Best of our wild blogs: 7 Sep 13

Macritchie Memories
from The Green Beans

Roosting of Long-tailed Parakeet
from Bird Ecology Study Group

From MNT to Ranger Station
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Otters at Buloh
from Art in Wetlands

Wildfacts updates: wonderful molluscs and more!
from wild shores of singapore

Tue, 10 Sep 2013, 12.30pm @ CF1: Andrew Balmford on “Nature’s glass: half-full or half-empty?”
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Development vs environmental protection: Public discussion needed

Tan Wee Cheng Today Online 7 Sep 13;

The area along Ayer Rajah Expressway was once lush with greenery, but now science parks, educational institutions, condominiums and industrial complexes stand in its place.

Trees and vegetation cover help retain water and prevent surface run-off in ways that concrete surfaces and storm drains cannot. I am therefore not surprised that flash floods shut down part of the expressway on Thursday (“Floods hit western S’pore”, Sept 6).

Indeed, the question of whether the decrease in vegetation cover in the Orchard Road and Bukit Timah areas — as a result of increasing development — is linked to the floods that occurred there has been raised.

In the coming decades, could the next flood hot spots be the central-north region, where for decades the dense vegetation at areas like Bukit Brown, Bidadari and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve has helped absorb surface run-off?

With plans to develop Bukit Brown and Bidadari, as well as the future Cross Island MRT line that could cut through nature reserves, we may be removing the last natural bastions against flooding in the area.

Given public concern over flooding and the potential increase in insurance premiums to include risks associated with flooding, the Government should make public the outcome of detailed Environmental Impact Assessments on its proposed development plans and encourage public discussion of the trade-offs between development and environmental protection.

I also urge the Government to consider flooding concerns when drawing up the proposed master plan for underground spaces (“Govt mulling large-scale underground developments”, Sept 4).

Cities like Montreal and Toronto can develop elaborate underground networks of malls, public spaces and industrial facilities as they also have large areas of high ground within their central metropolitan areas that are subject to strict nature conservation rules.

The dense natural vegetation of Montreal’s Mount Royal and Toronto’s complex ravine system have long been credited for not only preventing urban flooding but helping to keep summer temperatures low within the densely-populated urban areas.

Floods in urban areas are Mother Nature’s way of telling us that relentless development has its limits, and we should heed the signs before worse disruptions occur.

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Interim solution for AYE flood problem

PUB will build tidal gate at canal in 6 to 9 months
Rachel Au-yong And Lim Yi Han Straits Times 7 Sep 13;

A DAY after flash floods ground morning rush-hour traffic to a halt on the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), national water agency PUB has come up with an interim plan to solve the problem in that area.

It will build a tidal gate at the Sungei Pandan Kechil canal within six to nine months. The 2m-tall steel gate near West Coast Road prevents high tide from the sea from flowing into the canal, by creating a temporary storage area.

"If we can cut out the influence of the tide, it helps buy some time during severe rain," PUB's director of catchment and waterways Tan Nguan Sen told The Straits Times.

A city-bound stretch of the AYE shut down for 40 minutes on Thursday morning, as the combination of heavy rain and high tides "stressed out" the area's drainage system, said Mr Tan, with water overflowing onto all four lanes of the major artery. The problem was compounded by the fact that the AYE sits atop a junction where three drains meet, before they channel out to the canal.

Because each drain carries water from a different direction, the intersection at which they meet faces a lot of resistance. This slows down the speed at which water can flow through, said Mr Tan.

PUB will also widen culverts at the intersection to allow a higher volume of water to pass - a process that will start by the end of this month and be completed by the end of the year.

The agency intends to widen and deepen the canal, but that would "require more thorough investigation" and upgrading works will take place only in 2015, said Mr Tan.

PUB will also consider building a barrage - a larger version of a tidal gate - in the long term.

"But we'll try to push forward these plans as fast as we can; that's our priority," said Mr Tan.

Heavy rain continued yesterday morning, although no flash floods were reported.

The National University of Singapore, where several facilities were flooded in Thursday's downpour, said it is looking at solutions to mitigate floods.

The highest total daily rainfall recorded on Thursday was 122mm at Holland Road. That is more than the amount of rain that fell for the whole of last September - 107.6mm.

