Best of our wild blogs: 20 Feb 13

Workshop on Bryozoans and Hydroids: 29 April- 4 May, 2013
from wild shores of singapore

Random Gallery - Chocolate Demon
from Butterflies of Singapore

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PM Lee, PM Najib launch three projects in Johor

S Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 19 Feb 13;

JOHOR BAHRU: The Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia launched two wellness projects in Medini at Iskandar Malaysia and a mixed development project at Danga Bay in Johor Bahru on Tuesday.

Fresh from the launch of joint development projects in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak travelled to neighbouring Johor Bahru where the two wellness developments were unveiled.

Afiniti Medini, an urban wellness project, is aimed at becoming a regional destination for families, tourists and professionals. It features a wellness centre, service apartments, a corporate training centre and retail space. Afinity Medini is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

Both leaders also launched Avira, another resort wellness project at Medini Central which will have homes, serviced apartments and commercial space. The development is expected to be completed in 2018.

The two projects are jointly developed by Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings.

Medini is among the five flagship zones at Iskandar Malaysia and is a 40-minute drive to the Central Business District in Singapore.

Both projects will have a total gross development value of three billion ringgit.

Mr Najib acknowledged that the success of the Iskandar project has exceeded the original plans and there has been a significant increase in investments from Singapore companies in Iskandar Malaysia.

Mr Najib said: "We both agree that we should develop something which develops the true meaning of the word "iconic" and from what I can see it befits the description. This will be truly an iconic and and landmark project which will certainly bring much benefit not only to those people involved in this project and users of this projects, but also indicative of the growing stronger ties of the two countries.

"I would say there is a significant increase of investments from Singapore. During our bilateral discussions this morning, we stressed the importance of the Industrial Working Group to meet on regular basis to encourage investors from Singapore to relocate their investments here, as well as for new investments to take place here in Iskandar."

Mr Lee said: "This is going to be an oasis not only for people from Malaysia or Singapore, but perhaps from all over the region to come and recharge their batteries, enjoy the environment and absorb the spirit of wellness."

He said the Malaysian government had shown commitment and drive to develop Iskandar Malaysia.

Mr Lee said: "A lot of investments have come in from the government, a lot of investment has come in from the private sector and significant amount of that has come from Singapore.

"I believe there is a lot of potential because from Singapore's point of view, we are developing and at the same time, there is a lot of spillover of what Singapore companies which want to expand or companies which want to come to Singapore but can't quite fit into Singapore. I think Iskandar offers a prime opportunity for them.

"As long as the Malaysian government pursues this to develop Iskandar and to link up with Singapore, the prospects are very good and from Singapore's point of view, we are very happy it is going to succeed."

Also launched on Tuesday is a 3.2 billion ringgit joint venture project in Danga Bay - a 20-minute drive from the Causeway.

Mr Najib and Mr Lee witnessed the signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding by CapitaLand, Iskandar Waterfront and Temasek Holdings.

- CNA/fa/de

Next step: Drawing up maritime boundaries
Straits Times 20 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE and Malaysia will draw up maritime boundaries around the disputed areas of Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, as the next step in their move to close the book on their territorial dispute.

This development follows the completion of a hydrographic survey last year by their joint technical committee, which was set up to implement a 2008 International Court of Justice decision on the disputed territory.

Its completion was welcomed yesterday by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The next step would be for the committee to move into the delimitation of maritime boundaries, they said in a joint statement after their fourth leaders' retreat.

Progress was also made on several other bilateral fronts, noted the statement.

The first phase of an engineering study into a rapid transit link between Johor Baru and the Republic Polytechnic MRT station of the forthcoming Thomson Line in Singapore has been completed, it said.

At a joint press conference yesterday, PM Lee said details - such as if the rapid transit link will be underground or overhead - will be revealed soon, hopefully before the next leaders' retreat next year.

The Joint Ministerial Committee on Iskandar Malaysia is also studying how to ease traffic congestion on the Causeway, and the feasibility of a "third road link" between the two countries in the longer term.

The statement touched on Singapore's water supply from Malaysia too, noting that both prime ministers "encouraged the Singapore and Johor water authorities to continue their excellent working relationship".

In addition, they endorsed both countries' resolve to expand the frequencies for Long Term Evolution (LTE), or 4G, mobile services.

These frequencies will be freed up as they move their TV services from analogue to digital broadcasting.

Close cooperation between the civil service of both countries and the importance of adopting best practices to address areas of environment concern were also noted in the statement.

It concluded by underscoring both prime ministers' support of Asean and its "central role in the region's evolving architecture".

They expressed confidence in its progress towards the goal of creating an Asean Community through economic integration and people-to-people links by 2015.

