Best of our wild blogs: 23 May 14

Submit your record of Lyssa zampa, the tropical swallowtail moth, in Singapore from Habitatnews

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Stamford Diversion Canal construction to start this year: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 22 May 14;

SINGAPORE: PUB said on Thursday (May 22) that construction work for the first phase of the Stamford Diversion Canal, which covers Orchard Road, will begin in the coming months.

Building of the canal will take place in two phases, with the first phase covering the Tanglin and Kim Seng areas. This will be carried out by Or Kim Peow Contractors at S$50.6 million, the national water agency stated.

A tender for the second phase, which will cover the Grange Road to River Valley Road areas, has been called. The entire canal is expected to be completed in 2017, said PUB.

It added there will be traffic diversions at a stretch of Grange Road at the junction of Orchard Boulevard and River Valley Road off Kim Seng Road. However, diversions will be carefully planned with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to minimise inconvenience and disruption to the public and those working and living in the vicinity, the agency said.

The new two-kilometre-long Stamford Diversion Canal is part of a holistic approach by the PUB to ease the load on the Stamford Canal. Prolonged heavy rains in recent years have resulted in the canal exceeding its capacity, leading to major flooding in various part of the Orchard Road shopping belt.

In addition to the diversion canal, PUB is also building a detention tank near the junction of Tyersall Avenue and Tyersall Road. It has a storage capacity of about 38,000 cubic metres, or 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and will be used to capture excess stormwater from the drains along Holland Road.

Construction for the detention tank began in December 2013, and will be completed in 2016, it said.

Construction of Stamford Diversion Canal to start in Q3
Louisa Tang Today Online 23 May 14;

SINGAPORE — As part of plans to reduce flooding along the busy Orchard Road shopping belt, national water agency PUB will begin construction work on the Stamford Diversion Canal in the third quarter of this year.

The first phase of construction, which costs S$50.6 million, runs through the Tanglin and Kim Seng areas, while a tender has been called for the second phase along Grange Road to River Valley Road.

Construction of the entire 2km-long diversion canal will be completed in 2017. It will divert stormwater away from the upstream section of the Stamford Canal catchment — about one-third of the entire catchment — towards Singapore River, and eventually, into the Marina Reservoir.

“We will also continue to work with the developers and building owners on implementing ‘source measures’ to slow down the flow of stormwater into the public drainage system and ‘receptor measures’ to protect the buildings against floods,” said PUB director of catchment and waterways, Mr Tan Nguan Sen.

Orchard Road was hit by several flash floods between 2010 and 2012. In June 2010, heavy rains flooded shopping malls such as Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza and car park basements, affecting many businesses in the area.

PUB said later that Stamford Canal, the drainage system under Orchard Road, had become choked with debris, causing water to overflow to the surface onto the junction of Orchard Road and Scotts Road.

As work on the diversion canal in the coming months will be carried out close to the Land Transport Authority’s construction sites for the Orchard Boulevard and Great World MRT stations, traffic will be diverted at a stretch of Grange Road at the junction of Orchard Boulevard and at River Valley Road off Kim Seng Road. The roads, however, will remain accessible.

Work on several new drainage improvement projects will also begin in the second half of this year.

The first phase of upgrading of the Siglap Canal, to be completed by 2017, will cover East Coast Parkway to the sea, where the canal will be deepened and widened. The Alexandra Canal Subsidiary Drain “F”, between Tiong Bahru Road and Outram Road, will be upgraded alongside a PUB Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters project, which is expected to be completed in 2016.

Work to start on new anti-flood canal
The Stamford Canal at the junction of the Orchard and Killiney Roads.
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times 23 May 14;

SINGAPORE - Construction of the new Stamford Diversion Canal will start in the coming months and eventually help to reduce the Orchard Road shopping belt's risk of floods.

National water agency PUB said yesterday that work will start on the 2km, underground canal between July and September and is expected to be completed in 2017.

