to wait for good ideas to come forth.

"Don't rush into doing things (and) say 'We must have a plan and we must finish it by 2-3 years' time'... (Let's) take our time to study the possibilities," said Dr Tan.

He was speaking after visiting the "Journey of Possibilities" exhibition at the URA Centre on Wednesday.

The exhibition features about 80 entries comprising 18 winning ideas, 19 honourable mentions, as well as other innovative entries received for Urban Redevelopment Authority's Ideas Competition. The exhibition also showcases some of the interesting feedback and suggestions received on URA's Rail Corridor website since its launch in July last year.

Dr Tan said he is happy that Singaporeans of various community groups have expressed great interest in the Rail Corridor.

He said the government should continue to find ways to engage different groups and hear their ideas.

And the URA's Ideas Competition is a good way to get new ideas.

However, he also said authorities should be flexible in experimenting to find out what works best.

"You try things out, if it does not work, you can change it... I think it may take us up to 10 years before the whole thing settles down into an asset which can be enjoyed by all Singaporeans," said Dr Tan.

One way this will be done is through the Rail Corridor Partnership, which includes government agencies, interest groups and individuals who were part of the Rail Corridor Consultation Group.

Chaired by Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin, the new partnership now includes agencies such as the Education Ministry, the Singapore Sports Council, the People's Association and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

They will explore ways to promote community use of the Rail Corridor.

The agencies that have just joined the Rail Corridor Partnership will also gather feedback from the community events organised. This, together with the proposals from the Ideas Competition will set the stage for the Rail Corridor Master Plan.

- CNA/cc

URA establishes Rail Corridor Partnership
Channel NewsAsia 2 May 12;

SINGAPORE: The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has established a Rail Corridor Partnership to look into the programming and promotion of community activities along the Rail Corridor.

The partnership, chaired by Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin, is an expansion of the Rail Corridor Consultation Group which was formed last July to provide input to the government on charting the future development plans for the former KTM railway land.

With representatives from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore Sports Council and the People's Association, the partnership will look for opportunities to promote community use of the space that spans the entire width of the island from north to south.

URA said it will work closely with partner agencies to assess the range of possible community uses and events, as well as the necessary infrastructural requirements needed to support these activities along the Rail Corridor.

The Rail Corridor Partnership will also provide advice on the public engagement efforts and proposed activities for the Rail Corridor.

Such activities could span from community level events to national events that utilise the entire Rail Corridor.

The feedback gathered from these events would be used by URA to draw up the design specifications and requirements that will form part of the brief for the Rail Corridor Master Plan and Design Competition that is being considered at the moment.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin highlighted the collaborative nature of the group.

He said, "The expanded role of the Rail Corridor Partnership will see a stronger collaboration between public sector agencies, interest groups, and individuals to promote and support suitable activities and events along the Rail Corridor. I hope that our engagement will continue to be constructive and fruitful going forward."

- CNA/fa

'Don't rush Rail Corridor development'
Preserving asset for all to enjoy may take up to 10 years: President Tan
Grace Chua 3 May 12;

PRESERVING and developing the 26km Rail Corridor need not be rushed.

This is the view of President Tony Tan Keng Yam who said yesterday: 'This is not the sort of thing where you want to say, we have a master-plan, let's build it in three years' time and everything must fit into one common concept.'

He added that it may 'take up to 10 years before this settles down into an asset which can be enjoyed by all Singaporeans, and which more importantly, will reflect the aspirations and the interests of Singaporeans of all groups'.

He was speaking to reporters after he turned up at the URA Centre to view an exhibition of ideas submitted to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for the Rail Corridor.

The URA received more than 200 ideas from Singapore and beyond in a competition it organised last year.

Noting that the former railway tract from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands is an asset, Dr Tan said that 'if you want to use it for a lot of utility purposes, I am sure it can be done'.

But he added that there are 'very deep historical connections' in various parts of the Rail Corridor.

It is close to heritage sites like the Old Ford Factory in Bukit Timah for example, where the British surrendered to the Japanese during World War II.

'I think we should try and preserve that as much as possible, while not making it into a white elephant where people will not go,' said Dr Tan.

Civic interest groups have campaigned for the Rail Corridor - returned by Malaysia to Singapore last year in exchange for land parcels in Ophir, Rochor and Marina South - to be kept as a continuous green space.

Elsewhere, comparable sites, like the High Line park in New York City and the Promenade Plantee in Paris, have taken as long as a decade to plan and build.

The idea for the High Line park, for example, was planted in 1999 when a civic group was formed to save the railway line from demolition. It gained the city's support only in 2002.

Yesterday, the URA announced that it is expanding an existing Rail Corridor consultation group into a broader partnership with public-sector agencies such as the People's Association, the Ministry of Education, the Singapore Sports Council and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

This would help promote and plan community use of the space, the URA said. Though it did not give specific examples, civic interest groups have proposed activities such as cycling and community farming.

