Best of our wild blogs: 25 Feb 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [18 - 24 Feb 2013]
from Green Business Times

An Afternoon Trip To Mandai Track 15
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

rufous woodpecker @ berlayar creek - Jan2013
from sgbeachbum and rufous woodpeckers @ chek jawa mangroves

Singapore's shores featured in SIF magazine
from wild shores of singapore

Slender Squirrel
from Monday Morgue

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High-speed rail station 'may be in east or west'

Straits Times 25 Feb 13;

NORTHERN Singapore is unlikely to host the station for the proposed high-speed railway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

He pointed to two factors: a large number of developments in the north and current plans for another transport connection, the Rapid Transit System (RTS), between Woodlands and Johor Baru.

Speaking at an event to announce preliminary plans for the new Woodlands Regional Centre yesterday, he noted that while plans are still being discussed, the landing point here is unlikely to be in the north because "in the north with our developments, as you can see, it will be quite congested".

"With the rapid transit between JB and Singapore there, it is actually quite good for connectivity. So for the high-speed train, maybe we want it to be elsewhere, which means either the eastern side or the western side."

The highly anticipated RTS - linking a station near Republic Polytechnic in Woodlands and JB Sentral in Johor Baru - is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

The high-speed rail project, announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak last Tuesday, will slash travel time between KL and Singapore to 90 minutes by 2020 when it is slated to be completed.

The journey between the two cities now takes about four hours by car.

Other transport links will also help fuel the growth of the Woodlands Regional Centre.

They include the new Thomson MRT Line that will be opened in stages from 2019 to 2021.

The future North-South Expressway will connect Woodlands, Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Toa Payoh with the city centre.


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Bringing new life to Woodlands

Wong Wei Han Today Online 25 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE — One precinct will be a lush, green waterfront leisure hub, while the other will be a pedestrian-friendly zone of retail shops.

These preliminary plans for Singapore’s third regional centre in Woodlands were unveiled yesterday, as the Government looks to make Woodlands the “key commercial cluster” of the north and decentralise commercial activities to other parts of Singapore.

Speaking at a community event yesterday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the developments, along with the new transport infrastructure planned for the area, will improve the quality of life for current and future Woodlands residents.

He also gave the assurance that the developments would not drive housing prices there out of control. “Please don’t worry. As I’ve always maintained — public housing will always be affordable … I am confident because we are the ones who set the price for new HDB flats,” said Mr Khaw. “BTO prices will be linked in relation to the median income of the targeted population, so we can always make sure that new BTO prices will be affordable for new families starting up. That is a promise that we can deliver.”

The Woodlands Regional Centre is another step in the Government’s regionalisation strategy, which saw Tampines and Jurong developed into regional centres in 1992 and 2008 respectively.

Mr Khaw said Woodlands would have unique features, with one of the proposed precincts built around Woodlands Waterfront. Named Woodlands North Coast, this precinct will be a leisure destination covering the area between Republic Polytechnic and the waterfront, with a mix of business, residential and lifestyle developments.

The other precinct, Woodlands Central, will be a pedestrian-friendly retail hub built around Woodlands MRT Station. Current proposals include a pedestrian mall flanked by low-rise commercial buildings, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said.

Transport links will be given a boost with two new stations — Woodlands and Woodlands North — which are part of the coming Thomson Line.

The Woodlands North Station will serve as an interchange to the future rail link to neighbouring Johor. Mr Khaw said there are plans to site an immigration clearance facility there, but said it is unlikely for the high-speed rail system between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to be sited in Woodlands.

In total, Woodlands Regional Centre will take up around 100 ha of land. In comparison, Gardens by the Bay is only about 60 ha, Mr Khaw said.

Details of the developments within the centre, which should take at least a decade to complete, would be released later this year as part of the draft Master Plan. The last Master Plan was released in 2008.

Woodlands residents TODAY spoke to expressed excitement over the plans, but some were concerned over space constraints as more residents are attracted to living there.

“Currently Woodlands only has one mall, cinema and stadium — they will be packed once the estate becomes more developed,” said a resident who gave his name as Mr Neo.

Nearby neighbourhoods like Sembawang and Yishun should be developed in line with Woodlands Regional Centre “to help disperse the residents”, he added.

Another resident, who only wanted to be known as Peter, said the plans should also cater to other demographic needs. “We have an ageing population, so hopefully all age groups will be able to enjoy the developments once they are complete in about 10 years or so,” he said.

