Best of our wild blogs: 17 Apr 13


Battlefield Tour Sun April 21
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Sat 27 Apr 2013: 2.30pm @ U Town - SIP Public Forum, "Can We Plan For 2030?" from Habitatnews

Otterman speaking at “Our Heritage in Nature” on Sat 11 May 2013: 9am-12:30pm from Toddycats!

Random Gallery - Yellow Flash
from Butterflies of Singapore

Hantu Diver Gone Dredging
from Pulau Hantu

Earth Day school talk: Sharing about our shores
from wild shores of singapore

Illegal logging threatens lowland forests in Indonesian national park from Mongabay.com news by Rhett Butler

Civet poop coffee may be threatening wild species
from Mongabay.com news by Jeremy Hance


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Pulau Ubin residents to start paying rent for first year

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 17 Apr 13;

The Singapore Land Authority and the Housing Development Board said the rent is subsidised and 90 per cent of the 22 households in Pulau Ubin will pay less than S$20 per month in the first year.

SINGAPORE: Residents in Pulau Ubin affected by the recent census survey will have to start paying monthly rent between S$6 to S$35 in the first year if they choose to stay on the island.

In a joint statement issued by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Housing Development Board (HDB) on Wednesday, the rent is subsidised and 90 per cent of the 22 households will pay less than S$20 per month in the first year.

However, the rent will be increased over five years based on market rates.

From the sixth year, the rent will range between S$31 and S$205 per month.

Ninety per cent of the households are expected to pay less than S$120 per month.

Residents can continue to remain on the island via a Temporary Occupational Licence (TOL) as there are no other plans for the State land in the foreseeable future.

The fee is determined based on the gross area and land area occupied.

SLA and HDB issued the statement to clarify the confusion caused by the Notice of Census Survey that was served on the 22 households on 12 March.

They reiterated that the residents are not being evicted and they can continue to stay on in their premises.

In addition, the planning intention is to keep Pulau Ubin in its rustic state for as long as possible.

The Notice of Census Survey that HDB served on the residents made reference to the past planning intent, which was originally described in 1993 as the development of an adventure park.

Many residents had taken it to be eviction notices.

The census survey had made reference to "resettlement" benefits and a "clearance" scheme.

SLA and HDB clarified that the terms used were in connection to the 1993 plan.

The authorities acknowledged that the notification could have been more carefully worded and the language updated to reflect the eventual development.

SLA and HDB have apologised for the anxiety caused to the residents involved.

- CNA/ck

Pulau Ubin will remain in "rustic state" but residents will have to pay rent
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 17 Apr 13;

Kampung residents on Pulau Ubin who have to pay rent from now will pay an estimated $6 to $35 per month in the first year, with 90 per cent paying less than $20 a month. This rent, which is subsidised, will be increased to the market rent gradually over five years to assist the residents, said the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Housing Development Board (HDB) in a joint statement on Wednesday.

From the sixth year onwards, the residents are expected to pay between $31 and $205 per month, with 90 per cent paying less than $120 monthly. The statement was the latest by the authorities to clarify notices posted on 22 Pulau Ubin homes in March, which many took to be eviction notices. The notice had referenced "resettlement" benefits and a "clearance" scheme, but these were in connection to an old 1993 plan, the SLA and HDB said.

Then, the state had acquired land on the island to build recreational facilities, including expansion of the Outward Bound School grounds. As a result, the land which the affected residents occupied became state land. They were therefore entitled to money but also had to start paying rent to remain in their homes.The planned developments were completed, but the 22 households which received the notice in March had not claimed their benefits or paid rent, the authorities discovered in a recent review.

"We acknowledge that the notification could have been more carefully worded and the language updated to reflect the eventual development. We apologise for the anxiety caused to the residents involved," said the SLA and HDB. They also reiterated in their latest statement that the residents would not be evicted, and that Pulau Ubin would be kept in its rustic state "for as long as possible, to serve as an outdoor playground for Singaporeans".

Pulau Ubin to stay rustic for ‘as long as possible’
SLA, HDB apologise for ‘anxiety’ over clearance notices, says residents can stay but must pay rent
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 17 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) today apologised for the confusion over a notice served to 22 households on Pulau Ubin last month, which was read to be an eviction notice, and said that residents can stay but will have to pay a subsidised rent.

A Notice of Census Survey issued last month had said that these homes are slated for “clearance” and referred “resettlement” benefits and the development of an “adventure park” on the island.

The SLA and HDB said in a joint statement that the notice referred to an old 1993 scheme under which the state acquired land on Pulau Ubin to build recreational facilities and expand the grounds of the Outward Bound School.

“We acknowledge that the notification could have been more carefully worded and the language updated to reflect the eventual development. We apologise for the anxiety caused to the residents involved,” the joint statement read.

The SLA and HDB also reiterated the planning intention is to keep Pulau Ubin in its rustic state “for as long as possible, to serve as an outdoor playground for Singaporeans”.

Pulau Ubin’s residents will now have to pay a monthly rent of between S$6 and S$35, with an estimated 90 per cent of households paying less than S$20 a month.

The rental will increase gradually over the next five years to market rates, expected to be between S$31 and S$205 from the sixth year onwards, with nine out of 10 households paying less than S$120 a month. WOO SIAN BOON

Pulau Ubin residents to pay subsidised rent for first 5 years
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 18 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — Apologising for the anxiety caused to some Pulau Ubin residents — who received last month what had appeared to be eviction notices — the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) yesterday reiterated that these 22 households can continue to stay in their homes.

