Best of our wild blogs: 12 Apr 14

Green Volunteers activities lined up in April
from The Green Volunteers

Butterfly Watching and Photographing Deep In the Forest
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Large-tailed Nightjar Calling
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A Sneak Peek : New Butterfly Book
from Butterflies of Singapore

Read more!

Tender called to study possible systems, corridors for high-speed rail link to KL

Issues to be looked at include incident-management procedures, conceptual layout and environmental impact
Joy Fang Today Online 12 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday called for a tender to study possible 30km-long corridors for the Singapore leg of the proposed High-Speed Rail (HSR) link with Kuala Lumpur.

The tender was announced four days after the conclusion of the fifth Malaysian-Singapore leaders’ retreat on Monday, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak reiterated their commitment towards completing the ambitious project by 2020.

The Singapore Government is considering three options to site the terminal station — Tuas West, Jurong East and the city centre.

Apart from assessing the technical feasibility of the possible corridors, the engineering feasibility study will also look at, among other things, the transportation connectivity for the three possible terminal station locations, the LTA said in its press release.

The authority said the study is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

Based on a 33-page tender document on the terms of reference, the study has to meet a range of objectives, including comparing the different HSR systems around the world and recommending a suitable system for Singapore, as well as developing necessary connections to existing or future MRT stations.

It also has to, for example, assess the environmental impact on surroundings, propose a power supply for the station and determine costs for the project.

The study also has to come up with a conceptual layout for the terminal station and design it such that it is an “urban node that ... promotes a conducive environment for work, retail and leisure”.

Incident-management procedures will also have to be drawn up, including strategies for an emergency fault train recovery, inspection regime of trains and the mode of detrainment in the event of situations such as a system failure.

The appointed consultant must submit a preliminary engineering feasibility report after two-and-a-half months from the date of commencement. After six months, the consultant has to put up a final report.

The idea of a high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur — which is expected to cut travel time to only 90 minutes — was first announced in February last year during a leaders’ retreat in Singapore.

On Monday, Mr Lee and Mr Najib acknowledged at a joint press conference at the end of the retreat that the timeline was challenging.

The next day, in a roundtable interview with editors of regional newspaper grouping Asia News Network, Mr Lee said many aspects of the project have to be studied, discussed and agreed upon.

“But if we can get the high-speed rail between Singapore and KL built, whether it is 2020 or whether it is a bit later, I think it will make a very big difference to the connection between two very vibrant cities ... It is a game changer,” Mr Lee said.

Singapore-KL high-speed rail ‘a game changer’
Today Online 10 Apr 14;

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had a roundtable interview in Singapore with editors of regional newspaper grouping Asia News Network. The network comprises more than 20 news organisations from the region such as Singapore’s Straits Times, The Jakarta Post from Indonesia and Thailand’s Nation Multimedia Group. The journalists hail from countries such as China, Malaysia, Myanmar and Bhutan. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Question: There is a lot of excitement about the high-speed rail to Kuala Lumpur, but you have set a very ambitious time frame for it.

I think that’s what we are aiming for. There is a lot of work to be done. Many aspects have to be studied and discussed and agreed upon. But if we can get the high-speed rail between Singapore and KL built, whether it is 2020 or whether it is a bit later, I think it will make a very big difference to the connection between two very vibrant cities, in the way you can do business together, in the way you can travel up and down, the convenience of it. It is a game changer. I mean, it’s like the Euro(star) train between London and Paris. And in Asia or in South-east Asia, certainly, I think Singapore and KL are the two natural ends between which you would like to have such a link.

Question: What are the possible obstacles or road blocks that could derail this high-speed rail plan?

We have not yet worked out the specifics of it. We know, in principle, that we want this. (Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak) has said that in KL, the terminus is going to be in Bandar Malaysia, in the Sungai Besi side. I have told him that in Singapore, we have three sites possible, but Jurong East is one very attractive one that we are considering. So, in those broad terms, we have decided the shape of it.

But where is the line going to go? How is it going to be built? What’s the engineering? What’s the financing? What’s the governance? What’s the legal framework? How are we going to operate this? These are all very complicated to do even in one country, but to do in two countries and to work it all out in what would be quite a compressed time frame, I think (it) will test our teams.