The rain was particularly heavy on Thursday due to "the convergence of winds over the region", said the National Environment Agency.

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Gardens and parks rise to the top

Besides more elaborate green spaces, public housing estates now also have gardens on rooftops
Natasha Ann Zachariah Straits Times 7 Sep 13;

Landscaping in newer public housing developments has reached a new level as gardens and shared amenities are now designed to be above ground.

The evolution of these green spaces was seen among the various projects taking home prizes at the Housing and Development Board Awards which were given out on Tuesday. They were given to contractors and developers of HDB projects for good design and constructing homes well.

Take, for example, Casa Clementi in Clementi Avenue 1. The one-year-old estate boasts a 15,000 sq m landscaped deck that links the third storeys of the development's 10 blocks. Residents of the 2,234-unit estate enjoy amenities such as children's playgrounds, senior citizens' exercise corners and pavilions spread across this landscaped deck.

Well-manicured bushes and tall trees line the expansive space and cover up airwells so that carparks on the first and second storeys are out of sight.

At the awards ceremony, Casa Clementi's contractor Straits Construction won the Distinguished Construction Award for its quality work, innovative building methods, project management and efforts to engage the community, while its designer Surbana International Consultants won the top award for the design.

Other projects with well-thought-out raised green spaces include Punggol Breeze, a 12-block HDB project with 964flats; Punggol Spectra, which has 1,142 units; and Senja Green in Bukit Panjang, which has 474 units.

Bounded by Punggol Drive and Edgefield Plains, the Punggol Breeze estate, which was completed in December last year, has a 270m linear roof garden atop the multi-storey carpark, and is the longest roof garden in Punggol.

The 7,000 sq m common green is planted with palm trees and willows, which will help reduce heat from the atmosphere and glare from the windows of the flats.

Ms Hoo Xin Yu, executive landscape architect from the development and procurement group at HDB, says that where possible, designers will "try to maximise areas for greenery and landscaping".

Indeed, since HDB started building flats 52 years ago, the landscape surrounding public housing has gone from basic trees and children's playgrounds to precincts that incorporate plants and trees, lawn areas and play stations for multi-generational use.

Plants and flowering shrubs are carefully chosen for their durability, ability to provide shade and easy maintenance.

Since 2009, all new multi-storey carpark roofs have been designed as accessible roof gardens, and planter systems were put in for large plants. Spaces have also been set aside for residents to start community gardens in the future.

Compared to the days when carparks were situated in front of flats, Ms Hoo, 26, says: "Instead of looking out at cars, the playground and gardens are a much nicer view. Also, this design makes the communal areas safer as they are free from traffic flow."

On Wednesday, HDB launched a landscape guide to help developers plan better public housing areas and showcase current good designs.

The move is timely as newer neighbourhoods such as the upcoming Bidadari estate in Woodleigh, and potential public housing sites at the soon-to-be- demolished Paya Lebar airbase and Southern Waterfront City in Tanjong Pagar will be going into the design phase.

Ms Hoo says while HDB blocks may look similar, no two gardens are alike because designing landscapes depends on the size of the land.

For example, Punggol Breeze has a "meandering garden" while Casa Clementi's is more linear.

But do not expect sky gardens, such as those in The Pinnacle@Duxton in Outram and the upcoming SkyVille@Dawson in Queenstown, in most of HDB's new projects.

In those developments, residents have access to gardens that can be found every 11 storeys in the 40-storey-tall Woha- designed SkyVille@Dawson, and on the 50th storey at The Pinnacle@Duxton.

This is because the pool of plants which can survive at such heights are small, and the garden can be difficult and costly to maintain. For example, trees, which can provide shade but have huge roots, cannot be planted too high up as there is no space for their roots to grow.

Ms Hoo says: "We've had to change the way we design, so that we can maximise every site, and still have space for playgrounds and parks, even if it's above ground level.

"These common areas and the greenery help make the neighbourhood look nicer than just having flats alone, and encourage residents to spend time outside and meet their neighbours too."

Casa Clementi resident Thomas Tey, who lives in a four-room flat, loves how the gardenscape has the feel of private condominiums.

