Best of our wild blogs: 4 Nov 12

Another New Discovery makes it #305!
from Butterflies of Singapore

Sightings of engraved colour flags on shorebirds
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Whiskered Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
from Urban Forest

Beyond the wayside
from The annotated budak

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Singapore a clean city? Don't joke

Shame and punish recalcitrant litterbugs, says Keep S'pore Clean Movement's new head
Chang Ai-lien Straits Times 4 Nov 12;

Singapore is a clean city? Let's get real, says the new chief of the war against littering, Mr Liak Teng Lit.

"We should be known as a cleaned city, not a clean city. Calling ourselves a clean city, that's a joke," he told The Sunday Times.

"We have First World infrastructure, but Third World behaviour. There's litter everywhere, public toilets we hesitate to use, dirty tables at coffee shops and disease outbreaks waiting to happen."

The Alexandra Health group chief executive officer heads the recently "refreshed" Keep Singapore Clean Movement, which is led by the Public Hygiene Council, which he chairs. It works with the Singapore Kindness and Keep Singapore Beautiful movements and the National Environment Agency in the latest anti-littering effort.

He is all for shaming and punishing litterbugs because the mess you see in Singapore today is evidence that four decades of anti-litter campaigns are in tatters.

"We all need to be considerate. But equally important, we need to expect people to be considerate to us," he said.

"When you see a litterbug, you should get angry with him and tell him not to do it."

So Mr Liak is in favour of several tough new ideas:

Motorists who sweep used tissues and assorted junk from their cars to carpark floors and drive off should be banned from parking there for six months.

Litterbugs should perform Corrective Work Orders where they are caught - usually near their homes, so that they are embarrassed in front of their neighbours.

Residents should be allowed to choose how many cleaners they want for their estate and pay accordingly.

And thousands of citizens should be given the power to issue summonses to offenders, focusing particularly on littering hot spots such as the East Coast Park.

He is also planning to set up a "Shame On You" website for people to upload photos and videos of inconsiderate behaviour they have witnessed.

"We advocate shaming the litterbug," he said. "If you behave badly and you're exposed, don't blame others for being a pig."

Mr Liak divides Singaporeans into three groups he calls "the good" majority, "the bad" and "the ugly" minority.

While more than six in 10 say they do not litter and more than three in 10 say they bin their rubbish only when it is convenient, at least one in 100 litters wilfully.

"We need a concerted effort by the good majority to make littering and dirty habits as unacceptable as queue-jumping here," he said. "The idea is for the good to act, the bad to behave and for the ugly to be punished. Enforcement will focus on these ugly Singaporeans."

He admits it will be an uphill task.

Despite annual campaigns and programmes since 1968 to reinforce the anti-littering message and an army of 70,000 cleaners, the problem remains.

Every year, there are about 3,500 complaints about littering in public places, said the NEA, although the number of littering offences went down from 41,392 in 2009 to 11,131 last year.

NEA said it has been shifting focus to engage the public to take ownership and exercise social responsibility to keep their environment clean.

Since August, it has also put in place surveillance cameras to catch high-rise litterbugs and is working with community partners to encourage residents to form litter-watch groups.

"With the community itself exhibiting a zero-tolerance attitude and acting against high-rise littering, there will be more social pressure on litterbugs to bin their rubbish properly," said an NEA spokesman.

Mr Liak aims to get 100 schools, community groups and businesses to join the effort over the next three months and become "bright spots" - model examples of how to keep a place clean and litter-free.

"The idea is to have more and more bright spots, which can then slowly join into one," he said.

Take cleanliness beyond our homes
Straits Times 4 Nov 12;

"One of the most basic facts is that litter begets more litter. Would simply spending more to hire more cleaners or beefing up the regulatory regime of penalties and enforcement - having every area in Singapore patrolled - have to be the ultimate solution to deal with this?

This is not only practically and economically unsustainable, I do not think it reflects at all the type of values which we want our children to inculcate and our society to imbibe.

If it is intrinsic in us to keep our own homes clean and tidy, shouldn't it be so as well beyond our doorsteps, in our neighbourhood and community areas?"

