Best of our wild blogs: 20 Jul 14

Bukit Brown Exhibition : Documenting New Horizons of Knowledge
from Rojak Librarian

Life History of the Cycad Blue
from Butterflies of Singapore

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NEA to continue stepping up enforcement against litterbugs

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 19 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) will continue to step up enforcement against litterbugs, but it is hoped this will ease once the anti-littering message is ingrained.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that after an event to clean up the Bedok South Road area. The event, called “Operation WE Clean Up!” was organised by the Public Hygiene Council, the Singapore Kindness Movement and the Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement.

Recent NEA figures show that more than 9,200 summons were issued for littering in the first six months of the year -- just short of the 9,346 for the whole of last year.

More than 360 participants, together with the minister himself, got in on the litter-picking action on Saturday, with participants covering an area comprising some 60 blocks.

Naeson Menon, a Temasek Junior College student, said: "Most of the litter around is very small things that people, when they throw, may think it won't matter, it won't make a difference, but actually all the small things coming together form a lot of litter everywhere and it's quite unsightly."

Bedok was a litter 'hotspot' in 2012, but efforts by residents to keep it clean transformed it into what the Public Hygiene Council calls a 'Bright Spot'.

Chia Ngiang Hong, chairman of Bedok Citizens’ Consultative Committee, said: "We'd pick up the rubbish, take pictures and during functions and events, we'd show them the effect their rubbish has on our environment, and this seems to have sunk in and has been effective.

“I mean compared to two years ago, when they started the same exercise, they'd pick up about 300kg of rubbish. Now it's only 120kg. Still a lot but it's a lot of improvement from two years ago."

The idea is to pick up litter and separate it into bags, with the waste going into the blue bag and the recyclables going into the green bag. It may sound easy, but imagine doing this around the estate -- where the litter can range from the easier-to-spot items to the harder ones like cigarette butts.

It seems cigarette butts continue to be a common problem.

Speaking to the participants, Dr Balakrishnan spoke of a man who was smoking close to where they were picking up litter.

"His friend told him, 'Please don't throw your cigarette butt. You see they're all picking them up.' And you know what the guy told his friend in front of him, 'Don't worry, this is the cleaner's job',” he said.

Elaborating later, Dr Balakrishnan said enforcement, along with education and public engagement, will need to be stepped up.

"To expect someone to clean up after you and say that is the cleaner's job is not acceptable. And the fact that I come around and pick up your cigarette butt, and even if I don't say anything to you, will make you pause and think and reflect -- we need more of such encounters."

Dr Balakrishnan said it's about reaching a stage where Singapore's cleanliness is a reflection of intrinsic civic values.

- CNA/fa/nd

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Guidelines drafted on animal welfare in Singapore

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 19 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: A 15-member committee comprising animal lovers, parliamentarians, and grassroots leader have come up with guidelines on what the basic standard of animal welfare in Singapore should be.

The guidelines, collected in two Codes of Animal Welfare which applies to pet owners and businesses, have been submitted to the authorities for review.

Animal welfare has never been clearly defined in Singapore, and it is the first time such guidelines are being drafted here.

For example, owners must give their pets a clean and safe living environment as well as a well-balanced diet. For businesses, there is a separate set of guidelines, such as ensuring animals are comfortable and safe during transport.

"We try not to be too prescriptive when we actually formulate the code. But it's important to set a clear definition of what are good welfare standards,” said Yeo Guat Kwang, patron of Pets Enterprises & Traders Association Singapore, who is also the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

“Because we have already consulted quite widely, I think this will be something definitely not onerous. It'll be something that is quite easy for everyone to comply and more importantly, it's not so much to try to actually make it to be enforceable, it's important for everyone to be aware that this is the basic care standard that we should have for all the pets and animals in Singapore."

In drafting the Codes, the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee referred to existing ones in Australia, New Zealand and UK. But it adapted them to fit Singapore's climate and context.

"Singapore is a lot more urban environment. We're a lot smaller in terms of overall space, so we have to take those norms into consideration,” said Alex Yam, chairman of the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee.

