Best of our wild blogs: 18 Oct 13

Kathy Xu speaks about shark conservation @ NUS, 25th Oct 2013: 11am from Otterman speaks

Terminalia subspathulata
from lekowala!

Weaving through Bidadari ( Muslim Cemetery )
from Rojak Librarian

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Slow going at Marina South Pier

Boat operators say location hard to reach, lacks appeal of Clifford Pier
Walter Sim Straits Times 18 Oct 13;

IT HAS been seven years since the iconic Clifford Pier ceased its ferry services.

But boat operators, who have since moved to Marina South, still reminisce about the good old days in the heart of the Central Business District, where business was better and life was more convenient.

Mr Chua Meng Chuan, the owner of CKL Motor Boat, believes the new pier lacks the appeal of Clifford Pier, which was renowned for its art deco facade.

''Marina South Pier is not a tourist attraction. We do not get many walk-in customers,'' said the 58-year-old, who has been in the family business for over 40 years.

He took over from his father, who was a pioneering entrepreneur when Clifford Pier, fondly referred to as Ang Teng Beh Tao (red lamp pier in Hokkien) due to the lights used to direct sea vessels, first opened in 1933.

In the early days, the bustling pier was a landing point for immigrants. It was also where goods made their way in and out of Singapore, and the departure point for tourists who wanted to visit the Southern Islands.

After a 73-year run, the pier was closed on March 31, 2006, to make way for the construction of other Marina Bay projects, such as the Barrage. The building, conserved by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, has been converted into the Fullerton Bay Hotel.

On the other hand, the three-storey Marina South Pier, which opened on April 1 the same year, is a testament to modernity, with a roof built to look like waves. It houses the $5 million Singapore Maritime Gallery, which was opened last September and showcases maritime achievements in Singapore. Admission to the 1,000 sq m museum, run by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, is free.

Also moored at the pier is a riverboat modelled after the steamers which once travelled the Mississippi River in the US. The Stewords Riverboat, which used to be owned by the A&W fast-food franchise in the 1990s and was originally anchored at Sentosa, hosts two restaurants.

Despite this, the crowds are no longer coming like they did at Clifford Pier. Businesses say that tourist numbers are dwindling, while private charters to the Southern Islands is ''practically non-existent''.

Instead, they stay afloat by offering ferry services to commercial vessels and arranging charters for school excursions to the Southern Islands and Pulau Semakau to visit the landfill. Increasingly, they also work with funeral parlours to take grieving families out to sea to scatter the ashes of the departed.

''People used to be able to walk to Clifford Pier from nearby attractions such as the Merlion and Lau Pa Sat,'' said 64-year-old Michael Goh, operation executive of Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services, the only one running regular scheduled ferry trips to Kusu and St John's islands.

He explained how at least 80 per cent of customers in the past were tourists. ''Seeing the boats, they sometimes think it would be a good idea to charter one to head out to the Southern Islands for a quick tour,'' he said.

During the Kusu pilgrimage in the ninth lunar month, which this year runs from Oct 5 to Nov 2, trips to St John's are halted to free up boats. Even so, numbers have been dwindling. There were 47,000 pilgrims last year, down from 77,000 in 2007 and more than 136,000 in 2001.

Stewords Riverboat owner Eric Saw, 62, said that he stopped lunchtime operations a year ago because ''no one came''. He relies on hosting more private functions to ''make up for the difference''.

Business for Watertours, which runs cruises aboard the Cheng Ho, a replica of a Ming Dynasty imperial vessel, has also suffered after moving to Marina South. Operation supervisor Effa Edros, 37, said business is sustained by bookings from hotels, as it cannot rely on walk-ins. ''On some days we have no bookings at all,'' she said.

The reason for the lack of interest?

Businesses blame a lack of public transport to the area and the ''never-ending construction''. Only one bus - SBS Service 402 - connects the pier to Marina Bay MRT. Usually it takes 25 minutes between buses, although the frequency increases to every 10 minutes during the peak Kusu pilgrimage season.

With fewer than 50 spaces, parking for cars is also limited.

Boat operators also lament the lack of meal options, the unavailability of automated teller machines, and an ''impractical'' design which sees the indoor parts of the pier getting wet during rainstorms.

Mr Henry Lim, 58, who has been with boat operator Leng Launches for 38 years, revealed that until an eatery opened two weeks ago there, employees had to make the lengthy trek to the city for lunch.

