Best of our wild blogs: 11 Aug 14

Impact of fish farm on Pulau Semakau?
from wild shores of singapore

Checking up on Pulau Semakau South
from wild shores of singapore

Restoring Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
from mndsingapore

Butterflies Galore! : Common Dartlet
from Butterflies of Singapore

Favourite Nectaring Plants #5
from Butterflies of Singapore

Honeybees in my garden!- Crazy Insect Challenge
from My Nature Experiences

Aceh's largest peat swamp at risk from palm oil
from news by Rhett Butler

Apple Snails (Pomacea sp.) @ Tampines
from Monday Morgue

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Chan Chun Sing: What if population falls below four million?

Robin Chan The Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Aug 14;

WHEN discussions here turn to Singapore's potential population size, numbers such as six million and 10 million have been bandied around.

But yesterday, Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing offered another possible figure: a population size of below four million.

"Strangely, when we talk about any number, there is another scenario - a number below four million... It is not inconceivable that we have a scenario where the transient workers or others may not find us so attractive," he said at the annual dinner of the Economic Society of Singapore (ESS).

He noted that Singapore's current resident population is just about three million, while the rest who make up the total population of 5.3 million are foreigners who come and go.

Immigration and integration remain key challenges going forward and Singapore's ability to attract the right kind of immigrants is not a given, he pointed out.

Mr Chan, recalling the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, said that before it hit, there had been about 100,000 people in the queue for Housing Board flats.

But when the crisis hit, there was then a surplus of flats, in places such as Sengkang town.

"My sister got a unit in Sengkang. She had no neighbours for five years."

His point was that the Government had to not only plan for when there is an increase in the population size, but also for the possibility of a decline.

"I don't think people will say there is a number and we will go towards it. A lot depends on how attractive people find us as a place to work and live," he said.

He was asked by moderator Yeoh Lam Keong, vice-president of the ESS, at the dinner at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel, about what population size he thought would suit Singapore.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last year at the end of the debate on the Population White Paper that he expected the population in 2030 to be "significantly below 6.9 million", while former chief planner Liu Thai Ker said Singapore should plan for a population of 10 million possibly by the year 2100, Mr Yeoh noted.

Mr Chan said "nobody knows" what Singapore's future population size would be.

With technological changes, the type and quality of housing would also change and the living environment we can build is open to possibilities, he said.

"Will it be 10 million? Will it be less or more? Nobody knows."

Asked by Nanyang Technological University economics professor Ng Yew-Kwang whether the Government could resist anti-immigration pressures, because immigration had "enormous advantages for Singaporeans", Mr Chan said there were economic, social and political considerations, and much depended on how well immigrants could be integrated.

"What we hope to do is, first and foremost, not focus on numbers, but ask ourselves what are the opportunities we need to create for our younger generation to fulfil their dreams and aspirations."

He added that even as Singapore was slowing down the inflow of foreign labour, "we are clear in our mind, we can never compete on numbers".

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Authorities turn to public shaming of litterbugs, again

Siau Ming En Today Online 11 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE — Litterbugs beware, the authorities are turning to public shaming again to get you to stop tossing your trash indiscriminately.

In the first half of this year, 318 Corrective Work Orders (CWO) have been imposed by the courts, surpassing the 261 in the whole of last year, figures from the National Environment Agency (NEA) showed.

CWO, a penalty added to anti-littering laws here in 1992, involves making litterbugs pick up trash at places with high human traffic, such as neighbourhood centres. The punishment is meted out in lieu of or in addition to fines, which were doubled in April.

Littering has been thrown under the spotlight again in recent months, partly because of a spate of killer-litter incidents, including one that caused the death in June of an elderly woman, three weeks after she had been struck by a bicycle wheel allegedly flung from the 14th floor of a building by a teenage boy.

The authorities have tried various measures in the past year or so to tackle this anti-social behaviour, including installing surveillance cameras to catch litterbugs red-handed and enhancing fines. They have also considered giving volunteer littering police the power to book offenders.

The authorities are out in force to punish litterbugs: From January to June this year, the NEA issued 9,271 littering tickets, nearly as many as the 9,346 issued in the whole of last year. In 2012, 8,195 littering tickets were issued.

Various solutions to tackle littering have been thrown up in the media, ranging from punitive — such as splashing litterbugs’ faces on websites to shame them — to softer approaches, such as increasing education efforts. To the latter’s end, a Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools to get students to take ownership of community spaces was launched last month as an updated version of the Use Your Hands campaign, which started in 1976.

