Best of our wild blogs: 12 Jun 13

Friday (14th June 2013), 7-9pm: "Do the Math" Movie Screening
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Sat 15 Jun 2013: 3.00pm, talk at Select Books on “Pulau Ubin: The Last Kampung” – A photoessay by Nurfasihah and Nur Shafiqah from Otterman speaks

Nature Macro Photography Workshop @ Science Centre Singapore from Macro Photography in Singapore

Fri 28 Jun 2013: 1.30pm – 4.00pm: Public Seminar on Pangolin Conservation from Otterman speaks

Two Weekend Tours
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Sentosa battered by blue drums?
from wild shores of singapore

Seagrasses of Singapore (Part 2)
from Lazy Lizard's Tales and Part 3

Some Critters and Flowers @ Gardens by the Bay
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

#10 Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
from My Nature Experiences

Asian Koel – Attempts To Mate?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Conserving the long-neglected freshwater fish of Borneo from news by Jeremy Hance

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LTA meets nature groups over Cross Island Line, study to be done on its impact

Royston Sim Straits Times 11 Jun 13;

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) met nature groups on Tuesday evening - the first time it has done so - after concerns were raised over the environmental impact of the proposed Cross Island MRT Line.

Preliminary plans have a portion of the line passing underground through the nature reserve in the central catchment area.

The groups have offered to conduct a study of the line's impact on the flora and fauna of the nature reserve, which is expected to take several months.

LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong said the authority will decide on its next step and how it should conduct an environmental impact assessment after taking in findings from the study.

He noted that the actual corridor of the line has not been decided upon, as planning is still at a very early stage.

The 50km Cross Island Line, which will run from Changi to Jurong, is slated for completion in 2030.

LTA begins talks with activists on environmental impact of Cross-Island Line
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 11 Jun 13;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has begun talks with nature groups to understand the environmental impact of the Cross-Island MRT line.

LTA met nine green activists on Tuesday and assured them that no works will start before a good understanding has been achieved.

Chew Hock Yong, chief executive at LTA, said: "We have met them and they say they will do a study to look at some possible options in terms of how the Cross-Island Line can go through the area and then they will share with us the outcome of the study and that to us will be the first step that we take to understand better the environmental impact of the MRT line that we are building."

LTA said the study will be a joint effort by the various interested nature groups and it expects it to be completed within several months. LTA will then take into account results of the study when doing its own Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the largest of four nature reserves in Singapore, is home to a rich variety of plant and animal species.

Nature groups are concerned that tunnelling works for parts of the 1.4-kilometre long Cross-Island Line, which passes through the nature reserve to connect Bukit Timah and Ang Mo Kio, could cause habitat fragmentation and soil erosion.

LTA unveiled the line in January this year, which is slated for completion in 2030.

The Nature Society Singapore has called for a realignment of the line to protect the nature reserve.

The society is asking LTA to divert the line to the south of the nature reserve.

With the diversion, the line could stretch to two kilometres.

LTA said it will study all options and consider whether such a diversion is technically feasible.

Tony O’ Dempsey, council member of the Nature Society of Singapore, said: "Our position is very simple. Nature reserves are for the conservation of native flora and fauna and they are not for the purpose of infrastructure. We want the line to go around the nature reserves to the south. At an average speed of 30 km an hour, that would represent an extra four minutes of travel time. We don't think that's too much to ask to save our natural heritage."

- CNA/xq

Nature groups to study impact of Cross Island Line
Sumita d/o Sreedharan Today Online 12 Jun 13;

SINGAPORE — Six nature groups will be embarking on studies to determine the impact of the Cross Island Line (CRL) on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, said Land Transport Authority (LTA) Chief Executive Chew Hock Yong yesterday.

The groups will study all possible options, which include cutting through the nature reserve and skirting around it, and highlight all implications to the LTA. No timeline has been set for the studies, which could take several months.

“We will not start any work until a time when there is proper understanding on what is the correct way to do it so as to minimise the impact on nature,” Mr Chew said.

