Best of our wild blogs: 3 Sep 14

Our Avian Visitors, the August Stars
from Singapore Bird Group

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One individual, 2 institutes receive President’s Award for the Environment

Channel NewsAsia 2 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: One individual and two institutes have received the President's Award for the Environment, the highest environmental accolade in Singapore. They received the awards from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana on Tuesday evening (Sep 2).

The award was given to Mr Eugene Heng, chairman of the Waterways Watch Society, a volunteer group he founded in 1998 to help keep Singapore's waterways clean. This is the first time since 2011 that an individual has won the award.

The award also went to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said ITE is dedicated to environmental education, even infusing it into its curriculum.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic received the award for being a pioneer in environmental advocacy and influencing many students to continue contributing even after they graduate.

- CNA/ms

Individual, education institutions awarded President's Award for the Environment
Carolyn Khew Straits Times 2 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - He has spent the past 16 years monitoring Singapore's waterways and picking up litter in rivers and reservoirs with his volunteers.

During the other days of the week, the founder and chairman of environmental group Waterways Watch Society (WWS) Eugene Heng spends time planning programmes and running activities to educate students about the island's waterways.

For such efforts and more, Mr Heng, a 65-year-old retiree, was awarded the country's highest environmental accolade on Tuesday.

The other two recipients of the award were the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), both of which actively promote environmental awareness among its students and include environment-related courses in their curriculum.

Organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the annual award, which recognises individuals and organisations for their contributions towards the environment, received 26 nominations this year.

The three winners each received a trophy and certificate from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana.

To encourage its students to learn more about the environment, environment-related topics are incorporated in about 70 per cent of ITE's courses.

All three of ITE's campuses - ITE College East, ITE College West and ITE College Central, have also been Green Mark certified. Their green features include installing solar panels on roofs to generate electrical power for the building's use and having ceiling boards made of recycled materials.

Three win S'pore's top award for green efforts
Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Sep 14;

When it comes to promoting awareness of the environment among the young, Ngee Ann Polytechnic could be considered one of the pioneers - it started doing so more than 20 years ago.

Today, topics on the environment are taught at the polytechnic. Its Clementi Road campus is also home to technology centres that come up with projects to improve sustainability efforts.

Yesterday, the institution received the President's Award for the Environment - Singapore's highest environmental accolade - from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana.

The other two recipients of the award this year are the Institute of Technical Education and Mr Eugene Heng, chairman of environmental group Waterways Watch Society (WWS). The three winners each received a trophy and a certificate.

Organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the annual award recognises individuals and organisations for their contributions towards the environment. There were 26 nominations this year.

For Mr Heng and his volunteers, at least two hours are spent every weekend picking up flotsam along waterways.

Plastic bags are the most common trash item. They also pick up styrofoam boxes, cans, shopping trolleys and television sets.

The group makes its rounds on boats and bicycles to monitor the waterways and alert the authorities on areas that need attention, like those polluted by oil spills.

WWS, which has 370 volunteers, also conducts workshops for students to better understand how drains, canals and rivers are connected to reservoirs. While every drop of water can be treated to drinking water standards, it is vital for people to stop littering because litter is transported from the catchment areas and waterways to reservoirs when it rains.

"We have a nation that runs things very well and supplies water so efficiently. People tend to forget it's a gift. They tend to abuse it and take it for granted," said Mr Heng.

While he feels that enforcement officers need to be more visible and be at the "right place, at the right time", he says educating the public on the consequences of littering is still more important.

"The Government can only do so much," he added.

At Ngee Ann Poly, a major part of its green efforts involves teaching the right values on protecting the environment. All students are required to take a module where they learn about climate change and environmental degradation. The school also has four diploma courses related to the environment, including the diploma in environmental and water technology, and the diploma in clean energy management.

As part of the school's push for clean, sustainable technology, the Environmental and Water Technology Centre of Innovation was set up to help small and medium-sized enterprises grow their business in a green way.

Said Ngee Ann Poly principal Clarence Ti: "As parents and educators, we want our students to not only have good values and learn a trade but also be meaningful contributors to society."

Rooftop gardens, solar panels at ITE campuses

Classroom ceiling boards made of recycled materials, rooftop gardens and offices designed to maximise the usage of natural light - these are some of the green features at the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) three campuses.

