Best of our wild blogs: 5 Sep 14

Green Drinks: Networking Friday!
from Green Drinks Singapore

Jurong Eco Garden- a green treasure
from My Nature Experiences

I want a Swinhoe’s Snipe
from Singapore Bird Group

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Singapore's water warrior

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Littering is not just bad for the environment - the rubbish you throw haphazardly could end up polluting the source of your drinking water.

That is the message Mr Eugene Heng, founder and chairman of environmental group Waterways Watch Society (WWS), wants to drive home, as Singapore continues to find effective solutions to tackle littering.

Yesterday, the 65-year-old retiree received the President's Award for the Environment - Singapore's highest environmental accolade - from President Tony Tan Keng Yam. The other award recipients were the Institute of Technical Education and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

In the past, water in the drains would end up in the sea, said Mr Heng. "But today, the drains are actually collection systems for our drinking water. They are not for you to dump rubbish," he said.

"The right mindset is very important, and that is the challenge we have."

Mr Heng should know. He has, after all, spent the past 16 years monitoring Singapore's waterways and picking up litter in canals and rivers here.

Mr Heng and his volunteers spend at least two hours every weekend picking up flotsam along waterways such as Marina Reservoir, Punggol Waterway and Kallang River.

On getting the award, he said: "It goes to (WWS) members. I can't do all this by myself."
- See more at:

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Mandai area set for major redevelopment

Joy Fang Today Online 5 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The Mandai area, home to the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari and the River Safari, is set for major redevelopment, with plans for an all-encompassing wildlife attraction with educational, recreational and “green” elements.

The new attraction, which could be ready around 2020, would be similar to the likes of Gardens By The Bay, where beyond viewing wildlife, one could also take walks in public areas, enjoy the waterfront and watch the sunset on Upper Seletar Reservoir.

This was revealed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the ‘live’ television programme Ask the Prime Minister last night, where he also said that Jurong Bird Park could relocate to Mandai. The Government has been seeking the advice of nature groups on how to refine its plans for Mandai, he added.

Asked whether the plans are an extension of the zoo, Mr Lee said what the Government has in mind is “something bigger and better”, which will enhance the nature reserves and not infringe onto the reserves.

Mr Lee had shared the plans for Mandai in response to a question from the programme host on what large-scale projects Singapore can look forward to in future.

The Government, Mr Lee said, is considering using the available space outside of the nature reserves, such as an unused old orchid plantation and old fruit orchard for its plans.

“If you can extend the zoo to those parts, I think it’ll be very interesting,” he said. “For example, the Bird Park is all by itself down in Jurong. Why not move it to where the zoo is?”

Asked if the waterfall at the Jurong Bird Park — a signature of the park — would be moved as well, Mr Lee said: “I think we have something in mind which is even more spectacular than the waterfall.”

TODAY understands that besides the relocation of the 43-year-old Jurong Bird Park to the area, a museum may be housed there as well, together with a research facility and a hotel employing green technology in areas such as how it cools its facilities and housekeeping.

In recent weeks, talks have been rife that big plans were afoot for the Mandai area.

A member of a nature group whom TODAY spoke to said that as recently as last month, a potential developer was quietly holding talks with environmental groups, and was considering getting a consultant to look into the feasibility of their plans. But it is all at an exploratory stage. “I don’t know if they have made up their mind”, he said.

When TODAY contacted the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on plans for Mandai earlier this week, Mr Poh Chi Chuan, its Director of Cultural Precincts and Tourism Concept Development, said the STB is studying various options for Mandai and would share more information when ready.

“The Mandai area, with its existing wildlife attractions (Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari) has the potential to be developed into a precinct of nature-themed attractions for education and recreation,” he said. He added that any development of the site “will also have to be sustainable and sensitive to its natural environment”. TODAY understands that an environment impact assessment will be carried out before any plans are finalised.

The three existing attractions as well as Jurong Bird Park are managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Talks to develop the Mandai area first surfaced some time in 2007, prompting Nature Society (Singapore) to publish a report in November that year highlighting their concerns.