“Of course some things like free-roaming areas so on and so forth. We're quite a built-up area, so those are some of the things that we're unable to include."

The committee also held a one-month consultation online and received some 2,000 comments from some 600 people. Mr Yam, who is also MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said 90 per cent of the respondents agreed with what the codes spell out.

Those in the pet industry say the codes are long-awaited and are a positive development for Singapore.

"A lot of pet owners, they buy without doing proper research. And I feel that with the pet industry being on board with this and also educating the staff how to provide point-of-sale education, this can really help in terms of letting the owners know what they're getting into before they actually own a pet," said Veron Lau, vice president of the Cat Welfare Society and member of the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee.

"Accreditation is necessary to increase the standard of grooming in Singapore. Definitely it will affect some of the business because currently not all of them undergo proper training. But for myself, I think it's quite good because I will know where my standard is, and I think everybody will know where my standard is as well," said Brana Choy, a pet groomer.

Mr Yeo is hoping to table a Private Member's Bill in Parliament in September to amend the Animals and Birds Act. If the law is amended, authorities enforcing the Animals and Birds Act will be able to refer to the Codes of Animal Welfare, if needed.

- CNA/ec

AVA reviewing animal welfare codes
Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times 20 Jul 14;

Pet owners here should provide their pets with a balanced diet and fresh drinking water, monitor their health regularly and not leave them in vehicles in conditions that cause heat stress or distress.

These are just a few of the guidelines from the codes of animal welfare for pet owners and businesses, submitted to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) for review by a group looking into the issue here.

"The codes were formulated because there was no clear, agreed definition of what is deemed as good welfare standards," said Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and a member of the group called the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee for Animal Welfare (MSCC).

Animal abuse cases here have gone up 28.3 per cent from 377 in 2008 to 484 in 2012, according to AVA figures. Animal cruelty is now prosecuted under the Animals and Birds Act, but critics said its provisions are vague on how cruelty is defined.

The codes are guidelines for best practices and minimum standards for pets, but they can be used as a reference to support the investigation and prosecution of an offence. A summary of these was put up on the AVA's website yesterday.

Speaking to reporters at a Pet Enterprise and Traders Association of Singapore event at Asia Square yesterday, Mr Yeo said the codes were devised based on feedback from around 600 members of the public in a month-long e-consultation earlier this year.

The committee also looked at the welfare standards in countries like New Zealand and consulted different pet industry stakeholders.

In September, Mr Yeo will table a private Member's Bill in Parliament with a few other MPs to amend the Animals and Birds Act. One of the proposals will be to empower the AVA to issue or adopt the animal welfare codes. Law Minister K. Shanmugam had also said earlier that penalties for animal abusers would be stiffened.

The codes are divided into one for pet owners and another for pet businesses. Specific guidelines are also set out for different animals.

For example, one suggestion for owners of small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters is that they should microchip and sterilise their pets, where feasible.

As for dog owners, the codes suggest they provide cold climate breeds with adequate shade, good fan ventilation or air conditioning.

The guidelines also say pet businesses should check on the health of the pets at least once a day and ensure that all animals are physically fit, healthy and free of diseases prior to mating.

Ms Veron Lau, vice-president of the Cat Welfare Society, said: "On the ground, we see the need for these codes because animal cruelty cases are often not able to move forward due to the lack of guidelines. This is an important first step in crystallising the framework for animal welfare.

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New lab to test, develop solar panels

Today Online 19 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE — Against growing global demand for solar energy, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) has opened a new facility to develop and test new solar panels under one roof.

The S$6 million facility, described by SERIS — which is part of the National University of Singapore — as the only one of its kind in South-east Asia, could also allow for more solar panels to be tested at once when the facility, which serves both the academic community and industry, acquires new equipment in the future.

The opening of the 1,700sqm facility yesterday comes as the total installed capacity of grid-connected solar photovoltaic modules rose from 0.4 megawatt-peak (MWp) in 2008 to 18.1MWp in Singapore as of the first quarter of this year, according to Energy Market Authority figures.

