Best of our wild blogs: 4 Jun 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [28 May - 3 Jun 2012]
from Green Business Times

Seahorse, nudis and more at Punggol Beach!
from wild shores of singapore

More FREE June walks at Pasir Ris mangroves
from wild shores of singapore

Climate change in the tropics: the end of the world as we know it? – Professor Richard Corlett from Raffles Museum News

Where is the Central Catchment Nature Reserve?
from Urban Forest

Indonesia eco-news review: Fisherman still using bombs to catch fish in Indonesia from news by Rhett Butler

Pacific Swallow
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

PUB to make 90% of Singapore a catchment area

Every raindrop counts
PUB ramps up world-first technology that will make 90% of the island a catchment area
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 4 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE - For a country that brought to the world the technology to recycle sewage into high-grade reclaimed potable water, the Republic is now making strides in another world-first: Variable salinity technology, which would turn almost the entire island into a water catchment area, as national water agency PUB strives to make use of every drop of rainwater.

TODAY has learnt that, following a successful pilot, PUB plans to ramp up the technology, having recently identified eight potential sites across the island, including one at Jurong, at which to build new plants.

PUB had revealed that it was looking at using more of the technology - without giving details - in a letter to this newspaper last month, in a response to a reader's suggestion to harness water in the streams and rivulets near the shoreline.

Currently, two-thirds of Singapore's land surface is a water catchment area. But, according to PUB, a considerable amount of rainwater still goes to waste at smaller rivulets situated at the island's outskirts. With the new technology - which has the dual function of generating potable water from brackish water and sea water - about 90 per cent of the island will become a water catchment area.

During wet spells or periods of heavy rainfall, an inflatable rubber weir built into a canal retains rainwater that is otherwise drained into the sea.

The water from the canal is transferred to a variable salinity plant. During the purification process, the water is filtered to remove particles of less than 100 micrometres in size. The water is then desalted when it is run through reverse osmosis membranes.

During dry spells, however, the variable salinity plant switches to "seawater" mode, and seawater is pumped into the plant from a pipe spanning 190m offshore.

The seawater stream is passed through seawater reverse osmosis membranes and then through the brackish water reverse osmosis membranes to obtain salt-free water.

PUB spokesperson Sarah Hiong told TODAY: "The variable salinity plant is the first of its kind in the world, and is designed to produce drinking water from seawater and brackish water at an affordable cost."

With some parts of the island seeing ony minimal rain for up to four-fifths of the year, it would not have been cost effective to build conventional systems for small catchments such as streams and rivulets near the shorelines.

The PUB launched a prototype variable salinity plant at the Bedok NEWater facility in 2004. Bouyed by its success, a S$7.4-million demonstration-scale plant was constructed in 2007 at Sungei Tampines. And for the past five years, the plant has been working around the clock, processing up to 2 million gallons (9.1 million litres) of brackish rainwater per day - or about 0.5 per cent of Singapore's daily water consumption, which stands at 380 million gallons.

Like NEWater, the water processed by this latest technology is safe for drinking, meeting or surpassing drinking water quality guidelines and standards by the World Health Organization and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

But as the yield is small, all product water is currently used to augment the supply of NEWater used to meet industrial needs.

Ms Hiong noted that 55 per cent of Singapore's total water demand comes from the industrial sector. "NEWater is primarily supplied to industries, and (the new technology) frees up potable water from catchment areas for household consumption," she said.

Four of the potential sites identified for new variable salinity plants are in the eastern part of the island, and two each in the western and north-western parts. One of the sites -to be situated in Jurong - will ultimately be capable of processing 1.3 million gallons of seawater or 2.6 million gallons of brackish water per day.

As the new technology make inroads here, members of the public have more reasons not to litter.

"Rubbish thrown on the ground can be washed into drains when it rains, and end up in a canal, which is collecting rainwater for our water supply," Ms Hiong pointed out.

Read more!

