Best of our wild blogs: 30 Nov 14

Night Walk At Venus Drive (29 Nov 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Stages in the moulting of the Short-horned Grasshopper
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Lycaenid Butterflies and Ants
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Nov 14

New record of a snake species in Singapore!
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Strangers in paradise
from The annotated budak

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Malaysian land reclamation work suspended pending environment impact reports

YVONNE LIM Today Online 29 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Malaysia has since last month suspended land reclamation projects in the Strait of Johor pending the completion of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the country’s Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister James Dawos Mamit told TODAY.

It will take at least three months for the EIA to be completed, he said. He added: “We have given the order to stop work ... We are currently conducting research for an EIA report ... It is not ready yet.”

Dr Mamit was speaking to TODAY over the phone, in response to the Singapore Government’s concerns over the projects during a meeting on Tuesday between Dr Mamit and Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, as part of an annual exchange of visits between the environment ministries of both countries.

Among other things, Dr Balakrishnan reiterated the Republic’s request for the reclamation work to be suspended until Singapore has received and studied all the relevant information from Malaysia, including the EIAs, and established that there would be no transboundary impact on Singapore from these projects

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said it had noted Dr Mamit’s remarks that Malaysia had issued the order for reclamation work in Johor to be stopped.

An MEWR spokesperson said: “Based on his statement, we also look forward to receiving Malaysia’s EIA reports for the land reclamation projects in about three months. As Singapore has conveyed earlier, we are concerned about Malaysia’s land reclamation projects in the Strait of Johor given their close proximity to Singapore.”

She added: “Both Singapore and Malaysia are obliged under international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to undertake and share Environmental Impact Assessments on all work that could have transboundary impact, prior to the commencement of such work.”

Other issues that were discussed during the meeting include the control of vehicular emissions, joint monitoring of water quality in the Strait of Johor and the emergency response plans for chemical spills at the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link and the East Johor Strait.

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Crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak threatens North West Australia's beleaguered coral reefs

A crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak has been discovered on the little-known coral reefs of Western Australia's Pilbara region, which are already suffering from severe coral bleaching
Ben Collins ABC News 27 Nov 14;

Crown-of-thorns starfish are synonymous with threats to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef (GBR) which stretches along Queensland's populated coastline. The coral-eating invertebrate is considered to be a major cause of the loss of over half of the GBR's coral cover.

But a recent attempt to learn more about the poorly studied coral along the opposite coast, adjacent to the Pilbara's deserts and iron ore mines, has revealed the crown-of-thorns starfish has boomed as the remote reefs struggle with recent bleaching events.

Senior research scientist with the CSIRO Dr Russ Babcock told ABC North West WA radio's Hilary Smale the starfish outbreak was hitting the Pilbara reefs while they were down.

"With the bleaching that's happened in many parts of the region, areas that do still have reasonably good coral cover are a magnet for these starfish because they can smell the food, literally, and they'll just crawl right up to them," he said.

Coral eater

For millions of years the crown-of-thorns starfish has evolved to eat coral polyps, the tiny animals that build sometimes massive coral reefs. But increasingly, the balance of coral growth and destruction has been tipping.

"If you get too many starfish, the rate at which they eat the coral is going to be faster than the rate at which the coral can replace itself," Dr Babcock said.

When Dr Babcock and his colleagues started their research aimed at building up knowledge of North West Australian reefs, they quickly realised that there was a previously unknown problem with crown of thorns.

"We noticed significant numbers of starfish and thought, 'Well we had better go and do some proper measurements of this and see how extensive they are'," he said.

When scientists count more than 10 starfish per hectare, then the situation is described as an 'outbreak' of crown of thorns. In the subsequent counts of crown-of-thorns starfish along the Pilbara coast, scientists counted as many as 220 per hectare around Barrow Island and the Montebello Islands.

Bad timing

The outbreak comes at a time when scientists were already concerned about the impacts of 'marine heatwaves' and subsequent coral bleaching destroying reefs in the area. Some ancient coral heads that have survived for over four centuries have recently succumbed to rising ocean temperatures.

"We suspect this bleaching event was due to marine heatwaves that occurred in the region over the past few summers, and to see it up close was sobering," Dr Babcock said.

While the impact of coral bleaching is severe, crown-of-thorns starfish are an equally potent threat.

"They're one of the not only largest starfish on the planet, but they're also probably the fastest growing and most voracious," he said.

"It's equal to the impact of cyclones in terms of knocking back coral cover."

And actual cyclones are prevalent along the Pilbara coast, combining with the starfish and bleaching to create a situation that is deeply concerning Dr Babcock.

"The Pilbara is the most cyclone prone part of the coast of Australia, it's recently suffered from three out of four years where it's had bleaching, and now it's got crown of thorns. So that's going to have some impact on the ability of reefs to recover."

Deadly combination

The combined threat to the Pilbara's coral reefs could lead to the demise of the very ecosystems that Dr Babcock originally intended to document.

"The coral provides the home for all the fishes and everything else in the ecosystem that depends on the shelter and the structure that they build," he said.

Protecting coral reefs from this trifecta of threats is extremely difficult. There is some evidence that manual removal of crown-of-thorns starfish has helped on parts of the GBR. But this high-maintenance approach will be logistically difficult in the remote North West.

Coral bleaching and a growing intensity of cyclones have been linked to global warming, and scientists can do little more than observe the impacts. And observing the fate of the Pilbara's coral reefs is Dr Babcock's best available option.

"We're still searching for a more detailed understanding of the ways that outbreaks can ultimately start, and try to use the system itself to help it stay in balance," he said.

Watch researchers investigating a crown of thorns starfish on the Pilbara coast.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Nov 14

Small-scale restocking of fluted giant clams in Singapore
from Neo Mei Lin

A Southern Islands’ Tour – Kusu, St John’s and Lazarus
from Remember Singapore

Lesserus Island
from The annotated budak

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Singapore firms 'can take pole position on urban solutions'

Jacqueline Woo The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Nov 14;

Singapore's growing expertise in the area of devising policies and processes for sustainable urban living could put local firms working in the sector in pole position for contracts overseas, according to Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Ms Fu told the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development yesterday that there is "business potential in exporting such solutions to the region and beyond".

She cited the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) Green Mark Scheme, which has been adopted in Indonesia and China.

"This allows some of our architects and engineers, consulting businesses... to bring their experiences (with the certification framework) out to the region as well," added Ms Fu, who is also the Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

The BCA Green Mark Scheme was launched in 2005 to recognise best practices in environmental design and performance.

Ms Fu pointed to Singapore's potential role as a "test bed for smart urban solutions", adding that collaborations among the Government, the private sector and research institutions are expected to raise the country's capabilities in domains such as water, energy, mobility and other urban solutions.

The minister also urged businesses to do their part, along with the Government, in ensuring that economic development does not come at the expense of the environment.

"Environmental sustainability has to feature in business decisions and be discussed in boardrooms," she said, noting that the exponential increase of the urban population and global development has come with an "irreversible" impact on the environment.

"(But) companies that understand the environmental impact of their activities derive competitiveness from it," added Ms Fu.

She also said that "a well-executed environmental strategy will bring about stronger consumer branding, better relations with stakeholders and greater readiness for a resource-constrained future".

The three-day forum at Marina Bay Sands, which ends today, was organised by five partners, including Singapore-based media firm Global Initiatives, online publication Eco-Business and the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore. The Straits Times was an official media partner.

Last night, 10 companies were honoured at the inaugural Sustainable Business Awards in Singapore. The event was organised by Global Initiatives and PricewaterhouseCoopers to recognise companies that have instilled sustainable best practices in their long-term business strategies.

Unilever Asia was crowned overall winner for its robust approach to sustainability and its commitment to enhancing livelihoods, caring for the natural environment and improving health and well-being across its supply chains.

Other winners included telco SingTel for its fair workforce strategy and Loola Adventure Resort in Bintan, which was cited for its commitment to land use, biodiversity and the environment.

Developer City Developments was also recognised for its work in evaluating and measuring the most significant environmental impacts of its work.

- See more at:

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A car-lite Singapore: How to get there?

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Nov 14;

A new sustainable blueprint to guide Singapore's development over the next 15 years was launched earlier this month, to create a better home, a better environment and a better future. That better future, however, includes curtailing the dream of many Singaporeans - owning a car.

One priority of the ambitious $1.5 billion Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 is reducing the number of private cars on the roads. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained: "We have to rely less on cars on the road, because we can't keep building roads; more roads for more cars."

Roads already make up 12 per cent of land use, compared to housing at 14 per cent.

Fewer vehicles would also reduce land needed for carparks, and improve the quality of life. Air quality, for example, would be better, with fewer polluting emissions from the tailpipes of private cars.

PM Lee said the Government would aim for a "car-lite" Singapore by providing more transport options, such as an expanded MRT network, buses and bicycle paths.

But experts said infrastructure gaps need to be plugged, and, in a country where the car is king, laws and attitudes towards them changed. More is also needed to help people move seamlessly from one form of transport to another more easily.

Beefing up alternatives

Last year, about 63 per cent of trips during peak hours were by public transport such as buses and trains.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan recently said that cycling makes up 1 to 2 per cent of transport.

The Government wants public transport to make up 75 per cent of peak-hour trips by 2030, and has outlined plans to achieve this.

