Best of our wild blogs: 28-29 Jun 14

15 Jul (Tue): Sea star and sea cucumber talk!
from wild shores of singapore

A return to our islands in the sun
from The Long and Winding Road

Life History of the Fivebar Swordtail v2.0
from Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk Along Tagore Drive (27 Jun 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Wild kids at Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from wild shores of singapore

Balloons kill sea turtles
from wild shores of singapore

Rainwater harvesting in HDB flats? Check out Treelodge @ Punggol
from Water Quality in Singapore

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Malaysia: 'Forest City' developer asked to submit DEIA report

The Star 28 Jun 14;

JOHOR BARU: The developer involved in the massive reclamation work covering about 2,000ha under the “Forest City” project, near Tanjung Kupang, is expected to hand over a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report on it.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the China-based developer, Country Garden Holdings Ltd, had been notified to submit the report to the state Department of Environment (DOE) soon.

“Given the large area involved, the DEIA is crucial as it allows a better assessment of the project’s potential environmental impact,” said Ayub.

He added that representatives from the company as well as the DOE had met recently to discuss the matter.

The DOE is expected to complete its report on the project by next week as soon as the developer hands over the DEIA.

“If the developer adheres to the necessary requirements then they will be allowed to continue with the reclamation work,” he said.

Earlier this week, Johor DOE director Mokhtar Abdul Majid had said that an DEIA was not required as the work, which was done phase by phase, involved not more than 20.2ha. However, the total area came up to about 2,000ha.

The reclamation work near the Johor Second Link, which is being undertaken by the company and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) – a subsidiary of the state government – started in March.

The Star recently reported that the ambitious Forest City project could have potential transboundary effects and Singapore is concerned.

Earlier yesterday in Batu Pahat, state Opposition leader Dr Boo Cheng Hau, who called for a DEIA on the project, said the community has the right to know whether such massive land reclamation work would bring about adverse impact to the environment.

He also questioned why KPRJ is involved in such a huge housing project instead of developing affordable homes for the people.

China's richest woman controls firm behind Forest City project
The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Jun 14;

JOHOR BARU - Country Garden Holdings, the Chinese property giant behind the controversial Forest City development in Johor Baru, is controlled by China's richest woman and one of the world's youngest billionaires.

Ms Yang Huiyan, 33, is the second daughter of Mr Yang Guoqiang, 59, a former bricklayer who founded the firm 20 years ago in southern Guangdong province.

In 2007, she was catapulted to fame when, just before Country Garden's listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, her father transferred all his holdings to her.

This amounted to 70 per cent of the company's stock and gave the Ohio State University graduate an overnight fortune of US$16 billion after the initial public offering.

The 2008 financial crisis has reduced her fortune to US$7.2 billion (S$9 billion) now, which still puts her in seventh place on China's rich list.

Ms Yang was made vice-chairman of Country Garden in 2012. But by all accounts of the media-shy family - Ms Yang has never accepted an interview and makes few public appearances - Mr Yang still largely runs the real estate giant as chairman.

According to local media reports, he has been training his favoured daughter for succession for almost all her life, taking her along to company meetings when she was a teenager.

Company insiders said she would "listen intently but never say a word".

After she graduated from university in 2003, her first job was as her father's personal assistant.

Mr Yang himself has a classic rags-to-riches story common among China's nouveau riche.

A bricklayer and construction worker in his youth, he started his business by buying up vacant land for development in his hometown of Shunde in Foshan city.

His success, like that of other real estate moguls, was facilitated by a good and allegedly reciprocal relationship with local officials.

In 2007, Guangzhou newspaper Southern Weekly published an expose of Country Garden's collusion with officials to buy a land site in Zhangjiajie, in Hunan province, at almost zero cost.

One analyst noted then that while sites in downtown Guangzhou were sold at about 10,000 yuan (S$2,000) per sq m, Country Garden's total average land cost was estimated at 300 yuan per sq m.

The accusations slid like water off a duck's back for the well-connected Mr Yang, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of Foshan city.

In the past two years, Country Garden has embarked on an ambitious overseas expansion strategy. Forest City was conceived after Country Garden's first Malaysian development, in Danga Bay, debuted successfully last year.

Danga Bay sales were a big factor in pushing the firm's 2013 revenue up by 50 per cent to 62.7 billion yuan, according to its financial statement. Net profit rose by 24.2 per cent to 8.5 billion yuan.