Question: Singapore has been seen as a model in our part of the world and, for that matter, many other nations in other parts of the world. There’s so much to draw from Singapore. (Is there) anything that you would actually caution us, you know, not to ape from Singapore or not to borrow from Singapore? What should we not take from Singapore?

We do not hold ourselves as a model for others to imitate. We are only solving our own problems and, generally, we have managed, sometimes, we are still working on it. If other countries find it interesting and relevant and want to use it, adapt it, pick up ideas from it, we are happy that we have been useful. But I think every country’s circumstance is different. It’s not just the size, it’s not just the location; it’s also the history, the nature of the society, the temperament of the people, what you are prepared to accept, what you would like to aspire to, how you want your society to operate and how you want to fit in with your neighbours. And that’s different. We happen to be in South-east Asia, smallest country in the region, at peace with our bigger neighbours and able to maintain good relations with them.

Question: What is your Government doing to get into a better position in the ranking of Reporters Without Borders?

I have given up that. I do not take them seriously. They put us somewhere around Zimbabwe; I said, so be it. I mean, they find it useful, I just ignore that. We manage our press, our media and our freedom of information in a way that makes sense for Singapore. Information flows freely on the Internet, you can get data instantly from anywhere in the world. Newspapers report freely the news, but also responsibly, so that you inform and educate people, so that this is a source of reliable information, opinion as well as entertainment. And not all newspapers in the world aspire to do that.

I think that it’s a model that has worked for us. It’s a model that is changing, because the Internet is a very big new factor, social media is a very big new factor, which we are struggling with. I think it’s something that we have to deal with and not something where we say, well, we give up; that’s the way the world is and anything goes. And I really don’t know and don’t mind where the next ranking comes out for journalists.

Question: You have been quite active on social media as well. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and if you are planning to do even more?

Well, it’s a very interesting exercise, because I embarked on this about two years ago and launched a Facebook page. And later on, we launched an Instagram account. I am on Twitter too, but Twitter in Singapore doesn’t have much following. So, it’s mainly Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has a bigger following, but Instagram has more younger people.

It’s a good way to have informal comments on serious and semi-serious matters. You also have some light comments from time to time, because people like to see the human side of you and it helps to build up the eyeballs. And if you want to appear on people’s news feeds, you must make sure that people “Like” you from time to time. That’s a technical requirement. “Like”, meaning capital “L”, doesn’t mean they really necessarily have warm feelings, but there’s a technique to it. When to post; how to post it; what language to use; how to keep it snappy and interesting; what sort of pictures to use, because the pictures make a big difference. If you post one of your own pictures, that gives a more authentic feel to it, even if it is not the best picture available.

So, I think it’s a useful additional channel, but if you want to deliver an op-ed, 800 words is already too much for Facebook. And on Instagram, the passages, paragraphs are even shorter. That’s just the way the attention span is.

Question: The era of long tenureship of Prime Ministers seems to be over, especially in this region. We see governments changing very fast now. You have been in power for about 10 years now, or thereabouts. How do you see your own future? How long do you plan to stay in helming this country?

I think that leaders stay as long as they are able to make a contribution. If they stay beyond that, then they have overstayed their welcome. And in Singapore, we pay a lot of attention to succession planning and making sure that we have a new team ready and new leaders who are capable of taking charge, so that the country can move ahead and the leaders can be in sync with the country. I can’t say exactly how long I am staying, but I am 62 years old and that’s not young.

Tender for study on high-speed rail sites
Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Ap 14;

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) called a tender yesterday for a detailed feasibility study on the proposed sites for a high-speed rail terminal here.

It came just days after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak reiterated their intention to build a high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore - the first of its kind in South-east Asia.

Mr Lee has mentioned Tuas West, Jurong East and the city centre as possible sites for a terminal.

The study will assess the transport connectivity of all three and explore feasible corridors for the Singapore leg of the line, which could carry trains reaching speeds of 300kmh.

The LTA said the appointed consultant will be required to study the impact of the project on existing land transport facilities.

According to the tender document, the consultant will also compare different high-speed rail systems, list their pros and cons and recommend a "suitable" one.

It will be required to look at the concept of the terminal station as well as the design of supporting infrastructure such as a Customs, immigration and quarantine facility and an integrated transport hub. It will also examine the amount of land required for the project here and determine the need for acquisition.

The study will "evaluate each of the proposed schemes based on technical, operational, maintenance, environmental, security, safety, cost and any other aspects", the LTA said.