For those efforts, and more, the ITE was given the President's Award for the Environment - Singapore's highest environmental accolade - at the Istana yesterday. It is among three recipients of the prestigious award this year.

The ITE's three campuses had also received the BCA Green Mark Award by the Building and Construction Authority.

At ITE College East, located in Simei, open staircases and circulation spaces help to cool the interiors and minimise energy use. The ceiling boards in laboratories, classrooms and toilets are also made with 40 per cent recycled materials.

Meanwhile, the ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang has a green roof and rooftop gardens that cover 40 per cent of the total roof area. This helps to absorb heat and reduce the energy used for cooling the building.

Over at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio, solar panels installed on the roofs generate electrical power.

The ITE has also incorporated environment-related topics in about 70 per cent of its courses, such as those on course-relevant environmental regulation and waste handling.
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Singapore opens S$950m underground rock cavern at Jurong

Linette Lim Channel NewsAsia 2 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The Jurong Rock Caverns (JRC), the first commercial underground rock cavern storage facility for liquid hydrocarbons in Southeast Asia, was officially opened on Tuesday (Sep 2). It will be a key support for Singapore's petrochemical industry.

Speaking at the opening, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says that with this experience, the Government is considering more subterranean projects. This includes building an underground science city, an underground warehousing and logistics facility, and potential underground caverns near CleanTech Park in Jurong.

He also said that the project shows Singapore's determination to build a petrochemical industry, despite land constraints and the potential impact of an impending United Nations agreement on carbon emissions, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.


The S$950-million dollar Jurong Rock Caverns took six years of planning, and another eight years of construction. It will be used to store liquid hydrocarbons such as crude oil and condensate.

The rock cavern was excavated using explosives, and it takes about one and a half to two years to excavate each rock cavern. The water pressure outside the cavern keeps the contents of the cavern in their place.

The caverns are the deepest known public works in Singapore to date - deeper than underpasses, the deep tunnel sewerage system, and four times deeper than Bras Brasah, the deepest station in the train network. Tunnels measuring 9km provide access to the caverns, and there are five of them, with a total capacity of 1.47 million cubic metres - a storage capacity equivalent to 600 Olympic-sized swimming pools..

Building this infrastructure underground was challenging, but worthwhile, said Mr Lee: "It costs more than doing it above ground, about 30 per cent more, in order to build the infrastructure to store oil and condensate underground, compared to reclaiming land, on a per unit of crude or condensate basis. This endeavour also involved immense challenges and significant risks. But we pursued it because it was worthwhile."

The caverns freed up 60 hectares of surface land for higher-value facilities, he noted, "and 60 hectares is enough to house up to six petrochemical plants. But more importantly, it opened up, for us, further possibilities for development, with the expertise and the confidence that we gained building these Caverns."

Mr Lee highlighted the importance of the petrochemical industry to Singapore: "We will develop the petrochemical industry, because the industry provides good jobs for Singaporeans, because it contributes significantly to our economy. In fact, the chemicals industry is one-third of our manufacturing output. And also, because we are determined to find all ways to make a living for ourselves in the world."


Two of the caverns were completed this March and are already being used by Jurong Aromatics Corporation to store feedstock for its aromatics plant, which is currently being developed. The three remaining caverns are expected to be ready by end 2016.

Said Mr Loo Choon Yong, Chairman of JTC Corporation: "We also had to consider the commercial viability of the project. We worked with various stakeholders at the onset, to ensure that the JRC would match manufacturers' requirements so that we could market it successfully."

JTC says an extension, or a second phase, could be developed if there is industry demand. JTC also says that the 3.5 million cubic metres of rock excavated for this project will be used in land reclamation, and for paving roads.

- CNA/xk/xy

PM Lee opens S$950 million Jurong Rock Caverns
LEE YEN NEE Today Online 2 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — South-east Asia’s first commercial underground liquid hydrocarbon storage facility was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Sept 2).

Located 150m beneath Jurong Island, the Jurong Rock Caverns were conceptualised to overcome land constraints in Singapore. This follows years of providing industrial land and space through reclaiming land and building high-rise infrastructure.

