Best of our wild blogs: 23-24 Aug 14

Special snake at Pasir Ris evening walk
from wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - August 2014
from Butterflies of Singapore

Bats in my porch: 8. Female with young
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Public offer suggestions to enhance Pulau Ubin

Faris Mokhtar Channel NewsAsia 23 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: Members of the public have suggested more walking and cycling trails, as well as a field research centre at Pulau Ubin, for The Ubin Project. The project was started recently by the Ministry of National Development to preserve and enhance the island.

Another suggestion was to create a cultural map of the island, to understand its historical, social and religious practices. Many of the suggestions were made through a microsite created by the ministry in May.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said his ministry will take time to study the suggestions and implement them after further public engagement. He was at Pulau Ubin where he joined community groups to plant 100 native trees as part of the island's reforestation efforts.

About three hectares of land at Tanjong Tajam were damaged in a bushfire in March this year.

Besides long-term plans, Mr Lee said issues that require immediate attention include coastal erosion of the north shore and dilapidated buildings.

- CNA/xq

Habitat enhancement efforts underway for Pulau Ubin
AsiaOne 23 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - Visitors to Pulau Ubin may experience more nature-based recreation in an environment with richer biodiversity, after the Ministry of National Development (MND) received calls by the public for more tree plantings and habitat enhancement.

Speaking at a tree planting exercise conducted on the island this morning, Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee noted that many people want the preserve the "rustic and natural" appeal of Pulau Ubin, but that did not mean "leaving Ubin alone".

"We are considering these ideas carefully and will see how some of these ideas can be implemented sensitively to enhance the visitor experience on Ubin," Mr Lee said.

Mr Lee was joined by community groups with over 100 participants to plant 100 native trees over 0.1 hectares at Tanjong Tajam, Pulau Ubin, after a fire in March this year damaged 3 hectares of land at the site.

"Some [suggestions], like today's reforestation, are activities that we have been carrying out regularly, and can be continued, perhaps with greater involvement of the community. Other ideas will need more time to implement," Mr Lee added.

Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) alumni group will be continuing with reforestation efforts at Tanjong Tajam for one year, and build a sensory trail and campsites for future OBS participants in collaboration with NParks.

Members of the public who would like to participate in reforestation efforts at Pulau Ubin may do so through the Garden City Fund's Plant-A-Tree programme at

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Environment council launches green training arm

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Aug 14;

Learn to turn waste into items like lamp shades or fashion accessories. Or go on water trails to learn about Singapore's reservoirs.

Company employees and students can look forward to more of such workshops and activities organised by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which announced yesterday that it has set up a new training and education arm.

"The (activities)... will also provide companies with tools to start sustainability programmes in the organisation," said its chief executive, Mr Jose Raymond.

This initiative would not only meet the "huge demand" for such courses from the corporate sector, he said, but would also generate income for the non-governmental organisation.

"We are now relying less and less on government funding," he said on the sidelines of the SEC's 17th annual Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards ceremony.

Mr Raymond also gave details of its Green Stars programme, a campaign to promote conservation featuring celebrities such as former MTV video jockey Uttsada Panichkul, better known as Utt. It will be launched later this year. The "green stars" at yesterday's event, though, were eight organisations which clinched awards for their environmentally friendly programmes.

The top award went to Glaxo Wellcome Manufacturing, part of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline Group.

It also won in the manufacturing category for a system that can cut the firm's carbon emissions by 30 per cent and save more than $600,000 in diesel costs.

Another winner was Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay, which won in the services category.

Besides investing in hardware, like energy-efficient models of chillers and heating systems, the hotel has also roped in its guests in its quest to go green.

It has saved almost $17,000 from its towel re-use initiative, and has recycled more than 150kg of soap.

Said its general manager, Mr Kevin Bossino: "We feel that the reduction of carbon emissions does not begin only with the hotel property. We will also need to undertake guest-oriented activities."

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Temasek Poly researchers trying to breed mud crabs

Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 24 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: Mud crabs are an essential ingredient in a favourite Singaporean dish - Chilli crab. To ensure a reliable supply of mud crabs in Singapore and the region, researchers from Temasek Polytechnic are now trying to breed them in a controlled environment.

It has never been done before in Singapore, and with little success in the region. That is because of the many challenges involved in breeding these crustaceans.

