Best of our wild blogs: 31 May 14


The right way to “rescue” a helpless chick
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Silty but lively at Pasir Ris
from wild shores of singapore

Chek Jawa (18 May 2014)
from teamseagrass

Getting to know Singapore’s farmers
from The Tender Gardener

Toddycats at the Faculty of Science Open House (17 May 2014)
from Toddycats!

"Human error and poor judgement" cause of 3 oil spills in 2 weeks in Jan-Feb 2014
from wild shores of singapore


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Coming months will be hotter and drier in Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 30 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Expect hotter and drier weather in the coming months. The Meteorological Service Singapore on Friday (May 30) said it is forecasting weak to moderate El Niño conditions to develop in the next few months. This will bring drier and warmer conditions to Singapore and the region.

The Met agency says rainfall for the coming Southwest Monsoon season between June and September, could range below 10 to 40 per cent below average. The average temperature is expected to be 1 degree Celsius above average.

Rainfall in May has been above average for most parts of Singapore. However, drier weather can be expected from the second week of June with the onset of the Southwest Monsoon. This is the traditional dry season for the region.

The El Niño refers to the abnormal warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean and is known to disrupt normal weather patterns. It is predicted to develop as early as end July this year.

While the El Niño conditions are expected to be weak to moderate, the prolonged drier and hotter weather conditions could increase the risk of transboundary haze from land and forest fires in the region. Met officials warn that Singapore could be affected depending on the location of the hotspots, and the wind.

In anticipation of the drier weather, an Inter-Agency Haze Task Force has been activated. And to make up for the lower rainfall, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) will ramp up its production of NEWater and desalinated water to maintain reservoir levels and the water supply. In light of this, PUB is urging businesses and members of the public to conserve water.

- CNA/ly

Warmer, drier weather in Singapore between June and September: NEA
Today Online 30 May 14;

SINGAPORE — The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) has predicted drier, warmer weather in Singapore in the next few months, following the rise of weak to moderate El Nino conditions across South-east Asia, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a press release today (May 30).

While rainfall this month has been above average for most parts of Singapore, the NEA said the traditional dry season between June and September is expected to start from the second week of next month, as a result of the coming Southwest Monsoon season.

Rainfall in Singapore over the coming Southwest Monsoon season between this period could range between 10 and 40 per cent below average, while the average daily temperature is expected to be about 1°C above average, said the NEA.

Prolonged warmer and drier conditions during El Nino will increase the risk of the occurrence of transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires across Southeast Asia, said the NEA, and Singapore could be affected, depending on various factors such as wind direction and the locations of hotspots in the fire-prone areas.

In anticipation of drier weather, the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force has started preparing to combat the haze. The NEA said: “Forecasts and advisories will take into account the new PSI system, as well as the revised Ministry of Health (MOH)’s health advisories and Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s workplace guidelines”.

The PUB also urged water conservation, as reservoir stock levels are expected to be affected by drier weather.

Meanwhile, the MSS will continue to monitor the conditions in the tropical Pacific leading to the development of the El Nino, as well as the regional weather and haze situation, and provide necessary updates, NEA added.

Expect hotter and drier months ahead
Feng Zeng Kun The Straits Times AsiaOne 31 May 14;

SINGAPORE - Get ready for hotter and drier days than usual over the next four months, with an increased likelihood of haze as well.

The El Nino weather phenomenon, involving abnormal warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, is to blame, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) yesterday. Average daily temperatures are expected to be 1 deg C hotter than the long-term averages of 27.2-27.7 deg C for those months.

Also, rainfall is expected to be 10 to 40 per cent less than the long-term averages, in a period that is already the region's traditional dry season.

"Prolonged drier and warmer conditions during an El Nino will increase the risk of the occurrence of transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires in the region," said the MSS.

With the unfavourable forecast, national water agency PUB is strongly urging people and businesses to conserve water as reservoir levels will fall in the months head because of the hotter weather and decreased rainfall.

"PUB will have to ramp up its production of Newater and desalinated water to maintain reservoir stock and ensure water availability," it said.

The Inter-Agency Haze Task Force comprising 23 government agencies is on the alert, and the members are coordinating plans to prepare for haze.

The Ministry of Education, for example, will consider closing primary and secondary schools to students if air quality is expected to be "hazardous" the day after.

The Government has stockpiled 16 million N95 masks to ease any shortages. The MSS said it will "closely monitor conditions in the tropical Pacific that lead to the development of El Nino, as well as the regional weather and haze situation, and provide updates if necessary".

El Ninos occur every three to five years on average. Scientists believe they are caused by a combination of simultaneous atmospheric and oceanic factors such as weakening easterly winds.

During an El Nino, a warm pool of water in the western Pacific Ocean sloshes eastwards, triggering thunderstorms that move away from South-east Asia towards the United States and South America.

A "strong" El Nino in 1997 resulted in droughts in Indonesia and severe flooding along the west coast of South America.

Here in Singapore, rainfall for June to September that year was about half of the usual average.

This year's El Nino is not expected to be severe, but rather "weak to moderate". In 2009, during a moderate El Nino, rainfall for June to September was about 20 per cent below the long-term average, while temperatures were about 1.1 degrees warmer.

Experts said temperature increases on some days could exceed the projected 1 deg C rise in average temperatures.

"At the very least, the rise in temperatures will cause more thermal discomfort for people who spend time outdoors," said Assistant Professor Winston Chow from the National University of Singapore's Department of Geography.

El Nino Advisory And Outlook For The Southwest Monsoon Season
NEA advisory

Singapore, 30 May 2014 – The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) is forecasting weak to moderate El Niño conditions to develop in the next few months, bringing drier and warmer conditions to Singapore and the region. Rainfall for Singapore over the coming Southwest Monsoon season between June and September 2014 could range between 10 - 40% below average, while the average daily temperature is expected to be about 1°C above average (refer to Table 1 for average values).

2 The El Niño refers to the abnormal warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean and is known to disrupt normal weather patterns in various regions of the world. In Southeast Asia, the effect of the El Niño is prolonged drier and warmer weather in large parts of the region. (further information on the El Niño is given in Annex A).

3 Since March 2014, the sea-surface temperature in the tropical Pacific has been warming steadily. This is a known precursor to an El Niño build-up. Based on the latest warming trend in the Pacific Ocean, as well as the computer model forecasts from various global climate centres, El Niño conditions could develop as early as end July. The strength of the El Niño is forecast to be weak to moderate and is likely to peak in the last quarter of the year. Typically, an El Niño which peaks late in the year will start to weaken in the first half of the following year.

4 Based on past El Niño events of moderate strength, Singapore is expected to experience below average rainfall during the June to September period, which is also the traditional dry season in the region that is brought about by the Southwest Monsoon. In 1963, when an El Niño of moderate strength occurred, Singapore’s rainfall total over this four-month period was reduced by almost 40% compared to the long-term average. In the more recent occurrence of a moderate El Niño in 2009, the corresponding figure was about 20% below the long-term average. Average daily temperature for the same period in 2009 was 1.1°C warmer than the long-term average of 27.4°C. The relationship between El Niño strength and impact on rainfall is however not straightforward, as there are also other factors affecting local and regional rainfall patterns.

5 Rainfall in May 2014 has so far been above average for most parts of Singapore. However, drier weather can be expected from the second week of June 2014 with the onset of the Southwest Monsoon. For the next four months (June-September 2014), rainfall is expected to be below average for most parts of Singapore, and average daily temperature is expected to be above average.

6 Prolonged drier and warmer conditions during an El Niño will increase the risk of the occurrence of transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires in the region. Depending on various factors such as wind direction and locations of hotspots in the fire-prone areas, Singapore could be affected by transboundary smoke haze during this period.

7 MSS will continue to closely monitor the conditions in the tropical Pacific that lead to the development of the El Niño, as well as the regional weather and haze situation, and provide updates if necessary.

8 In anticipation of the onset of drier weather, the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force (HTF) has already been activated and is co-ordinating their respective action plans in preparation for haze. Forecasts and advisories will take into account the new PSI system, as well as the revised Ministry of Health (MOH)’s health advisories and Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s workplace guidelines. The public can access the latest issued advisories at the NEA website (www.nea.gov.sg), the haze microsite (www.haze.gov.sg), or follow NEA on NEA Facebook (www.facebook.com/NEASingapore) and NEA Twitter (@NEAsg).

9 Reservoir stock levels will be impacted by drier weather and lower rainfall. In response, PUB will have to ramp up its production of NEWater and desalinated water to maintain reservoir stock and ensure water availability. To prepare for the drier months ahead, PUB strongly urges the community and businesses to continue to conserve water, and play our part to stretch our water resources.