MR THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM, DPM and Finance Minister, speaking at yesterday's launch of Clean and Green Singapore 2013 at Gardens by the Bay

If he sees someone littering, he gives the person a big smile and says, 'Excuse me, do you mind?'
Straits Times 4 Oct 12;

He calls littering a problem almost impossible to fix, yet Mr Liak Teng Lit's Khoo Teck Puat Hospital is an example of how a successful Keep Singapore Clean movement might work.

Signs are everywhere telling you to pick up after yourself, return your tray, wash your hands.

Hospital staff have caught the anti-litter bug from him, too.

They remind people to dump their junk and pick up any stray trash they see, even while walking to the nearby bus and MRT stations.

Mr Liak says if his staff spot him walking past litter, they are welcome to "give me a kick up the backside".

The result - the Yishun hospital grounds are litter-free, toilets are dry and clean, trays are returned in the food court and people even heed signs to keep to the left when they walk.

Mr Liak, group chief executive officer of Alexandra Health, which manages the hospital, is now helming the latest effort to keep Singapore clean. He thinks that schools, companies and public areas can also become models of cleanliness like the hospital.

"My point is, start with yourself. Step forward and tell people if you see them doing something unacceptable," he said.

"If I see someone littering, I give them a big smile and say, 'Excuse me, do you mind?' Usually they will sheepishly pick it up. If they refuse, I pick it up for them and wash my hands later.

"It's the power of one. All of us have an influence. If everyone exercises his influence, it will make a difference."

That is where he believes that he has a chance of succeeding where decades of anti-littering campaigns have failed.

Since 2009, the number of complaints about littering in public places has remained at about 3,500 a year. The most common types of litter are cigarette butts, plastic bags, drink cans, cigarette box wrappers and plastic bottles, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

"A campaign by itself won't work. This has to be a way of life," he said.

To take the Keep Singapore Clean efforts to the next level, the Public Hygiene Council, Singapore Kindness Movement and Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement are working with the NEA to develop community-led initiatives.

Mr Liak has also roped in school principals, company chief executives, MPs and prominent people to experience "being a cleaner for an hour".

"When you go down to the ground and see things through the cleaners' eyes, you walk in their shoes and feel their pain. Then you will be a stronger advocate," he said.

Having an army of efficient cleaners masks Singapore's littering problem. So he hopes to have a "no-cleaners day" at least once a year.

"Give them a day off once a year, then the next day, all of us can come out and clean with the cleaners. Then maybe we will behave a lot better," he said.

He recalled two incidents from his travels that have stuck with him over the years.

In a small Swiss town, he saw a woman in her 80s alight from a bus and chase after a piece of stray paper which was not her own before walking a distance to put it in the nearest bin.

In Japan, he saw an elderly man dash across the road to scold someone who had thrown a piece of tissue paper on the ground.

"Places like Japan, Korea, Scandinavia and Taiwan, they are always clean, always dry, without an army of cleaners. Look at us; we're dirty as hell. We throw something on the ground, it miraculously disappears," he said.

While some call for more enforcement and others say schools should do more, Mr Liak says: "Blame the culprit." And he means the "incorrigible sociopaths" who think nothing of littering.

He cited an NEA study in 2009 that found that most people here say they do not litter and close to four in 10 (36.2 per cent) know it's wrong to litter but do so if it is convenient and if they think they won't get caught. But 1.2 per cent admitted they were litterbugs "most of the time".

"For them, it's not about education any more. We have to read them the riot act," he said.

Currently, first time offenders who commit a minor littering offence - where the item, such as a cigarette butt or parking coupon tab, is not a public health risk - can be fined $300.

Recalcitrants or those who commit serious littering offences in a public place must go to court. They may be fined up to $1,000 for the first offence and made to do up to 12 hours of cleaning up under a Corrective Work Order.

Serious littering offences are those in which the trash, such as drink cans or food wrappers, can cause pollution or give rise to cleaning or mosquito-breeding problems.

Mr Liak's plans include targeting big events, where littering is rampant.

Next year, for instance, he wants to have no cleaners after the National Day Parade.

"If we can remind people to pick up after themselves, why can't we do it without cleaners?"

Chang Ai-Lien

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Run off the beaten path

Running does not have to be a boring affair, not with the many scenic routes around Singapore
Cheryl Faith Wee Straits Times 4 Nov 12;

For Mr Anthony Sum, 49, the founder of running club TeamFatBird, discovering a new route with his running buddies is a pleasure - even if it means getting lost.