On Monday, the Singapore Land Authority said two sites along the Rail Corridor, in Jalan Hang Jebat and Ghim Moh Road, were now open for community use.

The exhibition at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road is on until May 11. It is open from 8.30am to 7pm on weekdays and from 8.30am to 5pm on Saturdays. Admission is free.


Where: URA Centre in Maxwell Road

When: Until May 11. From 8.30am to 7pm on weekdays and to 5pm on Saturdays.

Admission: Free

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Why more migrants needed in Singapore

Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 3 May 12;

SINGAPORE: Another study has been released in support of Singapore's need to attract new migrants to slow down the impact of an ageing and dwindling population.

Released by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), the report is the first to take into account the country's non-resident population.

This includes those on work permits, long-term social visit passes and foreign students.

In its report, the institute sets out three scenarios.

One, where the proportion of foreigners remains at 25 per cent (or one in four) of the total population.

Two, where this proportion drops to 20 per cent (or one in five).

And three, where the proportion is raised to 33 per cent (or one in three).

For all scenarios, it is assumed that Singapore will take in 30,000 new citizens or Permanent Residents every year, and the country's Total Fertility Rate remains at 1.24

The report states that a higher non-resident population will mean a larger total population, from the current 5 million now to 6.8 million in 2030, if the proportion of foreigners in the population is raised to 33 per cent.

And while the average population will still get older, a higher proportion of non-residents will slow this process down.

The same is said for the support ration between a working adult and an elderly.

While the ratio will still decline, with more foreigners in the midst, the impact will be somewhat mitigated.

Assuming the country's Total Fertility Rate remains at 1.24 and it brings in 30,000 new citizens or PRs yearly with non-residents, the support ratio now for every one elderly aged 65 and above to a working adult is 1:10.3.

In about 20 years, this will be halved at 1:5.1, if foreigners make up 33 per cent of the population.

If Singapore takes in no immigrants, there will be only about two working adults supporting each elderly person, by then.

So, even with more foreigners in the mix, there will be fewer Singaporeans supporting the elderly.

But the paper shows that the problem is exacerbated without taking in migrants.

With or without foreigners, the labour force will be hit.

Even with the bumped-up crop of foreigners, the report shows the growth in total labour force will dip from the average 3.6 per cent annual growth which Singapore has been enjoying since the 70s.

With the current proportion of one in four foreigners in the midst, the labour force will grow by 1.04 per cent over the next 10 years.

Raising the proportion to one in three will see the labour force grow to 2.47 per cent annually, over the same period.

The IPS report comes just a week after a similar paper was issued by the National Population and Talent Division.

Both papers present population projections based on certain assumption and are not meant to be forecasts or predictions.

Together, the reports will form the basis of a national discussion on populations issues that will culminate in a White Paper to be released by the end of the year.

The White Paper on Population will set out issues important to Singaporeans and map out strategies for a sustainable population.

This will cover areas such as housing, transport and land use.

- CNA/wk

5 burning questions
Phua Mei Pin & Matthias Chew Straits Times 4 May 12;

ACADEMICS posed numerous questions about how many foreigners and new citizens Singapore should take in each year, and what kind of population growth it should aim for. These are the key questions:

How many people should Singapore house in 2050?

In their discussion on what optimal population Singapore should aim for, experts covered the potential impact of a large population on the environment.

Urban planning expert Malone-Lee Lai Choo noted that with limited land, more open spaces would need to be converted for high-density residential use. But some argued that it was possible to squeeze people into high-rise buildings, leaving the other areas intact.

Nevertheless, the academics raised concerns over the congestion that would result in MRT trains, in malls and in housing estates.

Statistician Paul Cheung noted that the MRT network was overcrowded because it had not been designed for the current population. So, he argued, Singapore should plan for 8 million in the future. 'Allow for higher, but settle for lower,' he said.

How can we make more babies?

A discussion of Singapore's low Total Fertility Rate (TFR) drew a lively response, with experts tossing up ideas on how it could be raised. Several cited examples of how Scandinavian nations had managed to turn their low birth rates around, and asked: 'Why can't Singapore do the same?'

Some said affordable housing, health care and social security were needed.

Agreeing, economist Tilak Abeysinghe cited a study showing that housing affordability could affect TFR. 'When homes are expensive, couples may delay marrying, buying a home and starting a family,' he explained later.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan blamed Singaporeans' excessive focus on work, which left little time for singles to date, and for couples to consider having children.

The competitive education system, she added, made it more stressful for parents. Her radical solutions: Get rid of PSLE and streaming, and abolish performance bonuses so people wouldn't feel pressured to spend long hours at work.

Will Singaporeans be willing to live with fewer foreign workers?

Experts repeatedly warned about the trade-offs that Singaporeans would face if they wanted to reduce the inflow of foreigners.