JTC Corporation, the developer of the S$950 million project, said the building of the five caverns translates to a saving of 60 hectares of land that can be used for higher value-added activities such as petrochemicals manufacturing. This underground facility also ensures security of the products in storage.

JTC chairman Loo Choon Yong said: “As a small city state, we are constantly pushing boundaries in our quest to overcome our scarce land resource. The Jurong Rock Caverns required us to venture into unfamiliar grounds and surmount engineering challenges never encountered before. Its success attests to our resolve to persevere and diligently deliver innovative and sustainable infrastructure solutions for Singapore.”

Image: JTC Corporation

Construction of the five caverns started in 2007. Their combined capacity of 1.47 million cubic metres is equivalent to 600 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Two of them, completed in March, have been leased to Jurong Aromatics Corporation who will store condensate, a feedstock for its aromatics plant.

The remaining three caverns are scheduled for completion by end 2016.

Singapore digs deep to realise oil storage dream
Chia Yan Min The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE yesterday unveiled its latest engineering feat to overcome the constraints of land - an underground commercial storage facility for oil products.

The ambitious Jurong Rock Caverns took six years of planning and a further eight of construction at a cost of $950 million, with about 1,700 workers employed.

Declaring it officially open, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a ceremony on Jurong Island that the endeavour was challenging, risky and expensive, but will ultimately prove rewarding.

Mr Lee noted that the Jurong Rock Caverns was "born out of this same spirit of innovation and determination" behind Jurong Island, another ambitious project that involved amalgamating seven southern islands.

He cited the benefits the caverns bring - they free up 60ha of land, or 70 football fields, above ground - but noted also that they demonstrate how Singapore can "create new space for (itself) both physically and metaphorically".

The facility also signals Singapore's determination to develop its petrochemical industry, which makes up about a third of the country's manufacturing output and provides "good jobs for Singaporeans", he added.

Mr Lee noted that Singapore has become a world-class petrochemical hub despite its land constraints and the fact that it produces no crude oil or feedstock.

The caverns, which are also a first in South-east Asia, sit 150m below the Jurong Island energy and chemicals hub - or four times further underground than Singapore's deepest MRT station. They are Singapore's deepest underground public works endeavour to date.

Adding to the complexity was the challenge of having to construct the caverns 130m beneath the seabed. Industrial landlord JTC also had to build 9km of tunnels.

The five nine-storey-high caverns will be used to store 1.47 million cubic metres of liquid hydrocarbons such as crude oil and condensate - equivalent to 600 Olympic- sized swimming pools. Liquid hydrocarbons are usually stored in large tanks above ground.

Two of the five caverns have already been leased to Jurong Aromatics Corporation to store feedstock for its upcoming aromatics plant on Jurong Island. The other three are expected to be operational by 2016.

Dr Loo Choon Yong, chairman of JTC, told the ceremony that the project planning process, which included numerous study missions abroad and extensive soil and rock investigations, was "rigorous and intense".

The project was riskier and more complex than above-ground facilities, he added.

It was also expensive: It costs about 30 per cent more to build storage infrastructure underground than to reclaim land, but the space above ground can be used for higher value-added activities such as petrochemical plants.

With Jurong Rock Caverns behind it, JTC is now exploring other subterranean projects, said Dr Loo, adding: "Land will always be scarce in Singapore, but with human creativity and ingenuity, we continue to find ways to do more with less."

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Punggol jetty comes back to life

The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Sep 14;

Ponggol Hock Kee Seafood restaurant, next to the Punggol Jetty, used to be a hot dining spot in the 1970s.

Now, the restaurant is back, 50m from its former location, in a new two-storey building called The Punggol Settlement.

The original restaurant moved out in 1994 after the land was acquired by the Government.

But after property developer Fragrance Group bought the site following a public tender in 2012, it invited Ponggol Hock Kee to move in again. The iconic seafood restaurant returned two months ago.

Tenants, including bistros, a bicycle rental store, an ice-cream parlour and other seafood restaurants, have also moved in since the building's completion in April this year. Only one of the 28 units is not occupied.

It was their fond memories of the place that brought the family behind Ponggol Hock Kee back.

The restaurant was started by Mr Ting Choon Teng, a former taxi driver who often drove past the area and thought it would make a good location for a seafood restaurant.