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Paint detected in drain, NEA to take legal action against firm

Channel NewsAsia 30 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) will take legal action against Rynamo Building Services for causing pollution of a waterway under the Environmental Protection and Management Act.

NEA said blue paint was detected in a drain at Clover Way on Thursday (May 29).

Investigations revealed that it came from a paint drum that had tipped over into the drain at Mayfair Industrial Building at No. 51 Jalan Pemimpin.

PUB contained the discharge within the drain which was cleared up on the same day.

NEA said water samples taken downstream of Clover Way on Thursday showed that there was no impact to the water quality.

- CNA/gn

Blue water in Bishan canal caused by spilled paint at Jalan Pemimpin factory
Stomp AsiaOne 30 May 14;


SINGAPORE - The Public Utilities Board (PUB) has found the cause of striking blue water in Bishan's canal yesterday, May 29, and has cleared up the drain.

Stomp contributor Pauline had spotted the bright artificial blue colour of the canal at Binchang Rise, and was concerned about what happened.

In response to the Stomp article "What caused this? Canal in Bishan turns into a shocking, artificial blue" dated May 29, PUB's checks have revealed that paint had tipped over into the drain at one of the factories at Jalan Pemimpin.

This is their reply in full:

"PUB detected a blue discharge in a drain at Clover Way at 5.30pm. PUB officers were mobilised to site immediately to investigate.

"Initial checks revealed that the discharge came from paint that had tipped over into the drain at one of the factories at Jalan Pemimpin.

"A tanker was mobilised to contain and clear up the discharge.

"By 8.20pm, we had cleared up the drain. Water samples have been collected for laboratory tests.

"PUB and NEA are investigating the incident.

"PUB would like to assure the public that it has a comprehensive monitoring system to monitor the quality of the raw water in our reservoirs and the raw water is treated at the waterworks to World Health Organisation drinking water quality guidelines before it is supplied to households."


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Best of our wild blogs: 30 May 14



Coral bleaching at Sultan Shoal (Jun 2014)
from Bleach Watch Singapore

Creeping Out Despite Warm Waters
from Hantu Blog

50m net with 40 crabs at Changi (29 May 2014)
from Project Driftnet Singapore

Changi with colourful slugs
from wild shores of singapore

Politicians must speak up on environment issues: NMP Faizah Jamal
from Love our MacRitchie Forest

Singapore: companies must accept responsibility in addressing haze crisis
from Mongabay.com news by Rhett Butler

Job Openings in Tropical Marine Science Institute
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore


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Wide-ranging plans ready to cope with haze

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 May 14;

Singapore is prepared if the haze returns as feared in the next few months. Plans are in place at schools and health-care institutions, government agencies said in a joint reply to queries from The Straits Times.

The Inter-Agency Haze Task Force comprising 23 government agencies is also on alert.

After last year's chaos, when many people had difficulty obtaining N95 masks, the Government has stockpiled 16 million in case of shortages.

The Ministry of Health has also placed masks with distributors and the People's Association.

The Haze Subsidy Scheme to cap medical fees at $10 for haze-related conditions will be reinstated if necessary. It was introduced last year for vulnerable Singaporeans such as the elderly who visit participating polyclinics and general practitioners.

The Health Ministry has worked out "contingency plans... which aim to maintain patient safety, meet increased health- care demand and minimise disruption to medical services".

To protect students, schools will modify lessons as needed if the air becomes "very unhealthy".

The Ministry of Education will consider closing all primary and secondary schools to students if the air is expected to be "hazardous" the next day. Parents will be informed by telephone or SMS if schools are closed.

Kindergartens and childcare centres will follow suit.

Junior colleges, centralised institutes and other schools are also monitoring the haze situation. If necessary, outdoor activities will be postponed, cancelled or replaced with indoor activities.

Meanwhile, the Workplace Safety and Health Council and Singapore Contractors Association have reminded employers to follow Ministry of Manpower guidelines during the haze.

These include different protective measures for healthy workers, elderly and pregnant employees and those with chronic lung disease or heart ailments.

Guidelines include having rest breaks indoors when the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is in the "unhealthy" range.

However, "there is no pre-determined level at which all work would have to be stopped", said the government agencies' joint reply. "Essential services would still continue, although appropriate adjustments would be necessary."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan has warned several times that this year's haze could be even worse than last year's record pollution, when the three-hour PSI hit a hazardous 401 on June 21.

From June to October, some Indonesian farmers take advantage of the dry season to clear land illegally by setting fire to it, a practice blamed for the haze here.

Some scientists also expect the El Nino weather phenomenon, linked to droughts in South-east Asia, to worsen the fire risk.

Bank employee Harry Hay, 31, recently bought an air purifier and he and his wife have also stocked face masks. "We've put the air purifier in our infant son's room," he said. "Even if the haze doesn't come back, it's better to be safe."

Clear air expected in Singapore this week

Singapore appears to be safe from the haze this week, though the risk is set to worsen in the coming months.

Fewer than 30 hot spots have been recorded in Sumatra, Indonesia, at any time in the past two weeks, according to figures from the Meteorological Service Singapore, though the low count could have been partly due to cloud cover and partial satellite coverage. The service has warned, however, that increased hot spot activities are expected, which could lead to transboundary haze.

Climate scientists have also warned that the El Nino weather phenomenon, linked to droughts in South-east Asia, could increase the risk of fires and haze later this year.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's Department of Geography said south-west monsoon winds expected from June to August may also blow smoke and particulate matter from fires in Sumatra towards Singapore.

From mid-September to early November, however, variable wind directions could transport the brunt of the haze away from the Republic.


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Oil spill incidents caused by human error and poor judgment: MPA

Channel NewsAsia 29 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced on Thursday (May 29) that human error and poor judgement were the main causes of three collisions which resulted in oil spills in the Republic's port waters and the Singapore Strait early this year.

In addition, MPA says there was lack of situational awareness on the part of the bridge teams of the vessels, including the pilots. This is despite MPA's Port Operations Control Centre giving them advisories and warnings of the traffic situation.

MPA found that the bridge teams did not make use of things like the Automatic Identification System (AIS) or Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) to avoid the collisions. Disciplinary action will be taken against members of the bridge teams.

In the wake of these incidents, a Safety Review Committee was formed to review the overall system of navigational safety in the waters. The panel included experts from the MPA, the Ministry of Transport, local academics, and representatives from the shipping industry.

The committee found no significant increase in the number of incidents in Singapore's waters between 2007 and 2013. Over the last few years, the number of incidents averaged between 0.012 and 0.016 per 1,000 vessel movements in port waters and the Singapore Strait respectively.

Still, to further enhance navigational safety, the committee recommended that a stronger culture of safety awareness be instilled. It also called for enhancement of communication and information sharing between pilots and ship masters, and for more active advisories to be provided to vessels navigating high-risk areas.

MPA will form two working groups to implement the measures, and will soon launch a safety campaign with the shipping community.

Said MPA Chief Executive, Mr Andrew Tan: “MPA places a strong emphasis on the safety of navigation and takes a serious view of any incidents in Singapore waters. Moving forward, we will work more closely with all our industry partners to review our safety management procedures and implement additional measures to enhance navigational safety. We will also not hesitate to take appropriate actions against those who infringe our safety regulations.”

- CNA/xk

Shipping collisions earlier this year due to human error and poor judgement
AsiaOne 29 May 14;

Capt M Segar, Assistant Chief Executive (Operations) MPA, speaking to the shipping community at the dialogue session

SINGAPORE - Human error and poor judgement of the situation were the main causes of the three collision incidents that resulted in oil spills which took place in the Singapore port waters and Singapore Strait earlier this year.

Following the three incidents, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) conducted investigations to determine the causes of these incidents.

The three collisions were between Fei He, a China-flagged containership, and Lime Galaxy, a Hong Kong-flagged chemical tanker on Jan 24, 2014, between NYK Themis, a Panama-flagged containership and a barge, AZ Fuzhou that was towed by tug "AZ Carnation" on Jan 30, and between a Liberia-flagged containership Hammonia Thracium and Panama-flagged chemical tanker Zoey on Feb 10.

MPA has also formed a Safety Review Committee (SRC) to review the overall system of navigational safety in Singapore's port waters and Singapore Strait. Members comprise experts from MPA, Ministry of Transport, the local academia and shipping industry.

Key findings

The findings of the investigations showed that human error and poor judgement of the situation was the main cause of the three collisions. There was lack of situational awareness of the bridge teams, including the pilots, although MPA's Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) had provided advisories and warnings of the traffic situation to the bridge teams.

The bridge teams also did not make use of all available means at their disposal, such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS), Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Radar, and Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) to avoid the collisions.

Appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against the members of the bridge teams, including the pilots, for contravening the relevant regulations.