Malaysia: Johor refinery needs to double to bear fruit

Malaysia can complement Singapore and create another Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp(ARA)
Thomas Huong The Star 4 Jun 12;

Dialog needs to double Pengerang capacity for regional oil hub plan to bear fruit

PETALING JAYA: Dialog Group Bhd's RM5bil Pengerang terminal in Johor may need to double its total storage capacity to 10 million cu m if plans to turn the area into a regional oil storage and trading hub were to bear fruit.

Dialog executive chairman Ngau Boon Keat told StarBiz that the oil and gas multi-discipline technical service provider was conducting studies on the potential demand for liquefied national gas (LNG) storage at the terminal.

Ngau said the natural deepwater and strategic location of Pengerang had attracted the attention of potential oil and gas investors from Taiwan and other countries recently.

“Pengerang has the potential to be bigger than what we anticipated originally. If done properly, the petrochemical industry in Pengerang and Singapore's Jurong Island (combined) can be bigger than Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In 20 years, Pengerang itself could surpass Rotterdam,” said Ngau.

To recap, in Pengerang, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has plans for a RM60bil integrated refinery and petrochemical complex, known as Rapid, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2016, while Dialog, together with Netherlands-based Royal Vopak group, are developing an independent deepwater petroleum terminal.

The independent deepwater petroleum terminal will provide storage, blending and distribution services for oil products and will be capable of handling ultra large crude oil carriers.

The terminal, to be completed in the next six years, is presently planned with a total storage capacity of five million cu m covering 500 acres reclaimed land.

According to Ngau, the Pengerang terminal has the advantages of having deepwater (24m) jetty facilties and a strategic location that is next to international sea lanes.

The Johor state government also has a 10% stake, via its investment arm the State Secretary Johor Inc, in the terminal project.

Ngau reiterated that Pengerang has natural resources and advantages that Singapore and Rotterdam lack.

“Rotterdam, as the world's biggest oil refining and petrochemical hub, is the pride of the Dutch. They are still reclaiming land from the North Sea. They are very efficient. Jurong has limited land and is finding it hard to grow further.”

However, Ngau stressed that the country needed to create a cost-efficient environment for oil and gas investors to operate in.

“Whoever comes to Pengerang is looking at cost efficiency. It is not so much about the cheap land or incentives. Rather, it is because Pengerang is the most efficient location for doing business. These are huge investments. For example, on an investment of RM120bil, if you are 5% more effficient, then you generate a RM6bil advantage against others,” he said.

Ngau said when Rapid was commissioned at end-2016, it would be the first oil refinery of significant size in almost two decades in South-East Asia, since a Petronas-ConocoPhillips joint venture refinery in Malacca was added in 1998 and excluding a refinery in Dung Quat, Vietnam that was opened in early 2009. Rapid, which is known as the Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development project, will comprise a crude oil refinery with 300,000 barrels per day capacity, a naphtha cracker that will produce about 3 million tonnes of ethylene, propylene, C4 and C5 olefins per year, and a petrochemicals and polymer complex.

“Singapore is not building refineries because it has limited land. Singapore's Jurong is full. The only way it can grow is by buying sand. It is buying sand from as far as Cambodia and Vietnam. It has gone downstream, into producing petrochemical products,” he said.

According to Ngau, Pengerang will not be competing against Singapore.

“We will complement Singapore. We can go into primary and secondary petrochemical products. But, for us to go into tertiary products, it would take us at least 10 to 15 years to catch up with Singapore.”

Ngau said Rapid would be using using the latest technologies and designs for modern products.

“So, Singapore will buy the raw materials they need from us and vice versa. That is why I say we will complement each other.”

According to Pemandu's (Performance Management and Delivery Unit) handbook on the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the Pengerang terminal is expected to generate RM1.6bil in gross national income (GNI) by 2020 through three streams.