From the year 2012 to 2016, it will have added 800 buses to the fleet - a 20 per cent increase - and from last year to 2030 it will have expanded the rail network from 178km to 360km.

It will build an island-wide cycling path network of more than 700km by 2030, including both park connectors and cycling paths in Housing Board towns.

It is also conducting a year-long study to shed light on why and how Singaporeans walk, and what would encourage them to do so more often.

The Economic Development Board and Land Transport Authority (LTA) plan to co-lead a project involving the pooled sharing of electric cars.

While the agencies would say only that the project is in the planning stages, The Straits Times understands the Government had considered rolling out up to 1,000 electric cars under such a scheme as recently as two years ago.

The LTA has said "car sharing can help those who need to use a car for a few hours or over a weekend, and allow convenient access to it without people having to own or maintain one".

The authority will pilot a bicycle-sharing scheme next year, possibly in the city centre and Jurong Lake District.

But transport experts said the devil is in the details.

When three Straits Times reporters rode 180km over three days last October to test cycling paths for commuting, they found snags that could dissuade users.

An 11km stretch that people who live in Ang Mo Kio and Bishan can use to go to work at the Upper Paya Lebar Road factories, for example, had six overhead bridges, three of which did not have ramps. People have to haul their bikes up and down the stairs.

Some park connectors were actually existing pavements, which meant cyclists and pedestrians had to jostle for space.

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy transport researcher Paul Barter said the cycling network needs to be not just comprehensive but also enjoyable and seamless so people can ride almost anywhere efficiently.

"You want people to be able to travel at speeds that let them cover 7km to 8km in half an hour. But it also has to be safe enough for your 10-year-old child," said the adjunct associate professor.

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Indonesia cracks down on deforestation in symbolic u-turn

Indonesia’s new president announces plans to protect rainforest and peatlands, signalling a new direction for country with worst rate of deforestation in the world
Damian Carrington The Guardian 27 Nov 14;

Indonesia’s reforming new president is to crack down on the rampant deforestation and peatland destruction that has made the nation the world’s third largest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

Joko Widodo signalled the significant change of direction for Indonesia when he joined a local community in Sumatra in damming a canal designed to drain a peat forest. Halting the draining and burning of peatland will also tackle the forest fires which have trebled since 2011 and can pump smoke across the entire region.

Indonesia suffers more deforestation than any other country, including Congo and Brazil where new data shows deforestation is dropping. One study estimated 80% of the deforestation in Indonesia was illegal, with most of it being cleared for palm oil and timber plantations.

During his visit to Sungai Tohor village, in Riau province, Widodo announced a review of plantation company operations: “If they are indeed destroying the ecosystem because of their monoculture plantations, they will have to be terminated. It must be stopped, we mustn’t allow our tropical rainforest to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palm.”

Widodo also said he would strengthen legal protection for peatlands, which store massive amounts of carbon and rarely burn if left undisturbed.

“Peatlands can’t be underestimated, they must be protected because they constitute a special ecosystem,” he said. “This [drainage] canal dam is very good and must be made permanent. What’s best is for peatland to be given to the community to be managed for sago [palm starch similar to tapioca]. Community management is usually environmentally friendly, but if it’s given to companies it is turned into monocultures like acacia and oil palm.”

Greenpeace welcomed the move and said it hoped it would lead to better forest and peatland protection in Indonesia, where the campaign group said existing laws are “weak and poorly enforced”.

“Indonesia’s new president has wasted no time stepping into an international leadership role, well timed to position his country ahead of next week’s UN climate negotiations in Lima, Peru,” said Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace’s international executive director.

Indonesian President to review licenses of companies converting peatlands
Antara 27 Nov 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo has said he will review the licenses of companies that have converted peatlands into monoculture plantations as they can damage the countrys ecosystem.

"I have told the minister of environment and forestry to review the licenses of the companies that have converted peatlands into monoculture plantations if they are found damaging the ecosystem," he stated in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Thursday.

He noted that during his field inspection in Riau province, he had found sago plantations damaged because of the development of monoculture plantations.

He said the green cover seen from the sky must be verified whether they are tropical rain forests or monoculture plantation forests.

President Joko Widodo has reaffirmed his intention to stop land and forest destruction in various places such as Sumatra and Kalimantan.

To prevent the tropical rain forests in the country from vanishing, we will continue the moratorium on concessions for plantations such as oil palm plantations, he stated.

Environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya has hinted that the moratorium on industrial forest concessions will be continued while an evaluation of problematic licenses is carried out.

"License moratorium will continue. No new licenses will be issued with regard to internal evaluation," she emphasized while inspecting the measures to prevent land and forest fires in Pekanbaru, Riau, Sumatra, on Tuesday.

She revealed her office was studying the reports about forest concessionaires that have caused problems as well as concessionaires that have been neglected by concession holders.

She cautioned that the situation could trigger forest fires and encroachment as well as illegal logging.

The Association of Indonesia Forest Concession Holders (APHI) has asked President Joko Widodo to evaluate the benefits of moratorium saying it will not be effective to curb deforestation, especially land and forest fires.

"Thirty-four percent of fire spots from February to March 2014 were found in the forests that are under moratoriums. I wish the government would reveal the map to show the condition of forests before and after imposing moratoriums. We must not be naive or feel proud, because I am convinced the real condition is even worse," APHI chairman for industrial plantations Nana Suparna remarked in Pekanbaru on Tuesday.

The government has over the past three years stopped issuing forest concessions through Presidential Instruction Number 10/2011, which has been extended through Presidential Instruction Number 6/2013.(*)

Jokowi Pledges to Act Against Forest Fires
Kennial Caroline Laia Jakarta Globe 27 Nov 14;

Meranti Islands, Riau. President Joko Widodo on Thursday verbalized his preference for farms owned by people, rather than corporations, to curb the haze crisis that stems from peatland fires in Riau and elsewhere in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

During a visit to Sungai Tohor village in the Meranti Islands district, one of the regions in Riau often hit hard by forest fires and haze, Joko said people’s farming had a minimal impact to the environment, when compared to corporate monoculture plantations.

“The best thing to do is to give the land to people so they can use it to plant sago. What’s made by people is usually environmentally friendly. They won’t do any harm to nature,” the president said on Thursday. “However, if we give the land to corporations, they will only switch it to monoculture plantations.”

Residents of Sungai Tohor and other surrounding villages said several pulpwood plantation companies operating in the area burned land, causing haze while damaging local people’s sago plantations.

Joko said corporate-run monoculture plantations such as those consisting of oil palms and pulpwood were the main cause of environmental damage in the district.

He said he had ordered Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya to review concessions for plantation companies in Riau and elsewhere in Indonesia.

“If they are indeed destroying the ecosystem with their monoculture plantations, they will have to be terminated,” Joko said. “It must be stopped, we mustn’t allow our tropical rainforests to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palms.”

Siti, who was visiting the Sungai Tohor site along with Joko, said she would terminate licences of companies whose activities damage the ecosystem.

“We will work on this matter. There are so many things to do starting from technical matters, spatial planning and water management, to law enforcement and environmental education for people and corporations,” she added.

Joko also said on Thursday that the government would employ a new approach to manage peatlands, vast expanses of which can be found in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Fires on these two Indonesian islands, which often cause transboundary haze problems affecting neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, begin on peatlands as it is drained and subjected to slashing and burning to give way for the cultivation of commercial plants.

Local farmers and big corporations have for years been placing the blame on each other for igniting fires on peatlands, which cause recurring haze crises.

Corrupt officials, meanwhile, have been blamed for lax law enforcement that allows the fires and haze crises to recur every year, increasing economic costs as airports are forced to close, which disrupts flights, as well as harming local residents’ health.

Carbon time-bomb

Environmentalists also have lamented the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air, contributing to global warming and climate change. They describe peatland as a so-called “carbon time-bomb.”

According to Wetlands International, a Netherlands-based NGO engaging in wetland conservation and restoration, peatlands contain twice as much carbon stock as the entire forest biomass of the world (550 gigatons of carbon). Wetlands says Indonesia has the dubious honor of being responsible for the highest CO2 emissions from peatlands due to logging and drainage — amounting to around 900 megatons per year.

Indonesia’s environmental ministry has said peat fires contributed to 25 percent of the country’s carbon emissions between 2000 and 2005, second only to deforestation.

The new approach Joko says he wants to adopt deploys use of canals and water gates to control water levels in peatlands to prevent them from burning easily. Canals also allow farmers to optimize soil conditions to grow plants without having to first set fire to the land.

A pilot project was completed last year in Central Kalimantan under the supervision of the government-run Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund.

Joko, in a symbolic gesture, installed a water gate on a canal surrounding a plot of peatland in Sungai Tohor.

“This canal [water gate] is initiated by our people, and is a positive step, therefore it should be followed up by the government, permanently,” he said.

“It will keep peatlands wet. That’s the key [to manage peatlands]. They will be wet all the time so they won’t easily catch fire, intentionally or unintentionally.”

Minister Siti said her office would also educate local farmers how to build ditches and install water gates through peatlands to make them fire-resistant.

“We’ll work on this as soon as possible,” the minister said.

