Best of our wild blogs: 7 Feb 13

Wild facts updates: Slugs, sharks, crabs and more
from wild shores of singapore

MND's "Land Use Beyond 2030" map of Singapore
from Habitatnews

Storks at Seletar
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Read more!

Nature forgotten in all the number crunching: NMP

Faizah Jamal calls for a White Paper with ‘heart’, urges Govt to consider environmental impact of larger population
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 7 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE — Speaking impassionedly yesterday on the environmental ramifications of ramping up infrastructure to accommodate a larger population, Ms Faizah Jamal was the only Nominated Member of Parliament so far to oppose the Government’s White Paper on Population.

Pointing out that the debate so far had hinged on “crunching numbers” and economic growth, Ms Faizah, a lecturer and an environmental advocate, said: “There is no mention in the White Paper about the impact of so many people on our carbon footprint, our food security … the cost that Singaporeans have to bear in the years ahead as the pressure on energy and water mounts as we race towards a dream GDP (gross domestic product).”

In particular, she noted how the planned Cross Island Line will cut across the Central Catchment Nature Reserve — an area that encloses four reservoirs and encompasses “the oldest patches and some of the least-affected forests” in Singapore.

Adding that rare and endemic species are contained in the area, she questioned if these forests had to be given up as they “do not seemingly contribute to GDP growth”, and whether environmental impact assessments have been made “to warrant the plan in the first place”.

Ms Faizah also drew attention to the negative effects of land reclamation on Singapore’s coastal and marine areas, pointing out that areas of rich, native biodiversity such as Chek Jawa will be affected.

As such, she also requested that the agencies involved and their assessments be made public for “clarity and transparency”.

While the authorities had announced that about 9 per cent of land will be maintained for parks and nature reserves, both in the White Paper and in the Land Use Plan 2030, Ms Faizah noted the emphasis on the word “parks”, pointing out that it implied “the heavy intervention of the human hand in landscaping” rather than nature itself.

In her closing comments, Ms Faizah pointed out the “limitations of thinking from the head”, calling for a White Paper with “heart”, adding that such a paper would not exist “until the Government addresses the trust issues that have taken a severe beating in recent years”.

Assess impact on nature: NMP
Straits Times 7 Feb 13;

Nominated MP Faizah Jamal says a compulsory environmental impact assessment is needed and should be open to public scrutiny, “so that there is openness, transparency and public accountability”. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

NOMINATED MP Faizah Jamal yesterday opposed the White Paper on Population, accusing the Government of emphasising economic growth at the expense of the environment in planning Singapore's future.

Calling for an environmental impact assessment of the infrastructure plans to be carried out and shared with the public first, she said the White Paper should be one that speaks from the heart, rather than from the head.

"In the midst of all those numbers we were crunching, it is astonishing to me that no mention was made of how all those numbers impact on something bigger than ourselves, the environment," said Ms Faizah, a Nature Society member and polytechnic lecturer.

She said the paper did not mention the impact of a growing population on Singapore's carbon footprint, food security, and energy and water costs, while its building plans would affect Singapore's nature reserves and marine and coastal life in a big way.

She singled out the proposed construction of the 50km cross-island railway line, which would cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve comprising four large reservoirs and forests containing rare and endemic species.

She noted that the Land Transport Authority has informed the Nature Society that there is no decision yet on whether the line will be above ground or underground, and that an environment assessment will be made by joint agencies.

Similarly, the proposed reclamation works would mean the loss of rich biodiversity areas such as Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin and mangroves and mudflats, as well as small coral reefs and inter-tidal areas, while choking and live-burying fish, corals and marine life.

Thus, a compulsory environmental impact assessment is needed, she said, and should be open to public scrutiny "so that there is openness, transparency and public accountability".

Concluding her impassioned speech, she said: "We have been very good at thinking with our heads and devising linear systems that are efficient and which run well... Along the way, we seem to have forgotten that, in the end, it is about connecting with people, with our natural environment."


Faizah Jamal's full speech from facebook


Madam Speaker thank you for giving me the opportunity to join in this very important Debate.

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
- Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry –

Not my words but the wise words of Antoine de Saint Exupery, the famed author of The Little Prince. Words, Madam, that to me mirrors just what is wrong with the White Paper.

From the hasty manner in which it is put to Parliament, the tenor and language of the document, as well as the exhortations for Singaporeans to please hurry up and get down to work both in our careers and in our bedrooms, to bracing ourselves for what can only be a more crowded city than it is now, we are asked to collect wood, and it certainly looks like there isn’t a whole lot of sea for us to long for either.

Madam Speaker it is barely a week since the White Paper and the Land Use Plan was announced. To be debating on what is arguably the most significant and far reaching plans for all Singaporeans within such a short space of time is to my mind, not prudent to say the least.

These are proposals that should be open for public consultations particularly in view of the recent unhappiness over many issues that are now the subject of the White Paper. In fact, the White Paper itself states -
” Singaporeans form the core of our society and the heart of our nation. To be a strong and cohesive society, we must have a strong Singaporean core”. Does this not make it all the more imperative that these proposals be open to public consultations for all Singaporeans? Shouldn’t this serious issue be in fact the subject of the Our SG Conversations so that there is at least a bigger context to all that sharing?

Madam, not only does the White Paper NOT give Singaporeans any longing for the immensity of the sea, the language and tenor speaks more to the head and not to the heart, and I will explain what I mean, and why I think this is a mistake.

It is also based on assumptions that warrant a closer look, from the link between immigration and economic growth, to why it is assumed that an ageing population will be a bad thing.

What alarms me most about the White Paper and the Land Use Plan is the emphasis placed on ‘economic growth’ measured in GDP terms. I know many Ministers have assured the House that this is not the case. Let me explain why I, and many members of the public are not convinced, While there were references to Singapore being ‘liveable lively and well-loved', the tenor of the White Paper is to my mind, utilitarian. It is based on the assumption that our needs, human needs - and in fact I would even go far as to question whether these are even ‘needs’ at all, but rather, ‘wants’ instead - count more than anything else, and that anything that stands in the way has to go. Land, even valuable nature areas, which are in the way, has to go, if humans require it for GDP growth. The words “our population and workforce must support a dynamic economy ' in the White Paper, continues to make Singaporeans feel that we are economic digits rather than individuals whose hopes and aspirations increasingly do not have a whole lot to do with the usual material definition of ‘success’ anymore.

