Best of our wild blogs: 3 Nov 13

Night Walk At Venus Drive (01 Nov 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Read more!

NEA volunteers should patrol with volunteer constabulary, say observers

Hu Jielan Channel NewsAsia 2 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: The government recently said it plans to look into how to catch litterbugs more effectively with the help of volunteers from the community. One possible idea is having them patrol with the Volunteer Special Constabulary (VSC).

At the moment, volunteers with the National Environment Agency (NEA) have the power to book litterbugs and report them to authorities.

Some members of the public told Channel NewsAsia that it was good to have them around to help keep the environment clean.

One of the ideas to strengthen the volunteers' role is to issue them the same warrant cards as regular NEA officers, which would give them the power to issue summonses to litterbugs.

However, there are many challenges as a volunteer. Randy Wong, a volunteer with the NEA, said: "I think the most challenging part is handling everyone's different mentalities. For example, there may be cat lovers who do not clean up the area. But if you understand their point of view, it'll be much easier to persuade them."

- CNA/ac

Read more!

'Biocement' could help build underground structures in Singapore

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 2 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Building structures underground in Singapore may be made easier if a study to strengthen weak rocks below ground is successful.

It is one of four projects under the Ministry of National Development's S$8 million Sustainable Urban Living R&D Programme which seeks solutions in expanding Singapore's land space.

The projects touch on areas such as underground space utilisation, land reclamation technology and space optimisation.

Underground construction poses several challenges -- cracks in rocks is one of them. Such cracks can cause instability and water seepage problems.

However, this may soon be resolved with a new material called 'biocement', which is simply bacteria with chemicals in water.

The solution will act as a glue to seal cracks in rocks or bond sand particles.

Water containing bacteria, urea and calcium ions are injected into cracks in the rocks. The bacteria breaks down urea and forms calcite and after about two weeks, the calcite deposits harden and fill the cracks.

This method, if successful, can replace the current use of cement to fill the cracks at half the cost.

Associate Professor Tan Soon Keat from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said: "It is almost like a liquid, like water itself. So where water can flow, (the biocement) can also flow there. So even if it is a hairline crack, it will follow through."

Assoc Prof Tan and his team at NTU have shown that biocement works under lab conditions.

Assoc Prof Tan added: "We have done the laboratory-scale test and it has worked out. But it has actually not been done in the real-scale. The proof is to do it in... the actual application, that is when we have a test site."

That is what the professor and his team will be focusing on next in a project funded by the Ministry of National Development. The testing stage of the project will take a few years.

- CNA/ac

Read more!

Malaysia hit hard by dengue virus

Tashny Sukumaran The Star 3 Nov 13;

PETALING JAYA: The country saw the highest number of dengue cases in a single week this year with 1,680 cases recorded from Oct 20 to 26, with Selangor bearing the brunt of the assault by the Aedes mosquito.

Selangor had the largest increase with 1,142 cases, up by 272 cases from the previous week.

From Jan 1 to Oct 26, a total of 28,707 cases has been recorded, which represents a 58% increase compared to the corresponding period last year, said the Health Ministry in a statement on Friday.

The Health Ministry is concerned as the weekly cases this year, at more than 900, is more than twice of last year’s weekly average of 400.

The analysis for Selangor (up to June) noted that it hosted 323 of the 408 dengue hotspots nationwide, with 26 high risk areas found in the Petaling district, 19 in Hulu Langat, eight in Gombak and one in Sepang.

The rest of the outbreak areas were located primarily in Johor (37) and Kuala Lumpur-Putrajaya (16), with the rest spread out over the other remaining states.

Johor saw 167 cases of dengue last week, while Perak had 64.

Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya remained steady over the last two weeks with 60 cases.

The good news is that Malacca (71, compared to 92) and Kelantan (33 compared to 38) are some states that had fewer cases last week than the previous one.

The cumulative mortality from dengue so far is 60, up from 29 for the same period last year.

In the statement, Health Ministry deputy director for public health Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman urged Malaysians to cooperate with relevant agencies to destroy mosquito breeding areas.

Read more!