Best of our wild blogs: 6 Jul 14

Favourite Nectaring Plants #4
from Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West (04 Jul 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

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Open house at Raffles Lighthouse

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Jul 14;

MR V. Uthrapathi, 51, thought he would be lonely working 10-day stretches maintaining Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu, Singapore's southernmost island which is out of bounds, like the lighthouse.

But after 20 years as a lighthouse keeper, he is quick to point out the perks: the sea breeze that makes nights on the tiny isle comfortable, the peace and quiet, and the occasional sighting of dolphins.

During World Cup season, another draw is watching the matches for free, he said, as television signals from Malaysia and Indonesia can be picked up from Satumu, 23km south-west of Singapore's main island, a 60-minute boat ride from the mainland.

But the silence that the stocky Mr Uthrapathi enjoys may turn into oohs and aahs later this month, as the Raffles Lighthouse welcomes crowds during this year's Singapore HeritageFest, which will, for the first time, include a Lighthouse Trail featuring three lighthouses.

The trail will not only take visitors out to Pulau Satumu, but also on a bus ride to see the former Fullerton Lighthouse at Marina Bay.

They will also sail past the lighthouse on Sultan Shoal, near Jurong Island, during the 90-minute boat ride from Marina South Pier.

The National Heritage Board, which is organising the HeritageFest, said response to this year's offerings has been overwhelming.

It is working to add more tours beyond the festival period, to cater to the demand for the island tours.

The Raffles Lighthouse was built in 1885, the second-oldest of Singapore's five still in use.

The oldest is Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca, off the mainland's eastern shore, which goes back to 1851.

Visitors will get the rare chance to climb Raffles Lighthouse's 88 spiralling steps to the glass-panelled dome that sits 29m off the ground, about six storeys up.

In it is its most-prized possession - an array of quartz halogen lamps in aluminium reflectors that emit white light visible from 20 nautical miles away.

Light pulses, three white flashes every 20 seconds, not only function as a location indicator, but also warn seafarers of treacherous rocks and reefs.

Visitors will see maritime artefacts, such as lanterns and wind gauges used in the 1970s, in a small museum that used to be the generator room.

Electricity from the generators was used to power and rotate the navigational lantern until 1988, when the revolving system was automated. Today, the lights are powered by solar energy.

From the Raffles Lighthouse dome, visitors can see the nearby Pulau Senang, the subject of a recent play about a failed penal settlement on the isle in the 1960s.

Despite her 129 years, Raffles Lighthouse is still well-preserved with a gleaming white exterior and polished original, century-old brass fittings, thanks to lighthouse keepers like Mr Uthrapathi. They take turns to work in pairs for 10-day shifts. Before automation, a seven-man crew stayed on the island for a month.

During their stint, the keepers perform tasks such as cleaning the light equipment and glass panels and ensuring batteries are charged. Every four hours, they have to check that the lights are working.

They make rounds on foot around the 1.3ha island, roughly the size of two small football fields, to ensure vessels do not breach the 300m radius around it.

"About 15 years ago, I saw one boat nearing the island at night with no light," said Mr Uthrapathi, who used to work as a horse trainer. He quickly notified the Coast Guard.

Besides Raffles, this year's HeritageFest Lighthouse Trail also features the Sultan Shoal Lighthouse. Built in 1896, it remained an isolated, outlying lighthouse off Singapore's west coast up till the 1970s. But Ms Tan Teng Teng, a heritage researcher, said there might soon no longer be a need for it.

"With land reclamation along the west coast and the combination of seven nearby islands to form Jurong Island, the Sultan Shoal Lighthouse is boxed in on three sides," she said.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore manages Singapore's five lighthouses. Only one of them is on the mainland, in Bedok, while the rest are on offshore isles.

The Republic also has two decommissioned lighthouses - Fullerton and Fort Canning - that were retired after their surrounding areas became too built-up and obstructed the view of the navigational light to mariners at sea.

