Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 14

Share your ideas for Pulau Ubin on the Pulau Ubin Project site from wild shores of singapore

Ooh! Volunteer Programme Orientation by Cicada Tree Eco-Place
from Love our MacRitchie Forest

Raya Reef
from The annotated budak

Tropical Swallowtail Moth- Have you spotted one yet?
from My Nature Experiences

paradise tree snake, hunting @ SBWR - 2014
from sgbeachbum

Pink-necked Green-pigeon Expels Indigestable Seed
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Politicians must speak up on environment issues: NMP Faizah Jamal

Channel NewsAsia 28 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Without the environment, there will be no platform for the arts, sports, businesses, jobs and economy, Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal said in Parliament on Wednesday (May 28).

She also urged members of the Parliament to speak up on environment issues.

"All members of this House should be concerned and ask why something as inviolate as our nature reserve, on which we draw free eco-services that make our very existence that much more meaningful, is to be desecrated in the name of infrastructure," she said.

"All members of this House should be alarmed and ask why the rate of our food waste is disproportionately high for a comparatively small population, especially when at the same time we raise concerns in this House on behalf of constituents on the rising cost of food."

Ms Faizah said there is willingness on the part of the environment community, as well as the private sector and the Government, to work together on green issues. This was a conclusion she drew after five "Green Conversations" - following the "Our Singapore Conversations" initiative - were held.

Ms Faizah said she believes the Government can do more to facilitate the process of rolling out ideas into action, by opening up the space for dialogue.

She added that, in her two years in the House, she had seen greater willingness on the part of government agencies for engagement with environment advocates. This includes eight-month talks with the Land Transport Authority over the Cross Island Line, as well as the recent "Ubin Conversations".

Ms Faizah said she hoped to see two things in the second half of the current session of Parliament.

"First, to remember that we are equal partners not just in 'Conversations' but that we are citizens that have a stake in the well-being of our country; beyond the issue that we champion, and are able to come up with workable alternative solutions," she said.

"Second, that the government acts under a public trust - a trust that land and resources belong to the people and major decisions that impact on the land and the resources cannot be made without prior informed consultation.

"In that regard, impact assessments for major projects that include not just environmental but cultural, heritage and social as well, have to be put in place, and must be transparent and open to public scrutiny."

- CNA/do

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HDB residents welcome re-homing of stray dogs: Desmond Lee

Channel NewsAsia 28 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Project ADORE, a pilot initiative proposed by welfare groups run for the re-homing of stray dogs in HDB estates, is now a permanent programme, announced Minister of State for National Development Mr Desmond Lee on Wednesday (May 28).

He said the initial pilot was a great success "because SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Action for Singapore Dogs, both civic groups, understand the broader sensitivities and the different dynamics at play and have run the pilot well".

He shared that HDB residents are slowly accepting re-homed stray dogs.

The National Development Ministry, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and HDB have started partnering another animal welfare group known as Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), on the re-homing of strays, and have included them in Project ADORE.

Mr Lee also shared that a microsite on Ubin Project will be launched today in order to reach out to an even wider spectrum of Singaporeans.

The microsite will provide updates on discussions and agencies' engagement efforts, and allow everyone to submit ideas on what they think and like Ubin to be.

The Ubin Project, which was announced during the Committee of Supply debate, seeks to enhance the natural environment of Ubin and protect its heritage and its rustic charm.

- CNA/xk

‘Robust conversations’ with civic groups, citizenry can benefit Govt greatly
Kok Xing Hui Today Online 29 May 14;

SINGAPORE — Citing the success of a project mooted by civic groups to rehome stray dogs in public housing estates, Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee yesterday underscored how civil society, an active citizenry and the Government can work together for the common good.

The Government, he said, stands to benefit greatly from “wide and inclusive consultation on many fronts” as it does not have “a monopoly on all knowledge”.

“By having a mature and robust conversation, government, civic groups and Singaporeans can move towards common ground and win-win outcomes, even on difficult issues,” he said.

The rehoming project, called ADORE, started as a pilot proposed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and by Action for Singapore Dogs. Mr Lee said the pilot was a great success because both civic groups understood the broader sensitivities and the dynamics at play.

The success of the project has led to the Government partnering a third animal welfare group, Save Our Street Dogs.

Other examples he cited of citizens and civic groups bringing government schemes and assistance “even closer to the ground” include Mr Kwek Li Yong and Mr Jasper Tan — both in their 20s — who have set up a Queenstown heritage trail complete with a smartphone app.

Others, such as archaeologist Lim Chen Sian, has been leading major archaeological investigations in the Republic for the past 12 years to uncover artefacts from a 700-year-old history, once even discovering pieces of a rare Chinese porcelain compass at Fort Canning.

