Best of our wild blogs: 1-2 Jun 14

6 Jun (Fri) 7pm: "Ooh! Volunteer Programme Orientation"
from Cicada Tree Eco-Place

The Bird Ecology Study Group is ten years old today
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Singapore Biodiversity Records - Diving Pulau Hantu
from Psychedelic Nature

Terumbu Pempang Laut check up
from wild shores of singapore

St John's Island: coral bleaching check up
from wild shores of singapore

Life History of the Blue Jay
from Butterflies of Singapore

Long Walk At MacRitchie Trails (30 May 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Insect of the Month, May 2014 – Lesser Brown Scorpion
from Bugs & Insects of Singapore

Jack, the grasshopper!
from My Nature Experiences

Sunda Pangolin @ Zhenghua Park
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

Singapore continues to develop innovative solutions to make it liveable & sustainable: PM Lee

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is developing itself as a liveable and sustainable city, and at the same time learning from other cities to improve the lives of its people, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the opening of the World Cities Summit on Sunday.

Speaking to ministers and mayors from around the world, Mr Lee said urbanisation is moving at an unprecedented pace.

Mr Lee noted that since the last World Cities Summit two years ago, more than 100 million people have moved to cities.

He said Singapore has taken the long-term view of developing itself as a liveable and sustainable city.

"(We are) planning over generations, implementing programmes over several election terms, and rallying Singaporeans to forgo some immediate gains for future dividends," Prime Minister Lee said.

Mr Lee said Singapore's efforts have been recognised internationally, but improving the country is a journey without an end.
Singaporeans' expectations are rising, he added.

To meet these expectations, Singapore is developing better homes by making housing more affordable, and having reliable public transport.

It is also integrating green spaces and blue waters in its urban surroundings.

Mr Lee noted that other cities are also continuing to move ahead, developing innovative solutions and setting new standards.

He said Singapore is studying these cities carefully.

He cited examples of how the Republic is learning from London's public transport system, Copenhagen's integration of "pocket parks" downtown, and Bilbao's management of its arts and cultural spaces.

In addition, Singapore is harnessing technology to become a "smarter nation".

The island is being wired up to ensure ubiquitous connectivity and to enhance the business environment.

Singapore is also using data better to improve sustainability and piloting green technologies.

Mr Lee said the country is learning from other cities' experiences too.

The prime minister cited Rio de Janeiro, which is working with computer giant IBM to be a "smart city".

In Manhattan, the city has a central hotline and a dashboard for municipal services.

Mr Lee added that technology can facilitate strengthening ownership by engaging citizens and residents. This can be done through crowd-sourcing and location-based services.

Mr Lee said this year's Lee Kuan Yew prize winners are good examples of successful cities in action.

The World City Prize goes to Suzhou which developed a thriving economy while protecting its cultural landmarks, while this year's Water Prize goes to the US Orange County Water District. Its water reuse schemes are adapted in Singapore when it embarked on the NEWater programme.

- CNA/al

Government will learn from other cities to build better, smarter Singapore
KOK XING HUI Today Online 2 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE — As Singaporeans’ expectations of the liveability and sustainability of their city rise, the Government will continue learning from other cities to make the Republic a better home and smarter nation where citizens feel a strong sense of ownership, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Improving Singapore was “a journey without the end”, said Mr Lee, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore last night.

A better home can be created by making housing more affordable and public transport more reliable, integrating green spaces and waters into urban surroundings, strengthening social capital by integrating new immigrants with Singaporeans, creating more arts and cultural spaces as well as building a compassionate society, Mr Lee said.

“And to do this, we are studying other cities carefully — for example, London and its way of public transport, Copenhagen, which integrates pocket parks into its downtown, or Bilboa, which has had great success building its arts and cultural spaces,” he said.

Last month, the Government announced it was embarking on a bus contracting model that will see operators bidding for a package of routes through competitive tendering, akin to systems in London and Perth.

Thus far, Singapore has taken the long view in its development by “planning over generations, implementing programmes over several election terms and rallying Singaporeans to forgo some immediate gains for future dividends”, said Mr Lee, citing Marina Bay as a prime example. Once the mouth of a dirty river occupied by industries that caused pollution and slums, it is now “a jewel in our cityscape, a place all of us are very proud of”.

Yet, as cities drive economies and innovation, new challenges have emerged. “Climate change is causing unpredictable consequences (and) extreme weather, like the first snowfall in Cairo in a hundred years or flooding in London,” he said. “And so, we must continue to improve our cities and give our people a high-quality environment in which to live, work and play.”

Mr Lee said Singapore was also wiring up the island to deliver connectivity and enhance the business environment for a smarter nation. “There’s no place where you can hide from your emails and Facebook,” he said, adding that the country was also making better use of data to improve sustainability, such as in managing the nation’s power consumption more tightly.

Singapore is also strengthening citizens’ and residents’ ownership of their shared future through the use of technology, such as crowdsourcing and location-based services.