Nature groups have been up in arms since the 50km train line was announced in January as construction work may harm rare fauna and flora in the central catchment area, which includes four reservoirs.

To be completed by around 2030, the line will start from Changi and run through areas such as Pasir Ris, Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Timah, and terminate at the Jurong Industrial Estate.

Last night, representatives from the groups met the LTA, which was seeking input on the Environmental Impact Assessment study it will be conducting.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Chew stressed that the alignment of the CRL has not been finalised and all considerations will be factored into the final decision. Other factors that will be examined include the impact on travel time, land use for the area and the effect on homes.

The LTA’s Environmental Impact Assessment study is expected to start in the second half of this year or early next year, and input from the nature groups will be taken into consideration, he said. Sumita Sreedharan

LTA delays environment study
Royston Sim Straits Times 12 Jun 13;

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) will hold back its study of the environmental impact of the Cross Island MRT Line until after nature groups have completed their investigations.

It made the decision after its officials met nine representatives of several nature groups yesterday. The meeting was the first face-to-face session between the LTA and the groups since they expressed concern about the proposed MRT line passing through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The groups, which include the Nature Society Singapore and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, offered to conduct a study on how different alignments of the line would impact flora and fauna in the nature reserve.

In accepting it, LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong said the authority will consider the findings before deciding how to conduct its own environmental impact assessment.

Preliminary plans have an estimated 1.4km of the line passing underground through the reserve. Several groups had expressed concern that even soil investigations for the line would damage the nature reserve's ecosystem, and called for the line to go around the reserve instead of through it.

Mr Chew said the nature groups' study will help the LTA avoid undue impact on the environment. "We will not start any work until such time where there is a proper understanding of what is the correct way to do it, so as to minimise the impact on the nature reserve," he said.

He noted that plans presented in January were a "broad brush stroke", and the LTA will consider several factors before it decides on an alignment.

This includes environmental impact, overall travel time, how the line fits into the land use plan and whether it will affect any existing house.

Engineering studies are also needed to decide if it is technically feasible to have the line skirt around the reserve.

Mr Tony O'Dempsey, the Nature Society's spokesman on the issue, said the meeting was positive and the study should take about six months.

Mr Chew said the LTA had intended to call a tender for environment studies late this year or early next year. Plans for the line remain on track even though the LTA is waiting for the study to be completed, he added. The line will run from Changi to Jurong, and is slated for completion in 2030.

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That uniquely Singaporean crab disappearing fast

Local scientists trying to save a crab that's found nowhere else in the world
David Ee Straits Times 12 Jun 13;

MENTION crab, and Singaporeans will think of it on a plate smothered in chilli sauce.

But local scientists are now fighting to save a crab, barely larger than a 50-cent coin, found nowhere else in the world but here.

Numbers of the Singapore freshwater crab have declined drastically, they have found, though its exact population is unknown.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed it as critically endangered, and considers it one of the 100 most threatened species in the world. It is found only in several isolated forest streams in Bukit Timah, Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak.

A two-year study begun last July to assess its numbers and habitat conditions is under way, spearheaded by the National Parks Board and the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Every month, NUS ecologist Darren Yeo tramps into the dense forests to search for the tiny crustaceans.

It is no easy task, he said. The nocturnal crabs tend to find shelter under rocks on the stream bed, feeding on worms.

But he has drawn one important observation from his strenuous work: populations of the crab in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve appear to have plummeted.

Scientists are unsure why. "One possible reason could be changes in water quality, caused perhaps by acid rain. But we haven't drawn a link," he said.

One indicator of water quality is the pH scale, which measures how acidic or alkaline water is. Pure water has a neutral pH of seven and pH falls as water gets more acidic.

The crab is known to prefer fast-flowing streams with a near- neutral pH concentration, as it evolved in relatively pristine conditions.

But the impact of urbanisation and pollutants may have altered the pH of its habitats, said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai.

While few Singaporeans may know or care about the little crab, they should consider its rarity, said NUS crab expert Peter Ng, who named the species in 1986.