Malaysia, S'pore ties set to soar with projects
New Straits Times 20 Feb 13;

JOINT-VENTURE BOOSTS: State investment arms of both countries involved in projects worth multi-billion ringgit

DATUK Seri Najib Razak arrived in the island republic yesterday to begin a visit that will mark the beginning of a new era in bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore.

For the first time, the state investment arms of both countries -- Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Singapore's Temasek Holdings Ltd -- will be involved in mega joint venture projects with multi-billion ringgit in gross development value (GDV), bringing bilateral economic cooperation to greater heights.

The buzz is especially apparent in Johor, where another feather will be added to the Iskandar Malaysia cap, to the tune of RM11 billion in GDV.

The prime minister and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, will launch the 2ha "urban wellness" project in Medini North with a groundbreaking ceremony.

They will also unveil the name and logo for the project, which involves a five-storey building housing a spa, a training centre, gymnasium, shops and the like.

Khazanah and Temasek are also involved in the "resort wellness" project in Medini Central with an estimated GDV of RM3 billion.

The project, covering more than 80ha, will see houses, condominiums, apartments and shops being built.

Also in Johor, Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd and two Singapore government-linked companies will jointly develop 28ha strategically located at Danga Bay with a GDV of RM8 billion.

Earlier in the day, the two prime ministers will unveil the model of a project by M+S Pte Ltd, a 60:40 joint venture between Khazanah and Temasek to develop projects in Marina South and Ophir-Rochor in Singapore.

The progress of the three Khazanah-Temasek projects are the focus of the 4th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders' Retreat this time around.

Also on the agenda is the discussion of the recently concluded technical study regarding a Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail link that will connect Johor Baru and Singapore.

Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, who spoke to reporters prior to the start of the retreat yesterday, said a Joint Engineering Study (JES) by both countries on the RTS had been commissioned and completed in November.

Both governments have been given 12 months since that time to decide whether they would want to move into phase two of the study.

The first phase of this study involved the identification of alignment and station scheme options with a detailed assessment for the overall transport system.

A rapid transport system by rail is seen as a boon for those residing on both sides of the Causeway, as commuters who travel daily between the two cities number in the hundreds of thousands.

"Both governments have up to 12 months to decide on the preferred options before JES Phase 2 can commence," said Anifah.

The idea for an RTS between the two cities has been floating around for some time and, if it is set up, would be linked up with Singapore's mass rapid transit system.

The RTS is among three projects outlined under the implementation of the Points of Agreement (POA) on Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd land in Singapore.

With 10 ministers and Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman as part of Najib's working visit, Anifah said many other discussions were expected to be held in the 11/2-day retreat.

The Malaysian delegation will discuss further on initiatives that were outlined during the last retreat in Putrajaya on Jan 15 last year.

Anifah said discussions on various cooperation under the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia were part of the itinerary.

"Discussion will delve into the fields of transport, tourism, immigration and industrial cooperation. Both sides will further explore new initiatives between Malaysia and Singapore at all levels."

Anifah said bilateral ties between both nations were excellent and were expected to be further boosted during the retreat.

Najib, who arrived by flight in Singapore at 4pm yesterday, was welcomed by Anifah and Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam.

Later, he and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, attended a private dinner hosted by Lee and his wife at the Fullerton Bay Hotel.

Deal on RM8.1b Danga Bay project inked
Ben Tan and Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 20 Feb 13;

JOHOR BARU: Iskandar Waterfront Sdn Bhd (IWSB), CapitaLand Malaysia Pte Ltd and Singapore's state investment arm Temasek Holdings Ltd signed a "heads of agreement" yesterday to jointly acquire and develop parcels of land in Danga Bay here for a planned RM8.1 billion mixed integrated development.

The deal is considered the biggest entry into Johor's Iskandar Malaysia by Singaporean investors.

Yesterday's signing ceremony, held at the Danga Bay Convention Centre here, was witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong.

Present were Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman and Temasek chief executive officer Ho Ching.

CapitaLand Malaysia was represented by its president and group chief executive officer, Lim Ming Yan, Temasek by its senior managing director for investments, David Heng, and IWSB by its managing director, Tan Sri Lim Kang Hoo.

The Johor government, through Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ), the investment and project implementation arm of the state, has substantial interest in IWSB.

CapitaLand Malaysia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CapitaLand Limited, which is one of Asia's largest real estate companies. This marks the first direct large-scale township investment and development in Malaysia by CapitaLand.

The agreement is subject to detailed terms and conditions and has yet to be finalised.

The joint venture will acquire 3.1 million sq ft (28.5ha) of freehold land in A2 Island for RM811 million. Ca-pitaLand Malaysia will have a 51 per cent stake, followed by IWSB (40 per cent) and Temasek (nine per cent).

Ghani, who is KPRJ chairman, described the venture with CapitaLand and Temasek as a "landmark deal" which would spur other major regional players to relook investment opportunities in Iskandar Malaysia.

