Best of our wild blogs: 7 Nov 13

1 1/2 weeks on and there still American bullfrogs in the pond from Life's Indulgences

Biodiversity for kids during the December school holidays
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Butterflies Galore! : Common Rose
from Butterflies of Singapore

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People must be at the heart of blueprint for a sustainable Singapore

Jose Raymond Today Online 7 Nov 13;

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement of a review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, in order to update it with new initiatives, is timely. The document, released in 2009, is five years old and many, if not all, of its recommendations are on the way to being implemented.

The vision is to make Singapore a liveable and lively city state come 2030, one that Singaporeans love and are proud to call home. This aim holds true today and, with a public consultation exercise to be held over the next three to six months, there will probably be further calls to ensure that the city is one which is also lovable.

Sustainable development demands long-term effort and commitment. A short-term view towards developing a city of the future can only be detrimental. Make a mistake today, and future generations will end up paying.

Coming out of this review, for any new or improved recommendations to be accepted and implemented effectively, the key will lie not only in the policies themselves but also in people’s behaviour. It is thus imperative that Singaporeans be at the heart — and the starting point — of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint version 2.0.

From the man in the street to bankers, from business owners to hawkers, from government to corporate citizens, the v2.0 blueprint must demonstrate to as many as possible the benefits of ensuring that Singapore grows sustainably, and the important role they play in this.

Without this awareness of their personal stake, it is all too easy for the year 2030 to fall off people’s radar, wrongly assuming that what happens in the immediate future is of more urgent priority. But behaviour today affects the future. There needs to be, for instance, greater understanding of the need to change habits, be it in consuming energy, conserving water, reducing carbon emissions or helping to keep the country clean.

This is where the challenge lies for the authorities: To get not just the policy strategies right, but also their communication to the public of what the future holds.


One of the things that people will need to be convinced of is that public transport is a better option than driving a car, especially in a densely-populated city where people live, work and play in very limited space. Consider London, Barcelona and Tokyo, where even CEOs take trains or buses because it just makes more sense to do so.

For this paradigm shift to succeed here, the public transport infrastructure must be constantly upgraded and people must have confidence in the system. The Government and its transport partners must get this right over the next decade or so, now that the Land Transport Master Plan has been released and with the rail network set to double by 2030.

People must find it convenient to take public transport; it must be comfortable and relatively affordable (here, the latest fare review proposals are timely). More people making the switch would alleviate the unsustainable construction of more and more roads and reduce vehicle emissions.


If we are to dramatically increase recycling rates in homes, Singaporeans have to buy into the importance of recycling and it should be made even easier for them to do so.

Dual bins should be a feature in all new apartments, and apartment dwellers should be allowed to experiment with renewable energy to reduce their consumption from the grid.

One recent announcement is that it will be made easier for small consumers — such as schools, factories and warehouses — with intermittent energy use and their own renewable energy sources to be paid for supplying excess electricity that they generate back to the grid. Let us hope this can become a reality for home owners some day too.

We should also look at food waste recycling. Last year, Singapore produced enough food waste to fill more than 600 Olympic-sized swimming pools, a 26-per-cent increase from 2007 figures. With growing affluence here, it is very likely that more food will go to waste unless people grasp why climate change will make food security an even greater national issue — for we rely almost entirely on foreign sources for our food supply.

Energy efficiency and water conservation are another two key areas to tackle. In 2011, total household energy consumption measured 6560GWh, compared to 3794GWh in 1995. Domestic water consumption has been brought down from 165 litres per person each day in 2003 to 152 litres. But with the goal being to reduce this to 140 litres by 2030, a more intensive education programme will be necessary, even as Singapore strives towards self-sufficiency in water supply.

Mr Lee, in his letter to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development in 2009, noted that sustainable development requires long-term commitment, understanding and the efforts of not only the whole of Government but also the “whole of country”. Which is why people should be at the core of the blueprint.


Jose Raymond is Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council.


The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development was set up in 2008 to formulate a national strategy for Singapore’s sustainable development.

