Best of our wild blogs: 21 May 14

Conversations on Sustainable Singapore (Energy and Climate Change) from Green Future Solutions

24 May Sat’14: Heritage Walk @4PM
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Help stop mass balloon release on 15 Jun at Marina Barrage
from wild shores of singapore

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Buy home-grown produce at Kranji farmers' market

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 May 14;

Stock up on fresh goat milk, quail eggs and tilapia fish - all "made in Singapore" and for sale at an upcoming fair featuring the island's very own farmers.

The Kranji Countryside Farmers' Market next month is the first to focus on the produce of farmers who till the soil here.

Other fairs like Pasarbella - touted as Singapore's first permanent farmers' market - and the fortnightly Loewen Gardens Market in Dempsey are known more for gourmet products including cheese, meat and olive oil that may have been imported from abroad.

But the Kranji event, to be held on June 28 and 29, will have 30 stalls all selling produce grown, reared or made locally.

Visitors can buy quail eggs laid by the birds at Lian Wah Hang farm, fresh goat's milk from Hay Dairies, leafy greens such as chye sim and xiao bai cai from Quan Fa farm, as well as artisan and locally made products ranging from granola to chilli and herbal skincare products.

About half the stalls will be set up by farms under the Kranji Countryside Association, a coalition of 40 farms that is hosting the fair.

Its president Kenny Eng told The Straits Times that the farmers' market would help make Singaporeans more aware of locally produced food. "Singaporeans can come to the farmers' market to purchase local products at one go."

Nearly three in 10 eggs consumed here last year are home- grown. The same goes for 12 per cent of leafy vegetables and 8 per cent of fish, going by figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. The figures are similar to those in 2012 and 2011.

The fair will also feature small Singaporean food businesses including GSH Conserves, which sells jam, tea-seller Amuse Projects, and Hunter's Kitchenette - a firm that makes butter from nuts such as pistachio, hazelnut and almond.

The farmers' market is the association's latest activity to promote local agriculture and food production, eco-tourism, education and conservation.

Since it was established in 2005, the group has rolled out activities such as farm tours and even a run last August, to promote the countryside as a lifestyle destination.

Sales manager Amy Quek, 56, said the farmers' market was too "out of the way", though the idea was novel. "It's an innovative idea to sell fresh produce from the farmers here, but if I don't drive, I might not go."

Visitors who do not drive can take a shuttle service that departs from Kranji MRT station at roughly 11/2-hour intervals. A round trip to the countryside, including stops at farms along the route, costs $3 for an adult and $2 for a child and senior citizen.

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Countries need to cooperate for anti-haze laws to work: Balakrishnan

Singapore’s proposed Bill cannot be implemented in isolation, says minister
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 21 May 14;

SINGAPORE — It would be simplistic to think Singapore’s proposed anti-haze laws alone can solve the region’s haze problem, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday, as he issued a call for cooperation among the authorities from various countries.

Without inter-governmental cooperation, Singapore’s proposed law — which provides for fines up to S$300,000 on companies carrying out activities outside the Republic that result in unhealthy levels of haze on the island — would not work, he said at a dialogue on sustainable world resources organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) yesterday.

“Otherwise, there will be difficulties adducing enough evidence that could stand the test of the court of law,” Dr Balakrishnan told an audience consisting of key commodities and finance players, as well as non-governmental organisations from the region, at the Grand Hyatt.

“So, this call for cooperation among the authorities is a sincere one; this is not something we can embark on unilaterally,” he said, adding that amendments would be made to the proposed Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill before it is likely tabled in Parliament later this year.

Singapore would also encourage other countries to consider formulating or revising their laws to prevent companies from exploiting resources unsustainably or harming their people, he said, without referring to any specific country.

Dr Balakrishnan’s comments came as a senior Indonesian official cited fragmented authority and bad governance as key challenges in sustainable resource management. The splitting of tasks and activities — such as control over spatial plans and land use conversions — has hampered the search for long-term solutions, said Mr Agus Purnomo, special staff to the President for Climate Change in Indonesia.

Dr Balakrishnan, who had previously expressed frustration over the lack of sharing of concession maps among countries affected by the haze, noted several major moves towards transparency, such as the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch monitoring system and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO) recent resolution for its members to make concession boundaries publicly available on the RSPO website.

Asked by SIIA chairman SimonTay about evidence reaching the threshold demanded by the court, Dr Balakrishnan said it was up to a judge to decide but, “in the court of public opinion, that may be good enough”.

Meanwhile, captains of industry and experts also noted that more businesses were moving towards sustainability, but at different speeds.