Mr Ting, 84, is now retired and the business is managed by four of his eight children - sons Anthony, 54, and Cheng Ping, 51, and daughters Cecilia, 55, and Teresa, 53.

Recalls Mr Anthony Ting: "The original restaurant had a kampung feel. It had a zinc roof and was next to a sandy beach."

On weekends, more than 600 customers would turn up for dinner and tables had to be set up by the roadside to accommodate them.

Adds his brother, Mr Ting Cheng Ping: "When the buses No. 82 and 83 - they no longer come here - did a three-point turn at the end of Punggol Road, they'd come within 1m of the tables.

"But our customers didn't mind. They just wanted to enjoy their meal under the stars."

After the land was acquired by the Government in 1994, the restaurant moved out and set up shop in various locations. Last year, it was operating at the Marina Country Club when Fragrance's marketing agents invited it to move back.

The Ting family agreed to move - lock, stock and barrel.

Says Mr Anthony Ting: "This place has so many memories for us. Coming back also lets us reconnect with many long-time customers."

Indeed, clerk Lily Meow, 52, who patronised the restaurant once every few months in the 1980s, quickly showed up as soon as she heard that it was back at Punggol.

She says: "I love their classic dishes such as chilli crab and mee goreng, and also their new dishes such as salted egg prawns.

Mrs Meow, who has taken her 20-year-old daughter to try the food, adds: "I hope she can experience the simple joys I had when I was her age."

Indeed, when SundayLife! was there last week, a number of the patrons said they used to be regulars.

Says engineer Daniel Ng, 53: "Coming back reminds me of old times, with delicious food and a pleasant atmosphere by the sea.

"This area was dead after the Government acquired it. It's great to finally see it come alive again."

Fragrance declined to reveal the building's construction cost. According to previous reports, it paid $11.4 million for the 11,606 sq m site last year.

But the nostalgia is not confined to just the Ting family and their customers. Almost all the new business owners at The Punggol Settlement have a personal connection to the place.

For example, the director of Jing Long Seafood, Mr Loh Siong Way, used to fish at the jetty twice a week when he was a teenager.

Recalls the 47-year-old: "I was then a kitchen hand at a coffee shop zi char stall. I'd come with a colleague in a taxi at 10pm and stay until 6am, when the first bus came.

"It was peaceful and quiet. I'd fish for catfish, grouper and flower crabs, all the while chatting with my colleague."

Mr Francis Ng, 42, chief executive of House Of Seafood, remembers eating at the seafood restaurants there with his family in the 1980s when he was a child.

"My cousins and I would run up and down the jetty while the adults ate. After peeling the prawns, we'd throw the empty shells into the sea to feed the fishes."

Adds Mr Francis Tan, 40, owner of Thai restaurant Trunk At Bay: "We'd come in my dad's pick-up truck. The ride was long and bumpy, but it was worth it for the fantastic seafood amid the salty sea air.

"There used to be rubbish floating in the sea. The area is so much cleaner now."

Some tenants - such as the owners of European bistro Just The Place, Mr Kenneth Sia, 29, and Madam Teresa Tay, 26 - are just starting to build their own memories of the place.

Apart from setting up shop in Punggol, the married couple bought a four-room HDB flat in the estate earlier this year.

Madam Tay says: "We came here because it looks like a good place for a business. But from all the nice things people have said about Punggol, it sounds like a good place to settle down - for our business and our personal lives."
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Malaysia: Tighter tourism rules at wildlife sanctuary

The Star 3 Sep 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism activities will be more regulated at the renowned Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary starting next year.

For a start, tour operators and their guides will be required to obtain special permits from the State Wildlife Department to operate in the area.

Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said action would be taken against those found breaching the regulations.

He said tour operators wanting to operate in the sanctuary must apply for a Wildlife Tourism Operator permit.

“Offenders will be liable to a fine of RM20,000 or two years imprisonment or both,” he said after opening a seminar on Eco-Tourism Operational Procedures in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sandakan yesterday.

Tourism activities have boomed in recent years at the Lower Kinabatangan, where wildlife such as orang utan, proboscis monkeys and Bornean elephants can be spotted along the nation’s second longest waterway and its tributaries.

However, its popularity had also resulted in problems such as overcrowding at certain spots along the Sungai Kinabatangan or smaller rivers.

