Best of our wild blogs: 12 Oct 12

Green Drinks: Julian Wong – Systems Thinking for Sustainability
from Green Drinks Singapore

Plant-Bird Relationship: 5. Fabaceae
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Towards population 6m: Develop outlying isles, have taller blocks

Straits Times Forum 12 Oct 12;

TWO ideas to optimise land usage will help alleviate the population crunch ("Population 6m: Is there room?"; last Saturday).

In 2006, when the population was 4.4 million, the Singapore Tourism Board had plans to develop the southern islands, leveraging on the natural ecosytem and resources, into a destination similar to Dubai's The Palm islands, primarily for the wealthy. The following year, the plans were put on hold.

With a combined land area of 140ha, the six islands could, if feasible, be developed for public housing, complete with amenities such as schools, day-care centres, malls and supermarkets, and be connected to the mainland by LRT to the HarbourFront MRT station.

Since the Pinnacle@Duxton, Singapore's first 50-storey public housing was built, I had expected it to be the forerunner for more such massive, space-saving blocks to mushroom throughout the island. And with time, there would be even taller structures - 70-, 80-, 100-storey public housing and commercial blocks - one key way to optimise our scarce land resource.

We should fully optimise the "natural resource" of going skywards to help accommodate six million people or more.

Clinton Lim

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Most Singaporeans picking new '5 Cs' over material gain: Survey

Straits Times 12 Oct 12;

FORGET the old "five Cs" when it comes to the priorities of most Singaporeans these days.

Now, intangibles such as control, confidence, community and career are more important than material gain here, according to a survey by OCBC Bank.

Another is "can" in the sense of having a can-do attitude.

These non-material "new" five Cs, as the survey calls them, have supplanted the traditional five Cs - cash, car, condominium, country club membership and credit card.

Those five Cs, used extensively to define wealth, are no longer as relevant today, said the bank in a statement.

"The wealth business is our stronghold, and we want anyone who is wondering about how they can grow their wealth to come to us," said Ms Madeline O'Connor, OCBC Bank's chief marketing officer.

The survey was conducted by OCBC to better understand customers' definition of wealth.

About two-thirds - 65 per cent - of respondents rate the intangibles as more important while the remaining are sticking to the material yardsticks of wealth.

About 70 per cent of those polled who live in Singapore prefer the pursuit of goals such as having a happy family, 52 per cent chose travelling, while 53 per cent picked staying healthy at a ripe old age.

Less than 12 per cent and 4 per cent picked owning a luxury car and a country club membership as worthy life goals.

Other "C" choices which received the highest ratings included care, compassion, children and character.

The survey is part of the bank's "Strive for More" campaign to attract customers to bank with them and support new products and services.

It was conducted over the first week this month via Facebook and iPads installed in 50 taxis islandwide. Those lucky enough to ride in one of these cabs and who took the survey between 6pm and 9pm enjoyed a free ride on OCBC Bank.

A total of 2,100 responses were collected.

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Sustainable cities: innovative urban planning in Singapore

As competition for resources increases and urban populations expand, Singapore is embracing sustainable development. Other cities must follow suit, argues Flemmich Webb
Flemmich Webb Guardian Professional 11 Oct 12;

Cities present a sustainability conundrum: though they are the most efficient way to provide infrastructure and services for large populations, they are, in absolute terms, incredibly inefficient.

Cities cover just 2% of the Earth's surface yet consume about 75% of the world's resources, and given that more of the world's population now live in cities than in rural areas, it's clear they are key to tackling climate change and reducing resource use.

Urban administrators face huge challenges to make cities more sustainable. From traffic jams and inefficient buildings to social inequality and housing, the problems are complex and hard to tackle — but not insurmountable.

Some cities are forging ahead with the use of innovative urban planning, technological and governance models, showing that with the right focus and resources, cities can become "smart" or more sustainable.

According to the latest Siemens' Green City Index for Asia, Singapore is the best-performing city in the region when measured against a range of sustainability criteria.

"Singapore is at the leading edge of sustainability," says Nicholas You, chairman of the World Urban Campaign Steering Committee at UN-Habitat. "It's an island state with limited resources so it had no choice but to go green if it wanted to survive economically."

Singapore's experiences have important lessons for other urban centres. Take its water treatment. In 1963, water functionality was shared between multiple ministries and agencies, which made it difficult to formulate a coordinated, long-term strategy.