The space brings together existing facilities, which will save time, said SERIS deputy chief executive officer Thomas Reindl at the official opening yesterday. “You can basically make a (solar) module in the morning, torture it in the late afternoon, (and) you would find out whether the idea that you had in the morning was good or not,” Dr Reindl said.

At the lab, solar panels are subject to “torture” to assess their durability in a tropical climate. This includes shining UV light on it or immersing it in moist tropical air. Solar panels are required to last more than 20 years, he said. The lab will also facilitate the research and development of the pilot production of panels with innovative designs.

Dr Reindl added that by establishing Singapore as a global test centre, Singapore will attract many industry players to establish their regional headquarters here, bringing with them revenue for the country.

New solar lab shines in tropical research
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE - The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) yesterday opened the only full-scale facility that can test and develop solar modules in South-east Asia, and showed off a system adapted for Singapore's climate.

The $6 million, 1,700 sq m facility at CleanTech Park in Jurong, which serves both academic and industry clients, brings together existing facilities previously located elsewhere at the National University of Singapore and International Business Park.

Most other solar facilities are not in the tropics, so this one has the "natural advantage" of being able to conduct long-term outdoor tests of solar panels in such a climate, said Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive of Seris, the national institute for applied solar research.

Besides outdoor testing, the facility can produce full-size solar modules for research purposes; simulate full sun evenly across the surface of a panel to benchmark its performance; simulate various climate conditions; and test the mechanical loads that panels can withstand.

It will also enable more researchers to interact, and adds capacity to test more modules at the same time, he added.

Seris aims to make Singapore the global test centre for solar systems in the tropics, he said.

The main hurdle to solar power being used in South-east Asia is cost. In Singapore, the high price of electricity makes solar energy an attractive alternative, though the total installed capacity is a paltry 15 to 20 megawatts.

Already, solar makers here and from countries like Malaysia, component makers, and buyers have engaged its testing services.

Yesterday, Seris showed a new "Singapore module" adapted to its climate. Composed of solar cells encased in a tough glass frame, the model has waterproofing to withstand humidity, and textured glass that allows cells to soak in Singapore's diffuse light instead of smooth glass that would reflect too much.

Work on the module began in 2011. Dr Reindl said Seris is discussing commercialising the product with several companies.

Seris is evaluating proposals to float 10 solar systems each with 100-kilowatt peak ratings on Tengeh Reservoir by the end of this year.

It is developing a website to show the solar-energy potential of each rooftop in Singapore. This could be online by the second quarter of next year.

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Malaysia: New growth plan for Johor

New Straits Times 20 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: The state government will launch its Strategic Growth Plan for Johor at the end of the year in an effort to boost the state’s economy by attracting more investors.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the plan would focus on five key areas that could boost the economy yet would not compromise the state’s practices and traditions.

He said the state government would ensure that Johor remained competitive in the national and global arena.

“At the moment I cannot give a detailed description of the plan, as we need to wait till it is unveiled in November.

“The plan is something that can lead Johor towards a more dynamic future,” he said after the launch of the second phase of the Frontier industrial park called Frontier Industrial Park 2 in Ulu Tiram, here yesterday.

Present were State Secretary Datuk Ismail Karim, State Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Keong and WB Land Sdn Bhd managing director Woon Leng Yet.

Khaled said sustainable growth was important not only to enhance the state’s economic growth but also ensure a better quality of life for the locals.

On the Frontier project, he said it had added value that could attract more investors to come to the state.

“Investors are very selective and always want the best, such as strategic location, facilities and project advantages offered in strategic locations to invest in.

“I see the launch of the project to be a benchmark for others who want to develop an industrial park.”

Frontier Industrial Park covers 25ha and is slated for completion by end of next year. It offers investors the concept of an industrial park that is equipped with various security features such as a guarded and gated environment complemented with closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs).

He said Iskandar Malaysia secured RM9.72 billion in new investments from April to June this year, bringing a total new investments for this year to RM14.56 billion.