With the world population rising — throwing up issues of food, water and energy security — commodities giant Olam International’s chief executive Sunny Verghese highlighted the tension between private profits and public losses, as well as the need to account for externalities.

A study in 2011 estimated that environmental damage amounted to nearly 40 per cent of the profit of the world’s 3,000 largest corporations.

Mr Verghese said his calculation of Olam’s footprint, in terms of water extraction, carbon dioxide and bio-waste emissions, was about half of the firm’s profits last year.

“So 50 per cent of the profit I’ve generated, I’ve actually taken from Mother Nature and depleted natural capital,” he said. “And, because its back office is not set up as yet, it’s not showing me those invoices.”

Govt has to balance environmental laws right: Balakrishnan
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 20 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore government has to get its balance right in implementing environmental legislation, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at a dialogue session on sustainable world resources on Tuesday.

He added that Singapore's draft bill on transboundary haze pollution does not interfere with the laws of other regions, but has been crafted to illustrate a global challenge.

Panellists and speakers engaged the crowd of almost 300 people at the first Sustainable World Resources dialogue, which was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

The theme may have been on world resources, but much of the discussion centred on sustainable palm oil production.

It was a chance for all stakeholders -- from the large palm oil corporations to non-government organisations and to the banks that finance such investments -- to clear the air on an issue that's dogged the region for decades.

At the heart of the haze issue is environmental degradation -- drying peat and using it as fuel to clear land with fires, which produce thick smoke and release carbon that has been stored for years.

Experts say enforcement to prevent illegal clearing of land is fraught with challenges.

"You can have all the good intentions in Jakarta or at local level, but no one will really be able to implement because the authorities have been fragmented: different authorities, different agencies, and different levels of governments,” said Agus Purnomo, Special Staff to the President on Climate Change.

Mr Agus said tackling the issue involves collaborating with the private sector, many of whom have pledged a policy against deforestation, peat and exploitation.

The answer could lie with Singapore's draft bill on transboundary haze pollution, but by striking a balance.

"A lot more can still be done on the ground by NGOs, by sharing, by transparency without getting heavy-handed about it,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

“It would be counter-productive for Singapore to take an overly legalistic, burdensome regime that makes it in fact more difficult for responsible companies to do business here. So we've got to get the balance right."

For companies on the right path, Dr Balakrishnan said there is also the need to tilt the playing field in their favour, so that others follow suit.

- CNA/ec

Transboundary haze Bill 'not shrouded in secrecy'
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 May 14;

SINGAPORE'S proposed transboundary haze law is not an attempt to interfere with other countries, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

The Republic has been transparent and answered its neighbours' questions about the Bill, he said at the inaugural Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources.

Responding to a question on whether the Bill went beyond ASEAN's principle of non-interference, Dr Balakrishnan said: "The Bill has not been hatched in secret, and there are no surprises.

"We've done it in an open manner because I know that, ultimately, we need to work together if it is going to have any effect."

The minister also gave the keynote address on Singapore's vision on sustainability and the haze.

Under the proposed law, companies and other entities that have fires on their land leading to transboundary haze in Singapore will be deemed to have committed an offence.

The law will also allow those affected by haze to bring civil suits against such companies. For instance, a construction firm that has to stop work could theoretically sue for damages.

The Bill is expected be tabled in Parliament later this year.

A sticking point in ASEAN discussions about the haze has been some governments' reluctance to share concession maps, needed to show firms burning land illegally.

Yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan said there are reliable maps compiled by non-government groups such as the World Resources Institute (WRI).

"The question is, will the evidence reach the level demanded by the court?" he said. "Can I take a WRI map and go to court and say, this is enough to convict a company? That's something only a judge in court can answer."

The dialogue, held at the Grand Hyatt Singapore Hotel, was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

It brought together policymakers, business leaders and non-government organisations to address the issues of climate change, and the connections between trade, the environment, investment and corporate social responsibility.

Topics during panel discussions included how to balance sustainability with the need for resources, encourage businesses to be environmentally friendly and use financing methods to boost green behaviour.

Mr Bustar Maitar, global head of non-government group Greenpeace's Indonesia Forest Campaign, said laws were not enough to prevent, say, illegal fires.

"There is a need for enforcement. Corporations should help to enforce the law and not make a profit out of the lack of enforcement," he said.

Other participants suggested that financial agreements should allow investors to exit contracts if the firms are found to have engaged in anti-environmental practices.

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Singapore-headquartered pulp company disputes charge that supplier cleared high-value forest

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 21 May 14;

SINGAPORE — Environment groups in Kalimantan yesterday (May 20) accused Singapore-headquartered pulp company Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) of violating its sustainability policy — a charge that APRIL said was based on incorrect information.

