Best of our wild blogs: 5 Sep 13

Mon 23 Sep 2013: 2.00pm – 5.00pm @ LT20 – Tan Heok Hui on “Wet Scientific Photography” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Jobs in freshwater ecology: Laboratory Assistant, Casual Employment, two positions (apply by 13 Sep 2013) from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Butterflies Galore! : Blue Nawab
from Butterflies of Singapore

An addendum to the analysis of the Short-tailed Babbler’s call
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Few takers for paid volunteer leave

Some fear backlash from colleagues, others do charity work on weekends
Janice Tai Straits Times 5 Sep 13;

PAID leave for volunteer work schemes are getting more common at companies, but very few employees seem to be taking them up. And that could require a rethink by firms looking to encourage staff volunteerism.

"It's very good that more companies are offering volunteer leave as they are making corporate giving a business priority," said Mr Eugene Lim, deputy director of corporate community investment at the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). "But some employees fear their supervisors may not support them or co-workers will not be happy taking on extra work."

Another issue is that some prefer to volunteer on weekends, which does not entitle them to the perk at some companies.

At Citi Singapore, about 100 of its 7,000 permanent staff, or less than 2 per cent, use up their one day of paid volunteer leave. Last year, when OCBC Bank started its volunteer leave scheme, the take-up rate was 4 per cent.

This year, one out of six employees at Singapore Pools have so far claimed the two days of volunteer leave available. But even this 17 per cent falls short of national volunteer rates.

According to an NVPC survey last year, 32.3 per cent of people in Singapore - one in three - volunteer for a good cause.

The Straits Times contacted 10 companies which offered such leave but several, including DBS Bank and Microsoft Singapore, declined to reveal take-up rates.

Companies believe the low take-up of volunteer leave - which typically ranges from one to five days every year - is not a true reflection of their staff's volunteerism. Citi Singapore said some of its employees volunteer over the weekend, so they have no need to apply for the leave.

Singapore Pools said most of its staff do not use the special leave as they "give their time willingly without expecting anything in return". OCBC Bank shared a similar sentiment, saying: "Our employees do not see the time off as an entitlement, as the spirit of volunteerism will be lost."

Still, the NVPC believes firms can make it easier for employees to better utilise these schemes.

"Staff need to be reassured that applying for it will not affect their working relationship with their colleagues, who may have to cover for them," said Mr Lim.

Also, those wanting to volunteer may not know how to. So, firms can collate a list of opportunities for their staff, he added.

Several companies have already come up with ways to nudge their employees to do more. Since last month, Singapore Pools has allowed the leave to be used the next day if staff volunteered during weekends.

At CapitaLand, staff who use up all three days of volunteer leave "earn" $500 for a charity of their choice.

Standard Chartered Bank has has seen the number of volunteer leave days being used grow from 3 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent last year.

A spokesman said: "We have noticed that if you can get people to volunteer once, they find the experience so rewarding, they will do it again."

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Heritage elements to be incorporated in Bidadari

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: The National Heritage Board (NHB) hopes to partner the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in the design of future estates.

For a start, both boards have worked together to incorporate heritage elements in the new Bidadari estate.

The aim is to help future residents and visitors to the estate appreciate the history of the place.

The Bidadari Memorial Garden at Mount Vernon was built in 2004 after the graves in the old Bidadari Cemetery were exhumed.

The gateway as well as selected tombstones and relics were some of the items relocated to the memorial garden.

The garden's artefacts will be moved again to a park at the new Bidadari estate.

The relocation is part of the Bidadari Heritage Commemoration Project.

There are also plans to convert the current Upper Aljunied Road into a pedestrianised Heritage Walk which will feature storyboards.

NHB's group director (policy), Alvin Tan, said: "We hope that moving forward in future that heritage considerations will indeed be factored into design and development of future housing estates, because we feel that it's one way to better help residents as well as Singaporeans appreciate their heritage."

NHB has also held two focus group sessions to get inputs on the project.

Participants include the Singapore Heritage Society, academics and heritage enthusiasts.