As Singapore's population aged, they pointed out, they would rely more on foreign workers to maintain their high quality of life.

'Which foreigner would you want to eliminate?' asked IPS director Janadas Devan. 'The maid who cleans your house and helps look after your children? The nurse who looks after your aged parents in a hospital or nursing home? The construction workers building the flats, train lines and hospitals you want built?'

But some, like the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Kishore Mahbubani, noted that many developed countries managed to sustain high female work participation rates - and high fertility too. They suggested that eldercare services be improved to support households better.

How much growth do we really need?

Should Singapore strive for high economic growth to compete with Asian giants like India and China? Or should it carve out its own niche and compete to be 'liveable' as a city, rather than try to be a bigger economy?

Such questions were raised during the exchange on economic growth goals.

Some suggested that higher population growth was needed to support higher economic growth. But others suggested that Singapore, being a developed country, should accept a lower long-term economic growth rate.

'It makes more sense to grow at 3 per cent rather than 6 per cent, than try to be something we're not,' said economist Yeoh Lam Keong. 'We are refusing to grow up as a developed city. The sooner we grow up, the better.'

Some suggested that the authorities be more selective about the type of people they let in. Taking in more skilled workers and less unskilled ones, they noted, would enable Singapore to maintain productive growth - and hence economic growth - with smaller numbers of foreign workers.

Can Singaporeans accept foreigners into their communities?

During a discussion of the social aspects of a rising immigrant population, some observed that Singaporeans had become less accepting of outsiders in recent years.

Labour economist Hui Weng Tat said the tension between locals and foreigners has risen because the influx of new citizens and foreign workers was seen as having depressed local wages. Others pointed to competition for space in housing estates and MRT trains.

'The change comes from the fact that suddenly, the competition became too intense. The Government was too slow in dealing with this,' said statistician Paul Cheung.

Experts noted, however, that integration can take a long time.

Sociologist Lai Ah Eng said she remained hopeful that better integration will happen among the young. 'The second generation and subsequent generations, that's when socialisation will happen,' she said.

Foreigners won't stem ageing population
Phua Mei Pin Straits Times 4 May 12;

A NEW population study by a think-tank shows that even if Singapore has as many as one foreigner for every two residents in the next 40 years, the population will continue to age.

At the same time, the labour force growth rate will decline.

This double whammy, in turn, will mean the number of working-age people to take care of each elderly person will keep sliding.

This was the conclusion from a set of population scenarios worked out in the study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), released yesterday.

Said its director Janadas Devan: 'Whichever scenario pans out, this country is going to face enormous challenges.'

The scenarios, prepared by population researcher Yap Mui Teng, project how Singapore's population and labour force could look by 2050.

The study assumes the birth rate remains low and 30,000 new residents are added each year.

The factor that is different in each scenario is the proportion of non-residents in the population: one-fifth, one-quarter and one-third.

The scenarios were presented for discussion at a roundtable organised by IPS and the Civil Service College, with 45 experts and academics discussing the impact on the economy, society, families and quality of life.

The scenarios are the most comprehensive to date as they take Singapore's total population into account, including residents and non-residents.

Residents refer to citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs), while non-residents are mainly made up of people on work permit or employment pass, foreign students and dependants.

Earlier studies by IPS and the Government had left out non-residents.

The study shows that at the most aggressive intake of foreigners, when one-third of the people are non-residents, Singapore's total population would grow to 7.3 million, and its workforce to 4.4 million, by 2050.

If the intake is lowered to one-quarter or one-fifth, the total population will be 6.1 million, and the workforce, 3.5 million.

Depending on the scenario, the rate of growth of the workforce is 0.9 per cent at its highest and 0.3 per cent at its lowest - well below Singapore's historical average of 3.6 per cent a year since 1970.

Mr Devan said the drop in labour force growth means Singapore must work hard on productivity growth. Singapore's target is to increase productivity by 2 per cent to 3 per cent a year for the next 10 years.

He also named two other areas that Singapore must concentrate on: raising birth rates and doing better at integrating foreigners into the country.

The IPS scenarios come on the heels of the Government's first occasional paper on population issues, which was released by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) last week.

That paper studied five scenarios affecting only the citizen population. In each, the birth rate and the intake of new citizens were adjusted.

Its figures show the number of working-age citizens would also fall, even if the annual intake of new citizens reached 25,000.

The IPS study, besides expanding the study base to include the whole population, introduces the ratio of non-residents to residents as a key policy lever in managing Singapore's population.

The different sizes of the total labour force and growth rates shed light on the future of economic growth.

When contacted, an NPTD spokesman noted that the IPS scenarios do not reflect official government numbers or forecasts.

Still, the key implications and trade-offs highlighted by the roundtable participants 'are useful inputs for NPTD as we review our population challenges for the White Paper on Population to be released at the end of this year', she added.