The 37-year-old real estate valuer, who often walks his dog there, says: "My friends even expect there to be a pool, just like in a condo. It's a one-of-a-kind design where you get the garden this big, so I'm really impressed."

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Buy without owning: Better for you, for Earth

El'fred Boo Today Online 6 Sep 13;

Do you throw out your unwanted electrical and electronic devices such as spent batteries, computers and phones with your other trash? Such an act is illegal in certain parts of Europe and the United States.

Inconsistent legal frameworks on the disposal of hazardous waste electronics (e-waste) as well as the lack of awareness of its danger and irreversible damage to the environment and human health are two of many reasons why e-waste is a major problem today.

E-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams today, at three times the rate of municipal waste globally, with only 13 per cent of e-waste reported to be recycled, with or without safety procedures. Rapid technological changes, falling prices and increasing wealth accentuate the problem of a “throw-away” society, with the majority of e-waste ending up in landfills and incinerators.

In landfills, discarded e-waste releases chemicals and heavy metals, contaminating groundwater and the food chain. What started as minute chemical contamination bio-accumulates thousands of times over at the top of the food chain in breast milk, contributing to multiple types of organ damage and birth defects.

Burning e-waste, on the other hand, could release carbon dioxide, dioxin and other toxic gases that exacerbate the global warming problem and pollution — particularly if e-waste is dumped in developing countries where incineration is conducted without adequate gas traps and filters, in spite of a prohibition of such exports under the Basel Ban Amendment in 2011.


Can we enjoy regular upgrades to the latest models of electronic devices as rapidly as new technology supersedes the old, without contributing to the e-waste problem?

This is possible with a rethink and revamp of the existing business model — from one where customers buy things to one where customers buy needs-fulfilment without owning things.

It is similar to a rental or leasing business where customers pay per use, from as short as an hour to a couple of years. The buy-without-owning (BWO) business model is obviously more capital intensive and it exposes the manufacturer and distributor (the seller) to higher risk of technological obsolescence.

Confronted with this risk, however, the seller will pay closer attention to product design to minimise the risk, including improving the reusability, recapturing and recycling of components in superseded models and ensuring optimal environmental performance even at their end of life — in short, design for the environment.

Recycling raw materials from end-of-life electronics has been identified as the most effective solution to diminishing natural resources and e-waste problems. Repairing defective products minimises e-waste by extending their useful lives.

iFixit, a website offering do-it-yourself repair manuals and parts to fight the global e-waste problem, recently awarded the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet the lowest possible repairability score of 1 out of 10.

In contrast, under the existing business model of customers buying and owning electronic devices, no one takes responsibility for the discarded gadgets at the end of their product lives. They eventually end up as trash in landfills, releasing harmful chemicals into the environment, or are incinerated, which exacerbates carbon emission and toxic gas problems.



Apart from alleviating the e-waste problem, the BWO business model fulfils other sustainable business principles. First, it provides higher value proposition to customers by eliminating significant capital outlay except for a small amount of rental deposit, and by fulfilling their needs without the associated ownership costs such as maintenance cost and technological obsolescence.

Customers also enjoy greater flexibility in switching between different product classes and models, with no costs incurred when an item is not needed. The superior value proposition will boost demand, which will further increase scale economies.

Second, the seller will produce durable and fault-resistant products to minimise depreciation and repair costs borne by itself, which also better fulfil customers’ needs by minimising product malfunctioning and downtime. The seller is also more likely to produce more energy-efficient products that beat market competition and reduce product-running costs borne by customers.

More critically, under the BWO model, the seller generates revenue by finding ways to better fulfil customer needs instead of shortening the product life, for example, through planned obsolescence.


Thirdly, the vertical integration will enable the seller to develop more intimate product knowledge given its involvement in the full life cycle of its product.

In providing maintenance and repair service as part of the rental contract, the seller can identify product flaws better and use such information to improve on its manufacturing process and product design.

The seller is superior to any other parties in undertaking repairs and assuming the technology risk of its own products.

Finally, BWO addresses the incomplete costing problem by internalising the external costs.

The seller would need to pay closer attention to all materials that go into its products and determine how to deal with these products at end of life.

BWO brings businesses closer to closed-loop production by creating products that do not end up in landfills or the incinerator. It provides a better alignment of all stakeholders’ interests, including those of the customers, the wider community and planet Earth.