Environmentalists applauded Joko’s “ blusukan asap .” “Blusukan,” a Javanese term meaning impromptu visits, usually to constituents by officials. It has become trademark activity of Joko that has contributed to his popularity and later landed him the presidency. “Asap” is an Indonesian term meaning smoke or haze.

Joko in fact made the Riau visit after Sungai Tohor villager Abdul Manan began a petition in late October against the haze crisis that has often plagued Riau, asking for Joko to come and see for himself the sites in the center of the crisis.

The petition, called “Blusukan Asap,” was registered at and has been signed by 27,900 people as of Thursday.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or Walhi, hailed Joko’s Riau visit as proof of the president’s commitment to solving ecological problems.

Walhi executive director Abetnego Tarigan, though, added that the president must soon follow up the visit with “concrete actions” in the form of firm law enforcement.

“Among concrete actions that President Jokowi can immediately do is ordering the termination or review of concessions for companies proven to have been involved in forest and land fires,” Abetnego said, referring to the president by his popular nickname.

“Law enforcement must continue legal action against companies that have been named suspects, as well as develop investigations into companies that civilians have filed reports against,” he added.

International environmental group Greenpeace, meanwhile, voiced its support for the canal initiative, saying that clearance and drainage creates dry peatlands, laying the foundation for forest fires that can burn for days or even months.

Permanent protection

Greenpeace considered the initiative as proof of Joko’s commitment to protecting Indonesia’s peatlands.

“The country’s existing peatland regulations are weak and poorly enforced. We look to Jokowi now to take clear action to stop expansion by industry into peatlands, to crack down on illegality and to support the permanent protection of peatland landscapes,” Longgena Ginting, the country director of Greenpeace Indonesia, said in a press statement.

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo also extended his praise.

“I welcome President Joko Widodo’s vision for peatland protection, which has the potential to slow Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Naidoo said.

“Indonesia’s new president has wasted no time stepping into an international leadership role, well timed to position his country ahead of next week’s UNFCCC climate negotiations in Lima, Peru.”

Greenpeace said when left in its natural state, peatland rarely burns. However since draining began, the number of fires recorded in Indonesia by satellites has sky-rocketed, reaching 6,644 in 2011 and climbing further to 21,467 fires so far this year.

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Indonesia: Solving forest fires a matter of will, says Jokowi

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 27 Nov 14;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has issued an ultimatum demanding that all stakeholders show a strong will to resolve land and forest fires in Indonesia, especially in Riau province, where the issue has persisted for the last 17 years.

“There is no new solution to the issue as everyone understands what must be done. This is a matter of whether we are willing to resolve the issue,” Jokowi said during a visit to Pekanbaru, Riau, on Wednesday.

Jokowi reiterated he had received reports from all quarters, including the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, relevant ministries and regional administrations as well as conservation institutions, which said that all were familiar with the issue.

He said he had immediately gone to the field to understand the reality.

“If we master the situation in the field, making decisions is easy,” said the President, who is also a graduate of Gadjah Mada University’s School of Forestry.

Asked whether the government would revoke the licenses of companies faced with environmental management problems, Jokowi said he had delegated the matter to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

“Direct your query to the minister,” said Jokowi.

Jokowi and his entourage arrived at Rusmin Noerjadin Airport, Pekanbaru, around noon on Wednesday and directly departed for Sungai Tohor village in Meranti Island regency, one of Indonesia’s outermost areas, via helicopter.

He was expected to fly to the location taking a route that passed over the Tesso Nilo National Park in Pelalawan regency and the Zamrud Lake Nature Preserve in Siak regency.

However, less than 30 minutes into the flight, the weather worsened and forced the Air Force’s Super Puma helicopter that was carrying the presidential entourage to return to Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru.

Jokowi, who is on a visit to Riau with First Lady Iriana and two of their children, Kahiyang Ayu and Kaesang Pangarep, will stay the night in Pekanbaru.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jokowi held a meeting with Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, acting Riau governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan and a number of regents and officials. The meeting took place at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport’s VIP lounge.

Jokowi also canceled a visit to Bawah Market in Pekanbaru. Traders, students and local residents who had waited for Jokowi’s arrival at the gateway starting at noon, then dispersed.

“Pak Jokowi canceled his visit to Bawah Market and stayed overnight at the Pekanbaru Hotel. We don’t know about tomorrow’s agenda,” Antara news agency quoted Riau provincial administration spokesman Jefry as saying in Pekanbaru.

Riau University Disaster Studies Center director Haris Gunawan said forest fire prevention through peatland conservation in Riau was part of an effort to resolve the prolonged haze issue.

Haris said one conservation effort concerned preventing the peatland from drying up and allowing it to remain wet.

“Many residents and plantation companies dry up the peatland by making canals, causing the peatland to dry and easily catch fire, [or it is easy for others] to intentionally set fire to it,” said Haris.

Wet peatlands cool forest fires: Jokowi
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 28 Nov 14;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered the local administration of Meranti Island regency in Riau to restore the drainage in peatlands to prevent peatland fires, a project that may see nationwide implementation.

The move was made after he visited a fire-affected community in Sungai Tohor village, East Tebing Tinggi in Meranti Island, where he got his hands dirty by joining locals in damming a canal to re-wet the peatland.

“I have told the Meranti regency to continue building dams in the canals. Dam construction is very important because it can control water and keep the peatland wet,” Jokowi said before leaving for Jakarta.

He said if damming efforts can stop peatland fires in the following year, it would be implemented it in other provinces such as in Jambi, South Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Acting Riau Governor Andi Rachman said he would immediately follow up the order as the president had promised a special allocation funding (DAK) to finance the construction of other dams in the province.

Jokowi said he had also asked the Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar to evaluate companies that cause environmental impacts from the conversion of peatland areas to monoculture plantations.

The inspection was scheduled on Wednesday but bad weather delayed the plan and forced Jokowi and his entourage to spend a night in Pekanbaru.

Environmental activists welcomed Jokowi’s moves to protect peatlands.

“We look to Jokowi now to take clear action to stop expansion by industry into peatlands, to crack down on illegality and to support the permanent protection of peatland landscapes,” Longgena Ginting, Greenpeace Indonesia’s Country Director, said in a statement.

Deputy head of the Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires (APHI) Irsyal Yasman claimed his members have applied water management technology that could adjust the height of water according to the land contour.

Meanwhile, President Director of PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) Kusnan Rahmin also claimed that the company’s approach to managing peatland concessions was based on the best available science.

“We manage water levels through water management by building integrated canals in accordance with a scientific approach. It protects the peatland. We have installed an automatic water gate to control the water,” he said in a statement.

He said effective peatland management required a ‘total landscape’ approach, which involves protection and buffering of central peat domes to guard against drainage impacts.

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Malaysia: Labuan marine park dept continues its turtle conservation efforts

Borneo Post 28 Nov 14;

LABUAN: A total of 5,628 sea baby turtles were released into the wild, off Labuan waters since 2011, said Department of Malaysia Marine Park Labuan director Anuar Deraman.

The number was of the 7,381 eggs collected mostly in Kuraman Island, one of the three marine parks in Labuan.

“The success in the turtle conservation and protection was after the gazetting of three marine parks, Kuraman, Rusukan Besar and Rusukan Kecil and in collaboration with Petronas Cari Gali Sabah,” he said here yesterday.

He said the marine parks had become the nesting sites for two endangered species of turtles, namely hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata) and green turtle (Chelonia Mydas).

To help avoid further extinction of the species, he said the department had developed a turtle hatchling site in Rusukan Besar Island.

Anuar said Kuraman Island had recorded the most number of turtle landing so far this year with ten nests found on the island, while Rusukan Kecil and Rusukan Besar had five and two nests respectively.

Anuar also said Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency Labuan (MMEA) was working closely to monitor the illegal activities within the waters of marine parks.

“We are also conducting education and awareness programmes in schools and for the broad spectrum of community on marine biodiversity conservation,” he said.

He said the turtle conservation and protection exercise in the marine parks was being transformed into an eco-tourism product of Labuan to support the efforts of Labuan Corporation and Tourism Ministry. — Bernama

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Coral Triangle could be last bastion for planet's beleaguered reefs

Johnny Langenheim The Guardian 27 Nov 14;
Major reef system in south-east Asia could be unusually resilient to climate change, Catlin Seaview Survey suggests

If humans are driving earth’s sixth great extinction event, coral reefs will be one of the first and most visible ecosystems to succumb. Scientists estimate that by 2050, the ocean could be largely devoid of reefs as climate change and our relentless plundering of the sea set in motion geological changes not seen for millions of years.

But according to the Catlin Seaview Survey, a multi-year project to map the world’s coral reefs, there may be evidence that certain reefs in the Coral Triangle could resist longer than others. The project is using cutting-edge camera technology and a big-data approach to establish baselines for key indicators like health, diversity, decline and resilience.

The sponsor, Catlin, is an international insurance company specialising in property and casualty insurance. It says insurers should take a lead role in improving understanding of the potential for changes to the environment.

“Studying coral reefs provides a better understanding of short-term risks on a local scale,” says Catlin Insurance Group chief executive, Stephen Catlin. “But, more importantly, [it] gives us better information about the long-term risks of climate change on a global scale. As insurers, we need to be ahead of the game.”