Mud crabs undergo several metamorphoses. At the second stage of their life cycle, they become cannibalistic and attack one another.

Breeding these crabs is a long and laborious process. The first batch of baby crabs in the facility died about four to five days after hatching and did not go past the larvae stage. The second batch of crab larvae has just hatched. A survival rate of 10 to 15 per cent would be considered successful.

Mithun Sukumaran, a research scientist at the Temasek Polytechnic's School of Applied Science, said: "If you look at the number of eggs from a parent, it is like millions. Five to six million eggs come out from a parent but we are getting a fraction of it. So if we can get a considerable amount of that, it will be a huge benefit for the industry."

The team at the polytechnic sees potential benefits in its study, as over-harvesting has led to a dwindling supply of mud crabs in the wild. Such crabs are usually harvested from countries like the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

To improve the survival rate, researchers are tinkling with the type of live feed given to the baby crabs and experimenting with different types of structures that can provide a hideout so that the crablets would not attack and devour one another.

The team has been awarded funding by Resorts World Sentosa's Marine Life Park, which is hoping that the breeding technique used could be applied to other aqua species.

Cynthia Wong Yee Man, assistant manager of conservation at Resorts World Sentosa's Marine Life Park, said: "If this project is successful, the system being used can also be used to culture other species that are vulnerable, such as flower crabs or shrimps that are also heavily harvested from the wild."

- CNA/al

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Cool savings with new air-con system

Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Aug 14'

A cheaper, more efficient air-conditioning system to run a 50-storey office building has been developed by a team of Swiss and Singaporean researchers.

The system, which could save 40 per cent in energy costs, will be used for the first time in Asia at an international school in Singapore.

Not only does it reduce energy costs, it also takes up less space than conventional means, translating to construction cost savings of up to 29 per cent.

The developer of the energy-efficient building technology, Future Cities Laboratory, signed a deal yesterday to install it as a prototype at a $50 million addition being built at the United World College of South East Asia's Dover campus.

The 24,000 sq m school building will be completed by next year and, in 2018, Future Cities Laboratory hopes to showcase the system's performance to potential buyers such as commercial property developers.

The potential savings are significant as, in Singapore, consumption by buildings makes up nearly a third of total electricity usage, and 60 per cent of buildings' electricity use goes to cooling.

Conventional air-conditioning systems use water at 6 deg C to dehumidify and cool air, which is then piped around a whole building through air ducts.

The prototype, however, dehumidifies air first using small ventilation units built directly into the building's facade. This cuts the amount of ductwork required for transporting the air.

It also uses a separate cooling system: Chilled water - which needs to be only 17 deg C - is injected into special ceiling beams to cool the surrounding area.

As water can absorb more heat than the same volume of air, using these ceiling beams to cool a room takes up much less space than conventional overhead air ducts.

The technology is already used in Swiss offices for heating, but was adapted for cooling in the warm, humid tropics.

Future Cities Laboratory is set up under a National Research Foundation programme called Create (Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise), in which Singapore collaborates with different foreign universities.

UWCSEA head of college Chris Edwards said of the decision to use the new system: "We do have pragmatic motives. Sixty per cent of our energy bill goes to air-conditioning, so we are genuinely thrilled about the prospects."

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Harnessing people power for solar energy

Siau Ming En Today Online 23 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE — Already gaining traction in the United States and Europe, a model of getting the public to collectively fund the installation of solar panels on private properties — for as little as S$10 in exchange for modest returns — is set to be launched in Singapore next month.

SolarPVExchange, a local website that links solar installation companies with potential customers, is launching a crowdsourcing initiative that will link investors with owners of residential and small commercial buildings to fund solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

It is aimed at tackling the high upfront costs of setting up a solar PV system, which may be daunting to small property owners.

Speaking to TODAY, SolarPVExchange managing director Rob Khoo said many do not see the benefits of adopting this form of renewable energy as it takes years for owners of the solar PV systems to recover the investment via cost savings.

“Rather than (making) people pay huge upfront costs … you don’t have to pay a single cent and you (can) continue to make savings (in your) monthly electricity bill,” he said. “At the end of 20 years, or even before that, the system is all yours.”

The company’s website currently serves as a platform for solar installation companies to submit price quotations for projects submitted by property owners. Since its launch in June, the firm has seen about 60 interested parties and, among them, about half were seeking quotations.