This year, Country Garden is also launching its first Australian project, an 800-unit development near Sydney's Ryde suburb.

In the meantime, Ms Yang - who is married to the son of a high-level provincial official - looks likely to remain a dominant figure in China's real estate scene.

At the time of her public anointment in 2007, Mr Yang told Hong Kong media that "even if I reach the age of 100, I am going to give it to her anyway".

"She's family and I have faith in her."

Work still going on at reclamation site in Johor Strait
Reme Ahmad The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Jun 14;

JOHOR BARU/KUALA LUMPUR - A strip of sandbank stretching from mangrove swamps in south Johor Baru to the middle of the narrow Johor Strait can be seen from the Second Link bridge some 2km away.

The sandbank is part of a controversial reclamation project by a Chinese developer that has led Singapore to ask the Malaysian government for more details so it can study its possible impact on the Republic and the strait.

China's Country Garden Holdings has said it plans to raise a 2,000ha man-made island in the strait to build luxury homes over the next 30 years. Its partner in the project is Johor state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

The sandbank, Johor officials have indicated, is the first part of this massive project - called Forest City - and will be expanded into a 49ha island, roughly the size of 70 football fields.

The sandbank can be seen on the left side of the Second Link bridge as one leaves Tuas checkpoint and drives into Gelang Patah in Johor.

Yesterday, a team from The Straits Times visited the site and spotted four lorries and three excavators still working on the sandbank, despite a Johor official saying on Tuesday that the developer had voluntarily stopped work for a week after the project attracted controversy.

The excavators were filling up the big lorries with sand, which was then ferried to a corner of the sandbank. The sand was dumped into waters not far from the mangrove swamps, presumably to join the sandbank to mainland Johor. It was not clear where the white sand used for the reclamation originated from.

Not far from this frenetic building site were regular scenes around the Johor Strait - a fisherman casting his net into the waters and, just beyond the mangroves, villagers tucking into breakfast at a roadside restaurant in Kampung Tanjung Kupang.

A fisherman who wanted to be known only as Ali showed his catch of the day, which included several kilograms of prawn, swordfish and mullet.

"I can sell this for RM500 (S$194), and sometimes a day's catch can be sold for RM1,000," he said. The reclamation project, he added, "will affect us badly".

He said some fishermen in the area have been paid RM5,000 by the developers as compensation for the coastal project, but asked: "How long could that sustain us?"

The project has also courted controversy domestically, with Malaysian media identifying Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Sultan Iskandar as a backer of the Country Gardens plan. This has alarmed legal experts and politicians, as Malaysian royalty is not supposed to be involved in business dealings.

Adding to this are reports that the project's promoters are not carrying out environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies, as required by Malaysian law. They are said to be exploiting a loophole that exempts projects smaller than 50ha from such studies.

The first phase of Forest City is 49ha.

Environmentalists are worried about the effect on the marine life, mangrove swamps and water flows in the Johor Strait.

Johor's environment chief Ayub Rahmat had told The Straits Times on Tuesday that the Forest City developers had voluntarily stopped work for about a week while awaiting approval from the Department of Environment.

Asked yesterday why excavators and lorries were still working on the sandbank, he said the developers had asked for "a bit more time" to wind down their operations.

KL assures Singapore it will observe rule of law

Malaysia assured Singapore that it would observe international law, amid concerns over two massive reclamation projects on the Malaysian side of the Johor Strait.

"The Government of Malaysia remains committed to fulfilling its obligations under the general principles of international law and in particular, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in a statement on Tuesday in response to Singapore's concerns.

The minister added that Malaysia has engaged Singapore on the issue through a Joint Committee on the Environment, which was co-chaired by the heads of Malaysia's Department of Environment and Singapore's National Environment Agency.

He also said that Malaysia's federal government has been in close consultation with the Johor state government and the property developers involved, reported the New Straits Times.

One of the two reclamation projects, a 1,410ha man-made island near Jurong Island, is intended to be furnished with oil storage facilities to capture the spillover energy business from Singapore, marine construction firm Benalec told The Straits Times.

The other project, the 2,000ha Forest City near the Second Link, is being developed by China's Country Garden Holdings and a Johor state company, Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

This island is intended to be turned into a tourist hot spot, complete with hotel, luxurious apartments and recreational facilities.