Coral reefs represent just 1% of our oceans but support 25% of the species that live in them. This makes south-east Asia’s Coral Triangle bioregion the global epicentre of marine biodiversity on the planet, with 75% of all known coral building species, 6 out of 7 of the world’s turtle species and more than 3,000 species of fish. 120 million people depend on these reefs for their livelihoods – if they disappeared, the attendant loss of food security would drive economic migration on a massive scale.

Over the last few months, Catlin Seaview Survey scientists have been assessing reefs in hotspots throughout the Coral Triangle, which encompasses the territorial waters of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. They believe the bioregion could become one of the last refuges on earth for coral reefs.

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U.S., British data show 2014 could be hottest year on record

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 28 Nov 14;

This year may eclipse 2010 as the hottest since records began in the 19th century, a sign long-term global warming is being stoked by rising greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said.

The period of January to October 2014 is already among the warmest ever recorded, and a warm ending to the year could easily make it top, according to U.S. and British data.

Skeptics who doubt the necessity of a shift away from fossil fuels to stop the Earth's climate from heating up point out that world average temperatures have not risen much since 1998, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions.

But the final ranking for 2014, due next year, may influence public and business perceptions about the severity of climate change. Almost 200 governments are due to agree a U.N. deal to combat global warming in Paris in December next year.

"2014 is more likely than not to be the warmest year," Tim Osborn, a professor at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, told Reuters, saying manmade greenhouse gas emissions are tending to push up temperatures.

He said there were many uncertainties about where 2014 would rank because of natural variations in temperatures late in the year. Also, a big volcanic eruption might spew out ash that dims sunshine, cooling the planet.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will publish a preliminary ranking for 2014 on Dec. 3, during annual U.N. talks in Peru which will prepare the Paris accord.

Promises for action by China, the United States and the European Union have made a global deal more likely, but any agreement will probably be too weak to halt rising temperatures despite new scientific warnings of powerful storms, floods, desertification and rising sea levels.

Of the WMO's three main data sources, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranks January-October 2014 as the warmest such period on record, NASA as the second-warmest and the British Met Office and University of East Anglia as the third-warmest.

NOAA says 2014 is on track to be the warmest on record. The rankings differ partly because scientists use different estimates for places with few thermometers, such as the Arctic.

"It probably is a bit premature to say 2014 will be the warmest year on record," said Michael Cabbage, spokesman for NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The British data place 2014 third, fractionally behind 2010 and 1998, which both cooled toward the end of the year.

Despite a slowdown in the pace of warming since 1998, the WMO says 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have been in this century.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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UN climate change deal must have legally binding targets, says EU

Arthur Neslen The Guardian 27 Nov 14;

An international deal on global warming must have legally binding targets, Europe will argue at a UN climate summit in Peru next week.

The Lima conference is intended to deliver the first draft of an accord to cut carbon emissions and stave off dangerous climate change, which is expected to be signed at a UN conference in Paris next year.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior EU official in Brussels said that the bloc had not abandoned its position that any agreement on emissions cuts needed to be mandatory.

“Legally binding mitigation targets are definitely something that the EU is pushing for,” the official said. “This is one of our key asks. We’re yet to be convinced that you could have a sufficient rules-base and certitude by alternative approaches. But it is no secret that some other countries are in a different place.”

“The current agreement prototype includes options within options, and has a broad range of views of what constitutes legal force,” the source said. “We need to see Lima bring about more convergence, more focus to the text and allow zooming into the really big political crunch issues, as time is short.”

Claims by major countries that they could not impose economy wide targets were “disingenuous” and liable to stall the negotiating process over how commitments should be differentiated between developed and developing countries, the official added.

The comments came as French president Fran├žois Hollande said on Thursday that the Paris summit had a “duty to succeed.” He said: “I have been asked when I became an environmentalist” and the answer was “when I arrived in power.”

“Because, at some point you have to leave your mark, and the mark we will leave together is a historic climate agreement...”

The US says it wants to put a ‘buffet option’ on the table in Lima, building on a New Zealand proposal that would contain some legally binding elements but allow countries to determine the scale and pace of their emissions reductions, even if this calls into question the aim of keeping temperature rises below 2C, the level that countries have agreed to limit warming to.

In Brussels earlier this month, the US special envoy on climate change, Todd Stern told journalists that while negotiations on the issue were ongoing, a ‘hybrid approach’ to legal enforcement offered the best chance of striking a deal agreeable to all.

“Proposals that would involve, in effect, a kind of designated burden-sharing on how reductions should be split up among countries of the world has extremely little chance of political viability,” he said. “Countries are not going to buy into that.”

Stern confirmed that a footnote to the US submission at a climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 offered a 42% CO2 reduction by 2030 – higher than the 30% cut by 2025 announced by president Obama in China this month – but added that an 83% decrease by 2050 remained Washington’s objective in both cases.

The EU has gone further, setting out a stall for a legally binding 40% drop in emissions by 2030, but measures this against carbon output in 1990, rather than the US’s preferred 2005 baseline.

How to account for emissions commitments and monitor, report and verify (MRV) their implementation has taken on a correspondingly greater import.

“MRV provisions and accounting rules will be a core demand for the new agreement,” the EU official said. “Unless you have that, it will be difficult to validate that our partners are delivering on their commitments, so we need to really work with partners to ensure that we can come back on a regular basis and review our aggregated effort.”

While accepting that a binding deal could easily become a campaigning issue in the next US elections, the official said that Republicans could be persuaded to accept climate science if shown that a low carbon transition was possible.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Nov 14

STEP-NUS Sunburst Environment Programme, 16-22 November 2014
by Psychedelic Nature

Algae-eating snails and British writers
from Hantu Blog

Straw-headed bulbuls foraging
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Temasek Snail – A revisit
from Stir-fried Science

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Experts call for more to be done to tackle food waste

VALERIE KOH Today Online 27 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Up to one-third of food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted. In South Asia and South-east Asia, 414 calories from food produced for human consumption end up uneaten per person each day. But even in the face of these glaring World Bank statistics, countries around the region continue to lack the political will to address this, said a former food security researcher at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Speaking at a dialogue at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development yesterday, Ms Sally Trethewie said there is a lack of a policy framework targeting food loss and waste in the region. “Perhaps one clever way to go about it is to make food loss and waste synonymous with food security,” she said. “For so long, the focus has always been on food security and producing enough food to feed us.”

Food loss is defined as food discarded during production and processing, while food waste is food thrown away at the retail and consumer levels.

Food loss is less prevalent in Singapore, given the nation’s reliance on food imports. But food waste is skyrocketing, with a whopping 796,000 tonnes generated last year, past figures from the National Environment Agency (NEA) showed. In South-east Asia, food loss and wastage is spurred by several issues, said Ms Trethewie, now a senior consultant with Bell Pottinger.

For instance, the adoption of modern technologies in the early stages of the supply chain is relatively low.Little attention is also paid to recycling food. In Singapore, a marginal 13 per cent of the food waste generated was recycled last year, said the NEA, below the food recycling rate of 16 per cent in 2010. But little information on food loss or waste is known, added Ms Trethewie.

Ms Aleksandra Barnes, another speaker at the dialogue, agreed and pointed out the lack of transparency around food waste, which she felt was the first step towards long-term change in this area.

Once the head of Tesco’s group corporate responsibility arm, Ms Barnes said the giant supermarket chain, in an effort to provide greater transparency, revealed this year that an estimated 56,580 tonnes of food were wasted at its stores and distribution centres during 2013-2014. Tesco took active steps to reduce food waste by liaising with its suppliers. Said Ms Barnes: “For example, we were establishing direct relations with banana suppliers and telling them, ‘Don’t put aside your small bananas or the ones that are not going to be winning any beauty contests. Send them to us and we’ll put them into value packs or process those bananas in the store and put them in milkshakes.’”

The supermarket also targeted consumers by providing, for instance, recipes for leftover cheese. Back home, local supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice is making reducing food waste a mission. Last month, it announced it would roll out a structured framework to address food waste early next year. Plans include enhancing and implementing internal processes and creating greater awareness of the issue among customers.

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Risk from extreme weather set to rise

Roger Harrabin BBC 26 Nov 14;

Climate change and population growth will hugely increase the risk to people from extreme weather, a report says.

The Royal Society warns that the risk of heatwaves to an ageing population will rise about ten-fold by 2090 if greenhouse gases continue to rise.

They estimate the risk to individuals from floods will rise more than four-fold and the drought risk will treble.

The report’s lead author Prof Georgina Mace said: “This problem is not just about to come… it’s here already."

She told BBC News: "We have to get the mindset that with climate change and population increase we are living in an ever-changing world – and we need much better planning if we hope to cope."

The report says governments have not grasped the risk of booming populations in coastal cities as sea level rises and extreme events become more severe.

“People are increasingly living in the wrong places, and it's likely that extreme events will be more common," Prof Mace says.

“For most hazards, population increase contributes at least as much as climate change - sometimes more. We are making ourselves more vulnerable whilst making the climate more extreme.

“It is impossible for us to avoid the worst and most unexpected events. But it is not impossible to be prepared for an ever-changing world. We must organise ourselves right away."

The report’s team said the UK was comparatively resilient to extreme events – but still vulnerable because of the high density of people living in areas at risk.

The report advises all levels of society to prepare – from strategic planning at an international and national level to local schemes by citizens to tackle floods or heatwaves.

