Best of our wild blogs: 17 Sep 13

Shelter from the Storm
from Pulau Hantu

malayan water monitor holed up @ pasir ris mangrove 14Sep2013
from sgbeachbum

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Paya Lebar land will be ‘worth billions’ in positive returns

Defence Minister says benefits far outweigh cost of move; also reveals plans to boost air-defence capabilities
Xue Jian Yue Today Online 17 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE — The planned relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base may prove costly as it requires highly skilled expertise, but Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday the redevelopment of the area could reap benefits that far outweigh the move.

Described by Dr Ng as a “long-term and complex undertaking” requiring “fairly intense and highly skilled engineering”, the relocation involves building a new military air base and fourth runway at Changi East at around 2030.

The Defence Ministry (Mindef) will be working closely with the Ministry of National Development (MND) for the relocation, which will free up an area bigger than Bishan and Toa Payoh for new homes, offices and factories.

“In coming in to this decision, we have worked together with MND to calculate the trade-offs,” he said.

“It all balances because the space that is released … including the height templates around it, on a net basis, it is many billions dollars’ worth of positive returns to the people of Singapore.”

The minister was replying to Member of Parliament (Nee Soon GRC) Lim Wee Kiak’s questions on the cost of the planned relocation of the air base, and how the Government will maintain the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) operational readiness in light of the move.

Dr Ng did not, however, say how much the planned relocation, which was announced last month, would cost.

Dr Ng also briefed the House on Singapore’s plans to upgrade its air-defence capabilities, which includes the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) buying a new missile defence system “many times more potent” than the current I-HAWK ground-based air defence system, he said.

Called the ASTER-30 Surface-to-Air Missile System, it will allow Singapore to engage multiple air-borne threats simultaneously and from a longer distance, Dr Ng explained.

The RSAF is also building a multi-layered Island Air Defence System to provide a “comprehensive shield” against airborne threats.

“This includes at the outer perimeter, our existing Gulfstream-550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft, which replaced the E2C in 2012, and significantly enhanced our early warning and air defence capabilities through its better endurance and longer range of detection,” Dr Ng said.

Together with a shorter-range air defence system called SPYDER, the long-range ASTER-30 Surface-to-Air Missile System will contribute to Singapore’s air defence shield.

The RSAF also plans to upgrade its F-16 fighters and is evaluating whether the multi-role F-35 fighter can meet Singapore’s security needs, said the Defence Minister.

Wrapping up his parliamentary reply, Dr Ng said that Mindef and the SAF had in 2011 conducted a “thorough” assessment of Singapore’s capabilities and security threats.

“We satisfied ourselves that our security would not be compromised and that relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base could take place after existing air bases at Changi East and Tengah Air Base have been expanded to accommodate relocated assets and facilities,” he added.

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Claims under Govt’s haze subsidy scheme exceed 10,000

Today Online 17 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE — Over 10,000 claims have been made for the haze subsidy scheme introduced in June — when air quality plummeted. The scheme is aimed at helping Singaporeans cope with medical ailments resulting from the haze.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question from Dr Fatimah Lateef, Marine Parade GRC Member of Parliament, asking for an update on the scheme, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said, under the scheme, participating general practitioner (GP) clinics have seen around 8,200 attendances for haze-related conditions, with another 2,600 at the polyclinics.

Under the scheme, Singaporeans who are elderly, children or in the lower-income group pay S$10 to see a doctor from participating GP clinics or the polyclinics, for respiratory or eye conditions due to the haze.

The rest of the bill is subsidised by the Government.

Mr Gan also said the number of participating GP clinics has steadily increased, from 200 at the inception of the scheme to more than 650 clinics today.

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AVA: Seafood imports safe for consumption

Straits Times 17 Sep 13;

THE Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has in place an integrated and comprehensive food safety system based on science and risk analysis ("How safe is Pacific Ocean seafood?" by Mr Michael Loh; last Tuesday).

All food imports have to comply with our safety standards and requirements. They are subjected to regular inspections and sampling to test for a wide range of hazards known to be associated with food.