Singapore had last Saturday voiced concern over possible transboundary impact from the massive projects, given its proximity to Johor.

Back in 2002, Malaysia had similarly objected to Singapore's land reclamation works in Tuas and Pulau Tekong, arguing that the projects could potentially impinge on Malaysia's territorial waters, causing pollution and destroying the marine environment in the Strait of Johor.

The dispute was resolved after the two countries appeared before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and signed an agreement in 2005.

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Good use of waste at old dump site

Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jun 14;

The first thing you notice about Sarimbun Recycling Park is the dust.

Wood dust, charcoal dust and recycled-concrete grit, kicked up by trucks and blown aloft by wind, coat every surface.

A battered truck that looks like it should be destined for scrap trundles along the potholed road and up a steep slope, while another carrying a load of tree branches and leaves resembles a rolling hedge.

There is more to the 30ha facility near the end of Lim Chu Kang Road than just dust, however. Tucked away in a north-western corner of Singapore, the industrial park's 13 plants handle a full one-quarter of Singapore's recycling.

In other words, they re-used nearly 1.2 million tonnes of the 4.8 million recycled in total. The rest is handled mainly at plants in Tuas, Jurong and Sungei Kadut.

They turn construction waste into recycled material for roads and buildings, scrap tyres into flooring, horticultural waste into compost and charcoal, and manufacturers' plastic scrap into neat sacks of plastic pellets. Thousands of tonnes of material are piled onto a hilly moonscape in each compound.

Earlier this month, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said it was looking into the feasibility of a multi-storey, consolidated recycling plant at Sarimbun Recycling Park, or elsewhere in Lim Chu Kang, and would work with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and JTC Corporation on the project.

The facility is not meant to consolidate all recycling companies into a single location, an NEA spokesman said. Rather, the study aims to find out if different recycling activities can be stacked to intensify land use.

In 2030, Singapore is expected to produce 12.3 million tonnes of rubbish based on population and economic growth estimates, up from 7.9 million tonnes last year.

By then, it aims to be recycling 70 per cent of all waste produced here, up from the current 61 per cent.

While that is a good idea, said Sarimbun's current tenants, they were nervous about their own fate.

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Cheap diesel sold illegally at 'white pumps'

The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - As many as 10 companies are selling diesel illegally at "white pumps" around Singapore, a Straits Times investigation has found.

Although the law states that only designated kiosks can sell fuel, the firms operate their side businesses with impunity from at least 15 locations in industrial estates.

Prices for their unbranded diesel are as low as $1.13 per litre, or about a third less than rates at stations owned by the likes of Shell, ExxonMobil, Caltex and Singapore Petroleum Company.

Diesel sold by the four oil companies is now at a record $1.71 per litre while their petrol prices range from $2.24 to $2.68 a litre.

Industry players said operators of white pumps - so-called because they sell unbranded fuel - can sell diesel at a discount because they do not incur the same costs faced by oil firms.

These include higher land cost of sites approved for fuel retail, infrastructure such as underground tanks, amenities such as toilets and air pumps, and advertising and marketing.

According to Urban Redevelopment Authority guidelines, only certain industries - such as those in transport-related fields - are allowed to set up their own diesel pumps. The fuel must be for their own use and cannot be sold to the public.

But The Straits Times had no trouble filling up at two white pumps - a furniture factory in Sungei Kadut and a bottled gas supplier in Woodlands.

The former required buyers to dial a number posted at the pump. A few minutes later, an attendant appeared, who even wrote a receipt for the diesel, which retailed at $1.19 a litre.

The latter, despite prominent signs warning that the public was not allowed to buy diesel at its site, had pump attendants on hand who were selling the fuel at $1.45 a litre.

In Tuas, a company called Sysma Energy openly advertises its product. Customers must apply for a chip-embedded tag to operate its pumps. Details of fuel dispensed, time and date are captured by Sysma's system, and customers are billed later. Sysma admitted that its diesel does not contain detergent and anti-foaming additives, which diesel sold at authorised pumps contains.

Caltex and Shell refused to comment on the white pump operators while ExxonMobil said it supplies fuel to a wide range of customers, including transport companies and industrial users.