The SRC also reviewed the overall regime of navigational safety in Singapore's port limits.

The SRC found no significant increase in the number of incidents between 2007 and 2013, nor was there apparent correlation in the occurrence of incidents and growth in vessel movements in the Singapore Strait or port waters. The number of incidents over the last few years remained low and averaged about 0.012 and 0.016 per 1,000 vessel movements in the port waters and Singapore Strait respectively. The existing systems and procedures put in place by MPA have helped to keep the incident rates low.

Key follow-ups

The SRC has recommended adopting the following key measures to further enhance the safety of navigation in the port and in the Singapore Strait:

- Instilling a strong safety culture

MPA should work with the industry to develop an integrated safety management framework to drive the overall efforts to promote a strong culture of safety awareness, including the conduct of regular safety briefings to the shipping community.

- Enhancing communication and information sharing

PSA Marine should enhance the information sharing between pilots and ship masters, including the timely dissemination of passage plan to the ships. There should also be procedures for its pilots to follow when communications failure occurs between the pilots on converging ships, or between the Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) and their ships.

- Improving safe passage in high risk areas

MPA's VTIS should consider providing more active advisories to vessels navigating at high traffic density areas in the port of Singapore and in the Singapore Strait. MPA should also work with the shipping community to ensure ship masters are present on the bridge when their ships are transiting critical areas in the Singapore Strait.

To implement the measures and ensure efforts are sustained, MPA will form two working groups - the MPA-PSA Marine Safety of Navigation Working Group and the MPA-SSA (Singapore Shipping Association) Safety of Navigation Working Group.

MPA will also be launching a Safety Campaign with the shipping community to raise the level of awareness on navigational safety. It will also review and improve navigational safety in critical areas such as key fairways and pilot boarding grounds.

Shipping community briefed at the Navigational Safety Dialogue Session

MPA organised a dialogue session this morning with the shipping community to update them on the investigation findings of the incidents, and measures to enhance the safety of navigation in the Singapore Strait and Singapore's port waters. More than 150 representatives from the shipping community attended the dialogue session, including shipowners, ship managers, ship charterers and shipping agents, who have direct channels to convey the safety messages to the ship masters and officers.

MPA Chief Executive, Mr Andrew Tan said, "MPA places a strong emphasis on the safety of navigation and takes a serious view of any incidents in Singapore waters. Moving forward, we will work more closely with all our industry partners to review our safety management procedures and implement additional measures to enhance navigational safety. We will also not hesitate to take appropriate actions against those who infringe our safety regulations."

Mr Patrick Phoon, Chairman of the Safe Navigation and Environment Committee of the Asian Shipowners' Forum and President of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) said, "We welcome the efforts taken by MPA and the Safety Review Committee to look at the causes to these incidents holistically. The SSA will work closely with MPA to implement the recommendations from the Safety Review Committee to enhance navigational safety within our port waters and the Singapore Strait."

Outcome of Investigation Findings into Marine Incidents and Measures to Enhance Safety of Navigation in Singapore Port Waters and Singapore Strait
MPA Media Release 29 May 14;

Following the three collision incidents[1] resulting in oil spills which took place in the Singapore port waters and Singapore Strait early this year, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) conducted investigations to determine the causes of the incidents. MPA also formed a Safety Review Committee (SRC) to review the overall system of navigational safety in Singapore's port waters and Singapore Strait. Members comprised experts from MPA, Ministry of Transport, the local academia and shipping industry.

Key Findings

The findings of the investigations showed that human error and poor judgement of the situation was the main cause of the three collisions. There was lack of situational awareness of the bridge teams, including the pilots, although MPA's Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) had provided advisories and warnings of the traffic situation to the bridge teams. The bridge teams also did not make use of all available means at their disposal, such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS), Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Radar, and Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) to avoid the collisions. Appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against the members of the bridge teams, including the pilots, for contravening the relevant regulations.

The SRC also reviewed the overall regime of navigational safety in Singapore's port limits. The SRC found no significant increase in the number of incidents between 2007 and 2013, nor was there apparent correlation in the occurrence of incidents and growth in vessel movements in the Singapore Strait or port waters. The number of incidents over the last few years remained low and averaged about 0.012 and 0.016 per 1,000 vessel movements in the port waters and Singapore Strait respectively. The existing systems and procedures put in place by MPA have helped to keep the incident rates low.


Key Follow Ups

Notwithstanding, the SRC recommended adopting the following key measures to further enhance the safety of navigation in the port and in the Singapore Strait:

i. Instilling a strong safety culture

MPA should work with the industry to develop an integrated safety management framework to drive the overall efforts to promote a strong culture of safety awareness, including the conduct of regular safety briefings to the shipping community.

ii. Enhancing communication and information sharing

PSA Marine should enhance the information sharing between pilots and ship masters, including the timely dissemination of passage plan to the ships. There should also be procedures for its pilots to follow when communications failure occurs between the pilots on converging ships, or between the Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) and their ships.

iii. Improving safe passage in high risk areas

MPA's VTIS should consider providing more active advisories to vessels navigating at high traffic density areas in the port of Singapore and in the Singapore Strait. MPA should also work with the shipping community to ensure ship masters are present on the bridge when their ships are transiting critical areas in the Singapore Strait.

To implement the above measures and ensure efforts are sustained, MPA will form two working groups:

i.The MPA-PSA Marine Safety of Navigation Working Group.
ii.The MPA-SSA (Singapore Shipping Association) Safety of Navigation Working Group.

MPA will also be shortly launching a Safety Campaign with the shipping community to raise the level of awareness on navigational safety. It will also review and improve navigational safety in critical areas such as key fairways and pilot boarding grounds.

Shipping Community Briefed at the Navigational Safety Dialogue Session

MPA organised a dialogue session this morning with the shipping community to update them on the investigation findings of the incidents, and measures to enhance the safety of navigation in the Singapore Strait and Singapore's port waters. More than 150 representatives from the shipping community attended the dialogue session, including shipowners, ship managers, ship charterers and shipping agents, who have direct channels to convey the safety messages to the ship masters and officers.

MPA Chief Executive, Mr Andrew Tan said, "MPA places a strong emphasis on the safety of navigation and takes a serious view of any incidents in Singapore waters. Moving forward, we will work more closely with all our industry partners to review our safety management procedures and implement additional measures to enhance navigational safety. We will also not hesitate to take appropriate actions against those who infringe our safety regulations."

Mr Patrick Phoon, Chairman of the Safe Navigation and Environment Committee of the Asian Shipowners' Forum and President of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) said, "We welcome the efforts taken by MPA and the Safety Review Committee to look at the causes to these incidents holistically. The SSA will work closely with MPA to implement the recommendations from the Safety Review Committee to enhance navigational safety within our port waters and the Singapore Strait."


Read more!

'Vertical' fish farms in Singapore may be a reality soon

Samantha Boh MyPaper AsiaOne 30 May 14;

The water-recycling system is attached to a circular tank, which holds around 8,000 litres of water, and 11 such tanks can fit into 10,000 sq ft of space (an area about the size of 81/2 HDB five-room flats).

You need four walls, a roof and a space several storeys high and voila! you're a fish farmer.

This could become a reality if a water-recycling system gets implemented here, which would remove the need for fish farms to be built at sea or at sea level.

Singapore's land scarcity means it has to get creative about its space constraints and this is where such "vertical fish farms" come in, said John Bahng, director of Ocean Ethix Singapore.

He told My Paper that his company, which markets such a system, is already in talks with two companies and another group of potential investors to bring the technology from Hong Kong to Singapore, possibly as early as this year.

The company is in the midst of drawing up proposals, and aims to approach the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) within the next three months.

Ocean Ethix's water-recycling system is attached to a circular tank, which holds around 8,000 litres of water, and 11 such tanks can fit into 10,000 sq ft of space (an area about the size of 81/2 HDB five-room flats), virtually almost anywhere.

"You basically just need four walls and a roof," said Mr Bahng.

"And with transportation costs being a factor for (fish) importers, this could also reduce the price fluctuations due to changes in fuel prices, for instance."

A facility of this size has already been installed in Hong Kong. It sells about two tonnes of groupers to fish wholesalers each week, getting about $126 per kg.

Here, a typical sea-based fish farm spanning 27,000 sq ft produces between five and seven tonnes of fish a year, said Philip Lim, chairman of the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative.

Mr Bahng said the system could be the solution to mass fish deaths, much like what happened earlier this year at 34 fish farms here. Then, a plankton bloom and lack of oxygen resulted in a loss of some 160 tonnes of fish.

"Basically, you can take most or all of nature's effects out of the equation - weather, natural disasters, algae, diseases and so on," he said.

According to AVA, there are several land-based fish farms here, which have adopted similar systems. Swee Chioh Fishery uses one at its fish nurseries. The fish are later transferred to open-sea cages.