“There have also been reports of guides allowing visitors to alight from tour boats to take pictures of wildlife such as elephants along the river banks,” he said.

He said there was no excuse for guides to allow tourists out of the boats and risk their lives while causing stress to the elephants.

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Ebola response lethally inadequate, says MSF

James Gallagher BBC News website 1 Sep 14;

A global military intervention is needed to curb the largest ever Ebola outbreak, according to the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

In a damning criticism of world leaders, it says the global response has so far been "lethally inadequate".

The charity said countries were turning their back on West Africa and merely reducing the risk of Ebola arriving on their shores.

More than 1,550 people have died in the outbreak which started in Guinea.

At least 3,000 people have been infected with the virus, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that more than 20,000 people are likely to be infected.

'Coalition of inaction'

In a speech to the United Nations, the international president of MSF, Dr Joanne Liu, said repeated calls for help had been ignored.

She said: "Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.

"Leaders are failing to come to grips with this transnational threat.

"The WHO announcement on August 8 that the epidemic constituted a 'public health emergency of international concern' has not led to decisive action, and states have essentially joined a global coalition of inaction."

MSF said military and civilian teams capable of dealing with a biological disaster were needed immediately as the spread of Ebola "will not be prevented without a massive deployment".

It is calling for more field hospitals with isolation wards to be set up, trained healthcare workers to be sent to the region and air support to move patients and medics across West Africa.

Dr Liu added: "States with the required capacity have a political and humanitarian responsibility to come forward and offer a desperately needed, concrete response to the disaster unfolding in front of the world's eyes.

"Rather than limit their response to the potential arrival of an infected patient in their countries, they should take the unique opportunity to actually save lives where immediately needed, in West Africa."

The charity said that at one site in Monrovia, in Liberia, it had been able to set up an isolation facility with 160 beds, but said they were "overwhelmed" with growing queues and needed an additional 800 beds.

In other developments:
=31 people have now died from a separate Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says the World Health Organization (WHO)
=The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has warned outbreak is putting food harvests in West Africa "at serious risk".
=Nurses in Liberia's largest hospital are on strike, refusing to return to work until they are issued with protective equipment
=After a Guinean student with Ebola escaped from a clinic in his homeland and took Ebola to Dakar, Senegal's president said if the student were not sick "he would be before the courts"
=Ivory Coast's government allows Sierra Leone's football team to play an Africa Nations Cup qualifier in Abidjan despite the travel ban imposed over the Ebola outbreak

The MSF criticism echoes earlier remarks from the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim.

In a newspaper column he said the outbreak would have been easily contained if it had hit a major Western city.

He said the crisis in West Africa was down to a "disastrously inadequate response" from countries with the resources to help.

"We need international organisations and wealthy countries that possess the required resources and knowledge to step forward and partner with West African governments to mount a serious, co-ordinated response," he said.

Also speaking the the United Nations, the director-general of the World Health Organisation Dr Margaret Chan said: "Ebola has become a global threat which requires urgent global efforts in solidarity with the affected countries.

"The outbreak will get worse before it gets better and it requires a well-coordinated big surge and huge scale-up of outbreak response urgently."

Ebola virus disease (EVD)
=Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
=Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
=Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
=Incubation period is two to 21 days
=There is no vaccine or cure
=Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
=Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

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Australia: Abbot Point port developers to ditch Great Barrier Reef seabed dumping plan

Developers are set to submit a new proposal in which dredged sediment is disposed of on land rather than at sea
Oliver Milman 2 Sep 14;

A plan to dump 5m tonnes of seabed sediment into the Great Barrier Reef marine park is set to be ditched following an outcry from environmentalists and some scientists.

The developers of the Abbot Point port, near the Queensland town of Bowen, are about to submit a new proposal which will mean the dredged seabed is disposed of on land rather than at sea, according to the Australian Financial Review.

It’s understood that the proponents, North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock and Adani Group, will forward the plan within the next two weeks to Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister. Hunt’s office said the minister hadn’t yet seen the alternate proposal.

Hunt has already approved a plan to dredge 3m cubic metres, equivalent to 5m tonnes, of seabed in order to expand Abbot Point for an increase in coal exports.

A proposal to dump the sediment within the reef’s marine park has also been approved by Hunt, although an exact site has yet to be identified.