It noted that the line may consist of a mix of ground-level, elevated and underground sections.

The study is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

Meanwhile, the authority will study potential passenger numbers and the soil profile of the three sites.

The two prime ministers are aiming to have the project completed by 2020 - a deadline which industry players believe is ambitious.

Read more!

Let artists shape a resilient city

Sacha Kagan The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Apr 14;
There are many values of cultural heritage and biodiversity being rediscovered in the historical site of Bukit Brown. Such sites can become exactly the kinds of undesignated spaces of experimentation and imagination that a city needs.

Last month, I was invited to give a keynote address on art and sustainability at the i Light Symposium held at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road. The aim of the conference was to bring together leading thinkers in the area of light and art, interrogating art's power to improve society. I had diverse conversations with artists, architects, social scientists and others, on unsustainable development. I visited neighbourhoods ranging from Marina Bay to Bukit Brown.

These first impressions raised my awareness of the specific challenges of urban resilience for Singapore. In particular, impending climate change raises the question of Singapore's "resilience" to serious future crises.

Will it survive when the trusted approaches that granted wealth and stability to the island in the past are severely tested?

The concept of "resilience" comes from the scientific study of how natural and social systems, in the past, have managed (or not) to survive by evolving in response to changing circumstances.

Species, ecosystems and societies that have proved able to survive extreme crises share three characteristics:

"Redundancy" or having multiple pathways to doing similar things. Redundancy, however, is severely reduced by efficiency. Efficiently organised societies generally have less redundancy, thereby threatening their resilience.

Diversity - for example, having multiple ways to see the world and express ourselves, as well as multiple ways to learn from experience and transmit knowledge. Cultural diversity, as well as biological diversity, should be preserved and even increased.

Self-organisation, or the ability of communities, neighbourhoods and groups of people to organise themselves to help determine their responses to crises. This goes against the expectation that direction should come from the top. It also goes against the naive expectation that some natural market laws will spontaneously solve problems.

Urban resilience requires the realisation of these three characteristics through a city's fabric. Singapore has a rich cultural diversity, but there is much room for progress concerning the other two characteristics.

One promising way for cities to develop these qualities of resilience is through art.

I do not mean the promotion of commercial art or art for art's sake. Rather, the involvement of artists and other unconventional creative people in the process of urban development, to help un-plan our cities. Artists should be allowed to shape spaces where the creative and experimental spirit of the city's inhabitants is stimulated.

Contemporary city dwellers should be allowed to freely re-imagine possible futures and experiment with more sustainable ways of life. Creative, non-commercial "spaces of possibility" are needed, countering the cancerous growth of malls in the city.

The locations of these spaces should not be government-controlled or pre-designated, as these approaches kill creativity.

Instead, they should be spaces that grow organically from efforts by the different creative, social and cultural communities.

One hopeful example of how artists have made an impact on city spaces comes from the city of Hamburg in Germany. In that city, artists are generally being pushed to market themselves as business entrepreneurs for a short-sighted "creative city". But many artists and creative folk opposed that strategy. In 2009, a group of them formed a "Right to the City" network, gathering 100 local groups around one common principle: Urban development should be determined by its inhabitants, not by real estate.

On Aug22, 2009, 150 artists, architects and marketing experts illegally occupied a group of buildings called the "Gangeviertel", historic workers' quarters in the city's centre. It was not an ordinary "squatting" but an art exhibition and series of events.

The occupiers did not merely protest against the plans of the city government and the investor: They put up an elaborate alternative plan to re-imagine the place as a centre of culture, complete with work places and social housing, to inject vibrancy into an area dominated by commercial and expensive residential buildings.

For the first time in decades, the city government, which normally evacuates occupied buildings by force within 24 hours, listened to the proposal. Seduced by the artists' vision, they even bought back the buildings from the investor and gave the occupiers a year to finalise their concept. Rehabilitation work started late last year. Historical buildings were saved and social housing preserved.

Realising urban resilience through the arts will be a great challenge in Singapore, too, but it is not an impossible one. I saw many creative seeds which would need to be encouraged to grow. I saw young people with interesting ideas, designing and making objects, growing their own food.

There are many values of cultural heritage and biodiversity being rediscovered in the historical site of Bukit Brown.

Such sites can become exactly the kinds of undesignated spaces of experimentation and imagination that a city needs.

