Best of our wild blogs: 31 Dec 13

A change of Punggol shore?
from wonderful creation

A damselfly eating another damselfly
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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NGOs move to extend nature’s reach

Climate issues, human-wildlife conflicts could feature prominently in the year ahead
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 31 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE — It was a year in which the transboundary nature of environmental issues hit home and, in the year ahead, climate issues, human-wildlife conflicts as well as the Cross Island Line’s potential impact on a nature reserve could feature prominently in the news.

Haze resulting from the burning of forests and plantations in Sumatra reached hazardous levels in Singapore and parts of Malaysia in June, sending the public scrambling for N95 masks and the Singapore Government putting mitigation plans into action.

The worst of the haze lasted several days but, for National University of Singapore climate change researcher Jason Cohen, it “really helped to open up people’s minds to this idea of international environmental issues” and served as a wake-up call that “no matter how well the Government does”, it cannot keep the environment of Singapore clean “on its own”.

A Haze Monitoring System for five countries in the region was developed by Singapore and adopted at the ASEAN Summit in Brunei in October. Its success hinges on accurate, up-to-date data from concession maps and satellite images overlaid to keep tabs on firms that clear land by burning.

Despite its tentative beginning, with uncertainties over the sharing of concession maps, Dr Cohen is optimistic about the system. “Any data that can be released is better than none.”


Three months after the haze, scientists in September pronounced it “extremely likely” that human influence is the dominant cause of global warming in the last 60 years and the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) said the Republic could consequently expect more frequent and intense rainfall and more extreme temperatures in the coming decades.

Climate change, related scientifically to the haze in some ways, is the single most difficult global environment issue to deal with, said Dr Cohen.

He did not feel the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (the Physical Science Basis and Summary for Policymakers) significantly increased public consciousness of climate change.

But for CCRS Director Chris Gordon, the first part of the assessment report released in September gave “considerably greater confidence in the projection that there will be an increase in heavy rainfall events over this region and, therefore, over Singapore in the future”. The report’s sections on impact and mitigation will be released in March and April next year.

Work is under way at the CCRS to “downscale” projections made in the report to produce scenarios for Singapore. Part of the Republic’s Second National Climate Change Study, its first phase of climate projections, is expected to be completed by the end of next year. Some questions it seeks to answer include: In an extreme scenario, how could we expect temperatures and rainfall to change by the end of this century? By how much do we expect sea levels to rise?

Such information will then feed into the second phase of the study, with projections used by infrastructure agencies to determine what coastal defences or flood drainage would be necessary here.

Dr Gordon stressed that climate projections are for the long term — over 50 to 100 years. “It is true that climate change will have some impact but, at this point in time, it’s still a relatively small impact.”

In the short term, natural variations largely account for the varying levels of rainfall and temperature, which make the weather impossible to predict beyond three months.

The Northeast Monsoon which started in November and could last until early March, for instance, has brought above-average rainfall this month and will likely bring 10 to 20 per cent more rain than average in the first two months next year. What causes year-to-year monsoon variation is “a whole range of different things”, such as temperatures of the ocean and those of the winds blowing from Siberia, said Dr Gordon.


Then, there is the delicate issue of the route of the future Cross Island Line (CRL). The underground train line is to be ready around 2030 but, when it was first announced in January and depicted to cut under MacRitchie Reservoir and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, nature groups were immediately concerned. The groups and the authorities soon engaged in dialogue, which the Nature Society’s CRL spokesman Tony O’Dempsey said have been smooth so far.

The Nature Society has proposed alternative routes for the line to avoid cutting through the nature reserve and has formed a working group with other non-governmental organisations and individuals to collate biodiversity studies done on the reserve in the past 20 years.

The working group will make its submission to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) by the end of this year, and is involved in determining the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for which the LTA will call a tender in the first quarter of 2014.

Never before have NGOs been involved at this early stage of a project’s development and Mr O’Dempsey said the society is also requesting for findings of the EIA to be made public.

“The big deal here is that the CRL sets a precedent — if we keep it out of the nature reserve, it will limit other future projects that potentially encroach on the nature reserves,” he said.

The last time so many nature advocacy groups worked together was to oppose the reclamation of Chek Jawa wetland in Pulau Ubin over a decade ago, said co-founder of Cicada Tree Eco Place Vilma D’Rozario, who is part of the working group. “To me, the CRL is the worst thing that could happen to our forests … When things like that happen, all the advocacy groups come together,” she said, welcoming dialogue with the authorities.

Dr D’Rozario and three friends had protested by chaining themselves to a tree in Hong Lim Park for 24 hours in June, attracting young nature enthusiasts eager to pitch in.

The result: An initiative called Love Our MacRitchie Forest (, whose website is managed by NUS research assistant Chloe Tan and undergraduate David Tan.

The CRL issue has sparked a groundswell of efforts to share the nature reserve’s richness with the wider public: Cicada Tree Eco Place has held five public talks by botanist Joseph Lai, as well as 18 free walks for the public since June. The Raffles Museum Toddycats, a group of nature volunteers, has 20 trained Love MacRitchie guides and will be recruiting more next year, said Ms Tan.

A Toddycat, Ms Tan had studied the diversity of small mammals in different types of forest in Singapore during her honours year and found native species like the Singapore Rat and Common Treeshrew doing well only in and around mature forests of the Central Water Catchment.

“It is important to me that the boundaries of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve are not breached by development works because this would open the floodgates to further encroachment … in future,” she said.


More wildlife-human conflicts could arise, with developments in Singapore and Malaysia eating into remaining forest areas, said Mr O’Dempsey.

“We need to approach land development intelligently to accommodate this situation,” he said. This means better rubbish collection, better buffering between nature areas and residential developments, better building design so developments blend in rather than abut the nature areas and better understanding of the natural environment by residents.

Singaporeans also need to keep an eye out for dengue and other infectious diseases in the year ahead, said experts from Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Weekly dengue numbers reported are still relatively high despite December being a cooler time of the year.

Based on Singapore’s experience during the 2004 to 2005 epidemic which also involved Dengue Serotype 1, “there may be a chance that the trend this year may continue into next year”, said Professor Leo Yee Sin, Director of TTSH’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology.

Singapore logged a record of more than 21,000 dengue cases this year. Next year’s numbers will depend on multiple factors, including temperature and rainfall, the mosquito population, human population density and immunity, as well as the emergence of a new strain of the dengue virus, said TTSH’s epidemiology department head Angela Chow. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SIAU MING EN

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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110 hotspots around Asia causes drop in Singapore's air quality

AsiaOne 30 Dec 13;

Singapore - A total of 110 hotspots detected around Asia has caused a deterioration in Singapore's air quality, the National Environmental Agency said in an update to the media on Monday.

The 24-hr PSI at 6pm today remains in the 'Good' range, hovering at 44 to 49, while the 3-hr PSI stands at 38.

NEA added that the PM2.5 is the range of 25 to 30μg/m3.

Northern ASEAN and parts of East Asia have been experiencing dry weather conditions over the past several weeks, contributing to the increase in hotspots.

Winds blowing from the north or northeast are pushing the dust particles and haze towards Singapore.

In a Facebook update on Monday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that the latest haze is "a reminder that we can never take the environment for granted."

NEA has forecasted showers over Singapore for the next few days, and expects the air quality to improve and remain in the 'Good' range.

Mild haze detected but PSI still in 'Good' range
Melissa Chong Channel NewsAsia 30 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: Mild haze was detected in Singapore on Monday.

However, the PSI did not exceed 50, which means air quality remains in the 'Good' range (0-50).

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), air quality has deteriorated since Sunday.

The NEA said northeasterly winds were blowing dust particles from the northern ASEAN region, where 110 hotspots were detected on Sunday.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said on his Facebook page that it is a reminder we can never take the environment for granted.

NEA assured the air quality should improve the next few days as rain is forecasted.

- CNA/gn

Air quality to improve in next few days: NEA
Dry weather conditions, 110 hot spots around Asia the reasons behind haze
Kok Xing Hui Today Online 31 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE — Despite a mild haze that was detected yesterday, air quality has remained in the “Good” range (0-50) and is expected to improve over the next few days, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Writing on his Facebook page, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said the episode served as a “reminder that we can never take the environment for granted”.

In an advisory issued last evening, the NEA said air quality has “deteriorated” since Sunday. Yesterday’s 24-hr PSI reading at 6pm was in the range of 44 to 49.

The agency said recent dry weather conditions in the northern ASEAN region and parts of East Asia were the reasons behind the haze and added that 110 hot spots were detected in northern ASEAN on Dec 29. “The haze is due to dust particles conveyed by the winds blowing from the north or north-east,” wrote Dr Balakrishnan.