In response to TODAY’s queries, Mr Derek Ho, NEA director-general of the environmental public health division, said: “There is undoubtedly an element of public shame in being identified as litterbugs sentenced by the courts to perform supervised cleaning of public areas under CWOs.”

The NEA added that only 3.3 per cent of offenders who had performed CWO in the past two years have been caught littering again.

Asked if it would be a bigger deterrent if litterbugs were made to perform CWO at more public and crowded places, general-secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement William Wan said that as a “shaming approach, the more public, the better”. However, he noted that CWOs alone will not be effective as they have other undesirable psychological consequences on offenders.

Instead, he noted that CWOs should be stepped up and sustained over a short period, so people get the message, after which other efforts such as education can be taken to tackle the problem.

Chief executive officer of the Singapore Environment Council Jose Raymond added: “Ultimately, it is still down to personal behaviour, community ownership and responsibility.”

Both Dr Lee Bee Wah and Mr Liang Eng Hwa, chairperson and deputy chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment, respectively, also agreed that littering boils down to an attitude problem.

Dr Lee said: “When people are not socially disciplined (or) responsible, when people do not regard public areas as part of their own, they will be inclined to litter.”

Noting that there are numerous dustbins scattered in public places here, president of the Singapore Institute of Planners Evlyn Cheong said it is not as if people have no choice but to litter. She also cited the example of Japan, where it is difficult to find a dustbin, yet people do not litter because they take pride in keeping their surrounding environment clean.

Singaporeans can be less civic-conscious, thinking that someone will clean up their mess, she said, adding that Singaporeans need to be mindful of the need to dispose of litter into a dustbin even in places where they cannot be found.

Stepped-up blitz nets more litterbugs

Samantha Boh My Paper AsiaOne 11 Aug 14;

FACT: The number of litterbugs nabbed in the first six months of the year matches the total number nabbed throughout all of last year.

Fact: More people have been served with Corrective Work Orders (CWOs) in the first six months of this year than all of last year.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the sharp rise is a result of stepped-up enforcement efforts. Otherwise, we seem to be littering twice as frequently.

Slice the numbers any way you like, they don't make for pleasant reading.

The first six months of this year saw 9,271 people slapped with littering tickets. The total number for last year was 9,346.

The first six months of the year saw 318 CWOs served. All of last year saw just 261.

In fact, the spike began in the second half of last year, when 6,928 tickets for littering were issued. This was three times the number issued in the first half of last year.

This ties in with NEA's claim about ramping up enforcement.

Since May last year, NEA's officers have been putting in 35,000 enforcement hours each month, compared to 24,000 before that.

Wherever there are littering hot spots - NEA has identified 90 of them around hawker centres, MRT stations and shopping malls - there are more eyes waiting to nab litterbugs.

Derek Ho, NEA's Director-General, Environmental Public Health Division, said: "It is regrettable that some members of our society are not house-proud, even though Singapore is their home."

Jose Raymond, chief executive of the Singapore Environment Council, said it was a minority who were spoiling it for the majority that want a clean environment.

Lee Bee Wah, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment, said that the spike in the numbers could also signal that there is a "high percentage of people who are littering indiscriminately".

This, despite harsher penalties.

Since April this year, penalties for littering are twice as harsh.

Offenders face a maximum fine of $2,000 for the first conviction, $4,000 for the second conviction and $10,000 for the third and subsequent convictions.

Of those who performed corrective work in the past two years, only 3.3 per cent were subsequently caught for littering again, said the NEA.

But stiffer penalties can go only so far.

Said Mr Raymond: "Ultimately, it is still down to personal behaviour."

Ms Lee said some might litter because they feel they are "entitled to as they pay for cleaners to clean up after them".

She added: "At the end of the day, there will be no quick fix. It will take some more years before the message sinks in, just as we got rid of spitting in public."

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Large-scale clean-up operation after NDP

Khoo Fang Xuan Channel NewsAsia 10 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: Hours after the National Day Parade ended on Saturday (Aug 9), the clean-up began at the Marina Bay floating platform and the F1 Pit Building. The organisers said they used more equipment and machinery this year compared to previous years and picked up about 13 tonnes of waste.

The audience was encouraged to dispose of their litter with trash bags included in this year's Funpacks. But there was still plenty of rubbish to clear.

Organisers said the clean-up began at about 10pm. It involved about 50 workers who used blowers to gather small pieces of trash, as well as heavy machinery.

The clean-up was completed by 4:30am, well before the National Environment Agency's cut-off time of 6am.