With a rising population and finite freshwater resources, action was needed, so ministers set up a national water agency, PUB, which became the sole body responsible for the collection, production, distribution and reclamation of water in the city.

Today, its water operation has been transformed. Two thirds of Singapore's land surface is now a water catchment area with water stored in 17 reservoirs, including the Marina Basin, right in the heart of the city.

Called NEWater, wastewater is collected and treated to produce water that's good enough to drink. This meets 30% of the city's water needs, a target that will be increased to 50% of future needs by 2060.

Earlier this year, Siemens was contracted to identify CO2 reduction opportunities in transport, residential and non-industrial buildings, and IT/communications in the Tampines district.

As part of the city's plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030, Siemens will report back in 2013 with implementation costs, a plan to implement the changes and the design of pilots to trail three technological solutions.

"This will be a good test-bed for new technologies to prove what we can do," says Dr Roland Busch, Siemens' CEO of infrastructure and cities sector. "It's a way to demonstrate in the highly competitive environment that is Singapore, that we can bring energy efficiency to the next level in addressing all the basic needs of cities."

EDF and Veolia recently signed an agreement with Singapore's Housing Development Board (HDB), the city-state's largest developer, to develop software that will help it develop sustainable, urban planning solutions in HDB towns.

ForCity will simulate the built environment of a city and its impact on resources, the environment, people and intervention costs to help the HDB make its towns function more efficiently and become more pleasant to live in. The tool will be trialed in the Jurong East district of Singapore.

Transport is another sector that has seen investment recently. On an island of 4.8 million people with limited space, moving people around as efficiently as possible is key to its economic viability. A decade ago, city administrators warned that congestion could cost Singapore's economy $2-3bn a year if transport infrastructure was not improved.

Then, there were two separate transport-charging systems in the city: road tolls and public transport, including the metro and buses. But since 2009, after a series of smart card innovations, people have been able to use e-Symphony, an IBM-designed payment card that can be used to pay for road tolls, bus travel, taxis, the metro, and even shopping.

The card can process 20 million fare transactions a day and collects extensive traffic data, allowing city administrators to constantly tweak routes to ensure the most efficient journeys and minimise congestion.

All these measures combine to make Singapore a smarter city. "What we have done is to research and try to distill the principles for Singapore's success in sustainable urban development – we call it a liveability framework," says Khoo Teng Chye, executive director at the Centre for Liveable Cities based in Singapore.

"Quality of life, environmental sustainability and competitive economics. These are the components that make cities liveable."

As the competition for resources increases and cities expand to accommodate rising populations, even those without the geographic constraints of Singapore will have to embrace smart city principles. If they don't, they will lose out financially, unable to attract businesses and talent from cities that do. The planet simply can't sustain current levels of resource use and environmental degradation. It's not a choice; cities have to change.

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Malaysia: Four acquitted of killing tiger

Manjit Kaur The Star 12 Oct 12;

TAPAH: Standing tall with their traditional headgear, a group of Semais erupted with joy outside a courtroom when they heard that four orang asli had been freed over the killing of a tiger.

They were thrilled to know that the magistrate’s court acquitted and discharged Yok Mat Bah Chong, 48, Yok Rayau Yok Senian, 50, Yok Kalong Bah Papee, 51, and Hassan Bah Ong, 33, over the death of the tiger in Bukit Tapah Forest Reserve two years ago.

Magistrate Fairuz Adiba Ismail said the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case against the four men who hailed from different villages in Sungkai.

To show moral support to their counterparts, a group of about 30 orang asli from the Semai tribe gathered outside the courtroom since 8am and waited two-and-a-half hours for the good news.

The orang asli came from three villages in Sungkai – Kg Gamus, Pos Jernang and Kg Ras.

The four accused were earlier said to have used a shotgun and shot the tiger in the forest reserve near Sungkai on Feb 4, 2010, between 8am and 1pm.

They were charged under Section 64A of the Wildlife Protection Act which makes offenders liable to a RM15,000 fine or five years jail upon conviction.

Met outside the courtroom yesterday, Yok Mat said he was relieved over the outcome of the case.

“We were merely trying to save our friend Yok Meneh Yok Din who was being attacked by the tiger while collecting produce at the forest.”