Its scenarios are based on the assumption that the world stays on the current trajectory of emissions, which the authors assume will increase temperature by 2.6-4.8C around 2090. It assumes a population of nine billion.

They say they have built upon earlier work by calculating the effects of climate change coupled with population trends. They warn that the effects of extremes will be exacerbated by the increase in elderly people, who are least able to cope with hot weather.

Urbanisation will make the issue worse by creating “heat islands” where roads and buildings absorb heat from the sun. As well as building homes insulated against the cold, we must also ensure they can be properly ventilated in the summer, the report says.

The authors say cutting greenhouse gas emissions is essential. But they argue that governments will also need to adapt to future climatic shifts driven by climate change.

They suggest threats could be tackled through a dual approach. The simplest and cheapest way of tempering heatwaves, they say, is to maintain existing green space. Other low-cost options are planting new trees, encouraging green roofs, or painting roofs white to reflect the sun.

The authors say air conditioners are the most effective way of keeping cool – but they are costly, they dump heat into city streets and their use exacerbates climate change.

Flooding is another priority area, the report says. It finds that large-scale engineering solutions like sea walls offer the most effective protection to coastal flooding - but they are expensive, and when they fail the results can be disastrous.

The ideal solution, the authors think, may be a combination of “hard” engineering solutions like dykes matched with “soft” solutions like protecting wetlands to hold water and allow it to seep into the ground.

A scheme at Pickering in Yorkshire previously featured by BBC News is held as an example. The report concludes more research is needed to measure the effectiveness of these ecosystem solutions.

It insists that governments should carefully prioritise their spending. They should protect major infrastructure like electricity generation because of its knock-on effect on the broader economy. They should expect some lower-priority defences to fail from time to time, then work to minimise the consequences of that failure .

The authors identify excess heat as another potential threat to economies and agriculture if temperatures climb too high for outdoor workers.

They examine projected rises in the “wet bulb” index used by the US Army and others to measure the temperature felt when the skin is wet and exposed to moving air.

Some areas may experience many weeks when outdoor activity is heavily restricted, they fear – although the trend of agricultural labour loss may be offset through the century as more and more people move to cities.

It puts a figure on those at greatest overall risk: populations in poor countries make up only 11% of those exposed to hazards but account for 53% of the disaster deaths.

Some economists argue this shows that poor nations should increase their economies by burning cheap fossil fuels because that will allow them to spend more later on disaster protection.

The authors also call for reform of the financial system to take into account the exposure of assets to extreme events.

They say: “Unless risks are accurately evaluated and reported, companies will have limited incentives to reduce them. And valuations and investment decisions will continue to be poorly informed.”

One author, Rowan Douglas, from the Willis Research Network, said he suspected this might be the most significant contribution of the report.

The authors want organisations to report their maximum probable losses due to extreme events, based on a 1% chance of the event on any given year.

“The 1% stress test is not as extreme as it might sound – it implies a 10% chance of an organization being affected once a decade,” they say.

They say decisions made over the next few decades as the world builds vast urban areas will be key to the resilience of people by the end of the century.

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Nov 14

November walks at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park
from Sisters' Island Marine Park

Park toa
from The annotated budak

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Singapore presses Malaysia on Johor Strait reclamation projects

Channel NewsAsia 25 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan emphasised Singapore's concerns over Malaysia's land reclamation projects in the Straits of Johor, during the 27th Annual Exchange of Visits between the environment ministries of Malaysia and Singapore.

Dr Balakishnan led a delegation to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (Nov 25) and met with Malaysia's Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dr. James Dawos Mamit in Kuala Lumpur.

At the meeting, Dr Balakrishnan reiterated Singapore's request for such reclamation works to be suspended until Singapore has received and studied all the relevant information from Malaysia, including the Environmental Impact Assessments, and established that there would be no transboundary impact on Singapore from these projects.

Dr Balakrishnan stressed that both Singapore and Malaysia are obliged under international law, in particular, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to undertake and share Environmental Impact Assessments on all works that could have transboundary impact, before starting work.

He said Singapore looked forward to Malaysia's expeditious reply to requests on this issue.

Other issues discussed include the control of vehicular emissions, the joint monitoring of water quality in the Straits of Johor, and the emergency response plans for chemical spills at the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link and at the East Johor Strait.

- CNA/hx

Vivian Balakrishnan restates Singapore's concerns over Johor Strait land reclamation projects during KL visit
Straits Times 25 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - Singapore on Tuesday restated its concerns to Malaysia over land reclamation projects in the Strait of Johor , given their close proximity to Singapore.

It has also reiterated a request that works be suspended until Singapore received and studied all relevant information from Malaysia, including Environmental Impact Assessments, and has established there would be no transboundary impact on Singapore from the projects.

Singapore's position was stated by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during a visit to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday for the annual exchange of visits between the Environment ministries of the two countries.

Malaysian news reports earlier this year said that a China property developer and a Johor government company were behind a reclamation project to create a 2,000ha island for luxury homes. A project map showed part of the man-made island under the Second Link, which connects Tuas in Singapore to Johor.

Singapore has previously expressed concern to Malaysia about the project and its possible impact on Singapore and the Strait.

A Environment and Water Resources Ministry statement on Tuesday on Dr Balakrishnan's visit said he stressed that both Singapore and Malaysia are obliged under international law - in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - to undertake and share Environmental Impact Assessments on all works that could have transboundary impact, prior to the commencement of such works.

It added that "he noted that Singapore looked forward to Malaysia's expeditious reply to Singapore's requests on this issue".

At the Kuala Lumpur meeting on Tuesday, Dr Balakrishnan and Malaysian Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister James Dawos Mamit reviewed discussions and exchanges that were held on Monday by a meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment.

Those issues included the control of vehicular emissions, joint monitoring of water quality in the Strait of Johor, the emergency response plans for chemical spills at the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link and at the East Johor Strait, as well as Malaysia's land reclamation projects in the Strait of Johor.

Singapore restates reclamation concerns
The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - Singapore yesterday restated its concerns to Malaysia over land reclamation projects in the Strait of Johor, given their close proximity to Singapore.

It also reiterated a request that the works be suspended until Singapore had received and studied all the relevant information from Malaysia, including Environmental Impact Assessments, and established that there will be no transboundary impact on Singapore.

Singapore's position was stated by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on a visit to Kuala Lumpur yesterday for the annual exchange of visits between the environment ministries of the two countries.
Malaysian news reports earlier this year said a China property developer and a Johor government company were behind a reclamation project to create a 2,000ha island for luxury homes. A project map showed part of the island under the Second Link, which connects Tuas in Singapore to Johor.

Singapore has previously expressed its concern to Malaysia.

An Environment and Water Resources Ministry statement yesterday said Dr Balakrishnan stressed that both countries are obliged under international law - in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - to conduct and share Environmental Impact Assessments on all works that could have transboundary impact, prior to starting such works.

It added: "He noted that Singapore looked forward to Malaysia's expeditious reply to Singapore's requests on this issue."

In Kuala Lumpur, Dr Balakrishnan and Malaysian Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister James Dawos Mamit reviewed discussions held on Monday. These covered issues including the control of vehicular emissions, and emergency response plans for chemical spills at the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link and the East Johor Strait.

Minister Reiterates Singapore's Concern Over Land Reclaimation Projects In Straits Of Johor
Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah Bernama 25 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE, Nov 25 (Bernama) -- Singapore's Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan raised his country's concerns over Malaysia's land reclamation projects in the Straits of Johor, reported Channel NewsAsia (CNA).

The local television reported that the minister emphasized his concern during the 27th Annual Exchange of Visits between the environment ministries of Malaysia and Singapore.

CNA said Dr Balakishnan led a delegation to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (Nov 25) and met Malaysia's Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dr James Dawos Mamit in Kuala Lumpur.

At the meeting, CNA reported Dr Balakrishnan reiterated Singapore's request for such reclamation works to be suspended until Singapore has received and studied all the relevant information from Malaysia, including the Environmental Impact Assessments, and established that there would be no transboundary impact on Singapore from these projects.

The report said Dr Balakrishnan stressed that both Singapore and Malaysia were obliged under international law, in particular, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to undertake and share Environmental Impact Assessments on all works that could have transboundary impact, before starting work.

The local television reported that the minister said Singapore looked forward to Malaysia's expeditious reply to requests on the issue.


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PUB invites proposals to study flood risks

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Nov 14;

Singapore is looking far ahead to identify the risks of coastal and inland flooding here due to climate change.

National water agency PUB has invited companies to submit proposals to study the extent and impact of such risks for almost half of the island, up to the year 2100.

The area involved comprises 12 catchment areas which make up 46 per cent of Singapore's mainland area, and includes the Bedok, Siglap, Kranji, Joo Chiat and Marina East catchment areas.

A catchment area is a basin, with the boundaries being its highest geographical points. All the water that falls in the basin drains to its lowest point.

A PUB spokesman said the 12 catchment areas were chosen because they are in older parts of Singapore where the ground levels of buildings and developments are generally lower, or they are highly urbanised, or both.

PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen said: "As the waterways in some of these catchments eventually flow to the sea, a sea-level rise or storm surge can have an impact on the flood risks in these areas."

Earlier last year, the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a landmark report that the sea level could rise by almost 1m by 2100 if the most aggressive climate change scenario came to pass.

