Singapore on track to reducing carbon footprint below targeted 2020 levels: Iswaran

Channel NewsAsia 13 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is on track to meeting its unconditional pledge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by seven to 11 per cent below targeted 2020 levels. This is according to Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Iswaran said there are measures in place to reduce the carbon footprint of Singapore's industries.

These include tax incentives and third-party financing schemes which encourage private financing of energy-efficient projects.

But while the use of fuel oil and natural gas are less polluting energy options used by industries, the Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex located on Jurong Island uses a mix of clean coal and biomass to produce steam and electricity for chemical companies.

Mr Iswaran said: "Clean coal is a significantly cheaper fuel option compared to fuel oil and natural gas, and the use of coal is expected to reduce steam prices by at least 10 per cent for customers of TMUC.

"To strike a balance with environmental concerns, only the use of low ash and low sulphur coal has been permitted, and biomass is mixed with coal to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to below that of an equivalent fuel oil plant.

"The co-generation process employed by TMUC is also more efficient than the separate production of steam and power through boilers and combined cycle gas turbines.

"In addition, measures have been put in place by our environmental agencies to ensure that the TMUC meets environmental standards as stipulated under the Environmental Protection and Management Act and its regulations. TMUC is held to stringent requirements for pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and mercury. The company is also required to transport coal via covered transportation systems to prevent fugitive dust emissions, and recycle ash as construction material."


Read more!

Deep sewerage tunnel to extend to west of Singapore

Work on underground 18km 'super highway', costing $3b, to start in 2016
Tan Dawn Wei Straits Times 14 Mar 13;

THE new extension of an underground "super highway" that carries Singapore's used water will cover the western part of the island, including the downtown city area and major upcoming developments such as Tengah New Town.

Construction on the new tunnel, which will be 18km long and cost about $3 billion, will start in 2016 and take about six years.

When it is ready, the new tunnel will carry waste water from these areas to a new water reclamation plant in Tuas.

There, the water will be treated before being either pumped out to sea or reclaimed as Newater, purified water mostly used by industries.

The new extension is part of the award-winning Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS), which runs about 20 storeys underground.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan announced this in Parliament on Tuesday but gave few details.

In response to queries, Singapore's national water agency PUB disclosed the specifications of the new tunnel extension yesterday.

But it added that it is still in the early stages of planning and will launch tenders for it later this year.

Phase 1 of the system - a 48km-long tunnel running from Kranji to Changi - was completed in 2008 at a cost of $3.65 billion. Phase 2 will be comparable in cost and scale. Running at depths of between 20m and 50m, the tunnel, about 6m in diameter, goes even deeper than MRT tunnels.

Currently, used water in western Singapore is collected through an existing network of underground sewers and intermediate pumping stations, and sent to water reclamation plants in Ulu Pandan and Jurong.

Together with plants in Kranji and Changi, Singapore treats about 216,800 Olympic-size swimming pools of used water a year.

Once the new extended tunnel is ready, the Ulu Pandan and Jurong plants and intermediate pumping stations will be progressively phased out and the land freed up for development.

By then, Singapore will have the capacity to treat more than 600,000 Olympic-size swimming pools of used water a year. It will be enough to meet the country's growing population, said PUB.

With the DTSS, water is carried largely by gravity to the plants as the tunnel is sloped, which saves energy needed for pumping stations to do the job.

At the recycling plants, the water goes through a series of screens to remove debris, then a bioreactor where micro-organisms break down impurities and organic waste. It also goes through two sedimentation tanks where particles are allowed to settle.

What comes out will either be pumped 5km out into the deep sea, or be further purified to produce Newater.

The sludge collected during the treatment is blended and thickened to reduce its volume, before being decomposed by micro-organisms. It eventually gets sent to incineration plants to be burned and used as landfill.

Hailed as a radical move to solve Singapore's long-term used water needs, the DTSS was named Water Project of the Year in 2009 at the annual Global Water Awards, which honour top achievers in the areas of water management and treatment.

Associate Professor Ng How Yong of the National University of Singapore's department of civil and environmental engineering said having a single large tunnel criss-crossing the island that consolidates smaller sewerage pipes makes for better management and control.

PUB said it will work to minimise surface road disruptions during construction.

"As with all major projects, we will coordinate closely with agencies on their service infrastructure including the Land Transport Authority for the MRT lines," said a spokesman.

It added that it will also incorporate new technologies into the new Tuas plant to save on manpower and improve its energy efficiency.