The hot spots detected were mainly concentrated in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, unlike in June, when Singapore experienced a prolonged haze situation due to fires in Sumatra, which caused the PSI reading to hit a record high of 401 .

The haze in June, the worst experienced by the Republic and Malaysia since 1997, prompted regional governments to discuss measures to tackle transboundary haze pollution more effectively. In October, ASEAN leaders formally adopted the Singapore-developed haze monitoring system for five member states: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand.

On the current mild haze, the NEA said it is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates when necessary.

For the next few days, showers are forecast over Singapore and the NEA said it expects the air quality to improve and remain in the “Good” range.

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Malaysia: Emergency response committee for natural disasters to be set up

The Star 31 Dec 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced the setting up of a special committee to work out emergency response procedures in facing natural disasters.

The Prime Minister did not name the committee but said it was a precautionary measure when dealing with natural disasters such as the recent floods that struck several states.

In his latest post on his Facebook account, Najib also recorded his appreciation to all those who had extended relief aid to the flood victims.

He also referred to the current floods in Sarawak and prayed for God to ease the burden on those affected.

“I pray that God will ease the burden of the households affected by the floods in Bintulu, Miri, Sarikei and other areas, he said.

Incessant rain for almost a week had caused floods in four Sarawak divisions, namely Miri, Bintulu, Betong and Sri Aman.

As of today, 261 people from 60 households in Miri and Bintulu had been evacuated to relief centres.

Of the total, 222 were in the Bintulu division and 34 in Niah and five in Marudi, both being sub-districts in the Miri division. — Bernama

Panel to devise strategies to tackle floods
New Straits Times 1 Jan 1;

KUANTAN: The government will draft comprehensive measures to tackle floods, including improving the existing standard operating procedures (SOP) and exploring the possibility of introducing an early warning system.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he would chair a special committee meeting on Friday, which will be attended by representatives from all states, National Security Council and agencies. "We will find ways to coordinate (relief efforts) more efficiently, including the introduction of an early warning system."

He said this after presenting flood aid, including school bags donated by the Student Volunteer Foundation to pupils at SK Permatang Badak here yesterday.

Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said the committee would discuss measures to improve facilities in flood relief centres and food supply storage facilities.

He said an in-depth plan on logistics and aid distribution to areas cut off by the floods will be also be identified.

Muhyiddin said although the SOPs were followed during the disaster, there was a need to make changes, especially with the unpredictable weather trend.

He said affected schools in Sarawak will be allowed to postpone their opening until the situation improved. "These schools are allowed to delay the new term until the situation is safe."

He said they can hold replacement classes later.

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Malaysia: Kemaman, Terengganu, suffers worst flood in 50 years

Daily Express 30 Dec 13;

KEMAMAN: In Malaysia, the perennial flood has always been associated with the East Coast states, especially Terengganu and Kelantan.

In fact, since early 1950's it had become an annual affair for the two states to suffer from the year-end monsoon floods.

However in recent years, other states such as Johor, Kedah, Perlis and Perak also had their fair shares of inundation, causing losses that ran into millions of ringgit.

One of the major floods to hit the country must be the big floods of Johor in 2006 where more than 90,000 people evacuated, which also affected Pahang, involving the districts of the Pekan and Rompin with more than 20,000 victims relocated to safer grounds. This year, Pahang and Terengganu bore the brunt of the natural calamity.

Earlier this month, more than 40,000 people were evacuated due to floods in Pahang, especially in Kuantan.

In Kemaman, Terengganu, flood evacuees at relief centres numbered around 20,000. On Dec 2, only 133 people from Kampung Teladas and Air Puteh in Kuantan were affected by floods, but the number rose dramatically to 1,000 people the next day and later, 8,000 victims had to be moved into evacuation centres.

The flood in Kemaman, on the other hand, reached its peak on Dec 7 when more than 19,000 evacuees at relief centres had to endure a period of incommunicado when all roads were closed and communication with outsiders was not possible.

The big flood literally paralysed Kemaman as power lines had to be disconnected for safety.

The district was said to have been hit by the worst flood in 50 years.

Even the areas on higher grounds such as Felda Neram Satu, Cheneh, Binjai and Geliga were not spared.

Apart from that, police stations, fire and rescue stations, schools and clinics in those areas also went under 1.5 metres of water.

At that time, military trucks and boats had to be mobilised to evacuate victims to relief centres.

Kemaman police chief Supt Che Suza Che Hitam said there were more than 50 cases on flood victims refusing to evacuate to safer places.

On Dec 4, six flood volunteers were almost drowned after their boat capsized when they were on their way to Kampung Seberang Tayor.

They had to hang on to the boat for their dear lives for 15 minutes before help arrived.

It was undeniable that uniform personnel, such as police, army, fire and rescue squad, as well as nurses, had given outstanding performance and went beyond the call of duty for the community during this trying time.

In this regard, Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek was highly impressed with the patience of Kemaman residents during the floods.

Ahmad Shabery, who is also Kemaman member of Parliament, said it was hoped that the people would be better prepared for the disaster after this chapter.

"The arrival of thousands of security forces personnel and volunteers from non-governmental organisations to help flood victims in Terengganu showed Malaysians have also always shared their concerns for their fellow countrymen in times of difficulty," he said. - Bernama

Orange alert in 4 divisions
Fazleena Aziz New Straits Times 31 Dec 13;

HEAVY RAIN: Najib expresses concern for Sarawak flood victims

KUALA LUMPUR: PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday offered his prayers and concern for those affected by floods in Sarawak.

"I pray that Allah will ease and relieve flood victims in Bintulu, Miri and other parts of the state of the burden," said Najib in his Twitter post.

The Meteorological Department has issued an Orange alert for divisions of Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman and Mukah as heavy rain is expected to continue until today.

Its weather forecast centre director, Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, said despite the moderate intensity, the condition would cause floods in low-lying areas due to continuous rain.

"We have issued a Yellow alert for divisions of Betong, Sarikei, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri, which is expected to persist until tomorrow (today) as well as there are intermittent rain.

"High tide is also expected until Jan 6, which can be a contributing factor should the condition worsens in the affected places."

Helmi said the weather was looking good in the east coast but rough seas condition had been issued for all the coastal areas in the country.

In the South China Sea, strong winds and rough seas have been upgraded to third category, with winds over 60kph and waves more than 5.5 metres occurring in the waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and east Johor. This is expected to continue until today.

The department has also issued thunderstorm warning occurring in the waters off Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah (Kudat and Sandakan) yesterday.

In Kuching, Bernama reports that landslides triggered by heavy rain for almost a week have cut off road links to several areas in the Miri and Mukah divisions.

The road link between a settlement in the Bakong sub-district and Miri had been cut off, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu said after chairing a meeting of the state Disaster Relief Committee.

He said the Public Works Department was clearing the roads of rubble to make them passable again.

Jabu said incessant rain had caused Sungai Batang Baram in Miri Division and Sungai Batang Kemena in Bintulu Division to burst their banks and flood low-lying areas.

"The committee, with the assistance of the relevant departments and agencies, has sent aid to the affected people."

Jabu said the heavy rain was common during the north-east monsoon season and this had caused a rise in the average rainfall recorded for the whole of the month. He said the situation was expected to continue until March.

The committee said 261 people from 60 households had been moved to relief centres in Miri and Bintulu divisions.

The Bintulu division had the highest number of evacuees at 222, followed by the Niah sub-district in Miri (34) and Marudi, also in Miri, (five).

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It won't be long before the victims of climate change make the west pay

The scientific case is strengthening: developed countries are to blame for global warming – and there will soon be a legal reckoning
Chris Huhne The Guardian 29 Dec 13;

Would you enjoy the cosiness and warmth of Christmas with your children or grandchildren just that little bit less if you knew that other people's children were dying because of it? More than four million children under five years old are now at risk of acute malnutrition in the Sahel, an area of the world that is one of the clearest victims of the rich world's addiction to fossil fuels.

About 18 million people in the Sahel – the vulnerable pan-African strip of land that runs from Senegal to Sudan along the southern edge of the Sahara – faced famine last year. Life has never been easy there. Its land is poor. Its people are often semi-nomadic, moving their animals between the grasslands. But science is increasingly pointing a hard finger at those to blame for the persistence of Sahelian drought – and it is us.

This is an ineluctable consequence of improving the computer models of climate change. Of course, there are still large uncertainties. But what has long persuaded me of the strength of the scientific case for human-induced climate change is that climate-sceptic scientists have not managed to build a model that explains global warming without human-induced effects. The human hand is indispensable in understanding what has happened.

There are legitimate doubts about the scale of the impact, and about other offsetting factors that may reduce human-induced global warming. But what should be a wake-up call is science's growing ability to highlight the blame for particular extreme events, and not just in the Sahel.