The global mean sea level between 1986 and 2005 was used as the reference point.

Much of Singapore lies within 15m above sea level, and about a third is less than 5m above the water, the National Climate Change Secretariat said.

To address this, in 2011, the Government raised the minimum reclamation level of new projects by 1m, to 2.25m above the highest recorded tide level.

The PUB study will take into account the IPCC's methodologies and guidelines, its climate projections, and initial findings of the Government's ongoing Second National Climate Change Study.

The contractor is expected to generate flood maps "for extreme rainfall and sea-level rise scenarios due to climate change for the 2030s, 2050s and 2080s, taking into account future land use and stipulated drainage networks".

PUB will also provide details of proposed adaptation measures, such as the widening of drains, tidal gates and pumping systems to be modelled by the contractor.

The agency wants the risks of inundation across the catchments to be specified "in terms of locations, total area affected and flood depth". It added: "This will include providing a list of infrastructure, developments and critical installations that will be affected in a flood area."

The study is expected to start next month and be completed within a year.

Mr Kevin Kho, 53, an engineer with more than 20 years' experience, said the study is timely as the impact of sea-level rises on flooding has been well documented in other parts of the world.

"The problem is a mega one and a real one, and that's why PUB needs to put a lot of thought into it now," he said.

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Malaysia: Pangolins seized from carat roadblock

RUBEN SARIO The Star 26 Nov 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Pangolins bound for the cooking pot have been saved, thanks to observant policemen manning a roadblock in the southwest Beaufort district.

The policemen discovered the animals tied up in nine sacks when they checked a car driven by a man from Johor on Oct 30.

Two of the pangolins had already died while others were severely dehydrated and under stress.

The police immediately alerted the Sabah Wildlife Department and its rangers provided treatment to the pangolins.

Four of the animals subsequently survived, the department’s assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said.

Yesterday, the vehicle driver was fined RM10,000 by the Beaufort magistrate court’s after he admitted to illegally possessing 12 pangolins.

Carlvin Cher Jia Wei, 21, pleaded guilty to the charge under section 41(2) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 before Magistrate Ryan Sagirann Raynor Jr.

He paid the fine.

Prosecuting Officer Abdul Karim Hj Dakog of the department told the court that the pangolins were hidden in a storage compartment of the car.

Department deputy director Augustine Tuuga said they would not tolerate crimes on wildlife in Sabah and all cases would be brought to court.

“I urge the public who have any information regarding crimes against wildlife to contact our 24 hour hotline number 012-8019289 so we can take appropriate action,” added Tuuga.

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Vietnam seizes over 1,000 dead endangered sea turtles

Record haul of over 1,000 endangered sea turtles, all dead, were bound for illegal export to China
AFP The Guardian 25 Nov 14;

Vietnam’s environmental police have seized a record haul of over 1,000 endangered sea turtles which were being prepared for illegal export to China, an official said on Tuesday.

“The turtles were all dead,” said Le Hong Thai, an official of the Ministry of public security’s environmental police department.

“They were meant to be processed into handicrafts for export to China,” he added.

The raids were made on Wednesday last week in the resort town of Nha Trang on Vietnam’s south-central coast.

“The case is under investigation, so we cannot reveal the number of detainees or any other details,” Thai said.

Marine turtles are protected under Vietnamese law. Hunting and trading, including the storing, of any of the five native species (green, leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles) is a criminal offence.

Scores of Vietnamese have been arrested in regional waters over the past years for catching or trading sea turtles.

Nguyen Phuong Dung, the director of conservation group Education for Nature-Vietnam, welcomed the raid but said it must be followed with legal penalties for those involved.

Courts “need to send the message that Vietnam is serious about prosecuting and punishing” crimes involving endangered species, she said in a statement.

Environmental groups say Vietnam is one of the world’s worst countries for trade in endangered species – an accusation which it denies.

Police regularly seize hauls of ivory, rhino horn and exotic species including pangolins and tigers, but conservation groups say these represent just a small part of the trade passing through the country.

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Wildlife crime study finds 33,000 items worth £7m for sale online

Biggest ever survey in 16 countries finds adverts for live tigers, orangutans and chimps – plus a ‘toilet-trained’ gorilla
Damian Carrington The Guardian 25 Nov 14;

The world’s endangered wildlife is for sale on the world wide web: live tigers, bears, orangutans and chimpanzees are all just a few clicks away. For those seeking a more manageable purchase, there are emerald boas, hummingbirds or poison dart frogs available by the dozen.

The trade in animal products is just as vigorous. Ivory dominates, but also on offer are polar bear rugs, snow leopards’ teeth and a £55,000 cup fashioned from a rhino’s horn.

The extent of the shadowy online trade in protected animals is revealed on Tuesday in the most comprehensive analysis of the multi-million-pound market yet published. The International Fund for Animal Welfare worked with law enforcement professionals to analyse the online trade in 16 target countries over a six week period earlier in 2014. They found over 33,000 animals and items that should be protected by international laws on sale at a total value of $11m (£7m). Many of the online adverts identified are now being investigated by police.

“As poaching reaches alarming levels, wildlife cybercrime poses a sinister, silent threat to endangered species, enabling criminals to go about their grisly business with anonymity,” said Azzedine Downes, president and chief executive of IFAW.

Wildlife crime is estimated to be worth $19bn a year, making it the fourth most lucrative illegal trade after drugs, counterfeit goods and human trafficking. It has been increasingly linked to organised crime, terrorism and militias and Ban Ki-moon has warned the UN security council of the threat it poses to global security.

The UK had the fourth highest number of online adverts for protected wildlife, after China, Germany and France, with British adverts including birds of prey, monkeys and a hyacinth macaw offered for £15,000.

“Wildlife crime can seem like a remote problem but the internet brings it into everyone’s home,” said Philip Mansbridge, IFAW’s UK director. He said the report, while wide-ranging, exposed only a fraction of wildlife cybercrime. “If you think about all the countries in the world where people are using the internet, then it is obvious the scale of the trade is mind-blowing”

To compile the report, IFAW’s experts scoured openly accessible websites in 16 countries and found almost 10,000 adverts on 280 sites in the six-week study period. They focused on the most seriously endangered species, for which international trade is forbidden under Appendix One of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). Some species on Appendix Two, for which export permits must obtained, were also included if law-breaking was suspected.

The team found a menagerie of wildlife for sale, both dead and alive. The highest number of adverts for large, live animals were found in Russia and Ukraine, even after investigators had been careful to exclude scams aimed at tricking money from potential buyers. The Russian adverts included orangutans and chimpanzees for sale, starting at $45,000, as well as tigers, leopards, jaguars and a “toilet-trained” gorilla. The Ukraine sites offered live crocodiles, Asian black bears and an extremely rare bridled nail-tail wallaby. Sites in the Middle East also offered live animals, including cheetahs at $18,000 and exotic gazelles and antelopes.

Overall, ivory was the most commonly touted product in the online adverts, accounting for almost a third. “An elephant is killed now every 15 minutes. It is incredibly disturbing,” said Mansbridge. “The scale of wildlife crime has reached unprecedented levels.”

Ivory items comprised 80% of the adverts found on Chinese websites, including one carving being sold at $65,000. Other Chinese ads touted rhinoceros items for sale as well as tiger bone wine. Rhino poaching in South Africa has reached an all-time high this year, with 1,020 animals already killed.

Ivory was also the most commonly touted item in the UK. Investigators found 406 suspected ivory items, of which 376 were on eBay. This represents a 50% increase since the last IFAW study in 2008, despite the online auction company banning such sales that year.

Wolfgang Weber, an eBay director, said: “Acting on information from IFAW and other organisations, we have been able to put new measures in place to prevent sellers from listing items of concern on the site. In order to even better address this issue we will apply stricter sanctions against sellers who intentionally circumvent our enforcement.”

After ivory, reptiles were the next most common category of advert (26%) around the world, offering turtles, tortoises and lizards to collectors. Turtles and tortoises accounted for 70% of German adverts, including a critically endangered Egyptian tortoise. The north-German city of Hamm is an international hub for the reptile trade.

A report next month from German NGO Pro Wildlife will criticise the EU for enabling trade in species that are fully protected in their home nations such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Guatemala. “Professional reptile smugglers specialise in such species, because this dirty business promises maximum profit at minimum risk,” said Sandra Altherr of Pro Wildlife. “Currently sought after are Borneo earless monitor lizards at €8,000 per pair.”

A wide range of poison dart frogs made up 30% of all advertisements in the Netherlands, including phantasmal poison frogs and strawberry poison dart frogs. As with almost all the adverts investigated in the IFAW study, virtually none made any reference to the legality of their items and none provided legal documentation.

Adverts for birds were also common around the world (23%), ranging from birds of prey to parrots and including 100 owls for sale in the UK alone.

Mansbridge said a key recommendation of the IFAW report was to appoint wildlife cybercrime officers to national crime units. The UK had such a post but it was lost due to budget cuts and the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit only has funding until 2016. A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The government is committed to tackling illegal trade in wildlife products, which is why we have designed a £10m package over four years to reduce demand, strengthen law enforcement, and develop sustainable livelihoods for communities that have been affected by it.”

“It is also why earlier this year the UK hosted the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference where 40 countries agreed at the highest political level on practical steps to eradicate this global trade, including in rhino horn, ivory and tiger parts.”