Prof Ng does not think competing tunnelling works for upcoming underground rail lines are a cause for worry.

"Planners would have planned where all your tunnels and MRT lines will be," he said.

Read more!

210km of cycling paths in 16 towns by 2020

LTA identifying areas to test on-road lanes, piloting bike-sharing in 2015
Royston Sim Straits Times 14 Mar 13;

CYCLISTS can look forward to another 90km of cycling paths here, bringing the total network of such dedicated off-road paths to 210km in 16 HDB towns by 2020.

And there are plans for every town to have a comprehensive cycling network eventually.

This will allow residents to cycle to the MRT station or to buy groceries at the neighbourhood centre. Work is under way to build paths in seven towns.

Transport Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the priority will be to build off-road paths, which "provide a safe cycling environment for a larger group of cyclists".

He has asked the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to prioritise plugging short gaps in the cycling network, such as connecting existing park connectors to the nearby MRT station at Sengkang. This is so cyclists need not go onto the road or footpath when riding to the MRT station.

He pledged that cycling paths will be well integrated with park connectors in the long term.

The LTA is also studying the possibility of building cycling paths at major industrial estates for workers to use.

Moving to commuting by bicycle, Dr Faishal said he supports the idea of allowing foldable bicycles on public transport during the morning pre-peak window.

"This will enable cycling to effectively close the last-mile connectivity gap for trips to work," he said, adding that the challenge lay in finding the right cut-off timing in the morning. The idea will be carefully studied, he said.

Several MPs, including Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Teo Ser Luck, raised the issue of safety for cyclists yesterday.

Dr Faishal said more signs alerting motorists to the presence of cyclists will be put up by the middle of this year on popular routes.

The LTA will also launch a guidebook on safe cycling tips in a few months' time. To encourage more cyclists to dismount at crossings, new markings at zebra-crossings will be on trial at three locations in Tampines.

Responding to calls for an on-road cycling lane pilot, Dr Faishal said Singapore may not want to follow other countries' examples due to the heavy traffic situation here.

He added: "On-road cycling is risky, and no one, young or old, who is not confident of cycling on the road, should do so."

He noted that on-road cycling lanes would "also affect the movement of buses, require the removal of street-side parking and expose cyclists to turning traffic" if lanes are not properly designed.

Still, he said the LTA is identifying roads where these issues could be overcome, and studying if it is feasible to try out on-road cycling lanes along those roads.

Many cyclists have been requesting for more to be done for those who cycle on the roads.

Dr Faishal also said the LTA plans to conduct a pilot bicycle-sharing scheme in the Jurong Lake District in 2015, which will have a network of cycling paths by then.

Proposals from the industry will be requested in the coming months. He added that bicycle-sharing can be piloted in other cycling towns if there is interest from the community.

In terms of bicycle facilities, another 600 bicycle racks will be built at 12 more MRT stations by the third quarter of next year.

Read more!

Protecting coastal biodiversity supports our fisheries

Swansea University 12 Mar 13;

New research by Swansea University is helping to understand the importance of sensitive coastal habitats, in Wales and the UK, for supporting our fisheries.

The research, which uses novel stereo video technology, has been assessing the fish communities and their age ranges in different habitats around Wales. Specific focus has been on trying to understand the value of seagrass meadows, kelp forests and horse mussel beds for supporting juvenile fish, particularly those species of commercial importance.

The research was carried out by members of the Seagrass Ecosystem Research Group, at the College of Science, Swansea University and was conducted in collaboration with SEACAMS, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Pen Llyn a’r Sarnau SAC, and the National Trust. It has resulted in the creation of a publically available short film accessible on the internet. The film is available at our group website (

Studies were conducted around the coast of Pembrokeshire and the Llyn Penninsula and were co-funded by the Welsh Government Ecosystem Resilience and Diversity Fund and the ERDF funded SEACAMS project.

Explaining the background to research, the project leader Dr Richard Unsworth said: “In the UK we are trying to develop a vitally important network of marine protected areas. Making decisions about their proposed exact locations requires making reasoned judgements as to the relative value of different habitat types. Due to the difficulties in sampling many sensitive habitat types without being destructive, we don’t know enough about how threatened habitats such as seagrass, kelp and horse mussel provide support for juvenile fish such as Cod, Pollock and Whiting."

"Researchers at Swansea University used a combination of Baited Remote Underwater Video systems and traditional beach seine netting to quantify the fish species present in seagrass, horse mussel and kelp. These are three habitat types that have all been degraded and disturbed over time, and continue to be under threat in Wales and throughout the UK.”