The authorities also disclosed the details of the rent — which would be subsidised for the first five years — that these families now have to pay.

In a joint press statement, the SLA and the HDB acknowledged that the notification “could have been more carefully worded and the language updated to reflect the eventual development”. The notice of census survey that the HDB served on the residents — which carried a header referring to a “clearance scheme” for the “development of adventure park” — was in reference to the “past planning intent, which was originally described in 1993 as the development of an adventure park”, they added.

The SLA and the HDB reiterated the current planning intention was to keep Pulau Ubin “in its rustic state for as long as possible, to serve as an outdoor playground for Singaporeans”.

In 1993, the land on Pulau Ubin had been acquired by the State to build recreational and expand facilities, such as the National Police Cadet Corps’ camping facilities and Outward Bound School training grounds.

With the recent completion of the planned developments, the authorities had conducted a review and discovered that the 22 households had not claimed resettlement benefits entitled to them.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the SLA and the National Parks Board said: “When SLA recently took stock of the situation in Pulau Ubin, we found that some households had not claimed their resettlement benefits, and that was why we decided to conduct a census survey to determine their eligibility for resettlement benefits. Once we have established that, households who are not eligible for HDB’s resettlement benefits but wish to continue their stay at Ubin will be issued a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL).”

The census survey started on April 3 and will be completed by June. The SLA and the HDB said their staff were deployed last month to explain to the residents the purpose and intent of the exercise. “They also explained to the households that there was no plan for eviction. In addition, a contact was provided for residents who needed further clarification,” the agencies added. The rent — which will be subsidised initially to help residents adjust — would be gradually increased to full rate over five years.

In the first year, the monthly rent is between S$6 and S$35, with 90 per cent paying less than S$20 a month. From the sixth year onwards, residents will have to pay between S$31 and S$205 monthly, with 90 per cent paying less than S$120 per month. Rent rates are calculated based on the gross area and the land area occupied.

Eventually — after five years — 10 out of the 22 households will pay between S$30 and S$60, seven will pay between S$61 and S$90 and three will pay between S$91 and S$120.

Only two households will pay rent above S$120.

The SLA and the HDB said they would continue to “engage and explain” to residents about resettlement benefits and TOL arrangements. “Most of the residents have, in fact, contacted HDB for a site appointment,” they added.

Residents need only pay rent if they decide to stay on after the census survey’s completion and a TOL is issued to them.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Master Plan 2008, a large portion of Pulau Ubin, including parts of the land acquired in 1993, is zoned as Open Space and designated as a Nature Area in the Parks and Waterbodies Plan. Under the Land Use Plan for 2030 and beyond — which was recently released — Pulau Ubin was reflected as “Open Space” and “Reserve Site”.

TODAY understands that there are currently about 50 households living on the island which are paying rent under the TOL arrangements.

Ubin residents' rent will start from $6 to $35
SLA, Housing Board sorry for poorly worded notice that caused eviction worry
Poon Chian Hui And Feng Zengkun Straits Times 18 Apr 13;

MONTHLY rents for the 22 Pulau Ubin households served notices last month are expected to start from between $6 and $35, if they choose to remain on the island.

The amount will eventually rise to between $31 and $205 a month after five years.

This was revealed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Housing Board yesterday. They also apologised for the poorly worded notice that led many to believe that the residents were facing eviction.

The confusion started with a March 12 notice from HDB telling the 22 households that their homes were slated for "clearance" for the development of an "adventure park".

But this actually referred to plans in 1993, that eventually evolved into a "recreation park". The park, which was completed in 2005, includes the cycling and hiking trails, campsites, shelters and toilets that can be found on the island today. The Outward Bound School training grounds and the National Police Cadet Corps' camping facilities were also expanded.

While other households claimed compensation and moved out, the 22 were allowed to stay because the land which their homes occupied was not needed for the development.

"We acknowledge that the notification could have been more carefully worded and the language updated to reflect the eventual development," said the SLA and HDB in a joint statement yesterday. They admitted the notice had "made reference to the past planning intent".

"We apologise for the anxiety caused to the residents involved."

There are also no plans for the time being to further develop the island, which is to be kept in a "rustic state for as long as possible", they added.

What the HDB is doing, however, is to conduct a census to determine how much rent the residents will have to pay to stay on Ubin, and if they are eligible for resettlement benefits.

Those who can show that they own and live in their Ubin homes will be entitled to a payout, as well as tenants who can show proof of residence through documents such as their NRIC cards.

This is regardless of whether they choose to move.

Residents who leave may also get priority when they apply for HDB flats. But those who want to stay on Ubin need to apply and pay for a temporary occupation licence (TOL), as they are now residing on state land.

Each licence is valid for a year.

The fees, which will kick in some time after the census is completed in June, are the equivalent of rent and will be determined by factors such as how much land each household occupies.

Some 90 per cent of the households are expected to pay less than $20 a month for the TOL in the first year. And from the sixth year onwards, most will still pay less than $120 a month, said the authorities.

But even that may be too much for some, such as Madam Kamariah Abdullah, 54, who was born on Ubin. She is worried that she may have to depend on donations in the future.

Her kampung house is open to tourists, or for cultural activities such as cooking classes. But it also costs her a few hundred dollars a month to maintain the premises.

She said she has to hire helpers to trim the garden, clean the house, collect water from the well and start the electricity generator.

"I don't know how long I can survive," she said, referring to the new arrangements.

"Hopefully someone can take over the place and convert it into a museum, that will be the best."

Environmentalists said they are glad the residents will not be evicted, but Ubin's future still needs to be addressed.

Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal suggested preserving the iconic kampung buildings there and working with the residents to plan the island's next phase of development.

"Residents there have a love of the land that you and I cannot imagine. We should work with them before it is too late."

FROM NOTICE TO APOLOGY

1993

The Government acquires private land on Pulau Ubin to develop recreational facilities, including expanding the Outward Bound School's grounds.

Affected households will be compensated, but must also apply for a temporary occupation licence and start paying rent if they want to remain on Ubin.
Twenty-two households apply neither for compensation, nor for the licence.

2005

The facilities, which now also include cycling and hiking trails, and amenities such as campsites, shelters and toilets, are ready.

The 22 households continue to stay on Ubin as the land they occupy is not needed for the development.

Before March 2013

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) discovers that the 22 households do not have the necessary licence.

March 12, 2013

The Housing Board notifies the households about a census survey, but also refers to the original 1993 plan, in which the Government wanted to develop an adventure park. Residents get worried that they are set to be evicted.

April 17

The SLA and HDB apologise for the census notice's poor wording, and reiterates that there are no plans to evict the 22 households.

FENG ZENGKUN


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Royal Dutch Shell unveils Jurong Island projects

New facilities being built on land about the size of seven football fields
Alvin Foo Straits Times 17 Apr 13;

ENERGY giant Royal Dutch Shell unveiled several new investments for Jurong Island yesterday as it moves to ramp up petrochemical production.

They involve the building of new facilities on 35,000 sq m of land, about the size of seven football fields.

The facilities, which will be ready next year, include a high-purity ethylene oxide (HPEO) purification column with an initial capacity of 140,000 tonnes a year.

There will also be two world-scale ethoxylation units with a combined annual capacity of 140,000 tonnes. Associated facilities, such as product tanks and an HPEO pipeline grid, will also be built.

Shell did not disclose the investment amount, but industry experts have estimated this to be well into the hundreds of millions.

Mr Fang Yea Yee, Shell Chemicals general manager for ethylene oxide and glycols, said yesterday that the new investments will indirectly create high-level jobs as customers set up major operations here.

Mr Eugene Leong, Economic Development Board director of energy and chemicals, said: "When fully implemented, the various downstream speciality chemicals projects are expected to create close to 200 highly-skilled jobs."

Senior Minister for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan said at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new facilities that more than 24,000 people are employed on Jurong Island, 75 per cent of them Singaporeans.

HPEO is processed into alcohol ethoxylates, a key ingredient for household and industrial detergents and cleaning products, including those used for laundry, dishwashing and personal care.

Mr Graham van't Hoff, Shell Chemicals executive vice-president, said alcohol ethoxylates demand in Asia is expected to increase at about 6 to 7 per cent annually over the next five years.

He added: "The key driver for this is the move by consumers from laundry powder and soap bars to liquid detergent and liquid soaps, especially in major markets like China, India and South-east Asia."

Shell said the new projects build on plans it unveiled over the past six months to expand production capacity.

These include increasing capacity at its ethylene cracker complex on Pulau Bukom to lift production of olefins and aromatics by more than 20 per cent - an initiative announced last November.

In February, Shell said it is expanding the capacity of its polyols plant on Jurong Island.

Mr van't Hoff said: "Asia is key to Shell's growth. Within the region, Singapore has, and will continue to feature considerably in our long-term plans."


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Students win with ways to transform railway station

Straits Times 17 Apr 13;

EIGHT students came up with an idea to have a food alley plus bicycle and walking paths, among other features, to create a sense of nostalgia near the railway platform at the Tanjong Pagar railway station.

For their creativity, the Dunman High students bagged the top prize at the Urban Redevelopment Authority's annual Challenge for the Urban and Built Environment competition and won $2,000 in cash and book vouchers.

Republic Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic took the second and third places, winning $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.

Into its fourth year, the Challenge aims to give students an experience of urban planning and inspire them to become architects, urban designers and planners.

The theme involved the Rail Corridor which is a 25.3km stretch from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar.

The students were tasked with planning the site that comprised Tanjong Pagar railway station and the old railway yard for public housing and neighbourhood parks, as well as give ideas on future uses for the area.

Students had to create a site model and master plan of their ideas and present their projects to a panel of judges. Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin was the guest of honour at yesterday's awards ceremony.

The URA said that some of the concepts from the groups may be incorporated into the design brief of site planning in future.

Student Beatriz Goh, 16, who is part of the Dunman High School winning team, said: "We're happy about the win because our hard work has paid off."

LIM YI HAN

Students propose ideas for Rail Corridor
Kok Xing Hui Today Online 17 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — Five public housing blocks, linked via a skybridge surrounding a landscape garden, with a boardwalk linking the estate to the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, and one of its blocks featuring a sloping design such that it stands no taller than the surrounding shophouses at its lowest height.

This proposal by eight Dunman High School students won the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) competition, which invited students to come up with plans for a site comprising the station and the old railway yard.

The Challenge for the Urban and Built Environment competition saw 120 junior colleges and polytechnics students from 16 teams take part. The teams were tasked to plan the site for public housing and neighbourhood parks, as well as integrate ideas for the Rail Corridor and new uses for the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and other ex-KTM buildings into their plans.

The winning team proposed an “inclusive village that teems with vitality, while retaining its unique historical charm”. The proposal featured a landscape garden for community activities, and a food alley alongside the railway platform of the station, which would have its fa├žade preserved and old canteen restored.

“I believe that our project can appeal to both the young and old,” said Beatriz Goh, a year 5 student on the team. “We want to create a very strong sense of community within this area. The whole place is linked up – past, present, old and new. Everything is one big family.”