“There are many examples of how Singaporeans are working together to build a more liveable and sustainable Singapore. For example, preserving nature in Pulau Ubin — one of our bigger offshore islands — through the Ubin Project,” said Mr Lee.

Draw lessons from other cities to make Singapore a better home: PM Lee
Use of technology and citizen ownership key to Singapore’s future, he says
KOK XING HUI Today Online 1 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE — As Singaporeans’ expectations of the country rise, the Republic will draw on lessons from other cities to make Singapore a better home by providing affordable housing and reliable public transport, adding green spaces and strengthening social capital, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (June 1).

The country will do this by studying other cities carefully to learn from their experience, such as looking at London’s public transport system and Copenhagen’s downtown parks.

Mr Lee made those remarks in a speech at the opening ceremony of the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and Cleanenviro Summit Singapore.

In his speech, he also outlined how Singapore will harness technology to become a smarter nation, such as using data to improve sustainability by managing power consumption.

Thirdly, the country will strengthen citizens’ ownership by engaging them on Singapore’s future. This, he said, can be facilitated by technology such as crowdsourcing and location-based services.

Examples of such engagement already exist, said the Prime Minister, highlighting how citizens and Government are working together to preserve nature in Pulau Ubin through the Ubin Project.

So far, the Government has taken the long view when it comes to developing Singapore as a liveable and sustainable city, he said, where plans are made over generations and implemented over several electoral terms.

Urban issues: Singapore can learn from others
The Singapore city skyline MyPaper AsiaOne 2 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Improving Singapore is a "journey without end", and the island state can learn from other cities as new challenges emerge, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last evening.

He was speaking at the opening of the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

"People's expectations are rising," he said. "Other cities continue to move ahead, developing innovative solutions and setting new standards."

Mr Lee added that, in the past two years, more than 100 million people have moved to cities, and 70 per cent of the world's population is expected to live in cities by 2050.

And new challenges such as climate change have surfaced, producing floods in London this year and Cairo's first snowfall in a century last year.

Singapore has tried to manage water, energy and nature carefully, and transformed Marina Bay from a "dirty river dotted with pollutive industries and slums", but it can still learn from other cities' experiences, such as Manhattan with its central hotline for municipal services, Copenhagen with its "pocket parks" downtown, and the Spanish metropolis of Bilbao with its arts and cultural spaces, he added.

It is also engaging citizens and residents by preserving Pulau Ubin's nature through the Ubin Project, which asks for public ideas to protect the rustic island, and carrying out public consultations to review its sustainable-development blueprint, Mr Lee said.

At the three major biennial events this week, which run from yesterday to Wednesday, some 20,000 government leaders, experts and other delegates are expected to meet and discuss solutions to the world's urban issues.

PM Lee: Let's learn from other cities
The New Paper AsiaOne 4 Jun 14;

Improving Singapore is a "journey without end", and we can learn from other cities as new challenges emerge, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

"People's expectations are rising," he said at the opening of the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

"Other cities continue to move ahead, developing innovative solutions and setting new standards."

In the past two years, more than 100 million people have moved to cities, he said. That is about 20 times the population of Singapore. As much as 70 per cent of the world's population is expected to live in cities by 2050.

And new challenges such as climate change have surfaced, producing floods in London and Cairo's first snowfall in a century.

Singapore has tried to manage water, energy, and nature carefully and transformed Marina Bay from a "dirty river dotted with pollutive industries and slums", but it can still learn from other cities' experiences, Mr Lee said.

He gave the examples of Manhattan, with its central hotline for municipal services, Copenhagen with its "pocket parks" downtown, and the Spanish metropolis of Bilbao with its arts and culture spaces.

Singapore is also engaging citizens and residents by preserving Pulau Ubin's nature through the Ubin Project, which asks for public ideas to protect the rustic island, and carrying out public consultations to review its sustainable-development blueprint.

At the three major biennial events this week, which run till Wednesday, government leaders, experts and other delegates are meeting to discuss solutions to the world's urban issues.

City leaders from around the world discussed governance and community engagement at the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum yesterday. Delegates also discussed sustainable urbanisation and water management.

Pledge to boost climate change cooperation
David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Evidence is growing that climate change causes extreme weather and can affect food supplies. And rapid urbanisation can affect the liveability of countries.

This is why Hong Kong and six nations - Brunei, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore - yesterday pledged to expand cooperation and share experience on these issues, among others.

Ministers and senior officials, who gathered at the World Cities Summit for the 10th Ministers' Forum on Infrastructure Development in the Asia-Pacific Region, added in their joint declaration that more "smart city" technologies could be used to run cities better, and improve the lives of residents.

Citing the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan and last year's deadly Typhoon Haiyan, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan told the forum that the effects of climate change "have manifested themselves more than ever".

Countries must ensure infrastructure is resilient to withstand more disasters, he said at the event held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Speaking about the challenges of Asia's urbanisation, he said: "How do we enjoy the developmental upside, with minimal downside? Not an easy trade-off to manage... Fortunately, with sensitive planning and skilful execution, it is possible to optimise."