“I am happy that I will no longer have to deal with sleepless nights over the case. I will now be able to have a peaceful life with my wife and five children,” he added.

Yok Meneh, 49, who was injured during the attack, was also present yesterday.

Initially, the four men were not represented until lawyers Augus­tine Anthony and Amani Williams-Hunt Abdullah decided to take on the case on a pro-bono basis.

During the oral submission, Augustine said there had been contradictions in the evidence produced in court.

For example, he said the make of the shotgun reported in the ballistic report had differed from the one seized from the orang asli.

Furthermore, a Veterinary Ser­vices Department officer had told the court that she was the one who performed the post-mortem on the carcass of the tiger but an earlier report indicated that Wildlife Department officers had carried out the examination.

“The most crucial point is – how can the four be charged with killing the tiger and not be charged for a more serious offence of unlawfully possessing firearms?” he asked.

“Thus, the four should be acquitted,” he added.

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Malaysia: Rivers in the country treated as dumping ground by irresponsible people

Zazali Musa The Star 12 Oct 12;

JOHOR BARU: Malaysians are treating their rivers as a dumping ground by deliberately throwing rubbish and all sort of waste into the water system.

Waste of all kinds could be found dumped in the rivers nationwide from unused automobiles to furniture to animal carcasses to toxic waste to even human bodies.

“We don’t love our rivers and human activities are the main reason that contributes to the dirty rivers,” said Malaysian Water Academy (MyWA) executive director Shaharis Saad.

He said Malaysia was among the top countries which has the most polluted rivers and it the situation prolonged, it could cause problems for clean water supply in the future

Shaharis said this in a press conference after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between MyWA and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

Under the MoU, both parties would jointly undertake research activities on water-related issues such as water treatment technology and waste treatment.

He said if no action taken by the relevant authorities to improve on the quality of river in Malaysia, the country would have problems in treating river waters for human consumption.

“We foresee that Malaysia will have problems in treating raw water from our rivers 10 to 15 years down the roads as most of our rivers are polluted,’’ said Shaharis.

He said the polluted water river was not only prevalent to Malaysia but a worldwide phenomenon especially in the Third World countries where polluted rivers were common sight. Meanwhile, UTM dean, Faculty of Civil Engineering dean (Institute of Environmental and Water Resource Management) Professor Dr Zulkifli Yusop said Malaysia still has a long way to go before it could see clean rivers in the country.

He singled out Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan as countries which have the best river management system in the region and managed to transformed their dirty rivers into sustainable water system.

“We have to start learning from them on how to revive our river system as clean river reflects the high degree of civic consciousness and the image of our country,’’ sadi Dr Zulkifli.

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Malaysia: Selangor rivers under threat, ‘dying’ fast - Experts

New Straits Times 12 Oct 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Most rivers in Selangor, which are the main sources of water supply in the state, have been found to be polluted and could become a serious threat if not managed properly, a scientist warned yesterday.

Universiti Putra Malaysia Environmental Forensics Research Centre unit head Dr Hafizan Juahir said sections of rivers with clean water were getting shorter because of high land utilisation activities, especially for housing development.

As an example, he said, the length of Sungai Langat, the leading source of water in the state, was 149.3km, but clean water could only be obtained at sections totalling 49.3km.

Hafizan said pollution at the river was categorised as Class Four, with Class 1 and 2 being unpolluted while 3 and 4 were seriously polluted.
"The entire length of Sungai Langat has already reached Class 3 and 4, and if the water quality worsens, it will become a dead river," he said.

Hafizan said the latest data obtained by his students on Sungai Langat's condition was presented three days ago.

He said in Hulu Langat district, the situation was getting serious and threatening
to the river because there was too much development, especially the building of condominiums and shophouses.

The population increase had also affected the water quality because more washing and domestic waste were dumped into the river.

When asked on the Selangor government's water policy, which emphasised on restructuring the industry rather than overcoming problems, he said the restructuring exercise would not amount to anything if critical problems were not attended to.

He also expressed his support to the Federal government's move to source water from Sungai Pahang for Selangor, which is being implemented now. Bernama

‘Selangor rivers polluted’
The Star 12 Oct 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Most rivers in Selangor which are the main sources of water supply in the state have been found to be polluted and could potentially become a serious threat to the availability of this basic necessity.

Universiti Putra Malaysia Environmental Forensics Research Centre unit head Dr Hafizan Juahir said the clean water sections of the rivers were getting shorter due to development, especially for housing.