Stretching from Tanglin to the Singapore River, it will divert rainwater away from the existing Stamford Canal, which could not cope with heavy rain in several instances in 2010 and 2011, leading to floods in the Orchard area.

PUB said construction will take place in two phases. The first in the Tanglin and Kim Seng areas will be carried out by Or Kim Peow Contractors and cost $50.6 million. A tender for the second phase from Grange Road to River Valley Road has been called.

The construction will mean traffic diversions at a stretch of Grange Road, but the number of lanes will be maintained.

PUB also said it would work with the Land Transport Authority and "ensure that the noise level is kept within allowable limits at all times". Apart from the diversion canal, an underground detention tank will also be completed in 2016 to store rainwater from Holland Road drains. This will help to further reduce Orchard flood risks. Located near the junction of Tyersall Avenue and Tyersall Road, the tank will have a 38,000 cubic metre storage capacity - equal to about 15 Olympic-size swimming pools. Its construction started in December last year. Orchard Road Business Association executive director Steven Goh said the new tank and canal will be a "sustainable and permanent solution".

In the meantime, at least four properties in the area - Lucky Plaza, Tanglin Mall, Forum the Shopping Mall and Liat Towers - have boosted their flood protection via measures such as flood barriers.

"As the canal construction continues, there may be minor inconveniences, especially where it is near the construction site for the Orchard Boulevard MRT station, but we will give feedback to PUB," said Mr Goh.

PUB has drainage projects under way or set to take place at 170 or so locations islandwide.

Director of catchment and waterways Tan Nguan Sen said the measures will help Singapore cope with more intense rainfall.

"We will also continue to work with developers and building owners to slow down the flow of storm water into the public drainage system and to protect the buildings against floods," he said.

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Malaysia: Rapid land woes

The Star 23 May 14;

PETALING JAYA: The unprecedented legal suit by a unit of MPHB Capital Bhd against the Johor state government and Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) indicates that the price of land in Pengerang could have appreciated by more than 800% within a space of two years.

According to legal documents, MPHB Capital alleged that its land was unlawfully acquired by the Johor state government at a price of 93 sen per square foot (psf) despite there being an agreement between the latter and Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) to purchase the land at RM8 psf.

MPHB’s unit, Kelana Megah Development Sdn Bhd, filed the suit in the High Court of Johor on May 9, 2014, and named both the state government and Petronas as defendants in a suit that underlies rising asset prices in Johor.

The case is yet another hiccup in the land acquisition for the Rapid project, which had earlier faced protests from villagers over issues ranging from valuation of land to relocation of existing houses.

However the suit by MPHB is a test case on whether the private sector would be able to ride on the upside of land prices stemming from the designation of Pengerang as the next oil and gas hub to be developed by Petronas.

The suit claims that the “purported” acquisition by the state was illegal and that the land and its titles should be returned to MPHB.

It is also seeking damages from Petronas for trespass to the seven plots of land and for the cutting of trees on that land.

The suit explains that MPHB was the owner of these seven plots of land which made up around 45% of the total land required by Johor state for building Petronas’ refinery and petrochemical integrated development (Rapid) project in Pengerang, Johor.

The suit states that MPHB’s seven plots covered an area of more than a thousand hectares of freehold land that was planted in oil palm trees which were income producing.

MPHB alleged that it was not given sufficient time to come up with a valuation report on the said land before the hearing to decide on the land acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act 1960.

It also alleged that the valuation report prepared by the state government during the land acquisition proceedings had “grossly undervalued” MPHB’s plots of land.

The statement of claim noted that Petronas did not take a position at the said hearing as to the amount of compensation to be paid to MPHB but that post the payment made to MPHB for the land acquisition, Petronas had taken physical possession of the seven plots of land on Oct 8, 2012, proceeding thereafter to cut all the threes in the said land.

MPHB subsequently filed a challenge against the amount of compensation using a provision granted within the Land Acquisition Act.