For instance, a recent paper by Fraser C Lott and colleagues examined the increased probability that the 2011 East African drought in Somalia and Kenya can be attributed to human-induced climate change. Pardeep Pal and others investigated the impact of climate change on the £1.3bn insured losses from the flooding in the UK in 2000. Peter A Stott and others looked at the hot European summer of 2003, and its heatwave-related deaths.

Richard Washington, the professor of climate science at Oxford, rightly highlights the importance of this scientific work for its ability to change the global political and legal game. We saw how high feelings run with the walk-out by 132 developing countries at the Warsaw climate-change talks last month when the new Australian government tried to block all talk of loss and compensation until after 2015.

The more certain is the attribution for blame, the more justified many developing countries will feel in protesting about the impact of rising sea levels on small island states such as the Maldives and Fiji or low-lying delta cultures such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. Moreover, fair-minded democracies will find the call for compensation hard to resist at home.

The science also opens up the possibility that the victims of climate change could begin to take international legal action against the countries responsible, particularly the early industrialisers, such as Britain, Belgium and Germany, whose carbon continues to warm the planet a century after it was emitted. Legal action is not a substitute for politics, but it could highlight the evidence in an uncomfortable way.

This year a group of small island states threatened by rising sea levels, led by Palau, came close to asking the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the responsibility of historic emitters for global warming. The main reason they did not press ahead then was that the scientific case is strengthening by the month. A later case will be even stronger.

"There will definitely be a case in my lifetime and probably within five to 10 years," says Philippe Sands QC, the UCL professor of international law, who has advised many endangered nations, including Bangladesh. "It is going to happen. The only questions now are where, how and to what purpose."

The UN framework may not be ideal, precisely because it is dominated by the historic five powers, all of whom have their own interests. But the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea may be a forum that would hear the matter.

Sands points out that climate change is already entering indirectly into cases such as the dispute between India and Bangladesh over territorial waters: as land disappears, so the projection of the line into the sea, dividing territorial waters, will change.

It is not a defence that we did not know what we were doing, nor does a case have to target everyone who might have historic responsibility: countries are jointly and severally liable, which may help to deal with the problem that the United States is often not a signatory and hence denies international jurisdiction.

Paradoxically, one of the strongest cards that the historic emitters can play is to highlight the international effort to tackle climate change. Legally, they can argue that the global process under way since 1992 through the Kyoto Protocol and the countless meetings of the "convention of the parties", is itself a response to the need for action, and displaces the need for lawsuits.

But that implies that the global political process must hold out – as it can and should – a real possibility of delivering change. If it fails, the historic emitters may want to consider some of the consequences, not least of which is the possibility that embarrassing legal cases will display the increasingly strong scientific evidence about who is to blame.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Dec 13

Responding to “UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for Singapore?”
from Hopping Around

Your help needed to make the Animal Conference happen
from wild shores of singapore

Seahorse fiesta at Changi
from wonderful creation

Stone Crab
from Monday Morgue

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Best of our wild blogs: 28-29 Dec 13

Morning Walk At Venus Drive (27 Dec 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG and Short Afternoon Walk At Venus Drive (28 Dec 2013)

Plantain Squirrel and the Reticulated Python
from Bird Ecology Study Group

2013 - Looking Back...
from Butterflies of Singapore

2013 in 13 photos
from Singapore Nature

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Haze, dengue, floods are issues of future environmental challenges

Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: This year's record high PSI levels during the haze, the dengue epidemic and more intense rains are "amber lights", or early warning signs, of the need to be better prepared for future environmental challenges.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said this in an interview with Channel NewsAsia.

His ministry plans to get tough on transboundary haze by taking to task, companies which contribute to the haze.

Planned measures include the tabling of an Act to hold directors of such companies accountable for the damage caused and the health impact on millions of people in the region.

At the height of the haze crisis in June this year, the PSI level hit a record high of 400.

The crisis prompted leaders of the region to push for more effective measures of haze management.

These include the sharing of concession maps among governments, which indicate where the fires occur, and on which companies' land.

Leaders also urged Indonesia to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze. The Agreement came into effect in 2002, when 10 ASEAN nations, including Singapore signed it. Indonesia is the last to sign, but it is expected to ratify the Agreement in early 2014.

Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources is going beyond just monitoring, by taking action against those responsible for the fires.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "Early next year, I'll be going to Parliament to introduce a new Act specifically targeting trans-boundary haze. We will make it a criminal offence. We will hold the companies as well as directors liable for the damage they cause to us, as well as the deleterious health impact on our population. We're about to finalise the drafting, I will present it to the public. We will take the views of the public, adjust it if necessary. I hope to pass this bill sometime within the first half of next year.

"Again, the intention is to send a signal to companies. We are going to hold them accountable and we know who is responsible for causing these problems to literally millions of Singaporeans and Indonesians."

Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry will also collaborate with non-government organisations to highlight the problem within the local and international sphere.

He said the key objective is to ultimately create an awareness among consumers of palm oil, to understand which companies are producing palm oil sustainably and responsibly, and which ones are doing so through indiscriminate burning.

Another concern for Singaporeans is the rising number of dengue cases, which broke the 10,000 cases mark in June.

As of December 27, the number of dengue cases had exceeded 22,000, with seven reported deaths.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has stepped up checks in homes and public places, with about four million checks conducted as of November.

Grassroots leaders were also mobilised to raise awareness among residents.

Dengue inspectors found 18,000 breeding sites. Most of these were in homes, but breeding in construction sites took centre stage when news of a dengue cluster in Orchard Road broke sometime in October.

Dr Balakrishnan said the NEA inspects about 100 construction sites a week, and finds breeding occurring in between eight and 10 per cent of them.

He said the NEA has been issuing more stop-work orders to construction companies. The ministry is also considering raising penalties for construction sites found to have recurring breeding of mosquitoes.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "Whilst I would say It's too early to say that the epidemic is over, I think the worst is over. We are now down to about 350 cases... thereabouts. I think the number will stay around there.

"We will continue to pour in more resources, continue to do more inspections, continue to mobilise Singaporeans and gradually bring the number down. But this remains an ever-present threat to us. Our immunity as a whole is low and this virus has very high epidemic potential."

The year 2013 has also been significant on the climate change front.

In Singapore, intense rainfall over short periods of time continued to cause flash floods in many areas, and experts have warned of more such weather patterns in the future.

The current monsoon season alone could see an average increase of about 20 per cent in total rainfall.

While the national water agency PUB has already embarked on a series of projects to improve and upgrade drainage, observers said there is still room to include a wider section of society to play a part in mitigating floods.

The PUB has implemented new rules, including a requirement for on-site storm water management strategies such as detention tanks or green roofs, for building projects over a certain land size.

Experts suggest incentivising developers, architects and engineers who have come up with creative flood management methods.

Dr Chew Soon Hoe, council member of the Institution of Engineers, said: "One practical incentive measure to encourage developers to put into consideration in reducing run-off is by either lower development fee or costs or increase their usable plot ratio. All these can be translated into monetary gains at a later stage. This is one tangible incentive among other intangible incentives."

Dr Balakrishnan said a review of the Sustainable Singapore blueprint will begin in 2014, and will involve public consultation.

The blueprint maps out the country's strategy for economic growth in an environmentally-sustainable way.

The review will also incorporate NEA's Volunteer Corp Scheme, where members of the public are trained and issued with warrant cards to book and issue littering summonses to offenders on the spot.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "I want this to go through the proper process of public consultation. What type of people should be eligible to have a warrant card, what kind of training is necessary? How should they be deployed, where should they be deployed? Instead of working with individuals, work with NGOs, work with organised groups. The real objective is not enforcement. It's public ownership and peer pressure."

- CNA/de

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Malaysia: Met Dept issues "most dangerous" warning for east coast states

The Star 28 Dec 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: Strong winds and rough seas classified as third category (most dangerous) are expected until Tuesday in the coastal areas of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Johor.

The Meteorological Department said strong north-easterly winds at speeds of 60kmph may cause waves measuring over 5.5 metres.

Coastal areas in the affected states can expect increased water levels to last until next Tuesday.

These conditions are dangerous to all beach and shipping activities including fishing, work on oil platforms and ferry services.

Strong winds, rough seas to hit coasts
The Star 29 Dec 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: Strong winds and rough seas classified as third category (most dangerous) in the coastal areas of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Johor Timur are expected until next Tuesday.

A statement from the Meteorological Department said strong north-easterly winds at speeds of 60kmph may cause waves measuring over 5.5m.

Coastal areas in the affected states are also prone to increased water levels expected to last until next Tuesday.

These conditions are dangerous to all beach and shipping activities which include fishing, work on oil platforms and ferry services.