Seah Yong Huat, amenities, works and services manager at NDP Committee, said: "Between the seats, the spaces are narrow, and there's a small gap. People tend to put the litter in between the seats. So with the blower, we can blow out all the small litter, and with the vacuum cleaners, we can suck out the small litter. This will help the cleaners and the entire cleaning process."

- CNA/xq

49 years old, still badly behaved

The New Paper AsiaOne 13 Aug 14;

Ugly: Rubbish left behind at the National Day Parade.

SINGAPORE - After the spectacular show of the National Day Parade came the stupendous clean-up.

After the VIP guests, the cheering crowds and the troupes of performers left the Marina Bay area on Saturday night, a legion of cleaners moved in.

And after all the flag-waving, some of those flags had to be swept into trash bags.

It was a rather sad picture on the first day of Singapore's 50th year as an independent nation.

Even sadder was an act of mischief in Ang Mo Kio.

National flags that had been put up for Singapore's 49th birthday were found damaged yesterday morning.

Town council workers were seen putting up new flags in the HDB estate in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

The flag poles had been broken, but there was no damage to the flags themselves, Channel NewsAsia quoted them as saying.

Police said they had classified the case as an act of mischief and were investigating.
- See more at:

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Summer temperatures spark fears for Gulf coral reefs

Vesela Todorova The National 10 Aug 14;

With summer temperatures in the Arabian Gulf generally beyond the tolerance threshold of many coral species, forecasts of unusually warm seas this year are being met with trepidation by marine scientists.

Climate experts have predicted a high likelihood of extreme warming of the water this year because of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, a cyclical periodic shift in the Pacific Ocean that affects weather around the world. In 1997-1998, the phenomenon caused elevated water temperatures in many parts of the world, resulting in large-scale coral die-offs, known as coral bleaching.

In the Arabian Gulf, the highest magnitude of coral bleaching ever was observed, said Dr John Burt, an associate professor of biology at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). “We lost 90 per cent of the live coral in many of the reefs,” said the school’s head of the marine biology laboratory. “That had a devastating impact on reefs here and in the wider region. The reefs are still recovering.”

Warnings of a significant increase in water temperature this year have raised the concerns.

“Virtually all of the models were predicting a 90 per cent chance of an extreme El Nino event this year,” said Dr Burt.

During routine monitoring of local coral sites earlier this summer, Dr Burt recorded a higher than usual maximum sea temperatures of 32°C in the Gulf of Oman and 34°C in shallower waters near Abu Dhabi. Such temperatures were not unusual for the region at this time of year.

“It has not gone the way they thought it would,” he said, adding that experts were predicting a 60 to 70 per cent chance of moderate to strong warming.

Dr Burt and his associate, Dr Emily Howells, have also been monitoring reefs in Kuwait and Qatar. Their observations showed slightly higher water temperatures in Fujairah where some bleaching of corals was found and reefs were at risk.

Overall, however, a warming event capable of causing mass coral damage and die-off was unlikely.

“We are keeping an eye on things in case they change,” said Dr Burt, noting that August and early September were the highest-risk months for coral reefs.

Coral lives in a symbiotic relationship with marine algae, known as zooxanthellae. Algae lives in the coral tissue, which otherwise would be mostly transparent. Like plants, algae uses sunlight to photosynthesise, producing sugars the coral needs for sustenance.

Heat stress disturbs this symbiotic relationship. Around the world reefs thrive at temperatures of about 28°C. If the temperature is higher this can disturb the algal photosynthesis inside the coral tissue, resulting in the production of damaging oxygen radicals.

When the temperature rises above a certain threshold, coral starts expelling the algae from its tissue. Coral bleaching, as the phenomenon is commonly referred to, occurs when the white coral skeletons shine through the coral tissue, deprived of algal pigments. Bleached coral can sometimes recover but in many cases it dies.

In Australia, coral starts to bleach if the water reaches 31°C. In the Arabian Gulf, it starts at 35°C to 36°C.

While it is impossible to control natural fluctuations in water temperatures, governments can help to protect coral by ensuring additional stress factors are kept at a minimum, Dr Burt said.

“It is important to reduce any man-made stressors resulting from coastal development, nutrient input and intensive [scuba] diving.”

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Massive red tide bloom washing off Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast

Letitia Stein PlanetArk 8 Aug 14;

The largest red tide bloom seen in Florida in nearly a decade has killed thousands of fish in the Gulf of Mexico and may pose a greater health threat if it washes ashore as expected in the next two weeks, researchers said on Thursday.

The patchy bloom stretches from the curve of the Panhandle to the central Tampa Bay region. It measures approximately 80 miles (130 km) long by 50 miles (80 km) wide.

