Best of our wild blogs: 17 Feb 14

Sat 22 & Sun 23 Feb : 5 Guided Walks (English & Mandarin)
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History

A sneak peek into the life of a civet through camera trapping!
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Water(hen) in the (bird) brain
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Been to Cyrene: Exotic destination for students!
from Cyrene Reef Exposed!

U@live featuring Bernard Harrison – 26 February 2014: 7.30pm @ Shaw Foundation Alumni House from Otterman speaks

White-patch Tuskfish
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

AVA seizes caged monkey from home following tip-off

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Feb 14;

A CAGED monkey being kept as an illegal house pet was seized by Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) officers yesterday, following a tip-off from a local wildlife rescue group.

The male long-tailed macaque, estimated to be less than two years old, was being kept in the corner of the front yard of a bungalow on Pasir Panjang Road, along with a number of other caged animals, including a squirrel and rabbits.

When The Straits Times visited at about 4pm, a number of cats were also seen around the house.

Two members of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), the group which alerted the authorities to the case, helped two AVA officers to retrieve the monkey from its cage.

It was transported to the Centre for Animal Welfare and Control in equipment provided by Acres. It is believed that monkeys rescued from such operations are typically euthanised.

A bid to seize the squirrel, however, ended up with it escaping to freedom by darting up a tree.

Acres chief executive Louis Ng, who assisted in seizing the monkey, said the group was alerted to the case by a member of the public the night before.

It informed the AVA at about 3.30pm yesterday, and although AVA officers reached the scene within an hour, they had to wait until around 5pm for the house's occupants to return.

Singapore law forbids wild animals from being kept as pets. Those found guilty under the Wild Animals and Birds Act face a maximum fine of $1,000. The long-tailed macaque is listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Those found in possession of such species can be charged under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, which carries a maximum penalty of $500,000 fine and a two-year jail term.

No arrests were made yesterday.

The bungalow's occupants declined to speak to the media. However, a neighbour, a 75-year-old retiree who also declined to be named, described them as "animal lovers" who rescued the monkey after its mother abandoned it a year ago.

Mr Ng said this theory was unlikely as monkeys have strong maternal instincts and would not abandon their babies, citing how monkeys rally around their young caught in traps.

He said: "In such cases where the monkey is kept in an open area, the blatant and open violation of the law shows a lack of enforcement."

Read more!

Keppel, Marina Bay golf courses "could give way to private housing"

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 17 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: An expert on land use says freeing up prime land at Marina Bay Golf Course and Keppel Club could make way for more private housing, in line with what's already being built in the area.

The government on Sunday announced that Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Course will not have their land leases renewed after they expire within the next 10 years.

Assistant Professor Harvey Neo from the National University of Singapore's Department of Geography said: "For Keppel...quite a significant number of private housing (could be) built there.

"From what I've seen in the area, there are a lot of very high-rise condominiums. So it's not surprising if those kinds of condominiums - very high density and many storeys high - (are built there).

"For Marina Bay, it could be a combination of housing and other uses - housing mixed with office buildings, this kind of integrated development is a possibility."

Dr Neo also said that the reduction of space allocated for golf courses is a significant step for land-scarce Singapore.

He said Singapore would still have about 1.5 per cent of its land allocated for golf course use, which is high relative to other countries.

He said that more golf courses may go the same way in future, especially for those with leases being extended till 2030.

"Even for those who have a reprieve...for most of them their leases will end in 2030 and with no further indication of what's going to happen (after that)...I think, the next round of adjustments - closer to 2030 - we may see another round of taking away of golf course land," said Dr Neo.

Some golf club members unhappy
Claire Huang and Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE - The government on Sunday announced the fate of golf clubs in Singapore, after days of speculation over which of the golf courses with leases expiring within the next 10 years will have to make way for redevelopment.

Of the nine golf clubs with leases expiring within the next 10 years, two - Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Course - will not have their leases renewed.