"This joint venture with two of Singapore's reputable partners will give confidence to others waiting on the sidelines that investment in Iskandar Malaysia is an opportunity not to be missed."

He said this was an example of the "feel good sentiment" that was now prevailing on both sides of the border, thanks to the hard work of both Najib and Lee in strengthening bilateral ties.

Lim said work on the project would begin early next year.

"We are confident this joint venture will draw others to explore investment opportunities in the Danga Bay waterfront city development. IWSB will be assured of a constant stream of recurring income."

IWSB is the master developer of 1,600ha of prime waterfront land here. The land bank includes 800ha in Danga Bay and strategic parcels within the Johor Baru city centre, the Tebrau coast in the eastern corridor of the city and Desaru in the east coast of Johor.

IWSB is actively seeking strategic local and foreign partners to develop high-impact projects and create new business and tourist destinations within its proposed waterfront city.

About 220ha have already been acquired by investors. They include Dijaya Corp Bhd, China's Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, Australia's Walker Corp and Brunsfield Group.

CapitaLand Malaysia will undertake the lead in the development of A2 Island.

The project will be developed over 10-12 years.

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Students invited to submit short videos on climate change

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 19 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: The National Climate Change Secretariat is inviting students to submit short videos to inspire Singaporeans to take action against climate change.

This follows last year's short film competition that had students submitting videos on Singapore becoming a climate change resilient city.

The theme this year is "Be the Change. It Starts with You.".

The winning entries will be uploaded on the secretariat's YouTube channel or possibly used for broadcast.

At the launch event, the secretariat also gave out prizes to those who won last year's Technology Project Challenge.

Coming in first in the tertiary category was Tay Xyian Xiet, a mechanical engineering undergraduate from National University of Singapore, with an innovation that can improve energy efficiency in air-conditioning systems by first lowering humidity levels.

Tay said: "Our human comfort is determined by two things - temperature and the humidity levels. Even though in Singapore, it is the same temperature as let's say Australia, it actually feels much hotter here because our humidity level is much higher, around say 80 per cent, while Australia's is 60 per cent. We can actually save energy if we can dry the air without cooling it. It is able to make us equally comfortable and at the same time save energy."

- CNA/fa

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Is cloud seeding preventing further flooding in Indonesia?

Scientists claim rainfall has reduced since the project began, but experts call for more evidence
Dyna Rochmyaningsih 19 Feb 13;

Indonesia is banking on an unusual strategy to prevent further flooding in its inundated capital Jakarta, and officials claim that they are already seeing positive results.

They are using 'cloud seeding' — a weather modification technology often resorted to during drought. The method involves injecting clouds with substances that encourage the formation of ice crystals heavy enough to fall, thereby speeding up the production of rain.

Rain is the last thing that Indonesia needs now, as it has been experiencing heavy rainfall since mid-January.

But Indonesian scientists believe that inducing rains to fall over the ocean before the rainclouds reach the city will help prevent further flooding in Jakarta.

"We are mimicking nature. It is easy to make rain in most clouds above the sea. We found out that salt from sea water, which evaporates from the sea, accelerates the rain process because it encourages the cloud particles to adsorb water," Tri Handoko Seto, a top official of the Weather Modification Technical Unit of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, tells SciDev.Net.

Last month (26 January), military planes carrying tonnes of salt started the cloud seeding operation scattering salt onto rainclouds across the ocean. The operation is expected to last two months.

The operation has come into the national spotlight recently because of the Indonesian government's claims that it had succeeded in decreasing Jakarta's rainfall rate, particularly from 26­-29 January when local meteorologists had predicted heavier rains and flooding.

"We have conducted an evaluation using the data in our radar device, which records cloud development and movement. From our analysis, cloud seeding contributed to the decrease of rainfall in Jakarta during this period," says Seto.

But Zev Levin, chair in atmospheric physics at Tel Aviv University in Israel, says that it is difficult to prove how much rain would have fallen before reaching the city had the clouds not been seeded.

To prove the effectiveness of cloud seeding, Levin says, well designed experiments must be conducted based on robust statistical design with an unseeded control area and random allocation of seeding.

"In this case, Indonesia can't prove the success of their cloud seeding operation because they have no control area," says Levin.

He adds that cloud seeding in Indonesia will do nothing or very little to modify the weather because tropical clouds are not easy to modify.

"The dynamics of the clouds dominate the rain process and any attempt to modify it will only play secondary role at best," says Levin.

But Seto defends their programme and says that they will submit their work for publication in international journals to refute claims that their operations are not scientific.

Scientists produced the first evidence that cloud seeding can boost long-term rainfall in 2009. But they also urged caution over the technique due to unrealistic claims about its success and difficulties faced in comparing clouds to prove if the technique really works.

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