For example, he said, the length of Sungai Langat, the leading source of raw water in the state, was 149.3km -long but the clean water section had been reduced to only 49.3km while the remaining were polluted.

“The entire length of Sungai Langat has entered the Class 3 and 4 categories of being polluted and if the quality worsens, it can be considered a dead river,” he said.

He said that in the Hulu Langat district, the situation was more serious as there was too much development especially condominiums, shop houses while population increase had also negatively impacted water quality through washing and domestic waste dumping in the river.

“I am a scientist and a researcher. I speak based on facts of water quality. I see the details of every parameter of water quality or water quality trend index. There is very little clean water left,” he added.

Dr Hafizan said many people were confused about the sources of water and that because the country had frequent rain to fill dams, they believed Malaysia need not worry about its sources of water.

“The dams can only hold water for treatment before we supply it to the consumers. But we should examine closely where is the water from? The source of waste is from the river.

“If we only hope for rain, it won't be sufficient to meet the increasing demand of urbanisation. It is inevitable that demand for clean water will keep increasing,” he said.

Dr Hafizan said as pollution worsened, the cost of treating water would become more expensive and this would raise the question of whether the Government could continue providing subsidy.

On the Selangor Government's water policy which emphasised restructuring the water industry rather than overcoming problems such as pollution of water sources and the lack of treated water capacity, Dr Hafizan said: “Without taking into consideration how to control water source pollution, increasing plant capacity and clean water, restructuring would not amount to anything.”

He also expressed support for the plan to source water from Sungai Pahang for Selangor, especially since water from Sungai Pahang was not as polluted as rivers in Selangor.

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Indonesia: Bengkulu conservation centre evacuates tigers over transmigration housing

Antara 11 Oct 12;

Bengkulu, Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Centre will evacuate tigers reported to be wandering around the Pelabai transmigration housing complex in the Lebong district.

According to the conservation centre`s head, Anggoro Dwi Sujiarto, the institution is yet to receive any official reports from the local community but there is information about an encounter with a wild tiger near the residential area.

The conservation centre has assured quick response to any reports of tigers roaming around the community.

Lately, tigers have often been seen roaming around housing areas because of their decreasing habitats which made hunting for food even harder for them.

The human-tiger conflict is predicted to escalate in the future due to decreasing habitats.

Anggoro said that the centre had attempted to capture one of the tigers, but the effort failed because it ran into the forest.

According to Supartono, a member of the conservation centre's staff, the local community has been asked to report any encounters with tigers along unusual tiger trails immediately to the nearest local conservation centres.

Based on the reports by locals, the conservation centre would deploy a team to the reported location of the tiger.

There are specific trails used by the tigers to migrate from their habitat and for hunting for food, namely along the North Bengkulu-Lebong roadway which is located in the Resam hill area near a tiger habitat.

People have been asked to be more vigilant while travelling close to the tiger trail, especially motorcycle riders during night or during rainy conditions, because that is usually the time the tigers move.

"These tigers usually never interact with humans who happen to pass close to their trail," Supartono added.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Global biodiversity priced at $76 billion

Researchers hope estimates of conservation cost will spur government action.

Daniel Cressey Nature 11 Oct 12;

Protecting all the world's threatened species will cost around US$4 billion a year, according to an estimate published today in Science1. If that number is not staggering enough, the scientists behind the work also report that effectively conserving the significant areas these species live in could rack up a bill of more than $76 billion a year.

Study leader Stuart Butchart, a conservation scientist at BirdLife International in Cambridge, UK, admits that the numbers seem very large. But “in terms of government budgets, they’re quite trivial”, he says, adding that governments have already committed to taking this action in international treaties — they just did not know how much it would cost.

The researchers also point out that the annual costs of proper conservation are but a fraction of the value of nature's ‘ecosystem services’, such as pollination of crops and carbon sinks, estimated at between $2 trillion and $6 trillion. “These sums are not bills, they’re investments in natural capital,” says Butchart. “They’re dwarfed by the benefits we get back from nature.”

Under the internationally agreed Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), governments have committed to meeting 20 conservation targets by 2020, including improving the conservation status of threatened species. To come up with numbers for how much this might cost, Butchart and his team asked experts on 211 threatened bird species to estimate the cost of lowering the extinction risk for each species by one category on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Costing the Earth

The researchers concluded that improving the status of all the world’s 1,115 threatened bird species would cost between $875 million and $1.23 billion a year for the next decade. Adding in other animals raises the number to between $3.41 billion and $4.76 billion a year.