Mr Wilfred Lau, 85, who visited Raffles Lighthouse in the 1950s while working as a project engineer, said Pulau Satumu was different then.

There was no television for the keepers and more manual labour was required to keep the lighthouse running, he said. "It's a lot more comfortable now," he said.

"The keepers also get 10 days on, 10 days off - I like that kind of job."

But Mr Uthrapathi said that while he appreciated its peace and modern-day comforts, there was one thing - or one person - missing.

"I miss my four-year-old daughter back home."


Where: Pulau Satumu, or One Tree Island in Malay.

What: Singapore's second-oldest lighthouse was built in 1885, using granite from Pulau Ubin.


Where: Pedra Branca, which means "white rock" in Portuguese, is about 40km from the mainland's eastern shore. What: Built in 1851, it is Singapore's oldest lighthouse.

Pedra Branca was at the centre of a territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia for almost three decades.

Six years ago, the International Court of Justice awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore.


Where: Sultan Shoal, which marks the western entrance to the Straits of Singapore, near Jurong Island.

What: Singapore's third lighthouse was built in 1896.


Where: On top of a 25-storey apartment block in the Lagoon View condominium in East Coast.

What: It is due to be moved to Block 3, Marine Terrace, in the third quarter of next year.

No reason was given but both locations are unique as lighthouses are typically built on the shore or on rocky outcrops and rarely on apartments.


Where: On Pulau Pisang, an island about 15km from the Malaysian coastal town of Pontian.

What: It is in Malaysian territory but owned and managed by Singapore. The British government signed a contract with the Johor Sultanate for the right to build and manage a lighthouse on the island.

The right passed to Singapore under international law when it became an independent country.

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Ways to bring history to life

The Straits Times Forum AsiaOne 6 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE - It is not surprising that the island-hopping trails in the Singapore HeritageFest, especially the lighthouse trail, drew overwhelming response ("HeritageFest website flooded with bookings for island-hopping trails"; Wednesday).

Many, including my family, can only hope that more such trails can be organised in future.

The visit to Raffles Lighthouse, which has played a strategic role in our maritime history, is probably the first of its kind that is open to the public. Many of us have learnt about the lighthouse through books, but what can beat visiting the actual site?

Secondary schools could consider working with the authorities to take students to the lighthouse, to bring history lessons to life.

The authorities could also explore making such trips available all year round, possibly at least once a month, charging a nominal fee of, say, $10 per adult and $5 per student or senior citizen.

The authorities could consider working with the Singapore Tourism Board to promote trails and activities that showcase our culture and traditions to foreign visitors. Singapore is not merely a food paradise and shopping haven; it has much more to offer.

Lim Lih Mei (Ms)

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Community spaces for all: Desmond Lee

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 5 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The government on its own cannot be the final decision maker for the use of spaces within the community, but will have to work closely with residents and other stakeholders.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said this at a focus group discussion on Saturday.

The focus group was attended by some 40 people, including members from non-government organisations, grassroots leaders and representatives from other interest groups.

The discussion is part of the review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which sets out a framework for the next phase of the nation's development.

Parks and scenic spots allow Singaporeans to reconnect with nature, but the lack of amenities such as toilets and drinking water spots along the way may discourage some from fully utilising the space.

So some participants suggested opening food and beverage outlets run by non-government organisations, which in turn employ residents in the area.

One of the other issues that repeatedly cropped up was the under-usage of spaces such as those under fly-overs as well as void decks, and participants pointed out that tweaks in design, for example, could result in such spaces becoming a place of greater interaction in the community.

Some said the rows of fixed benches and chairs under void decks can be swapped for mobile furniture to create a more dynamic space.

Dr Chong Keng Hua, assistant professor of architecture and sustainable design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), said the space could be "a very adaptive environment that is more vibrant".

"So how can we make our place more secure and more vibrant for different groups of community at the same space? I think that's something we can look at in the future," he added.