Need for new citizens
Straits Times 4 May 12;

TWO agencies have in recent months released different sets of population scenarios.

They are the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), a think-tank under the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), the Government's lead agency on population matters.

Both said they had arrived at their projections independently.

Sept 7, 2011: IPS' first set of population scenarios on citizens and permanent residents (PRs)

Variables: Total fertility rate (TFR) and migration level

In a nutshell: Even with TFR raised to 1.85 from today's 1.2, if no new citizens or PRs are taken in, the total number of citizens and PRs will decline from 2025.

What it implies: If TFR and migration are the only levers available to the Government, bringing in new citizens will be critical to a population growth strategy. Neither strategy can stop the ageing trend.

April 24, 2012: NPTD's first set of population scenarios on citizens only

Variables: TFR and migration level

In a nutshell: Even with TFR raised to 2.1, if no new citizens are taken in, the population will shrink. If TFR remains at 1.2, a yearly intake of 20,000 to 25,000 new citizens is required to keep the population size steady.

What it implies: New citizens are needed to prevent population decline.

May 3, 2012: IPS' second set of population scenarios, on citizens, PRs and non-residents

Variable: Ratio of non-residents to residents (citizens and PRs)

In a nutshell: Across various ratios, bringing in more non-residents mitigates population ageing and slowdown in total labour force growth, but does not stop those processes.

What it implies: A robust population policy will need to include other strategies, such as productivity growth.

In the coming months before the release of the Government's White Paper on population, expect more papers from various sources and the launch of public engagement platforms.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who oversees population matters, said the process is to 'bring to light issues that are important to Singapore and Singaporeans, and develop a shared understanding of our strategies to build a sustainable population that secures Singapore's future'.


Why can't Singaporeans have more babies?
Participants at seminar on population projections question basic assumptions
Leslie Koh Straits Times 4 May 12;

A SEMINAR held to discuss population projections yesterday ended up with academics posing questions which they said Singapore must answer before deciding on population and immigration policies.

Among other things, they asked: Why can't Singaporeans have more babies? What quality of life do they want in the future? And, what trade-offs are they willing to accept if they want fewer foreigners?

The questions came after the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) released projections of how Singapore's populace might look like between now and 2050.

It found that even if the share of foreigners went up from the current one-quarter to a third of total population, the nation's proportion of working-age citizens would eventually shrink, and its elderly population grow.

The think-tank's study came a week after the Government's National Population and Talent Division released its own projections on the number of new citizens needed to halt population decline.

Bringing in foreigners to supplement the local workforce will push population figures up.

Architect Liu Thai Ker, one of the speakers at the seminar, urged Singapore to take a pragmatic approach.

'Population growth is like a flood, you can't stop it,' he observed. 'Rather than talk about stopping the growth, we should talk about how to deal with it.'

The issue of how many foreign workers and new citizens to take in is a politically sensitive one that has dominated public debate in past months. Many Singaporeans are unhappy with the Government over what they see as a liberal immigration policy, saying that migrants do not fit in well, compete for their jobs and drive wages down.

Their concerns were echoed by many of the 40-plus academics gathered at the seminar at Orchard Hotel yesterday, as they looked at the implications of a growing population for the economy, the environment and social integration.

But while much of the debate has centred on immigration policies, the academics went back to the basics and questioned some of the basic assumptions - such as, why Singapore appeared to have given up trying to raise its Total Fertility Rate.

This is the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime. Singapore's has dropped to 1.2, well below the 2.1 it needs to keep its population from shrinking.

Academics blamed this on changing lifestyles and inadequate childcare facilities, and called on the Government to do more to help couples raise families.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan said the problem lay even deeper: stress at work, big focus on careers and high expectations of marriage were delaying young people from tying the knot and having children.

'Even before you can encourage baby-making, you have to encourage courtship and marriage,' she said.

What made yesterday's discussion especially lively was the varied backgrounds of the participants.

Representing several disciplines, they included familiar names such as IPS special adviser Tommy Koh, IPS senior research fellow Gillian Koh, architect Liu Thai Ker, statistician Paul Cheung and economists from both universities and the private sector.

On the whole, most appeared to favour slower population growth and a smaller intake of foreigners, although they acknowledged that foreign workers would always be needed.

Economist Yeoh Lam Keong asked if Singapore really needed to keep growing its labour force at a high rate, and suggested that Singapore accept a lower economic growth rate in the long term, like other developed countries.

Others suggested that raising productivity more aggressively and bringing in only skilled workers could sustain economic growth without requiring a large army of foreign workers.

Some noted that a smaller population would ensure a better quality of life, as congestion in housing estates and on public transport would be less.

Others warned about the impact of a growing population on social tensions between locals and foreigners, and discussed ideas about how to get new citizens to integrate into Singapore society.