''We cannot afford to eat at the restaurants every day,'' added Mr Toh Beng Chuan, 65, a boat operator of 51 years, referring to the outlets on the riverboat. ''We used to have places such as Lau Pa Sat and Golden Shoe Market nearby when we were at Clifford.''

Businesses are now pinning their hopes on new transport developments, including an MRT station on the pier's doorstep, to bring back the crowds.

The Marina South Pier MRT is slated to open next year as part of the North South Line extension.

Meanwhile, the Marina Coastal Expressway is also scheduled to open by year-end.

''This is hard to predict, but of course, we hope with their opening the situation will be better,'' said Mr Lim.

One thing will not change however. The organisation serving the interests of the 17 boat operators in Marina South will continue to be known as the Singapore Clifford Pier Motor Boat Association.

Said CKL Motor's Mr Chua, who is the association's secretary: ''It is always good that we have something to hold onto.''

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Firms 'can profit from being green'

Environmental innovation can lead to commercial advantage, says Tharman
Grace Chua Straits Times 18 Oct 13;

INNOVATIVE companies can avoid sacrificing environmental friendliness for commercial success, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

He was speaking at the opening of sustainable packaging firm Greenpac's new 18,000 sq m premises in Boon Lay.

Greenpac produces packaging for high-tech, delicate equipment like large surgical microscopes but with less reliance on materials like styrofoam, cardboard and wood than other companies. This is not only environmentally friendly but also saves clients shipping costs by cutting packaging weight and size. Some of the packaging is also reusable.

Few firms, conscious of their bottom line, will look only for green products, said chief executive Susan Chong. "But if you give (clients) a (lower) price with green products as a bonus... everybody will want to buy from you."

Over a decade, she has turned the one-woman start-up into a firm with more than 30 staff and a turnover of $70 million a year "while showing that companies can get commercial advantage through environmental value", said Mr Tharman.

In fact, he added, innovation of any sort - environmental or otherwise - can be an advantage. "SMEs (small to medium enterprises) can do well through innovation with all the support the Government is providing," he said.

He added that the Government has several schemes to help such businesses improve technology and efficiency while there are also industrial parks like Tukang Innovation Park, where Greenpac is based, at which specialised firms can share services and collaborate.

Greenpac's $20 million "Green Factory" also features natural skylights, 454 kilowatt-peak (kwp) of solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system that waters a roof garden.

Ms Chong added that the company also plans to calculate the carbon footprint of its products.

Singapore's first "green" factory embraces environmentally friendly practices
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: Greenhub -- Singapore's first "green" factory -- was officially opened on Thursday by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Greenhub's nondescript exterior belies the effort and the attention to detail that has gone into Singapore's first green factory.

The factory embraces environmentally friendly processes all the way from its construction down to its daily operations.

Its self-tinting windows act as a natural cooler, regulating excess sunlight and heat.

There are also solar panels on the rooftop which help offset the office space's annual energy consumption of 160,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

The excess electricity generated is sold off to Singapore Power.

It is also the first industrial building in Singapore to quantify its carbon footprint during the construction phase.

This was in collaboration with the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, a research institute under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

This allows it to benchmark itself against industry norms and to keep the footprint low.

Greenhub is owned by Greenpac, a company that offers redesigned packaging solutions that encourage environmental sustainability.

For example, the crates that the company uses to transport their packages are made from processed wood sourced from ecologically sustainable forests.

Light and reusable, these crates help to reduce freight charges as well as saving the environment in terms of less fossil fuel consumption during the export process.

"We are constantly looking at waste management and upstream - how we can use less and generate less waste," said Greenpac CEO Susan Chong.

She said the company also looks at using the right sustainable material so that it will have lesser challenges in disposing the waste.

"That is probably more effective than just waste management," she said.

At its opening on Thursday, Mr Tharman said Greenpac has transformed itself from a one-person start up 10 years ago into a thriving company with an annual turnover of S$70 million.

Mr Tharman said: "You've done it in a way which shows how many other companies can get commercial advantage through environmental value, through environmental protection as a commercial strategy but the core of it is innovation. That's what Greenpac is about."

"Our SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) can do well through innovation with all the support that the government is providing," he added.

The $20-million building is located close to Boon Lay. It houses Greenpac's warehouse and office space in its 18,000 square metre premises.

- CNA/fa

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Journalists win awards for reporting on Asian environmental issues

Melissa Chong Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: Environmental issues, from haze to typhoons, have dominated the news lately.

The journalists behind those stories were recognised at this year's Asian Environmental Journalism Awards on Thursday.

A total of 84 nominations poured in from the region -- a threefold increase from 2012.