Many agreed that the key to all these ideas is a government that is willing to be consultative from the start -- being more flexible in the design and use of spaces, and operating with a "light-touch".

Mr Desmond Lee said the government over the years has become more consultative and work with different interest groups in co-creating spaces.

He said: "At the very start, the government will take all these ideas back and we will look at how we can, on our own, facilitate that ground-up process.

"Perhaps we look at our rules, we look at the way we do things, we look at the trade-offs that we are so used to looking at, and seeing where we can allow latitude."

Mr Lee said it is also about working more closely with people who want to use community spaces, while ensuring they remain inclusive to all.

- CNA/fa/al

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Malaysia: Developers to pay when reclaiming Iskandar land

zazali musa The Star 6 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: Property developers involved in land reclamation activities within Iskandar Malaysia have to contribute 30 sen for each square foot of reclaimed land.

Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the new ruling would take effect immediately for ongoing reclamation works, completed projects on reclaimed land and new projects.

“The money collected from them will be channelled into a Fishermen’s Fund to assist fishermen in south Johor whose livelihood is affected by land reclamation,” he told reporters yesterday.

Mohamed Khaled said about 3,237.48ha of land would be reclaimed within the country’s first economic growth corridor under its Comprehensive Development Plan from 2006 to 2025.

“Based on our estimation, the state government will be able to collect RM104mil from developers whose projects are sited on reclaimed land,” he said, adding that the state government would not give approval to developers who declined to contribute to the fund.

Mohamed Khaled said the fund, which would be managed by the state financial officer, was only for eligible fishermen.

Similarly, he said another fund would be set up for Pengerang residents involved in the multi-billion Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex in Kota Tinggi.

Separately, he said Johor had submitted its proposal to the Federal Government to impose a levy on Singaporean cars entering Malaysia about six months ago.

Mohamed Khaled said Johor had proposed a RM20 levy on Singaporean cars, of which RM5 would go to the state and the money could be used to maintain roads.

“We leave it to the Federal Government as it is their prerogative,” he said.

Fund for Iskandar fishermen
Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 6 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: DEVELOPERS undertaking reclamation work along the seafront in Iskandar Malaysia will have to contribute 30 sen for each square foot of land reclaimed, to a fund set up by the state.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the contribution would be used to help fishermen whose livelihood had been affected by the reclamation.

He said the decision, which was reached at a recent state executive council meeting, would take effect immediately.

“Developers will have to contribute 30 sen for each square foot of land they reclaim.

“The payment must be made before they start the reclamation projects. The payment system will be retrospective and will include projects already undertaken.”

He said the decision was made following complaints from fishermen in Iskandar Malaysia that the reclamation projects had affected their livelihood.

“There are 3,237.5ha of reclamation projects approved for Iskandar Malaysia, which means that the state government can collect RM104 million for the fund.

“The affected fishermen will receive cash assistance from the fund annually beginning next year and the amount that they will receive will be announced during the state budget presentation,” said Khaled, adding that the fund would be managed by the state financial officer.

The state government has already directed the Land Office to issue letters to the developers.

Khaled was speaking to the media after chairing the state Umno liaison committee meeting here yesterday.

He said the state government was also looking at several options to help those affected by the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC).

“There are several suggestions and we are studying the best mechanism to help those affected.”

The residents of six villages affected by the project will be relocated to new settlement areas under Phase 1 of the PIPC.

The villages involved are Kampung Sungai Kapal, Kampung Langkah Baik, Kampung Teluk Empang, Kampung Jawa, Kampung Batu Mas and Kampung Sebong.

The PIPC is set to become the region’s oil and gas (O&G) hub and promises to provide some 70,000 jobs to locals.

It aims to attract RM170 billion in investments in the next 10 to 15 years. It is also home to Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s (Petronas) RM89 billion Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid), which will spearhead the country’s and the region’s O&G hub aspiration.