Psychology professor David Chan posed a more philosophical question, saying Singapore had to decide what kind of society it wanted before trying to arrive at hard numbers.

'This is about consequences and outcomes, not about optimal population figures,' he said. 'We have to define the outcomes we want... what people think about Singapore as a country.'

Immigration will help but ...
Singapore's labour force growth will still slow dramatically: IPS study
Tan Weizhen Today Online 4 May 12;

Singapore - Growth in labour force will slow even if Singapore raises the proportion of foreigners in its midst, according to a new study released by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) yesterday.

In the best-case scenario, where the proportion of foreigners rises to be one in three of the total population - up from one in four currently - growth in labour force will be at 2.47 per cent annually over the next 10 years. In the same scenario - but in the decade from 2030 when the silver tsunami is set to hit Singapore - growth will slow dramatically to 0.3 per cent.

At the current proportion of one in four, growth in labour force will fall to 1.04 per cent in the next decade - more than half of the average growth rate of 3.6 per cent seen annually since 1970.

According to the study, the impact of the declining support ratio between a working adult and an elderly will also be mitigated with immigration.

Similar to the paper released last week by the National Population and Talent division (NPTD), the IPS study sets out various scenarios but with differences: It takes into account permanent residents (PRs) and foreigners, which includes those on work permits, long-term social visit passes and foreign students. It also projects total and non-resident labour force figures.

The IPS study sets out three scenarios, with an injection of 30,000 new citizens or PRs per year assumed and the national total fertility rate remaining at 1.24. However, the proportion of foreigners is factored in at different levels - 20, 25 and 33 per cent.

This study done by Dr Yap Mui Teng, senior research fellow at IPS, together with the occasional paper by NPTD, both of which are not forecasts or predictions, will form the basis for a Government white paper on population goals and policies to be released by the end of the year.

At a conference to present the IPS study yesterday, academics and economists alike called for increased labour productivity - even for the aged - and other innovative solutions to beat the population conundrum for Singapore. But tackling this problem is "not a pure numbers game", some felt, as they called for some norms to be challenged.

Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, adjunct senior fellow at IPS and vice-president of the Economic Society of Singapore, pointed out that high-income countries in Europe and the United States have seen labour growth of between 0 and 1 per cent "with no ill effects".

In particular, he calculated that from the period that IPS focused on in the study - which brings about a 1.1 million increase in population - would translate to only 0.6 per cent in GDP growth.

"Straight off, the economic cost benefit is a no-brainer. Why would you want an extra 0.6 per cent in growth for a final population that is going to strain severely the environment?" Mr Yeoh wondered.

Professor Hoon Hian Teck, associate dean of the School of Economics at the Singapore Management University, asked for the cost of spending on baby bonus packages, versus the social cost of bringing in new immigrants to be examined. Doing some projections of his own and taking into account PR numbers as well as the number of resident workers, and foreign workers, he determined that 5.5 million would be an optimum population size, taking into account the level of citizen workforce needed to pay taxes.

Other academics called for the existing population to be tapped on more effectively, and also asked for the type and mix of labour that Singapore wants to attract to be examined.

Singapore's Ambassador-at-large, Professor Tommy Koh, challenged the assumption that one cannot be productive after 65 years old, as the dependency ratio is based on that.

From about 7.7 younger residents supporting every elderly resident in 2010, the study projected an eventual decline to fewer than two supporting every elderly resident in 2050.

Professor Koh said: "I question whether one should just say, post 65, you are no longer able to work and support yourself, and therefore become a dependant. If you have enough savings, and you don't depend on your children, is it fair then to describe a parent as a dependant?"

To offset the effects of the economic and social burdens of the aged on the young, academics also urged for stronger ageing in place. Sociologist Paulin Straughan said that stronger eldercare infrastructure will reduce dependency on the young, while Mr Yeoh felt the State could step in to play a role where family cannot.

Three scenarios projecting total population and labour force
Scenario 1:

Non-residents make up 20 per cent of the total population

- Total population growth sustained at 0.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2050: 6.1 million population in 2050

- Total workforce growth of 0.3% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2050: 3.5 million workforce in 2050

Scenario 2:

Non-residents make up 25 per cent of the total population

- Total population growth sustained at 0.6% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2050: 6.5 million population in 2050

- Total workforce growth of 0.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2050: 3.8 million workforce in 2050

Scenario 3:

Non-residents make up 33 per cent of the total population

- Total population growth sustained at 0.9% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2050: 7.3 million population in 2050

- Total workforce growth of 0.3% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2050: 4.4 million workforce in 2050

Source: Institute of Policy Studies

Note: For all scenarios, it is assumed that Singapore will take in 30,000 new citizens or Permanent Residents every year, and the country's Total Fertility Rate remains at 1.24.