From 2006 until June 30 this year, he said Iskandar Malaysia secured total cumulative committed investment of RM146.2 billion.

Johor aims to be economic powerhouse
The Star 20 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: Johor wants to position itself as Malaysia’s economic powerhouse by continuing to lure high-technology and capital-intensive investments into the state.

Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said Johor had the right eco-system and supporting factors needed to emerge as an economic powerhouse, including its strategic location at the international crossroads.

“Over the years, Johor has maintained its position as one of the top investment destinations in the country in the manufacturing segment,” he told reporters yesterday at the launch of the gated and guarded Frontier Industrial Park II project on a 25.08ha site in Desa Cemerlang here.

Mohamed Khaled said Johor had attracted RM14.4bil in investments in the manufacturing sector last year, which was the highest in the country. Of the total, RM11bil came from foreign investors.

Apart from the state’s strategic location and close proximity with Singapore, which was an added advantage in attracting investors, he said Johor also had skilled workers and good infrastructure.

“Iskandar Malaysia is another main factor that will continue to drive and spearhead economic growth and progress in the coming years,” he said.

Mohamed Khaled said Johor would be more selective in attracting domestic and foreign manufacturers to set up their operations, adding that priority would be given to capital-intensive investments.

He said that Johor was not only competing with other states in Malaysia in attracting investors but also with other countries in the region such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“We will launch the Johor Strategic Growth Plan in November by focusing on five key economic sectors as the push factors,” he said.

He added that industrial building developers in Johor should keep up the practice of offering “green and clean”, gated and guarded industrial parks.

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Indonesia, Jakarta: The giant reclamation

The Jakarta Post Editorial 19 Jul 14;

The plan to build a giant seawall and 17 manmade islands in northern Jakarta could be seen as a breakthrough in an effort to revamp the ugly look of the city’s coastal areas. On the other hand, it could also spark new problems, particularly if the planners fail to anticipate the adverse impact of the US$24.7 billion project on the environment.

Therefore, the environmental impact assessment (AMDAL), which is now being reviewed by the Environment Ministry, should guarantee that the megaproject has anticipated any possible ecological destruction as a result of the reclamation of 5,153 hectares of the sea north of the capital.

The multi-purpose project, known as the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD), involves both the central and Jakarta governments and is supported by seven property giants, according to Eko Budi Kurniawan, head of the urban department at the Public Works Ministry.

On the reclaimed islands, which will form the shape of a flying bird, various modern facilities including commercial centers, hotels, apartments and tourism spots will be built.

The reclamation is inspired by a previous project in Dubai, which has now become a prominent tourist destination.

Currently, despite its great economic potential, many parts of northern Jakarta look gloomy and poorly managed. The development of the new area is expected to have positive effects on the surrounding areas.

However, the ecological consideration should come first before the economic benefits. As a reminder, Jakarta under former governor Sutiyoso introduced a mass sea reclamation project. The plan ended in failure due to strong opposition from green activists, who feared that the project could worsen flooding and incite other new problems.

Therefore, the Environment Ministry needs to assess carefully the AMDAL to ensure that all possible environmental problems have been anticipated and addressed. The ministry will be held responsible for an environmental catastrophe resulting from the reclamation project.

The ministry also has to look closely into the AMDAL to ensure the developers have adequately anticipated environmental problems stemming from human activities in the new areas.

The developers, for example, have to develop sustainable waste management and ensure sustainable water resources.

Waste management is imperative because the city remains dependent on a landfill in the satellite city of Bekasi in West Java. The AMDAL should convince the city government that clean water supplies for the new islands will not burden the long-standing shortage plaguing Jakarta.

Many city residents rely on groundwater because tap water operators have been unable to fulfill the people’s needs.

In the future, the reclamation project could stand out as an icon of Jakarta and a symbol of the city’s prosperity, as well as the country’s burgeoning economy.

But it should never force Jakarta citizens to pay dearly for an environmental calamity if both the developers and the government ignore prudence.

History has taught that such risk cannot be belittled.

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