“Civil society may not always agree with government, or indeed with each other, or in certain groups even among their own members. This is the nature of ground-up initiative. This can either be a source of strength or a weakness, depending on the nature of the relationship,” Mr Lee said.

“With civility and open-mindedness on all sides, there is strength in diversity, even if ultimately stakeholders agree to disagree on certain areas.”

But he added: “If there is no civility in the conversation and people are close-minded or unwilling to recognise the legitimacy of other people’s points of view, then the difference of views and opinions becomes a source of division, friction and gridlock.”

Mr Lee also gave updates on the Ubin Project he announced during the Committee of Supply debate.

He said a broad network of stakeholders have come together as Friends of Ubin Network to discuss “how we can sensitively enhance the natural environment of Ubin and protect its heritage and its rustic charm”.

To extend the discussions beyond the network’s reach, a microsite was launched yesterday to allow everyone to submit their ideas as well as provide updates on the discussions thus far.

This, he said, is another good opportunity for the Government to work closely with the community.

Debate on President's Address: Speech by MOS Desmond Lee "Active Citizenry and Active Communities"
Ministry of National Development press release 28 May 2014

1 A fortnight ago, the President emphasised that “government spending, by itself, does not create a wealthier, a better or a happier society. It must be matched by individual and community effort and initiatives.” He said that “[a]ctive community involvement engages the human spirit, provides personal fulfilment and strengthens our collective well-being.”

2 During his speech in this Chamber yesterday, Mr Laurence Lien also suggested that we should see how we can strengthen civil society as well as Government’s engagement with civil society, and recognise the contributions to Singapore. This is very much in the same vein as what Ms Faizal Jamal spoke about a moment ago.

3 Civil society, an active citizenry as well as government can be strong partners to build a better and brighter Singapore.

Supporting people in need

4 In many instances, active citizens and civic groups can bring government schemes and assistance even closer to the ground. In my constituency, for example, members of the local Volunteer Aid scheme (V8) regularly visit families and individuals facing difficulties, and work closely with government agencies and VWOs to bring government schemes and other forms of community assistance to them. I know this also happens in many places across the island. These volunteers are active social change agents.

5 I have been working in MND for about eight months now. During this time, I have had the tremendous privilege of meeting and working alongside many passionate Singaporeans, including those in the environmental sphere, who give their time and energy to pursue a range of very worthy causes.

Preserving our Heritage

6 For instance, on the heritage front, I have been struck by volunteers like Kwek Li Yong and Jasper Tan, who are founders of My Community, a civic group that champions the preservation of history and heritage in Singapore. Together with grassroots leaders and residents of Queenstown estate – Singapore’s first satellite town – Li Yong and Jasper, both in their 20s, have set up their own Queenstown heritage trail, complete with a smartphone app to boot. They are now dedicated to raising funds and collecting artefacts to establish a Queenstown heritage museum.

7 Some have turned passion into their life’s mission. Take Lim Chen Sian from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), for example. Probably our one and only Singaporean archaeologist, he has been actively involved in the last 12 years leading major archaeological investigations in Singapore. Mind you, he is young – in his early or mid-30s I guess. I had the opportunity to visit him and his team of volunteers and staff as they dug and investigated a site at Fort Canning earlier this month without any fanfare. Over the last 30 years, individuals and volunteers such as these have been quietly and assiduously working on sites across Singapore, uncovering troves of artefacts from Singapore’s 700-year old human history. Such is the age and depth of our land. In so doing, in Chen Sian’s own words, they “breathe life into the arid history composed of innumerable dates and dusty personages” and “animate the people who lived in the past”. He shared with me that, some time ago, for example they had discovered, among other artefacts, pieces of a rare Chinese porcelain compass at Fort Canning, dated to the mid-14th century, which is believed to be the only example known to date in the world.

Promoting Animal welfare

8 Our animal welfare groups have been just as admirable, engaging Government on concerns that the have on the state of animal welfare. I meet some of them from time to time and invited them on a working trip with AVA and some veterinarians to study animal management practices. One of the projects we have been working closely with SPCA and Action for Singapore Dogs on is Project ADORE, a pilot initiative proposed by these welfare groups, run for the rehoming stray dogs in HDB estates.

9 Rehoming stray dogs is not a straightforward issue. It involves more than just animal welfare groups. We have to balance animal welfare concerns with broader public sentiments, and try to create “win-win” solutions. Some HDB residents have reservations about having their neighbours keeping larger dog breeds. So, we have moved cautiously on a pilot basis through ADORE– educating the adopters to train their dogs well and sterilise their pets.