The final 13 winners were top journalists, bloggers, news organisations and photographers from 14 countries, including China, India and Malaysia.

They reported on pressing environmental issues in Asia -- from elephant conservation to droughts.

The judges included Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah, Satwant Kaur from the United Nations Environment Programme and Nominated Member of Parliament Nicholas Fang.

The award hopes to raise the standard of environmental reporting in Asia, recognising journalists who report on truthful, well-researched and pressing environmental issues.

The Singapore Environment Council, which organised the awards, said it hopes to make it the most prestigious environmental journalism award in Asia.

Bagging a merit award in the City Developments Limited (CDL) Environmental Journalist of the Year was MediaCorp's Today senior reporter Neo Chai Chin, who impressed judges with her fresh angle on transboundary haze.

She said: "I went to several communities, villages in Jambi and Riau, basically to get a different perspective of the haze and how it's affecting people on the ground, who are that much closer to the burning than us in Singapore.

"I hope readers get to see a bigger picture of the haze -- it's not just the air that we breathe… we're part of the bigger world out there."

South China Morning Post journalist Jing Li, who was the winner of the CDL Environmental Journalist of the Year, said: "There are some under-reported stories that are happening. Not in the city, but in the village.

"The cancer village I visited recently in April was shrouded in pollution from the nearby chemical industrial compound.

"Lots of people there are getting cancer. Most of the patients just pass away after one or two years. They don't even know how to protect themselves and fight for their rights."

The Environmental Story of the Year, sponsored by Coca-Cola, went to Stella Paul from the Inter Press Services for her account on how drought pushes rural Indian women into the city sex trade.

Two new award categories were introduced this year -- the Environmental Blogger of the Year and CITIC Telecom International Environmental Photograph of the Year. These went to Kavitha Rao and Sridhara KS respectively, both from India.

- CNA/ec

TODAY among winners of awards given for best Asian environmental journalism
Kenneth Cheng Today Online 18 OCt 13;

SINGAPORE — During the haze crisis in June, she ventured, not once, but twice to the hazardous fire zone in Indonesia to get to the bottom of the story. Her perseverance paid off at the 2nd Asian Environmental Journalism Awards (AEJA) yesterday, where TODAY senior reporter Neo Chai Chin clinched the Merit Award under the CDL Environmental Journalist of the Year category.

Pioneered by the Singapore Environment Council last year, the AEJA recognises exceptional works in environmental journalism in Asia.

The South China Morning Post’s Jing Li received the CDL Environmental Journalist of the Year award.

Her story on the emergence of “cancer villages” highlighted a public concern over the link between pollution and the rising incidence of cancer. In these villages, cancer is widespread and its people suspect it has to do with the pollution from nearby petrochemical plants.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the recent haze was an example of how environmental journalists were pivotal in helping Singaporeans make sense of the crisis.

“Environmental journalists play an essential role, by providing timely information and well-researched perspectives on environmental issues and creating a ‘green’ consciousness throughout society,” he said.

Other merit winners from Singapore included photojournalist Douglas Ho from Singapore Press Holdings, sustainable-business website, and environment blogger and consultant Eugene Tay.

At the height of the haze crisis, Ms Neo, 31, flew out to Riau in Indonesia — where the highest numbers of hot spots were detected — to cover the issue.

She returned a week later and travelled to Jambi, also a smog-hit province, to look at sustainable farming methods used by farmers there in reducing the number of hot spots.

The experience, Ms Neo said, counts as some of the most memorable she has had as a journalist.

“Smoky air notwithstanding, it felt right to be close to ‘ground zero’, where the burning was taking place. It was definitely different from reporting from Singapore,” she said.

Her reporting stood out and resonated with the panel of judges.

“Her coverage of the haze went over and beyond what many were doing,” said Mr Jose Raymond, Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council and an AEJA judge.

In other categories, Ms Stella Paul from India, who works for Inter Press Services, bagged the Coca-Cola Environmental Story of the Year.

The Guardian’s Kavitha Rao from India was named Environmental Blogger of the Year, while Sridhara KS netted the CITIC Telecom International Environmental Photograph of the Year.

The Lee Foundation Excellence in Environmental Reporting by a Media Organisation award went to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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Malaysia: NGOs alarmed over reviving Sabah coal power plant

Ruben Sario The Star 17 Oct 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah environmental groups are concerned over reports that a scrapped proposed coal-fired power plant project in the state’s east coast is being re-looked at.