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Geo-engineering: Climate fixes 'could harm billions'

David Shukman BBC News 25 Nov 14;

Schemes to tackle climate change could prove disastrous for billions of people, but might be required for the good of the planet, scientists say.

That is the conclusion of a new set of studies into what's become known as geo-engineering.

This is the so far unproven science of intervening in the climate to bring down temperatures.

These projects work by, for example, shading the Earth from the Sun or soaking up carbon dioxide.

Ideas include aircraft spraying out sulphur particles at high altitude to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes or using artificial "trees" to absorb CO2.

Long regarded as the most bizarre of all solutions for global warming, ideas for geo-engineering have come in for more scrutiny in recent years as international efforts to limit carbon emissions have failed.

Now three combined research projects, led by teams from the universities of Leeds, Bristol and Oxford, have explored the implications in more detail.

The central conclusion, according to Dr Matt Watson of Bristol University, is that the issues surrounding geo-engineering - how it might work, the effects it might have and the potential downsides - are "really really complicated".

Sun block

"We don't like the idea but we're more convinced than ever that we have to research it," he said.

"Personally I find this stuff terrifying but we have to compare it to doing nothing, to business-as-usual leading us to a world with a 4C rise."

The studies used computer models to simulate the possible implications of different technologies - with a major focus on ideas for making the deserts, seas and clouds more reflective so that incoming solar radiation does not reach the surface.

One simulation imagined sea-going vessels spraying dense plumes of particles into the air to try to alter the clouds. But the model found that this would be far less effective than once thought.

Another explored the option of injecting sulphate aerosols into the air above the Arctic in an effort to reverse the decline of sea-ice.

A key finding was that none of the simulations managed to keep the world's temperature at the level experienced between 1986-2005 - suggesting that any effort would have to be maintained for years.

More alarming for the researchers were the potential implications for rainfall patterns.

Although all the simulations showed that blocking the Sun's rays - or solar radiation management, as it is called - did reduce the global temperature, the models revealed profound changes to precipitation including disrupting the Indian Monsoon.

Prof Piers Forster of Leeds University said: "We have found that between 1.2 and 4.1 billion people could be adversely affected by changes in rainfall patterns.

"The most striking example of a downside would be the complete drying-out of the Sahel region of Africa - that would be very difficult to adapt to for those substantial populations - and that happens across all the scenarios."

Despite the risk of catastrophic side-effects from geo-engineering, the study authors believe that research should continue just in case runaway warming leaves no other options.

Prof Forster said: "If we were in a really desperate situation, trying to cool the temps for a 10-20 year time period, there could be some merit in those circumstances in introducing solar radiation management to give you a 10-20 year time period."

Lack of knowledge

According to Prof Steve Rayner of Oxford University, it is easier to devise the technology than to understand its effects or how its use should be governed.

"If you were just thinking of the capability of putting sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere, that you could do in less than two decades - whether you would know it was smart to do it in less than two decades is another question.

"We don't know enough - we have a few islands of knowledge in a sea of ignorance and it's absolutely worth knowing more. There is the potential that some of these technologies may be part of a broader tool kit of ways in which we can better manage climate change.

"People decry solar radiation management as a band-aid but band-aids can be useful for healing."

Geo-engineering has long been one of the most controversial aspects of the debate about solutions to climate change and few experiments have been conducted in the field.

One of the largest, known as Lohafex, was an Indian-German experiment in 2009 which involved dumping six tonnes of an iron solution into the South Atlantic to encourage plankton to bloom - trapping carbon which would then be sent to the seabed when the organisms died. Results showed limited success.

Another proposal for the trial flight of a balloon in Britain, as part of geo-engineering research for the SPICE project, attracted stiff opposition from environmental groups and was cancelled.

It would have been the precursor to a test of a technique for pumping sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere in an effort to bounce solar radiation back into space and cool the planet.

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Nov 14

Sun 30 Nov’14: Introduction Tour to Bukit Brown
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Pollination of Citrus x microcarpa flowers
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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More caught camping illegally

Lim Yi Han The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Nov 14;

More people have been caught camping without a permit at East Coast Park in recent years.

The National Parks Board (NParks) has issued more notices of offence for illegal camping there. It has handed out 1,122 notices as of Nov 4, nearly double the 671 doled out for the whole of last year. In 2012, the number was 410.

Most of these were issued to people who did not apply for a permit or were camping in non-designated camping sites, said NParks director of parks Chia Seng Jiang.

He attributed the increase to NParks stepping up its patrolling and enforcement efforts.

The Straits Times understands that the increased effort is a result of media reports late last year on illegal campers.

A permit is required for both day and overnight camping, so that the authorities can cap the number of tents to prevent overcrowding.

The only exception is at Pulau Ubin, where tents can be pitched at designated areas without a permit.

The public can apply for permits at any AXS station or online, and each applicant can camp for only four days a month.

Camping is also allowed at designated areas at Pasir Ris Park and West Coast Park, besides East Coast Park and Pulau Ubin.

Said Mr Chia: "This is to allow our park spaces to be enjoyed by the various segments of users, and to ensure that our parks continue to offer a pleasant environment for recreation and leisure."

While there are notices of offences issued at other parks, The Straits Times understands most people are caught at East Coast Park. It is the most popular destination because of the array of facilities and long stretch of beach, campers said.

IT manager Linus Loo, 41, camps overnight with his family and friends once every three months at East Coast Park.

He welcomed greater enforcement because "it discourages undesirable activities such as people committing indecent acts in the tents or even outside", which he said is not ideal for the family-friendly park.

"But too much checking may annoy people, so there has to be a balance," he added.

Plumber Ahmad Said, 60, said: "It's good that they come and check, there could be illegal immigrants living in the parks."

But some insisted that it was troublesome to apply for the permits.

A 26-year-old, who declined to be named and camps with his girlfriend once every two weeks, said: "I'm lazy to do it. Anyway, I only stay for five to six hours here. Even though I don't apply, no one has caught me yet."

Those who fail to apply for a permit or camp outside designated areas may be fined up to $2,000.

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Urban farmers: Growing own greens fast becoming food trend in Singapore

Tay Suan Chiang The Business Times AsiaOne 24 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - Vegetable farms in Singapore? Lim Chu Kang isn't the only area in the country where edible greens are grown.

From private balconies, to office premises, and neighbourhood plots, a growing number of folks are digging their fingers into dirt and planting crops.

Spa Esprit's CEO Cynthia Chua recently invested in Edible Gardens, an urban farming consultancy firm that helps design and build vegetable gardens for restaurants, schools and homes.

Together, they have set up a rooftop garden at Wheelock Place which is used for planting vegetables and herbs. The harvest will be for use in Spa Esprit's Tippling Club restaurant.

"I've always like the idea of farming, and was inspired by the rose farms in France. Those roses go into the making of Chanel perfume," says Ms Chua.

"Farming and connecting to nature is very on-trend now." She has not started growing vegetables in her own backyard, but has friends who have done so.

"My friends have grown sweet potato leaves, basil and chillies to much success," she says excitedly.

Ms Chua adds that homegrown vegetables are often more tender, and setting up a garden need not cost an arm and a leg.

"We should all try to practise sustainable living," she says.

BT Weekend meets a group of urban farmers.

Balcony gardener

When Shi Xiaowei, a partner in a marketing communications agency, recently posted on Facebook photos of the kale and peppers she grows on her balcony, amazed friends bombarded her with comments.

Ms Shi began gardening about four years ago, when she moved into an apartment with a spacious balcony and plenty of sun.

"Since the family didn't want to fill the balcony with furniture, I thought I would beautify it with ornamental plants," says Ms Shi.

"The idea of growing edible plants came about because I wanted my kids to cultivate a love for nature and gardening, and I wanted to eat healthily and save money on buying herbs."

She started with rosemary, basil, thyme, and sage to moderate success, but the plant she was most proud of was a pumpkin plant that stretched across her balcony.
"The fruit was puny but I was a proud parent nonetheless," she says.

The list of greens now sprouting on her balcony include sweet basil, Thai basil, aloe vera, edible cactus, peppers, round chillies, mint, marjoram, rosemary, kale, salad leaves - an assortment of lettuce, chives and pumpkin - and "if we are lucky, an interbred short papaya tree whose seeds we hauled from an organic farm in Kluang," she says.

"My daughter, Ashley, sowed it last week, so we await the seedlings with bated breath."

The vegetables are grown for the family's consumption, but "I give away most of the herbs as you can only consume so much rosemary".

Some of the vegetables that she grows are bigger than commercially grown produce found in supermarkets.

"The cai xin had leaves bigger than my palms, and the stems were thick and strong," she says.

"Mine definitely tasted better because they were cooked immediately after harvesting."

The Western herbs are mostly used for seasoning and marinades.

Occasionally, she uses them to make pesto, herb butter, and infused oil for cooking and beauty purposes, such as rosemary oil for her hair.

She cannot recall the last time she paid for herbs, but still buys leafy vegetables because what she grows isn't enough for her family of five.

She prefers growing leafy vegetables from seeds, which she buys from the nurseries, as "they tend to grow stronger".

She finds it challenging to grow herbs from seeds, so she purchases herb plants from supermarkets and grows them herself.