Smart technologies employing powerful data analytics and simulation models could provide some of the solutions to urban issues, added Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.

For example, he told the forum, systems that automatically alert agencies when power infrastructure is faulty can save both time and cost.

Having broadband networks across Singapore and citizens using smartphone apps also improves lives, he said.

He cited the free "My Bus Mate" app, which aims to give parents peace of mind by telling them exactly when their child's school bus is arriving at their home or the school.

Meanwhile, at the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum also held yesterday, Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan reiterated that these smart technologies "have the potential to transform urban living".

On the sidelines of the Mayors Forum, the Centre for Liveable Cities launched a 274-page publication, available on its website, that summarised the key players and principles of Singapore's development journey.

It was presented to mayors and city leaders as a resource for them to tap.

Lessons from a top green country
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Jun 14;

DENMARK - Denmark. which has a population roughly the size of Singapore's, was in the spotlight at yesterday's World Cities Summit and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore for its green-growth successes.

The Scandinavian nation has ambitious renewable-energy targets and the world's happiest city dwellers.

So it was no wonder that Ms Kirsten Brosbol, the country's 37-year-old Environment Minister, fielded several questions on how it got to where it is today.

Denmark's rivers in the early 1970s, however, were so polluted that they teemed with dead fish, said Ms Brosbol at the World Cities Summit's opening plenary session yesterday. Faced with that and a serious oil shortage, Danish mayors finally bit the bullet and found ways to, among other things, use less fuel and improve air quality by switching from driving cars to cycling.

Ms Brosbol said three other things helped Denmark sustain its efforts to live better: First, it showed how easy it could be to live responsibly, by installing water-saving taps in supermarket toilets for instance. Then, it let people get as close to nature as possible so they would learn to love their surroundings. It also tried to solve as many problems as it could at once, such as by managing heavier and more frequent rainfall by building reservoirs that doubled up as water parks that everyone could enjoy.

At the CleanEnviro Summit's leaders' plenary in the afternoon, Ms Brosbol explained that Danish businesses are now able to sell their environmental solutions.

"Ten per cent of total exports from Denmark are green exports; 20 per cent of our companies provide green solutions," she said. "We have made the business case that business is growing within the green industry."

The Danish government's clear policies, such as strong environmental regulations, pricing water and resources correctly, and green public procurement, have also reassured firms of its stance.

Denmark now aims to go entirely fossil-fuel free by 2050, by switching to a diverse cocktail of clean energy sources like wind, solar and biomass.

It is also tackling food waste, by working with supermarkets to sell smaller portions to match changing household sizes, and by working with a Danish civil society movement called Stop Wasting Food, said Ms Brosbol.

To change everyone's behaviour for the better, however, the stick worked better than the carrot, she said. "Strong regulation is the key, otherwise we would not have made any progress."

Read more!

Educating public, planning infrastructure to sustain Singapore environment

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 31 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The government's role in charting the next course of an environmentally sustainable Singapore involves educating the public, planning for infrastructure and implementing carefully-studied regulations.

Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that at a focus group discussion on Saturday organised as part of a review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.

The Blueprint was unveiled in 2009, and contains strategies on balancing economic growth in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The focus group discussion was attended by some 40 participants, and is the first of five to six focus group discussions that will take place between now and July.

To kick things off, participants from non-government organisations, members of the public as well as the private sector discussed waste reduction.

Some participants spoke about standardising recycling bin colours islandwide.

Others suggested a regulatory body to oversee the packaging of products to cut down wastage -- a move that is both eco-friendly and lowers costs for companies.

Sunny Koh, managing director of Chinatown Food Corporation, said: "When the content is the same, and if the bag size is smaller, you'll save freight costs, you'll save warehousing costs, you'll save delivery costs.

“But on the government's side, they need to do the reaching out. (You need to) reach out to the consumer that in future when you buy a product, don't look at the size of the packaging, look at the content. Smaller bag does not mean less content and bigger bag does not equal to more content."

The discussions are set against the backdrop of relatively low recycling rates in Singapore -- about 61 per cent in Singapore (about 21,500 tonnes a day) and only 20 per cent for households.

Recycling food waste was at an even lower 13 per cent, while the recycling of plastics is only 11 per cent.

Topics such as creating zero waste and segregating household waste were discussed on Saturday.

Participants also discussed getting producers to pay for recycling costs at the end of a product's life cycle, known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

That concept has been adopted by countries in Europe, as well as Japan and South Korea.

But Dr Balakrishnan said it needs more industry consultation in Singapore.

"I don't think there's a clear consensus here on how formalised we should be on Extended Producer Responsibility.

“Even if we go to EPR, we have to do it in a way that makes business sense that it saves money rather than wastes money -- saves money for producers and saves money for consumers. We need to try and find that formula,” he said.

Dr Balakrishnan added there must also be sufficient regulations to level the playing field in favour of responsible companies.

- CNA/nd

Read more!