Under the new crowdsourcing model, residential and small commercial building owners will first obtain a Sun Quote, or price quotation, for a solar PV system. Next, they have to determine how much they hope to save on their electricity bill. This, together with other factors such as how efficiently the solar PV system installed generates electricity, affects how much investors earn.

After the company calculates the estimated rate of return over 20 years, property owners will be able to put the project — which is expected to cost between S$10,000 and S$2 million — up for crowdsourcing on a website to be launched by SolarPVExchange.

Building owners have up to 60 days to raise the full amount, failing which the project will be scrapped. If successful, they will pay SolarPVExchange an agreed-upon sum each month for 20 years. The company then pays to investors the monies collated on a yearly basis.

At the end of 20 years, investors would have earned back their investment plus at least an internal rate of return of 5 per cent, while building owners would have full ownership of the solar PV systems. On months when building owners save more on their electricity bills thanks to “bumper” amounts of solar power generated, they can pay SolarPVExchange an additional amount, thereby shortening their tenure.

With this model, Mr Khoo said investors could start to see profits after about five to eight years for small commercial buildings, or about eight to 15 years for residences.

In the US and Europe, crowdsourcing models for solar panels have seen a promising response. Among them is one offered by California-based Mosaic, introduced early last year. Individuals can participate in its solar projects with a minimum of US$25 (S$31), for returns of about 4.5 per cent. To date, the firm has facilitated about US$9 million in investments, figures on its website showed.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University (ERI@N), said the upfront capital investment needed remains a major hurdle. As such, innovative business models, such as solar leasing, can help drive growth in the industry, he said.

“Crowdsourcing promises to be yet another exciting business model where the investors have the opportunity to (get) higher returns than many investments and also get buoyed by the ‘feel good’ factor of supporting environmentally-friendly solutions using solar PV,” he added.

But Mr Nilesh Jadhav, programme director at ERI@N, said investors have to exercise due diligence. For example, they need to consider the quality, location and size of the installations, which could affect the efficiency of the systems. They should also check whether warranties, maintenance costs and insurance are covered by suppliers, as it could result in escalated costs for the project and affect the returns.

Mr Nilesh also said the crowdsourcing model would be more suited for smaller solar PV projects — such as on the rooftops of private homes or smaller establishments — as it could be difficult to raise larger amounts through crowdsourcing.

When contacted, the Energy Market Authority said as solar deployment increases here, Singapore may see new technologies and business models evolve.

The authority added that it welcomes industry-driven initiatives that facilitate the deployment of solar energy in Singapore.

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Indonesia’s Forest Protection Plans ‘May Face Setbacks’ Under Jokowi’s Govt

Vita A.D. Busyra & Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 22 Aug 14;

Jakarta. While environmentalists believe Indonesia has made “good progress” in its plans to protect its forests, the strategy could face setbacks under a new government, a recent report commissioned by forest aid donor Norway said.

The report, compiled by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, or Norad, stated that Norway, which in 2008 gave Brazil $720 million to help slow down deforestation, has also promised Indonesia, under the same deal in 2010, up to $1 billion, depending on its performance.

After the Amazon and the Congo basin, Indonesia has the third-largest rainforest area in the world, but it has cleared large tracts of forest to make way for palm oil plantations.

Norad said Indonesia has made good progress in its forest protection agenda but added that “upcoming governmental change and weaknesses in the legal basis” for forest protection “present a serious risk that achievements may be lost.”

With President-elect Joko Widodo set to take over from incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in October, new priorities could emerge, shifting the emphasis to expanding palm oil plantations, said Ida Hellmark, who coordinated the Norad report.

Indonesia has only received 2 percent of Norway’s total pledge so far.

Yuyun Indradi, a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said that since the memorandum of understanding between Indonesia and Norway was performance-based, progress in the reduction and reversal of deforestation would directly affect the amounts received from the Norwegian government.

Progress in addressing deforestation will be measured by environmental agencies such as REDD++ and Greenpeace and the Directorate of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation.

During one of the presidential debates, Joko mentioned that he would restore 100.7 million hectares of degraded forests while also increasing development of a sustainable forestry industry. He did not provide, though, any specific details on the plan.

This has lead to doubt on the part of Norad and the Norwegian government.

“If Joko later changes his priority on forestry such as on the bio-ethanol issue, the government actually needs to increase productivity levels on existing land, rather than converting more land for palm oil plantations,” Yuyun said.

