ASEAN environment ministers reaffirm Haze Monitoring System

Channel NewsAsia 25 Sep 2013;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said his ASEAN counterparts have reaffirmed Singapore's recommendation for an ASEAN Haze Monitoring system to be implemented.

Dr Balakrishnan said this on his Facebook page on Wednesday at the end of the 14th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting of the Environment, and the 9th Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (COP-9).

The meetings were held in Surabaya, Indonesia.

According to a statement issued by those at the meeting, the system will include digitised land-use maps and concession maps of haze prone regions. These will be shared on a government-to-government basis.

Dr Balakrishnan said the relevant countries have also agreed to take prompt action to address the issue of haze based on decisions to be made at next month's ASEAN Summit.

Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said the ministers also agreed to set up a Task Force comprising experts on Fire and Haze Assessment and Coordination.

The panel of experts will review the existing alert levels and formulate trigger points.

The ministers also noted that many ASEAN Member States have contributed to the Transboundary Haze Pollution Control Fund, with the aim of realising a pledge of providing an initial seed contribution of US$500,000 for the fund.

Dr Balakrishnan also highlighted that a change in wind direction could potentially bring the haze from Sumatra to Singapore on Wednesday night.

He said his ministry will be monitoring the situation closely.

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Sep 13

Sun 29 Sept – Nature Ramble
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Chek Jawa (21 September 2013)
from teamseagrass

Early marine trash numbers and effort from four zones
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Raffles Museum Toddycats and friends clear 1.5 tonnes of marine debris for ICCS 2013 from Toddycats!

Owl, snakes and spiders at Pasir Ris Mangrove Boardwalk
from Peiyan.Photography

Butterflies Galore! : Archduke
from Butterflies of Singapore

Insects in the bird garden: 2. Butterflies and Lime Plant
from Bird Ecology Study Group

What is this strange worm-like creature at Pasir Ris Park?
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Water pollution? Yellowish liquid spotted in Loyang industrial estate's drainage from Lazy Lizard's Tales

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Temasek Polytechnic to work with fish farm industry; $46k worth of help for students

Charissa Yong Straits Times 23 Sep 13;

Temasek Polytechnic will be setting up a field laboratory in a fish farm here to research fish health management, as well as develop training courses for farm employees.

The school signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with Lubritrade Ocean, which acquired a fish farm worth about $1 million in June. The two organisations will set up an on-site field laboratory to research the health and nutrition of fish food.

"The natural sea water conditions in cage fish farming would provide excellent test-bed conditions...This would enable us to develop a more realistic solution for addressing the needs and issues faced by local fish farmers," said Dr Lee Chee Wee, the director of Temasek Polytechnic's School of Applied Science.

As part of the partnership, applied science students can get six full-term scholarships and three book prizes, amounting to $45,900 over a period of three years. Temasek Polytechnic will also be identifying suitable training courses for the farm employees to help them to manage farm operations more effectively.

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HDB plans to go big on solar energy

Agency calls largest solar-leasing tender, looking to cover 125 blocks
Grace Chua Straits Times 25 Sep 13;

THE Housing Board is working on its largest single solar-leasing project to date - and is also looking into households being able to buy electricity made from the sun's energy.

Last month, it called its largest solar-leasing tender: for a company to own and operate panels on some 125 blocks in Ang Mo Kio, Sengkang, Serangoon North and Buangkok.

These would produce 5MW of electricity in optimum conditions, or 5 megawatts-peak (MWp), enough to power more than 1,000 four-room HDB flats.

The HDB will offset up to 30 per cent of the start-up costs, and, in turn, buy the electricity for 20 years at a 5 per cent or greater discount off the prevailing market price. This electricity would power lights in corridors and common areas, lifts and water pumps, among other things.

Another tender in May, to generate 2MWp for 40 blocks in Jurong East, includes a possible new option of allowing households to buy the excess electricity generated during the day, again at a discount off the market rate.

"HDB is studying the feasibility of enabling residents to obtain green energy from the vendor directly," a spokesman said. No details are available yet, she added.

Currently, solar panels installed on HDB rooftops in Punggol by leasing company Sunseap generate enough to fully power common area services - such as lifts and lights - in the day; the extra electricity is sold to the grid.

Energy Studies Institute research associate Shiva Susarla said leasing companies would make more profit if they could sell the power to households.

"And if the tariff being paid by the households for solar energy is slightly lower than what they are already paying to SP Services, it is good for them, isn't it?" he added.

The project is large for Singapore, though much larger solar "farms" exist in Thailand, India and elsewhere, said Mr Susarla.

Both the Ang Mo Kio and Jurong East projects are scheduled to start next year and be completed in 2015, the HDB said.

The housing agency's $31 million, five-year scheme to test solar energy in 30 precincts around the island has been able to take advantage of the plummeting prices of solar panels. These have come down in the last few years from more than $5.17 per watt installed to about $2.10 today.

Other large projects include a 1.2MWp array atop the distribution centre of supermarket giant Sheng Siong, and a 1MWp one on the Ulu Pandan Newater plant.

Last month, the HDB also called a solar leasing tender for panels that use newer copper indium gallium selenide thin-film technology, which is more energy- and cost-efficient than conventional solar cells, to be put on blocks in Sengkang West, Chua Chu Kang and Yishun.

Already, the existing solar panels in Punggol mean common services in those blocks run almost completely on solar energy in the daytime, and the panels generate enough in the day to offset what lifts, lights and pumps use at night, the HDB said.

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Malaysia: Tawau Hills Park trees to be replaced by geothermal plant

Ruben Sario The Star 25 Sep 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Logging has been allowed at 150ha of the pristine Tawau Hills Park, which is about the size of Penang island, to make way for the nation’s first geothermal power plant.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the clearing and extraction of 1,639 logs was for the project site located in Sabah’s east coast.

They were also meant for the drilling of seven thermal wells in the area, he added.

He said that the logs were also extracted for the construction of roads and laying of pipes involving an area of some 40km.

However, he said that the logs had been sold at a loss as the extraction cost was RM475 per cubic metre while they were sold for just RM420 per cubic metre.

“Timber prices are at a historical low since 2002,” Mannan said in responding to Sabah DAP’s claims of illegal logging operations at the geothermal power plant project site.

Mannan said that the state had received some RM340,000 in royalties from the timber extracted from the area.

Claims that logging at the park area was illegal and for profit were thus baseless and causing unnecessary public alarm, he said.

He said that Tawau forestry officers had carried out a thorough investigation on claims of illegal logging at the 27,972ha park, that serves as the main water catchment area for Tawau and nearby Semporna.

“The only source of logs from the Tawau Hills Park was the site which had been cleared for the RM500mil geothermal plant project,” he was quoted as saying in a local daily.

The 30mW geothermal plant is being built by Tawau Green Energy Sdn Bhd, which signed a 21-year power supply deal with Sabah Electrictity Sdn Bhd last year.

Tawau Hills Park was established in 1979 and has seven major rivers flowing through it.

The highest points in the conservation area are the 1,319m Gunung Magdelena and the 1,201m Gunung Lucia.

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