“First, independent logistic players will charge storage fees, generating RM500mil in additional GNI. Second, the availability of storage will drive additional shipping volumes, generating an expected RM300mil in GNI. Lastly, trading of crude oil and petroleum products is expected to generate an additional RM800million in GNI.”

It was estimated that 800 new jobs will be created from the Pengerang terminal venture, excluding any spin-off from other sectors.

The ETP report said that with port locations on major shipping routes for crude oil and refined products, its close proximity to Singapore, land availability and deepwater marine accessibility, Malaysia is well placed to complement Singapore in the oil storage industry.

“Together, Malaysia and Singapore could operate to form a hub like Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA), which complement each other in areas of refining capacity, independent storage and blending capacity as well as access to markets.”

The report also noted that in South-East Asia, Singapore has traditionally had a significant presence in the oil storage industry, with a total of 10 million barrels of independent storage capacity (capacity which is owned by third party operators and contracted out to oil companies, refiners and traders).

“In addition, by 2007, Singapore had built a significant trading business worth more than RM1 trillion in physical oil trade and RM2 trillion in derivative trade. In the last three years, Singapore has more than doubled its independent storage capacity with the commissioning of the Universal and Helios terminals, which are already operating at capacity.”

Read more!

Malaysia: 171 pangolins bound for Thailand seized

Sharifah Mashsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 4 Jun 12;

RM340,000 DELICACY: Police detain 5 and seize two vehicles

KOTA BARU: STATE police prevented 171 pangolins worth RM340,000 from ending up in cooking pots in Thailand with the arrest of five men on Saturday.

The men, aged between 30 and 45, were detained in two operations in Jeli and Bachok.

Police said in Jeli, they detained two men at a roadblock near the Mara Junior Science College at 4am and seized 16 pangolins from them.

They also seized the four-wheel-drive vehicle the duo were in.

Some 20 hours later, another police team in Bachok seized 155 pangolins packed into nets from three men while they were at an unnumbered house in Kampung Alur Tok Majan.

Another 4WD vehicle was also seized here.

The pangolins (manis javanica) and the five local men were later handed over to the state Wildlife and National Parks Department.

Department assistant officer Cosmas Ngau said the pangolins were believed to have been brought into Kelantan from other states several hours before they were seized.

"We believe the pangolins were being smuggled to Thailand separately through Bukit Kayu Hitam in Kedah and Rantau Panjang."

Ngau said pangolin flesh, popular as a delicacy and for its perceived "health benefits" could fetch up to RM350 and RM380 per kg on the black market.

He said the seizure in Bachok was the biggest over the past five years.

"One of the pangolins seized in Bachok is also the biggest seized by us so far. The male pangolin weighed 10kg."

The rare ant-eating animal feeds a mainly Asian market, where pangolins are eaten as delicacies and their scales sought after for various remedies.

Pangolin scales are made chiefly of keratin, a substance believed to have curative value in traditional Asian medicine despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

MMEA foils an attempt to smuggle pangolins out of Malaysia
The Star 4 Jun 12;

MALACCA: The authorities had foiled an attempt to smuggle 26 pangolins into the country through the sea.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) enforcement officers arrested two people and seized a sampan following a public tip-off.

MMEA officers intercepted a small vessel near Pulau Hanyut at Pengkalan Balak in Alor Gajah.

The enforcement team found 26 bags containing pangolins on the detained vessel.

Kuala Linggi MMEA chief Captain Abu Bakar Idris said the pangolins that are listed as endangered species had an estimated a street value of RM50,000.

The live animals, he added, were meant to exported elsewhere after arriving in the waters off Malacca.

“We have handed over the pangolins to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).”

The two men aged 40 and 41 who were detained by the MMEA enforcement officers could not produce any legal documents for the animals.

The case, said Capt Abu Bakar, is now being investigated under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1020 (Act 716) and the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 (Act 686).

Read more!