The statement said that thunderstorms in the coasts of Sarawak (Mukah, Bintulu and Miri) had also been expected to continue until late last night. — Bernama

More floods to come in Kota Kinabalu
Muguntan Vanar The Star 28 Dec 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Heavy rain that coincides with high tides will remain a recipe for flooding in low-lying areas of the city and its greater areas for at least a year to come.

Flash floods lasting several hours continue to be experienced in many low-lying areas around the city as heavy rainfall over the last three weeks came at the same time as the incoming or high tide.

Under high tide conditions, water from rivers cannot flow out to the sea quickly.

According to officials, there was nothing much the authorities could do under these circumstances except to wait for the completion of two flood mitigation schemes, which are expected to be ready in about 18 months.

According to Luyang assemblyman Hiew King Chew, the Federal Government had already approved RM50mil in funding in order to set up two tidal gates in Sembulan and Kapayan here.

He said the project would be implemented by the Drainage and Irrigation Department.

“The project will include a pump house in order to pump out water from inland areas when heavy rains come during high tides,” he said.

Hiew added that the flood mitigation scheme would also help to resolve flooding problems faced in the Luyang, Kapayan and Lido areas.

“I have been informed that they will be starting work by early next year,” he said in response to public complaints over the alleged “inaction” by the Kota Kinabalu City Hall to resolve the flood problem.

Incessant rain on Thursday saw many low-lying areas here, including main roads, flooded for several hours.

However, some felt that the Kota Kinabalu City Hall should be more proactive in cleaning up drains, and should take firm action against contractors whose projects were damaging or blocking up drains.

Kota Kinabalu mayor Datuk Abdidin Madangkir and the city’s director-general Datuk Yeo Boon Hai could not be reached for comment on the matter, while meteorologists have forecast wet weather to continue until next year.

Thunderstorms, strong winds, high waves to continue in coastal areas
The Star 27 Dec 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: Thunderstorms in the coastal areas of Sarawak, Labuan, and Sabah's west coast are expected to continue until late Friday.

In a statement, the Meteorological Department said the thunderstorms could cause strong winds of 50 to 60kmph and choppy seas, with waves of up to 4.5m.

Thunderstorms with winds of up to 50kmph and waves of up to 3.5m are also expected to continue until late in the evening in the coastal areas of Selangor and Sandakan in Sabah.

Meanwhile, strong winds and choppy seas in the coasts of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor Timur, Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak are expected until Tuesday.

Strong northeasterly winds with speeds of 60kmph were also reported in the coasts of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, East Johor, Samui, Tioman, Bunguran, Condore, Palawan, Reef North and Layang-Layang, as well as waves exceeding 5.5m.

Coastal areas in these states are also exposed to a rise in water levels and this is expected to continue until Tuesday.

These situations pose a danger to all beach and shipping activities, including fishing, activities on oil platforms and ferry services. - Bernama

Strong winds and rough seas ahead
The Star 27 Dec 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Meteorological Department has forecast strong winds and rough seas up to Tuesday in the waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, eastern Johor, Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak.

It said in a statement that strong north-easterly winds of up to 60kph were expected in the waters off Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and eastern Johor and the waves there were expected to rise to more than 5.5m.

It also said that the coastal areas in these states would be exposed to a rise in the sea level up to Tuesday. Strong north-easterly winds of between 50kph and 60kph were expected in the waters off the Pedalaman, West Coast and Kudat divisions of Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak, with waves rising up to 4.5m, it said.

The winds and waves could pose a danger to all coastal activities and shipping. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Planned reclamation in Johor

Tebrau teams up with Tropicana for RM3.7bil project
The Star 27 Dec 13;

PETALING JAYA: Tebrau Teguh Bhd is tying up with Tropicana Corp Bhd to develop a partially submerged site in Johor that will require extensive reclamation works into an RM3.7bil mixed-use project.

It told the stock exchange yesterday that it had signed a pact with a unit of Tropicana to set up a special purpose vehicle, Renown Dynamics Sdn Bhd, to acquire the leasehold land in Plentong, Johor, for RM444.31mil from Tebrau.

Tebrau and Tropicana will hold 30% and 70% stakes respectively in Renown Dynamics.

The land measures 84.61 acres and is partially underwater. Tebrau has agreed to carry out reclamation works to resurface some 60 acres, the cost of which, estimated at RM190mil, will be borne by the company.

It said the Plentong land is 15km northeast of Johor Baru city centre in Kampung Senibong and surrounded by mangrove swamps.

Tebrau expects to record a gain of RM157mil, or 24 sen a share, from the sale, which is to be completed by the second quarter of 2015.

Separately, the Johor-based property developer announced a number of corporate exercises, including a one-for-one rights issue of up to 669.73 million shares at RM1 each with 334.86 million free detachable warrants on the basis of one free warrant for every two rights shares, as well as an employee share option scheme.

The cash call will raise between RM315.85mil and RM669.73mil for the group, the bulk of which has been earmarked for property development.

Although Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd’s (IWH) stake in Tebrau is expected to jump to 64.09% under the rights issue from 47.16% currently, an application has been made to exempt IWH from making a mandatory general offer.

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Indonesia: Endangered Bali Starlings Given New Home on Island Bird Sanctuary

Jakarta Globe 27 Dec 13;

A pair of endangered Bali Starlings taken from West Bali National Park are to be set free at a bird sanctuary on a small island east of Bali, an activist said on Friday.

The starlings, known locally as jalak Bali, will be released on Nusa Penida island on Dec 30, I Gede Nyoman Bayu Wirayudha said in a press release.

Bayu is the founder and CEO of the Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF), a non-profit that works to protect wildlife in habitats. The organization manages the sanctuary on Nusa Penida island.

“Indonesia’s Minister of Forestry, Zulkifli Hasan, will release the birds in a special ceremony near our conservation center at 10 a.m. on Monday,” Bayu said. “These birds will bring a new blood line to the more than 100 Bali starlings already living in the wild within the island sanctuary.”

The FNPF has been providing technical support and advice to the park’s Bali starling conservation program for more than 10 years.

Bayu said that the two starlings were given in exchange for starlings from FNPF’s breeding collection on Nusa Penida.

The sanctuary, the only one of its kind in Indonesia, provides an unofficial haven for endangered birds.

FNPF claimed that the project had the backing of the islands’ 46 villages. The sanctuary also had the backing of the Bali Bureau of Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), which recently sponsored the installation of four bird’s nest boxes on the island, along with the donation seeds and polybags for FNPF’s nursery.

The Bali starling is one of world’s most endangered birds. Nusa Penida is home to an estimated 100 Bali starlings today, up from just 10 birds in 2006.

Earlier this month,cConservation officials in Solo, Central Java, imposed new rules for the trade in the critically endangered species, in a bid to stamp out the illegal practice of passing off wild-caught birds as captive-bred ones.

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Best of our blog: 27 Dec 13

Little (=Striated) Herons and crocodile
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Bigg's Brownie
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Dec 13

Crocodile! What should I do?!
from wild shores of singapore

unknown raptor flypast @ lorong halus - Dec 2013
from sgbeachbum and sooty-headed bulbuls @ lorong halus - Dec 2013

Butterflies Galore! : Bush Hopper
from Butterflies of Singapore

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‘Wind corridors’ for future Marina South residents

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 26 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE — Residents of the future Marina South precinct — one of three new residential precincts unveiled in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) draft master plan last month — may find walking literally a breeze and may also end up with greater energy savings as a result.

The authorities are looking to harness wind as a natural way to cool the entire district, which is located east of Marina Bay. This includes aligning major arterial roads — such as Marina Gardens Drive — in the precinct to the prevailing winds Singapore receives during different monsoon periods, to create “wind corridors”.

During the first half of the year between December to March, north-east monsoon winds will be funnelled into the area, while winds from the southwest monsoon will be channelled from June to September. The URA will also stipulate that future buildings in Marina South have varying heights — to a maximum of 160m — to create a “wind downwash effect” that will channel air downwards to pedestrian levels, with each building located more than 30m apart for better ventilation.

Said a URA spokesperson: “As a green field site in Marina Bay, Marina South presents an opportunity to adopt sustainable urban design principles. One of these strategies is to facilitate better wind flow for enhanced air movement to create a lower ambient temperature and improve pedestrian comfort at street level.”

The precinct will also boast buildings that are 30 per cent more energy-efficient than those in other areas, “extensive greenery and open spaces” to help reduce heat build-up.

Development will begin after 2017 and 9,000 private housing units have been planned for the 21.5ha of land. To arrive at these planning principles, URA had worked with the National University of Singapore (NUS)’s School of Design and Environment to study urban forms and how varying building typologies can better channel air movement.

The concept of harnessing wind movement to facilitate air movement and maximise ventilation is not new and has been implemented in public housing estates. For example, void decks located below Housing and Development Board flats and the distance between blocks provide “porosity” for air movement.