Apart from making sure that her vegetables and herbs get sufficient water and sun, Ms Shi says placements of the plants is also important.

"The balcony can get scorching hot, and I have to move some plants in and out of the balcony every day, which can be hard work when there are five pots to move everyday."

Leafy plants like kale and lettuce need a wide pot.

"I am big on recycling so I plant them in used styrofoam boxes and whatever wide containers I can find," she says. "Tin cans are also good holders for seedlings."
She also spends time checking the condition of her plants and researching help and advice online.

"Next to harvesting, reviving a wilting plant and seeing it flourish is the most gratifying part about gardening," says Ms Shi.

Neighbourhood watch

Product consultant Gina Ong was an urban farmer even before the term became hip.

Back in 2002, she started a community garden near her home in Marine Crescent, with the help of its Residents' Committee. Five years after that, she did the same in the Laguna Park condominium, where she still lives.

Ms Ong manages both gardens together with about 20 residents from Marine Crescent and 10 neighbours at Laguna Park.

In the latter, crops include pandan, lemon grass, Chinese herbs like Sabah snake plant, sweet potatoes, basil, rosemary, tarragon, and wolfberry leaves.

"We've grown vegetables from Day One, when one of our long-time residents planted wolfberry leaves, chives and sweet potatoes," says Ms Ong.

At Marine Crescent, herbs were initially planted, but as more residents preferred vegetables, the residents now grow edible greens.

They now have a wide range including cai xin, xiao bai cai, spinach, okra, kang kong, lettuce, brinjal, bitter gourd and pennywort leaves.

The vegetables are growing so well, that the residents harvest some for an elderly lodge nearby.

With over a decade of experience, Ms Ong has plenty of stories to share.

"When we first started, our seed germination always failed as we just threw the seeds into the soil. Then we used seedling trays, which turned out to be a better method," she says.

"As the seedlings grew, they were eaten up by grasshoppers and snails."

The residents sought help from the National Parks Board and AVA, who taught them to use nets to cover our plots.

"We also have a SWAT team to catch snails and slugs at night," quips Ms Ong. She says the vegetables from the two plots are much sweeter and fresher compared to those bought from the markets.

Ms Ong is only too happy to dish out advice to those who want to grow their own vegetables too.

"For beginners, try cai xin, as it is easy to grow. It is best to grow the seeds in seed trays until they are about three inches high, before transplanting them into the soil," she says.

Her other tips include using neem oil to fend off insects and bugs, and using organic fertiliser such as chicken dung to keep plants growing fast and healthy and reduce the chance of disease.

Office planters

At Singapore Technologies Kinetics, staff come to the office early, take shorter lunches, stay back after work and even come in on Saturdays. Not to show off to their bosses, but to tend the office garden.

They are part of the 20-strong gardening club at the land systems and speciality vehicles arm of Singapore Technologies Engineering.

Its industrial-looking premises at Jalan Boon Lay has three gardens - Garden in Bloom, which has flowers, fruit trees and vegetables, Evergreen, which has only fruit trees, and Sonata, which has flowers and fruit trees.

Yeap Khek Teong, vice-president of management systems and processes, and chairman of the gardening committee says, that while the gardens were started in 2009, it was only in 2012, that they started growing vegetables.

"Planting vegetables started off as an experiment as we are all urban dwellers with little or no experience in growing vegetables," says Mr Yeap.

"Our motivation is to see if we are successful in growing edibles and making it sustainable."

Mindful of the harmful effects of consuming pesticides in their greens, the staff at ST Kinetics grow vegetables without them.

Mr Yeap adds that growing vegetables has also intangible benefits, as it provides staff with a platform for exercise and stress relief.

"There is a sense of satisfaction in harvesting what is sown," he says.

The well laid and maintained garden is also a visual treat, and has also created interest among non-gardening staff who wanted to know how they can grow vegetables on their own.

Vegetables such as kai lan, lettuce, long beans and okra are just some of the greens planted in the Garden in Bloom plot.

Apart from edible greens, there's also mint, bananas, longan, dragon fruit and passion fruit.

When Mr Yeap and his colleagues first started their vegetable experiment, they grew kai lan in a large recycled semi-circular drum.

When more people showed interest, Mr Yeap added more variety.

"As we have limited space within the garden, I introduced 'high-rise' vegetable planting," he says.

He designed two vertical structures to allow large containers to be placed above each other. The two structures can accommodate 12 large containers.

"We later expanded to an unused strip behind the garden wall to house more styrofoam boxes for planting vegetables," says Mr Yeap.

Depending on the crop, most leafy vegetables can be harvested with a month or so.

Long beans will take close to two months.

After harvesting, the greens are distributed to staff involved in gardening.

"On special occasions, we grow the vegetables for cooking class demonstrations for staff," says Mr Yeap.

What he and his colleagues have learnt is that vegetables need not be planted in the ground, and deep containers can be used for planting.

"By planting in containers, you can choose the best quality soil for the vegetables," he says.

"If you have space constraints, why not try planting in vertical tiers like ours?"

Steady harvest

When the chefs at Fairmont Singapore or Swissotel The Stamford give you the usual spiel about using only fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits, they're not exaggerating.

Most of their greens come from the hotel's private herb and vegetable garden located on the fifth floor of the hotel complex.

The hotels started their herb and vegetable garden in 2008, and were one of the pioneers of urban farming in Singapore.

Measuring 600 sq ft, the garden is now three times the size of the original and was moved to its current location in June last year, before receiving its new harvest last November.

Executive chef Robert Stirrup says the garden was first created to provide the various F&B establishments managed by the hotels, with a steady harvest of organically grown herbs and vegetables such as rosemary, thyme, six varieties of mint and basil, dill, lemongrass, oregano and tarragon.

Since the revamp and the re-launch of the new herb and vegetable garden, "we now grow a more extensive collection of herbs, micro-greens, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers that are produced organically and follow the principles of organic production," says Mr Stirrup.

The garden has an impressive list of over 50 varieties of herbs and vegetables; some of the essential crops include arugula, basil, bulls blood beets, zucchini flowers, celery, cilantro, cress, onions, kolrani, dill, bergamot, lavender and sage.

Mr Stirrup says: "The new homegrown greens, fruits and edible flowers are freshly picked for our restaurants and bars, such as Jaan and Equinox at Swissotel The Stamford, as well as Mikuni and Prego at Fairmont Singapore.

"In-house guests can also enjoy the fresh produce in the comfort of their own rooms when they order a selection of dishes from the in-room dining menus. Grains and fruits, either whole or as juices, are also part of the breakfast spread at both hotels."

The latest addition, cocktail bar Anti: dote at Fairmont Singapore, uses a variety of fragrant herbs and flowers from the garden in its signature cocktails and modern tapas.

The hotels' service staff often share useful insights on these crops with hotel guests they interact with.

"We can also further arrange for our hotel guests to visit and learn more about our herb garden should they be interested," says Mr Stirrup.

Pockets of growth

Hedrick Kwan, founder of Plant Visionz believes that "everyone should be producers of something".

He runs a gardening business which he started in 2012, which also teaches people how to grow their own vegetables.

"Even if what is grown makes up only 10 per cent of your diet, you can save money and get better health. The key is sustainable life," says Mr Kwan.

Similarly, James Lam, founder of UGrowGardens Australia, which has a branch in Singapore, adds that when people grow their own vegetables, "it is economical, fresh and clean in addition to helping reduce carbon footprints. The vegetables are more nutritious too."

This trend is growing in Singapore.

Both Mr Kwan and Mr Lam say that 50 per cent of their business comes from private home owners who want to try their hand at vegetable growing.

And the good thing is, you do not need a lot of space to be able to grow your own edible greens.

"Any space is possible, so long as there is some ambient light," says Mr Kwan.

"You can grow food on the kitchen table, on walls, on window grilles, on the balcony fence. It is about getting creative."

Plant Visionz offers table sprouters that retail at S$40 that come with an assortment of vegetable seeds.

There's also the Wolly Pocket at S$150 per pocket, that can be hung on the wall. Seedlings are placed in these pockets to grow.

Alternatively, Mr Kwan can also advise and help homeowners set up a vegetable garden.

"Soil foundation is important and putting the right plant for the area is another key factor," says Mr Kwan, on his hands-on approach.

Some vegetables that his clients have had success with include kai lan, cai xin, bayam and kang kong.

Mr Lam, who started UGrowGardens, aims to provide innovation solutions for urban dwellers to produce low cost, high yielding, fresh and clean vegetables.

"The vision is to grow the equivalent of a 9 sq ft garden patch using only 1.5 sq feet of space," says Mr Lam.

To do this, Mr Lam created the Ugrow Vertical growing system, which can easily fit into any balcony or corridor.

Mr Lam also helps clients choose the right vegetables to grow, and provides a watering system that ensures even moisture throughout the UGrow Vegetable System so that clients are able to grow plants all over its surface.

It costs S$120 to set up the system which includes fertilisers, seedlings, irrigation pipe and other necessary components.

Meanwhile, Edible Garden City which designs, builds and maintains food gardens for clients that include restaurants, hotels, schools and residences, will run an urban farming school at Rowell Road next year.

"The school will cater to all urbanites wanting to learn how to grow their own food from apartment balconies to full fledged soil gardens," says co-founder Bjorn Low.

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