Based on feedback from the public and stakeholders, a blueprint was drawn up with strategies and initiatives to achieve both economic growth and a good living environment over the next 20 years. For more, visit

Consider 2050 target for Sustainable Singapore blueprint
Paul Chan Poh Hoi Today Online 13 Nov 13;

I agree with the commentary, “People must be at the heart of blueprint for a sustainable S’pore” (Nov 7).

We must avoid pitfalls in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, and I am concerned about the composition and dynamics of our population come 2030. The challenge would be less daunting if we were a country with more homogeneity, such as Hong Kong or Taiwan.

We now have 2.1 million immigrants of various ethnic, social, linguistic and economic origins. By 2030, could we manage the integration of up to one million more people from diverse sources? This could well be our Achilles’ heel in pursuing the vision of an inclusive society.

It is not difficult to transform Singapore into a green city, with energy-efficient buildings and sky gardens, because these are the hardware. Public transport that runs smoother as well as reduced energy and water consumption may need more measures.

But to sustain a harmonious society with little social and income inequality, amid undercurrents of tension, may need different approaches.

Stringent controls and money can solve hardware problems, but not “heartware” conflicts. A gracious society with racial harmony requires a long time to nurture, and collective efforts by the Government, communities and the individual.

Planning for both a cosmopolitan and liveable city may take perhaps half a century.

There are no “instant trees” for this, and we must accept trade-offs between economic growth and lower population density to enjoy a clean environment in Singapore.

We should look at how long it took to create global cities such as London, New York, Paris and Tokyo.

I would be pessimistic about achieving the blueprint’s vision for 2030, where native and new Singaporeans are proud to call this country home and love it, if we continue to grapple with achieving an inclusive and harmonious multiracial society.

To avoid missteps, we must cross the river by feeling the stones, with small foreign population increments. Perhaps 2050 is a realistic target, with more room to manoeuvre.

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Singapore's first tidal turbine test-bed launched

Channel NewsAsia 6 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's first tidal turbine test-bed was launched in Sentosa on Wednesday.

Designed, built and installed by a group of engineers from NTU, and in collaboration with the Sentosa Development Corporation, the system tests the feasibility of tapping tidal energy to generate electricity.

Though tidal energy is a new field in Singapore, its key advantage as a renewable energy source is that tidal cycles are predictable, unlike conventional wind and solar energy, which are highly susceptible to weather fluctuations.

The system already produces energy to power the lights at Sentosa Boardwalk Turbine Exhibit.

In the coming year, it will further analyse how low-flow tidal energy can be used efficiently and made cheaper and more reliable.

The informative exhibition, which is part of the Sentosa Sustainability Plan, will have information about tidal energy and showcases a miniature tidal turbine prototype. The exhibition is open to public.

Dr Michael Lochinvar Sim Abundo, research fellow at NTU’s Energy Research Institute, said: "This location (Sentosa Boardwalk) is a very good spot for tidal occurrence because it is channelled between two islands - Singapore and Sentosa, which causes an acceleration of the flow much like a funnel."

Mike Barclay, chief executive officer at Sentosa Development Corporation, said: “We do have some pretty good tides around Sentosa, quite strong tidal flows so we can extract energy from them, generate electricity and prove something that could be scaleable for Singapore as a whole, something that really works for us."

- CNA/xq

Engineers hoping to harness energy from tidal currents
Kenneth Cheng Today Online 7 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — Harnessing energy from tidal currents to generate electricity as a new source of renewable energy. This is what engineers from the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Energy Research Institute (ERI@N) hope to test out with a tidal turbine system, the first of its kind in Singapore, launched today (Nov 6) at the Sentosa Boardwalk.

Established in collaboration with the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), the Boardwalk Turbine Project took more than two years to come to fruition.

Noting that unlike conventional renewable energy sources like solar — which can be affected by cloud conditions — Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, Executive Director of ERI@N, said tides are an “extremely predictable” renewable energy source as they are “completely defined by the phases of the moon”.

In contrast with conventional tidal turbines which work “inefficiently at lower (water) flow”, the test bed, comprising two low-flow turbines, had been designed to operate at a “good efficiency range” at low water speeds common in Singapore’s waters as well as those in the region, explained Dr Michael Lochinvar Sim Abundo, a Research Fellow at ERI@N.

The turbines — which extract and capture tidal energy from the currents that, in turn, generates power — are mounted near the boardwalk on a floating platform.