10 ADORE has been a great success, because SPCA and Action for Singapore Dogs, both civic groups, understand the broader sensitivities and the different dynamics at play and have run the pilot well. As a result, HDB residents are slowly accepting these re-homed stray dogs. We have, therefore, decided to transit Project ADORE, which is an AWG-proposed scheme, from a pilot scheme to a permanent programme. In fact, MND, AVA and HDB have started partnering another animal welfare group known as Save Our Street Dogs (or SOSD), on the rehoming of strays, and have recently included them in Project ADORE. So, it is a clear example of how civil society, with good proposals mindful of sensitivities and dynamics, across the broader society and aim to actively seek and achieve change, in tandem with government.

Civil society engagement

11 Civil society may not always agree with government, or indeed with each other, or in certain groups even among their own members. This is the nature of ground-up initiative. This can either be a source of strength or a weakness, depending on the nature of the relationship. With civility and open-mindedness on all sides, there is strength in diversity, even if ultimately stakeholders agree to disagree on certain areas. Government doesn’t have a monopoly on all knowledge; in fact, it is well recognised that government decision-making can benefit greatly from wide and inclusive consultation on many fronts. By having a mature and robust conversation, government, civic groups and Singaporeans can move towards common ground and win-win outcomes, even on difficult issues. This is not to say that everyone falls in line or that people are compliant – there is often intense discussion and people push their points of view robustly and passionately, but ultimately they respect each other and are prepared to listen to each other and consider each others’ views. Through genuine engagement and consultation, participants feel that they have a stake in the outcome.

12 On the other hand, if there is no civility in the conversation and people are close-minded or unwilling to recognise the legitimacy of other people’s points of view, then the difference of views and opinions becomes a source of division, friction and gridlock. People congregate around opinion-leaders whose views they subscribe to, echo-chambers are formed, and groups shout at each other from the mountain-tops. If a decision is made to move and break the gridlock, it may be perceived by some as unilateral, top-down, heavy-handed or zero-sum. Outcomes are more likely to be sub-optimal compromises rather than genuine win-win outcomes.

13 There are many recent examples of government and civil society engaging more deeply and constructively on a range of issues. As a whole, we are feeling our way forward as society develops and matures, to find the right balance for constructive debate and inclusive decision-making.

Ubin Project

14 The Ubin Project, which I announced during COS and which is mentioned in the MND addendum, is structured for such open dialogue. Our purpose is to see how we can sensitively enhance the natural environment of Ubin and protect its heritage and its rustic charm.

15 Over the past two months, we have formed a broad network of stakeholders, who are passionate about Ubin and keen to share their ideas. They include biodiversity experts, conservation activists, history buffs, socio-anthropologists, students, volunteers and Ubin community leaders and residents. They come from organisations as diverse as Nature Society, Singapore Heritage Society and Raffles Museum of Bio-Diversity Research, or join us in their own personal capacities. We call this the Friends of Ubin Network, or “FUN”. It is diverse, but we can open up even more. I am excited by the many interesting ideas shared by our Friends of Ubin thus far.

16 The discussions at the Network centre around 5 broad themes: Biodiversity conservation, Heritage, history and community, Sustainable design & practices, Education & research, and (e) Nature-based recreation. Instead of discussing each of these topics in silo, where there is a risk of echo-chambers forming when people of similar interests come together, we decided to discuss all 5 in sequence and have broaden participation - so that for every theme about Ubin, we get a broad range of views from people with different perspectives. I think we will get better outcomes this way. So, this is not just about Ubin, which is important to many of us, but also about the way in which we try to engage across the spectrum of society.

17 Our consultation will not be limited to the Friends of Ubin Network. In fact, we will be reaching out to an even wider spectrum of Singaporeans, through a microsite which will be launched later today. This microsite will provide updates on our Network discussions and our agencies’ engagement efforts, and allow everyone to submit ideas on what they think and like Ubin to be. We will also go out and about to talk to people and gather their views. Madam Speaker, the Ubin Project is another good opportunity for the government and the community to work together on something close to our hearts. And, I encourage all Singaporeans to participate in the process because it is much about the process than it is the outcome.

18 Madam Speaker, I support and thank the President for his address.

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Dolphins in our waters one day?

Chew Hui Min MyPaper AsiaOne 27 May 14;

Coral reefs here have not given up hope, so we should not give up on them, marine biologist Chou Loke Ming told My Paper.

The professor of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS) even hopes that dolphins will return to Singapore waters one day.

The pioneer in reef conservation has been monitoring changes in our marine environment since 1977, when he joined the then department of zoology. He was one of the first to focus his research on coral reefs.