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Indonesia: WWF Indonesia demands probe into elephant`s death in Aceh

Antara 2 May 12;

The 18-year-old elephant was found dead in an oil palm plantation in Krueng Ayon village, Sampoiniet sub-district, Aceh Jaya. (ANTARA/Irwansyah Putra)

Banda Aceh, Aceh (ANTARA News) - Environment organization WWF Indonesia has urged the concerned authorities to investigate the death of an elephant believed to have been poisoned in Aceh Jaya, in order to prevent future such recurrences.

"We urge law agencies and the authorities concerned to immediately investigate the death of a female elephant in Aceh Jaya and find the perpetrators," said WWF Indonesia Programme Leader Dede Suhendra here on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old elephant was found dead in an oil palm plantation in Krueng Ayon village, Sampoiniet sub-district, Aceh Jaya, and was believed to have been poisoned.

Dede emphasized the need to conduct an investigation to determine whether the protected animal had really been poisoned or not.

"If the cause of the death is really poisoning, law enforcers must find the perpetrator and punish him so that the incident will not happen again in the future," he stressed.

He believed the elephant`s death is the consequence of a protracted conflict between humans and animals in the region.

The habitat of wild animals - especially protected ones such as elephants, tigers and orangutans - is continuously under depletion due to massive deforestation, which causes the animals to enter villages and damage villagers` crops and cattle.

Dede remarked that the conflict must be ended immediately, so that the animals can return to their habitat.

For this, all parties including the government must together determine how to protect the animals and stop them from entering villages in the future, he added.

Meanwhile, the Sampoiniet Conservation Response Unit (CRU) chief ranger Muchtar expressed his belief that the elephant had died three days ago, adding that the animal`s body was found on the road between SP Empat and SP Lima, which is a resettlement area.

The elephant has a male offspring around 1.5 years old, who is still roaming around in the area where his mother died, the ranger remarked.

The chief of the animal protection section of the Aceh Jaya Forestry and Plantation Service, Armidi, said in Calang on Wednesday that there have been numerous cases of interference by wild elephants in the last seven years. He added that the service, along with the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the CRU of Fauna-Flora International (FFI), are continuing their efforts to overcome the conflict between animals and villagers.

According to Armidi, this has been the first elephant death case in Aceh Jaya. He said that the SP 4 and SP 5 areas used to be elephant habitat, although most of this land has been converted into a resettlement area.

Meanwhile, Muchtar reported that the dead elephant was buried on Tuesday.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

WWF Indonesia Calls For Probe Into Elephant Death
Jakarta Globe2 May 12;

Environmental organization WWF called on the government Wednesday to investigate the death of a critically endangered Sumatran elephant allegedly poisoned at an Indonesian oil palm plantation.

A ranger at the plantation in Aceh Jaya on Sumatra island said he found the 18-year-old female elephant dying on Monday and that locals reported they had seen it walking around with a calf earlier that day.

“We call on the authorities to investigate how the elephant died. If she died from poisoning, we hope authorities will do something about educating locals,” WWF’s Aceh program leader Dede Suhendra told AFP.

“People here in Sumatra who own plantations and farms often kill elephants, tigers too, because they see them as pests.”

Mukhtar, the ranger, said he believed the elephant had been poisoned.

“When I found her, she was foaming at the mouth and bleeding from the rectum, which are strong signs of poisoning,” he said, adding that he was unable to save her with medicine.

Mukhtar said the elephant’s calf was “crying” and “making noises” of distress as it stood by its mother dying on the ground.

Suhendra said that conflict between animals in the jungle and humans had increased in the past decade as swathes of forest are cleared for agriculture.

WWF changed the Sumatran elephant’s status from “endangered” to “critically endangered” in January, largely due to severe habitat loss driven by oil palm and paper plantations.

There are less than 3,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, marking a 50 percent drop in numbers since 1985.

Agence France-Presse

Sumatran Elephant Found Poisoned in Indonesia
Jakarta Globe 2 May 12;

Banda Aceh, Indonesia. A ranger says an endangered Sumatran elephant has died in a palm oil plantation in western Indonesia, apparently after being poisoned by villagers trying to protect their crops.

Fewer than 3,000 of the animals are left in the wild and environmentalists warn they could be extinct within three decades unless steps are taken to protect them.

Mukhtar, a ranger with Fauna-Flora International, says the 18-year-old elephant was not yet dead when she was found Monday in Aceh province.

Rangers unsuccessfully tried to save her by giving her medicine.

Mukhtar said it is not uncommon for elephants to be poisoned. As forests disappear, elephants stray into inhabited areas in search of food. Villagers trying to protect their property sometimes leave fruits laced with cyanide.

Associated Press

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Irrawaddy Dolphins in Sabah

Borneo Post 3 May 12;

SANDAKAN: Dolphins are in our rivers. Irrawaddy Dolphins, to be precise. They can be found in the Kinabatangan River in Sandakan, Cowie Bay in Tawau and along the coasts of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.