Another target of the CBD is to protect 17% of the Earth’s land surface. Estimates for this are harder to make, but by extrapolating from known land prices and management costs Butchart and his team put the number at $76.1 billion a year.

Exactly how much is now being spent to meet the convention’s targets is unclear, but spending will need to increase by “at least an order of magnitude”, Butchart says. And although there is a large amount of uncertainty in these numbers, governments can still use them to begin planning ways to meet the targets they have already agreed to.

Henrique Pereira, who works on international conservation issues at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, says that although there are uncertainties inherent in extrapolating from birds to all species, the work is an “extremely smart paper”.

“For the first time we have an estimate of how much these targets will cost,” he says. “For any negotiations that occur over the next few years [on CBD targets], these numbers can be used as a reference.”

But Pereira also points out that the figure is for just two of the 20 targets agreed by the CBD. “If you look at the range of targets for 2020, the total bill will be higher,” he says.

Cost of saving endangered species £50bn a year, say experts
Annual spending to protect species and habitats is less than half the amount spent on bankers' bonuses last year
Ian Sample The Guardian 12 Oct 12;

Spending on conservation projects must rise by "an order of magnitude" if governments are to meet their pledges to manage protected areas and halt the spectacular rate of extinctions caused by human activity.

A stark assessment from an international collaboration of conservation groups and universities reveals the enormous shortfall in funds required to save species, and warns that costs are likely to increase, the longer action is delayed.

To reduce the risk of extinction for all threatened species would cost up to $4.76bn (£2.97bn) every year, they say, with a further $76.1bn (£47.4bn) required annually to establish and manage protected areas for species known to be at risk from habitat loss, hunting and other human activities.

Though governments agreed in 2010 through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to reduce the rate of human-induced extinctions and to improve protected areas by 2020, progress has been limited, in part because the financial costs of different strategies have been unclear.

"These seem enormous figures to us as individuals, but in terms of government budgets they are trivial," said Stuart Butchart, the global research co-ordinator at BirdLife International in Cambridge.

"The $3-5bn to improve the status of threatened species and prevent extinctions is less than the amount that the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier is over budget. And the cost for both species and site targets is less than half the amount spent on bankers' bonuses last year."

The costings will feed into the meeting of the CBD under way in Hyderabad, India. Writing in the journal Science, the authors warn that resolving the conservation funding crisis is urgent. One challenge those attending the CBD meeting must address is the disparity in resources available for conservation in richer countries and the greater potential for conserving species in poorer, more biodiverse countries.

The costs to save individual species vary as widely as the strategies required. The ground-nesting raso lark is found on only one of the Cape Verde islands, and conservationists hope to reintroduce it to a neighbouring island. Before that, a population of cats introduced by humans must be exterminated. "They would probably wipe out any birds that you put there," said Butchart.

In the US, the Californian condor used to range across the country, but no longer. One threat to the birds is the lead shot used by hunters in the wild. The birds are scavengers and can suffer if they ingest lead from animal carcasses.

Efforts to protect rhino populations have focused on controlling poaching, guarding their habitats and providing suitable grasslands. In the Mediterranean, a programme of captive breeding and reintroduction has improved the lot of the Mallorcan midwife toad.

For their analysis, the authors gathered details on the conservation of 211 globally threatened bird species and the costs to improve their status by one category on the red list of threatened species, maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. For example, a species ranked as endangered might be reclassified as merely vulnerable after a successful conservation project. The researchers devised a model that then extrapolated the costs of conservation to all threatened bird species.

Drawing on other conservation data for threatened mammals, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and plants, the scientists arrived at a model that could predict the costs for all threatened species.

In parallel, the team gathered information on the costs of protected areas for bird life and from these worked out how the cost would rise to establish and maintain safe havens for all threatened species.

"These aren't bills, they are investments in natural capital, because they are dwarfed by the benefits we get back from nature, the ecosystem services, such as pollination of crops, regulation of climate, and the provision of clean water," said Butchart.

"Governments have found vast sums to prop up the financial infrastructure of the world. It's even more vital to keep our natural infrastructure from failing," he added.

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