“At the same time, building blocks are usually oriented to take advantage of the prevailing wind direction to allow for natural ventilation of individual units and reduce the reliance on mechanical air-conditioning,” said the URA spokesperson.

NUS Department of Real Estate Associate Professor Tay Kah-Poh noted that for private housing, some property developers conduct their own wind studies before development, and that eco-friendly and sustainable design is “increasingly embedded” in urban developments. “Usually, they try to rely on natural ventilation as much as possible and less on mechanical means of cooling,” he said.

Associate Professor Ng Wai Keen from NUS School of Design and Environment’s Department of Architecture said: “Early HDB (flats), with the slab block/common corridor design, also facilitated natural cross ventilation. However, in the more recent configurations, this has been lost. So, attempting to recover this aspect is certainly welcome, and will help to reduce dependency on air-condition systems.”

Lower outdoor temperatures can influence how much energy is used to cool buildings, pointed out Professor Wong Nyuk Hien from the NUS School of Design and Environment’s Department of Building. He said: “Studies have shown that typically for one degree drop in the air temperature, the reduction of cooling energy consumption can be about 5 per cent. Though it seems small, but when you multiply the number of buildings in a typical township or district, the total energy savings could be tremendous.”

But besides the “clever” placement of buildings, researcher Marcel Bruelisauer at the Future Cities Laboratory’s Low Exergy Module added that further factors such as building form, facade openings and floor layouts need to be considered as well.

“(These) heavily influence whether or not building users can benefit from sufficient cross-ventilation, making air-conditioning unnecessary,” Mr Bruelisauer said. His fellow researchers Maria Papadopoulou and Didier Vernay added that the neighbourhoods and buildings can be designed in a way that allows the wind to carry away trapped heat from air-conditioners’ condensing units to reduce electricity bills.

Meanwhile, the HDB has also conducted wind simulation studies for new towns such as Punggol and Bidadari. Said the URA spokesperson: “Going forward, agencies will take the opportunity to improve air flow through such simulations when planning for larger precincts.”

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Dec 13

Counting and counting
from Caryota Confessionals

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Malaysia: Second wave of floods in Pahang from Dec 30

The Star 25 Dec 13;

KUANTAN: The Pahang Meteorological Department on Tuesday issued a warning on the possibility of a second wave of floods in the state from Dec 30.

Its director, Azemi Daud said heavy rainfall was forecasted from Dec 30 to Jan 6 especially in Kuantan, Pekan and Rompin.

"High tide is expected to occur at the same time while wind speed was forecast at 50 to 60km per hour," he told reporters after attending a briefing on preparations for the second wave of floods on Tuesday.

Also present was the Regent of Pahang Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

Azemi said according to early forecast, heavy rain occurred in four stages, namely, the first one from Dec 2 to Dec 6, which caused severe floods in Pahang.

"The second stage was forecast to take place on Dec 18 to Dec 22, but it did not take place.

"So, the second stage is forecast to take place on Dec 30 to Jan 6, and will be followed up by two more stages which were expected to happen before early March next year," he said.

The floods in Pahang recently forced the relocation of more than 40,000 people to relief centres.

The districts affected were Kuantan, Pekan, Rompin, Jerantut, Temerloh, Raub, Bera, Lipis and Maran.

Based on reports, losses from the floods amounted to more than RM65mil.

Three people drowned in the floods. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Thousands of Tamban fish beach themselves at Tabisan, Sabah

Mugutan Vanar The Star 24 Dec 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Thousands of fishes splashed into the shores of Kg Tabisan in Sabah’s eastern Lahad Datu district sparking speculations of what omen it brings in the year end.

Villagers rushed to scoop up the fishes, locally known as Tamban, while others were divided over whether it was good omen or bad omen.

However, local villager Suzila Abdullah, who operates a sundry shop in the village, said that the phenomenon had been occurring in the past three years.

"But it is different this year because the number of fishes are exceptionally high.

“In the past, most would have been scooped up by the end of the day but today there is still a lot more left,’’ she said when contacted by on Tuesday.

Suzila said that she believed that strong currents and waves caused the fishes to come to shore during the current season but it only last about two or three days.

The villagers cooked the fish while some collected it and took it up to Lahad Datu and other districts to sell.

The Tamban fish is popular among villagers.

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Indonesia builds sanctuary to save world's rarest rhino

Arlina Arshad (AFP) Google News 24 Dec 13;

Ujung Kulon — On a leaf-covered dirt path overlooking lush paddy fields in western Indonesia, the world's rarest rhino had left a trail of hoofprints in the soft mud and bite marks on foliage.

For people seeking a glimpse of the Javan rhino -- revered in local folklore as Abah Gede, or the Great Father -- such small signs are likely to be the closest they get.

There are thought to be only around 50 of the animals left in existence, all living in the wild in Ujung Kulon National Park, an area of stunning natural beauty on the western tip of Indonesia's main island of Java.

But now conservationists are hoping that the country's first ever Javan rhino sanctuary, which will open in the park in the coming months, can pull the animal back from the brink of extinction.

The shy creature, whose folds of loose skin give it the appearance of wearing armour plating, once numbered in the thousands and roamed across Southeast Asia.

But, like other rhino species across the world, poaching and human encroachment on its habitat has led to a dramatic population decline, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature saying the animal is "making its last stand".

The new sanctuary will encompass 5,100 hectares (12,600 acres) of lush rainforest, freshwater streams and mudholes in the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It is not due to open until March but park officials say that from hoofprints and bite marks, they believe nine rhinos have already wandered into new areas set aside for them.

"It means our scheme to turn this sanctuary into a comfortable home for them is working," the park's habitat manager Rusdianto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

The rhinos were already living mainly in one corner of the park.

But the new sanctuary has expanded the area suitable for them and relocated farmers who were living there to reduce the chances of animal-human conflict.

An electric fence is also being constructed -- the final piece of work that needs to be completed -- to mark the boundary and prevent the rhinos from straying out of the sanctuary and humans from coming in.

Park officials, who are government employees, have also been planting suitable food for the rhinos. During a recent visit by AFP, workers were seen clearing palm trees from the area and replacing them with shrubs and small trees.

"We hope this sanctuary will hasten breeding and lead to more births of this treasured rare animal," park chief Moh Haryono told AFP.

"In a more enclosed space, the male and female rhino will have more opportunities to frolic and mate freely."

Rhinos around the world are under threat

Yet setting up the sanctuary, which is government-run but fully funded by US-based charity the International Rhino Foundation, has been no easy task.

It was originally due to open in 2011 but was held up due to red tape, a common problem in the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, which has a huge and often inefficient bureaucracy.

Work also stalled for a year due to protests from residents demanding compensation for farmland they had to give up, as well as from local animal activists who felt the use of heavy machinery to build the fence threatened the environment.

However all obstacles now seem to have been overcome and, barring any last-minute hold-ups, the sanctuary should officially open soon.

Nevertheless it is just a small step in an uphill battle to save the Javan rhino. Officials in Ujung Kulon believe there were 51 of the rhinos in 2012, including eight calves, basing their estimate on images captured by hidden cameras.

They hope the true figure may be in the 70s and will have a new estimate once data for 2013 has been collated.

The case of the Javan rhinoceros highlights the plight of rhinos across the world, with other species also deemed to be under threat and some subspecies already believed to have died out.

Poaching in particular represents a severe threat, with rhino horns used in traditional Asian medicine fetching ever higher prices on the black market despite a lack of scientific evidence showing horn has any medicinal value.

In Indonesia, fewer than 100 of the critically endangered Sumatran rhinos remain; in 2011 the IUCN declared a rhino subspecies in western Africa extinct; and the group has said the Central African northern white rhino is "possibly extinct".

Asia has stepped up efforts to save the region's dwindling rhino populations, with representatives from several countries in October attending a conference on the issue on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Countries represented, including Indonesia, Nepal and India, pledged to take steps to grow their rhino populations by three percent annually.

For the Javan rhino, its population already decimated, the threat is no longer poaching but food scarcity, illness and the risk of natural disasters in an archipelago where earthquakes and landslides are common, according to WWF Indonesia.

Despite the myriad threats, wildlife officials are hopeful the new sanctuary is a step in the right direction.

They have also been heartened by strong support from the local community.

Any effort to save the Great Father is applauded in an area where centuries-old beliefs persist and intertwine with the vast majority's Muslim faith.

"We must do all we can to prevent the Javan rhino from becoming extinct," Suhaya, a 67-year-old farmer who goes by one name, told AFP.

"Locals here believe that Abah Gede must not vanish from the face of the Earth, or disaster will befall us."