Give your feedback on plans for the Woodlands Regional Centre at

Woodlands Regional Centre to have two distinct precincts
Hetty Musfirah Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: The upcoming Woodlands Regional Centre, which aims to bring jobs closer to homes in the north, will have two distinct precincts.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed this as he unveiled preliminary plans for the area on Sunday.

The plans are part of Singapore's draft masterplan for land use which will be exhibited later this year.

The two precincts will be developed from some 100 hectares of land.

70 percent will be used for the Woodlands North Coast, which will include the area between the Republic Polytechnic and the Woodlands Waterfront.

The Woodlands North Coast is envisioned to be a unique waterfront and leisure destination for Singapore. The intention is to create a mix of business, lifestyle and residential developments, all within the lush greenery and waterfront environment.

Woodlands Central - which is the area around the Woodlands MRT station - will form the other precinct. It will be turned into a pedestrian-friendly regional retail hub.

"There will be more shopping malls, more HDB BTOs, more private condominiums, ECs, and of course, commercial activities and therefore jobs, jobs for the people, so that the people do not have to travel very far to go to their workplaces," said Mr Khaw.

The Woodlands Regional Centre will be served by two new MRT stations (Woodlands and Woodlands North stations) on the Thomson Line which will be completed by 2019.

The Woodlands North station will serve as an interchange to the future rail link to neighbouring Johor.

Mr Khaw said there also plans to site an immigration clearance facility there.

But he said it is unlikely for the high-speed rail system between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to be sited in Woodlands, "because in the North, with our developments, as you can see, would be quite congested".

"And with a rapid transit between JB and Singapore, that is quite good for connectivity. So, for fast-speed train (system), maybe you want it to be elsewhere which means eastern side or the western side," said Mr Khaw.

The minister said it will take about 15 to 20 years to develop the Woodland Regional Centre.

Even with the developments, new housing will always be kept affordable, assured Mr Khaw.

"Yes, all these are beautiful plans, very good and exciting, but can I afford the housing here? Please, don't worry, don't worry, as I have always maintained that public housing will always be affordable," he said.

"Why am I so confident? I am so confident because we are the ones who set the price for the new HDB flats. It is not left to the market. I have shown how it can be done during the last one and a half years. I have unpegged the relationship between resale flats. We just stabilise. That is the objective.

"We stabilise the BTO prices and the prices will be linked to the median income of the targeted population. So we can always make sure that the new BTO prices will be affordable for new families starting up, and that is a promise which we can deliver."

Members of the public are invited to give their feedback on the Woodlands Regional Centre, including the names for the two precincts.

- CNA/ir/fa

Woodlands to become waterfront metropolis
70ha of waterfront for business, lifestyle and residential uses; 30ha for retail hub
Jessica Lim Straits Times 25 Feb 13;

RESIDENTS in northern Singapore may soon get their own mini-metropolis when Woodlands is transformed into a waterfront destination that is also rich in jobs.

These preliminary plans were unveiled yesterday by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan for the regional centre that will serve as a major commercial node in the north.

The centre, stretching from the north coast fronting the Strait of Johor to the centre of Woodlands, offers 100ha for development.

It will have two distinct precincts. The 70ha Woodlands North Coast, an area between Republic Polytechnic and Woodlands Waterfront, is slated to be turned into a lush waterfront environment with a mix of business, residential and lifestyle uses.

The other precinct - Woodlands Central - a 30ha area around Woodlands MRT station and Causeway Point mall, is envisaged as a pedestrian-friendly retail hub. Low-rise commercial developments will have activity-generating uses on the first storey to create a vibrant street experience.

Detailed plans will be unveiled later in the year as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) Draft Master Plan.

It typically takes 15 to 20 years for a centre to mature as time is needed to introduce detailed land-use plans, sell sites and build infrastructure. Success also depends on factors such as the economic climate and demand.

"We already have Causeway Point, but we need to build up much more. So there will be more shopping malls, more HDB (flats), BTO (flats), more private condos, executive condominiums and, of course, commercial activities and therefore jobs," said Mr Khaw. He was speaking to about 700 people who had turned up for a community event in Woodlands yesterday.

He added that jobs created will mean that "they don't have to travel very far to go to their workplaces".

Woodlands town now has about 230,000 residents.

Singapore's first two regional centres were launched in Tampines in 1992 and in Jurong in 2008. Plans for a fourth, in Seletar, will be announced in due course.