Three others -- Tanah Merah Country Club (TMCC), National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC) and Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) -- will have their leases extended but they will be giving up part of the land they now occupy.

The remaining four will have their leases extended with no change. Of the four, however, Orchid Country Club’s lease will not be further renewed after 2030.

Meetings were held with hundreds of members of the different golf clubs on Sunday to explain the government's decision and address members' concerns.

Some members of Keppel Club and The Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) were unhappy with the news.

Mr Manoj Sharma, a Keppel Club member for about 10 years, said: "The decision most definitely will impact a Keppel member adversely, whichever way you slice it and dice it. The decision is hugely unpalatable...

"The precedence for golf courses in Singapore previously has always been that when a golf course is removed, the government has always given the previous golf course an additional plot of land to continue as an ongoing entity."

Mr Yeow, another Keppel Club member for 10 years, said: "They should not use the same yardstick to measure Keppel because Keppel is more than just a club. We are a club that cares for the community, cares for the public."

While alternatives were raised for the club to be a social club, members are still not quite convinced.

Mr Manoj Sharma said: "If the option for it is to be a social club, that means without a golf course, I don't think that will be an option that will be hugely welcomed by Keppel members. And the reason being, while we've got about 5,000 members, the bulk of them actually play golf. They joined Keppel to golf, not to join a social club."

The SICC said in a statement that the club has been in discussions with the government on the renewal of their leases since March last year.

It said it "understood that the authorities had a wider national agenda to consider".

So while its president, Mr Tay Joo Soon, expressed disappointment, he said now that there's more clarity, the club will be able to plan for its future.

But its members are still unhappy.

Dr Allan Ng, 71, speaking as a SICC member but who also holds Tanah Merah and Keppel membership, said: "They have to make a difficult decision, about the needs of the population, and it's an unpopular move. But I think a lot of the members, although they don't express their disapproval they are unhappy. Perhaps it could have been done a little bit more gently and more gradually."

Dr Ng, a retiree, added that the SICC had spent more than $200 million on renovation, mainly at the Island location and partly on the Bukit side. He said if the management had known about this, they would not have spent the money redeveloping the Bukit site.

Golfers from other clubs reacted with some relief.

Mr Koh Boon Check, a member of National Service Resort and Country Club since 2002, said: "The club is saying it is going to review issues like whether it is going to compensate us with a fee review or whether there's an expiry extension or et cetera, and that's good. As I said, it's inevitable, but what's good is that finally we get to know, for sure, at least it puts to rest all the speculation that's going on."

A spokesperson for Tanah Merah Country Club said they are "very pleased" that the leases for both their golf courses are to be extended.

"The government will acquire the strip of land at our Garden Course for the new taxiways at the end of 2014, which will impact six of our existing holes. One hole will be lost, while five other holes will be partially affected," said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that the club will work immediately on the reconfiguration of its course, saying: "As the land acquisition at Garden Course will only be at the end of this year, there will be ample time for the club to have our Garden Course properly reconfigured, while minimizing interruptions to play. We understand that the club would be fairly compensated at market rates but details of the compensation are not available as yet."

Thorough deliberations made on golf course fate: Shanmugam
Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Law Minister K Shanmugam said the government had looked at alternatives and different approaches when reviewing the lease renewals of affected golf courses.

He also stressed that both Keppel Club and the Singapore Island Country Club had been made aware of the government's redevelopment plans since 2001.

Mr Shanmugam made these remarks after attending meetings with the two clubs.

"Our approach is, as I've said, first, if we can, we will extend (the leases). Two, if development is coming through, we will have no choice. Three, as the number of (golf) courses shrinks, we'll have to try to be fair to all, not just existing members but also members of the public and people who are losing their courses. So we try and have some equity," he said.

Mr Shanmugam said the government will also help Keppel Club, as the club makes way for housing redevelopment.

It has offered the club an alternative site to operate as a social club without golf facilities.