Madam Speaker, well-being goes beyond GDP growth. It is about fulfilling careers, emotional security, equitable distribution of wealth, affordable housing, healthcare and education, and factors in the existence of places that evoke childhood memories, natural spaces , and access to these places, based on the well-proven understanding that these spaces provide physical, mental and emotional wellness which in turn leads to greater productivity at work and strengthen our bonds with people and the environment. In fact beyond what natural spaces do for our well- being and work productivity, it includes the intangible benefits of nature as free eco service providers by being self-balancing systems for clean air, water and land, that cannot always be defined in monetary terms and therefore cannot always be computed through a GDP paradigm and yet, which offers unmistakeable benefits to our lives.

In a PQ I submitted a few months ago, I asked about the fate of the Sungai Road Second Hand Market. MEWR responded that this has to go by 2016 to make way for the Jalan Besar MRT , commercial and residential purposes. Madam this iconic place has existed in Singapore for more than 50 years, and has become entrenched in the hearts of Singaporeans, even the younger ones today, as a place which, with all its mess and quirkiness, has colour and meaning, and appeals to the heart. The letters to the press that ensued after my PQ, the Facebook posts and even a petition to save it shows that this place that MEWR describes as ‘temporary’ despite its existence since the 1930s - which begs the question just what is the meaning of ‘temporary’ - how people feel about a place. To discount that in the name of development, to me, is decision that comes from the head, and not the heart.

Yesterday Singaporeans were told to heed the government’s call to get married, for women to be mothers and have babies. Being a mother myself, , and a single mum at that, I agree completely about the joys of motherhood, challenges notwithstanding.

Yet not once during the Debate of the last two days did I hear anyone talk about our connection to another Mother, that of Mother Earth. In the midst of all those numbers we were crunching it is astonishing to me Madam, that no mention was made on how all those numbers impact on something bigger than ourselves, the Environment. We act as if all that economic growth, all the companies and foreign talent that we want to entice, all the goodies that we desire in life, all the constructon that will happen, does not in fact come from somewhere and end up somewhere, in the environment. Yet there is no mention in the White Paper about the impact of so many people on our carbon footprint, our food security - which as it stands, we are 90% dependent on outside sources and we all know how vulnerable that makes us - to the higher costs that Singaporeans have to bear in the years ahead as the pressure on energy and water mounts as we race towards a dream GDP.

To explain further what I mean by the White Paper speaking to the head and not the heart, I note with concern the emphasis on the familiar slogan ‘City in a Garden’ and the emphasis in the Land Use Plan 2030, on the word ‘parks’. It seems to me that policy-makers have a different shade of green in mind when they refer to ‘greenery’. By familiar definition, the word ‘parks’ and ‘gardens’ have a different connotation from the meaning of ‘forests’, ‘nature areas’, or ‘nature reserves’, with the implication of the heavy intervention of the human hand in landscaping and shaping such manicured spaces in parks and gardens compared to the designs from nature, with its own sensibilities, intelligence and ability to correct and balance itself, ‘wild’ and unkempt though they may look on the surface.

I especially note with concern the potential disappearance of natural spaces with regards the 50 km Cross Island Line ( CRL). This line begins in Changi and moves westwards through Loyang, Pasir Ris, Hougang. Ang Mo Kio, Sin Ming and through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve to Bukit Timah, Clementi, West Coast and Jurong Industrial Estate. The fact that it goes through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve , and I emphasise the term ‘Nature Reserve’ , is a serious concern.

This reserve encloses four large reservoirs – MacRitchie in the south, Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce in the central, west and east, and Upper Seletar in the north. In these areas are the oldest patches and some of the least affected forests, the green lungs of Singapore.

In these areas also are some rare and endemic species, found not only nowhere else in Singapore but nowhere else in the world. Not for nothing are they given a ‘nature reserve’ status. And yet the CRL proposes to cut through these precious forests. Perhaps because they do not seemingly contribute to GDP growth?

While I understand that the LTA has informed Nature Society there is no decision yet on whether the CRL will be an aboveground or an underground line , and that an environment assessment will be made by joint agencies, I have several questions -

(a) Has any environment impact assessment (EIA) been made no matter how preliminary, to warrant the plan in the first place?

(b) If there had been an EIA no matter how preliminary, who were these agencies involved in the assessment, what were the terms of the commission and their preliminary conclusions, and may the public access this study for the sake of clarity and transparency?

(c) If these proposals pan out, what is of concern is that beyond the MRT line, and with the plans for housing so close to the vicinity, the forest habitat in the central Nature Reserves will deteriorate and become like an island or fortress surrounded by an inhospitable sea of concrete jungle.

When we were fighting to save Bukit Brown last year, we were told then that we are making too much fuss because it is not as if Bukit Brown is a forest to begin with, and it’s not that bad because it is not as if it affects the Nature Reserve.

So a very pertinent and more fundamental question now is, how did the government agencies involved justify the encroachment on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve now, on what is supposed to be areas that are inviolate? Or is nothing inviolate anymore?

Madam Speaker I turn now to our coastal and marine areas. The Land Use Map shows major reclamation taking place in Pulau Tekong and Tuas, and possible changes to Pulau Ubin and the coastlines of Kranji, Mandai, Pasir Ris, Changi and Tanah Merah as well as the Southern Island of Pulau Hantu and Pulau Semakau.

This means that valuable areas of rich native biodiversity like Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin which many Singaporeans have grown to know and love , and the mangroves and mudflats as well as the various small coral reefs and intertidal areas will be lost.

Also, it is noteworthy that in our seas are found dugongs, wild dolphins and even the endangered green turtles and the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle.

Shouldn’t these non-humans species count too in our definition of a ‘liveable city’ ? .