Dr Unsworth explained the results of the work conducted by the whole team. He said: “Our studies provided evidence of the value of sensitive coastal habitats for supporting economically important fisheries. Our results clearly show how seagrass is important as a juvenile habitat. This was particularly the case for seagrass meadows that contained juvenile fish of at least 10 commercially important species (Cod, Pollock, Whiting, Bass, Mullet, Bass, Plaice, Saithe, Bib, Brill).”

He added: “We all too commonly think of biodiversity conservation as being an activity that is in conflict to industry. But our research is beginning to show that conservation of sensitive coastal habitats in the UK is as much about supporting the fisheries industry as it is about protecting biodiversity.”

Read more!

Sumatran tiger kills Indonesian farmer: villagers

Channel NewsAsia 13 Mar 13;

SIDEMPUAN, Indonesia: A Sumatran tiger has killed a cocoa farmer in Indonesia, villagers claimed Wednesday, in the latest apparent attack by the rare wild cat as its habitat is rapidly cleared for plantations.

The body of Karman Lubis, 32, was found decapitated around one kilometre (0.6 miles) from a cocoa plantation on Sumatra island at 02:00 on Tuesday (1900 GMT Monday), while his head was found hours later in another area, a relative said.

Lubis' right hand was still missing, Amiruddin Nasution added, saying he was likely attacked by a tiger sighted days earlier near their village of Rantau Panjang, adjacent to the Batang Gadis National Park on the island's north.

A national park office staff member said there were no witnesses to confirm a tiger was to blame.

"Given the body's condition, he could have been attacked by a bear, a clouded leopard or a tiger," said the staff member, who declined to be named.

The Sumatran tiger is the world's smallest tiger and is critically endangered, with only an estimated 400 to 500 alive on the Indonesian island.

Rampant deforestation and poaching have led to a decrease in the number of Sumatran tigers, experts say.


Tiger Mauls Rubber Plant Worker to Death in North Sumatra
SP/Arnold Sianturi Jakarta Globe 13 Mar 13;

Panyabungan, North Sumatra. Villagers say a tiger has killed a rubber planter on the outskirts of the Batang Gadis National Park in the Mandailing Utara district of North Sumatra, a report on Wednesday said.

The body of Karman Lubis, 32, was found in a rubber plantation in Ranto Panjang village on Tuesday, relatives of the victims said.

His head was separated from the body, Amiruddin Nasution, the uncle of the victim said.

Karman, who was a rubber sap tapper at the plantation, had been missing since Monday and a tiger had been seen roaming the area a few days earlier.

“Several days ago, there were several villagers who did indeed see a roaming tiger, but at the time the tiger did not attack. The wild animal did not attack maybe because there were many villagers,” Amiruddin said.

Amiruddin and the villagers said they believed a tiger killed Karman.

He said that he and other villagers went out to the plantation to look for Karman, who had failed to return home the day before.

“We immediately went to the rubber plantation and found the bloodied clothes of the victim. The headless body was found not far from the clothes,” Amiruddin said, adding that the head and the body were full of claw marks.

The incident has spread fear among villagers in Ranto Panjang, with many opting to remain home, for fear of being attacked by the prowling beast.

“Some of the people here are scared and it has been jointly agreed to form a group to conduct surveillance on the village to anticipate attacks by the tiger who is looking for new prey,” Darma Lubis, another villager, said.

Darma admitted that the human activities have increasingly encroached into the national park — a habitat for many wildlife species, including the threatened Sumatran tiger.

The Sumatran tiger is a subspecies that lives only in Sumatra and are estimated to number between 400 and 660 individuals.

Massive deforestation has been blamed for the increasing number of encounters with the endangered Sumatran tigers.

Read more!

Indonesia: Call to stop Aceh city plan amid fear of environmental damage

Amie Fenia Arimbi Antara 13 Mar 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Coalition of NGOs in Aceh province here on Wednesday launched a petition at urging the local government to revoke its plan to implement forest clearing for development arguing that it harms the environment.

Spokesman to the coalition Effendi said here on Wednesday, according to the draft of plan, which has been sent to the central government for approval, about 1.2 million hectares of the total of 3.7 million hectares of protected forest area will be made into public housings, plantations and road.