Irrawady Dolphins are facultative river dolphins, meaning they not only swim in coastal areas but also make their way into rivers.

Teoh Shu Woan, a Marine Conservation Masters student at UMS who is currently conducting research on Irrawaddy Dolphins, has identified 28 Irrawaddy Dolphins in Cowie Bay.

“My current estimate through photo-id mark-recapture method is 28 but I need to do some adjustments to get a less bias estimate, but there are definitely more,” said Shu Woan.

According to Shu Woan, when fishermen collect fish from their nets, the Irrawaddy Dolphins would be waiting nearby.

“The fishermen would pick some fish that were caught in the net and throw them to the dolphins,” she said.

Shu Woan said the dolphins would not disturb the fish caught in the net but instead wait for the fish to be thrown to them.

Like most species of dolphins, the Irrawaddy Dolphins are not aggressive. They are intelligent creatures that are also believed to have a mutualistic relationship of co-operative fishing with traditional fishers.

In Kinabatangan, they are viewed as something sacred.

“When they (Kinabatangan community) see the dolphins, they do not disturb them or call them names because they believe that doing so will cause a huge wave,” said Shu Woan.

However, the current fickle weather has forced these creatures to refrain from traveling upstream in the Kinabatangan River.

“According to interviews with the fishermen, they said during the dry season, sea water flows into the river, and I think the dolphin’s prey goes along as well, hence they see the dolphins traveling upstream. But this was a long time ago.

“Nowadays, there is no obvious dry/wet season and they don’t see the dolphins traveling upstream anymore,” she said.

Irrawaddy Dolphins are social animals that communicate with clicks,creaks and buzzes and often do not travel alone.

These dolphins are also found in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean, Irrawady River in Indonesia, Mahakam River in Kalimantan, Mekong River across South East Asia, Songkla Lake in Thailand and Malampaya Sound in the Philippines.

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First-Of-Its-Kind Study Reveals Surprising Ecological Effects of Earthquake and Tsunami

ScienceDaily 2 May 12;

The reappearance of long-forgotten habitats and the resurgence of species unseen for years may not be among the expected effects of a natural disaster. Yet that's exactly what researchers have found on the sandy beaches of south central Chile, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami in 2010. Their study also revealed a preview of the problems wrought by sea level rise -- a major symptom of climate change.

In a scientific first, researchers from Universidad Austral de Chile and UC Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute (MSI) were able to document the before-and-after ecological impacts of such cataclysmic occurrences. A new paper appearing in the journal PLoS ONE elucidates the surprising results of their collaborative study, pointing to the potential effects of natural disasters on sandy beaches worldwide.

"So often you think of earthquakes as causing total devastation, and adding a tsunami on top of that is a major catastrophe for coastal ecosystems. As expected, we saw high mortality of intertidal life on beaches and rocky shores, but the ecological recovery at some of our sandy beach sites was remarkable," said Jenifer Dugan, an associate research biologist at MSI. " Dune plants are coming back in places there haven't been plants, as far as we know, for a very long time. The earthquake created sandy beach habitat where it had been lost. This is not the initial ecological response you might expect from a major earthquake and tsunami."

Their findings owe a debt to serendipity. With joint support from Chile's Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico and the U.S. National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research program, the scientists were already knee-deep in a collaborative study of how sandy beaches in Santa Barbara and south central Chile respond, ecologically, to human-made armoring such as seawalls and rocky revetments. As part of that project, the Chilean team surveyed nine sandy beaches along the coasts of Maule and Bíobío in late January, 2010. The earthquake hit in February.

Realizing their unique opportunity, the scientists quickly changed gears and within days were back on the beaches to reassess their study sites in the catastrophe's aftermath. They have returned many times since, diligently documenting the ecological recovery and long-term effects of the earthquake and tsunami on these coastlines, in both natural and human-altered settings.

The magnitude and direction of land-level change brought the greatest impact, drowning beaches especially where the tsunami exacerbated earthquake-induced subsidence -- and widening and flattening beaches where the earthquake brought uplift. The drowned beach areas suffered mortality of intertidal life; the widened beaches quickly saw the return of plants and animals that had vanished due to the effects of coastal armoring.

"With the study in California and our study here, we knew that building coastal defense structures, such as seawalls, decreases beach area, and that a seawall results in the decline of intertidal diversity," said lead author Eduardo Jaramillo, of Universidad Austral de Chile. "But after the earthquake, where significant continental uplift occurred, the beach area that had been lost due to coastal armoring has now been restored. And the re-colonization of the mobile beach fauna was under way just weeks after."

With responses varying so widely depending on land-level changes, mobility of flora and fauna, and shore type, the findings show not only that the interactions of extreme events with armored beaches can produce surprising ecological outcomes -- but also suggest that landscape alteration, including armoring, can leave lasting footprints in coastal ecosystems.