Regional centres, an idea announced in 1991, aim to decentralise Singapore to guard against congestion and over-development in the Central Business District (CBD) and the Marina Bay areas.

The Woodlands Regional Centre is also part of the new North Coast Innovation Corridor - a commercial belt from Woodlands and Sembawang to the future Seletar Regional Centre and Punggol.

Analysts said the new centre is likely to attract firms that complement labour-intensive industries across the Causeway.

"These could be companies that do research and development, or product design. That could be done here, but they may have their labour-intensive production and distribution arms in Iskandar," said Mr Danny Yeo, group managing director of property consultancy Knight Frank. Iskandar in Johor has been earmarked for projects such as retail, industry and education.

"It's the best of both worlds," he added, pointing to the new transport connections that could ease the flow of workers between both countries.

Sembawang GRC Member of Parliament Hawazi Daipi has high hopes that the plans will inject more life into Woodlands, which currently has only one mall.

He also suggested that the URA turn a temporary coastal promenade in Woodlands into a permanent feature, and that public courtyards be built.

Woodlands resident Vivekanand Ayyasami, 38, hopes the area will become a regional attraction. The IT professional and father of one, who lives in a three-room flat, spends 40 minutes getting to his CBD office by train. "If I could have a good job near my home, I would definitely consider it."

The URA has launched a website ( where the public can find out more and give feedback on preliminary plans.

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Tuas coal power plant: More economical for now, but what about the long term?

Richmond Lee Today Online 25 Feb 13;

I refer to Tuas Power’s new Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex, which uses low-sulphur coal to generate power.

Oil and gas prices are subject to volatility, and burning coal for power could stabilise our utility bills for now. However while coal is a cheaper and more abundant fuel, it is much more polluting than gas or oil, adding health costs to society and damage to our environment.

Unfortunately, quantifying the health and environmental impact as a result of burning coal now is tricky as these effects will only be apparent many decades later.

Possible effects include more cases of asthma due to increased exposure to particulate matter — or in the worst-case scenario, higher incidence of lung cancer — or mercury emissions leading to higher mercury levels found in fish reared locally for food.

Power generation companies have assured that the process of burning coal here is subject to stringent regulations, with filters to remove the particulate matter and only low-sulphur coal being used. However, the process of digging for coal and treating it to remove sulphur and mercury are already environmental costs at the source.

We are not better off just because we are using “cleaner” coal at the expense of others.

Another concern is that the premium on low-sulphur coal could increase due to supply constraints, and we may be compelled to switch to the more polluting type of coal in our plants in the spirit of economics.

And can we be assured that environmental standards will be strictly adhered to many years down the road when the filters start to degrade?

The more sustainable solution remains making our homes and industries more energy efficient and cutting back on energy consumption. As for the burning of coal, there must be consensus on the health and environmental impact versus economics.

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Singapore can be a role model as a sustainable city: Balakrishnan

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore does not have to sacrifice green spaces to be a beautiful and sustainable city, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

He added Singapore can become a role model for the world to achieve this.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking to the media during his visit to the Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre on Sunday morning to unveil a new lift for the centre.

He said high density living is the most sustainable and green way of life on the planet and which Singapore can take the lead.

He said: "The most amazing thing about Singapore is that almost half of our land is covered in green. But equally, you realise that this has been achieved because we have been able to go high-rise. Because so many of us live in apartments, and that also give the fantastic landscape, cityscape of Singapore and the bright lights at night.

"So the point I'm making is we have to stop thinking in terms of zero-sum games, that I can only have this or that and not go, but to actually exercise imagination and to make it even better."

On Sunday morning, Dr Balakrishnan, who is the adviser to the Bukit Timah Grassroots Organisations and the area's MP Sim Ann unveiled a new lift for the centre, which they hope will provide easy access for customers and stall holders with heavy goods.

Ms Ann said: "We do have a number of elderly residents and it is a mature estate and I think for them to climb up and down the stairs especially after having done their shopping is not very convenient. Some of them have also told me it is quite painful to do that, so I think with the lift, it improves the situation."

Dr Balakrishnan said the government has improved this food centre over the years based on feedback from patrons and stall holders and will continue to do so.

He added that Singapore will need many more of such places with an authentic identity of its own.

Dr Balakrishnan said hawker centres can be cosy and unique places within the high density urban environment Singapore is moving towards.

His vision of the city, he said, is to make most things, including school, eating places and work, within a walking range of up to 400 or 500 metres.