"This is dangerous for the continuation of biodiversity in the forest. Protected forest in Aceh is home to rare habitats such as Sumatran elephant, Sumatran Tiger and Orang Utan. Deforestation will harm their population. Not to mention the possibility of natural disasters such as flood and landlside to occur if there`s not enough forest area that can contain water," he said.

Effendi who spoke on behalf of Aceh-based NGOs such as Transparency International Indonesia-Aceh, JKMA Aceh, Orang Utan Forum, and WWF Aceh expressed concern that deforestation planned by the local government may be implemented only to accommodate many entrepreneurs who want to develop palm oil plantation and other forest-related business in Aceh.

Meanwhile another environmental activist Farwiza said of the total of proposed protected forest area to be explored by the government, only 14,000 hectares or less than 10 percent of it being built for public places such as housings and roads.

"The rest is for mining and plantation," she said.

Another activist Rudi Putra expressed concern that deforestation in Aceh may lead to the presence of natural disasters such as flood and landslide. The native of Tamiang district, eastern Aceh, took example of flash flood that hit his hometown in 2006. The flood which took 67 casualties and destroyed hundreds of houses was said to be the result of deforestation in the area.

"The government must stop deforestation immediately or else it will harm the local people and biodiversity that lives in the forest," he added.

Up till now 3,097 people have signed the petition online.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Read more!

Poachers kill 28 forest elephants in Cameroon: WWF

Tansa Musa PlanetArk 14 Mar 13;

Poachers have killed 28 endangered forest elephants in the Nki and Lobeke national parks in southeast Cameroon in recent weeks, the conservation organization WWF said on Wednesday.

With demand for ivory rising from Asia, poachers have reduced the population of Africa's forest elephants by 62 percent over the last decade, putting the species on track for extinction, conservationists say.

The parks of southeast Cameroon, along with parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon, have some of the last significant populations of forest elephants.

"Elephants in these two protected areas in the Congo Basin are facing a threat to their existence," said Zacharie Nzooh, WWF Cameroon representative in the East Region.

Nzooh said that between February 10 and March 1, WWF found the carcasses of 23 elephants, stripped of their tusks, deep in the Nki national park. A further five were found without their tusks in the Lobeke national park, further to the east.

"The poachers used automatic weapons, such as AK-47s, reflecting the violent character of elephant poaching," he said, adding that park wardens lacked good weapons.

Smaller than its African savannah cousin, the forest elephant has straighter tusks. If urgent measures are not taken, Cameroon's forest elephants, estimated to number about 2,000, could disappear in less than a decade, Nzooh said.

Ivory sells for hundreds of dollars per kilogram on the black market. Most is smuggled to Asia, especially China, to be carved into jewelry and ornaments.

In early 2012, heavily armed poachers on horseback from Chad and Sudan massacred some 200 savannah elephants in Cameroon's Bouba Ndjida National Park.

In December, Cameroon deployed military helicopters and 600 soldiers equipped with night vision gear to try to protect the park and its wildlife.

(Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Read more!

Apes swing into CITES

WWF 13 Mar 13;

Governments at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) taking place in Bangkok, Thailand, today agreed to develop a comprehensive reporting mechanism on the illegal killing and trade of great apes.

According to the United Nations Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) Stolen Apes report, launched at the CITES meeting, 22,218 great apes were taken from the wild between 2005 and 2011 to be traded illegally on international markets, primarily for the pet trade.

WWF believes that the real number of apes killed and traded is double or even triple this figure, due to the larger, more influential and significant bushmeat trade, which needs greater attention, WWF believes. Especially in Central Africa, ape meat is still a sought after commodity for mid-high level socio-political functions.

“CITES has shown it can take strong measures to tackle international trade in great apes, for example by agreeing CITES trade sanctions for Guinea last week partly due to illegal ape trade,” said Wendy Elliott, from the WWF Illegal Wildlife Trade Campaign. “However greater action is needed to tackle the killing of apes as a status food item which is a huge threat to ape populations across Africa.”

The agreement of CITES sanctions for Guinea means that they are no longer able to trade in any of the 35,000 CITES listed species.

Measures needed to ensure the conservation of African great apes include implementation of existing legislation, strengthened enforcement controls including anti-poaching measures, market survey and control, and anti smuggling measures at international borders, meanwhile eliminating the widespread corruption which blocks the legal system and facilitates illegal trade.

Ofir Drori, from The Last Great Ape Organization, has been conducting undercover surveillance of poachers and traffickers for more than a decade, reporting them to the authorities and systematically watching criminals walkfree. Speaking at a press conference during the CITES meeting, Ofir outlined that the obstacle is clear “First corruption, second, corruption and finally, corruption.”