For example, wild-caught seafood products are routinely tested for a wide range of food-borne hazards such as heavy metals and radioactive contaminants.

As for the recent developments in Fukushima that Mr Loh highlighted, food products from the prefecture remain suspended.

Products such as fruits and vegetables, seafood, meat, milk and milk products imported from other prefectures are subjected to the AVA's sampling and testing to ensure they are not contaminated with radiation.

Any contaminated product will not be allowed for import into Singapore.

We have also been working closely with the Japanese authorities to ensure that only food products that are free from radionuclide contamination are allowed for export to Singapore, and that the source of the food products is traceable. For example, food products must be accompanied by a certificate of origin to identify the prefecture of origin.

The AVA is committed to ensuring that all food imported into Singapore is safe.

We reassure consumers that all seafood imports available in the Singapore market are safe for consumption, and we will continue to monitor the development and situation in Japan.

Yap Him Hoo (Dr)
Group Director, Quarantine and Inspection Group
For Chief Executive Officer
Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

How safe is Pacific Ocean seafood?
Straits Times Forum 10 Sep 13;

RECENTLY, there has been news about how the Japanese are having difficulty preventing the radiation leak at Fukushima from entering the sea ("Seoul ban on fish from Japan"; last Saturday).

I have also read online articles of Pacific Ocean seafood being found with mild to hazardous levels of radiation. Though I am uncertain about the scientific basis of these articles, I am getting concerned.

What is the allowable level of radioactivity in seafood? Does imported seafood from the Pacific Ocean get checked for radiation?

Can the relevant authorities comment on this?

Michael Loh

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Law Ministry to study ownership of underground space

Goh Chin Lian Straits Times 17 Sep 13;

THE Law Ministry will study how countries such as Japan and Finland treat the ownership of underground space as urban planners here mull over the possibility of developing Singapore's subterranean areas more extensively.

Singapore's law now assumes the owner of the surface land also owns the underground space "to a depth that is reasonably necessary for the use and enjoyment of the property", said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah in Parliament yesterday.

But some countries, she noted, allow owners of land on the surface to have a "certain depth" of underground space for their use, while enabling deeper subterranean space to be used for underground projects.

She was replying to Mr Liang Eng Hwa, an MP in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, who had asked for the official position on ownership of underground space.

Mr Liang's question was prompted by a blog post by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan earlier this month.

Mr Khaw wrote that underground space in Singapore could be exploited for a range of uses, such as transport hubs, cycling lanes, research facilities and shopping areas.

His ministry is "thinking of the possibility of developing an underground equivalent of the Master Plan" for land use, which is being updated, he had said.

Yesterday, Ms Indranee said her ministry will work with the industry and study other countries to arrive at a "sensible approach".

She assured Mr Liang that the issues he raised are being studied, such as whether new laws are needed on the rights of landowners and if future underground space would be an asset that can be mortgaged.

She said: "We will consult stakeholders and set up a sound framework for agencies to realise the vision of more space to live, work and play."

Law assumes surface land owner also owns underground space
S Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 16 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: The law in Singapore currently assumes that the owner of surface land also owns the underground space to a depth that is reasonably necessary for the use and enjoyment of the property, said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

Making the point in Parliament on Monday was Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah, who was replying to a question on developing underground space and the ownership of such space.

Ms Indranee said the Ministry of National Development's objectives are important ones and the Law Ministry will work with the industry on how these objectives can be realised.

In this context, the Ministry will also consider the experiences of other countries on what would be a sensible approach.

Ms Indranee noted that some countries allowed owners of the surface land to have a certain depth of underground space for their use, while enabling deeper subterranean space to be used for underground projects.

The Law Ministry said it will consult stakeholders and set up a sound framework for agencies to realise the vision of more space to live, work and play.

- CNA/gn

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EcoFriend awards for 8 green champions

Straits Times 17 Sep 13;

EIGHT individuals will receive this year's EcoFriend awards for their work towards environmental sustainability.