Republic Polytechnic won the second prize for their environmentally-friendly design. All their proposed housing blocks come with urban farming on the rooftops, vertical greenery to help with thermal regulation and reduce energy load, and the railway station would house a farmers’ market among bars and restaurants.

The first, second and third place teams won S$2,000, S$1,500 and S$1,000 worth of cash and book vouchers respectively. There were also three merit awards and 10 commendation awards. Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin gave out the awards to the students.

All ideas from the public for the 25.3km Rail Corridor, including the ones proposed in this competition, will serve as an inspiration for the design scope for the next phase of development, said the URA.

40 student projects are on display at the URA Centre Atrium from now to May 15. Admission is free.


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Singapore may see worst ever dengue epidemic: NEA

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 16 Apr 13;

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said Tuesday that the number of dengue cases could hit an all-time high of more than 1000 when the peak season starts in May.

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said Tuesday that the number of dengue cases could hit an all-time high of more than 1000 when the peak season starts in May, cautioning that the country may face its worst ever dengue epidemic.

This is in contrast to about 700 cases reported during the 2005 peak season.

Over 490 dengue cases were reported last week – an eight year high - and NEA said that the situation could worsen as dengue season approaches.

Associate Professor Ng Lee Ching, director of the Environmental Health Institute at NEA said: ”What we have seen is that there's Dengue-1, genetically quite different from the previous outbreak and it seems to have a pretty high epidemic potential as well. Dengue-1 has replaced Dengue-2 as the predominant serotype in Singapore, which gives us an early warning of the outbreak.

“Looking at the trend, we are going into the hot season with a high base so we cannot rule out the possibility that we will see a higher number of cases than 2005.”

In light of the surge in numbers, the Ministry of Health has assured the public that there will be enough beds for the more serious cases.

Meanwhile, some hospitals like Changi General Hospital have adopted innovative ways to control the number of patients admitted.

Associate Professor Mohan Tiru, chief and senior consultant at Changi General Hospital’s A&E Department said: “Since 2009, we have developed a very effective clinical pathway which takes care of the majority of dengue cases outside the emergency department of the hospital. When the diagnosis for these patients are made, they are then referred using evidence-based guidelines to our primary care partners, be it polyclinic doctors or GPs."

This has resulted in a 20 per cent drop in the number of patients admitted to the hospital.

To stem the problem, NEA will be rolling out the "Do the Mozzie Wipeout" campaign, calling on all in the community to do their part to do prevent dengue.

The campaign aims to promote awareness of the dengue situation, inspire action to prevent dengue and encourage advocacy through social media and word of mouth.

NEA has also found an increased number of breeding spots on the premises.

As of 30 March, homes make up 67 per cent of the breeding habitats detected while public places accounted for 27.6 per cent. Construction sites make up 5.4 per cent.

NEA said it will be a challenging year ahead as the population has a low immunity against dengue.

- CNA/ck/ir/jc

Dengue cases could double
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 17 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) has warned that the number of dengue cases reported last week — 492 or an eight-year weekly high — could worsen in five weeks.

In a projection based on weather factors, mosquito breeding, previous dengue cases and seasonality, it estimated that numbers could double and possibly even breach 1,000 casesa week, before Singapore hits peak transmission season.

At a media briefing yesterday, Director of NEA’s Environment Health Institute Ng Lee Ching said: “492 cases a week is unprecedented for this part of the year, so we are entering the dengue season with a high base.”

While there is “a lot of uncertainty when it comes to modelling”, Ms Ng said that “with this trend, we cannot rule out the possibility that we will see a weekly number greater than that in 2005”. The peak dengue season usually occurs between May and October. In September 2005, the number of cases surged to an all-time high of 713.

The Environment Health Institute’s data have shown that the three dengue strains currently circulating have higher rates of transmission, signalling higher epidemic potential. In addition, Dengue Strain 1 — which the population has lower immunity against — has replaced Strain 2 as the predominant strain of infection.

To provide timely information in cluster zones, the NEA will be installing banners with colour codes indicating the seriousness of the situation from April 28.

A red-alert banner indicates a high-risk area with over 10 cases discovered, a yellow-alert banner refers to fewer than 10 cases, while a green banner means the area is in the clear but will be monitored for the next 21 days.

Said NEA’s Director of General Public Health Derek Ho: “Through this graduated alert system, we hope residents can take a greater interest in what’s happening in their neighbourhoods.”

For example, if on yellow alert, residents should do the five-step Mozzie Wipeout at least once a week, apply repellent and spray insecticide in the dark corners of their homes.

As of last week, 2,799 homes were found to be breeding mosquitos, with a spike in the number of breeding sites at HDB flats, apartments and condominiums. Since the beginning of this year, the NEA has fined 100 homeowners for breeding mosquitoes.

As part of the campaign, about 800 volunteers will be trained to educate residents to look out for and eradicate potential breeding spots.

At a forum held earlier this month, a participant suggested imposing stiffer fines on homeowners found to be breeding mosquitoes, a move Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said he would consider.

When asked, Mr Ho yesterday reiterated that this “is under review”.

Members of Parliament (MP) TODAY spoke to said heftier fines cannot be the only solution.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said more efforts should be channelled to “instill(ing) a sense of emergency” in residents to encourage them to do their part for the community.

Added Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan: “I believe many people are complacent rather than deliberate in allowing mosquitoes to breed ... greater awareness ... would be a better solution.” Woo Sian Boon

NEA to roll out new dengue alert system
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 17 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be rolling out a three-colour code community alert system displayed on banners to provide timely information of the dengue situation at cluster areas.