Yet, reclamation on such a massive scale will lead to serious environment consequences to all these areas and marine species. It will effectively choke and live-bury fish, corals and marine life in our waters. How will this affect our sea water, our rivers and drinking systems and indeed the liveable city that the White Paper proposes? Is this yet another example of a policy made from the head and not the heart?

Missing in the Land Use Plan was also any mention of planning for climate change and rising seas levels. I note that Singapore's northern shores and Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong, where most of the new developments will occur, lies at the mouth of the massive Johor River. Does the plan take into account the possibility of more rainfall and storms, and how these may change water flows down the Johor River?

Madam Speaker, in view of such massive impact not just on the demographics but also on the land and marine environments, and in the spirit of public engagement which the government has said it welcomes, I call for compulsory Environment Impact Assessments and that these be open to public scrutiny so that there is openness, transparency and public accountability. Having compulsory EIA laws serves government agencies too, which may then defend themselves against any public reproach in the future.

Madam Speaker a couple of weeks ago, together with sustainability consultant Mr Eugene Tay I co- organised an ” Our Singapore Conversation” in collaboration with and support of the OSC Secretariat for members of the green community in what was arguably the biggest gathering of environmental activists from animal welfare to nature lovers to the ‘brown’ issues proponents of waste and water management , from well-known academics to secondary students, from veteran activists to fledgling student-led environment clubs. To a man, and woman, and beyond their individual passion and interest, each and every one of the close to 80 people call for a society based on compassion, justice, graciousness, the ‘kampung spirit’ and for a life that goes beyond the material success that we are so used to hearing.

We went further and call for such values to be evident not just between human beings but also in our relationship with all sentient beings and with nature. We call for a recognition and acknowledgment that as human beings we need to realise that there is only so much than can be achieved when we put human beings front and centre of everything the way the White Paper has done. It is time that we stop having the notion that natural spaces are good to have but will be set aside ‘ when it is practical to do so’ which is the language of the Land Use Plan as if even nature is an economic digit. It is time that we move away from the anthropocentric view that the White Paper and the Land Use Plan continues to base policies on.

Madam Speaker, only last year in my maiden speech as a newly-minted NMP I had given anecdotal evidence of how my 19 year old polytechnic students learnt to connect to something bigger than themselves and certainly beyond connecting WIFI to their IPads and IPods, as a result of being taken into the forests and other nature spaces, an appreciation of what Singapore offers beyond the shopping malls. They felt a sense of who they are, of place, of identity. Beyond their expressions of awe and delight at discovering the treasures of wild natural spaces that no park or landscaped and manicured lawns can give them, they also expressed feelings of peace and well being in the midst of their harried lives and even a feeling of being spiritual.

Interestingly, these anecdotal examples are given solid findings. For example in the article ‘ When trees die, people die’ dated 22 Jan 2013 of The Atlantic, environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan said that nature has apparent restorative ability. Natural scenes, they said, are almost effortlessly able to capture people's attention and lull them into a state where negative thoughts and emotions are overtaken by a positive sense of well-being “. Imagine how much this reduces the burden on our healthcare system and in reducing stress.

I would submit that it is all the more imperative that we leave whatever we have left of such places, well and truly alone.

I would go so far as to say that rather than fit such nature areas into our lifestyle and our wants, that we instead, downsize our wants, and that we learn to co- exist and fit ourselves into these areas for a change.

Madam Speaker, environmentalism is not an interest group; it is the foundation to all else. If there is no environment, there is no economy. If we continue to act as if as if human beings are no more than economic digits, as if humans are the top of the heap and we think we can get away with it, we will continue to be an egocentric society which has cut off its own heart and then attempts to live without it. How is that ‘sustainable’? That to me is the height of insanity.

There is only so much we can plan and manage and do before Nature takes its course. Far better it is then to manage our consumer lifestyles, our quest for ‘economic growth’ to sustainable levels and change our paradigm from a linear, GDP-driven basis to something that is way more humane.

So what would a White Paper that speaks to and from the heart look like?

First of all this White Paper will not even exist until the government addresses the trust issues that has taken a severe beating in recent years. It will repair the relationship with the people and like in all good relationships, it chooses to listen not just with the ears but with the heart.

Then if there is to be a White Paper, this is how it will look like to me, the ordinary Singaporean.

It will make me long for the immensity of the sea. It will present to me a society that is kind, generous in material as well as in spirit, compassionate, believes in and acts upon equality for all, regardless of not just race language and religion, but also gender, political beliefs and sexual orientation, equality for low wage workers both local and foreign. It would speak to me of places I can go in Nature, untouched by the human hand, unmanicured, unlandscaped, because it sees value in the intangibles. It is a White Paper that tells me that it will not tolerate companies which choose the cheap foreign worker option and which treats relationships with workers as mere transactions, because the White Paper understands that there is a bigger humanity issue at stake here, which is that for every company that leaves our shores for another country because we have no more cheap workers, that these same companies will have no compunction in leaving that country, and seek cheap workers elsewhere. The White Paper will therefore consciously choose a different economic paradigm. It would speak to me of building a society that takes only what it needs not what it wants, conscious and aware that every time we take money out of our wallets, we are either choosing to make the world a better place, or making it worse, and therefore it implements policies that understand the impact our choices have on something bigger than ourselves and not just on GDP.

Madam Speaker in the Ancient Egyptian embalming practice, all the organs of the body are taken out of the body and placed in four decorated porcelain jars. All, that is, except two. One is the heart, which is put back in the body because it is believed that it is the most vital organ and the only one that will allow the soul to be taken to the next level of existence. And the other is the brain – and what did the Ancient Egyptians do with it? They throw it away, Why? Because to them it not important at all.

I suggest that these ancient wise ones have much to teach us about the limitations of thinking from the head, and the true power of being in the heart. We have been very good at thinking with our heads and devising linear systems from our education to our economic systems, that are efficient and which run well. We believe that in all things, only what is ‘practical’ and what can be counted in tangible terms, rules. Along the way we seem to have forgotten that in the end it is about connecting with people, with our natural environment.

Madam Speaker the public already know this and want to choose a different paradigm .