The groups including Green Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future (SURF) want the government to stick to its decision to abandon plans for a coal-fired plant in the state. Green SURF includes various NGOs such as Partners in Community Organisations (PACOS).
According to PACOS executive director Anne Lasimbang, authorities should instead push ahead with a 300mW gas-fired power plant in Lahad Datu.

Lasimbang said a statement by Deputy Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Mahdzir Khalid last month that authorities were considering at reintroducing the coal-fired plant project to boost electricity supply in Sabah was worrying.

Lasimbang said the Federal Government made a commitment in safeguarding Sabah’s environment and health of the people when it cancelled the coal-fired power plant project in Feb 2011.

She said authorities should instead focus on tapping the widely available renewable energy options such as biomass and biogas.

Lasimbang said this was recently reaffirmed by Natural Resource Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit who said that utility firm Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) could consider biogas to generate power.
Dawos had said that there was a huge opportunity for the production of biogas in Sabah due to the presence of palm oil mills.

Lasimbang said Green SURF was seeking a meeting with Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili on the government’s seriousness at reviving the scrapped coal plant project.

She added that countries are moving away from dirty fuel, and that it was a waste of time to discuss about a coal plant for Sabah again.

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Indonesia: Rare Javan Leopard Caught After Wandering by Village

Vento Saudale Jakarta Globe 17 Oct 13;

A rare Javan leopard has been caught alive by a conservation team in Sukabumi, West Java, after residents reported that the animal had been seen wandering around the outskirts of their village.

A team from the Indonesian Wildlife Conservation Forum (Foksi) at Taman Safari Indonesia caught the critically endangered animal last week. Residents had earlier reported seeing the leopard near Girimukti village, in Ciemas subdistrict, and the team caught the animal to prevent it from being killed.

Locals suspected the big cat had been preying on livestock.

“In the past few weeks I have been communicating with some of the residents to prevent the Javan leopard from getting killed,” Hendra, one of the team members, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

He said he and his team began honing in on the leopard’s whereabouts on Friday by following its footprints and droppings. The team then placed two cages in the area, baiting the cages with live goats to trap the leopard.

“Last Saturday night, the villagers heard some noise and they suspected the leopard had entered the cage to prey on the livestock,” Hendra said.

The team estimated the male leopard to be between 8 and 9 years old and to weigh about 45 to 50 kilograms. The leopard was taken away by the West Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) along with local officials, and was brought to Taman Safari zoo in Cisarua, Bogor.

Earlier this month, a Javan leopard was shot dead after it invaded a house in a village in the East Java district of Lumajang and attacked three officials who were attempting to capture it.

The leopard, believed to be from the forest-covered slopes of nearby Mount Semeru, ran into the house in Sumber village after being spotted and subsequently chased down by local residents who were attempting to drive it away, according to Taman Safari Indonesia director Tony Sumampauw.

The big cat invaded a house belonging to Mulyadi, who immediately fled along with his family. The villagers asked for help from the local authorities, and a team from Taman Safari II in Prigen, East Java, was sent to capture the animal.

When the team arrived, they found a crowd surrounding Mulyadi’s house and immediately launched efforts to check on the animal.

As they opened the door to take a look at the leopard, it attacked two officials from Taman Safari and a police officer. Another police officer then immediately shot the animal.

The three officials attacked by the leopard sustained minor injuries and were treated at a hospital.

The Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) is a leopard subspecies that exists in the wild only on Java.

It has been classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 2008, with the population estimated to be less than 250 mature individuals. It is protected under Indonesian law.

Javan Leopard Dies in Its Cage After Surgery
Jakarta Globe 22 Oct 13;

A Javan leopard freed by conservationists from a wild-boar trap in the Kuta Agung village of Cilacap, Central Java, died on Friday last week in its isolation cage in the Serulingmas Recreational Park in Banjarnegara, Central Java. It was undergoing medical treatment by veterinarians for several weeks.

Banjarnegara Culture and Tourism Office chief Achmad Aziz said the animal immediately received intensive treatment after being freed from the trap by staff of the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) in Central Java.

“It had undergone three surgeries to heal the wounds it sustained from the trap. However, because the leopard had made lots of movements [subsequently], the stitches reopened,” he said. “It is possible that the wounds got infected and eventually caused the leopard to die on Friday.”

Separately, Central Java BKSDA chief Chrystanto said the animal will be buried in the park.

“The leopard has actually been operated and it took 100 stitches because of a serious wound on the stomach. The leopard is a protected animal and its numbers are very limited,” Chrystanto said.