Concrete pillars at an adjacent bridge help speed up water flows that power the turbines by funnelling water into a narrow channel. The team plans to extend the turbines to Pulau Semakau and the Southern Islands, including the Saint John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor, over the next five years.

The test bed currently powers the lights and an LCD display at the Sentosa Boardwalk Turbine Exhibit. Located near the turnstiles leading into Resorts World Sentosa, the exhibit provides information on the project and tidal energy, and is open to the public.

Prof Mhaisalkar said the data amassed from the test bed — which is jointly funded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, NTU and SDC — will allow NTU engineers to enhance turbine designs for future projects.

“This turbine here (on Sentosa) is very symbolic in the sense (that) this is basically a message that we can explore other forms of renewable energy for Singapore as well,” he said.

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Malaysian Nature Society hails new fishing net ruling

Isabelle Lai The Star 7 Nov 13;

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has praised the introduction of a larger mesh size for fishing nets to promote sustainable fisheries.

Its president, Prof Dr Maketab Mohamad, said a larger mesh size would allow fish fry to become adults as they would not be caught in the net.

“MNS will support any enforcement of laws and regulations that will bring sustainability to our resources, whether on land or in the sea,” he told The Star.

Maketab said that the fishermen’s protests were based on ignorance and greed, with the focus only being on making short-term profits by selling the bycatch to be made into fish meal for animal feed.

Maketab said he hoped the Department of Fisheries (DOF) and related agencies would fully enforce the law, and also urged DOF to carry out enforcement against fishermen using illegal ray nets, also known as pukat pari, to catch stingrays.

“These specialised nets not only catch stingrays, but also turtles, which will drown in them. This is such a waste of conservation efforts done over the years,” he said.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Sunday that the ruling on the new minimum mesh size of 38mm came into force on Nov 1.

He said studies had shown that mesh sizes below 38mm would capture fish fry and a significant amount of bycatch, resulting in population decline.

Fishermen have protested that they would suffer financial losses with this new rule.

In response, Ismail Sabri said this rule had been incorporated in the Fisheries Act but enforcement of it had been delayed for some time.

The new ruling also requires licence holders to be onboard when the ship is at sea.

However, Pulau Ketam MCA branch chairman Chia Mong Chun had argued that the fish fry would not escape with the bigger mesh size as they would have been crushed by the larger fish when the net was hauled up, and that the new ruling would deprive fishermen of the income received from selling the bycatch.

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Hopes for strong 2015 climate deal fade, as risks grow

Alister Doyle and Nina Chestney PlanetArk 7 Nov 13;

World governments are likely to recoil from plans for an ambitious 2015 climate change deal at talks next week, concern over economic growth at least partially eclipsing scientists' warnings of rising temperatures and water levels.

"We are in the eye of a storm," said Yvo de Boer, United Nations climate chief in 2009 when a summit in Copenhagen ended without agreement. After Copenhagen, nations targeted a 2015 deal to enter into force from 2020 with the goal of averting more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.

The outline of a more modest 2015 deal, to be discussed at annual U.N. climate talks in Warsaw on November11-22, is emerging that will not halt a creeping rise in temperatures but might be a guide for tougher measures in later years.

Since 2009, scientists' warnings have become more strident and new factors have emerged, sometimes dampening the impact of their message that human activity is driving warming.

The U.S. shale boom helped push U.S. carbon emissions to an 18-year low last year, for instance; but it also shifted cheap coal into Europe where it was used in power stations.

Despite repeated promises to tackle the problem, developed nations have been preoccupied with spurring sluggish growth. And recession has itself braked emissions from factories, power plants and cars, a phenomenon that may prove short-lived.

Emerging economies such as China and India, heavily reliant on cheap, high-polluting coal to end poverty, are reluctant to take the lead despite rising emissions and pollution that are choking cities.

"Our concern is urgency" in tackling climate change, said Marlene Moses of Nauru, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States whose members fear they will be swamped by rising sea levels. "Vague promises will no longer suffice."

She wants progress when senior officials and environment ministers from almost 200 nations meet in Warsaw to discuss the 2015 deal, as well as climate aid to poor nations and ways to compensate them for loss and damage from global warming.