"When someone builds a seawall, not only is beach habitat covered up with the wall itself, but, over time, sand is lost in front of the wall until the beach eventually drowns," Dugan said. "The semi-dry and damp sand zones of the upper and mid intertidal are lost first, leaving only the wet lower beach zones. This causes the beach to lose diversity, including birds, and to lose ecological function. This is an underappreciated human impact on coastlines around the world, and with climate change squeezing beaches further, it's a very serious issue to consider."

Jaramillo elaborated, "This is very important because sandy beaches represent about 80 percent of the open coastlines globally. Also, sandy beaches are very good barriers against the sea level rise we are seeing around the world. It is essential to take care of sandy beaches. They are not only important for recreation, but also for conservation."

The study is said to be the first-ever quantification of earthquake and tsunami effects on sandy beach ecosystems along a tectonically active coastal zone.

Journal Reference:

Eduardo Jaramillo, Jenifer E. Dugan, David M. Hubbard, Daniel Melnick, Mario Manzano, Cristian Duarte, Cesar Campos, Roland Sanchez. Ecological Implications of Extreme Events: Footprints of the 2010 Earthquake along the Chilean Coast. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (5): e35348 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035348

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Climate impact on plants could be underestimated - study

AFP Yahoo News 3 May 12;

Experiments that try to simulate global warming's impact on plants badly underestimate what happens in the real world, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The investigation backs anecdotal evidence from farmers and gardeners, especially in the northern hemisphere, who say seasonal plants are stirring into life far earlier than in the past.

Artificial experiments into global warming usually entail encasing a plant in an open-top greenhouse-like chamber, or in a canopy that has a small heater in its roof, in order to replicate rising temperature.

These experiments have determined that flowering and leafing occur between 1.9 and 3.3 days earlier for every one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in temperature increase.

But the study says the true figure is far higher.

Plants start to grow leaves and flowers between 2.5 and five days earlier per one degree C (1.8 F), it says.

It bases this on a comparison between warming experiments on 1,634 plant species and long-term observations of these species in the wild, carried out by some 20 institutions in North America, Japan and Australia.

"Up to now, it's been assumed that experimental systems will respond the same as natural systems respond -- but they don't," co-author Benjamin Cook of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, New York, said in a press release.

The experimental methods may be flawed because they reduce light, wind or soil moisture, all of which affect the plant's seasonal maturation, says the paper.

From 1906 to 2005, global surface temperatures rose by 0.74 C (1.33 F), according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report.

On present trends of heat-trapping carbon emissions, Earth is on track for additional warming of two degrees Celsius (3.6 F) or more, according to estimates published by other sources last year.

Some experts deem those estimates conservative and note many locations are warming far faster than the global average.

"The meticulously recorded and celebrated blooming of Washington DC's cherry blossoms has advanced about a week since the 1970s," said the press release, issued by Columbia University's Earth Institute.

"If the trend continues, some recent projections say that by 2080 they will be coming out in February."

Plant Study Flags Dangers Of Warming World
Nina Chestney PlanetArk 3 May 12;

Plant Study Flags Dangers Of Warming World Photo: Kieran Doherty
A bee collects pollen from a field of crocuses at Kew Gardens in London, March 17, 2005.
Photo: Kieran Doherty

Plants are flowering faster than scientists predicted in response to climate change, research in the United States showed on Wednesday, which could have devastating knock-on effects for food chains and ecosystems.

Global warming is having a significant impact on hundreds of plant and animal species around the world, changing some breeding, migration and feeding patterns, scientists say.

Increased carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels can affect how plants produce oxygen, while higher temperatures and variable rainfall patterns can change their behavior.

"Predicting species' response to climate change is a major challenge in ecology," said researchers at the University of California San Diego and several other U.S. institutions.

They said plants had been the focus of study because their response to climate change could affect food chains and ecosystem services such as pollination, nutrient cycles and water supply.

The study, published on the Nature website, draws on evidence from plant life cycle studies and experiments across four continents and 1,634 species. It found that some experiments had underestimated the speed of flowering by 8.5 times and growing leaves by 4 times.

"Across all species, the experiments under-predicted the magnitude of the advance - for both leafing and flowering - that results from temperature increases," the study said.

The design of future experiments may need to be improved to better predict how plants will react to climate change, it said.

Plants are essential to life on Earth. They are the base of the food chain, using photosynthesis to produce sugar from carbon dioxide and water. They expel oxygen which is needed by nearly every organism which inhabits the planet.

Scientists estimate the world's average temperature has risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900, and nearly 0.2 degrees per decade since 1979.

So far, efforts to cut emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases are not seen as sufficient to prevent the Earth heating up beyond 2 degrees C this century - a threshold scientists say risks an unstable climate in which weather extremes are common, leading to drought, floods, crop failures and rising sea levels.

The study can be viewed at

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