He added that there have been several cases in which leopards were found wandering outside their habitat in Central Java, such as in the district of Jepara.

“That is why we will immediately put together an action plan to rescue leopards with other related entities,” he said.

The death of the Javan leopard came shortly after Taman Safari Indonesia zoo’s animal rescue unit, together with the Wild Animal Conservation Forum captured a male Javan leopard found roaming around a residential area in the Ciangsana village of Sukabumi, West Java.

Residents had earlier reported seeing the leopard near Girimukti village, in Ciemas subdistrict, and the team caught the animal to prevent it from being killed.

The Javan leopard is said by conservationists to be one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world.

A 2008 census by the International Union for Conservation of Nature showed that there were only an estimated 250 Javan leopards remaining in the wild.

However, according to a report by, not all of the leopards captured or killed so far were wild animals. Several captures in recent years suggest the animals had owners, but that they may have been set free deliberately.

According to Anton Ario of Conservation International Indonesia, the pet leopards were found wandering around West Java’s Sukabumi and Kuningan districts.

In Sukabumi, a pet Javan leopard was shot to death when it entered the National Police’s education complex in 2010.

“We found out from the autopsy results that there was plastic in its belly,” Anton said, as quoted by

Anton said another pet leopard was also found in the Kuningan district of West Java and suspected to belong to a local dangdut singer.

In 2012, the animal was captured alive using a tranquilizer gun after being cornered in a resident’s henhouse. It was subsequently moved to the Cikembulan Animal Park in Garut, West Java.

Conflicts between the endangered animal and humans have continued to surface in recent years, raising public concerns.

“Contact between Javan leopards and humans today can easily occur, the main reason being the clearing of forest areas for plantations and farms,” Hendra W., a representative from the Taman Safari Indonesia zoo’s animal rescue unit in West Java, said last week , as quoted by

In another incident, a Javan leopard was shot dead after entering a house in Lumajang, East Java.

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Air pollution a leading cause of cancer - World Health Organization

Kate Kelland and Stephanie Nebehay PlanetArk 18 Oct 13;

The air we breathe is laced with cancer-causing substances and is being officially classified as carcinogenic to humans, the World Health Organization's cancer agency said on Thursday.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cited data indicating that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution, and said there was also convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer.

Depending on the level of exposure in different parts of the world, the risk was found to be similar to that of breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke, Kurt Straif, head of the agency's section that ranks carcinogens, told reporters in Geneva.

"Our task was to evaluate the air everyone breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants," deputy head Dana Loomis said in a statement. "The results from the reviewed studies point in the same direction: the risk of developing lung cancer is significantly increased in people exposed to air pollution."

Air pollution, mostly caused by transport, power generation, industrial or agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking, is already known to raise risks for a wide range of illnesses including respiratory and heart diseases.

Research suggests that exposure levels have risen significantly in some parts of the world, particularly countries with large populations going through rapid industrialization, such as China.

IARC reviewed thousands of studies on air pollution tracking populations over decades and other research such as those in which mice exposed to polluted air experienced increased numbers of lung tumors.

In a statement released after reviewing the literature, the Lyon-based agency said both air pollution and "particulate matter" - a major component of it - would now be classified among its Group 1 human carcinogens.

That ranks them alongside more than 100 other known cancer-causing substances in IARC's Group 1, including asbestos, plutonium, silica dust, ultraviolet radiation and tobacco smoke.


Air pollution is highly variable over space and time.

Loomis said there was relatively high exposure in Asia, South Asia, eastern North America, some places in Central America and Mexico, as well as North Africa.

But although both the composition and levels of air pollution can vary dramatically from one location to the next, IARC said its conclusions applied to all regions of the world.

"Our conclusion is that this is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths," Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC, told the news briefing in Geneva.

IARC's ranking monographs program, sometimes known as the "encyclopedia of carcinogens", aims to be an authoritative source of scientific evidence on cancer-causing substances.

It has already classified many chemicals and mixtures that can be components of air pollution, including diesel engine exhaust, solvents, metals and dusts. But this is the first time that experts have classified air pollution as a cause of cancer.

Wild said he hoped the comprehensive evidence would help the WHO, which is revising its global 2005 guidelines on air quality. The U.N. agency makes on recommendations on public health issues to its 193 member states.

Asked why it had taken so long to reach the conclusion, he said that one problem was the time lag between exposure to polluted air and the onset of cancer.

"Often we're looking at two, three or four decades once an exposure is introduced before there is sufficient impact on the burden of cancer in the population to be able to study this type of question," he said.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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