The writer is a research associate, Institute of Sociology and Cultural Organisation, Leuphana University, Lueneburg in Germany.

Read more!

Vertical green wall at school helps fight global warming

Amanda Lee Today Online 12 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE — A vertical green wall created by teachers and students from Hougang Primary School not only helped teach students about global warming, it was also able to reduce classroom temperatures by two to three degrees.

This low-cost, soil-less green project was one of 55 winners at the annual Ministry of Education (MOE) ExCEL Fest yesterday, where schools showcase their best ideas in teaching. More than 170 projects from 130 schools are being featured at the two-day event.

Inspired by French botanist Patrick Blanc, the creator of “green walls” or vertical gardens, Hougang Primary School decided to create its own walls in 2011 when it ran out of gardening space.

Each wall is made up of two pieces of felt stapled onto a 10mm PVC board, with slits on the first layer to form pockets that hold the plants. A variety of plants such as ferns and orchids grows on these vertical, living walls. The school created one to front the exterior of its compound and another was built outside two classrooms.

Speaking at the awards ceremony yesterday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat called on educators to continue innovating to bring out the best in every child to reach their potential.

“Innovation is for our children’s sake; all our work in MOE is judged by how it brings out the best in the children,” said Mr Heng. “Every school is to bring out the best in every child in every domain, in every school, at every stage of learning whatever the starting point”.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Mr Heng said he hoped teachers will not be afraid of trying something new.

“I would like to encourage our teachers to keep trying; don’t be afraid to try new approaches … That is how we can bring innovation across our entire school system and raise the level of our education system,” he said. How something could be done more effectively and efficiently is what teachers need to keep in mind, said Mr Heng.

Mr Mohan Krishnamoorthy, who heads the school’s Science Innovation and Enterprise Club, said the 29 students who maintain the green wall feel a sense of ownership towards it as they have to prune it once every quarter. “(It) helps them love nature as well,” said Mr Mohan. “The whole idea of having this around the school (is to get) students to appreciate nature, appreciate greenery and that’s our objective.”

During science lessons, the school’s Primary 6 students make use of the green wall to learn how green plants and vertical walls help to reduce global warming. They also find out how green walls can serve as a good alternative to the common garden in land-scarce Singapore.

Students also learn how plants can reduce temperatures in the environment. “They can actually compare (the temperature of the) classrooms on the first floor and (the) second floor,” said Mr Mohan, adding that temperatures have been reduced by two to three degrees. And it only costs the school about S$100 to S$150 to maintain the wall each year, he said.

Read more!

Malaysia to boost oil storage business as new Pengerang, Johor terminal starts on Saturday

* Pengerang's $600 mln oil storage terminal to start operations on Sat
* To boost southern Malaysia's capacity by 70 pct
* First commercial crude storage to be ready by December

Jane Xie Reuters 11 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE, April 11 (Reuters) - Malaysia's biggest commercial oil storage facility will start operations on Saturday when it receives its first fuel shipment, expanding Southeast Asia's share in the oil storage business and also raising competition with neighbouring Singapore.

The $600 million oil storage terminal with a capacity of 1.28 million cubic meters at Pengerang in the southern Malaysian state of Johor will receive a clean oil product shipment on Saturday morning, Dialog Group Bhd, one of the owners of the terminal, confirmed to Reuters in an email.

Singapore is the 800-pound gorilla in the regional oil storage business, boasting a capacity of around 20 million cubic meters of storage space that is essential for oil trading activities. A scarcity of land, however, has stymied the city-state's growth of the business.

So Malaysia is cashing in on the opportunities provided by the rising quantities of crude oil and products passing through the region to meet the appetite of Asia's growing economies.

The Pengerang terminal, majority owned by a 51:49 joint venture of Dialog and Dutch oil and chemicals storage company Vopak, will boost southern Malaysia's oil storage capacity by nearly 70 percent to more than 3 million cubic metres when its first phase is completed by year-end.

It will also become then the first commercial oil terminal in the region to offer crude oil storage.

It was not immediately clear what fuel the shipment will bring on Saturday or what the quantities are and who's leasing the storage space.

Malaysia also has oil storage terminals at Tanjung Bin, Tanjung Langsat and Pasir Gudang.