Yet many governments, especially in Europe, are concerned that climate policies, such as generous support schemes for solar energy, push up consumer energy bills.

Some want to emulate the success of the United States in bringing down energy prices via shale gas - a fossil fuel that can help cut greenhouse emissions if it replaces coal but at the same time can divert investments from cleaner energy.


Many Warsaw delegates say the 2015 accord looks likely to be a patchwork of national pledges for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, anchored in domestic legislation, after Copenhagen failed to agree a sweeping treaty built on international law.

The less ambitious model is a shift from the existing Kyoto Protocol, agreed in 1997. That set a central target for emissions cuts by industrialized countries and then shared them out among about 40 nations.

But Kyoto has not worked well, partly because the United States did not join, objecting that the treaty would cost U.S. jobs and set no targets for big emerging nations. Russia, Canada and Japan have since dropped out.

Warsaw will be the first meeting since the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists, the main guide for government action, in September raised the probability that climate change is mainly man-made to 95 percent from 90 and said that "substantial and sustained" cuts in emissions were needed.


A leaked draft of a second report by the panel, due in March 2014, suggests climate change will cause heatwaves, droughts, disrupt crop growth, aggravate poverty and expose hundreds of millions of people to coastal floods as seas rise.

"Evidence is accumulating weekly, monthly as to how dangerous this will be," said Andrew Steer, head of the World Resources Institute think-tank in Washington. Every year of delay added $500 million to the cost of fixing climate change.

He said there were signs of progress, such as a plan in June by U.S. President Barack Obama to achieve a goal for cutting emissions by 2020 and the start of carbon trading in China. "But they don't add up" to a solution, Steer added.

Any deal weaker than a treaty for shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energies is anathema to poor nations.

The 2015 deal is unlikely to include deep enough emissions cuts to achieve a U.N. goal set in 2010 of limiting temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

Temperatures have already risen by 0.8C (1.4F) since the Industrial Revolution and are on track to cause more heatwaves, floods and rising sea levels despite a hiatus in the pace of warming at the Earth's surface so far this century.

A more flexible approach for 2015, championed by the United States, raises risks that many nations will simply set themselves weak goals, hoping others will take up the slack.

But it may have a better chance of ratification by national parliaments. The idea is that negotiators will find a way to compare the ambition of promises and develop a mechanism to ratchet the weak ones up in coming years.

(Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale in London, Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw and Barbara Lewis in Brussels)

Factbox: Governments meet on climate after scientists' warnings
Alister Doyle PlanetArk 7 Nov 13;

Almost 200 nations will meet in Warsaw from November 11-22 to work on a deal due to be agreed in 2015 to fight climate change.

Following are the main findings of a report in September by leading scientists - the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - that are meant to guide the talks:

HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY - The panel raised the probability that human activities, led by the burning of fossil fuels, are the dominant cause of global warming since the mid-20th century to "extremely likely", or at least 95 percent, from "very likely" (90 percent) in its previous report in 2007 and "likely" (66 percent) in 2001.

SLOWING WARMING THIS CENTURY - The panel said that a slowing in the pace of warming at the Earth's surface this century was probably linked to natural swings in the climate. It said short periods, such as the 15 years since 1998 which was a very warm year, do not usually reflect long-term trends.

PROJECTED WARMING - The panel said temperatures were likely to rise by between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century. The report uses new computer models that are not directly comparable with scenarios used in 2007.

CARBON BUDGET - The report said cumulative carbon emissions needed to be limited to about 1 trillion tonnes to give a likely chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times. More than 50 percent has already been emitted.

SEA LEVEL RISE - Sea levels are likely to rise by between 26 and 82 cm (10 to 32 inches) by the late 21st century, after a 19 cm rise in the 19th century. In the worst case, seas could be 98 cm higher in the year 2100. The 2001 report projected a rise of 18 to 59 cm, but did not take full account of the potential thaw of Antarctica and Greenland.

CLIMATE SENSITIVITY - The report estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would lead to a warming of between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 and 8.1F), lowering the bottom of the range from 2.0 degrees (3.6F) estimated in 2007 report. The new range, however, is the same as in other IPCC reports before 2007.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle)

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