Although there are recent exceptions for example in Gabon, range state governments do not regularly reinforce the ongoing work of anti-poaching teams. According to WWF, well patrolled protected areas, with demonstrated cases of imprisonment of illegal wildlife traders offers the best chance of securing African great apes in the wild.

Most of the apes captured for the pet trade are infants, the preferred bounty for poachers. But adult apes are not willingly letting their young go, and often defend their families to the death. In the case of gorillas, “in order to get one single baby, an average of 50 juvenile and adults get killed” Doug Cress, GRASP’s coordinator, explains.

Great ape populations in Africa often share their habitat with civil wars, illegal logging and the expansion of agriculture and other industrial activities which threaten their habitat. Conservation efforts are also threatened by highly infectious diseases which can kill vast numbers of great apes in single outbreaks. In addition there is an increasing threat of extractive industries including newly proposed oil operations in places like Virunga National Park, home of the last remaining populations of mountain gorillas.

On the other side of the planet, the orangutan, Asia's single great ape, is also severely threatened. The species’ last populations live deep in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, and the island of Borneo which are destroyed and fragmented mainly by forest conversion to agriculture such palm oil, and illegal logging.

Launched in 2002, WWF’s African Great Apes Programme works in Central, Eastern, and West Africa. The team works with numerous partners to support projects that help range state governments and their appropriate ministries, wildlife departments and national parks services to improve great ape protection and management, build capacity within range states, stop the illegal trade in ape products and increase local community support for ape conservation.

WWF also works on orang-utan conservation, to conserve their critical habitats, and reduce threats such as poaching and conflicts with humans.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has been a partner of GRASP since 2008 and has monitored the trade in orangutans and gibbons in Indonesia over a number of years and supported work to mitigate the effect of illegal meat trade on apes in Central Africa.

“Illegal domestic and international trade in Great Apes and their parts continues to have a strong detrimental effect on the survival of wild orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees,” said Roland Melisch, TRAFFIC’s Director for Africa and Europe.

Read more!

CITES: Conservation meeting decisions hanging in the balance

Matt McGrath BBC News 13 Mar 13;

Delegates at the Cites conference are expecting a tense final session as some countries seek to overturn decisions taken during the two-week gathering.

It is expected that an attempt will be made to re-open the debate on sharks after the conference voted in favour of regulating international trade in three endangered species earlier this week.

A third of those attending the session would need to vote for such a move.

Planned sanctions on nations involved in ivory trade could also be curtailed.

Tight margins

Campaigners described Monday’s shark vote as “historic” and said it was a coming of age for the 40-year-old Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

While the proposals on oceanic whitetip, hammerhead and porbeagle sharks were accepted by a two-thirds majority, the margins over and above that threshold were slight in each case.

If the countries opposing the shark ban, led by China and Japan, can muster a third of the conference to re-open the debate, they will only need to convince four countries to change their minds to block the decision on oceanic whitetips.

“I’m very concerned that there may be countries that were present at the original vote who may not be in attendance or who may change their minds,“ Dr Susan Lieberman from Pew Charitable Trusts told BBC News.

“If they do, it would be tragic for the species and tragic for Cites,” she added.

There were unconfirmed reports that some African delegations were being wined and dined by opponents of the ban on trade.

Ivory sanctions

Another major decision looms on attempts to regulate the ivory trade.

The conference has identified 23 countries including China, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo that are key to the supply and consumption of ivory.

A committee of the conference will outline the actions that each of these countries must take to stem the trade.

If these steps are not taken by the summer of 2014, sanctions could be applied.

“It depends on how much progress there is, but if there is absolutely no intent to follow up on those actions, sanctions are a very real possibility,” said Sabri Zain of Traffic, the campaign group that monitors the illegal trade in wildlife.

He said the targets for countries like Nigeria were achievable.

“If you see ivory being sold at the airport terminals, all they need to do is shut it down. These are do-able actions, they are not ones that would require a great deal of new resources,” he added.

There is a chance that these proposals could be watered down. But Mr Zain said that there had been a significant change in Cites, as seen in relation to rhinos, elephants and sharks.

Governments, he said, were no longer seeing these species issues as being about biodiversity - they were seen as threats to national security.

“The criminals who are now poaching elephants and smuggling tiger parts are the same who are funding terrorism and funding militias,” he added. “This is mainstream.”

Read more!