An AVA spokesman said the agency "encourages local fish farms to adopt such technologies as it allows the fish to be cultured in a more controlled environment".

AVA began a push in 2011 to make local supplies account for 15 per cent of total fish consumed here, but the figure is currently just 7 per cent.

Malcolm Ong, chief executive of The Fish Farmer, said that he welcomed any technology that could help optimise land use and also minimise the risk of disease, but was mindful of the costs involved.

Referring to the use of water-recycling systems, he said: "Definitely the cost of energy would be higher than in the sea, because the system would have to circulate and pump water 24/7. Hopefully, these (costs) can be offset by productivity gains."


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Indonesian authorities stepping up preventive measures against haze

Devianti Faridz Channel NewsAsia 28 May 14;

PEKANBARU, Riau: As the dry season returns to plantation areas across Indonesia, the possibility of choking haze in the region is growing.

And local governments are taking steps to try and stop the fires once and for all.

In Riau province, where temperatures are rising, people are bracing for a comeback of the haze.

This area was the hardest hit in recent plantation and forest fires; and over the past decade, it has usually been during this time of the year when hot spots are normally detected.

When they are detected, and the wind direction shifts, the haze will eventually spread overseas.

"Whether there's a fire or not, the wind direction will still move from the southwest to northeast towards Singapore," said Sugarin, Station Head, Pekanbaru Meteorology and Geophsyics Agency. "If land is being burnt, then the wind will blow the haze towards neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia."

An emergency alert status for the province has been in force since April.

Authorities have begun raising awareness of illegal land clearing in 12 municipalities and ordered wells and water holes be established in fire prone areas.

"If a fire is found, the community can be the ones to first respond to it," said Riau's Governor, Annas Maamun. "They can work together to put out the fires while they are still small."

Plans are also underway to involve 4,000 students from local universities to spend a part of their senior year on community service directed at combating fires.

Five equipped fire monitors from each village will also be trained to help extinguish the blazes and report to the local government.

"If there is a plantation fire lit up by irresponsible people, these monitors will report it to us directly," said Said Saqlul Amri, Chief Executive, Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency. "Further, there will also be three designated personnel on stand-by at each district office."

In hopes of better handling future forest and plantation fires, the Riau Governor has proposed increasing the regional budget for disaster management by four times, to as much as US$3.5 million.

While the budget awaits legislators' approval, the local government has more than US$800,000 ready for use in tackling the first signs of plantation fires.

- CNA/rw


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Indonesia to Start Work on World’s Biggest Geothermal Plant in June

Fathiyah Dahrul and Fergus Jensen Jakarta Globe 29 May 14;

Jakarta. Indonesia will begin construction next month of its long-delayed $1.6-billion Sarulla project, the world’s biggest geothermal power plant, the country’s chief economic minister said on Wednesday.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy, home to the world’s largest geothermal resources, is racing to meet power demand growth of more than 7 percent a year, with plans to add 60 gigawatts of capacity to its existing grid by 2022.

But the sector has struggled to attract investment because of complex regulations and difficulties securing project finance. A government plan to derive 12 percent of the country’s energy mix from geothermal power by 2025 seems unrealistic.

“The Sarulla groundbreaking will be very soon,” Coordinating Economic Minister Chairul Tanjung told reporters, adding that the project had reached financial closing and the government expected construction to begin next month.

He declined to give further details.

The project was originally initiated in 1990 but ground to a halt during the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Its first phase is expected to begin operation in 2016, with the next two phases to follow within 18 months of the first phase.

The 330-MW Sarulla project is envisioned to provide clean power to an Indonesian grid dominated by fossil-fuel energy. Sarulla is expected to reduce 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year when completed in 2018.

The financing of the project has been heralded as a breakthrough for Indonesia’s largely undeveloped 29 gigawatts of geothermal potential.

The banks involved in the financing are the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) along with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd, ING Bank NV (a unit of ING Groep NV ), Societe Generale, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corportation, Mizuho Bank Ltd and National Australia Bank.

The project is sponsored by Itochu Corporation (25 percent), Kyushu Electric Power Company (25 percent), Medco Power Indonesia (37.5 percent), a unit of Medco Energi Internasional and Ormat International, a unit of Ormat Technologies (12.5 percent).

The Sarulla plant’s recent financial close makes it Indonesia’s first geothermal project to gain financing since Star Energy’s 227-MW Wayang Windu plant commenced in 1997.


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Malaysia: ‘Preserve all of Gunung Kanthan’

Patrick Lee The Star 29 May 14;

IPOH: Environmentalists are demanding that Gunung Kanthan’s ecosystem be kept whole and that any conservation there not be limited to merely one of the two zones.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamad said Kanthan’s Area C and D were connected.

“(The areas are marked by a) human boundary. It’s an ecosystem. You can’t quarry one side without affecting the other,” he said.

He said Kanthan’s southern ecosystem would be in trouble if only one area was designated a conservation zone.

Dr Maketab said he would be meeting with Lafarge Malaysia — which wants to quarry one of the zones — in mid-June to present his views to the company.

Lafarge is the parent of a group of companies dealing in the manufacture and sale of cement, ready-mixed concrete and other related building materials.

Initial findings by the company’s biodiversity study on the two areas determined that Area D was environmentally sensitive while Area C was not.

But Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) plant taxonomist Dr Ruth Kiew warned that Area D would be severely affected if Area C was quarried.

“There is a water system that runs through the limestone forest into the caves. If they get a flood in the cave, it will be damaged,” she said.

The Star previously reported that Dr Kiew and her team had discovered two new flora species in Area C.

The area was also home to nine plant species that were on Malaysia’s Red List of Endangered Plants.

However, Universiti Malaya Institute of Biological Sciences head Prof Dr Rosli Hashim does not consider Area C environmentally sensitive.

“The list of species (in Area C) is not as impressive as that in Area D.

“The only species of importance there is the serow (mountain goat),” he said, and the animal roamed and was not localised to that area.

Dr Rosli and his team of 13 researchers had carried out Lafarge’s six-month biodiversity study of the area.

Jim Ruxton, Lafarge senior vice-president of industrial operations, said it had updated the Perak state executive council on the study’s findings.

The study has also been presented to the International Lafarge Biodiversity Panel, which was reviewing it.

Ruxton said the state exco was looking to form a committee on the matter and that Lafarge would work with both to reach a decision on Area D.

The final report on the biodiversity study is expected to be released next month.

Ruxton said Lafarge would carry out an environmental impact assessment of the area if it was required to.

Lafarge plans to spend more than RM200mil over the next two years to expand its Kanthan plant facilities and operations.

The entire area spans some 150ha, with half already quarried by the company.


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Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 14


Share your ideas for Pulau Ubin on the Pulau Ubin Project site
from wild shores of singapore

Opens 12 June NUS Museum Singapore: “When you get closer to the heart you may find cracks…” from Green Drinks Singapore

Black Tipped Archduke feeding on rotting starfruit
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Rainwater Harvesting Advice
from Water Quality in Singapore


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Share your ideas on how to enhance Pulau Ubin

Today Online 28 May 14;

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of National Development (MND) is reaching out to encourage more Singaporeans to submit ideas on what they would like Pulau Ubin to be.

This will be done through the Ubin Project microsite launched today (May 28).

Speaking in Parliament today, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said that the Ubin Project — announced earlier this year to “protect Pulau Ubin’s heritage” — seeks to see how “we can sensitively enhance the natural environment of Ubin and protect its heritage and its rustic charm”.

A broad network of stakeholders was formed to share their ideas about Pulau Ubin. Called the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN), it included biodiversity experts, conservation activists, history buffs, socio-anthropologists, students, voluteers and Ubin community leaders and residents.

This microsite will provide updates on FUN, and allow Singaporeans to share their ideas on how to can enhance Pulau Ubin’s natural environment, biodiversity and history.

“The Ubin Project is another good opportunity for the government and the community to work together on something close to our hearts,” said Mr Lee. “I encourage all Singaporeans to participate in the process because it is much about the process than it is the outcome.’

You can visit the microsite at http://ubin.mnd.gov.sg/MS/PulauUbin


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Malaysia: Sungai Selangor Dam water level still low despite rain

The Star 29 May 14;

PETALING JAYA: Recent heavy rain has failed to raise the water level to an optimum level of 55% at the Sungai Selangor Dam and the anticipated El Nino phenomenon next month could lead to rationing for millions in the Klang Valley.

S. Piarapakaran, president of the Association of Water Energy Re­­­search, said the south-west monsoon season, forecast to last until September, and the El Nino phenomenon could reduce water levels.