"We've said to them, 'Look, we got approval from Cabinet, Ministry of Law, to allocate to them a clubhouse direct, without tender, for social purposes and we will also speak with the operator operating the public course to see whether some arrangements can be worked out with Keppel'," said Mr Shanmugam.

"But at the same time, I think maybe not a lot of Keppel Club members realise that if a new golf course is offered to them, they will need to pay the premium for it, and the chairman was saying that even for the social club, they were not sure whether they can pay the premium."

Some golf courses to make way for redevelopment plans
Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Golf courses make up two percent of Singapore's total land area and this number is expected to drop as golf clubs make way or make adjustments for redevelopment plans.

Keppel Club and the Marina Bay Golf Course will not get new leases when their current ones expire while the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) will lose one of its 18-hole courses.

This was announced by the Law Ministry on Sunday.

Singapore has 17 golf courses -14 private and three public - most of which operate on a 30-year lease.

Nine of these have leases which will expire in the next 10 years.

Authorities said that Keppel Club - whose land is needed for housing development - will not be offered a new lease when its current one expires in 2021.

The plan was announced in 2001 in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) Concept Plan.

If keen, it will be offered an alternative site to operate as a club without golf facilities.

The Law Ministry and the Singapore Land Authority said discussions on a possible location are ongoing.

Similarly, the public Marina Bay Golf Course will not get a new lease when its current one expires in 2024.

Instead, one of the Singapore Island Country Club's two 18-hole golf courses at its Bukit location will be reallocated as a public golf course once its current lease expires in 2021, and will be operated by the labour movement.

This will make sure the public gets continued access to golfing facilities when the Marina Bay Golf Course is phased out for redevelopment.

SICC's other golf course at the Bukit location will be offered a new lease until 2030 on the condition that the club works with the labour movement on how the courses can be reconfigured and the facilities shared.

Both sides have till February next year to work out an agreement.

Two golf clubs located close to Changi Airport -- Tanah Merah Country Club (TMCC) as well as National Service Resort and Country Club -- will also see their courses affected, to accommodate the airport's expansion plans.

The government will acquire about 10 hectares of TMCC's land - which now includes six holes of its Garden course - as the space is needed to build new taxiways. It will also lose three tennis courts and two storage sheds.

And some 26 hectares from the National Service Resort and Country Club will go to airport expansion and related road works. The club's 9-hole Air Force course already sits on State land on a short fixed term and is renewed on a yearly basis.

TMCC will be compensated for the acquisition.

Still, TMCC and the National Service Resort and Country Club are two of seven golf clubs which will have new leases for their golf courses.

The other five are Changi Golf Club, Orchid Country Club, Seletar Country Club, Sentosa Golf Club, and SICC's three other courses.

These leases will end between 2030 and 2040.

But, it is likely that golf courses with leases ending in 2030 - such as Orchid Country Club - will eventually have to make way for redevelopment.

Golf courses occupy lots of land, and authorities say there is a need to balance the competing demands for land in Singapore.

What this means is that the amount of land that is set aside for golfing will have to be reduced over the years and the space set aside to meet the needs of the wider public such as for housing and public infrastructure.

Currently, golf courses sit on some 1,500 hectares of land.

Following this review, the figure will drop to about 1,300 hectares.

Other golf clubs, which currently have more than 10 years left on their leases, are still being reviewed by the authorities.

The Law Ministry said that golf club leases are for a fixed term with an end date.

This has always been made known to the public and to those who become golf club members.

When the lease ends, the land reverts, by law, to the government. This applies for all State leases, whether they are for residential, commercial, industrial or other uses.

Move to take back golf course land a significant step towards planning, say analysts
Amanda Lee Today Online 17 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — Analysts TODAY spoke to felt the Government’s move to take back land occupied by golf courses for redevelopment is a significant step towards planning for land-scarce Singapore’s growing population needs and noted that more of such land would probably be needed if the development plans released by the authorities are any indication.