Alvin Tan said: "What they also express the wish for was (that) they hope that certain characteristic elements of the landscape would be retained, and these would be the undulating slopes of the cemetery grounds. I understand that the HDB has already taken that into consideration, with the whole concept of rolling greens."

The proposed developments for the new Bidadari housing estate will be implemented in phases from 2015.

- CNA/ec/ir

Bidadari estate to retain pioneers' tombstones
David Ee Straits Times 5 Sep 13;

JOGGERS in the future Bidadari housing estate's new park will be running on sacred ground and be reminded of the contributions of Singapore's pioneers.

Tombstones of 20 notable Singaporeans once buried in the former Bidadari cemetery will be preserved in the 10ha park, the National Heritage Board (NHB) announced yesterday.

These include Dr Lim Boon Keng, a 1900s philanthropist and social reformer after whom Boon Keng Road is named, former labour minister Ahmad Ibrahim, and first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly George Edward Noel Oehlers.

NHB is partnering the Housing Board to assimilate Bidadari's rich heritage into the estate, which will see its first flats ready in 2015. This is the first time that a new estate will include these considerations from the initial design stage.

The tombstones will be relocated from the Bidadari Memorial Garden, which will make way for the estate. One of the original gates to the former cemetery will also be placed in the new park.

All graves in the former cemetery were exhumed by 2006.

NHB is also planning a pedestrianised Heritage Walk to replace the present Upper Aljunied Road. Residents strolling along the tree-lined boulevard in future will learn through photographs and boards about old landmarks once found nearby, such as the 19th century Bidadari House once owned by a sultan of Johor.

A landmark there that has been lost through time will also be resurrected - in name. The new Alkaff Lake within the park will be inspired by Alkaff Lake Gardens, a Japanese-themed leisure spot popular in the 1930s till it was redeveloped after World War II. Back then, families would flock there to have picnics and take boat trips on the lake.

NHB is also in discussions with HDB to preserve some of the area's signature undulating green landscape.

For now, NHB is not involved in plans for the two other upcoming housing estates in Punggol and Tampines.

But it hopes to be. Said NHB group director for policy Alvin Tan: "We hope that such (heritage) considerations will continue to be factored into future housing estates so as to better promote place identity and strengthen a sense of belonging for residents."

Heritage supporter and All Things Bukit Brown co-founder Catherine Lim was encouraged by the plans.

"Bidadari estate rests on hallowed ground. The tombstones will be a reminder. In doing this, people will never forget that the estate was once a cemetery."

She added: "Bidadari was the first public cemetery here to embrace all races. I think it's quite appropriate that it is being memorialised within an HDB estate."

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Singapore's water demand set to double in 50 years' time

Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's demand for water is set to double in 50 years with population and economic growth, according to national water agency PUB. The non-domestic sector -- anything outside of homes -- may take up as much as 70 per cent of this increased demand for water.

Singapore imports about 50 per cent of its water from Malaysia today.

NEWater and desalination may reduce this reliance in the future, but the need to manage water demand remains a top priority for the country.

NEWater currently contributes 30 per cent, and treated water, 10 per cent of Singapore's water supply.

PUB's target is to ramp up the two sources to produce 80 per cent of the country's water needs by 2060.

As part of an effort to help companies track their water usage, PUB has boosted funding for companies that take on water audit projects through the Water Efficiency Fund since March. The fund covers up to 90 per cent of the cost, an increase from 50 per cent previously.

Companies can use this fund to monitor their water use.

Under SPRING Singapore's Capability Development Grant, SMEs that adopt water efficiency management systems can also get funding to cover manpower and consultancy costs.

Speaking at a PUB event, Second Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Grace Fu, said that companies' efforts make a difference.

She said: "All of us have to do our part to conserve water. Achieving a sustainable level of water consumption requires our commitment, whether as individuals, households, or industries."

- CNA/ac

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Asia’s starring role in war against carbon

Jose Maria Figueres Olsen Today Online 5 Sep 13;

The world can no longer afford to be intimidated by the magnitude of the climate crisis, nor into believing that we must choose between economic prosperity and environmental security.

Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges in human history, one that transcends national boundaries, income, ideology and ethnicity. But these challenges should be viewed as economic opportunities.