Using traffic light colours of green, yellow (less than 10 dengue cases) and red (more than 10 cases) to indicate the seriousness of the situation, the colours will signal corresponding preventive measures to take.

These include doing the five-step Mozzie Wipeout exercise, which includes applying repellent and spraying insecticide in dark corners at home.

The campaign, which will be rolled on Sunday, is part of the government’s effort to engage and encourage the community to do their part in containing the transmission of dengue.

Some 492 dengue cases were reported in the week ending April 13, surpassing the previous record set in 2005. WOO SIAN BOON

Roping in all to stop the spread
NEA launches mozzie wipeout drive, 'traffic-light' system in affected areas
Sabrina Tiong Straits Times 17 Apr 13;

MARK your calendar: Sunday is "mozzie wipeout" day.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is stepping up the fight against dengue fever by roping in residents to clear potential mosquito breeding spots every Sunday, starting from next week.

More than 1,000 volunteers will fan out across Singapore, knocking on doors to remind residents to carry out checks, such as changing water in vases and overturning containers.

They will not inspect homes but may help to clear potential breeding sites in public areas.

At the same time, the NEA will also introduce a "traffic light" colour-coded banners in dengue clusters. There will be three alert levels - red, yellow and green - to indicate the severity of the situation and the steps that will be taken.

These efforts are part of the NEA's "Do The Mozzie Wipeout" campaign, unveiled yesterday as weekly dengue infections hit 492 last week, a record high this year.

Experts have warned that the dengue situation could worsen as the typical peak dengue season - during the hotter months of May to August - approaches.

The NEA said its campaign comes at a "crucial moment when community support is critical to stop the chain of dengue transmission".

"If everybody does it together in a concerted manner, it is one way in which we can gather as a community to help break the transmission cycle, break the mosquito breeding cycle as well as break dengue transmission in the localised community," said NEA director-general of public health Derek Ho at yesterday's event.

Residential areas account for 67 per cent of breeding areas detected despite the NEA sending out 850 officers to inspect homes, distribute pamphlets and fine offenders when larvae are found.

To help roll out the new campaign, the agency, which has around 800 volunteers, will rope in more people by enlisting the help of community partners such as the People's Association.

About 200 will attend a workshop on Satuday to learn about the virus, how it is transmitted and its common breeding spots.

To further raise public vigilance against dengue, the NEA's new " traffic light" scheme will inform residents of the situation in their area. For instance, an active cluster with less than 10 cases will be labelled yellow, while red signals a high-risk area with more than 10 cases.

Banners will be put up in the affected areas and reminders will be issued to residents to advise them on the appropriate measures to take.

If no new cases are found in a span of two weeks, the area will be declared "green".

Facebook, Twitter, bloggers and app developers will all be called upon by the NEA in its bid to raise awareness.

Housewife Julie Lim, who lives at Tampines Street 91, which is near a dengue hot spot, is all for the new campaign.

Said the 53-year-old: "I have stopped keeping potted plants. I also check my pails and basins every day. So it won't be a hassle for me.

"Every day is a mozzie wipeout day for me."

Alert levels and action to take

YELLOW: High-risk area with less than 10 cases

Residents should do the mozzie wipeout once a week.
Apply repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Spray insecticide in dark corners such as under the bed, sofa and curtains at home.
NEA will send out cluster alerts to advisers and grassroot leaders. Grassroots members will conduct house visits and notices will be put up at lift lobbies.
General practitioners in the area will be alerted on the dengue situation.


RED: High-risk area with 10 or more cases

Residents should increase the frequency of the mozzie wipeout to every alternate day.
Besides applying repellent and spraying insecticide, residents should also take part in NEA campaign activities in the area.


GREEN: No new cases, under surveillance for the next 21 days

Residents should still do the mozzie wipeout once a week and spray insecticide in dark corners.
NEA officers will continue to monitor the situation.


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CSR and new corporate social realities

Volunteerism and philanthropy are just the 'icing' on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) cake. More firms are getting infected with CSR's real aim - doing good for a just and sustainable world while doing well.
William Cheng Straits Times 17 Apr 13;

THE meaning and practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR), first coined in 1953, has evolved in the corporate world.

CSR is fundamentally about being good corporate citizens: enlightened human resource initiatives, ethical conduct and environmental responsibility.

Indeed, what are commonly touted as the key aspects of CSR - corporate volunteerism and corporate philanthropy - are really just icing on the CSR cake.

The United Nations Global Compact, the world's largest corporate citizen initiative, lists 10 core principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption that companies are encouraged to embrace, support and enact within their sphere of influence.

There is also now a focus on ensuring that CSR efforts are sustainable - meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations' ability to meet their needs. In practical terms, this requires companies to reconcile environmental, social and economic demands, often referred to as the "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit.

The business of business

FOR a long time, CSR was driven by the conventional wisdom that the business of business has to be just that - business, typified by the late economist Milton Friedman's famous declaration that "the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits".

Thus CSR was only supported when there was a positive business impact on the enterprise.

Such a mindset made CSR hard to sell. For example, to date, only 8,000 or so businesses worldwide have signed the UN Global Compact pledge, which was launched in 2000. In Singapore, fewer than 100 companies have done so. Most companies probably feel that CSR's "cost-benefit" does not make business sense to them.

CSR analysts say the almost exclusive focus on shareholders and profits is explained by how corporations are legally constituted in the first place. Following this line of reasoning, there are generally two courses of action proposed to ensure that companies become more socially responsible.