New eco-garden in Jurong West

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 2 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: Residents in Jurong West have a new eco-garden. It is part of JTC Corporation's business park -- CleanTech Park -- in Boon Lay.

The five-hectare garden was opened on Sunday by the area's Member of Parliament and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

It features walking trails, a butterfly garden and a freshwater swamp.

Leow Thiam Seng, director of JTC Corporation's aerospace, marine & CleanTech cluster, said: "When we first planned for this place, we discovered that there's a rich biodiversity here, and with the two dragon kilns, the whole idea became very intuitive.

"So we decided to position it as an eco-park for the whole CleanTech Park. We hope that the residents can use this opportunity to be more exposed and be nearer to biodiversity."

It is part of the freshwater swamp and has been enhanced so that it can capture 65 per cent of the rainwater runoff here. That water is then filtered and recycled for other uses in the park -- for example, for general outdoor washing, to flush the toilets and to irrigate the plants.

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Health Minister and MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said: "This Jurong Eco-Garden is part of the progressive enhancement of the CleanTech Park housing companies and research institutes in the clean technology industry.

"But it is more than just another piece of industrial real estate as it gives the community more green space on which we can explore, discover and reconnect with nature.

"Beyond just being passive green spaces, the Jurong Eco-Garden can become a focal point for community interaction.

"It will cater to a myriad of recreational activities -- you can come here to do some bird-watching, conduct your physical exercises, or simply just take leisurely strolls and enjoy the lush greenery here. Schools can also enjoy this eco-garden as another destination for field trips."

Mike Goh, a 46-year-old engineer who works at the business park, appreciates having the eco-garden so near to his workplace.

Mr Goh said: "I'm glad that this park is very near the office so... I can actually take a break in the park and enjoy the greenery."

- CNA/al

Jurong's new eco-garden offers green relief
Carolyn Khew MyPaper AsiaOne 2 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Those living or working in Singapore's west can look forward to more green space in their midst with the launch of a new eco-garden in Jurong.

Located in CleanTech Park, the eco-business facility next to Nanyang Technological University, residents and workers in the area can immerse themselves in the greenery.

The 5ha Jurong Eco-Garden features a freshwater swamp forest, which serves as a central retention pond for storm water.

About 65 per cent of the storm water run-off collected will be filtered for toilet-flushing and watering plants, among other purposes.

Speaking at the official opening yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that the eco-garden will become a "focal point for community interaction".

Mr Gan, who is an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said that grassroots organisations are working with the National Parks Board to make the eco-garden part of the 150km Round Island Route, a green corridor that goes round Singapore.

Much care was taken to ensure that there were sustainability features in the park, like reusing wood from felled trees in the area to make signage and park furniture, as well as incorporating excavated rocks from JTC Corporation's previous building projects.

"When we created the Jurong Eco-Garden, we had to strike a balance between development needs and the natural environment," said JTC Corporation chief executive officer Png Cheong Boon.

In order to increase the garden's butterfly population, butterfly-attracting plants have been planted. So far, 15 new butterfly species have been recorded, "some of which are of conservation interest in Singapore", said Mr Png.

Going forward, JTC will see how it can apply the experience of sustainably developing the business park to future projects, where appropriate.

Bukit Batok resident Mike Goh, 46, said that he enjoyed spotting wildlife in the garden.

The engineer, who works at CleanTech Park, said: "Personally, I like greenery. I would bring my kids here to expose them to nature and take pictures."

Bask in nature's glory at Jurong Eco-Garden
Melissa Lin The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Residents living in the West can now go for strolls and enjoy nature at a new eco-friendly park next to Nanyang Technological University.

At the Jurong Eco-Garden, which is the size of about seven football fields, are features including a freshwater swamp, streams, ponds and a butterfly garden. There are also walking trails and a summit lookout with a bird's-eye view of the park.

The eco-garden, a project by JTC Corp, forms the "green lung" of its CleanTech Park, an industrial estate dedicated to the research and development of sustainable solutions. Its design represents a first for a garden in an industrial park in Singapore.

When creating the park, JTC sought to strike a balance between developmental needs and the natural environment, said chief executive Png Cheong Boon.

The site was once a secondary forest, meaning that it had already been affected by human activity.

A freshwater swamp, for example, serves as a detention pond for rainwater run-off. About 65 per cent of the run-off is captured, filtered and channelled for toilet flushing, irrigation of plants and outdoor washing, said Mr Png.

Other sustainable features there include the rocks used for the summit lookout, which were excavated from JTC's other building projects and reused. Wood from felled trees on the site was reused for signage and park furniture.

Read more!

Gardens By The Bay: The garden life

LAETITIA WONG Today Online 31 May 14;

“From the first moment we embarked on this project, we made sure the plants have always been our top priority, every step of the way. You can build a building, but if the building isn’t designed specifically for the plants, it won’t work,” he continued, adding that while they wanted “an icon, their functions had to suit the plants”.