Twenty-five storage tanks at Pengerang with a combined capacity of 432,000 cubic meters that can store clean oil products such as naphtha and diesel will be brought online at Saturday's commencement. Another 432,000 cubic meters is set to be commissioned by June and a further 420,000 cubic meters by December, an industry source familiar with the matter said.

When the first stage is completed, the project will offer 57 tanks and six berths. It will have capabilities to dock a very large crude carrier.

Two-thirds of the terminal's capacity will be designated to store clean products and the remaining for crude oil.

Subject to demand for more storage, there are also plans to expand Pengerang's storage capacity to up to 5 million cubic meters.

The storage terminal is one of several upcoming energy projects in Pengerang.

Malaysia's state oil firm Petronas will build a 300,000 barrels-per-day refinery and petrochemical integrated development which costs about $16 billion at Pengerang. The refinery is expected to start operations by early 2019.

And in November, Singapore-based oil trader Concord Energy said it had signed a pact with Dialog for a feasibility study to build another terminal there with a capacity of up to 2 million cubic meters. (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Dialog starts ops in Pengerang
zazali musa The Star 14 Apr 14;

KOTA TINGGI: Dialog Bhd’s Pengerang Independent Terminals Sdn Bhd (PITSB) welcomed the first vessel carrying fuel for its petroleum and crude storage facility in Pengerang on Saturday, marking the start of its oil storage operations there.

MT Vinalise Glory, which arrived from the Middle East, became the first ship to dock at the terminal which offers crude oil storage facilities for trading purposes.

“This is a historic moment as we work towards the transformation of Pengerang into a regional oil and gas hub like what’s Rotterdam to Europe,’’ said Dialog Group Bhd executive chairman Dr Ngau Boon Keat at a briefing.

Dialog’s facility will raise competition in the crude oil storage business that is generally dominated by operators in Singapore currently.

Ngau, who is also PITSB chairman, said the company was confident that Phase One of Pengerang Terminal operated by PITSB would serve its purpose to meet the growing need for storage capacity of crude oil and petroleum products in the Asian region.

He said PITSB was currently in talks with two potential investors to develop additional terminals under Phase Two and Three of the independent terminal project.

“We have allocated about 80.93ha for Phase Two and Three of the development and the investment is likely to be more than what have been invested in Phase One,’’ he said.

Phase One covers 60.70ha of reclaimed seabed land, with initial storage capacity of about 1.3 million cu m, cost RM2bil. This is small compared to Singapore, which boast a capacity of 20 million cu m. However, a scarcity of land in Singapore has been a stumbling block for its expansion.

Dialog’s independent trading terminal and dedicated liquefied natural gas terminal has a total four storage tanks with a capacity of 160,000 cu m each and involved a total investment of RM4bil.

Upon completion, the deepwater petroleum terminal would be able to handle the storage, blending and distribution of crude oil and petroleum products. It is owned by PITSB, a joint venture between Dialog Group, Royal Vopak and State Secretary Johor Inc.

Phase 1A was completed last month and consists of 25 tanks with a total storage capacity of 432,000 cu m for clean petroleum products.

Vopak Asia division president Patrick van der Voort said the Pengerang independent oil terminal (Phase One) was one of Vopak’s most important projects in Asia, catering to the growing energy demand in the region.

“We have added Pengerang Terminal into our global network of 80 terminals across 29 countries and are looking forward to serving our customers at the new terminal,’’ he said.

Pengerang Terminal Project Progressing Well, Says Dialog
Bernama 14 Apr 14;

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 (Bernama) -- Dialog Group Bhd's Pengerang Terminal, an Entry Point Project under the Economic Transformation Programme, is progressing well with its initial phase expected to be completed by year-end.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia Monday, Dialog said phase 1 A has been successfully completed and has commence operations.

"The terminal welcomed the first vessel carrying fuel for its petroleum and crude storage facility in Pengerang on Saturday, marking the start of its oil storage operations there," it said.

Dialog said phase 1's development covered 60 hectares of reclaimed sea-bed land with initial storage capacity of approximately 1.3 million cubic metres with six berths at a cost of RM2 billion.

The company said Phase 1 was being undertaken by its joint-venture company, Pengerang Independent Terminals Sdn Bhd (PITSB).

"The entire development may take another 10-15 years to be fully completed and will create huge impact to local communities through creation of many economic activities as it will also complement the RAPID project that was recently confirmed by Petronas," it said.


Read more!