“The worry is that the El Nino will affect the rainfall pattern during the south-west monsoon and inter-monsoon period. Less rainfall means less water in the rivers and dams and more peat fires,” he said.

According to the Selangor Water Management Authority website, the water level at the dam stood at 42.53% as of 8am yesterday.

The water level was at 36.53% on March 31, 38.97% on April 23, before hitting the 40% mark on April 28, leading to the lifting of the water rationing exercise in Selangor, Putra­jaya and Kuala Lum­pur.

“Based on what happened early this year, the possibility of water rationing is still there,” said Piarapa­karan.

The Meteorological Department said the El Nino weather pattern would not effect the peninsula adver­sely but could cause a dry spell in Sabah and Sarawak.


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Indonesia: Fears dought may trigger forest fires again in Riau

The Jakarta Post 28 May 14;

Riau is currently experiencing a drought that has the potential to trigger forest, peatland and plantation fires, which frequently cause choking haze in surrounding areas, including neighboring countries.

"As I earlier stated, starting late May, Riau has been experiencing a drought," Ardhitama, an analyst from the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology, and geophysics station, said in Pekanbaru on Wednesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

However, moderate rains are still expected on Wednesday and the next few days due to cloud cover over Riau, said Ardhitama.

"Why are we still having rains during a drought? It is because the disaster mitigation task force is still carrying out cloud seeding to make the rain," he added.

The Riau Disaster Mitigation office recently confirmed that the task force had conducted climate modification by using appropriate technology to produce rains.

The task force used a Hercules A-1328 aircraft, which has the capacity to carry four tons of salt (NaCI) per sortie for climate modification.

Water bombs were also dropped by Bolcow PK-EAH helicopters, which flew 10 sorties per day. Each sortie dropped half a ton of water. The water bombs were dropped to put out fires in Siak regency.

This year Indonesia is again expecting the El Nino weather phenomenon, which has tended to become more frequent and stronger due to climate change.

"We have to anticipate El Nino and enforce repressive measures against forest and plantation fire setters," Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said recently.

The government could no longer afford to be tolerant toward those setting fires every year, therefore, repressive action had to be taken to deter the perpetrators, he said. (hhr)

Drought likely to trigger forest fires in Riau province
Antara 28 May 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Riau Province is currently experiencing a drought, which has the potential to trigger forest, peat land, and plantation fires.

"As I had earlier informed, starting late May, Riau is experiencing a drought," Ardhitama, an analyst from the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology, and geophysics station, noted here on Wednesday.

However, moderate rains are still expected on Wednesday and during the course of the next few days due to cloud cover over Riau, stated Ardhitama.

"Why are we still having rains during a drought? It is because the disaster mitigation task force is still carrying out cloud seeding to make rains," he added.

The Riau Disaster Mitigation office recently informed that the task force has conducted climate modification by using appropriate technology to produce rains.

The task force used a Hercules A-1328 aircraft, which has a capacity of carrying four tons of salt (NaCI) per sortie for climate modification.

Water bombs were also dropped by Bolcow PK-EAH helicopters, which flew 10 sorties per day. Each sortie dropped 500 kilograms of water. The water bombs were dropped to put out the fires in Siak district.

This year, Indonesia is again expecting El Nino, which tends to become more frequent and stronger due to climate change.

Learning from the lessons of the El Nino-induced forest fires in 1997 and several other years, the government has been making preparations for anticipating the El Nino phenomenon, forecast to develop between May and October 2014.

If forest fires occur during the El Nino phenomenon, it can have serious repercussions since Indonesia will most likely experience an El Nino-induced drought.

"We have to anticipate El Nino and enforce repressive measures against forest and plantation fire setters," Indonesian Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan recently emphasized.

The government can no longer afford to be tolerant towards those setting fires every year, therefore, repressive action must be taken to deter the perpetrators, he reiterated.
(KR-FZR)
Editor: Ella Syafputri


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Indonesia: Balikpapan Bay’s Ecosystem Faces Multiple Threats

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 28 May 14;

Balikpapan. The morning sun peeked behind dark clouds looming over the fishing village of Gersik in North Penajam Paser district, East Kalimantan. The wharf buzzed with activity, crowded with fishing skippers and buyers. They waited for fishing boats to return from Balikpapan Bay. After glimpsing the catch they made bargains, before transporting their purchases to a market for trade.

Darman, 46, a fisherman living in Gersik fishing village, looked disappointed with his haul. Of the six big buckets he had prepared, only two were filled with fish. The rest of them were empty. This could barely cover the cost of going to sea.

“The cost of the diesel is higher than the money I earn from my catch,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not bad, but sometimes there is no catch at all.”

The father of two sons said approximately 1,000 fishermen living along the coast of Balikpapan Bay began reporting declining catches from the end of 2009. Before that, each small fishing boat, known locally as kapal dogol , was able to bring home up to 50 kilograms of fish on each trip. But now, 10 kg is the most that they can net — leaving many struggling to support their families.

Darman says the declining income of fishermen at Balikpapan Bay is tied to the damaged fishing habitats.

The upstream area of Balikpapan Bay now hosts a number of oil palm plantations and coal mines. Deforestation to build a crude palm oil refinery and a port for coal transport has resulted in the accumulation of sediment in the bay.

“Every year, the bay shallows by one or two meters. In the past three years, it is estimated to have shallowed by five meters,” said Darman, who is also an assistant to environmental researchers in the area. “Now the bay is only 15 meters deep. Before that, it was as deep as 20 meters.”

“The high rate of sedimentation has led to the destruction of coral reefs. This is because of the cutting down of mangrove forests and the reclamation of land for industrial and agriculture.”

He said the administrations of North Penajam Paser and Balikpapan should jointly enact a zonation system — comprised of a protection zone and commercial zone. He said the upstream area of Balikpapan Bay, meanwhile, should be protected and kept free of human activities. Balikpapan Bay is one of Indonesia’s biodiversity hubs — thanks to several unique ecosystems it hosts: primary forests (including the protected Sungai Wain Forest), mangrove forests, coral reefs and seagrass beds.

The area consists of 150 square kilometers of shallow sea, 170 square kilometers of mangrove forests, 50 square kilometers of primary tropical forests and more than 100 square kilometers of secondary tropical forests — forest areas that had been burned but have regenerated and are in good condition.

Balikpapan Bay, covering 211.456 hectares of watershed and 16.000 hectares of waters, is home to some 1,400 proboscis monkeys, known locally as bekantan , representing 5 percent of the total proboscis monkey population worldwide. Marine animals like dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles and saltwater crocodiles inhabit the waters, while orangutans, sun bears, Sunda clouded leopards, eight species of hornbills, among others, dwell in the forests. More than 100 species of mammals, nearly 300 bird species and around 1,000 species of trees (including more than 30 mangrove species) inhabit Balikpapan Bay. The area is also known to be home of a dragonfly and a ginger species found nowhere else.

“That is an extraordinary biodiversity for an urban area. Across the Asian continent, there is no other city with such high biodiversity,” said a zoologist from the Czech Republic’s University of South Bohemia, Stanislav Lhota, who has been conducting research at Balikpapan Bay for the past eight years.

He said the ecosystems of the bay were crucial with huge biodiversity and potentials for ecotourism, and also because of the carbon storage of its mangrove forests.

Protected mangrove forests can become a very precious asset in carbon trade, Lhota said. The bay’s ecosystems also support the livelihoods of the local people, most of who work as fishermen. Thousands of fishermen in Balikpapan city and North Penajam Paser district — concentrated especially in Gersik, Jenebora, Lango Beach and Maridan Tanjung villages — rely on Balikpapan Bay for their lives.

“I’ve witnessed destruction of Balikpapan Bay since 2005,” Lhota said. “If we let the destruction of the ecosystems continue, everyone will feel the pinch of losing a main source of life, and poverty in coastal areas will become a very heavy problem.”

Ecosystem destruction in North Penajam Paser, where more than 80 percent of Balikpapan Bay’s watershed is located, is caused by three main problems: oil palm plantations, coal mining and acacia plantations. Not only have they destroyed forests and traditional farms, as well as disrupt river flows, they are the main cause of soil erosion and sedimentation, and are a main producer of waste, including fertilizer and herbicide runoff.

In Balikpapan, meanwhile, the main threat is industrial activity, which also uses a large amount of palm oil, acacia woods and coal.

“Companies’ activities along the coast of Balikpapan are threatening the marine life, with sedimentation rate now as high as two meters per year,” Lhota said. “This must be anticipated. The sediments are forming layers covering coral reef, which will eventually die although it’s a breeding ground for fish.”

The pace of destruction has worsened since the Balikpapan administration issued a policy on the expansion of the Kariangau Industrial Zone, from 2,189 hectares to 5,130 hectares, coupled with a plan to build the Pulau Balang Bridge and connecting roads.