He says: "Sometimes, we lose our bearings. It is important to be a strong runner because you have to reserve some strength to go back the way you came. But finding new routes is a joy."

Since 2004, he has gone on numerous recce trips to find new routes around the island that take him through places ranging from dense forests to beautiful coastlines.

TeamFatBird, which has 800 active runners, conducts weekend runs of about 100 people at scenic spots such as Sentosa and Labrador Park. He says: "We want to make running fun through exploring areas where you need to be on foot."

Mr Sum is not the only runner here who feels that half the fun is discovering new places.

Mrs Leigh Parker, 40, editor-in-chief of SGRunners, an online portal for runners, recalls wandering off the beaten track near Sembawang Park and stumbling upon a cluster of black and white bungalows along Canada Road dating from the 1920s.

Mrs Parker, who moved here from Britain with her husband and five children in 2006, describes it as a part of Singapore she never knew existed.

Getting lost while trying out a new route does not faze the expatriate at all. She says: "I try to run in as many new places as I can. Singapore is a beautiful place that does not get enough credit.

"What better way to explore it then to put on your shoes and go running?"

As well as the sense of adventure you get from going somewhere new, running in different places is also good training practice for serious runners.

According to trainer Lexxus Tan, 40, who is part of 80-plus member running group F1 Runners, varying routes helps to develop different muscles and reflexes.

Exploring trails on undulating ground builds up your lower body strength and reflexes, for example.

He says: "If you constantly run on a flat surface, there will be just one contact point and there is a higher chance of knee injury."

One avid runner who finds fresh scenic routes a transport of delight is civil servant Kelvin Tan, 39, who runs two to three times a week in different places such as Labrador Park, Mount Faber and Bukit Timah.

He says: "When you run in different places, you can enjoy the scenery rather than focus on the distance."

SundayLife! consults National Parks Board and running clubs TeamFatBird, SGRunners, F1 Runners and Mount Faber Safra Running Club for off-the-beaten-path routes with stunning views along the way.

Eastern Coastal Loop

What: Rather than squeezing amid the hordes of cyclists, dog walkers and other joggers in crowded East Coast Park, step off the beaten path onto this group of park connectors which links Bedok Jetty in East Coast Park, Changi Beach Park, Pasir Ris Park and Bedok Reservoir Park.

It cuts through residential areas and takes you along the coastline.

Suggested route: Start near Bedok Jetty (Area F) in East Coast Park and head in the direction of Goldkist Beach Resort until you reach the Siglap Canal which is near carpark D1. Cross the East Coast Parkway expressway via a bridge or underpass to reach the Siglap Park Connector.

Distance: It is about 9km from Bedok Jetty in East Coast Park to the end of Siglap Park Connector at Bedok Reservoir Park. The entire Eastern Coastal Loop of park connectors is 42km.

Suitable for: Runners with some experience because of the distance.

Amenities: Toilets and water points at the parks.

Recommended by: National Parks Board (go to

Black and white bungalows at Sembawang

What: Take a step into the past by exploring this residential cluster of colonial bungalows (below) built by the British from the 1920s to house naval base and military personnel.

The buildings, with their white-washed walls and black timber frames, are nestled within lush greenery. The best time to run here is either in the morning or evening when it is cooler as there is not much shade. Be careful of traffic while jogging on the roads because there are no pedestrian pavements. There is little traffic in the evenings.

If you want to log more distance, do a loop or two around Sembawang Park before heading to Canada Road. There are also a few bungalows closer to Sembawang Park.

Suggested route: Start at Sembawang Park at Tuah Road where there is a carpark. Run along Sembawang Road and Admiralty Road East. Enter the residential area where the bungalows are located, via Canada Road. The buildings are along Canada Road, Montreal Drive, Durban Road, Bermuda Road and Lagos Circle. Distance: More than 2km

Suitable for: Anyone

Amenities: Toilets are available at the park.

Recommended by: Route suggested by online runners community SGRunners (go to

Punggol Park to Punggol Waterway Park

What: Enjoy both the urban and natural landscape at the same time with this route that has a view of housing estates on one side and wetlands on the other.