BWO is superior to existing business model because for various reasons, including the lack of awareness and inconvenience, customers might not return discarded electronics to manufacturers even if legislation exists in countries such as the US that requires manufacturers to take back their toxin-laden discarded electronics from consumers for recycling.


While the BWO model faces new challenges with its vertical integration and added complexities, its strong value proposition to customers and the sustainable principles it espouses makes it a compelling model for any forward-looking leaders to consider adopting — particularly before the inevitable sets in, including a mandatory requirement for sustainable practices, as the e-waste problem worsens.

In Europe and Japan, manufacturers (such as BMW, Daimler, Nissan and Peugeot) are already providing cars and bikes for hire on short leases, even on a per-hour basis.

The BWO business model is particularly compelling for electrical and electronic equipment, furniture and household items that are used only intermittently or seasonally, such as formal, maternity and winter wear, strollers, cots, toys and luggage bags.

Examples of BWO businesses in Singapore include furniture (, copiers (, maternity wear (, toys ( and bags (

Courts Asia also introduced a plan for customers to rent its electronic merchandise in June last year.

There is even a peer-to-peer rental portal that promotes the green idea of “collaborative consumption” in Singapore ( with funding support from SPRING Singapore.

With increasing green awareness and more acute space constraints as more people live in shoebox apartments, BWO businesses are poised to be a sunrise industry.

Ultimately, as consumers, we collectively shape how scarce resources are used, and the choices we make have a significant impact on the state of our Mother Earth.

“Less is more” is inching closer to reality as we might no longer have any choice but to embrace it as the key to our survival.

El’fred Boo is an associate professor of accounting at Nanyang Business School. His research interests include corporate governance, auditing, behavioural and ethical issues; he teaches risk management, control and ethics.

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Malaysia: 'Do not wipe out Gunung Kanthan'

Isabelle Lai The Star 7 Sep 13;

IPOH: Environmentalists are urging Lafarge Malaysia Berhad to mine for limestone underground instead of extending its quarrying activities to the remaining untouched parts of the 400-million-year-old Gunung Kanthan.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamad said the company, which is a subsidiary of construction materials manufacturing giant Lafarge Group, should invest in technology to do underground mining in Ipoh.

“Around 90% of our limestone resources are underground. Lafarge has the technology, so it does not have to wipe out the remaining surface area,” he said, adding that other companies were already carrying out underground mining for limestone in Perak and other states.

Dr Maketab said MNS had written to Lafarge International on July 18, urging it not to quarry zones C and D of Gunung Kanthan, which has a huge amount of biodiversity and is home to the endemic trapdoor spider Liphistius Kanthan and rare Serow goat Capricornus Sumatraensis.

Both species are fully protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

Liphistius Kanthan, found only in Gua Kanthan, is rated as being critically endangered in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List which is a system for assessing the level of threat to the continued survival of the various plant and animal species.

“We are not asking to kick them out or put a halt to the limestone industry. They are already using the north side, which are zones A, B and E, and they should continue with underground mining there,” he said, adding that it would be meeting Lafarge representatives on Monday.

Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) plant taxonomist Dr Ruth Kiew said existing quarrying activities on the northern side might have caused the extinction of the Paraboea Vulpina, a critically endangered plant from the African Violet family.

“We collected it in 1990 when MNS did a survey. Now, we can’t find it,” she said, adding that there were another seven plant species there which were also listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Lafarge Kanthan plant manager Sekar Kaliannan had said earlier that initial studies of zone C indicated that it “does not contain sensitive biodiversity”.

Sekar had added that the company’s focus was on managing zone D appropriately.

Kiew said it was critical for areas C and D to be conserved as a unit due to the interactive nature of the ecosystem there.

She said there was also a limestone forest and swamp in zone C, which was home to the Serow goat.

“If they take zone C, the Serow will not be able to live on Gunung Kanthan, and it will also mean the end of Gunung Kanthan,” she said.

Representatives from cave temples located at Gunung Kanthan are also against the proposal to quarry zones C and D as the temples would be destroyed by blasting activities.

There are three Taoist and two Hindu temples, as well as one Buddhist monastery located at zones C and D.

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