Meanwhile, Herry Purnomo, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor), said he was uncertain of what message Norway was trying to convey regarding Joko’s future environmental plans.

“I’m not sure whether Joko will either change or renew his priorities. You have to understand that the MOU between Norway and Indonesia is a marketing measure. Norway has agreed to purchase our carbon credits if we reduce deforestation under specific circumstances,” Herry said on Wednesday.

He said Norway has become indecisive over Indonesia’s initiative because of Joko’s seemingly unpredictable environmental plan.

Sharing Yuyun’s views, Herry said that ideally, renewable energy sources should be developed on already damaged forests or non-fertile lands, if possible.

The Forestry Ministry and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) have also stepped up efforts to prevent and eliminate corruption in the forestry sector.

Their efforts include scrutinizing the conversion of forest utilisation approval permits, that are used to obtain mining business permits.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said his ministry no longer issued forest utilization permits, which could be used to convert the forests into mining areas.

To date, up to a million hectares of forest land have been converted to mining areas.

Zulkifli said investigations showed that almost 12,000 forest utilisation approval permits in East Kalimantan had been used to open mining sites, which caused a major deforestation in the area.

The minster said the situation in South Kalimantan was even worse than in East Kalimantan, because four million forest utilisation approval permits have been misused by the holders to open mining sites.

“That’s why we support the mining moratorium and KPK officials going [to South Kalimantan] every week to spread awareness on the issue so that mayors can revoke permits that have been misused, especially those in protected forests or national parks,” he said.

Additional reporting from Reuters

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The inconvenient truth about Indonesian deforestation

Agus P. Sari and Nirarta Samadhi Jakarta Post 12 Aug 14;

Recently, the Forestry Minstry issued Ministerial Decree No. 633/2014, which determines Indonesia’s forest reference emission level (FREL). According to the decree, the reference emission level to calculate the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the forestry sector in Indonesia is 0.816 billion tons (gigatons — gt). When actual emissions are lower than the reference level, emissions are reduced.

Indonesia is committed to reducing GHG emissions to 26 percent unilaterally or 41 percent with foreign assistance from their business-as-usual levels by 2020.

An overwhelming portion of the reduction is expected to take place in the forestry and land use-related sectors, mainly through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

The decree claims this figure comes from average forest emissions in the period of 2000-2006, and “from the projection of forest emissions to be used in the development outside of forestry activities until 2020”. Despite the significance of the FREL in the context of national emission reduction, the decree seems to approach this matter in a rather low-key way as it does not elaborate on where the figure comes from, or how it corresponds to the level of deforestation.

As Indonesia embarks on the next phase in the national implementation of REDD+ amid public debate over continuing deforestation and forest fires in the trouble-prone provinces of Riau and West Kalimantan, prominent questions arise, such as: What is the actual rate of the country’s deforestation despite the ministerial decree?

The question is not so easy to answer, even scientifically. Politics makes it even more complicated. Not long ago,, citing a study published in Nature Climate Change by Belinda Margono et al (2014) from the University of Maryland (UMD), said Indonesia had become the world’s largest deforester.

The study, using high-resolution satellite data, shows that Indonesia lost 15.8 million hectares of forests between 2000 and 2012 — 6 million ha or 38 percent of which are in intact and degraded natural forests. The rate hit its highest level in 2012, the lat year in the study, at about 850,000 ha, with an upward trend.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Ministry reported this year that deforestation of primary and secondary forests was estimated to be about 628,000 ha (24,500 ha of primary forests and 603,500 ha of secondary forests, which are believed to be similar to, if not the same as “intact” and “degraded primary” forests, according to Margono et al) between 2011 and 2012.

A satellite imagery-based interpretation usually captures gross, not net, deforestation, as it also captures forest regrowth.

This is higher than the deforestation of around 400,000 ha between 2009 and 2011 as reported by the ministry in 2012, but lower than the 1.1 million ha reported in the Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the 2000-2005 period (2010). The ministry claims deforestation is showing a downward trend.

Which number is the correct one? To understand this, it is useful to understand how the same deforestation data may yield different interpretations, conclusions and lead to different policy implications.