On the negative reactions from some Singaporeans towards the Population White Paper, Dr Balakrishnan said the high level of emotions is a good thing as it shows Singaporeans care deeply about the country.

He said: "Well, actually part of me is actually quite glad because it shows that the people loves Singapore, people care deeply about the future, care deeply about what happens to our identity our children our livelihood and to our senior citizens. So the level of emotions to me is a good thing. I would be far more worried if people say I don't care, so let's recognise and give credit to Singaporeans for that. That we all care and care very deeply."

He added: "At the end of the day, the government has to do the right thing for the long term good of our people but has to convince our people. If we cannot convince people, then these plans will not work."

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Land scarce Singapore looks underground for space

Heather Tan Associated Press Inquirer 22 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE—Already one of the most densely populated countries in the world, tiny land scarce Singapore is projecting its population to swell by a third over the next two decades. To accommodate the influx, its planners envisage expanding upward, outward and downward.

The population target of 6.9 million people, an increase of 1.3 million from the present, is contentious in a country where rapid immigration has already strained services such as public transport and contributed to surging home prices and a widening wealth gap. It sparked a rare protest last week, with some 3,000 people gathering in a park that’s the only approved area for demonstrations.

Singaporeans, whose forebears mostly hailed from southern China, fear their falling birth rates combined with the relentless immigration will reduce them to a minority in their own country. Adding a new dimension to their complaints is the idea that planners want underground living to leap off their drawing boards and become a solution to overcrowding.

State media is already championing the idea. In September, the Straits Times newspaper characterized underground living as the “next frontier” for Singapore. It said Singaporeans may one day “live, work and play below ground in vast, subterranean caverns that make today’s underground malls look like home basements.” The Building Construction Authority, which oversees a new agency responsible for surveying underground, said it could become reality by 2050.

The public’s reaction has included derision and disbelief.

“Why pull me down,” said Patricia Bian-Hing, a retired 87-year-old businesswoman. “The only time I will go underground peacefully to live will be in my coffin.”

But experts are calling for an open mind about the possibility.

“Singaporeans are dismissing this prospect because it is new, not because it is unworkable or implausible,” said Jeffrey Chan, an assistant professor of architecture at the National University of Singapore.

“Astronauts who live in space stations, despite the abundance of direct sunlight have to live in shade most of the time, and they are only debilitated from the lack of gravity, not light,” he said. “Hence, I think if there are any biologically-imposed constraints, psychologically or real, these biological constraints can be overcome through new habits or technologically.”

With about 675 square kilometers (261 square miles) of land, Singapore is only 3.5 times the size of Washington DC and has limited options for increasing its space. Land reclaimed from the sea already accounts for a fifth of its landmass and Singapore’s appetite for imported sand for reclamation has caused tensions with neighboring countries concerned about coastal erosion. But its ruling People’s Action Party, in power since 1959, sees a bigger population as crucial to its goal of transforming Singapore into what it calls a leading world city.

The government’s new plans call for releasing land for housing and industry by closing golf courses and military training grounds and paving over some of the island’s nature reserves. That along with reclamation will free some 5,200 hectares (52 square kilometers, 20 square miles) of land to help accommodate an additional 700,000 homes and new shops and factories over the next 20 years. The projected increase in available land lags far behind the planned population increase so projects to put industry and other activities underground are already advancing on several fronts despite the technical challenges and significantly higher costs of subterranean construction.

“Going underground is one option for Singapore as it frees up surface land,” said David Tan, assistant chief executive officer of Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore’s main development body.

The JTC is studying construction of an underground science complex beneath an existing science park that’s used by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Projected to cost 50 percent more than a similar facility above ground, it would go down 30 storeys — 80 to 100 meters — and house laboratories, offices and a data center.

The corporation has already overseen construction of a massive underground oil bunker in rock caverns that freed up a surface area equivalent to six petrochemical plants. The island also saved 300 hectares of space by putting an ammunition bunker underground.

A possibility explored for several years is an underground extension of Singapore’s Nangyang Technological University after a 1999 study by the government and the university found at least part of the area beneath the campus could be turned into rock caverns. Planners envisage four underground levels that could accommodate lecture theatres, cinemas, libraries, offices, laboratories and car parking.

“If we think about it, there are already underground spaces here in Singapore and throughout most major metropolitan regions,” said Erik L’Heureux, an architecture professor NUS.