The time has come for the government to do likewise. We too are going to the next level of our existence in Singapore’s history. It will take great courage to change what no longer works. It is interesting to me that the word ‘courage’ itself comes from the French word ‘ coeur’ which means ‘heart’. I would like to believe that this government has what it takes.

As it stands, speaking for myself and on behalf of many not just in the green community but all right thinking Singaporeans who are increasingly making their voices heard, that there is more to life than GDP, I cannot in all good conscience , endorse the White Paper.

Faizah Jamal
Nominated Member of Parliament
( People and Civic Sector) (Environment and Heritage)
6 Feb 2013.

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Re-creating green havens

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 7 Feb 13;

Twice a week on his days off from work, security guard Jason Seah seeks out a tranquil green haven near his home in Jurong East. He cycles to Jurong Lake Park to fish, spending four hours there each time. He enjoys feeling the breeze at a shady spot under a tree and the calm surroundings, saying they remind him of his kampung days as a teenager.

“Green spaces are good for exercise and other activities,” said Mr Seah, 45. “It’s good to feel the earth under my feet.”

Parks, gardens and accessible parts of nature reserves are among the 3,900 hectares — that’s over 5,500 football fields — of green spaces found in Singapore. And the Republic is set to become even greener by 2030, under the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) Land Use Plan.

The target is to have at least 85 per cent of Singaporeans living within 400m of a park, and 20 new parks will be built within the next five years.

And come 2020, the park connector network will span 360km, linking parks, coastal areas and residential estates around the island.


Green spaces are important features of an urban environment — besides helping to improve air quality, cool ambient temperature and prevent floods, they also reduce urban stress, improve social cohesion and speed up physical and psychological healing, urban greenery studies have found.

In Singapore, they serve as “vital” recreational and social spaces for residents to relax and interact — “critical to a high quality of living in an increasingly urban and dense living environment”, according to the MND.

The newly spruced-up Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, for instance, was where 12-year-old Muhd Edri and his friends skated almost every day during the last school holidays. All live within walking distance of the park.

“In school there’s stress, but when we are here, the air rushes against your body and face; it’s relaxing,” said Edri, who has lived in Ang Mo Kio since he was born.

The park was also where retiree B C Ng, 66, and housewife Enie Chee, 48, got to know each other. Now running buddies who are part of a larger group of about 20 fitness enthusiasts, they can be found several times a week in the park getting a cardiovascular workout. Ms Chee said she enjoys the “better scenery and fresh air” that the green space provides.


More people have been heading to parks and green spaces. Between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of the population aged 10 and above who visited a park at least once in the past 12 months went up from 63 per cent to 69 per cent. Frequent users of parks — at least once a week over the past 12 months — increased from 16 per cent in 2006 to 27 per cent in 2011.

Queenstown resident Oon Say Tee, 64, and his wife, for instance, said they appreciate having a park connector near their Strathmore Green studio apartment. The retired couple walks there every morning and, once a week, Mr Oon also journeys on foot to places like the Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and even East Coast Park via the connector.

Green spaces in housing estates have evolved over the years — from simple tree-planting in the 1960s to landscaping in the 1990s and, lately, the water-sensitive designs and the infusion of biodiversity into urban spaces, such as the new Rumah Tinggi Neighbourhood Park.

Existing parks have also been spruced up so residents can get closer to nature.

The 62ha Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, for instance, saw its concrete-walled canal transformed into a meandering river. The park’s features now include an artificial wetland with plants specially selected for their ability to filter pollutants and absorb nutrients, maintaining the water quality naturally. Birds like the spotted wood owl and collared kingfisher can be sighted.

Parents and their children were seen barefoot in the river admiring plants and dragonflies on a recent visit.


The re-imagining and rethinking of green spaces continues.

The Rail Corridor sparked the imagination of nature lovers in the past year as thousands of joggers, bicyclists and shutterbugs flocked to the lush 26km stretch after the KTM train station at Tanjong Pagar relocated to Woodlands. A competition by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and civic groups between November 2011 and March 2012, to source ideas on what could be done with the former railway land, drew over 200 entries.

A radical idea proposed by one of the winners, Australian landscape firm Oculus, even involves re-introducing tigers back into the strip, as it mirrors the areas inhabited by tigers back in pre-industrial Singapore of the 1800s. Oculus proposed that the tiger habitat — set in a rainforest ecosystem of flora and fauna — be sealed from the rest of the city via “highly designed glass walls and edges”, with humans traipsing through a tree-top walk and arboreal villages.

Another entry, one of two top prize winners in the Youth category, envisioned a “minimum time, maximum experience” cluster of picnic grounds, community bloom projects, natural health spas in wooden huts and an interactive science museum.

Even while parts of the rail corridor may eventually be slated for development, the URA says what is set aside for nature will provide choices for cyclists and joggers, as well as greater accessibility to recreational and World War II heritage sites.


Experts are quick to point out that not all parks have the same biodiversity value. Yet each type of green space has its purpose and value, said wildlife consultant and nature guide Subaraj Rajathurai.

Housing estates, for instance, do not have the biodiversity of nature reserves, but multi-use parks in the heartlands provide venues for recreation and exercise. By giving estate residents easy access to a green space, this helps prevent overcrowding in nature reserves on weekends — while maintaining some biodiversity in housing estates, especially when green corridors are created, he said.

Indeed, the National Parks Board notes that studies have found at least 87 species of birds, as well as butterflies small mammals and lizards in the park connectors.

Biological sciences doctoral student Chong Kwek Yan, whose thesis is on the effects of urban greenery on biodiversity, suggested that more be done to determine where the balance between development and nature can be struck.

“Although it is true a city like ours has constraints and there are trade-offs between population growth or specific developmental directions versus the need for green spaces, the phrase ‘trade-offs’ has been bandied about vaguely without any specifics,” he said.

Mr Chong suggested investing in ecological and social science research to quantify any trade-offs, and engaging the public to find out what sacrifices Singaporeans are willing or not willing to make. “Only after we know where our choice of a balance is, can we talk about how to achieve it,” he said.


Why redevelop some wild pockets of green into parks, instead of just preserving them?