The report said the STB was exploring an eco-tourism project south of the Mandai Road area and on both sides of Mandai Lake Road. Two parcels of land were involved — a patch of about 15ha bounded by Mandai Road, Mandai Lake Road and the boundary of the Western Catchment Reserve; and another patch of about 18ha between Mandai Track 15 and the Western Catchment Reserve up to the military firing range.

The society also listed concerns such as how the area is already in a “fragmented and degraded state”, and that the project would degrade the area as a forest ecosystem or habitat, creating instead a parkland landscape which would result in the loss of variety of habitat niches.

Areas involved in the latest plans have not been finalised.

When contacted last night , Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chair of the conservation committee in Nature Society (Singapore), said they are concerned about the planned development and hope that a comprehensive environmental impact assessment can be done, covering noise pollution, hydrology and more.

He said the area is rich in biodiversity and the wildlife there — such as the leopard cat, pangolin, the mouse deer — could be put in danger.

‘Bigger and better’ plans for Mandai
Joy Fang Today Online 4 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The Government is looking into developing the Mandai area, with plans to turn it into an all-encompassing wildlife attraction, much like Gardens By The Bay.

It will include educational, recreational and green aspects on top of its wildlife theme, with the possibility of the Jurong Bird Park relocating there as well, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Sept 4) in a live television forum, Ask the Prime Minister.

The show aired on MediaCorp’s Channel 5 and Channel NewsAsia from 8pm to 9pm. He was addressing questions on what the future of Singapore would be like.

Asked by host Dawn Tan if the plans are an extension to the zoo, Mr Lee said what they have in mind is “something bigger and better”.

Mr Lee, who said the attraction may take shape sometime in 2020, noted it will be something that enhances the nature reserves and does not infringe into the reserves. He also said the Government will seek the advice of nature groups on how to improve on its plans for Mandai.

LIVEBLOG: Ask PM Lee 2014
Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Over the last two weeks, the public has been invited to send in their questions for a '"live" forum with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Here is what he has to say on issues ranging from retirement adequacy to education.

8.57PM On Singapore's future: We are a small country. We used to say we are a sampan, now maybe we are a boat with a motor, self-propelled. The seas are unpredictable. We didn't expect to come this far. In the next 50 years, we hope to go as far. Things can go wrong, and we must be be prepared for that. You must have that steel in you. We have to take the setbacks, and move on, and move on together.

8.55PM On redeveloping Mandai: We have something in mind to make the zoo much better, and bigger. There is space - land is available next to the nature reserve. If you can extend the zoo to those parts, I think that would be very interesting. We have something in mind - green, improved, that will enhance the nature reserves while not infringing on it. Why not move the Jurong Birdpark to where the zoo is? You want an attraction like Gardens By The Bay, with public areas where you can wander around, watch the sunset. It can be a very beautiful place. By 2020 we should see something. We have been talking to some of the nature groups, and I'm sure they will help us to refine and improve the plan.

8.47PM On space constraints and heritage: We have ideas for putting plants, factories underground. We will explore that further. We cannot keep everything undisturbed, but important things we have to keep - like Chinatown, Little India. From time to time we have to make tough choices. We have to build in Bukit Brown, but we can try to disturb fewer graves.

8.45PM On future leaders: Will there be a female PM? I hope there will be one. I shouldn't be PM when I am 70. Our young ministers are good and promising, and with time a leader will emerge.

8.42PM His childhood ambition: In Primary 3, I wrote an essay about being a pilot. Each time I go on an aeroplane. I peek in the cockpit and wonder what it would be like. Maybe it will be my hobby. My childhood heroes included Superman and Tarzan. I didn't like Batman very much.

8.40PM PM Lee shares parenting tips: I did change diapers, and in those days we used safety pins so you have to be very careful. As the child grows up you have to be his friend, his guide, his role model. Spend time with them, engage them. It's a very trying time for your wife when the baby is born, so support her.

8.35PM On NLB controversy on withdrawn children's books: It is an illustration of social tensions, and we have to bridge those differences. We are never going to be single-valued, single-cultured Singapore. We are diverse - that is our strength, provided we don't let it tear us apart.