Keep an eye out for the rich bio-diversity that includes plants such as the African Fountain Grass which has purplish feathery plumes and waterside birds such as the Collared Kingfisher which has a loud, laughing call.

This is just one segment of the North Eastern Riverine Loop, a 26km group of park connectors linking Punggol Park, Punggol Point Park, Punggol Waterway Park and Sengkang Riverside Park in a loop. Explore in the morning and evening as there is not much shade.

Suggested route: Start at Punggol Park and run along the Sungei Serangoon Park Connector. Follow the signs that lead to the Punggol Promenade and Punggol Waterway Park.

Distance: About 5km onwards

Suitable for: Anyone

Amenities: Toilets at Punggol Park, Punggol Promenade Riverside Walk and Punggol Waterway Park.

Recommended by: Running club TeamFatBird (go to

Kallang Riverside Park to Gardens By The Bay

What: Time seems to go quickly as you run past one iconic landmark after another on this route along the Kallang River. Spot the work-in-progress New Singapore National Stadium and Singapore Sports Hub, Singapore Indoor Stadium, Benjamin Sheares Bridge, Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands.

Some parts can be tricky to navigate because of construction, but heading towards the familiar landmarks is usually a safe bet. Avoid this route when the sun is out in full force as there is almost no shade.

Suggested route: Start at Kallang Riverside Park (West) near Crawford Street and head towards the F1 Pit Building and Singapore Flyer. Go towards Marina Bay Sands and head for Gardens by the Bay South which is connected to the Marina Barrage, Gardens by the Bay East and further on, the Tanjong Rhu Promenade.

Distance: About 13km

Suitable for: Intermediate to advanced runners. Not suitable for beginners because of the distance.

Amenities: Toilets and water points at Kallang Riverside Park, the Singapore Flyer, the Marina Barrage and Gardens by the Bay.

Recommended by: Online runners community SGRunners (go to

Kampong Trail near Bukit Timah

What: Escape the urban bustle with this series of trails which are cool, shady and suitable for running throughout the day when there is ample light. It cuts through dense forests.

Spot the king of fruit in the branches of trees in the aptly named 1.8km Durian Loop, which has challenging slopes. Watch your step, too, because the path is narrow and uneven with roots. It gets muddy in wet weather.

Suggested route: Start along Hindhede Drive near the Nature Reserve Visitor Centre. Follow the Pandan Trail, Rifle Range Trail and Nangka Trail until you reach Durian Loop. Exit the Durian Loop at Jalan Kampong Chantek.

Distance: About 3km

Suitable for: Experienced runners. If you are a beginner, do this in a small group and take it slow.

Amenities: Toilets at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Recommended by: Running group F1 Runners (go to

Southern Ridges

What: Not for the faint of heart because of its steep slopes at Mount Faber park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.

But building up the stamina to tackle the slopes is worthwhile for the panoramic views of the city and harbour from the high vantage points.

Historical buildings such as Alkaff Mansion in Telok Blangah Hill Park and Danish Seamen's Church in Mount Faber as well as significant World War II sites are along the route.

Finding your way around each of the hills might require advance planning. Watch your step on the bridges which can get slippery in wet weather.

Suggested route: There are many possible starting points. One suggestion is to start at Kent Ridge Park and head towards Hort Park. Cross the Alexandra Arch Bridge to Telok Blangah Hill. Pass the Terrace Gardens and Alkaff Mansion. Use the Henderson Wave bridge to get to Mount Faber.

Distance: About 9.5km

Suitable for: Experienced runners

Amenities: Toilets and water points at Hort Park.

Recommended by: Online runners community SGRunners (go to

Mount Faber

What: Train up the strength of your legs with this hilly route that offers a clear view of Keppel Bay, cable cars and large tankers in the Southern Harbour.

There are few vehicles and only one traffic light, near the finishing point.

Suggested route: Start at Safra Mount Faber at 2 Telok Blangah Way. Run along Telok Blangah Rise, Mount Faber Road and Mount Faber Loop. Use the Henderson Wave to cross over to Telok Blengah Green and head back to Safra Mount Faber.

Distance: About 7.8km

Suitable for: Experienced runners

Amenities: Toilets and water points at Mount Faber Safra Club.

