Best of our wild blogs: 22 Nov 13

Pulau Ubin and northern shores in the Draft Master Plan 2013
from wild shores of singapore and Southern Islands in the Draft Master Plan 2013 and Mandai mangroves in the Draft Master Plan 2013

Volunteer field assistants for research projects in biodiversity and ecology from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Part-time student assistant for civet radio-tracking study (Jan-Feb 2014, part-time thereafter) from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Calling all young leaders in Singapore
from Green Drinks Singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Common Three Ring
from Butterflies of Singapore

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 27
from Raffles Museum News

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Indonesia proposes to renew collaboration with Singapore to prevent forest fires

S Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Indonesia has proposed a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to renew bilateral collaborations with Singapore so as to prevent and reduce forest and land fires in Sumatra that cause transboundary haze pollution.

Singapore's Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan revealed this on his Facebook posting on Thursday.

The minister said he has thanked his Indonesian counterpart for the draft MOU, which Singapore officials will be studying further, and he is pleased that both sides are making progress in the matter.

Dr Balakrishnan met the Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN climate change conference in Warsaw, where both ministers spoke about the progress of efforts to ease the haze problem following the ASEAN Leaders' Summit last month.

During the October summit in Brunei, ASEAN leaders agreed to adopt a regional haze monitoring system which will benefit the five countries which make up the Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore,
Thailand and Brunei.

The Haze Monitoring System includes digitised land use maps and concession maps of fire-prone areas that cause transboundary haze, which will be shared on a government-to-government basis.

- CNA/nd

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More green spaces can reduce environmental impact of urban growth

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: The recently released Draft Master Plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has promised more green spaces around planned new neighbourhoods, and experts say this could help reduce the environmental impact of urban growth significantly.

But they also emphasise that environmental sustainability will require more than just the building of facilities and hardware.

Some of the green features surrounding new residential and industrial developments that are laid out in the Master Plan include new bio-retention ponds to remove pollutants from storm water run-off, harnessing wind to naturally cool new buildings, and parks to bring recreational spaces closer to home.

Experts say these features can help reduce what is known as the urban heat island effect.

The effect occurs when the temperature in highly built-up developments is higher than rural areas, and can affect local wind and weather patterns.

They say that green spaces will also create more liveable surroundings.

Colin Tan, director and head (research and consultancy) at Suntec Real Estate Consultants, said: "In a densely-populated environment, we do feel the effects of overcrowding.

"And I think some of these green elements help to reduce some of these overcrowding feelings, and may be good for mental health."

“This overcrowding sometimes manifests itself in the "not-my-backyard" syndrome. You have people complaining about eldercare, hospice located next to you. Sometimes, it is not that people are heartless. But they feel that it is overcrowding --buildings more tightly packed together, feeling of claustrophobia."

The Master Plan focuses on environmental sustainability, and experts say this could be beyond just green features such as bio-retention ponds.

It could also be in the construction process, such as using recycled concrete from demolished buildings and using materials that have a low carbon footprint.

Dr Kua Harn Wei, Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore's School of Design & Environment said: "We do need to see how we can green the entire process of building, rather than just focusing on the green features of the by-product."

But he said that environmental sustainability also needs buy-in from society, to integrate the "software" into the "hardware".

Dr Kua said: "Sustainability is not just about infrastructure, it's not waiting for the government or authorities to build things for us. It's about how we make use of these facilities in a responsible manner.

“So the onus is also on us, as the users and consumers, on how to make this whole Master Plan a success."

Dr Kua said this means residents must act responsibly to ensure everyone benefits from the new facilities and spaces.

- CNA/nd

Plans for pedestrianised streets, waterfront promenade in civic district
Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 22 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's civic district is set to be the country’s "civic and cultural" node.

The area is the historical and cultural heart of Singapore, with the Old Parliament House, Padang, Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) and the Esplanade there.

Plans to strengthen this identity and increase its attractiveness include building new public spaces and improving pedestrian connectivity.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced the plan on Friday morning.