Among the recipients, who were chosen from a field of 419 nominees, are a pre-school principal, the founder of green-talk series Green Drinks, and a youth leader of a movement to keep Singapore clean.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Sept 24, the National Environment Agency said yesterday.

Ms Susan Tan, 48, zone principal of several Kinderland pre- schools, was recognised for overseeing efforts to teach pupils not to litter, and to recycle materials such as cardboard and toilet paper rolls for craft-making.

Eco-campaigner Olivia Choong, 34, won the award for organising Green Drinks, a series of talks by representatives from the Government, non-government groups, academia, and industry on topics ranging from recycling to haze.

The other award winners are Mr Loh Yi Rong, vice-chair of the Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement youth committee; Mr Desmond Chua, general manager of Keppel Club; Mr Eden Liew, principal of ITE College East; Ms Regina Chong, chair of the Kim Seng community centre youth executive committee; Ms Lee Qian Yi, membership secretary of the Ci Yuan community centre youth executive committee; and Mr Lee Jun Wei, executive committee member of the National Youth Achievement Award gold award holders alumni.

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Kalimantan’s Island Closure Puts Sea Turtles at Risk, Says NGO

Dyah Ayu Pitaloka Jakarta Globe 16 Sep 13;

Malang. Environmental activists continue to denounce the closure of a key turtle nesting island off East Kalimantan by the authorities, warning that thousands of endangered green sea turtles are at risk.

Conservation efforts in the island have ceased since last year after local residents drove out conservationists from the area as they demanded to manage their own conservation efforts. Residents had complained that conservation was better managed before the involvement of nongovernmental organizations.

Hiltrud Cordes, a member of the Turtle Foundation, a German NGO focusing on turtle conservation, said the organization feared that the loss of access to Sangalaki Island in the Berau Marine Conservation Area would undermine the survival prospects of the green turtle.

“We are worried that the eggs in the 3,500 nests that we usually find in Sangalaki will be poached by humans,” Cordes said, adding that each egg was usually sold at a price of Rp 8,000 (70 cents).

The Turtle Foundation has conducted several conservation efforts in the area, such as identifying the spread of female turtles during the laying period and ensuring eggs hatch in the right location.

The foundation has also conducted regular patrols in the waters and beaches along the island.

“In 2006, we used a GPS device to track the migration of our female sea turtles. The result is [that we found] the female turtles had gone looking for food in the Philippines and Malaysia. They would then return to Berau in time to lay their eggs after two to four years,” Cordes said.

She expressed fear that the local government’s move to close down Sangalaki would put the future of sea turtles in the area in serious danger.

“Results from our conservation efforts can only be monitored in the next 20 to 30 years. Mature turtles will only lay eggs after reaching the age of 20 to 30 years, from an average lifespan of 60 years,” she said.

During a recent conservation conference in Malang hosted by the group ProFauna, Matias Muchus, who represents ProFauna Indonesia, emphasized the importance of conducting a nature-based conservation effort, warning that forcing animals to reproduce outside their natural habitat would interfere with the food chain and their function in nature.

“Animals should be set free in the wild. Conservation efforts have to aim to return animals to their original habitat and maintain the balance of nature,” the activist said.

The turtles in the island face also face constant natural threats, such as from monitor lizards or humans, Cordes said.

“The natural threats include predators such as lizards and humans. Every 10 nests can produce up to 500 female adult turtles,” she said.

The foundation has been working on conserving turtles in Kalimantan since the year 2000, with a focus on three islands, namely Bilangbilangan, Mataha and Sangalaki, with the latter said to host up to 3,500 nests every year.

According to the Turtle Foundation, every nest contains approximately 100 eggs, and while most will hatch, only one hatchling will live to grow into an adult.

“For instance, if there are one million eggs from 10,000 nests, there will only be about 1,000 hatchlings,” Cordes said during the ProFauna event.

“From that number, the probability of having a female and male turtle is 50:50, so only 500 will return to Berau to lay their eggs. Male turtles never go back to the location from where they hatch,” she said.

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