Yes, it’s all about the plants. The Gardens is even attempting to reduce the carbon footprint with the number of plants planted. One such example would be its collaboration with national water agency PUB after its lake system, roughly the size of 192 Olympic swimming pools, ran low during the dry months.

Said Kwek: “We agreed that PUB would bring in water from its channels into our gardens during the dry months and in return, we would grow beneficial aquatic plants such as the water hyacinth and the Nile papyrus within our lake system, which help cleanse the waters and serve as a natural filtration system.”

Its wildlife surveys showed that the diversity of plants at GBTB has also allowed fauna to flourish, from kingfishers to a school of otters. “We even had a pair of ducks that birthed 13 ducklings here!” said Kwek.

If there’s one concern, it’s in the area of education, said Kwek. “The younger generation was brought up in a very different environment clouded by technology and they are unable to appreciate nature (but) I can understand that most teens would rather stay at home and watch TV than visit places like the Gardens.”

Nevertheless, GBTB is organising a slew of events and activities for families and the youth next month. It is also collaborating with the Ministry of Education for the Singapore Youth Festival in July.

Future plans will involve, you guessed it, more gardens. Funds permitting, Kwek said Phase Two will entail projects in Bay East and Bay Central, right in front of the F1 Pit. “They are two other gardens that are also part of Gardens By The Bay, which most people don’t even know about.”

For Kwek, GBTB isn’t just about being an attraction that looks good. “A great landscape would be one that is conducive for people to visit,” he said. “Not only is a shelter or a canopy important to shield visitors from the heat, but the choice of plants that is used is very important.

“Personally, I like to add a little surprise to the landscape with plants like the agaves at the Flower Dome. I bet you didn’t know that they are used to make tequila. That’s what I’m talking about — interesting plants that make people sit up and go ‘Oh, really?’ (That’s) what determines the success of a landscape.”

Gardens By The Bay is hosting a series of fun-filled education activities and tours until June 30. For more details, visit

Read more!

Malaysia: Johor to prevent illegal usage of river water in view of El Nino

The Star 2 Jun 14;

NUSAJAYA: Johor will be monitoring its rivers to prevent illegal water usage to ensure that there is enough water during the El Nino phenomenon that is expected to hit the country from now till September.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development executive councillor Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the state would take stern action against those engaged in the illegal usage of water from the rivers in Johor such as farmers, animal breeders and factory operators.

In view of that, the Johor Water Regulatory Authority (Bakaj) would also be closely monitoring the 21 rivers and nine dams, which supply raw water to 45 water treatment plants statewide.

“We will not hesitate to seize their equipment or take them to court for illegal use of rivers, which are considered government property,” he said during his speech at the state assembly sitting here yesterday.

Hasni was replying to questions by Ayub Jamil (BN-Rengit), Lau Chin Hoon (BN-Pemanis), Dr Sheikh Ibrahim Salleh (PAS-Sungai Abong), Tan Hong Pin (DAP-Mengkibol) and Jimmy Puah Wee Tse (PKR-Bukit Batu) about the state’s preparations to face the El Nino phenomenon and its efforts to ensure there will be enough water for the people’s daily usage during the anticipated dry spell.

Hasni (BN-Benut) said another measure taken by the state was to maintain the water level at dams at a minimum of 80% adding that a scheduled water usage exercise would be activated if the water level dropped to 40%.

Rationing in Johor if water crisis worsens
New Straits Times 2 Jun 2014;

NUSAJAYA: The Johor government may resort to water rationing, similar to the one carried out by the Selangor government, if there is a significant water shortage caused by the El Nino phenomenon.

Responding to questions from Lau Chin Hoon (BN-Pemanis), state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the rationing exercise would be the last option if the water crisis worsened due to dry spell.

"However, the state government will have to submit an application to the National Water Services Commission (SPAN)," he said at the 13th state assembly session yesterday.

Hasni said that based on the Johor Water Resource study from 2010 to 2060, the demand for water would increase from 2,027 million litres per day by next year and to 2060.

The demand would double to 4,136 million litres per day.

"Given the current volume of water in the rivers and dams in the state, Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) can only supply treated water up to 2020."

Hasni said although the state had many water resources, some were exposed to contamination.

"We are trying to safeguard the water quality from any pollutants," he said, adding that there were nine dams supplying raw water to 45 treatment plants in the state.

He said one of the moves taken was to stop water thefts river and dams through stricter enforcement and monitoring.

"Syarikat Air Johor, district offices and police will be taking action against those who steal raw water in bulk for agricultural or industrial use."

He also cautioned that if the water level at the nine dams drastically dropped from 80 per cent to 40 per cent, the water rationing exercise in the state would take effect immediately.

On the preparation for El Nino, Hasni said the state government, through SAJ, would deploy 25 lorries to deliver water to affected areas and provide 192 static water tanks for residential schemes.

Read more!

Malaysia: El Nino may spark water crisis

THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 1 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has urged water operators and stakeholders to be prepared for a water crisis in the event of a dry spell caused by the El Nino phenomenon.