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Best of our wild blogs: 24 Dec 13

RUN 350
from Zero Waste Singapore

Sharing the beauty of Changi shore
from wonderful creation

Chek Jawa Boardwalk with NHC (Nov 2013)
from wonderful creation

Milky Stork show opportunistic feeding behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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NEA exploring ways to improve waste collection

Today Online 24 Dec 13;

We refer to the commentary by Mr Richard Hartung, “Daily rubbish pick-up is out of sync with times” (Dec 5).

In Singapore, refuse from domestic and trade premises contains a high percentage of food waste which putrefies rapidly in our hot and humid climate. If left uncollected for more than a day, the refuse would give rise to public health issues including odour nuisance and pest infestation. Daily removal of waste from these premises therefore helps to maintain high standards of public health, especially in the context of Singapore’s highly-compact living environment.

The National Environment Agency has been exploring ways in partnership with other agencies to improve our waste collection system as better technologies and cost-effective solutions become available. One such example is a project by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to test-bed the Pneumatic Refuse Collection Systems (PRCS) in Yuhua under the HDB’s Greenprint project. The PRCS is designed to convey waste by air suction from a cluster of apartment blocks via piping networks to a central storage station. Apart from being a totally enclosed system which would mitigate the above-mentioned public health issues, the collection truck also need only collect waste from a single point rather than from individual apartment blocks, thereby reducing transportation and manpower needs.

We will continue to explore the use of better technologies and solutions to store and collect refuse in an efficient and effective manner, while maintaining our high standards of public health. We thank Mr Hartung for his interest.

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Space for street art along Rail Corridor

Melissa Chong Channel NewsAsia 23 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's street artists will soon have a new space to practise their craft -- next year, an underpass along the Rail Corridor will be reserved for street art.

The underpass will join existing areas allocated for such purposes at *SCAPE and at the National Youth Council premises.

The area along the Rail Corridor is currently a recreational space, popular with joggers and cyclists.

But in 2014, park users can expect a touch of creative vibrancy at the underpass located near Buona Vista MRT station at the junction of Commonwealth Avenue and North Buona Vista Road.

Graffiti art has always been a common sight there, but authorities usually remove the work as soon as it appears, and this is set to change.

The two walls beneath the bridge will soon become a canvas for local street artists -- one of the few spaces in Singapore for them to showcase their work and practise their craft.

It will be curated by RSCLS, a local art collective which promotes street art.

Zul Othman, street artist and founder of RSCLS, said: “There are not really much spaces if you consider the number of artists that we have, maybe about 100 or more.

“Especially being in a country like Singapore, where there is a lot of restriction and red tape here and there.

“The core matter for RSCLS is giving more space for people to paint. It is something that you cannot do on a canvas -- I mean you can use spray paints on a canvas -- but the feel, the scale of it is different."

RSCLS hopes to invite both local and international street artists to use the space, and even hold 'art jamming' sessions for different artists to collaborate on larger pieces.

Discussions are also underway to hold an international graffiti event called "Meeting With Styles" in Singapore -- a first for the country.

Tan See Nin, senior director, Physical Planning at Urban Redevelopment Authority, said: “The Rail Corridor today is a recreational space, you have people walking, jogging, cycling, down the rail corridor. And they enjoy the green spaces along the way.

“But I think the green corridor can be more than just a green space. It can also be a community space. And certainly having artists in the underpass along the viaduct is very interesting, because it creates an art space that doesn't exist today, and hopefully over time, more people can participate in such activities along the Rail Corridor."

The interim art space will only last for a year, but more activities could be planned if the project is successful.

- CNA/fa/nd

New space for street artists along Rail Corridor
Tiara Hamarian Today Online 24 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE — Street artists will have a new and, possibly, largest space yet to showcase their works: The walls underneath the Commonwealth Avenue viaduct, which is along the Rail Corridor.

The two 40m by 5m walls beneath the viaduct, which street artists can use to hone their skills for one year — starting in January — are much larger than other existing spaces, such as the 30m by 2m space at the National Youth Council or the 9m by 2m panels at Somerset Skate Park.

Urban art collective RSCLS will be curating the space. Its founder Zul Othman, who goes by the moniker Zero, hailed it as a “great move ... especially for younger artists who are just starting out and are looking for space to practise their art”.

“They might not have contacts or even know the areas where they can do their graffiti, so providing this space will help them develop their skills,” the 34-year-old said.

The idea behind setting aside this space, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), is to “inject more vibrancy and community involvement into the Rail Corridor and provide a unique experience for users of this public space”.

Involving the community in enlivening public spaces through good design and programmes was one of the initiatives the URA launched in its Draft Master Plan 2013 released last month.

Said URA Senior Director for Physical Planning Tan See Nin: “The Rail Corridor is currently a recreational space with many people strolling, jogging and cycling along the trail and enjoying the green landscapes along the way. We would like the Rail Corridor to be a place for shared experiences and community bonding as well.”

Agreeing, Mr Zul said there will be more opportunities for street artists using the new space to interact with those who frequent the Rail Corridor. To raise awareness among the public about street art, RSCLS will also organise activities such as a street art jam.

National Arts Council Director of Arts and Youth Kenneth Kwok noted that street artists and their work “are an exciting part of Singapore’s diverse and vibrant arts scene”.

By providing street artists with such dedicated art spaces, it is hoped that they can express themselves and practise their craft, he added. “This is critical to the development of the Singapore street art scene, which the council will continue to support through grants, spaces and public engagement about the value of street art.”

The Rail Corridor has been the venue for several community events, such as mass runs and carnivals, so far. Last year, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was converted to host a fashion event by Female and Nuyou magazines. The second edition of the Green Corridor Run, scheduled to be held in May next year, will start at the railway station.

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Sinkhole forms on Commonwealth Avenue West

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 23 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: A sinkhole was formed on a section of the road along Commonwealth Avenue West in the direction of the city on Monday morning.

Singapore Power said this happened while a SP PowerGrid-appointed contractor was laying electricity cables.

The sinkhole is about two metres in diameter.

No one was injured in the incident and the affected area was immediately cordoned off.

SP said its priority was to ensure public safety.

SP said it is investigating the cause of the incident and its engineers are on site to access the situation.

Two lanes of the affected road have been closed to facilitate repair works.

A third lane is still open to traffic.

It remains unclear how long the repair works will take.

- CNA/fa

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Indonesia: Conservationist Laments Fast Decline in Indonesia’s Small Rhino Population

Jakarta Globe 23 Dec 13;

Indonesia has seen a dramatic decline in the number of Javan and Sumatran rhinos over the past eight years, according to a director of an organization dedicated to preserving the animals.

“Rhinos can no longer be found in Jambi, South Sumatra and Bengkulu — places that were once the main habitat for those populations,” Indonesia Rhino Foundation (YABI) executive director Widodo Ramono said, as quoted by

According to him, the rhino population not in captivity in Java and Sumatra has fallen from 800 eight years ago to an estimated 100 now. Thirty of them are in Way Kambas National Park, Lampung.

The remainder, he said, now live in South Bukit Barisan National Park, spanning the Sumatran provinces of Lampung, Bengkulu and South Sumatra.

Speaking at a workshop and socialization event for law enforcement against the killing and trade of protected animals, Widodo called on the government and public to make serious efforts to protect the animals, which are on the brink of extinction.

Rhino horns remain a sought-after ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and demand for it in countries such as China and Vietnam has led to thousands of the animals being killed across Africa and Asia in recent years.

“Rhinos are part of what supports humans’ ecosystem,” he said. “Poaching and forest encroachment have become the main cause of their decline.”

Widodo said YABI was committed to ensuring local rhinos were well protected.

“It is such a shame conservation efforts cannot balance out the speed at which they are going extinct,” he said.

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Indonesia: Thousands Displaced as Floods, Landslides Devastate Central Java Province

Jakarta Globe 24 Dec 13;

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), 3,929 people are still evacuating Purwerejo, Central Java over the weekend following floods and landslides that have killed five people.

Purwerejo police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Roma Hutajulu said three people died after being swept away by rushing waters, while two lost their lives in a landslide triggered by the torrential rain.

“We are still on alert, 400 police officers have been mobilized to help victims and we have set up a soup kitchen to provide food for the evacuees,” Roma said on Sunday.

Floods and landslides caused by heavy rains raging from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, struck 63 villages and 13 subdistricts, reported the BNPB.

Four people were found dead while one was declared missing and is feared to be dead.

The Kebumen Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), military and police have rescued the injured and ushered them to the nearest hospital.

Kebumen regional government declared a state of emergency until Jan. 3.

Landslides also blocked access to Madurejo village in Puring subdistrict, isolating at least 150 villagers.

The agency was only able to distribute aid by boat as roads are still inundated.

The torrential rain also caused the Gentang River embankment to collapse and flood nearby villages.

However, road access to Butuh subdistrict, which was previously cut off, has been restored.

On Thursday, a landslide triggered by heavy rain in the west end of the West Javan province Bandung killed at least one person and forced dozens to evacuate.