For a start, a small road at the Empress Place, between ACM and Victoria Theatre, will be closed to vehicles.

URA said it is also exploring pedestrianising other roads in the area, such as Connaught Drive, St Andrew's Road and Anderson Bridge.

Pedestrianised lanes are not new in Singapore.

The concept is already in place at Ann Siang Road and Haji Lane.

The latest addition is Circular Road, which saw the street being closed off to cars on weekends, beginning last month.

The F1 race track will also be adjusted to provide for a new public space within Empress Place, in front of Victoria Theatre.

Over at the Esplanade Park, a new waterfront promenade with stepped plazas will be built, allowing the public to get closer to the water.

The URA said it expects most of these plans to be completed by 2015 and will coincide with current developments in the area, such as the opening of the National Art Gallery, renovation of Victoria Theatre and an extension of ACM.

Fun Siew Leng, URA's group director for Urban Planning & Design, said: "All these institutions are coming together very, very well and it is very timely for the URA to undertake plans to see how we can upgrade the whole public realm, to tie all these institutions together."

The URA added that community involvement is important in the creation of better public spaces.

It is also inviting the public to submit design ideas for four public spaces in Singapore.

These are The Lawn @ Marina Bay, spaces along the Singapore River Promenade, an open space in Kampong Glam and Woodlands Civic Plaza.

Members of the public can submit their ideas at URA's website:

- CNA/xq

URA calls for ideas on shaping public spaces across the island
Sumita Sreedharan Today Online 22 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is inviting the public to have their say on how public spaces are shaped.

Two projects will be launched in the next four months to gather creative design ideas for public spaces.

The first is the ‘PubliCity: Your Ideas for Public Spaces’ project which aims to garner ideas on how to develop four different public spaces.

The spaces are the Marina Bay Lawn, the Promenade Space at North Boat Quay, the open space in Kampong Glam and the Woodlands Civic Plaza.

Up to 10 winners stand to win S$1,000 each and their ideas will serve as inspiration for future improvement projects in these public spaces.

The second project, ‘Pick a Bench, Pick a Place’, will begin in February next year. Members of the public will be invited to vote for their favourite bench designs, which are made from the seating planks from the former National Stadium, and choose a location they would like to see it installed.

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Malaysia's 'Lizard King' back in business: report

(AFP) Google News 22 Nov 13;

Kuala Lumpur — A notorious Malaysian wildlife trafficker dubbed the "Lizard King" for his smuggling of endangered reptiles is back in business, according to an Al Jazeera report that prompted outraged wildlife activists on Friday to demand action.

Anson Wong was arrested in August 2010 at Kuala Lumpur's international airport while attempting to smuggle 95 endangered boa constrictors to Indonesia.

He was sentenced to five years in jail, but a Malaysian appeals court freed him in 2012, sparking an outcry.

Malaysian authorities had said in the wake of Wong's arrest that his licences for legitimate wildlife trading were revoked.

But, in an investigative report, Al Jazeera said Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee were believed to be trading albino pythons and other wildlife from their base in the northern Malaysian state of Penang.

Trade in the pythons requires a permit, said the report by the Qatar-based network, which saw journalist Steve Chao go undercover to talk with wildlife dealers and associates of Wong's.
The report, called "Return of the Lizard King" and aired late Thursday, said documents also revealed shell companies used by Wong to hide his activities.

Illegal trade in wildlife is thought to be worth at least $19 billion a year worldwide, according to conservation groups.

Outraged conservationists demanded action from the government and expressed shock over the lax attitude by the authorities for failing to monitor Wong.

"The 'Return of the Lizard King' raises so many doubts and questions about Malaysia's commitment to that fight. It is time we had some solid answers from government," Shenaaz Khan, an official with wildlife-trade monitoring network Traffic, said in a statement.

Traffic views the revelations about Wong's post-prison activities with deep concern, and seeks a credible explanation on his apparent ability to continue trading wildlife despite government promises to the contrary, she said.

In Penang, Al Jazeera's Chao confronted Wong on camera, but he declined to comment.