"This animal is uniquely Singaporean, to use the Singapore Tourism Board's words," said the director of the Tropical Marine Science Institute.

"It evolved in Singapore in isolation. There are not many like it. Ninety-nine per cent of species found here are also found elsewhere in the region."

There are several other species unique to Singapore, including the Swamp forest crab found only in Nee Soon swamp forest, and the Johnson's freshwater crab found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

National Biodiversity Centre director Lena Chan said that NParks may consider starting a breeding programme for it.

Introducing it into new habitats is another option, said Prof Yeo.

Both urged people not to disturb the crabs or their habitats.

Professor Ng acknowledged that it was unlikely for people to get excited over such a small animal. "But by trying to save it, it says a lot to the world about who we are as a people, a nation. We don't have to do it, but we should."

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Changi Motorsports Hub plan off, says SSC

Patwant Singh Channel NewsAsia 12 Jun 13;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) confirmed Wednesday it will not proceed with the re-tender for the Changi Motorsports Hub site, effectively putting an end to the ambitious race-track project.

This follows the conclusion of an extensive international and local market sounding and Request for Information (RFI) exercise.

The council said it was unable to proceed with the re-tender as it could not accede to certain conditions from potential investors.

These include requests for flexibility of lease terms and land use, as well as tax concessions.

SSC CEO Lim Teck Yin said the land take and proposed use under the project "do not justify an operating model that involves significant government subsidies or concessions".

The council had received seven proposals from six consortia, the majority of which were motor-sports related.

Proposed motorsports ideas included a FIA grade 2 or 3 circuit, a CIK graded karting circuit, a racing academy, a dragstrip, and bonded warehousing. Non motorsports-related ideas included a theme park and watersports marina. Common ideas cutting across the majority of the proposals include retail and F&B.

The 41-hectare site in Changi will be reinstated to authorities.

Mr Lim said: "While we work towards handing the site back to the authorities, SSC is also actively working with the relevant agencies on possible interim uses for the site for motorsports-related activities, such as karting, for the community."

The race track project has stalled since 2011 when the Japanese-led consortium that won the bid ran out of money.

- CNA/jc

End of the road for Changi Motorsports Hub
Royston Sim Straits Times 13 Jun 13;

AFTER three tumultuous years, plans to restart the Changi Motorsports Hub project have officially been scrapped.

The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) announced yesterday that it would not be putting the 41ha site up for a second tender, as it could not accept certain conditions that potential investors had asked for.

This effectively spells the end of the Republic's bid to build a permanent motorsports racetrack, which seemed to take off when Japanese-led consortium SG Changi won a $36 million bid to build the facility in 2010.

But the wheels began to fall off the project a year later, when the consortium ran into delays and financial difficulties, amid allegations of corruption.

The SSC terminated its contract with SG Changi last year. It then launched a market-sounding exercise to gather information from potential bidders - and received seven proposals from six consortia during this period.

All of the proposals asked for subsidies or concessions, such as land being given for free or doubling the existing 30-year lease.

At least one proposal asked for the land - next to the grounds for the Singapore Airshow - to be converted to mostly retail use.

"These significant conditions for the project to be commercially viable are things that the SSC cannot accede to," SSC chief executive Lim Teck Yin said at a press briefing yesterday.

Marina tycoon Arthur Tay, together with venture capitalist Tommie Goh, was one of those who submitted proposals. Mr Tay told The Straits Times: "It is not realistic (without subsidies) based on land and cost."

"Worldwide, such facilities are supported by municipalities. We don't have to go too far - look at Johor," he said, referring to plans to build a similar motorsports facility in Iskandar.

But Mr Lim explained that the land size and its proposed use "do not justify an operating model that involves significant government subsidies or concessions".

When SG Changi won the initial tender, its plans included a 3.7km racetrack, a grandstand that could accommodate 20,000 spectators, a racing academy, a hotel and video arcades.