8.33PM Will there be more MPs who are ITE and poly graduates in the future? I hope so. We will try very hard to look for them. Whenever we find a good man or woman we will field them. Charles Chong, Liang Eng Hwa - we didn't choose them because they were poly graduates, we chose them because they were good. We are casting our net very wide, we are inviting a lot of people to tea.

8.32PM Is there a glass ceiling for diploma-holders in the civil service? It should depend on your performance. Whether you are a graduate or not should not be so critical - for many jobs degree- and diploma-holders work side by side.

8.30PM PM Lee answers more questions on education: When you study for a degree, you have to be sure the degree is rigorous, and there is a market demand for it. Government universities, we make sure the standards are there, and the right courses are there in the right numbers. In private universities, you have to be careful. We can't say every degree or diploma is worth exactly the same and will be able to guarantee you a job. What counts is what skills you have, what contribution you'll be able to make.

8.25PM On the importance of PSLE: We have been grappling with the PSLE for a while. It's important because we use it to know how well we've done, and which secondary school you can get into. In other countries with no PSLE, the school exam is important and pressure is there. We have one good exam, PSLE, to decide which secondary school you go to, but we try to make every school a good school. PSLE won't be the last time you have to prove yourself. But beyond the PSLE, other things come into play.

8.20PM More questions come in about extending the retirement age: Australia has made the age 70, and they are taking many years to phase this in, it won't happen till 2030. I think Singapore can take a similar approach.

8.17PM On CPF: We want to make sure everyone has the basic provided for in CPF, which is why we said if you want to you can take out 20 per cent, but you don't have to. We should allow people to put more into CPF if they want to.

8.15PM On retirement age: We would like people to work as long as they are healthy, to stay active and stay connected. We have pushed the re-employment age to 65, and we would like to push it further. On a voluntary basis, we would encourage companies to keep re-employing people as long as they are fit. We are working towards raising the retirement and re-employment age, but that may take a few years.

8.11PM: What kind of growth should Singapore aim for? Growth that creates good jobs, that Singaporeans can benefit from. We used to grow more than 10 per cent a year when we were taking off very fast, then we slowed down. Looking forward, I think we have to get used to maybe 2 to 3 per cent a year.

8.00PM PM Lee answers questions on cost of living in Singapore: Expectations have changed. Today people have fewer children, but people put more pressure on themselves and for their children. Cost of living is on many people's minds. Yes, things have become more expensive, but incomes have gone up faster than prices.

- CNA/xy

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Slight haze in Singapore as number of hotspots in Sumatra soars

Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The number of hotspots detected on Indonesia's Sumatra island soared to 177 on Thursday (Sep 4), up from 80 the day before, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an advisory posted on its website. Most of these hotspots were in southern Sumatra.

NEA said there was slight haziness in the morning in Singapore due to accumulation of dust particles in the air under light wind conditions. As of 6pm, the 24-hour PSI is 66-74, in the Moderate range.

NEA said the slight haziness would likely continue on Friday, with light winds from the south forecast. Air quality is expected to be in the Moderate range. However, thundery showers are forecast for the late morning and early afternoon.

- CNA/ly

Number of Sumatra hot spots spikes
Today Online 5 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The number of hot spots detected on Indonesia’s Sumatra island soared to 177 yesterday, up from 80 the day before, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an advisory on its website.

Most of these hot spots were in southern Sumatra.

The NEA said there was slight haziness in the morning in Singapore due to accumulation of dust particles in the air under light wind conditions. As of 6pm, the 24-hour PSI was 66-74, in the moderate range.

The agency said the slight haziness would likely continue today, with light winds from the south forecast.

Air quality is expected to be in the moderate range. However, thundery showers are forecast for the late morning and early afternoon.

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Two new train depots to get rooftop solar panels

Xue Jianyue Today Online 5 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) plans to place solar panels on the roofs of two new train depots by 2016, taking advantage of their large roofs to generate clean energy for depot operations.

It is the first tender the LTA is calling for solar panels on a rail depot. Scheduled to begin operations in 2016, the solar panels will serve the Tuas and Gali Batu rail depots, which will open that year to serve the East-West and Downtown lines.