The MND said NParks’ challenge is to conserve and integrate green spaces while making them relevant to the diverse lifestyle needs of the population. Space is needed to provide recreational facilities to meet these needs, and to provide a barrier-free environment for ageing Singaporeans, a spokesperson said.

The parks board tries to retain as much of the original native vegetation as possible when developing parks, but “some, if not most of the naturally generated vegetation” — such as species prone to snapping like Albizia trees — needs to be removed to ensure public safety, the spokesperson said.

Tampines Eco Green and Bukit Batok Nature Park, however, are good examples of parks where vegetation has been largely retained to create a space for nature-based recreation, he said.

Mr Subaraj said the dead trees in Tampines Eco Green that are out of the way of human traffic are valuable to the birds as roosting and breeding sites, as well as for feeding.

Parks in Singapore that have successfully accommodated nature are those that have largely protected the original vegetation of the area, he said. And in Pasir Ris Park, where areas of natural rivers and mangrove have been preserved, otters are now using the space alongside humans.

“People going for exercise are getting to see something as exciting as an otter. In the old days, you search and search, and only if you’re very lucky will you see an otter. I think it’s great, it shows we’re going in the right direction,” he said.

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 7 Feb 13;

Red-breasted parrots, yellow vented bulbuls, migratory species and other creatures share Tampines Eco Green park with early-morning joggers.

Opened in 2011, the 36.5ha park — bounded by an expressway, a major road and a housing estate across Sungei Tampines — consists of natural habitats like open grasslands and freshwater wetlands. It shows how the development of green spaces in Singapore has improved in the past 20 years.

Trying to blend the needs of people and nature is not an easy task, says wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai: “Nature parks with an eco theme can do both.”

Watch along as Mr Subaraj introduces you to some of the denizens of this eco-haven in the heartlands.

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Short of space? No such thing

We could build over, under, outwards and offshore, say experts — the creative opportunities truly abound
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 7 Feb 13;

If architect Tan Cheng Siong had his way, Singapore’s living areas would be multi-capable zones teeming with activity, sited next to MRT stations.

People would work and live there. Workplaces and entertainment outlets would be sited below residential spaces, with the different functions vertically separated via a system of pedestrian, bicycling and landscaped decks.

Buildings would have frames built to last a long time, but with flexi-changeable interiors. They would be lush with vertical greenery and allow for vertical air circulation.

They would feature a variety of housing such as cluster homes, penthouses and apartments. They would also be equipped to collect rainwater, to produce energy via solar panels and mini-wind farms, and food via personal farm plots in multi-storey carparks.

“Citizens want affordable housing and employment, leisure and mobility, fresh air and gardens, babies and families, communities and opportunities,” said Mr Tan, principal of Archurban Architects Planners.


Mr Tan, Designer of the Year at the 2012 President’s Design Award, believes innovative design, good management and architecture that incorporates what he calls the “skyland” concept is key to successfully accommodating a larger population.

Geographical land size should not stop Singapore from multiplying its volume of space — and no, he isn’t referring to more shoebox apartments.

“Stop them before they become head shrinkers and slums,” said Mr Tan, who has previously said land shortage is a “fallacy”.

Singapore could house a population of 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030, according to the population White Paper published last month. The Ministry of National Development (MND) reckons that about 7 per cent more land is needed — about 766 sq km, up from 714 sq km available today — to “comfortably support” the projected population.

Areas that could be reclaimed by 2030 include Tuas Port, Pulau Tekong and Jurong Island. Beyond 2030, areas including Simpang, Marina East, Changi East, Sungei Kadut, Pasir Ris and around the Western islands could be reclaimed if needed.


Experts, however, note the limits to the territorial sea space available for reclamation. There is a limit to how far Singapore can reclaim if the Republic is to keep its anchorages and fairways for the maritime and shipping industry, said civil engineering professor Yong Kwet Yew of the National University of Singapore.

He notes that shallow waters less than 20m deep have been reclaimed in the past, and current projects are in depths of between 30m and 40m. It is less economically feasible to reclaim at further depths, Prof Yong said.

Besides reclamation, the intention is to develop existing land not in use, intensify land use and “recycle” land, an MND spokesperson said. To cater to economic and population growth, more land will be required for “critical uses” like housing, community facilities, industry and infrastructure.

To this end, the Government plans to consolidate land-intensive activities such as military grounds and golf courses. The latter will be allowed to run out their leases before being redeveloped, the MND said. Land for old industrial estates will also be recycled.


Beyond these measures, exciting possibilities lie below ground and offshore. An Underground Master Plan is in the works to map out possible uses of this subterranean resource, and Prof Yong said a framework of subterranean land rights should also be created to support underground development.

He draws a distinction between spaces created at the basement of buildings — which are a vertical extension of these structures constructed in the ground, and commonly used for car parks or shopping malls — and underground caverns, which are usually standalone spaces created in the rock.

In general, underground space is suitable for uses that do not require a long stay by humans. “The lack of natural ventilation or sunlight may have psychological and behavioural effects on humans that we are still not fully aware of,” Prof Yong said.

But such spaces are suitable for pollutive or noisy uses such as roads and heavy industries, as these would require less of a land buffer underground (building noise barriers above ground can be a blight on the landscape, he noted).

Potential structures that can be housed underground include road and rail infrastructure, car parks, power stations, treatment plants, research labs, reservoirs, warehouses and even performance halls, said Prof Yong.


Singapore is already exploiting some of its subterranean space.

Networks of tunnels channel sewage to a Changi treatment plant, and distribute electrical and telecommunications cables, district cooling and water pipes in Marina Bay.

The Defence Ministry’s Underground Ammunition Facility is built beneath a former quarry in Mandai and the Jurong Rock Caverns, an oil and petrochemical storage facility being built 130m under Jurong Island, will begin operations later this year.

The JTC is also studying the development of an underground science city beneath Kent Ridge Park.

A feasibility study on the ambitious project was completed last year by a Swiss-Singapore consortium, which came up with a design for 40 linked rock caverns with total rentable space of 192,000 square metres across three to four levels, it was reported. The caverns could house research laboratories for biotechnology and life sciences as well as data centres.