Although the 200ha affected by the announcement yesterday forms only a fraction of the 1,500ha of land currently occupied by golf courses, ERA Key Executive Officer Eugene Lim said the affected area is enough for the Changi Airport expansion and other plans outlined by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. For example, the southern waterfront area, where Keppel Club’s 44ha site is located, is fairly large and undeveloped, providing space for future plans. “Eventually, I think it will be prime estate,” he added.

Assistant Professor of Geography Harvey Neo at the National University of Singapore (NUS) said yesterday’s announcement would meet some of Singapore’s immediate needs but, with the population projected to reach 6.9 million by 2030, more land would be needed. This is evidenced by the fact that the Government has said it would not be extending Orchid Country Club’s lease after the latest extension to 2040.

Asked whether he felt the land being taken back could be conserved as green lungs for the public, Dr Neo said: “The Government should, as far as possible, no matter how small the space seems to be. It could consider greening whatever spaces it has.”

Associate Professor Tay Kah Poh from the NUS Department of Real Estate noted that, even in land zoned for residential or commercial use, pockets of green are becoming an integral part of most developments. A development such as Gardens By The Bay, he said, is probably the last of its kind as a land devoted to open spaces and parks. “In terms of priority between green spaces and the pursuit of economic growth, I think the latter is deemed more important,” he added.

Analysts were upbeat about the potential of the Keppel site, noting its prime location and capacity to be used for a mix of developments. Noting that the Government had said it would offer Keppel an alternative site to function as a social club, some suggested the alternative site remain in the zone, given Keppel’s 110-year history. Said Suntec Real Estate Consultants’ Director of Research and Consultancy Colin Tan: “When you preserve a heritage, the building must be somewhere in there.”

SICC members generally relaxed about loss of a course
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 17 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — Members of the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) yesterday expressed relief at the Law Ministry’s announcement on the fate of their golf courses, with some noting that the changes were not as drastic as some had feared.

Speaking to reporters after attending a meeting, chaired by Law Minister K Shanmugam, where they were able to air their concerns about the forthcoming changes, many members felt that it was acceptable for them to give up one of the club’s two courses located at its Bukit site near MacRitichie Reservoir so that it can be run by the labour movement for public use.

Said a member who wanted to be known as Mr Khor, 72: “It’s quite extraordinary that we have four 18-hole golf courses, so I think it is reasonable for us to give up one for the public, given the limited land space that we have in Singapore.”

The SICC also has two other 18-hole courses at its Island location near Lower Pierce Reservoir, and the leases there will be extended until the end of 2040. But the lease for its other Bukit course will be extended only if it can work out with the labour movement how to reconfigure the courses there, with the possibility of sharing facilities, by Feb 15 next year.

SICC President Tay Joo Soon said a meeting between the club’s committee and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) will be set up soon, adding that he hopes to “come to an early agreement” before the stipulated deadline.

“With the loss of one of our courses, it will put a strain on our remaining facilities given our large membership base,” he said. “Nonetheless, as with all golf clubs in Singapore, the SICC has to accept that change is on the horizon and necessary in the broader context of national interest.”

While some raised questions about the impact of losing a course on the value of their membership, members generally felt the impact may not be drastic. “We can still enjoy it for the next seven years — that’s how I see it,” said lawyer Thomas Lee, 57.

“The arrangement is that if the things go through, the likelihood is that we operate as a different club, there will be a partition and they will have their own guardhouse,” he added.

One SICC member for more than 50 years, Mr Chua, 73, questioned the authorities’ decision to appoint NTUC to manage the public course, pointing out that it would be “fairer” to call for an open tender. Some also queried whether it would make more sense to sacrifice one of the Island facilities as those at the Bukit location are interconnected, making a split more challenging.

Mr Tay said giving up one of the Bukit courses is logical, given that the club had spent S$150 million on a new clubhouse at the Island location.

Mr Shanmugam, however, said that the Government is open to the suggestion and will consider any request. Nevertheless, he added that this will be subject to factors such as the availability of the peripheral facilities, such as changing rooms and restaurants, needed at golf courses.