Prof Chou was clearly nostalgic when he spoke about how clear the waters were five decades ago: "I have been involved in coral reef research for a very long time. In the 1960s, when I went snorkelling, the water was very clear. From the surface, you could see right down to a depth of 10m."

Now, marine biologists face the challenge of preserving Singapore's reefs in sedimented and turbid waters. But he is unfazed.

"When you want to restore a reef, you restore it irrespective of the condition it is now in. If we sit and wait, there won't be anything left...we find that our reefs, they have not given up hope, every year you still have the mass spawning, and growth."

While Singapore has lost 60 per cent of its reefs to development, there are still good marine habitats around, including coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses, he said.

And, since the mid-1990s, there has been active monitoring and management of our reefs, said Prof Chou. He will retire from NUS this year, but will continue to be involved in marine conservation efforts.

Now, impact assessment studies are required for all development projects.

The environmental impact of development projects is also monitored in real time through an environmental management and monitoring programme.

"In (the 60s), it was just dump the earth into the sea, and there were no containment measures," Prof Chou said.

"We are now moving into a mode of sustainable development. I'm beginning to see that we are taking steps to really minimise the impact."

This has raised his hopes of improving the ocean environment here.

"I hope to see clearer waters eventually. If we have gone to the extent of recycling water, I would think that a time will come when we can face this sedimentation challenge.

"If the waters become clear again, then you can see more marine life. It will be wonderful if you can see dolphins swimming among the ships."

Related links
Special sightings since 2010: dugong, dolphin, sea turtles and more! on wild shores of singapore

More about dolphins seen in Singapore on the wildsingapore fact sheets

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Singapore haze bill gets support, but some question effectiveness

Devianti Faridz Channel NewsAsia 27 May 14;

JAKARTA: The local government of Indonesia's Riau province supported Singapore's plans to penalise companies and persons responsible for the haze. But some are questioning the effectiveness of the bill.

Many factors need to be in place before anyone can be brought to trial in Singapore.

The Singapore government introduced a draft bill to penalise companies and persons responsible for the haze.

The legislation covers any nationality, no matter where the haze originates.

Those found guilty in Singapore risk being prosecuted in its courts.

But having enough evidence to secure a conviction is complex, requiring extensive investigations and Indonesia to share sensitive information, such as concession or land use maps.

Michael Zampa, director of corporate communications at Asia Pacific Resources International Limited, said: "We're supportive of government initiatives in Indonesia, as well as in Singapore to address the issue.

"The one caution we have is there needs to be understanding of the situation on the ground. It's very complex.

“There are conflicting land claims, there's economic pressure to clear land cheaply and quickly and in a dense forest, it's difficult to know exactly where a fire starts before it spreads broadly so it will require collaboration - public sector, private sector and the community in the forests to really address this issue long term."

The key to solving the haze problem in the region is Indonesia ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

It is the only country in the ASEAN grouping that has not done so.

Opponents of the treaty are concerned it could violate Indonesia's sovereignty.

Some government officials, though, support the idea.

The health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of people living in Riau province were badly affected by the transboundary haze.

Singapore's plans to penalise those responsible for the transboundary haze has gotten the approval of the Governor of Riau Annas Maamun.

Maamun said: "Those who started the fires must receive heavy punishment, otherwise it won't have a deterrent effect. So I agree with it (the bill) because so many people have suffered. The number of people suffering from the haze is not small."

Cooperation between stakeholders remains the key.

There are positive signs that Indonesia wants to support a more sustainable agro-industry.

For instance, the Ministry of Finance, Agriculture and Forestry is pushing for parties involved to comply with no-burn policies.

- CNA/xq

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System developed to support iconic Tembusu trees

Today Online 27 May 14;

SINGAPORE — A dynamic tree support system was launched today (May 27) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, as part of a joint conservation effort by the National Parks Board (NParks) and Singapore Technologies Kinetics (ST Kinetics).

The inbuilt suspension system was developed to support the lateral limb of the iconic Tembusu tree (Cyrtophyllum fragrans), said Singapore Botanic Gardens in a press release.

The Gardens said the new, world’s first system developed by NParks and ST Kinetics “enables the branch to move naturally under varying wind conditions while still providing full support”.

“This facilitates growth of the tree’s new supportive tissues. Built with easily available off-the-shelf parts and materials, the system can be raised and lowered as required to allow the branch to grow.”

The iconic tree was fenced in December last year to alleviate soil compaction caused by heavy human traffic and “minimise damage to the roots”, the Gardens said.