Red tide occurs when naturally occurring algae bloom out of control, producing toxins deadly to fish and other marine life. The odorless chemicals can trigger respiratory distress in people, such as coughing and wheezing.

"It could have large impacts if it were to move inshore," said Brandon Basino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). "It has been killing a lot of marine species, especially fish, as it waits offshore."

The agency has received reports of thousands of dead fish, including snapper, grouper, flounder, crabs, bull sharks, eel and octopus. This is the largest bloom seen since 2006.

The phenomenon has existed for centuries, but such a large bloom is being closely monitored in Florida because it could impact beach tourism and commercial fishing.

A smaller red tide bloom, closer to shore, contributed last year to a record number of deaths among Florida manatees, an endangered sea mammal.

"I have seen analogies that equate red tide with a forest fire," said Kellie Dixon, manager of the ocean technology program at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. "There is an ecosystem reset."

Researchers at that laboratory recently helped deploy two underwater robots, nicknamed Waldo and Bass, to collect data on the slow-moving red tide, which could linger for months or be rapidly dispersed by a storm.

To map the bloom and try to predict its movement, state wildlife officials also organized this week a three-day boating expedition, sending researchers to test water samples across 2,000 square miles (5,180 sq km).

The team found evidence of red tide at the bottom of the ocean, where it is expected to be swept by currents and carried to land, potentially affecting beaches north and south of Tampa.

"It looks like it's coming in," said Alina Corcoran, an FWC research scientist on the expedition, adding that the bloom would not arrive at once. "All of southwest Florida is not doomed. This is normal. It happens all the time."

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)

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Deep emissions cuts needed by 2050 to limit warming: U.N. draft

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 8 Aug 14;

Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 to 70 percent by mid-century will be needed to avert the worst of global warming that is already harming all continents, a draft U.N. report showed.

The 26-page draft, obtained by Reuters on Thursday, sums up three U.N. scientific reports published over the past year as a guide for almost 200 governments which are due to agree a deal to combat climate change at a summit in Paris in late 2015.

It says existing national pledges to restrict greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, a U.N. ceiling set in 2010 to limit heatwaves, floods, storms and rising seas.

Average global surface temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 C (1.4 F) since the Industrial Revolution, the draft said.

"Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to limit warming to 2 degrees C ... remain possible, yet will entail substantial technological, economic, institutional, and behavioral challenges," according to the draft due for publication in Copenhagen on Nov. 2 after rounds of editing.

Cuts in greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, of between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 would be needed from 2010 levels to give a good chance of staying below 2C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft.

Such a shift would also require a tripling or a quadrupling of the share of low-carbon energies including solar, wind or nuclear power, it said.

That would be a radical change. Emissions, buoyed by coal-fuelled industrial growth in emerging economies led by China and India, rose to 49 billion tonnes in 2010 from 40 billion in 2000.

The IPCC says it is at least 95 percent probable that human influences are the main cause of climate change, although opinion polls show that many people doubt such findings and reckon that natural variations are to blame.

"Human influence on the climate system is clear, and is estimated to have been the dominant cause of the warming observed since 1950," the draft says.

The draft Synthesis Report, dated April 21, merges data from three previous IPCC studies that focused on the science of climate change, the impacts and possible solutions. It clarifies many findings but does not include new research.


IPCC spokesman Jonathan Lynn said the draft obtained by Reuters had already "undergone thorough revision since the authors met at the end of June/beginning of July."

A final draft will be sent to governments at the end of August, he said, before editing at the Copenhagen meeting from Oct. 27. It will round off a year-long cycle of IPCC reports running to thousands of pages by hundreds of experts.

Still, final drafts are often similar to earlier work.

The draft says climate change is causing more heat extremes, disrupting rainfall, harming many crop yields, causing an acidification of the oceans and thawing ice in Antarctica and Greenland that are raising sea levels.

Unchecked climate change was projected to damage economic growth and can even indirectly increase risks of armed conflict by aggravating underlying causes such as poverty, it says.

Costs of strong action to cut emissions would slow consumption growth by a fractional 0.06 percentage point a year this century from an estimated 1.6 to 3.0 percent, it says.

The IPCC focuses on consumption, which is gross domestic product minus investments, in case big investments are needed to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies. That could stoke GDP and give a misleading impression of economic benefits.

The IPCC says it is impossible to compare costs and benefits of action for any given temperature level. Many factors are hard to quantify - a shift from fossil fuels, for instance, could curb health bills by reducing air pollution.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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