According to the Law Ministry, the push to transfer one of the SICC’s courses to the NTUC was to ensure that members of the public have enough access to golfing facilities once the Marina Bay Golf Course (MBGC), which is open to the public, is phased out for redevelopment in 2024.

Responding to queries, an MBGC spokesperson said an estimated 330,000 people visited the course last year.

Read more!

NParks and South West CDC unveil Singapore's longest green corridor

Channel NewsAsia 16 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: More than 20 corporate and community partners are joining in an effort to green up Tengah Nature Way and bring biodiversity closer to the neighbourhood.

They include Yuhua Zone 5 RC, NatSteel and Almukminin Mosque, which have committed to grow plants that attract birds and butterflies within their premises or on allocated plots of land.

The community gardens will help create a green route for the birds and butterflies to travel between the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the Western Catchment (SAFTI Live-Firing Area).

The 13km-long green route is currently Singapore's longest green corridor.

The project was unveiled on Sunday by National Parks Board (NParks) and South West Community Development Council (CDC).

Mayor of the South West District Amy Khor said: "We are happy to promote and complement the Tengah Nature Way project by providing seed funding of S$3,000 per garden for the setting up of up to 20 community gardens around the vicinity of the Tengah Nature Way."

"This will enhance the biodiversity as well as the fauna and flora of the area and further improve the quality of the living environment in the South West District."

As part of the launch event, some 400 residents from the South West District took part in a guided walk of the Tengah Nature Way, where they could learn more about the flora and fauna along the green corridor.

The walk is also part of "Project ENGAGE", a ground-up effort by students of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to encourage active ageing through nature-related activities such as brisk walking and gardening.

Dr Khor added: "The Tengah Nature Way and the community gardens will together become community nodes for residents to enjoy nature, exercise as well as interact thus helping to form stronger bonds among residents."

Tengah Nature Way is one of three recently created Nature Ways, bringing the total length of the green corridors in Singapore to 38km.

The other two new nature ways are in Punggol and Tanglin.

- CNA/ac

Read more!

Malaysia: ‘Red tide’ phenomenon believed to be cause of mass fish deaths - Department of Environment

The Star 17 Feb 14;

JOHOR BARU: Last Thursday's mass fish deaths, including those farmed in sea cages off Tanjung Kupang, are believed to have been caused by the 'red tide' phenomenon.

The Department of Environment (DOE), in a statement on Sunday said the phenomenon was caused by excessive plankton resulting in reduced oxygen in the water.

It said DOE, which conducted preliminary investigation on the day of the incident, found no contaminant or oil spill near the venue.

"A similar incident also occurred on Dec 28, 2009. Nevertheless, DOE will continue to monitor and take enforcement measures on the premises in Gelang Patah," said the statement.

It also said the Johor Fisheries Department had been referred to identify the exact cause of the fish deaths through the analysis of fish samples.

Meanwhile, Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) denied that offshore land reclamation work conducted by the company had caused the death of an estimated four tonnes of fish.

Its executive deputy chairman, Datuk Md Yusof Othman said the reported fish deaths were not just happening in the reclaimed areas but also in Singapore.

According to him, the reclamation work began on Jan 22, involving a 0.4 hectare area.

"If the fish were dying due to reclamation work, why are they only dying now and not a day or two after we started work?" he asked.

The incident has affected 10 fish farms and 250 traditional fishermen. - Bernama

DOE looking into mass fish deaths
yee xiang yun and kathleen ann kili The Star 17 Feb 14;

JOHOR BARU: The department of environment (DOE) is carrying out a study to find the cause of the massive fish deaths in the waters off Tanjung Kupang, near here.

The deaths occurred about 3km from a land reclamation project but the department said no industrial pollution or oil spillage were detected in the waters.

“The deaths could be due to the red tide phenomenon or change in weather, which causes an overgrowth in plankton, resulting in the lack of oxygen in the water,” a DOE spokesman said yesterday.