It added that previous efforts to preserve the Tembusu tree were made in 1992 and 2003, but these static support systems were only “effective for the short term” and restricted movement of the tree branches, stripping the trees of ability to bear their own weight as they grow heavier.

The launch was attended by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who noted that “the Heritage Trees are living records of the Gardens which are treasured by all Singaporeans”.

Dr Tan was also the producer of Tall Tales: Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Trail Guide, a book on heritage trees which encourages readers to discover various Heritage trees on-site.

Meanwhile, about 30 students from Jurong Primary School and Kranji Secondary School also joined the President to learn about the botanical and cultural significance of the Gardens’ Heritage Trees at the launch.

“We are heartened that individuals, schools and corporations like ST Kinetics recognise the intrinsic value of protecting our Heritage Trees and have expressed their appreciation and support in various ways,” said CEO of NParks, Mr Kenneth Er. “We hope that more will develop a love for these trees and join us in conserving the living legacy of the Gardens and Singapore.”

New support for Tembusu tree at S'pore Botanic Gardens
Reshma Ailmchandani Channel NewsAsia 27 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The iconic Tembusu tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens now has better support for its low hanging branch.

The branch used to be supported by a pair of wooden props, making it static. Over time, the tree could lose its ability to bear its own weight, if it were still under static support.

However, a team from NParks and ST Kinetics came up with a new, dynamic system which supports the branch and allows it to move and grow.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam received a demonstration of the new support system.

The new support will enable the branch to move naturally under varying wind conditions while still providing full support.

As the support allows the branch to be moved, new tissues can grow to strengthen the branch.

The system was built with easily available off-the-shelf parts and materials.

Citing his own memories of the tree, President Tan said he hopes it will be preserved for generations to come.

He said: "It is part of our history, it is part of our heritage. The fact that it's over 150 years old, it has seen the growth of many generations of Singaporeans and we have to keep it that way, because this sort of thing cannot be manufactured. It has to be preserved."

- CNA/ac

Springing to the support of a stately green icon
Amelia Teng The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 May 14;

SINGAPORE - One of Singapore's most iconic trees is standing tall, thanks to a $25,000 project to prop up a low-hanging branch.

The Tembusu at Singapore Botanic Gardens is more than 200 years old and features on the $5 note, but it had been in danger of having its sagging, 20m arm snap off.

A team of eight, including engineers from local defence contractor ST Kinetics and arborists from the National Parks Board, worked for a year to develop a system to prop up the branch at three points without hindering its growth.

Previously, it had been supported by wooden props which, while effective for the short term, restricted its movement and could have made the tree unable to bear its own weight over a longer period.

The new system consists of structures with springs that allow the branch to move, and another part nearer the trunk to support it.

These allow the branch to gradually adjust to wind conditions and regain strength while helping it to grow at the same time.

The 32m-tall Tembusu, one of more than 40 heritage trees at the gardens, has been fenced off since last December to prevent visitors from treading around it and affecting the growth of its roots.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam visited the tree yesterday on a tour of the gardens - which have been nominated as Singapore's first Unesco World Heritage Site - as he launched the first book about its heritage trees.

A decision on World Heritage status is due in June next year, and Dr Tan said it would be "a very nice part of our SG50 celebrations".

"It has got all the qualifications in its history, introducing the rubber industry, many new species of plants, pioneering orchid cultivation," he said. "It is part of our history; it is also one of the best preserved colonial gardens in our part of the word."

Gardens director Nigel Taylor said he is confident the 155-year-old landmark will be given the status, adding: "We have the experience and resources for maintenance and conservation."

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All urged to make Singapore greener, safer

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 27 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has urged all to take responsibility in making Singapore cleaner, greener and safer.

He was responding to suggestions from those who took part in dialogues by the
Singapore Environment Council on how those can be achieved.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “It's not enough to just look after your own home. Your home is part of a neighbourhood -- you don't just live with your family at home.

“You live amongst neighbours, and if your neighbourhood is polluted, if your neighbours are infected, if the air that we all breathe is polluted, or the waters that PUB supplies to us is contaminated, regardless of how well you look after your home, regardless of how much you look after your family members -- well, guess what, you are going to be at risk.

“So this concept of a community, of a neighbourhood, of mutual responsibility, of collective destiny, is also crucial if we are to avoid the big threats that will confront us."

Dr Balakrishnan also noted that participants had identified three areas of focus -- building an endearing home, establishing a community, and a sustainable global city.

He said those suggestions come in the face of threats the nation faces, such as climate change and pollution.

He assured the audience that the government will use the findings as a foundation for the next sustainable blueprint and to generate plans for the future.

- CNA/nd

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