France To Ban A Syngenta Pesticide To Protect Bees

Gus Trompiz PlanetArk 4 Jun 12;

France To Ban A Syngenta Pesticide To Protect Bees Photo: Christian Hartmann
Agrochemicals maker Syngenta's logo is pictured during the annual news conference in Zurich February 6, 2009.
Photo: Christian Hartmann

France said it plans to ban a pesticide made by Swiss agro-chemical group Syngenta that is widely used to treat rapeseed crops after scientists suggested it could pose danger to bees.

A sharp decline in bee populations across the world in recent years, partly due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, has prompted criticism of pesticide use, although research has yet to show clearly the causes of falling bee numbers.

France intends to withdraw the permit of the Cruiser OSR pesticide used for coating rape seeds, pending a two-week period during which Syngenta can submit its own evidence, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on Friday.

The decision was based on a report from French health and safety agency ANSES, which went along with recent scientific findings suggesting that a sub-lethal dose of thiamethoxam, a molecule contained in Cruiser, made bees more likely to lose their way and die.

"To protect rapeseed plants there exist alternatives to coating seeds that are already widely used. If the withdrawal of the authorization (for Cruiser OSR) is confirmed, farmers will therefore have solutions to call on," Le Foll said in a statement.

Syngenta rejected the move as based on a single study and not backed up by field observations.

"Currently in France you have 650,000 hectares that are cultivated (with Cruiser-treated rapeseed), and there are no cases of bee mortality identified as being linked to Cruiser," Laurent Peron, head of corporate communication for Syngenta France, told Reuters.

This crop area amounts to nearly half of about 1.5 million hectares of rapeseed sown in France. In Europe, more than 3 million hectares of rapeseed use Cruiser, including in Germany, Peron said.


France is the largest crop producer in the European Union and with Germany is the leading EU grower of rapeseed, used for making vegetable oil and biodiesel fuel.

The French ban on the pesticide will take effect before the start of the next rapeseed sowing campaign in late summer, a farm ministry official said, stressing that it would not affect versions of Cruiser used for other crops such as maize (corn).

France also has asked the European Commission to reconsider its criteria for authorizing Cruiser for rapeseed ahead of the next sowing campaign, Le Foll said.

In its report, ANSES said while exposure of bees to thiamethoxam in actual field conditions was lower than in the recent study on bee navigation, a similar level could not be excluded in some circumstances.

More research is needed at European level on the impact on bees as well as a broader review of the neonicotinoid family of substances to which thiamethoxam belongs, it said.

In a separate opinion published on Friday, the European Food Safety Authority said doses of neonicotinoids tested in the bee research were above the highest residue levels actually recorded in plant nectar, adding that more studies were needed to evaluate exposure in different field situations.

Dave Goulson of Stirling University in Scotland, who led another recent study on risks to bees from neonicotinoids, said there was growing evidence that these chemicals may play a role.

"It would be massively oversimplifying to say that these chemicals are the only cause of bee decline, although it is clear they are a part of the problem," he told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris, Charlie Dunmore in Brussels and Martin De Sa'Pinto in Zurich, editing by Jane Baird)

Read more!

Stay or go? Some towns are eyeing retreat from sea

Alicia Chang and Jason Dearen Associated Press Yahoo News 2 Jun 12;

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Years of ferocious storms have threatened to gnaw away the western tip of a popular beachfront park two hours drive north of Los Angeles. Instead of building a 500-foot-long wooden defense next to the pier to tame the tide, the latest thinking is to flee.

Work is under way to gauge the toll of ripping up parking lots on the highly eroded west end of Goleta Beach County Park and moving a scenic bike path and buried utility lines inland away from lapping waves.

Up and down the California coast, some communities are deciding it's not worth trying to wall off the encroaching ocean. Until recently, the thought of bowing to nature was almost unheard of.

But after futile attempts to curb coastal erosion — a problem expected to grow worse with rising seas fueled by global warming — there is growing acknowledgment that the sea is relentless and any line drawn in the sand is likely to eventually wash over.