“As both Tuas and Gali Batu depots are at-grade depots with large roof areas and are not surrounded by tall buildings, they present opportunities for the LTA to harvest solar energy for electricity to operate depot equipment,” said the authority in response to TODAY’s queries.

It did not specify how much power the solar panels will generate.

The tender specifications, released last month, require a hired contractor to monitor the panels’ performance and the amount of electricity generated over a period of one year.

The LTA’s initiative comes at a time when the Government is planning to expand the use of solar energy beyond Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, possibly to places such as schools and military camps.

Writing on his blog last week, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said government organisations, which could include the Defence and Education ministries, will ride on the HDB’s bulk tenders for solar panels.

Currently, the five existing train depots in Singapore serve five MRT lines. Construction at the new 21-ha Gali Batu depot, off Woodlands Road, started in 2009 and will complete next year. The 26-ha Tuas Depot, located at Tuas, is targeted to complete in 2016.

When it comes to generating solar power, depot roofs offer several advantages over HDB rooftops and empty land of the same total size, said several industry players and experts.

Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, said there are economies of scale when installing one large solar photovoltaic (PV) system, compared with installing many smaller ones of the same total size.

“Train depots are a very good choice as there are typically no other buildings nearby and most of the infrastructure equipment is inside the building rather than on the rooftop,” he told TODAY via email.

Unlike those on HDB rooftops, solar panels on depot rooftops need not compete with other facilities such as water tanks, said Phoenix Solar managing director, Mr Christophe Inglin.

Electricity generated by panels on the depot’s roof can be channelled directly to the depot, reducing the need for more electrical infrastructure between the energy generator and the energy consumer. “It is like working from home instead of commuting to work,” Mr Inglin said.

Installing the solar panels directly on land is also not ideal in land-scarce Singapore, said Mr Nilesh Jadhav, programme director at the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University.

Looking ahead, the experts suggested that more warehouses and schools in industrials areas with large rooftops could be installed with solar panels.

Solar leasing company Sunseap Leasing’s business development manager Brandon Lee, whose firm intends to bid for the LTA tender, noted that the Singapore American School already has a large PV system on its rooftop.

Other buildings with PV systems on their large rooftops include Sheng Siong supermarket’s distribution centre in Mandai and the Ulu Pandan NEWater plant, said Dr Reindl.

“Since the cost of solar systems has come down a lot in the past few years, we will see many more such installations in the future, simply because it makes economic sense now to generate your own solar electricity and use it to lower the electricity bill,” he added.

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AVA responds to outcry over killing of stray dog

Channel NewsAsia 5 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Friday (Sep 5) responded to a video circulating on Facebook showing a stray dog killed during a dog control operation in Ang Mo Kio.

The video, posted on Thursday on the Sg Dogslover Facebook page, said the dog was a nursing mother that was killed by a trap set by a dog catcher in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5. It added that a police report had been made, and called for volunteers to help locate the puppies.

The AVA said on Friday that the dog control operation was conducted in response to complaints about stray dogs in the area. However, its investigations showed that the trap used by the contractor had been modified and was not approved for use.

The contractor also did not monitor the trap as required to ensure that any trapped animal is removed quickly. As such, the AVA said it will be "taking enforcement actions against the contractor for the non-compliances".

- CNA/cy

Animal rights groups urge better oversight after dog death
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 6 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The deadly use of a modified dog trap by an Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) contractor on Thursday has led to calls from animal welfare groups for greater adherence to protocol and for training to be conducted for animal control contractors.

The AVA issued a statement yesterday in response to a video of a dead dog posted on social media. The stray dog was said to have been killed in a dog control operation at Ang Mo Kio Ave 5.

The authority said the trap used by its contractor had been modified and was not approved for use. It will be taking action against the contractor for non-compliance, its spokesperson said. Post-mortem results of the dog’s body are pending.

The contractor had used a modified collarum trap in the operation, which was in response to complaints about stray dogs in the area. Such traps are commonly used in Australia and the United Kingdom, and are approved by the AVA, said the spokesperson, who did not name the contractor or elaborate on how the trap had been modified.