Jufriansyah, the director executive of Center for Environment Partnership and Empowerment Program (Stabil), said as many as 70 percent of 30,000 mangrove forests in Balikpapan and North Penajam Paser district have been destroyed. In three years time, hundreds of mangrove forests have turned into industrial areas.

Neither the Balikpapan nor the North Penajam Paser administration, though, has taken firm action against companies allegedly responsible for the environmental damage.

The Kalimantan Coast Foundation, meanwhile, has released alarming data, saying as much as 90 percent of coral reef in the area is damaged.

Fahruddin, head of the Balikpapan office of the Environmental Agency (BPLHD Balikpapan) admitted that coral reefs in Balikpapan Bay had been severely damaged due to the high rate of sedimentation.

Activists Call for Efforts to Save Balikpapan Bay
Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 28 May 14;

Balikpapan. Environmental activists say a strong political will is needed to safeguard the ecosystems of the Balikpapan Bay from further destruction, calling on two local administrations to show serious efforts towards achieving this.

Environmental activist Izal Wardana said the administrations of Balikpapan city and North Penajam Paser district in East Kalimantan actually already issued regulations intended to protect Balikpapan Bay from environmental damage, but that these are not being implemented.

“Actually only political will is needed from both regions to seriously protect the environment,” said Izal, former executive director of the East Kalimantan office of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi). “Because the regulations — starting from laws, government regulations and bylaws — are already in place, except for the implementation.”

He cited as examples the 1990 Law on Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems, which protects rare animal species and threatens offenders with as many as five years in prison and fines of up to Rp 100 million ($8,600).

Then there is also the 1998 government regulation on natural reserve zones, among other regulations.

“So, once more, this is all about political will from both the Balikpapan city administration and the Penajaam Paser district administration, including how to redesign activities that have led to the cutting of mangrove forests as a habitat of rare species,” Izal said. “The reality is, the two regions’ development programs have been carried out at the expense of rare animals’ habitat.”

Among the development projects, he said, is the development of an industrial zone, as well as the construction of a port and a container terminal in Kariangau.

“Then there’s also the TransKalimantan highway project, as well as the construction of the bridge connecting Balikpapan and North Penajam Paser.”

Imdaad Hamid, head of the Kariangau Industrial Zone, meanwhile said the private sector needed encouragement to get involved in environmental protection efforts, such as by offering them incentives in the form of tax cuts if they preserve mangrove forests growing in their areas.

“For example, if they have 100 hectares of land, they have to make 40 hectares an open green area or a mangrove forest,” said Imdaad, also former mayor of Balikpapan. “After that, they pay tax only for 60 hectares of land even though their land certificate says 100 hectares. So the remainder should be free from tax.”

“We can’t do this ourselves. Now the question is, how to get these businesses to participate in environmental protection efforts?”

He added that businesses could partner with other organizations to carry out these green policies, such as with SMAN 8 Balikpapan state high school known to have been actively involved in mangrove protection activities.

Suryanto, head of the Balikpapan Development Planning Agency, meanwhile, said the Kariangau Industrial Zone development was now directed toward “green industry” with the implementation of zero waste and zero sediment concepts.

Companies in the industrial zone will be obliged to apply the 3R waste management rule — reduce, reuse and recycle — and to build sediment traps to reduce the rate of sedimentation in Balikpapan Bay.

However, Suryanto did not mention when all of these environmentally policies were expected to take effect.


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Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 14



Share your ideas for Pulau Ubin on the Pulau Ubin Project site from wild shores of singapore

Ooh! Volunteer Programme Orientation by Cicada Tree Eco-Place
from Love our MacRitchie Forest

Raya Reef
from The annotated budak

Tropical Swallowtail Moth- Have you spotted one yet?
from My Nature Experiences

paradise tree snake, hunting @ SBWR - 2014
from sgbeachbum

Pink-necked Green-pigeon Expels Indigestable Seed
from Bird Ecology Study Group


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Politicians must speak up on environment issues: NMP Faizah Jamal

Channel NewsAsia 28 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Without the environment, there will be no platform for the arts, sports, businesses, jobs and economy, Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal said in Parliament on Wednesday (May 28).

She also urged members of the Parliament to speak up on environment issues.

"All members of this House should be concerned and ask why something as inviolate as our nature reserve, on which we draw free eco-services that make our very existence that much more meaningful, is to be desecrated in the name of infrastructure," she said.

"All members of this House should be alarmed and ask why the rate of our food waste is disproportionately high for a comparatively small population, especially when at the same time we raise concerns in this House on behalf of constituents on the rising cost of food."

Ms Faizah said there is willingness on the part of the environment community, as well as the private sector and the Government, to work together on green issues. This was a conclusion she drew after five "Green Conversations" - following the "Our Singapore Conversations" initiative - were held.

Ms Faizah said she believes the Government can do more to facilitate the process of rolling out ideas into action, by opening up the space for dialogue.

She added that, in her two years in the House, she had seen greater willingness on the part of government agencies for engagement with environment advocates. This includes eight-month talks with the Land Transport Authority over the Cross Island Line, as well as the recent "Ubin Conversations".

Ms Faizah said she hoped to see two things in the second half of the current session of Parliament.

"First, to remember that we are equal partners not just in 'Conversations' but that we are citizens that have a stake in the well-being of our country; beyond the issue that we champion, and are able to come up with workable alternative solutions," she said.

"Second, that the government acts under a public trust - a trust that land and resources belong to the people and major decisions that impact on the land and the resources cannot be made without prior informed consultation.

"In that regard, impact assessments for major projects that include not just environmental but cultural, heritage and social as well, have to be put in place, and must be transparent and open to public scrutiny."

- CNA/do


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HDB residents welcome re-homing of stray dogs: Desmond Lee

Channel NewsAsia 28 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Project ADORE, a pilot initiative proposed by welfare groups run for the re-homing of stray dogs in HDB estates, is now a permanent programme, announced Minister of State for National Development Mr Desmond Lee on Wednesday (May 28).

He said the initial pilot was a great success "because SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Action for Singapore Dogs, both civic groups, understand the broader sensitivities and the different dynamics at play and have run the pilot well".

He shared that HDB residents are slowly accepting re-homed stray dogs.

The National Development Ministry, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and HDB have started partnering another animal welfare group known as Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), on the re-homing of strays, and have included them in Project ADORE.

Mr Lee also shared that a microsite on Ubin Project will be launched today in order to reach out to an even wider spectrum of Singaporeans.

The microsite will provide updates on discussions and agencies' engagement efforts, and allow everyone to submit ideas on what they think and like Ubin to be.

The Ubin Project, which was announced during the Committee of Supply debate, seeks to enhance the natural environment of Ubin and protect its heritage and its rustic charm.

- CNA/xk

‘Robust conversations’ with civic groups, citizenry can benefit Govt greatly
Kok Xing Hui Today Online 29 May 14;

SINGAPORE — Citing the success of a project mooted by civic groups to rehome stray dogs in public housing estates, Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee yesterday underscored how civil society, an active citizenry and the Government can work together for the common good.

The Government, he said, stands to benefit greatly from “wide and inclusive consultation on many fronts” as it does not have “a monopoly on all knowledge”.

“By having a mature and robust conversation, government, civic groups and Singaporeans can move towards common ground and win-win outcomes, even on difficult issues,” he said.

The rehoming project, called ADORE, started as a pilot proposed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and by Action for Singapore Dogs. Mr Lee said the pilot was a great success because both civic groups understood the broader sensitivities and the dynamics at play.

The success of the project has led to the Government partnering a third animal welfare group, Save Our Street Dogs.

Other examples he cited of citizens and civic groups bringing government schemes and assistance “even closer to the ground” include Mr Kwek Li Yong and Mr Jasper Tan — both in their 20s — who have set up a Queenstown heritage trail complete with a smartphone app.

Others, such as archaeologist Lim Chen Sian, has been leading major archaeological investigations in the Republic for the past 12 years to uncover artefacts from a 700-year-old history, once even discovering pieces of a rare Chinese porcelain compass at Fort Canning.

“Civil society may not always agree with government, or indeed with each other, or in certain groups even among their own members. This is the nature of ground-up initiative. This can either be a source of strength or a weakness, depending on the nature of the relationship,” Mr Lee said.

“With civility and open-mindedness on all sides, there is strength in diversity, even if ultimately stakeholders agree to disagree on certain areas.”

But he added: “If there is no civility in the conversation and people are close-minded or unwilling to recognise the legitimacy of other people’s points of view, then the difference of views and opinions becomes a source of division, friction and gridlock.”

Mr Lee also gave updates on the Ubin Project he announced during the Committee of Supply debate.