“Red tide” is a common term used for a harmful algal bloom, or HAB, which occurs when colonies of algae grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, marine life, animals and birds.

It was reported on Friday that at least 10 fish farms and 250 traditional fishermen were affected by the death of the fishes, initially believed to be due to the off-shore land reclamation works.

The state government said it is also investigating the incidents.

Mohd Khairi Malik, the political secretary to Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, said the state government expects to receive a report within this week from the Environmental Investi­gation Agency, the organisation committed to investigating and exposing environmental crime.

“The state government will halt the project if it is causing the fish deaths,” he said.

Meanwhile, state-owned Kum­pulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Bhd denied the mass fish death was caused by the nearby reclamation works.

KPRJ executive vice-chairman Datuk Md Othman Yusof said the project, which began on Jan 22, had followed all regulations set by the DOE and that the department would conduct checks from time to time to ensure they (the developers) stick to regulations.

Kit Siang urged to be more professional in solving people's problem
New Straits Times 27 Feb 14;

JOHOR BAHARU: Gelang Patah member of parliament Lim Kit Siang has been urged to be more professional in solving the problems of the people, without favouring race and religion so that they might get their due justice.
MCA Complaints and Public Service bureau head Jason Teoh Sew Hock claimed that Lim did not defend the fate of 48 fish and clam breeders at the Tanjung Kupang waters and in fact blamed the state government for causing the fish and clams to die.

"Even though he has visited the area twice, up till now, he has not done anything except blame the state government for the reclamation and sand mining activities in the area," he told reporters here today.

He also said on the second visit on Feb 24, the Gelang Patah MP only invited the Chinese press to go with him.

"He also claimed that the fishermen's income had dropped from RM10,000 a month to RM3,000 since the reclamation works began.

"The fishermen in this area have never earned that much income because they are small fishermen and can only earn about RM80 to RM150 a day," he said.

Fish and clam trader Abdullah Zaidi, who had been in the business for 11 years in Tanjung Kupang, concurred with his statement.

The death of fish resulting from the red tide phenomenon in Tanjung Kupang on Feb 12 had caused 48 fish and clam breeders in the area to suffer losses amounting to RM5.5 million. -- BERNAMA

Read more!

Malaysia: Expect to swelter until April

isabelle lai The Star 17 Feb 14;

PETALING JAYA: Peak daytime temperatures in the country are expected to be high until April, said the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD).

MMD’s national weather centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said February to April were the hottest months of the year due to the equinox – which is when the sun crosses directly over the equator. The equinox happens twice a year, around March 20 and Sept 22.

“The spring equinox occurs around March 20. As we are slightly further north of the equator, the sun will be directly overhead in our region as we approach April,” Muhammad Helmi explained.

He noted that the highest maximum temperature recorded by MMD was 40.1°C at Chuping, Perlis, in April 1998.

However, Muhammad Helmi said that increased rainfall in March would help alleviate the hot and dry weather in some states in the peninsula.

He attributed the recent drop in rainfall to the northeast monsoon season (from November to March), adding that wind patterns had not been conducive to the formation of rain clouds.

The return of rain clouds is expected to help lower peak afternoon temperatures.

“We can expect to see frequent afternoon thunderstorms next month as we begin to approach the inter-monsoon period,” he said, adding that February was often the driest month as well.

Muhammad Helmi said northern states such as Perlis and Kedah have recorded less than 100mm of rain this month, where normal levels are between 100mm and 300mm per month.

Earlier this month, the Department of Environment recorded moderate to unhealthy Air Pollutant Index readings at several locations in Malaysia.

In late January, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry attributed the haze hovering over the Klang Valley to fine particles which were unable to disperse due to prolonged dry weather.

It had said these particulate matter were released from various human activities including vehicle fumes, land development, and construction activities.

Read more!

Malaysia: Singapore water deal to be reviewed

Sim Bak Heng New Straits Times 17 Feb 14;

JOHOR BARU: FOR the first time in 53 years, the raw water agreement between Johor and its neighbour across the Causeway, Singapore, is set to undergo a review.