MPHB said it then discovered a number of procedural and technical irregularities surrounding how its land was acquired.

Interestingly, MPHB said that during the course of its legal fight against the land acquisition, that it had “anonymously” received on Jan 2, 2014, five documents through the post, which among others, revealed that Petronas and the Johor state authority “had between themselves, agreed on the price of the lands to be acquired for the Rapid project as being a minimum of RM8 psf and that these parties had agreed to price of RM8 psf prior to the beginning of the land acquisition process for MPHB’s land.

Hence MPHB is alleging that the state and Petronas had acted “wrongfully, dishonestly and in bad faith by using the land acquisition process to acquire MPHB’s land at a price of 93 sen when it was agreed that the land was valued much more.”

Petronas could not be reached for comments. The state and the national oil corporation are expected to file their counter claim on the suit in the next few weeks.

However it should be noted that Petronas had in the past stated that it had no direct dealings with any party acquiring land to build its Rapid project.

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West Antarctic ice collapse 'could drown Middle East and Asia crops'

America's corn belt could face yield declines of more than 25% by mid-century as climate change takes hold, report warns
Suzanne Goldenberg The Guardian 22 May 14;

The ongoing collapse of a large part of the Antarctica ice sheet could devastate global food supply, drowning vast areas of crop lands across the Middle East and Asia, according to new research.

The report, Advancing Global Food Supply in the Face of a Changing Climate, urges the Obama Administration to step up research funding – especially in developing countries – to help make up a projected gap in future food supply.

It also warns America's corn belt could face yield declines of more than 25% by mid-century - unless there are new advances in agriculture to compensate for hotter temperatures, changing rainfall and more aggressive weeds and pests under climate change.

The report, due to be released at a high-level conference in Washington DC on Thursday, is the first to factor in the effects of the slow-motion collapse of the Western Antarctica ice sheet on future food security.

Two independent studies last week warned the retreat of the Western Antarctica ice sheet was unstoppable – and could lead to sea-level rise of up to four metres over the coming centuries.

Those rising seas would displace millions of people from low-lying coastal areas - and wipe out rice-growing areas across Asia, Gerald Nelson, a University of Illinois economist and author of Thurday's report, said.

"That sea-level rise would take out half of Bangladesh and mostly wipe out productive rice regions in Vietnam," Nelson told The Guardian. "It would have a major effect on Egyptian agricultural areas."

The projected levels of sea-level rise, due to the retreat of ice in West Antarctica, pose a far greater threat to future food supply even than that envisaged in the United Nations' IPCC report in March, Nelson said.

"A sea level rise of three metres over the next 100 years is much more likely than the IPCC thought possible," the report said.

In terms of absolute land loss, China would be at risk of losing more than 3 million hectares. Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar could lose more than 1 million hectares, the report said.

The potential loss of viable crop land underscores the urgent need for new breakthrough technologies to increase agricultural productivity to keep pace with growing world population, the report said.

"Agriculture is a huge world-wide industry that requires stable weather, 'or else', and we might just be entering the 'or else' period," Dan Glickman, agriculture secretary under Bill Clinton and a co-chairman of the conference, told The Guardian.

"The question is: 'are we doing the right kind of research at our universities, at the department of agriculture, or in the private sector to deal with those changes? We need more and more applied research to help us move those numbers up. That is the real challenge for scientists."

The increasing agricultural yields of the last 50 years have already slowed down or plateaued – even before climate change is taken into account. By mid-century, those declines will make it increasingly difficult for farmers to maintain the increases in crop yields needed to feed a growing population.

According to some computer models included in the report, projected growth in yields in America's corn belt could drop by 25% by 2050– unless there are breakthroughs in agricultural research – because of higher temperatures, uncertain rainfall, and more aggressive weeds and pests under climate change.

"We have got to figure out how to get plants to continue performance when average temperatures go up, and we don't know how to do that," Nelson said. "We need 60% more food generally, and this will make it harder to get there," he said.

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