The landslide damaged houses in three subdistricts and buried the road connecting West Bandung and Cimahi district. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of BNPD, reminded residents of the area to stay alert between December and January, when rainfall is expected to remain high.

Earlier this month, torrential rain in the North Sumatran town Berastagi, located near the still-erupting Mount Sinabung volcano, led to a landslide that killed nine people.

Rain fell in the hills around Berastagi on Saturday afternoon and evening. The first landslide struck at 7 p.m. in the villages of Gundaling and Laununggap.

First responders found two people dead: Leni Wulandari, 22, and her 2-year-old son, who were found in their house, buried beneath the landslide. Leni’s husband was said to be away, working in Malaysia at the time.

In Gundaling village, authorities identified six more fatalities while the body of 10-year-old Rosalina Siboru was discovered in Laununggap.

Sutopo urged everyone living in landslide-prone regions to be especially vigilant over the coming months as the rainy season increases the risk of destabilizing soil layers.

Earthquakes and heavy rain are common causes of deadly landslides throughout the country.

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Madagascar's forests vanish to feed taste for rosewood in west and China

As political instability since the 2009 coup revives the illegal logging trade, precious bois de rose trees are now hard to find
Tamasin Ford 23 Dec 13;

Blood-red sawdust coats every surface in the small carpentry workshop, where Primo Jean Besy is at the lathe fashioning vases out of ruby-coloured logs.

Besy and his father are small-scale carpenters in Antalaha in north-east Madagascar, and are taking advantage of a recent resurgence in demand for wood from the bois de rose tree, prized for the extraordinary coloured streaks that weave through its centre.

"It's easy to sell because the wood is so famous," said Besy, whose skin glistens with red powder. "People from [the capital] Antananarivo come here [to buy goods]. They like it because they can sell it to foreigners."

The father and son pair are just the tip of the booming trade in bois de rose, one of the world's rarest trees, even though the logging and export of rosewood from Madagascar is banned.

The wood is being smuggled out of Madagascar at an alarming rate, said Randrianasolo Eliahevitra, regional director of the church-based development organisation SAF/FJKM."People are afraid to talk [about who is behind the smuggling]," said Eliahevitra, adding that he feared for his life if he named any of those responsible.

He said continuing political instability in Madagascar, a country reeling in poverty after four years of military rule and crippling economic sanctions, allowed the multimillion-dollar industry to flourish.

"At this time we don't have yet a legal government, so everyone is taking advantage of the situation and they are doing what they want," Eliahevitra said.

In the village of Cap Est, a nine-hour journey from Antalaha along a sandy coastal track interrupted by wide rivers, which motorbikes and 4x4s have to cross by precariously straddling canoes, residents say the once tiny fishing community is almost unrecognisable. Deep muddy troughs made by the constant convoys of pick-up trucks line the sandy path that cuts through the smattering of small wooden houses; crates of beer, sacks of rice and mattresses stream in on a daily basis.

Anita, 22, who is too afraid to give her real name, moved here two months ago. "It's all because of the bois de rose," she said, sitting in front of a table laden with cigarettes, bottles of beer and batteries that she sells. Cap Est has become the unofficial smuggling capital, and thousands of people have descended on the village to take advantage of trading opportunities. "Business is booming here," said Anita.

It is not hard to find men who have recently come back from bois de rose foraging expeditions in the forests.

"After I found out how much money you can get, that's when I started logging," said Randeen, 22, who also did not want to give his full name. He joined a logging team in April. He said he had to walk for two days deep into the forest before even seeing one tree big enough to cut, claiming there are at least "1,000 men" doing the same thing.

Jam Lamouche, 34, has been in the bois de rose trade for more than 10 years, and employs 20 loggers. "From October, the business has boomed," he said, explaining each man gets 3,000 Malagasy ariary (£0.81) for every kilo of wood they log, while he gets 2,000 ariary. "Yes, we are making money," he said with a smile.

Lorries weighed down with rosewood logs make their way to the port day and night, where they are loaded on to boats in full public view. "The final destination is China," claimed Guy Suzon Ramangason, director general of Madagascar National Parks (MNP), the state body tasked with managing the country's protected areas. He said the government was aware of the problem but had failed to intervene, allowing the illicit industry to flourish.

"There is a network of mafiosi of bois de rose," he said. "Money in this type of network is very, very powerful." He said the wood was first shipped to intermediary countries, where false papers were drawn up legalising the cargo. "But we have no proof," he added.

The illegal logging and smuggling of bois de rose in the Masoala and Marojejy national parks in the country's north-east exploded after the coup in 2009. An investigation by two non-governmental organisations, Global Witness and the Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency, documented the illegal harvesting and trafficking of the wood, destined mainly for China. In addition, the US guitar manufacturer Gibson reached a settlement over claims it had used illegally sourced Madagascan bois de rose.

The transitional government reinstated a ban in early 2010 and all seemingly went quiet until the runup to the first round of presidential elections this October, when rumours spread of a bois de rose revival. An internal MNP report documenting the movement of bois de rose for November concluded that trafficking had almost returned to 2009 levels.

Mamonjy Ramamonjisoa, from the ministry of environment and forests in Antalaha, said everyone knew what was going on but "they close their mouths and they close their eyes". But while carpenters, loggers and smugglers are profiting, the precious bois de rose is rapidly vanishing from the island.

In 2009, up to £300,000 worth of bois de rose was being shipped out of Madagascar each day. There are no figures for the levels it has reached today but Ramangason said that from what he had heard, it was "worse than in 2009".

"If we don't take measures to reduce this phenomenon then maybe after 20-25 years it will be disastrous," said SAF/FJKM's Eliahevitra.

Additional reporting by Iloniaina Alain Rakotondravony

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Virus kills over 1,000 bottlenose dolphins along U.S. east coast

Barbara Liston Reuters Yahoo News 24 Dec 13;

ORLANDO (Reuters) - More than 1,000 migratory bottlenose dolphins have died from a measles-like virus along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in 2013 and the epidemic shows no sign of abating, a marine biologist said on Monday.

The death toll exceeds the 740 dolphins killed during the last big outbreak of the then-unknown virus in 1987-88.

"It is having a significant impact and that is something we're monitoring closely," said Erin Fougeres, a marine mammal biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

An estimated 39,206 bottlenose dolphins populated the eastern seaboard, to a depth of 25 feet, from New Jersey to Central Florida in 2010, according to the latest NOAA census.

Scientists are trying to determine why the morbillivirus resurged this year. The dolphins, which migrate south for the winter, have been stranded or found dead on beaches from New York to Florida since June, Fougeres said.

An unknown number of affected dolphins likely died offshore as well, she said.

A record number of manatees have also died in Florida waters this year, mostly from a toxic algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission's research institute said it documented 803 manatee deaths in state waters between January 1 and December 13, the most for any year since record-keeping began in 1974.

The morbillivirus virus outbreaks could be natural and simply cyclical, said Fougeres.

"The last occurrence of this was about 25 years ago and the animals that survived that would have natural antibodies. But as those animals slowly die out and new animals are not exposed, they may not have that immunity," Fougeres said.

But other as-yet unproven theories related to global warming or pollution also are being investigated, she noted. "There could be underlying causes that made them more susceptible this year versus other years."

Scientists in the late-1980s estimated that the morbillivirus wiped out 50 percent of the coastal migratory dolphins. As a result the bottlenose dolphin was designated as "depleted" under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, a status it retains today.

Since then, scientists have learned more about dolphin populations, and believe the morbillivirus is endemic in the marine environment where other deep-sea species such as pilot whales may be symptom-free carriers, Fougeres said.

Fougeres said something in the environment might have caused dolphins to interact more closely with the whales recently.

An unrelated study released last week by NOAA showed that some dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico are gravely ill from injuries consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure. The study looked at dolphin from Louisiana's Barataria Bay heavily impacted by British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.

(Editing by David Adams and Richard Chang)

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Best of our wild blogs: 23 Dec 13

The Priest has a Name: Rev Fr Anatolius Mauduit
from Flying Fish Friends

Dan Friess' Singapore Almanac of Secret Earth Magic
from wild shores of singapore

Unraveling the secrets of one of the world's most mysterious big cats
from news

Sunda Scops Owl
from Monday Morgue

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Manatee death toll hits record in Florida, 'Red Tide' blamed

Reuters Yahoo News 20 Dec 13;

MIAMI (Reuters) - A record number of manatees died in Florida waters this year and the leading killer of the endangered mammals was a toxic algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission's research institute said it documented 803 manatee deaths in state waters between January 1 and December 13, the most for any year since record-keeping began in 1974.

That was more than double the 392 manatee deaths in Florida in 2012 and up sharply from the 453 deaths recorded in 2011.