Profit can be earned, jobs created and living standards improved from the accelerated deployment of proven clean energy technologies across a range of economic sectors and global industries. Doing so could result in gigatonne-scale greenhouse gas reductions and entrench the world firmly on a path towards a more sustainable energy future.

Yet, the resources and capital required to catalyse this is unavailable, insufficient or mismatched. Few businesses realise that they can act with current technologies and within existing policy frameworks to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50 per cent.

They may not realise that the initial investment to do so will pay for itself, in some cases, many times over. Some have limited access to funding that could enable large-scale deployment of carbon-reducing solutions.


The Carbon War Room (CWR) was founded in 2009 to work towards eliminating the market barriers to these sustainable solutions. We are now looking to plant roots in Asia.

The CWR aims to mobilise private capital to finance green businesses with long-term prospects, and channel existing technology and resources towards new and more sustainable business models.

We also fund research in clean energy technologies and promote dialogue among industry players to unearth new solutions.

Among our initiatives are projects to fund energy retrofits in cities in the United States. Our Shipping Efficiency operation — aimed at providing better market information on current fleet fuel-efficiency levels — has led to over 500 vessel upgrades so far. In October last year, three industrial shippers — including commodities giant Cargill, said that they would stop using ships ranked in the lowest two of seven categories as rated by the CWR. We are looking to another eight shippers to follow suit this year.


Our planet will successfully transition to a low-carbon economy only if Asia stars strongly in the carbon war. Efforts are already being made in countries like South Korea and Singapore to promote clean energy sources and energy-efficiency practices.

As Asia’s cities expand rapidly into urban commercial hubs, there should be further vigorous efforts to promote construction in line with principles of energy efficiency.

The installation of proven technologies such as solar panels, biomass converters, smart meters and sensors could lower operating costs through smaller energy bills. Retrofitting existing buildings in a similar fashion will create jobs and contribute to economic prosperity.

In rural areas, funding for small-scale renewable energy projects will empower lives and drive the improvement of living standards.

While Asia’s rising dependence on natural gas has given it some respite from volatile oil prices and concerns over rising emissions, it is not a silver bullet to our energy security and environmental concerns. Gas is still a fossil fuel. It is a crucial part of the energy mix that will move us to a world anchored by renewable energy, but it should be part of the transition, and not a destination.


If we do the maths on where we are today in terms of carbon emissions, we will easily conclude that we are not moving in the right direction. Global carbon emissions have just hit 400 parts per million of carbon and are tipped to rise if we keep to a business-as-usual scenario.

The CWR is keen to work with the vibrant shipping sector on fuel efficiency, with the airline sector to develop biofuels and with major real estate developers to promote energy-efficient building practices.

As I mentioned during last year’s Singapore International Energy Week, we believe it is possible for policy-makers, industry and entrepreneurs to reverse the trajectory of rising carbon emissions. This can happen with existing technology and within existing policy frameworks.

In Asia, there is so much new business taking place here, and so many imaginative ways that we can do it in a carbon-friendly instead of a carbon-dirty manner. There is no Planet B, we have no second chance, we need to act now.


Jose Maria Figueres Olsen is the former President of Costa Rica. He currently serves as the President of The Carbon War Room and is Co-Chair of the Global Ocean Commission. He is also a slated speaker at next month’s Singapore International Energy Week.

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Floating hospital in China dedicated to caring for sea turtles

UPI 3 Sep 13;

XINCUN PORT, China, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- A village in China's Hainan province has the world's only floating sea turtle hospital to care for the state-protected endangered species, its founder says.

The whitewashed structure sits in the Xincun Port, a floating village where local residents seldom set foot on land, living in wooden cabins set up on rows of fishing rafts.

The hospital was founded by Frederick C. Yeh, a 32-year-old Chinese-American who graduated from medical school at Johns Hopkins University in the United States in 2005.

Planning on becoming a medical doctor, on a trip to his childhood home in Hainan in 2007 Yeh discovered sea turtles were being sold for meat and shells in local markets.