The MND added it is technically feasible to build large utilities and infrastructure facilities such as data centres, incineration and water reclamation plants underground, and it is studying whether to do so in order to “free up valuable surface land for higher value uses or community uses”.

It has also commissioned a consultancy study — to be completed by June next year — to explore innovative design and engineering solutions that could reduce the cost of large underground developments.


There is no shortage of examples of what has been done overseas — the Churchill Falls Power Station and RESO underground city in Canada, and the Itakeskus swimming complex in Finland are just a few, said Prof Yong.

And in Germany, an “innovative” underground transportation pipeline is being developed for cargo, which frees up surface infrastructure and also reduces pollution and noise caused by heavy vehicles, he said.

“When Montreal and other major cities in temperate climates develop underground cities and shopping malls, it is as much about creating space as it is about consumers’ comfort during cold winters and hot summers,” he said. “Similarly, underground shopping malls in Singapore provide comfort during hot weather and rain.”

In planning underground development, there is a need to account for unique conditions here such as the high ground water table, high humidity and variable geological formations.

Unlike some cities with more extensive cavern developments like Helsinki in Finland and Oslo in Norway, Singapore has a flatter terrain.

But preliminary studies have shown that “judicious ground improvement” of soils can render it feasible for underground caverns. “From an engineering perspective, there is no limit to how much space could be potentially exploited,” said Prof Yong. “The limit often lies in economic and commercial viability of the project.”

There is one caveat, however: Underground space, once built, is difficult to redevelop. Planning must hence be done in a sustainable manner, and spaces should be designed for permanency or with a high degree of flexibility for change in use, he said.


What about floating structures off Singapore’s coast?

They are mobile, less damaging to the marine ecosystem than land reclamation and enable unsightly utilities like incinerators and wastewater treatment plants to be located away from the population. But they also cost more to maintain than land structures, require a good foundation for station-keeping and positioning and incur stability concerns due to waves, winds and currents, said Professor Soh Chee Kiong of the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The Marina Bay Floating Platform here is an example of a floating structure, as is Tokyo’s Mega-Float which serves as a runway for airplane takeoffs and landing, and a floating hotel built by Singapore’s Bethlelem shipyard now being deployed in North Korea.

Research by NUS and NTU on floating structures in the past decade have mainly targeted applications for the offshore and marine oil and gas industry — which are more challenging than, say, for floating hotels, said Prof Soh.

The National Innovation Challenge last year on Land and Liveability could spur research to develop new ideas in floating structure technology, he said.

Overseen by the National Research Foundation, the S$135 million set aside aims to create new space and optimise land use to support an economically vibrant, highly liveable and resilient city of the future.


Prof Soh reckons that, depending on how the country develops and public acceptance, Singapore’s landscape in 50 years could feature multi-purpose offshore floating structures for its airport and seaport, for solar and wind energy harvesting, for fish farming and sea sports.

“If I were a planner, I would look at using up available existing space including surrounding islands first, then go underground and if we need to, go offshore — though technology is there, research should continue to make them more durable, cost-effective and sustainable,” he said.

Urban and land use planning for a denser population is complex, but as Professor Heng Chye Kiang, Dean of the NUS School of Design and Environment put it: “The question is whether Singapore can still be as liveable as its population continues to grow ... the challenge can also become an opportunity to introduce new typologies of integrated development, more meaningful open and green spaces integrated with amenities, a more effective mobility system and better use of new technologies to render our city more efficient and resilient.”

Will HDB flats of the future be taller?

Like all other developments, HDB blocks are subject to height control based on the relevant agencies’ planning rules, flight paths and other technical requirements, said the MND.

Standing tallest at the moment is the Pinnacle@Duxton at 50 storeys. In towns with less severe height constraints — such as Toa Payoh, Queenstown, Bukit Merah — residential developments are “in the range of 40 stories”, with a few blocks under construction exceeding that.

HDB already builds to the maximum allowable height in new towns. But it does not do so in the Central Area where height limits are less restrictive, because very high-rise buildings will require high-speed lifts and an additional fire safety refuge floor — extras which will be “expensive to provide and maintain”, said MND.

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Walking School Bus to ensure safe, enjoyable route for kids

Channel NewsAsia 6 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: Some pre-school children will be walking to and from school, in what's called the Walking School Bus.

They'll take a safe and enjoyable route, accompanied by adults.

The walk can be an informal affair or a structured arrangement with meeting points, a timetable and a schedule.

Children from PCF Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru in Kim Tian Road are the first to try out the Walking School Bus - a free service by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to get children to be physically active for up to three hours a day.

Walking School Buses are also practised in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Walking can also help to save money, especially for those who use public transport when the pre-school centre is one or two bus stops away.

Pre-schools can apply to HPB for funding to organise their own Walking School Bus and activities that promote good health.

Besides walking, a series of fun dance routines with pre-school themes will be developed.

The first routine is ready and will be available on DVD to all childcare centres and kindergartens as well as parents.

These fun dance routines can be integrated into curriculum time to improve music and movement skills, or into subjects such as mathematics or numeracy to make lesson time more lively.

Over the next two years, HPB and KK Women's and Children's Hospital will jointly develop more fun dance routines.

Nihardh M Zackariya, mother of a pre-schooler, said: "It's good for the children to encourage extra activities because normally most of the time they stay home and watch TV, so it's better for them."

CEO of HPB Ang Hak Seng said: "The Walking School Bus is also a platform for bonding between the teachers and the parents and the school. But not only that, it's also a chance for children to appreciate the community. Appreciate, for example, in this instance here, there are rambutan trees!"

- CNA/ck

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Senoko Energy close to replacing oil with gas to fire plants

Lynda Hong Channel NewsAsia 6 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE : Singapore's largest power generation company Senoko Energy is close to fully replacing oil with gas to fire its plants.

The firm announced this when it inaugurated a S$1 billion conversion project on Wednesday.

Senoko Energy invested S$1 billion to convert three oil-fired 250 megawatt steam plants into two gas-fired plants.

