Best of our wild blogs: 18 Feb 14

Butterflies Galore! : Spotted Judy
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Reforest golf courses to help enhance ‘garden city’

Liew Kai Khiun Today Online 18 Feb 14;

Golf is not only a sport, but also a marker of social status in Singapore. However, in recent years, the time-consuming game has also been seen as detrimental to work-life balance and the putting green may no longer be the place to make healthy business partnerships.

Also, aside from the issue of land scarcity here, the excessive use of water and pesticides on golf courses is also environmentally damaging.

In other words, golf courses are now considered antiquated and even negative assets. Biodiversity, inclusivity and connectivity define a city’s liveability and lovability.

Hence, I view the outcome of the review of golf courses with mixed feelings. (“Govt to reacquire land from 2 golf courses, 3 to give up land”; Feb 17).

While I am heartened that the Government is reducing these numbers for more pressing needs such as housing and public infrastructure, the reduction is only slight: From 1,500 to 1,300 ha, or 13 per cent in the next decade.

Although the leases of Keppel Club and Marina Bay Golf Course will expire in 2021 and 2024, respectively, other clubs will be offered new leases until 2040. I am unsure whether this sends the right message on Singapore’s long-term priorities.

Besides earmarking the land for infrastructure redevelopment, the Government should also consider returning these golf courses, for example, Singapore Island Country Club’s golf courses near the Central Catchment area, to nature.

Rather than reallocate one of them to the labour movement, would it not benefit the wider public and Singapore’s biodiversity to reforest the golf courses as part of the larger Central Catchment area in the near future?

Aside from the heavy public use of MacRitchie and Lower Pierce reservoirs, the Central Catchment area and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve come under stress from the surrounding housing and transport developments.

With the periphery of Bukit Brown Cemetery slated for housing and the Central Catchment area used for the Cross Island Line, we would be losing natural greenery in the area.

At a national level, the Land Use Plan of the Population White Paper said only four per cent of Singapore’s land would be effectively forested by 2030.

Although Singapore prides itself as a garden city, this projected number falls way below the 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas envisioned by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity for 2020.

Reforesting these golf courses could be part of measures to make up for this shortfall if we want to show that Singapore, despite its size, can be a loveable and attractive city rich in biodiversity.

Keppel Club members have enjoyed unfair use of prime land for too long
Peter Ong Today Online 18 Feb 14;

I am disappointed with the view of the Keppel Club member quoted in “Govt to reacquire land from 2 golf courses, 3 to give up land” (Feb 17), that the acquisition is not equitable.

He should realise that Keppel Club has been enjoying unfair use of prime land for too long, to the exclusion of the public, for a membership fee of only S$16,000, even though the cost of land in Singapore has gone up tremendously in recent years.

It is too early to speculate what the Government will do with the land, but whether it is used for public housing or condominiums, releasing the land will go some way towards reducing the pressure of land shortage in Singapore. This helps to reduce land costs, benefiting all Singaporeans, including the member. I hope he will do some soul-searching and be contented to use the club until its lease expires.

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Tweaked Environmental Public Health Act with harsher penalties for litterbugs passed

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 18 Feb 14;

Recalcitrant litterbugs can be fined up to S$10,000 under the amended Environmental Public Health Act.

The changes to the Act, which were passed in Parliament yesterday, will allow maximum penalties for littering-related offences to be doubled from S$1,000 to S$2,000 for first-time offenders.

Fines will be increased to S$4,000 for second-time offenders and S$10,000 for third and subsequent convictions. This is the first time fines for first- and second-time offenders have been revised since 1987.

While Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday expressed support for the move, they also called for more to be done to stop people from littering. Some suggested investing in advanced technology, such as DNA testing, to nab litterbugs and issuing corrective work order for offenders in their neighbourhood.

Several MPs also wanted to know how the authorities would deal with repeat offenders who are mentally ill. Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang) suggested giving police officers and authorised personnel the power to arrest mentally ill litterbugs and send them for medical treatment, so the root cause of the problem could be addressed.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament yesterday that the number of complaints received for littering had increased by almost 50 per cent last year from 2010. However, he pointed out that enforcement had been a particularly difficult undertaking as litterbugs are rarely caught in the act.

For example, there were more than 1,300 complaints on high-rise littering last year, but the National Environment Agency managed to prosecute only 19 offenders.

The amendments to the Act would facilitate investigations by allowing police and authorised officers to request for information which might lead to the identification of the litterbugs, said Dr Balakrishnan.

“By simply making it clear to everyone that, if you are irresponsible and you litter, the probability of you being identified and prosecuted is high, I’m hoping that this increased deterrence would, in fact, mean (fewer) people being prosecuted,” he added. WOO SIAN BOON

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Slightly hazy conditions due to accumulation of particulate matter: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 18 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Some parts of Singapore were slightly hazy on Monday morning.

In an update on Monday evening, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the haze was localised and was because of the accumulation of particulate matter.

NEA said the 3-hour PSI in northern Singapore was slightly elevated in the morning.

But the 24-hour PSI remained in the “good” range throughout the day.

At 10pm on Monday, the 24-hour PSI was 29-39.

Seven hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Monday, mainly in northern Sumatra.

But smoke haze was visible over Riau province in central Sumatra.

NEA said the number of hotspots detected over the last few days has been low due to cloudy conditions and partial satellite coverage.

The prevailing northeasterly winds for the next few days will keep the haze from Sumatra and volcanic ash from the Mount Sinabung and Mount Kelud eruptions away from Singapore.

As such, the likelihood of transboundary haze or volcanic ash affecting Singapore remains low.

But NEA said there may be occasional slight haze to the accumulation of particulate matter, particularly in the morning.

Over the next few days, localised showers are expected in the late afternoon.

NEA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary.

- CNA/xq

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