"I like to think of it as getting out of the way gracefully," said David Revell, a senior coastal scientist at ESA PWA, a San Francisco-based environmental consulting firm involved in Goleta and other planned retreat projects.

The issue of whether to stay or flee is being confronted around the globe. Places experimenting with retreat have adopted various strategies. In Britain, for example, several sites along the Essex coast have deliberately breached seawalls to create salt marshes, which act as a natural barrier to flooding.

In the U.S., the starkest example can be found in Alaska, where entire villages have been forced to move to higher ground or are thinking about it in the face of melting sea ice. Hawaii's famous beaches are slowly shrinking and some scientists think it's a matter of time before the state has to explore whether to move back development.

Several states along the Atlantic coast have adopted policies meant to keep a distance from the ocean. They include no-build zones, setbacks or rolling easements that allow development but with a caveat. As the sea advances, homeowners promise not to build seawalls and must either shift inland or let go.

Over the past half-century, the weapon of choice against a shrinking shoreline has been building a seawall or other defense. Roughly 10 percent of California's 1,100-mile coast is armored. In Southern California, where development is sometimes built steps from the ocean, a third of the shore is dotted with man-made barriers.

While such buffers may protect the base of cliffs, and the land and property behind them, they often exacerbate the problem by scouring beaches, making them narrower or even causing them to disappear.

This is one reason state coastal regulators in 2009 turned down a proposal by Santa Barbara County to fortify an eroding section of Goleta Beach park lashed by periodic storms. A rock wall was built as a temporary stopgap, but a long-term solution was needed. After the state rejected the construction of another hard structure, park officials, working with environmentalists, came up with a Plan B: Move gas, water and sewer lines out of the risk zone. Relocate a bike path to higher ground. Demolish 150 parking spaces and allow the acre of asphalt to be reclaimed by the beach.

Last month, the county Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead for an environmental review. Work could begin next year if the $4 million plan passes other regulatory hurdles.

Around California, relocation of coastal infrastructure and development is being pushed by the Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups. But the efforts also are being driven by increased awareness of climate change. Sea level has risen by 7 inches over the last century in California. By 2050, it's projected to rise between 12 to 18 inches.

San Francisco is mulling a significant retreat on its western flank where the scenic Great Highway is under assault from the Pacific. Erosion has inched closer to the roadway each year, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues girding segments with broken-up rock, a costly temporary fix that has had limited success.

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association favors mixing retreat with coastal armoring. City, state and federal agencies are considering the group's plan, which calls for moving segments of the Great Highway inland and allowing sand dunes to reclaim some of the paved-over space. The group also wants a temporary seawall to protect a sewer tunnel that's part of a multi-billion dollar sewage and storm water system expected to be affected by sea level rise while money is raised to relocate it in about 50 years.

South of San Francisco, the beach town of Pacifica has been an early adopter of planned retreat as it battles constant erosion. The city in 2002 purchased some homes that were at risk of falling into the sea and demolished them.

This summer, the city of Ventura is pressing ahead with its $4.5 million retreat. Last year, crews removed a disintegrating oceanfront bike path at Surfer's Point, a popular surfing spot, and built a new one farther inland. The beach was widened and cobblestone was put down.

Mark Gold, associate director at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, commended local efforts but thinks a large-scale approach is needed.

"It's definitely something that needs to be taken a lot more seriously," Gold said.

So far, most of the scaling back in California has occurred on public land. It's a harder sell for private property owners to take the same action unless beachfront homes are on the verge of being submerged. The state, however, has a built-in retreat: People who want to build new oceanside construction agree not to build a seawall if their homes become threatened in the future.

Charles Lester, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, said planned retreat is an attractive option in theory, but it's hard to execute in densely populated coastlines where there may not be room to move back. Still, he said it's a tool worth using where possible.

Just don't call it surrender.

"I don't think it's giving up. It's about making a smart, sustainable decision," said Gary Griggs, who studies coastal erosion at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Read more!