The new plants will have a capacity of 862 megawatts and feature energy-efficient gas turbines.

The wholesale energy supplier currently has nine power plants, of which only two are oil-fired.

Brendan Wauters, President & CEO, Senoko Energy, said: "Actually in 2012, we have already moved 95 percent of our generation to being gas fired, we do expect to 100 percent gas-fired generation."

Senoko Energy now uses piped natural gas from Indonesia and Malaysia.

But it is looking to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the upcoming LNG Terminal on Jurong Island which is expected to make up one-fifth of its future gas supply.

S Iswaran, Second Trade and Industry Minister, said: "When the LNG terminal becomes operational in the second quarter of this year, there will be greater availability of gas for power generation in Singapore. At the same time, more of our generation companies are expected to undertake re-powering projects to upgrade their plant turbines. These are exciting developments for the power sector, as our generation companies embrace new and cleaner technologies to improve performance and capitalise on the growth opportunities within the sector."

Senoko Energy's latest oil to gas conversion reused 30 percent of the original material.

Capacity has also increased by 14 percent.

The re-powered plants took 32 months to build and will have a total capacity of 862 megawatts, enough to power half of the HDB flats in Singapore.

They will also reduce about one million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

- CNA/ch

Greener, more efficient gas plants at power firm
Grace Chua Straits Times 7 Feb 13;

SENOKO Energy, Singapore's largest power-generation firm, has completed a $1 billion repowering project that could cut its carbon emissions by an estimated one million tonnes a year.

Starting in 2008, the company began converting three old oil-fired plants with a 750MW capacity into two gas-fired ones with a capacity of 862MW.

Not only are the new turbines cleaner, they also use less fuel than the oil-fired turbines, which were commissioned three decades ago. Yesterday, the company officially announced the completion of the conversion.

The gas-fired turbines operate on a combined-cycle basis, to burn gas, produce electricity and heat, tap waste heat, boil water, and generate electricity from steam. If they work round the clock, the daily output of the new turbines is enough to power more than 4,000 four-room HDB homes for a year.

In all, Senoko has 3,300MW of generation capacity and supplies about 30 per cent of local energy needs. The upgrade also increases its ability to take advantage of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the upcoming terminal set to open this year, said Senoko president Brendan Wauters.

He said LNG will eventually make up about 20 per cent of the firm's feedstock.

The new plants emit 40 per cent less carbon dioxide than the old ones for the same amount of energy produced, he added.

Today, almost 90 per cent of Singapore's electricity is generated using natural gas, according to Energy Market Company reports.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said that more generating companies here were expected to undertake similar repowering projects. "These are exciting developments for the power sector, as our gencos embrace new and cleaner technologies to improve performance and capitalise on the growth opportunities within the sector," he said.

Some companies made the switch previously, and others will add new gas-powered generation capacity in the next two years.

GMR Energy (formerly Island Power) plans to complete an 800MW power station on Jurong Island at the end of this year. YTL PowerSeraya replaced three oil-fired steam turbines with an 800MW gas-fired plant in 2010, so it is not planning to convert more just yet, said CEO John Ng.

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Saving the Environment, One Child at a Time

Olga Amato Jakarta Globe 4 Feb 13;

When it comes to solving Jakarta’s ever-present flooding problems, Arnold Abdi, a waste management entrepreneur and die-hard environmentalist, doesn’t even want to talk about the government.

“Children are a very important and powerful agent of change,” says Arnold, who took time out of his busy schedule to teach the children of Penjaringan, one of the worst-hit areas during the recent floods, about waste management and caring for the environment. “If we talk to young adults, people in their 20s, it starts to be more difficult. The main focus has to be to train the kids.”

Arnold is the founder of Armada Kemasan Nusantara, a burgeoning paper recycling company. He believes that education, interaction and basic waste management practices are the keys to change.

“Most of the people in the dirtiest areas of Jakarta don’t even know what trash cans are,” says the 37-year-old Trisakti University graduate. “[In] dirty areas, some of which are right in the middle of what some people might call elite areas, like Kemang or Buncit, every inch of the ground is full of trash, with children playing around in it. The people cook next to it. How can we expect their areas to change if there is nobody to teach them how to change? The government doesn’t teach people about environmental issues, provide trash cans or explain to them how to deal with everyday waste.”

To stop environmental degradation in Jakarta, Arnold says that teaching children is key.

“In a generation of high technology, where children deal more and more with iPads and indoor games, there is the danger that [that will mean] less interaction with nature,” he says.

“Because of this, there is a risk that children might no longer understand how valuable our environment is. So it’s crucial for us adults to keep educating them on how important it is to care for and save our environment.”

According to city data, Jakarta produces up to 6,000 tons of waste daily, and that’s not including the trash we see floating in the rivers.

Nova Hapsari Yudhopurwono, who helped recruit Arnold to come and speak to the children of Penjaringan, also believes in the importance of focusing on children to prevent floods and protect the environment.

“It’s important to have more environmentalists like Arnold willing to spend time with the kids,” says Nova, who is head of corporate social responsibility for the Blue Bird Group. “The more people like him there are around us, the more effectively we can teach the children about their environment. One-off projects and events are not enough to change their perspective. Blue Bird is hoping to organize more talks like this where we can spend the day cleaning up the neighborhood and teaching the importance of putting trash in the right place.”

Renie Elvina Tiurma, who heads the KDM Green Project run by Kampus Diakonia Modern, agrees that a one-off lesson about the environment is not enough to change everyday habits.

“One of our efforts in spreading the word about waste management is by giving presentations and campaigning to schools around Jakarta,” Renie says. “What’s fundamental is the participation and awareness of the kids, not only of the teachers, so they can put into practice what they have learned starting from their schools. It’s so important to be able to recycle properly, as around 48 percent of our household waste can be recycled and 40 percent can be turned into compost.”

Meanwhile, Hendra Aquan, the director of Transformasi Hijau, a grassroots community based in Bendungan Hilir, is helping the environment in another way.

Transformasi Hijau teaches the next generation about ecology and biodiversity by promoting the preservation of animal habitats found here in Jakarta.