He said a broad network of stakeholders have come together as Friends of Ubin Network to discuss “how we can sensitively enhance the natural environment of Ubin and protect its heritage and its rustic charm”.

To extend the discussions beyond the network’s reach, a microsite was launched yesterday to allow everyone to submit their ideas as well as provide updates on the discussions thus far.

This, he said, is another good opportunity for the Government to work closely with the community.

Debate on President's Address: Speech by MOS Desmond Lee "Active Citizenry and Active Communities"
Ministry of National Development press release 28 May 2014


1 A fortnight ago, the President emphasised that “government spending, by itself, does not create a wealthier, a better or a happier society. It must be matched by individual and community effort and initiatives.” He said that “[a]ctive community involvement engages the human spirit, provides personal fulfilment and strengthens our collective well-being.”

2 During his speech in this Chamber yesterday, Mr Laurence Lien also suggested that we should see how we can strengthen civil society as well as Government’s engagement with civil society, and recognise the contributions to Singapore. This is very much in the same vein as what Ms Faizal Jamal spoke about a moment ago.

3 Civil society, an active citizenry as well as government can be strong partners to build a better and brighter Singapore.

Supporting people in need

4 In many instances, active citizens and civic groups can bring government schemes and assistance even closer to the ground. In my constituency, for example, members of the local Volunteer Aid scheme (V8) regularly visit families and individuals facing difficulties, and work closely with government agencies and VWOs to bring government schemes and other forms of community assistance to them. I know this also happens in many places across the island. These volunteers are active social change agents.

5 I have been working in MND for about eight months now. During this time, I have had the tremendous privilege of meeting and working alongside many passionate Singaporeans, including those in the environmental sphere, who give their time and energy to pursue a range of very worthy causes.

Preserving our Heritage

6 For instance, on the heritage front, I have been struck by volunteers like Kwek Li Yong and Jasper Tan, who are founders of My Community, a civic group that champions the preservation of history and heritage in Singapore. Together with grassroots leaders and residents of Queenstown estate – Singapore’s first satellite town – Li Yong and Jasper, both in their 20s, have set up their own Queenstown heritage trail, complete with a smartphone app to boot. They are now dedicated to raising funds and collecting artefacts to establish a Queenstown heritage museum.

7 Some have turned passion into their life’s mission. Take Lim Chen Sian from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), for example. Probably our one and only Singaporean archaeologist, he has been actively involved in the last 12 years leading major archaeological investigations in Singapore. Mind you, he is young – in his early or mid-30s I guess. I had the opportunity to visit him and his team of volunteers and staff as they dug and investigated a site at Fort Canning earlier this month without any fanfare. Over the last 30 years, individuals and volunteers such as these have been quietly and assiduously working on sites across Singapore, uncovering troves of artefacts from Singapore’s 700-year old human history. Such is the age and depth of our land. In so doing, in Chen Sian’s own words, they “breathe life into the arid history composed of innumerable dates and dusty personages” and “animate the people who lived in the past”. He shared with me that, some time ago, for example they had discovered, among other artefacts, pieces of a rare Chinese porcelain compass at Fort Canning, dated to the mid-14th century, which is believed to be the only example known to date in the world.

Promoting Animal welfare

8 Our animal welfare groups have been just as admirable, engaging Government on concerns that the have on the state of animal welfare. I meet some of them from time to time and invited them on a working trip with AVA and some veterinarians to study animal management practices. One of the projects we have been working closely with SPCA and Action for Singapore Dogs on is Project ADORE, a pilot initiative proposed by these welfare groups, run for the rehoming stray dogs in HDB estates.

9 Rehoming stray dogs is not a straightforward issue. It involves more than just animal welfare groups. We have to balance animal welfare concerns with broader public sentiments, and try to create “win-win” solutions. Some HDB residents have reservations about having their neighbours keeping larger dog breeds. So, we have moved cautiously on a pilot basis through ADORE– educating the adopters to train their dogs well and sterilise their pets.

10 ADORE has been a great success, because SPCA and Action for Singapore Dogs, both civic groups, understand the broader sensitivities and the different dynamics at play and have run the pilot well. As a result, HDB residents are slowly accepting these re-homed stray dogs. We have, therefore, decided to transit Project ADORE, which is an AWG-proposed scheme, from a pilot scheme to a permanent programme. In fact, MND, AVA and HDB have started partnering another animal welfare group known as Save Our Street Dogs (or SOSD), on the rehoming of strays, and have recently included them in Project ADORE. So, it is a clear example of how civil society, with good proposals mindful of sensitivities and dynamics, across the broader society and aim to actively seek and achieve change, in tandem with government.

Civil society engagement

11 Civil society may not always agree with government, or indeed with each other, or in certain groups even among their own members. This is the nature of ground-up initiative. This can either be a source of strength or a weakness, depending on the nature of the relationship. With civility and open-mindedness on all sides, there is strength in diversity, even if ultimately stakeholders agree to disagree on certain areas. Government doesn’t have a monopoly on all knowledge; in fact, it is well recognised that government decision-making can benefit greatly from wide and inclusive consultation on many fronts. By having a mature and robust conversation, government, civic groups and Singaporeans can move towards common ground and win-win outcomes, even on difficult issues. This is not to say that everyone falls in line or that people are compliant – there is often intense discussion and people push their points of view robustly and passionately, but ultimately they respect each other and are prepared to listen to each other and consider each others’ views. Through genuine engagement and consultation, participants feel that they have a stake in the outcome.

12 On the other hand, if there is no civility in the conversation and people are close-minded or unwilling to recognise the legitimacy of other people’s points of view, then the difference of views and opinions becomes a source of division, friction and gridlock. People congregate around opinion-leaders whose views they subscribe to, echo-chambers are formed, and groups shout at each other from the mountain-tops. If a decision is made to move and break the gridlock, it may be perceived by some as unilateral, top-down, heavy-handed or zero-sum. Outcomes are more likely to be sub-optimal compromises rather than genuine win-win outcomes.

13 There are many recent examples of government and civil society engaging more deeply and constructively on a range of issues. As a whole, we are feeling our way forward as society develops and matures, to find the right balance for constructive debate and inclusive decision-making.

Ubin Project

14 The Ubin Project, which I announced during COS and which is mentioned in the MND addendum, is structured for such open dialogue. Our purpose is to see how we can sensitively enhance the natural environment of Ubin and protect its heritage and its rustic charm.

15 Over the past two months, we have formed a broad network of stakeholders, who are passionate about Ubin and keen to share their ideas. They include biodiversity experts, conservation activists, history buffs, socio-anthropologists, students, volunteers and Ubin community leaders and residents. They come from organisations as diverse as Nature Society, Singapore Heritage Society and Raffles Museum of Bio-Diversity Research, or join us in their own personal capacities. We call this the Friends of Ubin Network, or “FUN”. It is diverse, but we can open up even more. I am excited by the many interesting ideas shared by our Friends of Ubin thus far.

16 The discussions at the Network centre around 5 broad themes: Biodiversity conservation, Heritage, history and community, Sustainable design & practices, Education & research, and (e) Nature-based recreation. Instead of discussing each of these topics in silo, where there is a risk of echo-chambers forming when people of similar interests come together, we decided to discuss all 5 in sequence and have broaden participation - so that for every theme about Ubin, we get a broad range of views from people with different perspectives. I think we will get better outcomes this way. So, this is not just about Ubin, which is important to many of us, but also about the way in which we try to engage across the spectrum of society.

17 Our consultation will not be limited to the Friends of Ubin Network. In fact, we will be reaching out to an even wider spectrum of Singaporeans, through a microsite which will be launched later today. This microsite will provide updates on our Network discussions and our agencies’ engagement efforts, and allow everyone to submit ideas on what they think and like Ubin to be. We will also go out and about to talk to people and gather their views. Madam Speaker, the Ubin Project is another good opportunity for the government and the community to work together on something close to our hearts. And, I encourage all Singaporeans to participate in the process because it is much about the process than it is the outcome.

18 Madam Speaker, I support and thank the President for his address.


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Dolphins in our waters one day?

Chew Hui Min MyPaper AsiaOne 27 May 14;

Coral reefs here have not given up hope, so we should not give up on them, marine biologist Chou Loke Ming told My Paper.

The professor of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS) even hopes that dolphins will return to Singapore waters one day.

The pioneer in reef conservation has been monitoring changes in our marine environment since 1977, when he joined the then department of zoology. He was one of the first to focus his research on coral reefs.

Prof Chou was clearly nostalgic when he spoke about how clear the waters were five decades ago: "I have been involved in coral reef research for a very long time. In the 1960s, when I went snorkelling, the water was very clear. From the surface, you could see right down to a depth of 10m."

Now, marine biologists face the challenge of preserving Singapore's reefs in sedimented and turbid waters. But he is unfazed.