On whether the project was now a wasted effort, Mr Lim said: "That would be too strong a language to use, to say we have wasted our time...I think we have explored it to the extent we can in Singapore."

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Malaysia: Perak lauded for gazetting forest

Isabelle Lai and Edmund Ngo The Star 12 Jun 13;

PETALING JAYA: Conservationists have lauded the Perak Government for gazetting 18,866ha of forest in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex (BTFC) as a permanent forest reserve.

The area, named the Amanjaya Forest Reserve, extends some 1.5km from either side of the East-West Highway. Around 130 million years old, the BTFC is made up of two forests 1,175sq km of the Royal Belum State Park to the north and 1,477sq km of the Temengor Forest Reserve to the south.

It is older than Brazil's Amazon rainforest and is home to an astounding variety of flora and fauna.

It is one of two sites in Malaysia where all 10 hornbill species can be found. Mentri Besar Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said the move was part of a master plan to provide a suitable area for wildlife to move about the forest complex.

Plans to rehabilitate the area were in the pipeline, including reforestation programmes, he said.

“Planting new trees there is also part of fulfilling the state Barisan Nasional's election pledge to plant at least one million trees,” he said.

The Amanjaya Forest Reserve, gazetted on May 9, was previously earmarked as a development corridor along the highway.

The area has been identified as a vital wildlife corridor under the Federal Government's Central Forest Spine (CFS) Masterplan for a contiguous network of forests in the backbone of the peninsula.

Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed was glad that the area would not be converted into monocrop plantations such as rubber, oil palm or acacia.

He said rehabilitation programmes must begin immediately to restore the area, which had been mostly degraded by logging activities.

World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma praised the gazetting as well as impending construction of a wildlife viaduct as “critical first steps” to secure connectivity in the BTFC.

“This is an example to be followed in other ecological linkages.”

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Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2012

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 11 Jun 13;

China led a rise in global carbon dioxide emissions to a record high in 2012, more than offsetting falls in the United States and Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Monday.

Worldwide CO2 emissions rose by 1.4 percent to 31.6 billion tons, according to estimates from the Paris-based IEA.

China is the biggest emitter and made the largest contribution to the global rise, spewing out an additional 300 million tons. But the gain was one of the lowest China has seen in a decade, reflecting its efforts to adopt renewable sources and improve energy efficiency.

In the United States, a switch from coal to gas in power generation helped reduce emissions by 200 million tons, bringing them back to the level of the mid-1990s.

Even though the use of coal increased in some European countries last year due to low prices, emissions in Europe declined by 50 million tons because of the economic slowdown, growth in renewables, and emissions caps on industrial and power companies, the IEA said.

Japan's CO2 emissions increased by 70 million tons, as efforts to improve energy efficiency failed to offset increasing use of fossil fuels after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.


Scientists say global average temperature rise needs to be limited to below 2 degrees Celsius this century to prevent devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers.

That would only be possible if emission levels are kept to around 44 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by 2020.

However, the IEA said the data shows the world is on a path to an average temperature rise of between 3.6 and 5.3 degrees Celsius.

"Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are projected to be nearly 4 billion tons higher than a level consistent with attaining the 2 degree target, highlighting the scale of the challenge still to be tackled just in this decade," the agency said.

The IEA urged governments to quickly adopt four policies that would ensure climate goals could be reached without harming economic growth. They are: improving energy efficiency in buildings, industry and transport; limiting the construction and use of inefficient power plants; halving methane emissions; and partially phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

These would reduce global energy-related emissions by 8 percent or 3.1 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2020, the IEA said.

"Delaying stronger climate action to 2020 would come at a cost: $1.5 trillion in low-carbon investments are avoided before 2020, but $5 trillion in additional investments would be required thereafter to get back on track," the IEA said.

International negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany, until Friday for U.N. talks aimed at getting a new global climate treaty, which would cut emissions, signed by 2015.

However, the talks got off to a slow start last week due to attempts by three nations to amend one of the meeting's many agendas to discuss how future decisions should be made.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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