Environmentalists have fiercely opposed the dumping, claiming it will damage the fragile coral and seagrass ecosystem. It has emerged that scientists at the Great Barrier Reef marine park authority warned against dumping in the marine park, only to be overruled.

A recent study suggests that coral disease is doubled when dredging occurs near reefs, although supporters of the dredging insist it can be done safely and that the Abbot Point sediment will be dumped around 40km from the nearest reef.

Hunt has pointed to a raft of conditions on the dumping to illustrate its viability, although he has promised a “line in the sand” to prevent future dumping within the reef’s marine park.

It’s understood that the port’s developers have been mulling over a land-based disposal for some time and have identified a new site that was previously not available. It’s unclear, however, where this site is located.

Last week, Coalition MP George Christensen took out an advert in two Whitsunday newspapers to admit that he “got it wrong” in his support for dumping within the marine park. Christensen said he would work with developers to identify a land-based option.

A spokesman for Adani, which will also be creating the enormous Carmichael mine in central Queensland to provide coal for export, said: “We’ve long said that disposal options will adhere to the best practice and the best science, based on advice from technical experts and approving authorities.

“We are committed to ensuring the best options are in place to ensure this project is achieved, together with the best possible environmental outcomes.”

Greens senator Larissa Waters said dumping near the reef must be “outlawed once and for all.”

“Onshore disposal would be a far better option environmentally and for the tourism and fishing industries, however the problems of increased shipping and export of coal to exacerbate climate change remain,” she said.

“History will look back on the decision to build the world’s largest coal port in the Great Barrier Reef as an act of climate criminality.”

Felicity Wishart, chief campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said she’d like to see the Abbot Point developers surrendering their dumping licence.

“The reef is in dire straits and we need to stop all dumping in its waters,” she said.

A recent report by the Great Barrier Reef marine park authority warned that the reef was in poor condition and was likely to deteriorate, with climate change and pollution cited as the key threats.

Australia to scrap plan for dumping near Great Barrier Reef: AFR
James Regan PlanetArk 2 Sep 14;

Australia will abandon plans to dump 3 million cubic meters of dredged sand into the Great Barrier Reef area in its effort to create the world's biggest coal port, the Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday.

The fragile reef, which stretches 2,300 km (1,430 miles) along Australia's east coast, and sprawls over an area half the size of Texas, was the centerpiece of a campaign by green groups and tour operators opposing the plan.

They feared that dumping soil 25 km (15 miles) from the reef would harm delicate corals and seagrasses and potentially double ship traffic through the area.

The Abbot Point port is being expanded to accommodate $16 billion worth of coal projects planned in the inland Galilee Basin by two Indian firms, Adani Enterprises and GVK, and Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart.

On Tuesday, the paper said North Queensland Bulk Ports, Adani Group and GVK would re-submit a proposal as early as this week to Environment Minister Greg Hunt offering alternative dumping sites on land.

The change is designed to defuse controversy over potential damage to the reef and avoid a court case launched by the North Queensland Conservation Council, it added.

"If the reports are true, the cheapest, most destructive option for expanding Abbot Point may have been taken off the table," said Adam Walters, head of research for environmental group Greenpeace.

A spokesman for Hunt declined to confirm the newspaper's report, saying no new proposals had been received yet.

"There was no option available at the time of the decision," Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Tuesday. "There may well be one opening up. It's up to the proponents to submit it. We haven't seen any documentation."

A spokesman for Adani said the company was open to viable alternatives to the dredging plan.

"We are committed to ensuring the best options are in place to ensure this project is achieved, together with the best possible environmental outcomes," he said.

In January, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority granted a permit for North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp to dump the dredged material in the park, to deepen Abbot Point for two terminals planned by Adani and GVK-Hancock.

Adani and GVK have long-term plans to ship a total of 120 million tonnes of coal through the port each year.

Last June, UNESCO's world heritage panel deferred until next year a decision on whether to designate the 300,000-sq-km reef as a site in danger.

The reef has the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of mollusc, and is home to threatened species, including the dugong and large green turtle, the World Heritage list says.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is concerned over the proposed coastal developments, and has asked Australia for an updated report on the state of conservation of the reef by next February 1.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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