On another matter, Khaled said the state government was studying the possibility of allowing property developers to pay the necessary fees they were required to pay the state government in kind, namely by giving commercial lots that they are developing to the state government, instead of paying in cash.

“We will award these commercial lots to Bumiputera entrepreneurs as it will boost Bumiputera ownership of commercial properties in the new development areas. At the moment, most Bumiputera entrepreneurs can’t afford to own commercial properties. This is one of the ways the state government is helping them.”

On the state government’s proposal to impose a levy on Singapore-registered vehicles entering Johor, Khaled said he was waiting for a decision from the Federal Government.

“I hope the Federal government will understand the need to expedite the decision,” said Khaled.

Singapore had recently expressed concern over the massive reclamation works in Johor to build a man-made island in the Straits of Johor, near the Second Link off Tuas.

It is concerned about the potential transboundary effects of the project called Forest City, which involves several connected islands with a total land size of about 2,000ha.

The Department of Environment had issued a temporary stop-work order against all coastal land reclamation works for the project following a decision to study in greater detail the environmental impact of the project.

The project is being jointly developed by Chinese property developer Country Garden Holdings and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

Special fund for fishermen affected by Iskandar Malaysia: Khaled
Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 5 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: The state government will set up a special fund to help fishermen who are affected by the reclamation projects in Iskandar Malaysia.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the decision was made at a recent Exco meeting and all developers who undertake reclamation projects in the area will contribute to the fund.

"The developers will have to contribute 30 sen for each square foot of land that they reclaim. The payment must be made before they start the reclamation projects and we will collect the payment retrospectively," said Khaled.

He said the decision was made following complaints from fishermen in Iskandar Malaysia who said that the reclamation projects have affected their livelihood.

"There are almost 8,000 acres (3,237.5 hectares) of reclamation projects that have been approved in Iskandar Malaysia, which means that the state government can collect about RM104 million for the fund.

"The affected fishermen will received the cash assistance from the fund annually starting next year and the amount that they will receive will be announced during the state budget announcement," said Khaled, adding that the fund will be managed by the state financial officer.

The menteri besar was speaking to the media after chairing the state Umno liaison committee meeting.

Johor to impose 30 sen payment for every sq ft of sea reclamation
The Star 6 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: Johor will impose a payment of 30 sen for every sq ft on developers involved in sea reclamation works in the state with immediate effect.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the approach, to be enforced immediately, aimed at creating a special aid to assist fishermen whose livelihood was affected by the reclamation works.

"With a total acreage of 3,237.48 hectares in reclamation activities in and around Iskandar Malaysia, a total of RM104mil is expected to be received.

"The state government has directed the Land Office to issue letters to developers and it will take effect immediately.

“The payment system made will be retrospective, including for projects that are already undertaken," he told a news conference after chairing the Johor Umno Liasion Body meeting Sunday.

However, he said the actual number of aid to be channelled to the fishermen would be decided and announced during the budget presentation this November.

Mohamed Khaled said the state government was aware and took seriously the issue of the fishermen whose livelihood was affected by the sea reclamation works in several areas in the Iskandar Malaysia development region.

He said Johor also set up an international zone as a centralised area for foreigners interested to reside in the state.

The international zone enables the state government to limit property purchase by foreigners outside the zone that could not be fully controlled previously.

With the existence of the zone, the difference in the rate of taxes will be collected by the local authorities to be used to develop areas outside Johor Baru district. - Bernama

Johor to tax developers for sea reclamation
Today Online 7 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR — Developers involved in sea reclamation work in the Malaysian state of Johor will have to pay a RM0.30 (S$0.12) tax for every square foot as part of a special aid programme for fishermen whose livelihoods are affected by the work, the state’s Chief Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin said yesterday.

Mr Mohamed Khaled said the state expected to collect RM104 million from a total acreage of 3,237.48ha of reclamation activities in and around the Iskandar special economic region that would come under the payment scheme, The Star reported.

Developers would be receiving letters informing them of the move, which takes effect immediately, he said.