The non-governmental organisations, including WWF-Indonesia East Kalimantan, said a company called PT Adindo Hutani Lestari supplying pulpwood to APRIL cleared natural forest on protected peatland in Tana Tidung, North Kalimantan. This took place after APRIL issued its Sustainable Forest Management Policy in January, which forbids operations in forests with high conservation value at its concessions and that of its suppliers, the NGOs said in a report.

Deforestation and drainage of peat leaves the wetlands — a rich carbon store — prone to fires.

In response, an APRIL spokesman said it has conducted a two-week investigation into the report, and found that the supplier did not violate its policy. The report was incorrectly based on an earlier draft map, whereas the supplier has honoured the forest area to be protected on the final map of its concession.

The spokesman said APRIL welcomed the report’s authors to join in a field survey at the site to confirm that the identified area remains intact.

APRIL director of group corporate and external affairs Goh Lin Piao told TODAY that PT Adindo Hutani Lestari is a short-term supplier from which APRIL began sourcing last year.

APRIL said it will continue to vigorously enforce its sustainability commitments including an end to the establishment of new plantations by the end of this year, and a doubling of its forest restoration programmes to 40,000 hectares.

At a Singapore Institute of International Affairs dialogue on sustainable world resources yesterday, Greenpeace’s global head of its Indonesia Forest Campaign Bustar Maitar called for APRIL to stop using natural-forest timber for its mills.

But APRIL chairman Bey Soo Khiang replied that unmanaged land is susceptible to illegal encroachment, and said the firm is contributing to peatland management. Providing jobs to people also improves their quality of life and lifts the pressure to do illegal logging, he added.

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Malaysia: Coalition confident East Klang Valley Expressway project will be scrapped

Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi New Straits Times 20 May 14;

AMPANG JAYA: The Coalition for the Protection of the Selangor State Park members are not giving up hope that the approved East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) will be scrapped.

The coalition, which comprises Malaysian Nature Society, Save Our Sungai (SOS) Selangor, Treat Every Environment Special Sdn Bhd (TrEES) and WWF Malaysia said it would continue to ensure that part of the Selangor State Park (SSP) will not be degazetted to make way for the highway project.

TrEES director Leela Panikkar, said the proposed de-gazettement which involves 106.55ha of land from four forest reserves in Ampang, Bukit Seputeh, Ulu Gombak and Ulu Langat would only create environmental problems in the area.

"As for the Ampang and Ulu Gombak Forest Reserves, both are important water catchment areas. Recently, we were hit by a water crisis and it is supposed to be an eye-opener to many on how precious water is and how important it is to keep the water catchment areas in pristine condition," said Leela.

"Sadly, water resources are still being taken for granted. The current alignment of EKVE compromises the crucial ecosystem function of these forests as water catchments forests," she said after a visit to the Ampang Forest Reserve on Saturday.

Both the Ulu Gombak and Ampang Forest Reserves were gazetted as water catchment forests under the National Forestry Act Selangor Enactment 2005 as well as the Lembaga Urus Air Selangor Enactment 1999.

The Ampang Intake plant supplies 19 million litres of water to 9,225 accounts in Ampang.

As for Ulu Gombak, the water from its catchment will be channeled to Klang Gates Dam, and the dam reportedly supplies water to 80,000 households and business premises in Klang Valley.

She added, both forest reserves were part of Selangor State Park that has been classified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Rank 1 under the National Physical Plan-2 (NPP-2).

Under the gazettement, no development, agriculture or logging shall be permitted except for low-impact nature tourism, research and education.

She said the project had been given the green light despite objections from NGOs and residents.

"It is regrettable that neither government has acted upon the concerns despite years of protest. We have given them some options like building an elevated highway on MRR2 or to extend the MRT line, but to no avail.

"Hence, we are calling for realignment of the proposed highway and both governments to act in accordance with the NPP-2. They have a responsibility to protect the park and the water catchments within," added Leela.

"We are now waiting for the outcome of the public inquiry that was carried out from Feb 14 to March 31 and we hope to get a positive feedback from it," she said.

Upon completion, the proposed EKVE will complete the final section of the KL Outer Ring Road (KLORR) that comprises SILK Expressway, South Klang Valley Expressway, Guthrie Corridor Expressway, Latar Highway and ELITE Highway.

The current phase, which has already been approved is 21.16km from the Sungai Long to Ukay Perdana interchanges, while the proposed second phase will link the Ukay Perdana interchange with the International Islamic University Malaysia.

Read more: Coalition confident project will be scrapped - Central - New Straits Times

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