Its chief executive officer, Datuk Teo Yen Hua, said the commission had met the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) on May 8 to brief water operators on the weather forecast.

"The severity of the extreme dry weather conditions will reduce availability of raw water resources, which is under purview of the state governments. Nevertheless, measures have been taken to mitigate possible impact."

The MMD has warned of a dry spell, which will begin as early as next month and last between six and 18 months, as sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean warm to levels similar to the onset of the El Nino phenomenon.

Teo said SPAN had called for water operators and stakeholders to:

MONITOR the water levels in rivers and dams;

CONTINUE cloud seeding;

ACTIVATE Water Supply Contingency Plans if water levels in rivers and dams decrease to a critical stage;
PREPARE for additional water supply relief facilities such as water tankers and static tanks to areas that are facing shortage of water supply;

IDENTIFY other possible alternative raw water sources; and,

IMPLEMENT water rationing when there is insufficient raw water.

Teo said SPAN had been assured by the state government and Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS) that the raw water quality from proposed alternative sources such as hybrid off-river augmentation system is safe.

"LUAS has sent water samples to the Chemistry Department and the Health Ministry for testing, and found that the water quality complies with the requirements."

MMD commercial and corporate services division director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said computer models surveyed by the World Meteorological Organisation suggested that El Nino thresholds would be reached by next month.

"If it occurs in July, it needs some time to interact with the atmosphere before the impact hits the country.
"The impact will probably begin in September or October over the eastern part of Borneo, which includes Sabah and parts of Sarawak, before spreading to the peninsula by year-end.

"However, the impact strictly depends on the intensity of the El Nino. Thus far, its intensity cannot be determined yet."

He said strong El Nino could lead to a dry spell as a result of reduced rain clouds.

However, he said, the impact would be minimal when the El Nino was weak or moderate.

"We are monitoring the El Nino situation by getting information from international research centres such as the Japan Meteorological Agency, USA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Centre and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Any developments will be announced to the authorities for further action."

Hisham said Malaysia would experience less rainfall during the southwest monsoon (late May to September), which could lead to forest fires, hot weather and decrease in water levels in dams.

"So far, our forecast indicates it will be a normal season for our country, except in June, where rainfall will be slightly below normal."

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S. Piarapakaran called for SPAN to mobilise the Emergency Response Plan to ensure sufficient water supply if the need for water rationing arose.

He said the Selangor government should stop sand-mining activities that might further pollute raw water in rivers and beef up storage capacities for raw water in retention ponds along the river basin (but not former mining pools as heavy metal contamination is a concern).

Safety fears on use of mining pool water
SUZANNA PILLAY New Straits Times 1 Jun 14;

STUDIES NEEDED: Experts question Selangor's Horas project as water may contain high level of pollutants

KUALA LUMPUR: AFTER the announcement and groundbreaking ceremony of the planned Horas stormwater harvesting system and groundwater collection system at Kampung Sungai Darah, Bestari Jaya, Kuala Selangor recently, many still have questions about the project.

Horas, the acronym for Hybrid Off-River Storage Augmentation System, is a combination concept between off-river storage and horizontal collector well concept that contribute stormwater and groundwater to overcome the raw water shortage in Selangor especially during the drought season, said Universiti Malaya's environmental science and management programme lecturer, Dr Fathiah Mohamed Zuki.

The planned system in Selangor involves the construction of a reservoir, measuring 166 hectares and 23.5m deep, in a 235ha former tin mining area.

According to earlier news reports, the first phase of the reservoir, expected to be completed by July next year, would be able to provide 600 million litres per day (MLD).

During drought when the natural flow in Sungai Selangor is low, water from the mining ponds will be pumped out to augment the river (hence the name).

This will ensure adequate raw water for the three large treatment plants located a short distance downstream (namely the Sungai Selangor Phase 1, 2 and 3 water treatment plants).

In the second phase, the scheme will be further expanded to provide 3,000 to 5,000 MLD and this will be completed in 2020.

Estimated to cost RM405 million, the cost of the Horas project, which includes dredging works, will be borne by Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd in contra with the value of the sand, worth about RM100 million, that will be excavated from the deepened ex-mining ponds.

Fathiah said the Horas project was feasible as a long-term solution in terms of sustainability, if the implementation and the process management followed the procedure and regulations under the Environmental Quality Act (EQA 1974) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA 1994) as planned.

She said any environmental risk and pollution to the water courses could be avoided after considering every aspect and impact that would exist for each activity during the construction work and its development stages.

Universiti Sains Malaysia's professor and water expert, Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng, said people in India and other parts of the world had been using Horas for centuries, though they used natural ponds and lakes rather than ex-mining ponds.

"Horas is not rocket science and certainly nothing new, but this system is only feasible on a small scale to supply water to small communities such as villages. It is also a good alternative source of water to augment existing large dams."

"But it cannot replace the existing large dams and should not be used for urban water supply, given the high water demands of cities and industry.