"We have plenty of food that's available to us, but these animals are endangered, and there are not many left," Yeh told China's state-run Xinhua news agency. "If we keep on eating them, eventually they will be extinct."

Deciding to change his career path, in 2008 Yeh founded Sea Turtle 911, a non-profit organization rescuing sea turtles across coastal regions in Hainan.

In the past four years, Yeh and a group of volunteers have saved more than 150 turtles, about 100 of which have been released back into the sea.

At his floating hospital, 14 "patients" are currently being treated, including a Hawksbill turtle that lost one of its limbs, a green turtle with a sunken shell, and many other injured or sick olive ridley sea turtles.

Yeh and his volunteers are offering training courses across Hainan, calling for children and their families to join his protection efforts.

"My plan is to stay in China and not go back to the Unites States until I see the end of the sea turtle market," he said. "I know that it will end at some point; hopefully, it will be the case that people will stop buying and there will be no market."

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Industrialisation of the Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef

Tourism council makes pre-election plea for Great Barrier Reef
Industrialisation of the Queensland coast will be shaped by a federal government decision on port expansion
Oliver Milman 4 Sep 13;

The peak body for Queensland's tourism industry has urged the Coalition, if it wins the election, not to be swayed by mining lobbyists looking to industrialise the Great Barrier Reef.

Daniel Gschwind, the chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, told Guardian Australia there was concern for the reef over the growth of coal ports and increased chemical run-off. He said the council was also worried about the prospects of job losses in tourism.

"The health of the reef is of enormous importance to us," he said. "When you ask prospective visitors why they would come to Australia, the reef features extremely highly on the list. It's fair to say we haven't been as vocal as other industries that are better resourced than us in the hurly burly of politics to make their arguments to government.

"We have consistently called for a long-term, balanced approach. We are certainly not anti-mining as it is very important to the economy, but we do have to manage those long-term threats. Two years ago every port that was proposed was seen as vital, but as the economics have changed they haven't been needed. That's why we need a long-term view."

It is estimated that the Great Barrier Reef contributes about $6.1bn to the national economy through tourism and provides work for more than 63,000 people.

Gschwind said that his members were "worried" about the state of the reef, which has lost half its coral cover in less than 30 years, but stressed there are "huge areas still in pristine shape".

He added that it would be "regrettable" if Unesco's world heritage committee carried through with its threat to list the reef as "in danger" next year, which could hamper the growth of the Queensland tourism industry.

"Both the Queensland government and the prospective federal government have said they are aware of the importance of looking after the environment and I think we've made great progress in maintaining the Great Barrier Reef marine park," Gschwind said. "I would be bitterly disappointed if an incoming government of whatever colour didn't recognise the value of the reef."

The scale of the industrialisation of the Queensland coast will be determined in part by the federal government's decision on whether to allow the dredging and expansion of Abbot Point port and a second shipping lane at Gladstone's port.

Aside from short-term threats from shipping, dredged waste and an outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, the reef is also at risk from climate change.

New research released by the University of Queensland shows that the future of Australia's coral reefs is under severe threat under a "business as usual" approach to carbon emissions that would lead to a temperature increase of about 4C by the end of the century.

The nine-month study, conducted on Heron Island and published in the scientific journal PNAS, found that coral reefs dissolve rapidly once exposed to warmer, more acidic ocean conditions.

"We discovered that coral reefs under the business-as-usual-emission scenario, the one we are on, show high rates of decalcification," said associate professor Sophie Dove, who led the study. "Essentially, dissolving before our eyes over a few months. This has serious implications for the role of coral reefs in providing habitat for thousands of species and their role in protecting coastlines from wave impacts."

Larissa Waters, Greens senator for Queensland, told Guardian Australia that recent plans released by the Coalition and Labor don't go far enough to safeguard the reef.

"Both the old parties seem to have a blind spot to the industrialisation of the reef," she said. "The agenda of the Coalition shows that the mining industry gets all that it wants on a silver platter. We want a clear restriction on port development, as cited by the world heritage committee.

"It's clear that tourism operators are worried about the full suite of threats facing the reef, but they don't want to speak out too much or risk deterring their clientele. I have sympathy for them."

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