Noting that the state government was serious about the issue of fishermen affected by the sea reclamation work, he said the amount of aid to be disbursed to the fishermen would be decided and announced at a budget meeting in November.

Mr Mohamed Khaled also said Johor would set up an international zone designated for foreigners interested in residing in the state.

The zone would allow the state government to limit property purchases by foreigners and the special taxes collected in the zone would be allocated towards the development of other areas outside the Johor Baru district, he added.

A massive reclamation project in Johor recently came under scrutiny both within the state and in neighbouring Singapore after the Republic and non-governmental organisations raised concerns over the environmental impact of the project.

The Forest City project, a housing development in the Straits of Johor near Singapore’s Second Link, involves creating a 1,817ha island almost three times the size of Ang Mo Kio and includes a 49ha tourist hub as well as luxury homes.

Singapore had earlier expressed concerns about the possible transboundary impact of the reclamation work in the Strait and requested more information from Malaysia so that it would be able to undertake a study on the impact of the reclamation work.

Malaysian media reports later said several amendments were expected to be made to the project to minimise the environmental impact. AGENCIES

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Malaysia: Environment Department powers upgraded during haze

New Straits Times 5 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has given special authority to 194 officers of the Department of Environment (DOE) nationwide to detain environment criminals without warrant, said its minister, Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.

He said under Section 37C of the Environment Quality Act, officers have the authority to take action against an offender who compromised public welfare and health, including through open burning.

“During the haze, officers can arrest any individual for committing an offence under the act,” he said in a statement here today.

He said the number of hotspots detected through the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite images at several locations in the country dropped from 12 last Wednesday to six yesterday, with three in Sarawak, and one each in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and Pahang.

However, the satellite images could not show the actual number of hotspots because of the presence of thick clouds, he said.

Palanivel said hotspots detected in the country would be investigated and appropriate enforcement action taken, adding that 46 hotspots had also been detected in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The number of open burning cases remained at 4,007, the same as yesterday. Bernama

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Malaysia: Resort’s marine team releases rescued turtle

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 6 Jul 14;

KOTA KINABALU: WHEN “Ninja”, the green sea turtle was rescued in April, she was in a bad state — malnourished, covered with barnacles and suffering from a bacterial infection.

Those who treated her feared she might not survive in captivity.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) officers rescued her from a farmer in Papar as he was loading her into the back of his car.

“We do not know the cause of the bacterial infection.

“It could be due to the turtle being kept in a cage for a long time because only turtles with low activity will get such a large amount of barnacles,” said SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan.

The young turtle, aged between seven and 10, was brought to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.

As the department has only veterinary support and does not possess facilities to care for marine life, SWD contacted Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre (GIRMC) and transferred the turtle there.

“Ninja was treated with antibiotics for three weeks,” said Sen.

Ninja was the fourth turtle to be taken in by the centre.

As she refused to eat in the first week, Sen had described her condition as “touch and go”. However, she started getting better after 10 days.

After three months and under the watchful eye of GIRMC marine biologist Scott Mayback, her weight increased from 7.7kg to 8.6kg.

She was deemed fit and was released last Friday into the waters just outside the centre.

“Credit should be given to the centre,” said Sen.

“It is the first turtle rescue centre in the country.

“Since we do not have the logistical support or capability to care for injured turtles, we will be working together with the centre by transferring rescued turtles there for treatment.

“Other coastal resorts should consider establishing marine centres.

“Actually, we do not need many, just two in the west coast and two in the east coast of Sabah was good enough to handle cases such as stranded turtles.”

Sen who is also the department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit head, said SWD did not handle marine wildlife and 90 per cent of the cases it handled involved terrestrial wildlife.

He said the department and the Kuala Penyu district office were looking into turtle conservation.

“We’ve released 92 baby turtles. This number will not have an immediate impact on the population. However, what is important is people remain committed, especially in gaining the involvement of the local community.”

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