The first is for governments to make CSR (or aspects of it) mandatory, which can lead to a plethora of fragmented rules and regulations covering environmental protection, codes of corporate governance, labour laws, and so on.

The second course of action is more ambitious: redefining the corporation so that social responsibility is hardwired into the entity's DNA. In other words, change the nature of the corporate beast.

Corporation 20/20 is such an example. An initiative by the US- based think-tank Tellus Institute and Business Ethics magazine, it identified six principles of corporate redesign. It hosts forums of leading thinkers and practitioners to construct alternate visions of the corporate structure which are disseminated into the wider corporate community.

While trying to change how corporations are constituted across the board is a daunting task, initiatives like Corporation 20/20 have become part of a global movement that is achieving results.

Balancing value and values

RECENT years have seen a greater regard for social values to balance the corporate drive for maximum economic value. In part, the broader community revulsion against the blatant excesses of brute capitalism uncovered by corporate scandals and the global financial crisis has helped. Albeit largely uncoordinated, such calls for a "more moral form of capitalism" have come from all quarters.

Many are now joining social activists and NGOs - once the lone voice - to push for a sustainable future and to curb capitalism's excesses. Social media too is a powerful voice.

An increasing number of consumers too are seeking to live sustainably. They buy organic and Fairtrade products, go green, live healthily. They believe in social justice.

Investors - the ones with most clout in influencing corporate behaviour - are making their voices heard in this evolving landscape. They include activist investors taking companies to task for specific corporate misdeeds to the many that seek to invest only in companies that hew to socially responsible investing.

Next, regulators are taking the cue from this trend and, in some cases, are mandating that companies report on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and implementation.

The Singapore Exchange recently announced that it may set up a Singapore Sustainability Index to guide investors in their stock analysis based on ESG factors.

Meanwhile, many business leaders, in particular those from large transnationals, have come on board the "CSR world order" vision. The Caux Roundtable and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development are examples of coalitions of international companies supporting CSR and the sustainability movement. Indeed, the latter's Vision 2050 report lays out pathways to a world in which nine billion people can live well and within the planet's resources by mid-century.

Last but not least, management gurus have come on board. Michael Porter has written on how companies need to move from present-day CSR to what he calls "Creating Shared Value", where companies create economic value by creating societal value.

Corporate social revolutionaries

A NUMBER of organisations are leading this shift away from a purely capitalist mindset. The first group comprises social enterprises seeking to deliver a blend of financial as well as social returns.

Most are small and medium-sized enterprises with focused social missions; profits are often ploughed back to grow the company or are redistributed to the community. A local example is Dignity Kitchen, a food management school that trains the disabled and disadvantaged to be food-stall operators. Larger local examples include those run by the labour movement such as Fairprice and NTUC Income.

The world's largest social enterprise goes by the initials Brac (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee). It operates over 150 businesses largely targeted at poverty alleviation and empowering the poor in Bangladesh. Collectively, these businesses employ over 100,000 people and contribute more than 1 per cent to Bangladesh's gross domestic product.

Another (overlapping) group is inclusive businesses. Typically, these seek to benefit the low-income community by involving them in the business process. As part of the production process, these poor people receive sustainable livelihoods. In turn, these inclusive businesses create affordable goods and services for the bottom-of-the-pyramid market.

These companies are usually based in developing countries. Brac is a prime example of an inclusive business.

Then there are many commercial companies whose business model is inclusive but where profits go back to the shareholders rather than the community. For example, BagoSphere is a call-centre training company in the Philippines that specifically caters to rural youths living in poverty.

Mainstream businesses are beginning to take notice of this phenomenon and are thus seeking to create social impact, at least in parts of their businesses. For example, DBS Bank has a special banking package which includes "virtually free banking services" for social enterprises and it sets aside $1 million as outright grants to local social enterprises.

Creating social change

GLOBALLY, there are examples of transnationals collaborating with governments and NGOs to create social change in new and innovative ways.

In Uganda, the telecoms multinational Ericsson, together with a local mobile operator, teamed up with the UN Commission for Refugees and the Clinton Foundation in a joint venture called Refugee United to provide a service to reunite the diaspora of refugees using mobile phone technology.

In Afghanistan, Fullwell Mill, a British food producer together with Mercy Corps, a humanitarian NGO, worked with the Parwan Raisin Producers Cooperative, a network of local farmers, to grow and export Fairtrade raisins to Britain. The venture also received funding support from USAID, the US government funding agency.

In Mexico, Ashoka, an association of social entrepreneurs, brokered a partnership between Amanco, a multinational water system company, and two of its Ashoka Fellows who worked with small farmers. Amanco re-engineered its products and business model to produce affordable irrigation technology which it sold to the farmers through the Ashoka Fellows. The net result was that Amanco had a new and profitable market segment, the Ashoka Fellows earned a commission that covered their expenses of advancing social programmes, and the farmers, who were earning less than US$2 (S$2.50) per day, were able to double or triple their income with irrigation technology.

Entities like these create social impact while delivering reasonable, but not necessarily maximum, profits. They are the closest to the redesigned companies championed by the likes of Corporation 20/20.

However, in most cases, they are legally constituted as regular commercial companies. A major reason is that apart from pilot schemes in Britain and the US, there are few alternative legal constructs for companies to mandate balancing economic and social returns and redistribute profits back to the community.

But the fact that these socially impactful commercial companies exist reinforces the argument that cultural change in corporations can overcome the long-held conviction that businesses must seek maximum profits and value for shareholders. It affirms the notion that corporations can and should operate in a much broader context of multiple stakeholders.