"Due to anti-trust considerations, we are not in a position to monitor what they then do with the fuel," its spokesman said. The Ministry of Trade and Industry said the fuel market "is open to competition", but retailers are governed by the competition law, as well as "various regulations", such as those pertaining to safety.

The National Environment Agency said it "conducts surprise checks" on fuel retailers. In one recent check on three operators, the agency said their diesel met its stipulated cap on sulphur content and they bought their fuel from oil companies here.

The Consumers Association of Singapore said it supports competition in the fuel market as long as it is legal.

"We support anything that encourages competition," Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said. "Of course, we're talking about pumps that are properly managed to ensure fuel quality, safety and that the meters are properly calibrated."

Not all consumers are taken in by lower prices at white pumps.

Contractor Andy Goh, 45, said: "Even though some of them advertise that their diesel complies with Euro 5 (an emission standard), I don't feel safe. Their fuel quality is very different."

Cabby Victor Yow, 68, said: "There's no point, because Comfort (taxi operator ComfortDelGro) sells diesel at lower prices."
- See more at:

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Hong Leong deploys air purifiers, masks as precaution against haze

Channel NewsAsia 27 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: The Hong Leong Group has outlined the measures its companies will take should the haze hit Singapore and the air quality deteriorates to unhealthy levels.

In a statement on Friday (June 27), it said it has deployed air purifiers at all 28 Hong Leong Finance branches for the benefit of customers and staff.

Hong Leong Asia's Building Materials Group (BMG) - which produces ready mixed concrete and is also the largest producer of pre-cast concrete for housing in Singapore - is also encouraging workers to drink more water and seek medical treatment if they feel unwell, it added.

Outdoor work at BMG's operations in Sungei Kadut and Tuas will be minimised if the haze reaches hazardous levels, Hong Leong Group said.

Meanwhile, the five hotels run by Hong Leong subsidiary Millennium & Copthorne have issued about 3,500 N95 masks to staff. The hotels have stocked their lobby shops with the masks for guests, and will continue to update them of the hourly PSI readings via notice boards in the lobbies.

"In line with the Ministry of Manpower and National Environment Agency guidelines, the Hong Leong companies have also put in place health procedures where work is reduced and even stopped, depending on the haze levels," it said.

- CNA/kk

Air purifiers work, CASE tests find
Channel NewsAsia 27 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: A test of 10 air purifiers found that all of them performed efficiently in cleaning the air under hazy conditions, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) said on Friday (June 27).

In the test conducted by CASE in April this year, 10 different brands of air purifiers were randomly purchased off the shelves from retailers such as Courts, NTUC FairPrice, Harvey Norman and Parisilk Electronics & Computers. Two tests were conducted on the air purifiers to determine their efficiency in cleaning Respirable Suspended Particles (RSP) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) during times of haze.

For the RSP removal test, the Whirlpool AP628W performed the best with an elimination rate of 99.21 per cent, while the EuropAce EPU166C had the lowest elimination rate of 96.42 per cent. For the VOC removal test, the Whirlpool AP628W, EuropAce EPU166C and Philips AC4025/01 performed the best with a 100 per cent elimination rate, while the LG PS-S209WC had the lowest elimination rate of 99.55 per cent.

In a statement, CASE President Lim Biow Chuan advised consumers to compare prices and the performance of air purifiers between brands before deciding which to purchase. He also encouraged consumers to read instruction manuals on the correct way to use the air purifiers to ensure they function at their optimal level.


A survey was also conducted on N95 face masks to determine their availability in the market and to monitor the current retail prices. The survey was triggered by feedback received about drastic increases in prices of face masks during the haze period last year, when the price of a N95 face mask shot up to as high as S$8, CASE said.

The survey, conducted from June 13 to 15, randomly sampled 57 different authorised retailers island-wide to find out the availability and prices of the three leading brands of N95 masks – 3M, Kimberly-Clark and Paul-Boye.

The results showed that the masks were readily available from authorised retailers – Cold Storage, Guardian, NTUC FairPrice, Unity and Watsons. The most expensive mask was the 3M 9210 model, retailing at S$3.90 each at Guardian, and the cheapest was the 3M 9105 V-Flex model, retailing at S$11 for eight pieces (S$1.38 each) at Unity.

“Although there are a large variety of cheaper face masks offered for sale online or at unauthorised retailers, CASE would like to advise consumers to be cautious and refrain from purchasing from these unreliable sources, especially when the quality of the face masks is not assured,” Mr Lim said.