“We already have underground train stations and malls, and there are already many buildings here that take advantage of spaces below ground so the real questions are how much time will one spend underground, what goes on there, and how far down from natural light and fresh air.”

For the Singapore for Singaporeans camp, the space squeeze has only highlighted the costs of the government’s population and economic policies. Its efforts to attract high-skilled professionals in finance, science and other industries it wants Singapore to be known for has resulted in nature sanctuaries and cemeteries being overrun by golf courses and luxury condominiums.

“Ultimately it will be Singaporeans who will suffer,” said Rachel Mun, a 33-year old sales assistant. “As it is, Singapore is already bursting with people and things we once depended on like transportation, have become exhausted because of the influx of commuters.”

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Malaysia: Timber! Kedah’s crying hills keep dying

Embun Majid and Kow Kwan Yee The Star 25 Feb 13

JITRA: Even as the issue of extensive logging activities in Pedu and Gunung Inas in Kedah remains very much in the news, yet another hill in the state has been found stripped of its forests.

An area covering 145ha about the size of 180 football fields at the Bukit Perangin Forest Reserve has been cleared of trees for timber.

The PAS-led state government reportedly approved logging in the area more than a month ago.

The concession is believed to have been awarded to high ranking officers in the Kedah Civil Service (KCS) and the land would be re-planted with rubber trees.

It is also learnt that the state government had approved a total of 780ha about the size of 963 football fields in the same area for the same purpose.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom, who visited the site over two days after being alerted by locals, was shocked by the rape of the hill.

The Kubang Pasu MP said excessive and indiscriminate logging had laid the land bare, polluting the water in Sungai Kechik, Sungai Badak and Sungai Wang Perah, which are used by locals.

The three rivers flow into Sungai Temin, which provides raw water to the Mukim Temin and Jeragan water treatment plants.

“The outcome of the logging activities will also affect farmers in Kubang Pasu, Temin, Hosba, Binjai and Malau, which are under the Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada),” he said here yesterday.

He said that although the logging activities were legal, it should not have been done to the extent of causing adverse environmental effects.

Mohd Johari also questioned whether the state had done an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the land clearing.

“I don't think the Department of Environment would give the green light for logging in the area.

“Although this is not a water catchment area, the state must be responsible and take care of the ecosystem,” he said.

Mohd Johari said he would write to the state government to immediately stop logging activities in the area.

He said he would also raise the matter with the Natural Resources Ministry and the Department of Environment.

“If the state government refuses to stop, we will bring the people to the place to see the ecological damage to the hill for themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, people in nearby Kampung Wang Perah, Kampung Bukit and Kubang Betong said the wanton logging in the forest reserve area was worrisome.

Kampung Wang Perah villager Abu Bakar Salleh, 43, is sad to see the trees in the forest reserve area destroyed.

“If we do not stop it now, the damage in future could be worse,” he said.

Villager Che Tom Musa, 62, who has been living there for 45 years, said this was the first time the forest reserve area was being cleared.

“I hope the state will stop the logging immediately because we will face problems arising from the land clearing,” he said.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak declined to comment on the logging in Bukit Perangin.

“I think the Forestry Department knows about the logging activities there, so please ask them,” he said.

Kedah Forestry Department director Ku Azmi Ku Aman said many approvals had been given to logging activities in the area.

He declined further comment until he was certain about the specific area.

“We have approved many logging activities there, so I do not know the exact location of the site,” he said.

Ku Azmi said the department had yet to receive any formal complaint about logging in the area.

Rampant logging in state since 2008
The Star 25 Feb 13;

JITRA: Rampant logging activities have been going on in Kedah since 2008 in spite of concerns over the need to preserve the environment.

Large scale logging began in Gunung Inas, Baling, in late 2011 where 5,000ha of the 15,000ha of the pristine Bukit Bintang forest reserve were cleared for a “Ladang Sejahtera” (Peaceful Plantation) rubber replanting project.

Alarm bells rang again soon after when it was found that about 400ha of forest reserves near Tasik Pedu had been logged to develop an eco-tourism project.

The barren hilltop is located near Pedu Lake, a vital water catchment area for Kedah.

Bukit Perangin is the third such area in the state that has come under the spotlight for rampant land clearing.

Although logging in the 145ha had been found to be were done legally, there are concerns about long-term effects to the environment.

People in three nearby villages are worried over the impact of the state government's supposed approval to another rubber plantation project involving 780ha of land in the surrounding area.

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