"From a water safety point of view, mining pond water is not as safe as dam water. The Health Ministry needs to test the water quality more often and more stringently if pond water is to be used for consumption, as it is stagnant and generally of poor quality."

She pointed out that urban ponds received a lot of pollutants from point sources like factories and hospitals, as well as non-point sources such as roads, agricultural land, and urban surfaces.

She said the pollutants would all end up in these ponds and could cause eutrophication (explosion of algae) if the pollutants had a lot of nitrates from agricultural areas.

"If the high-tech method such as reverse osmosis or membrane technology is used, such as in producing NEWater in Singapore, then there is no question in terms of safety.

"But if we use the conventional water treatment process like what is the norm, heavy metals, pesticides and other dangerous pollutants may not be filtered away.

"Financially, the Horas system may not be as expensive as large dams. If it is true that a private company is paying fully for the cost of this project, then there should not be any question on finance."

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) president S. Piarapakaran agreed with Chan that the Horas system was a support system and should not function as a main raw water supply system.

"Especially not for Horas usage in ex-mining areas without a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report."
He said caution should be employed when developing Horas in an ex-mining area.

"It is already documented that many ex-mining areas that are eventually developed into a man-made pond system have heavy metal contamination. If use of these ponds is necessary, there must be proper studies and monitoring."

Piarapakaran said placing vertical tubes in mining areas along the Sungai Selangor river basin might also move the heavy metals faster to the groundwater regime.

"There is also possible impact to the function of the agricultural areas in the vicinity if certain aquifers are drawn down during this process.

"All in all, the only clear message that has been given concerning the project is that sand mining will be carried out first, which is directly associated with pollution to water as well."

At the moment, he said, the question was whether there was a proper study done because the processes, such as dilution, diffusion and absorption, and would influence the movement of heavy metals.

"We need continuous monitoring of the data at the source and not data after dilution only. They should check if the mining pools can be used as a long term storage area. This includes an EIA study.

"For example, if the mining areas are already contaminated, the groundwater water content around these areas is also contaminated. Heavy metals are in the form of ions (they are already dissolved in the water).

"This makes them mobile in two ways, groundwater movement (slow movement) and when you pump the contaminated water out to augment the river (fast movement)."

He said when the pond water was diluted by letting in excess storm water from Sungai Selangor into the ponds, the concentration of the heavy metal in the pond would reduce.

"Has there been any study on the diffusion impact of the contaminants (after diluting the pond water) over a long period? A sampling study over a period of 30 days on the quality of the diluted raw water should have been done.
"Our treatment plants are not equipped to remove heavy metal content, and this is Awer's concern."

Read more!

Malaysia: Kuala Lawas – last frontier for dugong conservation

Rintos Mail The Borneo Post 1 Jun 2014;

THEY are believed to have been at the origin of mermaid legends when spotted swimming from a distance.
Now the remaining populations of this seemingly clumsy sea mammal called dugong, commonly known as sea cow, are at serious risk of extinction.

Many countries throughout the world are making every effort to protect this elusive marine mammal, associated with legends of women with fish tails.

Sarawak too is moving into the same direction – to save the species.

Historically, dugongs were common in shallow coastal waters of East Malaysia and hunted, particularly in the old days.
Today, their occurrences are rather occasional.

The protected waters and plentiful seagrass meadows are perfect for the dugong.

The ungainly sirenian feeds almost exclusively on seagrass although now and then, it does snack on molluscs and crustaceans. As it feeds, it stirs up plumes of sand, leaving meandering trails that can be seen from the air.

The dugong is listed as one of the totally protected species in Sarawak under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998.
Today, this large marine herbivore can still be found in Sarawak waters, especially in Kuala Lawas, assures Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC).

Its deputy general manager (Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Division) Oswald Braken Tisen said the state government was committed to ensure the continued existence of the dugong in the area for posterity.

And in response to the government’s commitment, he added, SFC, in collaboration with a few higher learning institutions and international organisations, had taken some proactive actions to protect and conserve the seabed off Kuala Lawas, one of the feeding grounds for dugongs and turtles.

In fact, Braken pointed out, seagrass and dugong conservation in Kuala Lawas was initiated by the Forest Department back in 1994 after it monitored the movement of turtles.

Together with students from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), a marine mammal survey was carried in 1999.

“The dugong was first spotted in Kuala Lawas in 2000. Before the study, we thought it had become completely extinct as there were no reports of sightings.

“The last dugong death was recorded in Sarawak during the Japanese occupation,” he said.

In 2004, together with UMS students, SFC conducted a multi-discipline wild life expedition in Kuala Lawas to find out what the state had in the area.

Arising from that expedition, SFC requested for federal funding, and in 2007, conducted a boat and aerial survey along the state’s coastal waters and managed to record more than 10 individual dugongs and other marine mammals in Kuala Lawas.

Braken said the SFC-endorsed boat survey in 2008-9 by Dr Nicholas Pilcher observed over 30 individual dugongs off Kuala Lawas and in Brunei Bay.