Recommended by: Mount Faber Safra Running Club (go to

Bedok Reservoir

What: Although this place has recently made headlines here for tragic reasons, some runners highlight it for its scenic route boasting a view of the sunrise. It is a good alternative to the crowded East Coast Park and Pasir Ris Park. A gravel path encircles the tranquil waters of the reservoir. The terrain is flat with occasional slopes.

One good spot from which to watch the sunrise after your run is a bit of raised ground not too far from Block 739A Bedok Reservoir Road where Sheng Siong Supermarket is located.

If you want to clock more mileage, consider starting your run from Bedok MRT station, about 5km away.

Suggested route: Take the gravel track that goes around the reservoir

Distance: About 4.3km

Suitable for: Anyone

Amenities: Toilets and water points can be found around the reservoir.

Recommended by: Online runners community SGRunners (go to

Central business district

What: Take a break from work by running along the Singapore River surrounded by colonial buildings, shophouses and gleaming skyscrapers which light up in the evenings. Avoid the throngs of office workers by keeping to the outskirts of the central business district where it is possible to plot routes that do not require crossing traffic junctions, such as the one below.

Several running groups such as TeamFatBird, SGRunners and F1 Runners conduct weekly runs in the area (go to, and

Suggested route: Start at the Marina Bay Floating Platform which is near the Esplanade's Outdoor Theatre. Head towards the Esplanade Park and do a loop there. Cross the Anderson Bridge and run along the river in the direction of the Parliament House. U-turn back to the floating platform. This route is TeamFatBird's weekly run every Thursday. It starts at 6.45pm at the floating platform.

Distance: 3km and above

Suitable for: Anyone

Amenities: Toilets at the Marina Bay Floating Platform and Esplanade.

Recommended by: TeamFatBird

Labrador Park to Keppel Bay area

What: Immerse yourself in a wide array of landscapes from coastal views to mangrove habitats to dense forest. Highlights include a rich mangrove habitat along Berlayer Creek - one of two remaining ones in the southern part of Singapore. You can see large tankers in the distance and luxury yachts going towards the Marina at Keppel Bay.

Hidden within Labrador Nature Reserve, previously the site of the old coastal artillery Fort Pasir Panjang, are some World War II historical relics such as tunnels and platforms that used to support heavy guns.

The Coastal Walk, which opened earlier this year, is also worth exploring. Some 40 per cent of the endangered and vulnerable plant species found in Singapore are contained in the areas. It is a trail that connects the Southern Ridges to Labrador Nature Reserve and the Southern waterfront.

Suggested route: This follows the shape of a figure eight. Start at Labrador Park MRT station and take the Berlayer Creek path towards Labrador Park. Continue on the Bukit Chermin Boardwalk (above) and head towards the boats berthed at Marina at Keppel Bay.

Follow the path by the water to Keppel Bay Bridge and cross over to Keppel Island where Marina at Keppel Bay is located.

Loop back to Labrador Park where you can follow the concrete path around the nature reserve and park. Distance: About 10km

Suitable for: Anyone. Experienced runners who want to do some serious training can opt to explore the steep slopes in Labrador Park

Amenities: Toilets and water points at Labrador Park.

Recommended by: Running club TeamFatBird (go to

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HSBC under fire over Sarawak logging clients

Straits Times 4 Nov 12;

Kuala Lumpur - Banking group HSBC has been accused of providing financial services to companies suspected of contributing to Sarawak's dwindling tropical rainforests.

Global Witness, a London-based advocacy group, has released a report claiming that some of the bank's clients in Sarawak have been involved in unsustainable logging in the Malaysian state on Borneo Island, according to The Economist.

HSBC, the weekly magazine wrote, has maintained commercial ties with some of the most active logging and plantation companies there, despite their failure to meet the bank's sustainability policies.

In response to the report, HSBC said it is "not accurate" to state that its clients are in violation of its forestland and forest products policy.

It said current data shows that 99 per cent of its forest sector clients worldwide (by size of lending) are "compliant" or "near compliant" with its policy.

"We consider engagement rather than exclusion as the right approach for a responsible bank to take," The Economist quoted HSBC as saying.

It adds that it will stop working with companies that "do not make credible progress towards compliance within a given timeframe", though in some cases, "we are obliged to wait until a loan facility expires".

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