First, accuracy and interpretation matter. The UMD uses digital interpretation, whereas the Forestry Ministry uses visual classification methods, based on satellite imagery from Landsat 5, 7, and LDCM (Landsat 8) into 23 land cover classifications. This method was used by the ministry from 2000 to 2012. For both figures, an accuracy assessment needs to be done.

Once accuracy has been confirmed, then it is down to interpretation. Digital interpretation is faster, while a visual method runs the risk of human error. Satellite imagery, after all, is a picture of the Earth from above. It is the users that interpret the picture according to set definitions.

Additionally, a satellite imagery-based interpretation usually captures gross, not net, deforestation, as it inevitably also captures forest regrowth.

Second is definition. What constitutes a forest and how forests are classified will determine what constitutes deforestation.

For example, defining forests as vegetative cover with 30 percent canopy will yield different areas of forests and different deforestation pictures from an area with 10 percent canopy. However, with 30 percent canopy, rubber plantations may be considered forests.

Specifically in Indonesia, there is a policy-based definition. The Forestry Ministry works according to a jurisdictional definition of forests that may be smaller than the actual forest cover in the country.

The deforestation figure, therefore, may be limited to that within the forest estate boundary, discounting that outside it.

So, what can be done to allow for a unified deforestation figure in Indonesia? The Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) hosted two roundtables to address this very issue in early 2013 and 2014.

Key messages from the roundtables included the following. First, the different figures are recognized as the result of, among other things, definitional and methodological differences.

Second, there is a need for data-source transparency to achieve consistency, integrity and accountability. With the same data set, anybody should be able to recreate the conclusions produced by particular methodologies.

For this, there was a recommendation to compare the maps managed by the Forestry Ministry and the UMD, as well as to adopt other available products (such as those produced by the Indonesian National Carbon Accounting System) to come up with solid forestry data sets to be maintained with the involvement of regional governments to act as the custodians of local forest data and local universities.

The UKP4 has been asked to continue in a facilitative role, while technological support is provided by able and concerned parties, such as Google and Global Forest Watch. The REDD+ Management Agency (BP REDD+), meanwhile, is also facilitating the transparency of data and information.

Third, there is a need to approach the definitional issue simply by concentrating on the remaining natural forest. The immediate priority is gross deforestation of natural forest. Based on the simple approach, a basic data set for the calculation of the FREL needs to be proposed transparently.

This approach should also review the current deforestation calculation process adopted in the draft of the Indonesian national standards of changes to land cover. Eventually, these steps will aim to adhere with Indonesia’s emission reduction commitments using credible methods.

Fourth, since there is no regulation that authorizes a specific government institution to issue an Indonesian FREL, it has been agreed among the participants that all institutions must support any relevant institution that volunteers to propose an Indonesian FREL.

While the FREL should be developed empirically following methodological guidance from the UNFCCC and REDD+, the volunteering institution must conceive its proposal through transparent, collaborative and inclusive processes.

Finally, an enabling environment needs to be fostered as a means to enhance transparency and improve governance.

How will the Indonesian FREL come into being? What is the actual rate of the country’s deforestation? It is indeed a technical, rather than a political, question.


Agus P. Sari is deputy chair of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Management Agency. Nirartha Samadhi is deputy chair of the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4). The opinions expressed are their own.

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Phillipines: Mangroves rehabilitation project in full swing

Manila Bulletin Yahoo News 24 Aug 14;

Tacloban City, Leyte – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources office in Eastern Visayas (DENR-8) has announced that the mangrove rehabilitation in Leyte Gulf is now in full swing.

DENR-8 Executive Regional Director Leonardo Sibbaluca told local media here that his office is now undertaking massive rehabilitation of mangroves along the Gulf areas. He informed that the project is part of overall rehabilitation of mangroves in Eastern Visayas which were badly ravaged by super-typhoon Yolanda in November last year.

Sibbaluca told reporters that the project has already seen the planting of over 600 hectares of mangroves since June of this year.

He told reporters that rehabilitation of mangroves along the Leyte Gulf, which has a budget of some P38 million, covers over 9,800 hectares in towns from Eastern Samar to Abuyog, Leyte.

He emphasized that mangroves serve as natural barriers along coastal areas during calamities.

Sibbaluca explained that it has been proven that mangroves serve as buffer zones and protection from storm surge.

He said the mangrove rehabilitation project now being implemented in Leyte uses more scientific techniques in mangrove and beach forest development to enhance the region’s defense against calamities.

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