He cautioned parents to ensure that children reduce outdoor activities in unhealthy air conditions, as the N95 face masks sold in Singapore have not been certified for use for children.

- CNA/cy

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Malaysia: Haze - Air quality improves

The Star 29 Jun 14;

PETALING JAYA: The air quality in the country has improved with API readings between 17 and 85.

As of 8am Sunday, Nilai recorded the highest reading at 85 followed by Port Klang at 84.

Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya also recorded moderate readings with API of 75 and 74 respectively.

Most areas in Sabah, Sarawak and the East Coast of peninsular recorded improved readings with Sarikei (17), SMK Tanjung Chat in Kota Baru (75) and Kuala Terengganu (73).

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.

Palanivel: Readings show improving air quality all around
The Star 28 Jun 14;

KLANG: After a hazy few weeks in the peninsula, Malaysians have generally woken to clear skies.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said, as of 7am yesterday, 17 areas recorded good air quality while 34 others recorded moderate levels.

He cited the haze that hit several parts of the country, especially the Klang Valley, as transboundary smoke coupled with strong winds due to the west coast monsoon near Sumatra, Indonesia.

Saying that the situation was expected to last until September, he noted that the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) in Singapore had on Thursday showed moderate smoke surrounding the Riau territory in Indonesia.

“ASMC also reported that there are 37 hotspots in Sumatra and the wind direction shows that the smoke will be channelled to the west coast of the peninsula,” he said.

In a statement yesterday, he said the Department of Environment (DOE) director had on Tuesday written to the Environment Ministry in Indonesia, expressing Malaysians’ concern over the issue.

On the ministry’s effort to curb the situation locally, Palanivel said the Open Fire Prevention Action plan had been activated since February.

“Apart from increasing awareness campaigns, this plan includes prosecuting those caught for open burning and monitoring fire-prone areas,” he said.

As of Thursday, the DOE had recorded 3,973 cases related to open burning in the country. Of these, 276 cases had been compounded while warning notices were issued to 87 of them.

Selangor executive councillor in charge of environment, Elizabeth Wong, said the state is prepared for the worst-case scenario.

“Compared to the past, this time we have gone down to the district level to activate the District Disaster Committees to coordinate the multi-agency logistical assistance to the Fire and Rescue Department,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that Seberang Jaya 2 in Perai, Penang, recorded unhealthy air pollutant index (API) reading of 101 as at noon yesterday.

An API reading of zero to 50 indicates good air quality; 51-100, moderate; 101-200, unhealthy; 201-300, very unhealthy; and over 300, hazardous.

The public can call the Fire and Rescue Department at 999 or the DOE at its toll-free line, 1-800-88-2727, to report fire in large areas. For further updates, go to

23 areas record moderate air quality as of 9am
The Star 28 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 23 areas in Peninsular Malaysia recorded moderate air quality as of 9am, according to the Department of Environment (DOE) portal.

They include Port Klang and Petaling Jaya (79); Bakar Arang (Sungai Petani), Nilai, Seberang Jaya 2 (Perai) and Banting (75); Shah Alam (74); Batu Muda (Kuala Lumpur)(73); and Kuala Selangor (70).

The others were Alor Setar (61), Perai (67); Cheras (64); Seremban, Universiti Sains Malaysia (Penang), SK Jalan Pegoh (Ipoh)(62); Bukit Rambai and Putrajaya (63).

Other areas nationwide recorded good Air Pollutant Index (API) reading.

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy and over 301, hazardous.

Members of the public can refer to the DOE portal at to find out the current API reading. - Bernama

Penangites enjoy rain, brief reprieve from haze
MELISSA DARLYNE CHOW New Straits Times 27 Jun 14;

GEORGE TOWN: Penangites experienced a brief moment of reprieve from the haze, with scattered showers throughout the state this afternoon.

The rain brought a momentary coolness to the atmosphere, which had been hot and humid previously.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading for the Seberang Jaya 2 station on the mainland had been hovering close to unhealthy levels at 98 as early as 6am today.

The reading at the station gradually increased and crossed into the unhealthy territory of 101 at 10am, only dropping a notch at 3pm today.

The levels registered at the Perai and USM stations, on the other hand, remained in the mid-80s, with the current readings at 84 as at 3pm.

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