“Trash is one of the elements that damages the ecosystem the most,” says Hendra, who routinely travels to the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve on the fringes of North Jakarta. “We’re at the moment focusing on two already endangered species of bird which might have been damaged by the flood that happened recently.

Just next to a river full of trash in Manggarai, a neighborhood of houses was completely submerged during the recent floods, forcing people to temporarily evacuate their homes. One of them was 12-year-old Delfiani, who lives there with her parents and a younger sibling.

“We lost many things at home, including my school uniform,” Delfiani says. “During the flood, we saw all the trash in the river coming up and going inside our houses. In school we learn that we shouldn’t throw trash on the street or in the river, so at our home we make an effort to throw our waste in trash cans.

“But still, our parents end up throwing the contents of the trash cans into the river, because they don’t know where else to throw it.”

Saving the Environment, One Child at a Time

Armada Kemasan Nusantara Tel. 021 2870 7748 E-mail:

KDM Green Project Tel. 021 844 3545/6E-mail:

Transformasi Hijau Tel. 0815 798 8053E-mail:

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Poachers kill 11,000 Gabon elephants in under a decade

Jean Rovys Dabany PlanetArk 7 Feb 13;

Poachers have killed more than 11,000 elephants in Gabon's Minkebe National Park rainforest since 2004, Gabon's government said on Wednesday, with the massacre fuelled by increasing demand for ivory in Asia.

The densely-forested central African country is home to about half the world's roughly 100,000 remaining forest elephants, the smallest species of elephant and coveted by ivory dealers for their harder and straighter tusks.

A study conducted by Gabon's government along with advocacy groups World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society found two-thirds of the forest elephants in Minkebe park had been killed off since 2004, or about 11,100.

"If we don't reverse this situation rapidly, the future of elephants in Africa will be compromised," Lee White, executive secretary of Gabon's national parks agency, said in a statement issued by Gabon's presidency.

Demand for ivory for use in jewellery and ornamental items is rising fast in Asia. Conservationists say growing Chinese influence and investment in Africa has opened the door wider for the illicit trade in elephant tusks.

Poachers are often armed with large-caliber rifles and chainsaws to remove tusks, the statement issued by the presidency said. They have secret camps in the rainforest, evading small deployments of park guards and leaving rotting elephant carcasses in their wake.

A park official said most of the poachers were believed to be from neighboring Cameroon, where the government has deployed army helicopters and hundreds of troops to protect its own dwindling elephant population.


Gabon security forces last week arrested at least one gendarme who was transporting tusks in a government vehicle, according to the statement, underlining the risk of corruption in an increasingly lucrative black market trade.

"If we do not want to lose the last elephants in central Africa, the illicit ivory trade needs to be treated as a grave crime that corrupts governments and seriously undermines economic development and security," said Bas Huijbregts, head of WWF's anti-poaching campaign in the region.

Cameroon deployed about 600 troops to its Bouba Ndjida National Park, a former safari tourism destination, late last year to combat horse-mounted Sudanese poachers who killed up to 450 elephants in 2011 and 2012.

In 2011, an estimated 40 metric tonnes (44.09 tons) of illegal ivory was seized worldwide, representing thousands of dead elephants. Figures for 2012 are expected to be similar, according to conservation group TRAFFIC. [ID:nL5E8NO2HO]

Ivory smuggling has also been linked to conflict. Last year the U.N. Security Council called for an investigation into the alleged involvement in the trade of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda.

Led by warlord Joseph Kony, who is being hunted by an African Union and U.S.-backed military force, the LRA is accused of terrorizing the country's north for more than 20 years through the abduction of children to use as fighters and sex slaves.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Pravin Char)

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Amazon forest more resilient to climate change than feared - study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 7 Feb 13;

The Amazon rainforest is less vulnerable to die off because of global warming than widely believed because the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide also acts as an airborne fertilizer, a study showed on Wednesday.

The boost to growth from CO2, the main gas from burning fossil fuels blamed for causing climate change, was likely to exceed damaging effects of rising temperatures this century such as drought, it said.

"I am no longer so worried about a catastrophic die-back due to CO2-induced climate change," Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter in England told Reuters of the study he led in the journal Nature. "In that sense it's good news."

Cox was also the main author of a much-quoted study in 2000 that projected that the Amazon rainforest might dry out from about 2050 and die off because of warming. Others have since suggested fires could transform much the forest into savannah.

Plants soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it as an ingredient to grow leaves, branches and roots. Stored carbon gets released back to the atmosphere when plants rot or are burnt.

A retreat of the Amazon forests, releasing vast stores of carbon, could in turn aggravate global warming that is projected to cause more floods, more powerful storms and raise world sea levels by melting ice sheets.

"CO2 fertilization will beat the negative effect of climate change so that forests will continue to accumulate carbon throughout the 21st century," Cox said of the findings with other British-based researchers.


The scientists said the study was a step forward because it used models comparing forest growth with variations in the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

It estimated that the damaging effects of warming would cause the release of 53 billion tons of carbon stored in lands throughout the tropics, much of it in the Amazon, for every single degree Celsius (1.8F) of temperature rise.

The benefits of CO2 fertilization exceeded those losses in most scenarios, which ranged up to a 319 billion ton net gain of stored carbon over the 21st century. About 500 to 1,000 billion ton of carbon are stored in land in the tropics.

Climate change would be more damaging for the Amazon if greenhouse gases other than CO2, such as ozone or methane which do not have a fertilizing effect, take a bigger role, the study said.

It did not factor in damaging effects from deforestation, mostly burning to clear land for farms, that is blamed for perhaps 17 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Brazil has sharply reduced forest losses in recent years. But predictions of a die-back in coming decades had led some people to conclude that there was no point safeguarding trees.

"Some people argued bizarrely that it would be better to chop them down and use them now," Cox said, adding that the new findings meant that reasoning was no longer valid.

By underlining the importance of trees for soaking up CO2, the study could also bolster slow-paced efforts to create a market mechanism to reward nations for preserving tropical forests as part of U.N. negotiations on a new treaty to slow climate change, due to be agreed by the end of 2015.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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