Hopefully, more corporations will follow suit and recognise that it is in their collective enlightened self-interest to respond to these new corporate social realities.

The writer is a former managing partner at management and technology consulting firm Accenture. He currently sits on the boards of several commercial and non-profit organisations.


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Australia: Green cities make healthier people

NERP Environmental Decisions Hub Science Alert 16 Apr 13;

Australians will be happier, safer and healthier if they look after the wildlife in their cities, according to a new scientific study.

A review by Dr Richard Fuller of the National Environmental Research Program’s (NERP) Environmental Decisions Hub and The University of Queensland (UQ) shows that having nature close to home and work can boost people’s health, improve their ability to think, and help lower violence and aggression in the community.

“Conserving nature in cities, such as restoring habitats or setting up reserves can be expensive relative to conservation actions outside cities,” Dr Fuller says. “This often raises the question of whether we should invest in keeping biodiversity within our urban areas.

“The answer is yes, as scientific studies around the world now show that experiences of nature provide important benefits to many aspects of our lives, including our mental and physical health, social relationships and even our spiritual well-being.”

One study that compares the effects of exercising in a green space and an urban environment reveals that stress is reduced after exercise in forest or parks but not in built up areas. Another study shows that children who participate in gardening or who visit parks have improved self-esteem and mental well-being.

Being in nature can also help sick people recover faster, Dr Fuller says: “Patients in rooms with a view of trees spend less time in hospitals, require fewer strong painkillers and have fewer postsurgical complications than those whose rooms overlook a brick wall.

“Nature can also lower death rates – various studies in the UK and Netherlands show that people living near green spaces have lower disease loads and mortality rates.”

As well as physical and mental health benefits, the restorative properties of nature can improve a person’s ability to tackle mentally challenging tasks, the review shows.

“We constantly direct our attention towards avoiding hazards and coping with noise and sights in busy urban environments,” Dr Fuller explains. “This requires sustained effort and can lead to mental fatigue, resulting in reduced ability to concentrate.

“A study shows that when asked to repeat a sequence of numbers in reverse order, students who previously walked through a busy city street performed poorly compared to those who had walked through a tree-lined arboretum.”

Another study that tested people’s ability to proofread reveals that those who spent their vacation in the wilderness made few mistakes, whereas the performance of those who spent their holidays elsewhere was poorer.

The benefits of living close to nature also extend to wider society: in Chicago violence and aggression are significantly lower in buildings with more surrounding vegetation, Dr Fuller says.

In addition, having shared green spaces in urban areas encourages social interaction and fosters empowerment. People who participate in community conservation projects often benefit from the social support they encounter there.

“While we aren’t sure which aspects of nature deliver these benefits – whether it’s particular types of garden, trees or animals – there is mounting evidence that having green spaces close to us has a positive impact on our lives,” Dr Fuller says.

“This is a win-win situation for conservation and society - so we should hold on to our green spaces instead of clearing them for development.”

Dr Fuller says Australians could plant more trees and shrubs in their backyards to encourage biodiversity. It’s important to have lots of vegetation where possible, including denser thickets, tall trees, low-growing shrubs and scraggly grass where birds and insects abound, he says.

“In the meantime, spend more time outdoors, especially with your children. A nationwide survey in US shows that growing up in natural environments has a strong influence on positive environmental attitudes in adult life – they are more likely to appreciate and support conservation in adulthood.”

The review “What are the benefits of interacting with nature?” by Lucy E. Keniger, Kevin J. Gaston, Katherine N. Irvine and Richard A. Fuller is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The paper is freely downloadable from here.

The Australian Government funds the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) to inform evidence-based policy and sustainable management of the Australian environment.


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Indonesia: E. Kalimantan Islanders Threatening Turtle Survival, Conservationists Say

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 17 Apr 13;

Berau. The absence of wildlife conservationists from a key turtle nesting island off East Kalimantan’s Berau district has had a disastrous impact on the survival prospects of the species, activists say.

Rusli Andar, the coordinator for WWF Indonesia’s East Kalimantan marine program, said on Tuesday that since the expulsion last September of his organization and the Berau Turtle Foundation from Sangalaki Island by local residents, there was no one to protect the eggs laid by the turtles on the island’s beaches.

He said residents were taking the estimated 1,000 to 1,500 eggs laid each night and selling them for Rp 10,000 ($1) each, and that conservation workers visiting the island last week had failed to spot any turtle hatchlings.

“How can we expect there to be any hatchlings if the locals keep taking the eggs? These people know the period during which the turtles nest,” he said.

“The situation has become very worrying since we were driven out last year.”

Rusli added that in the absence of conservation workers, large amounts of trash were piling up on the beaches where the turtles nested, further reducing the prospects of the eggs hatching properly and the young turtles swimming out to sea.

“There are no more conservation activities going on there. The turtles are laying their eggs and people are promptly taking them. There’s just no attention being paid to this problem,” he said.

“If this isn’t addressed immediately, we will lose a key turtle habitat, because Sangalaki is the biggest nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles in the Berau marine conservation area.”

Tandya Tjahyana, the head of the East Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said separately that his office was short of manpower to patrol the island and could only assign two officials there since the expulsion of the conservation workers.

Sangalaki is one of 12 islands in the Berau maritime conservation area, which spans 1.2 million hectares and contains 3,000 fish species and at least 500 species of coral.