"When you want to restore a reef, you restore it irrespective of the condition it is now in. If we sit and wait, there won't be anything left...we find that our reefs, they have not given up hope, every year you still have the mass spawning, and growth."

While Singapore has lost 60 per cent of its reefs to development, there are still good marine habitats around, including coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses, he said.

And, since the mid-1990s, there has been active monitoring and management of our reefs, said Prof Chou. He will retire from NUS this year, but will continue to be involved in marine conservation efforts.

Now, impact assessment studies are required for all development projects.

The environmental impact of development projects is also monitored in real time through an environmental management and monitoring programme.

"In (the 60s), it was just dump the earth into the sea, and there were no containment measures," Prof Chou said.

"We are now moving into a mode of sustainable development. I'm beginning to see that we are taking steps to really minimise the impact."

This has raised his hopes of improving the ocean environment here.

"I hope to see clearer waters eventually. If we have gone to the extent of recycling water, I would think that a time will come when we can face this sedimentation challenge.

"If the waters become clear again, then you can see more marine life. It will be wonderful if you can see dolphins swimming among the ships."

Related links
Special sightings since 2010: dugong, dolphin, sea turtles and more! on wild shores of singapore

More about dolphins seen in Singapore on the wildsingapore fact sheets


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Singapore haze bill gets support, but some question effectiveness

Devianti Faridz Channel NewsAsia 27 May 14;

JAKARTA: The local government of Indonesia's Riau province supported Singapore's plans to penalise companies and persons responsible for the haze. But some are questioning the effectiveness of the bill.

Many factors need to be in place before anyone can be brought to trial in Singapore.

The Singapore government introduced a draft bill to penalise companies and persons responsible for the haze.

The legislation covers any nationality, no matter where the haze originates.

Those found guilty in Singapore risk being prosecuted in its courts.

But having enough evidence to secure a conviction is complex, requiring extensive investigations and Indonesia to share sensitive information, such as concession or land use maps.

Michael Zampa, director of corporate communications at Asia Pacific Resources International Limited, said: "We're supportive of government initiatives in Indonesia, as well as in Singapore to address the issue.

"The one caution we have is there needs to be understanding of the situation on the ground. It's very complex.

“There are conflicting land claims, there's economic pressure to clear land cheaply and quickly and in a dense forest, it's difficult to know exactly where a fire starts before it spreads broadly so it will require collaboration - public sector, private sector and the community in the forests to really address this issue long term."

The key to solving the haze problem in the region is Indonesia ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

It is the only country in the ASEAN grouping that has not done so.

Opponents of the treaty are concerned it could violate Indonesia's sovereignty.

Some government officials, though, support the idea.

The health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of people living in Riau province were badly affected by the transboundary haze.

Singapore's plans to penalise those responsible for the transboundary haze has gotten the approval of the Governor of Riau Annas Maamun.

Maamun said: "Those who started the fires must receive heavy punishment, otherwise it won't have a deterrent effect. So I agree with it (the bill) because so many people have suffered. The number of people suffering from the haze is not small."

Cooperation between stakeholders remains the key.

There are positive signs that Indonesia wants to support a more sustainable agro-industry.

For instance, the Ministry of Finance, Agriculture and Forestry is pushing for parties involved to comply with no-burn policies.

- CNA/xq


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System developed to support iconic Tembusu trees

Today Online 27 May 14;

SINGAPORE — A dynamic tree support system was launched today (May 27) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, as part of a joint conservation effort by the National Parks Board (NParks) and Singapore Technologies Kinetics (ST Kinetics).

The inbuilt suspension system was developed to support the lateral limb of the iconic Tembusu tree (Cyrtophyllum fragrans), said Singapore Botanic Gardens in a press release.

The Gardens said the new, world’s first system developed by NParks and ST Kinetics “enables the branch to move naturally under varying wind conditions while still providing full support”.

“This facilitates growth of the tree’s new supportive tissues. Built with easily available off-the-shelf parts and materials, the system can be raised and lowered as required to allow the branch to grow.”

The iconic tree was fenced in December last year to alleviate soil compaction caused by heavy human traffic and “minimise damage to the roots”, the Gardens said.

It added that previous efforts to preserve the Tembusu tree were made in 1992 and 2003, but these static support systems were only “effective for the short term” and restricted movement of the tree branches, stripping the trees of ability to bear their own weight as they grow heavier.

The launch was attended by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who noted that “the Heritage Trees are living records of the Gardens which are treasured by all Singaporeans”.

Dr Tan was also the producer of Tall Tales: Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Trail Guide, a book on heritage trees which encourages readers to discover various Heritage trees on-site.

Meanwhile, about 30 students from Jurong Primary School and Kranji Secondary School also joined the President to learn about the botanical and cultural significance of the Gardens’ Heritage Trees at the launch.

“We are heartened that individuals, schools and corporations like ST Kinetics recognise the intrinsic value of protecting our Heritage Trees and have expressed their appreciation and support in various ways,” said CEO of NParks, Mr Kenneth Er. “We hope that more will develop a love for these trees and join us in conserving the living legacy of the Gardens and Singapore.”

New support for Tembusu tree at S'pore Botanic Gardens
Reshma Ailmchandani Channel NewsAsia 27 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The iconic Tembusu tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens now has better support for its low hanging branch.

The branch used to be supported by a pair of wooden props, making it static. Over time, the tree could lose its ability to bear its own weight, if it were still under static support.

However, a team from NParks and ST Kinetics came up with a new, dynamic system which supports the branch and allows it to move and grow.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam received a demonstration of the new support system.

The new support will enable the branch to move naturally under varying wind conditions while still providing full support.

As the support allows the branch to be moved, new tissues can grow to strengthen the branch.

The system was built with easily available off-the-shelf parts and materials.

Citing his own memories of the tree, President Tan said he hopes it will be preserved for generations to come.

He said: "It is part of our history, it is part of our heritage. The fact that it's over 150 years old, it has seen the growth of many generations of Singaporeans and we have to keep it that way, because this sort of thing cannot be manufactured. It has to be preserved."

- CNA/ac

Springing to the support of a stately green icon
Amelia Teng The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 May 14;

SINGAPORE - One of Singapore's most iconic trees is standing tall, thanks to a $25,000 project to prop up a low-hanging branch.

The Tembusu at Singapore Botanic Gardens is more than 200 years old and features on the $5 note, but it had been in danger of having its sagging, 20m arm snap off.

A team of eight, including engineers from local defence contractor ST Kinetics and arborists from the National Parks Board, worked for a year to develop a system to prop up the branch at three points without hindering its growth.

Previously, it had been supported by wooden props which, while effective for the short term, restricted its movement and could have made the tree unable to bear its own weight over a longer period.

The new system consists of structures with springs that allow the branch to move, and another part nearer the trunk to support it.

These allow the branch to gradually adjust to wind conditions and regain strength while helping it to grow at the same time.

The 32m-tall Tembusu, one of more than 40 heritage trees at the gardens, has been fenced off since last December to prevent visitors from treading around it and affecting the growth of its roots.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam visited the tree yesterday on a tour of the gardens - which have been nominated as Singapore's first Unesco World Heritage Site - as he launched the first book about its heritage trees.

A decision on World Heritage status is due in June next year, and Dr Tan said it would be "a very nice part of our SG50 celebrations".

"It has got all the qualifications in its history, introducing the rubber industry, many new species of plants, pioneering orchid cultivation," he said. "It is part of our history; it is also one of the best preserved colonial gardens in our part of the word."

Gardens director Nigel Taylor said he is confident the 155-year-old landmark will be given the status, adding: "We have the experience and resources for maintenance and conservation."


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All urged to make Singapore greener, safer

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 27 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has urged all to take responsibility in making Singapore cleaner, greener and safer.

He was responding to suggestions from those who took part in dialogues by the
Singapore Environment Council on how those can be achieved.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “It's not enough to just look after your own home. Your home is part of a neighbourhood -- you don't just live with your family at home.

“You live amongst neighbours, and if your neighbourhood is polluted, if your neighbours are infected, if the air that we all breathe is polluted, or the waters that PUB supplies to us is contaminated, regardless of how well you look after your home, regardless of how much you look after your family members -- well, guess what, you are going to be at risk.

“So this concept of a community, of a neighbourhood, of mutual responsibility, of collective destiny, is also crucial if we are to avoid the big threats that will confront us."

Dr Balakrishnan also noted that participants had identified three areas of focus -- building an endearing home, establishing a community, and a sustainable global city.

He said those suggestions come in the face of threats the nation faces, such as climate change and pollution.

He assured the audience that the government will use the findings as a foundation for the next sustainable blueprint and to generate plans for the future.

- CNA/nd


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