In 2011, to enhance the seagrass and dugong conservation in Kuala Lawas, SFC organised the Southeast Asia regional workshop on the dugong in Lawas, funded by the UN Environment Programme and Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS).
The objective was to come up with recommendations on the distribution of dugongs, their habitats and risks from fisheries in the region – at the same time establishing collaborations on conservation and research programmes with renowned institutions.

From the workshop, Malaysia requested for funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to support the conservation of marine biodiversity and ecosystem in the country.

“The latest information I have is that the GEF has approved in principle some funds for Malaysia to enhance conservation of the dugong and seagrass in its waters, including in Kuala Lawas,” Braken revealed.

He said efforts to conserve the seagrass and dugong conservation in the area did not stop there, adding that SFC and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last year.

The MOU will provide a framework for both parties to enhance research and conservation measures through the exchange of technical information, joint cooperative studies and research, as well as, industrial technology transfer in the field of endangered marine species.

Braken said SFC had decided to work closely with UMT because the latter is known for its marine conservation work.
He hoped from such collaboration, UMT would become a platform for other agencies to participate in the conservation of seagrass and dugong in the whole area off Kuala Lawas and in Brunei Bay.

“The dugong does not belong to us alone. During low seagrass season in Kuala Lawas, it may be feeding somewhere in Brunei or the Philippines and therefore, every country in the region should play its part in conserving seagrass.
“On our (SFC) part, we have worked with other member countries to protect our seagrass meadows.

“But even with protection, others will still kill them – not just the seagrass but also the dugong. So it’s our hope Kuala Lawas will be gazetted as a totally protected area.”

Braken said recommendations had been made to the State Forest Department to gazette Kuala Lawas as a national park.
“It’s also important the water source going to the seagrass meadows in Kuala lawas is protected as sedimentation poses a threat to them.”

He pointed out that protecting the seagrass meadows, the dugong’s main source of food, is essential because without adequate sustenance, the dugong will not breed normally.

He noted that the seagrass beds are also nurseries for fish, turtles and other marine life.

SFC had organised a few wild life awareness programmes in Lawas and in 2012 had recruited over 30 wild life rangers.
“Today, many people, including the wild life rangers, have become the ambassadors to promote our seagrass and dugong conservation in Kuala Lawas,” Braken said.

Although not a targetted species now since local fishermen know it’s protected by law, by-catch is still the number one issue.

It is believed rising pollution, coastal developments, river traffic, bad fishing practices and hunting have contributed to a decline in the fortunes of the dugong — both in Sarawak waters and around the world.

Dugongs are particularly vulnerable to boat strikes as they come to the surface to breathe, putting them directly in the path of watercraft.

Boats travelling at speed or in shallow waters over seagrass beds or coral reefs pose the greatest threat.

Dugongs are also under threat from diminishing food sources. Seagrass meadows are being detrimentally affected by pollution (pollutants can include herbicide runoff, sewage, detergents, heavy metals, hypersaline water from desalination plants, and other waste products), algal blooms, high boat traffic and turbid waters.

Today, dugongs need to rely on smaller seagrass meadows for food and habitat. When the seagrass habitat becomes unsuitable for foraging, dugong populations are displaced and the mammals face greater threat.

Other direct threats include incidental mortality in gill fishing nets and shark meshing.

The dugong has a long rotund body and a tail or fluke for propulsion. Adult dugongs can reach lengths of more than three metres and weigh up to 420kg.

Dugongs have relatively poor eyesight, so they rely on the sensitive bristles covering the upper lip of their large snouts to find seagrass.

The dugongs have been hunted for thousands of years for meat and oil.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the dugong as a species vulnerable to extinction while the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species limits or bans the trade of derived products.

How about that connection with mermaids?

The word dugong derives from the tagalog term dugong which was, in turn, adopted from the Malay word duyung – both meaning lady of the sea.

Other common local names include sea cow, sea pig and sea camel (Wikipedia).

Another assumption is that when swimming, the dugong, which has a streamlined body, use its whale-like fluked tail and front flippers to glide forward in slow graceful movements and this probably caused early sailors to liken the species to mermaids.

Biologists also note that female dugongs have large teats at the base of their flippers.

According to the website of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), any threat to this huge migratory herbivorous mammal should be of critical concern to the billions of people who rely on the oceans for their livelihoods.

“If the dugong, a key indicator species, is declining, then the coastal environment that provides protein in the form of fish, and income in terms of tourism, is also being degraded,” it states.

Dugongs may live for 70 years or more and are slow breeders.

The female does not begin breeding until 10-17 years old and only calves once every three to five years, providing seagrass and other conditions are suitable. This slow breeding rate means dugongs are particularly susceptible to factors that threaten their survival.

Dugongs feed almost exclusively on seagrass, a flowering plant found in shallow water areas. An adult will eat about 30kg each day.

As dugong feeds, whole plants are uprooted leaving tell-tale tracks behind. They will also feed on macro-invertebrates such as sea squirts.

Read more!