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Chinese vessel on Philippine coral reef caught with illegal pangolin meat

Ship's crew arrested after running into protected Tubbataha marine park with more than 10,000kg of protected scaly anteater
Damian Carrington guardian.co.uk 15 Apr 13;

A Chinese boat that crashed into a protected coral reef in the Philippines was hiding the remains of a second environmental disaster in its hold: thousands of illegally killed pangolins, a scaly anteater prized for its meat and scales in China.

The vessel hit an atoll on 8 April at the Tubbataha national marine park, a Uuneso-designated World Heritage site on Palawan island that was also struck by a US minesweeper in January. Coastguard spokesman Armand Balilo said on Monday about 400 boxes, totalling over 10 tonnes of frozen pangolins, were discovered during a second inspection of the boat on Saturday.

All trade in the four Asian species of pangolin has been illegal since 2002 but the appetite of Chinese consumers for its meat, prized as a delicacy, and its scales, believed to benefit breast-feeding mothers, has virtually wiped out the creatures in China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Pangolin traders, who use dogs or traps to capture the wild animals, have since moved into its last habitats in Java, Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula, driving populations down but prices up.

Chris Shepherd, an expert at wildlife trade group Traffic and based in Malaysia, told the Guardian: "There is no way a slow-breeding species like the pangolin can withstand this huge pressure for long." He said the enforcement of laws had not kept pace with demand for the pangolin meat and scales, which can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogramme in China: "We have seen a really obscene amount of seizures but very few people are arrested and even fewer convicted."

The 12 Chinese crewmen from the wrecked vessel are being held on charges of poaching and attempted bribery, said Adelina Villena, the marine park's lawyer, and face further charges, including damaging coral reef and possessing pangolin meat. Tubbataha reef is a marine sanctuary and popular diving destination 640km south-west of Manila and had already been damaged by a US navy ship that got stuck in January and had to be dismantled.

The Philippine military quoted the fishermen as saying they accidentally wandered into Philippine waters from Malaysia. The fishermen face up to 12 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $300,000 (£196,000) for the poaching charge alone. For possessing pangolin meat, they can be imprisoned up to six years and fined, Villena said.

The Philippine pangolin haul is one of the largest on record. In 2010, 7.8 tonnes of frozen pangolin and 1.8 tonnes of scales were seized from a fishing vessel by customs officers in Guangdong, China, while a series of customs seizures in Vietnam in 2008 yielded 23 tonnes of frozen pangolins in a week.

It is not yet clear from which of the four Asian pangolin species the meat comes. The International Union of Conservation of Nature lists two species as endangered: the Sunda, or Malayan pangolin, and the Chinese pangolin. Two others, including the Philippine pangolin endemic to Palawan, are classified as near threatened, though the Philippine government considers its pangolin threatened because of the unabated illicit trade. Overall, the IUCN says rising demand is wiping out pangolins from their forest habitat in south-east Asia, along with many other species, leaving "ghost forests" stripped of wildlife. In 2007, an abandoned 'Noah's Ark' of 5,000 rare animals was found floating off the coast of China.

"The enforcement agencies in the region are very reactive," said Shepherd. "There is not enough investigation into who is behind the networks." In March, the world's top wildlife trade official told the Guardian that crime syndicates and terrorists are outgunning those on the frontline of wildlife protection and pose a deadly threat to both people and animals.


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Worst pollution this year envelops Hong Kong

Grace Li PlanetArk 16 Apr 13;

Hong Kong residents breathed in the worst air of 2013 on Monday, joining citizens in mainland China who have been choking on dangerously high pollution levels, and further undermining the city's role as an Asian financial centre,

Air pollution index readings hit their highest levels this year at roadside monitoring stations in Mong Kok and Central, home to financial institutions such as HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered, recording "severe" levels of 205 and 210, respectively.

More than half of the 11 stations in areas with less traffic recorded "very high" levels between 103 and 140.

The situation was caused as pollutants, in particular nitrogen dioxide, became trapped within the city where skyscrapers packed together stop air from circulating, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said.

People with heart or respiratory illnesses, the elderly and children were advised to stay indoors as the city's iconic harbor was shrouded in thick smog and the skyscrapers of Hong Kong island were barely visible from Kowloon.

The pollution index in Beijing on Monday stood at 167, or "unhealthy" levels, according to the United States embassy, which most Chinese rely on for more accurate readings.

The Hong Kong index uses different criteria to measure pollution, so has different numerical readings.

Hong Kong is seeing increasingly high pollution index readings this year due to the rising number of vehicles on the city's already congested roads, said Melonie Chau, Friends of the Earth's senior environmental affairs officer.

Air pollution in Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, is a major source of worry for local citizens and foreign businesses, which increasingly see it as compromising the quality of life.

There were 322 premature deaths in Hong Kong in March as a result of adverse health effects due to air pollution, according to Hong Kong University's Hedley Environmental Index.

Surveys have continuously found that the city's pollution is hurting its competitiveness, undermining its role as a financial centre as some executives relocate due to health concerns.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has pledged to make improving air quality a priority.

In his maiden policy speech in January, Leung proposed HK$10 billion ($1.29 billion) in subsidies to phase out over 80,000 heavy-polluting diesel vehicles, while fresh emission reduction targets have been set with neighboring Guangdong province - a major source of cross-border pollutants from tens of thousands of factories in the Pearl River Delta.

In Beijing, a city of around 20 million people, air quality has mostly stayed above "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels since the beginning of this year.

An official newspaper reported last month that China would spend 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) over three years to deal with Beijing's pollution, as the government tries to defuse mounting public anger over environmental degradation.

(Reporting By Grace Li; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Michael Perry)


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