The Attorney-General's Chambers has given the Johor government the green light to reassess the rate charged for the raw water it supplies to Singapore, which has been in place since 1961.

Following the move, Johor is expected to raise the rate sometime this year.

It will also embark on a "zero water dependency" programme so that it would no longer need to purchase treated water from Singapore in the future.

Although the rate has yet to be announced, it is believed that the state will stick to the rate proposed during the tenure of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which was 60 sen per 1,000 gallons of raw water.

Currently, under the terms of the Malaysia-Singapore Agreement in 1961 and 1962, Singapore's Public Utilities Board (PUB) purchases raw water from Johor at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons (4,546.09 litres) and sells the treated water at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons to Johor.

Johor sells 250 million litres of raw water to Singapore daily, and buys two per cent of the total back from them in the form of treated water, equivalent to five million litres daily.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the state executive council had discussed and raised the matter with the Federal Government last August.

Since then, the Attorney-General's Chambers has been studying the legal aspects of the raw water agreement inked between the two countries more than five decades ago.

"Early last month, we received a favourable reply from the A-G's Chambers, with regards to the legal aspects of the revised rates," he said.

"The A-G's Chambers met a Johor legal advisory team in Kuala Lumpur in early January and told them that we have the right to review the rate. With the green light, it is just a matter of time before we come up with the new rate."

Hasni said the state government was anticipating that when the rate of raw water rate is increased to 60 sen per 1,000 gallons, Singapore would also hike the rate of treated water sold to Johor.

In view of this, he said Johor would launch a "zero water dependency" programme by June this year.

Under the programme, the state government will lay more pipes and improve the capacity of water treatment plants.

"We hope to accomplish the programme within a year, which is by June next year. Once we have accomplished the programme, Johor will be self-sufficient and does not have to buy treated water from Singapore," said Hasni.

He said raising the price of raw water was long overdue and Malaysia had been doing a social service by selling raw water to Singapore at a low rate for too many years.

He said the new rate will reflect the actual price of raw water.

Read more!

Malaysia: The Malaysian Nature Society concerned over proposed forest degazetting

zora chan The Star 17 Feb 14;

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) is concerned over the proposed dega-zetting of four forest reserves that form part of Selangor State Park for the construction of the Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR).

The road calls for land measuring 106.65ha to be carved out of the Hulu Langat, Bukit Sungei Puteh, Ulu Gombak and Ampang forest reserves, which in turn are part of the 108,300ha state park.

MNS conservation head Balu Perumal said based on the current status, no areas within the park could and/or should be degazetted.

“Otherwise, it will set a precedent for future developments. Also, there is still the option for the state to provide the right-of-way for KLORR without degazetting the forest reserves.

“In this case, the developer can also be subject to a yearly concession fee by the state which can go towards supporting the state park,” he said.

The notice to dezatte which was published in major dailies on Friday, stated that any objections or concerns must be submitted in written form to the Selangor Forestry Department within 30 days from the date of the notice.

“Whatever it is, the first option should be no road at all through the area, although the environmental impact assessment has already been approved by the Environment Depart­ment,” said Balu, who added that the second best option would be to impose a minimal cutting of forests or slopes if the project proceeds.

Selangor MNS vice-chairman Lim Teck Wyn said these forest reserves were a hub of biodiversity and housed many recreational spots such as streams, waterfalls and hills.

Lim, who is a forestry expert, said although he was dismayed to hear of the proposal to excise the land, he was glad that the Forestry Department had taken the step to consult the public.

The Forestry Department should also hold a public engagement meeting soon, he said.

The Selangor State Park was opened in 2005, and a huge part of it is highland over 300m above sea level, with steep slopes greater than 25 degrees.

As the third largest park in peninsular Malaysia after Taman Negara and Perak’s Royal Belum State Park, it forms a critical catchment for raw water used in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Read more!