Several of Wong's former associates also claimed that corrupt customs officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar were helping to facilitate Wong's activities, the report said.

In a press release, Al Jazeera said Chao and his team worked with anti-trafficking groups to track Wong's Malaysian-based operation.

Kadir Hashim, enforcement director of Malaysia's wildlife department, confirmed Wong's permits remained revoked.

"The department is investigating both" Wong and Cheah, he said in an e-mail response to an AFP inquiry, without elaborating further.

Wong is described by wildlife groups as one of the world's most active smugglers of wild animals.

He was sentenced to 71 months in jail in the United States in 2001 after pleading guilty to trafficking in endangered reptiles.

Despite efforts by Southeast Asian authorities to crack down on animal smuggling, the practice persists and poses a threat to a number of threatened species, conservationists say.

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Struggle for agreement at UN climate talks as green groups walk out Matt McGrath

Matt McGrath BBC News 21 Nov 13;

Environmental campaigners walked out en-masse from climate talks here in Warsaw saying they felt no progress was possible.

Several hundred people left the national stadium venue amid anger over the slow pace of negotiations.

But UK climate secretary Ed Davey told reporters he still expected "modest progress" to be made.

And other negotiators indicated that a deal was possible on some of the most contentious issues.

The talks began almost two weeks ago in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan with an emotional plea for rapid movement from the Philippines lead delegate.

Yeb Sano, said it was time to "stop this madness" but his call has fallen on deaf ears according to many civil society groups like Oxfam, WWF and Action Aid.

"Governments are not doing enough," said Oxfam's Celine Charveriat, speaking to BBC News as she walked out of the talks.

"We need to tell them you are not allowed to make a mockery of this process. We can't continue to watch in silence. Enough is enough."

The conference has shipped a number of blows in recent days. Japan surprised the meeting by announcing that it would have to significantly revise its targets on emissions cuts.

Instead of being able to cut their carbon dioxide by 25% below 1990 levels, the Japanese admitted they would actually rise by 3%.

Getting shirty
There was also annoyance among negotiators from developing countries about the attitude of Australia, which, under new prime minister Tony Abbott, has signalled a more sceptical approach to climate issues.

Delegates were upset to see two members of the Australian team wearing T-shirts in a late night negotiation session, during which they were said to be blocking progress on key texts.

But campaigners have reserved most of their wrath for Poland. The government gave its backing to a meeting of the coal industry in the capital on Monday. On Wednesday, the environment minister who was chairing these talks was sacked in a government re-shuffle.

Executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, was sharply critical of the overall handling of the talks.

"The Polish government has done its best to turn these talks into a showcase for the coal industry," he said.

But some of those engaged in trying to move the process forward were not so downbeat.

UK climate secretary Ed Davey said he was hopeful of "modest progress" and didn't expect the walkout by green campaigners to have an impact.

"The UK government works very well with NGOS, but I don't think their walkout affects the talks."

Mr Davey struck a hopeful note on two of the major issues outstanding at these negotiations.

Participants are trying to develop a framework for a global deal in 2015, that would be legally binding and applicable to all.

Bland ambition
However the text that has been circulating here is said to lacking in clarity and in ambition. Mr Davey believes it will emerge from these talks in a better shape.

"I can see a good landing ground on that, but we've got a bit of work to do and I think we may well be up for a long time tonight."

He was also hopeful that a deal could be done on the most contentious aspect, loss and damage. This is something that developing nations are desperately keen to see some progress on.

Richer countries are fighting tooth and nail against the idea of a legally binding compensation arrangement, that in their words, would see them on the hook for every storm in every part of the world, forever.

However, ambassador Ronny Jumeau, from the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), also struck a cautiously optimistic note. He said there were different definitions of compensation that could allow some movement in the talks.

"It depends how you view compensation," he told BBC News.

"It doesn't necessarily mean I am blaming someone for it."

"We are past the blame game here, there is no black and white division between whose emissions caused what where."

The talks are due to finish late on Friday but the expectation is that, as usual, it will be sometime on Saturday before the final gavel falls.

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