"The previous record was 766 manatee deaths and that was in 2010," commission spokesman Kevin Baxter said on Friday. "That was a year when cold weather was a major factor," he added.

Baxter said a Red Tide that killed 276 manatees in the Gulf, in an area centered largely off Ft. Myers, was the single leading cause of death in 2013.

Naturally occurring algae sometimes grow out of control for unknown reasons, turning the water red and producing a suite of neurotoxins deadly to fish, sea turtles, birds and marine mammals.

The algae settles on the sea grasses that manatees eat, affecting their nervous system and ultimately causing them to drown, Baxter said.

"The previous record for Red Tide deaths that we've documented was 151 and that was in 1996," he said.

Algae could also be a factor behind at least 92 manatee deaths this year in the Indian River Lagoon, in central Florida along the state's Atlantic coast, Baxter said.

He said the exact cause of the deaths was still undetermined. But an algal bloom had clouded the water in parts of the lagoon, blocking out sunlight, inhibiting sea grass growth, and possibly forcing the manatees to eat something that is killing them off.

"We do believe that it may have something to do with a dietary change, Baxter said.

An aerial survey conducted in 2011 showed that there was a "minimum count" of at least 4,834 manatees living in Florida's waters, Baxter said.

The West Indian manatee, the whiskered and wrinkled "sea cow" known to Floridians, is related the African and Amazon species and to the dugong of Australia. It grows to at least 10 feet and more than 1,000 pounds (450 kg).

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Best of our wild blogs: 21 - 22 Dec 13

“Give Us a Chance”
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Pengerang in danger (Heritage Trails of Pengerang)
from Rojak Librarian

How an Antlion larva traps an ant
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterfly of the Month - December 2013
from Butterflies of Singapore

white-breasted waterhen & chicks @ Lorong Halus, Singapore - 20Dec2013 from sgbeachbum

sleeping python, frightened squirrel @ sungei buloh - 21Dec2013
from sgbeachbum

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Best of our wild blogs: 20 Dec 13

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for Singapore?
from Hopping Around

Crocodiles in Singapore’s Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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PUB calls for proposal to build second NEWater plant at Changi

Channel NewsAsia 20 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB is inviting local and international companies to submit proposals for the construction of the second NEWater plant at Changi.

To be completed by 2016, it will add another 50 million Imperial gallons (mgd) or 228,000 cubic metres of NEWater a day to Singapore's water supply.

Like the first Changi NEWater plant, the second will also be constructed under a Design, Build, Own and Operate (DBOO) arrangement and utilise the same proven NEWater process developed by PUB.

PUB says the plant's main process facilities will be built mostly on the rooftop of the Changi Water Reclamation Plant.

This saves on land and the cost of laying pipes to convey the treated used water from the water reclamation plant to the NEWater plant.

One of the pillars of Singapore's water sustainability, NEWater is ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water that is produced using advanced membrane technologies.

NEWater currently meets 30 per cent of Singapore's water demand, and this is set to increase to up to 55 per cent in the longer term.

Koh Boon Aik, PUB's director of best sourcing, said: "Increasing NEWater capacity is necessary to meet the growing water demand and strengthen the resilience of Singapore's water supply.

"NEWater is used primarily by the non-domestic sector for non-potable use as well as topping up local reservoirs during dry weather."

The successful bidder will have a 25-year NEWater agreement to supply NEWater to PUB, from 2016.

The NEWater agreement will set out the tariff structure, terms and conditions for the supply and purchase of NEWater.

Mr Koh added: "We have been adopting the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model to expand our water supply system in a cost-competitive manner since 2005.

"These projects have been highly successful, ensuring a high quality and reliable water supply at the most cost-effective manner as they tap on private sector's expertise as well as their capacity and flexibility to innovate.

"Through participating in these PPP projects, water companies can also gain experience, build up their track record, and they can eventually export the expertise they gain from the project internationally."

The second NEWater plant at Changi is PUB's fifth DBOO project. Previous DBOO projects include the 30mgd SingSpring Desalination Plant, 32mgd Keppel-Seghers Ulu Pandan NEWater Plant, 50mgd SembCorp Changi NEWater Plant, and more recently, the 70mgd Tuaspring Desalination Plant.

- CNA/al

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Philippines: ‘No-build’ zones marked in ‘Yolanda’-hit areas

DJ Yap Philippine Daily Inquirer 20 Dec 13;

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has finished marking “no-build zones” on the coasts of Eastern Visayas that were ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” to pave the way for the construction of “green walls” of mangroves and beach forest to protect against coming storms.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the 40-meter no-build zones from the coasts covered approximately 100 kilometers in Samar and Leyte provinces, although not all the areas would be subject to the restriction.

“There are areas where growing mangroves and beach forest is not applicable… there are places where infrastructure is more applicable, meaning dikes and breakwaters,” Paje told reporters.

Infrastructure measure

“If the applicable measure is infra (infrastructure), then we’ll apply infra. When a green measure is more applicable, then we’ll use beach forest and mangroves. There’s no hard and fast rule because there are places where mangroves don’t grow,” he said.

Paje said the rebuilding should focus on better, more resilient construction.

“It means new houses in better places, more resilient construction. No more nipa huts and shanties,” he said.

“At the very least, the houses should be able to withstand storm speeds of 200 kilometers per hour,” he added.

The government has earmarked almost P350 million for a massive coastal rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas, particularly Leyte and its capital city, Tacloban.

Restore coastal forests

The objective is to restore the region’s degraded coastal forests and make its coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events.

Under Presidential Decree No. 1067, or the Philippine Water Code, “banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

“Had the mangroves in Leyte and Eastern Samar not been decimated, the storm surge in those areas would have been dissipated by 70 to 80 percent of their strength,” said Paje, citing a study by the Department of Science and Technology.

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Best of our wild blogs: 19 Dec 13

Let’s #KeepSGClean!
from Green Drinks Singapore

Malayan Birdwing @ Pulau Ubin
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Morning Walk At Dairy Farm Nature Reserve
from Beetles@SG BLOG

False Head in Lycaenid Butterflies
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! Silver Forget-Me-Not
from Butterflies of Singapore

Beehive hangs from Woodlands bus stop
from Lazy Lizard's Tales and Dangerous-looking bug with hundreds of spines found at foot of Hougang block

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Monsoon surge expected to affect region over next few days

Patwant Singh Channel NewsAsia 18 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: According to the Met Service, a steady strengthening of winds over the South China Sea known as a monsoon surge is expected to affect the region over the next few days.

The surge is likely to bring intermittent rain, heavy at times, between December 19 and 22, 2013.

High tides of 3.1m are expected during this period.


December 19, 2013 2.8m at 12.54am 3.1m at 11.46am
December 20, 2013 2.8m at 1.24am 3.1m at 12.20pm
December 21, 2013 2.8m at 1.52am 3.0m at 12.52pm
December 22, 2013 2.8m at 2.20am 3.0m at 1.26pm
The National Environment Agency said heavy rain coinciding with high tides could lead to localised flash floods, especially in low-lying areas.

In the past few weeks, short thundery showers affected Singapore in the afternoon and early evening due to the Northeast Monsoon.

As of December 17, the wettest areas were in the northeast with rainfall of around 85 to 98 per cent of the long-term monthly average, and the driest parts were in the south and west where 30 to 40 per cent of the long-term monthly average rainfall was recorded.

The public is advised to exercise caution during the monsoon season when flash floods may occur in the event of heavy rainfall.

The public can obtain the latest weather reports, including heavy rain warnings, at NEA's website.

They can also access the mobile weather service at Weather@SG, or by calling the NEA's weather forecast hotline at 6542 7788.

In the event of flash floods, the public can log on to PUB's Facebook page or PUB's Twitter, or tune in to radio broadcasts, to find out locations of flash floods.

Additionally, they can download national water agency PUB's free mobile app "MyWaters" for updates on water levels in key drains and canals, as well as receive flash flood alerts.

PUB said heavy rain fell in several parts of Singapore on Wednesday.

Intense rain caused flash floods at the following locations:
• Jalan Seaview
• Slip road from Yishun Ave 5 to Yishun Ave 2
• Road shoulder near centre median of PIE 14.5km toward Changi (Near Woodsville Flyover)

The flash floods at Jalan Seaview and along a short stretch of PIE road shoulder towards Changi (near Woodville flyover) subsided within 20 minutes, while the flash flood at the slip road from Yishun Ave 5 to Yishun Ave 2 subsided within 10 minutes.

PUB said Jalan Seaview is a known low-lying area, and ongoing drainage improvement works are expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2014.

Drainage works scheduled at Yishun Ave 2 and Yishun Ave 5 will start in the second quarter of 2014.

Drainage openings at the centre median drain of the affected stretch of PIE will be enlarged.

- CNA/gn

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