The contractor was also required to monitor the trap to ensure any trapped animal is quickly removed, but had failed to do so. The contractor was deployed on Thursday afternoon and the AVA was informed on the same night that a dog had been killed.

Before this, the AVA had not received feedback on unapproved traps being used in dog control operations. An AVA vet checks the condition of trapped animals — which are euthanised as a last resort if they cannot be rehomed — when the authority receives them from its contractors, the spokesperson said.

Dog traps are necessary to trap dogs for purposes that include sterilisation, but not all traps are safe, said Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare group Save Our Street Dogs. The trap used involved a mechanism that trapped the dog’s head when it went for the food bait, and required the operator to be vigilant and quickly release a trapped dog to prevent any risk of strangulation, he said.

Dr Siew called for better regulation of traps to prevent further tragedy.

Other animal welfare groups said contractors should be trained — on top of guidelines jointly developed by the AVA and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that they have to follow — to ensure they do their jobs properly.

Action for Singapore Dogs president Ricky Yeo suggested contractors wear surveillance devices such as small cameras on the job, to resolve differing accounts when incidents occur. Contractors should also show their letter of authorisation to conduct operations when asked by members of the public, he said.

Mr Yeo acknowledged that the AVA may feel compelled to act in the interest of public safety when complaints arise, but said there should be more discernment when trapping dogs and the right methods should be used.

SPCA executive director Corinne Fong headed to the site on Thursday night after receiving a call from a dog feeder who witnessed the incident. The SPCA will be looking into the matter, both independently and with the AVA.

Ms Fong said animal control operations should complement the work of rescuers and feeders who help to sterilise the animals, and there could be more communication so the efforts of the latter group to control the population are not undone when the animals are rounded up.

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Shellfish in Kuantan Port waters poisonous

The Star 4 Sep 14;

KUANTAN: The public is advised not to pick or consume shellfish like cockles and mussels in the Kuantan Port waters at Tanjung Gelam as they are contaminated with paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

State Rural Development, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Sharif said tests conducted on samples of mussels and plankton showed toxin readings of between 317 and 3,560 microgrammes (ug) per 100 grammes.

"These toxin readings are above the standard set at 80 ug/100g, hence could endanger consumers' health and even cause death if no immediate treatment is sought," he said after closing the Strengthening Pahang Fishery Community Seminar.

The toxin contamination is the first to occur in Pahang waters. It was first detected after a number of individuals experienced food poisining after eating mussels from the area in November last year and a similar case happened in August this year.

In the second incident, the toxin was detected through tests conducted by the Fisheries Department's security bureau on samples of mussels from the area after a group of Indonesian workers suffered food poisoning after eating the shellfish on Aug 1.

Pahang Fisheries Department director Adnan Hussain said the department was investigating the source of the contaminaton and as a precautionary measure, it had placed signboards warning people not to pick or eat shellfish from the area.

"We will also analyse samples of water from the area each week to determine the toxin levels and would issue a warning if the water there is not safe for the public," he said. - Bernama

Fishing communities warned not to consume cockles from Kuantan Port area
T.N.Alagesh New Straits Times 4 Sep 14;

KUANTAN: The fishing communities here has been warned not to consume the cockles collected from the Kuantan Port area as the waters has been contaminated with the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) or red tide toxin, which could cause death.

State Rural Development, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Sharif, who advised them to stop collecting and selling the toxic cockles, said several individuals has previously suffered from severe food poisoning after consuming them between November last year and August.

He said tests conducted by the state Fisheries Department on the oyster consumed by eight Indonesian labourers who suffered severe food poisoning on Aug 1 showed a high presence of PSP toxins.

"Checks conducted on the oyster and plankton samples in the area showed the toxin readings were recorded between 317 and 3,560 microgram (ug) per 100gram. The reading is far above the standard level which is about 80 ug per 100g.

"It is harmful to ones health and when a person consumes it, he or she has to seek immediate treatment or else it could lead to death. The public, especially the fishing communities are advised not to collect, eat or sell them," he told reporters after closing the State Fisheries Department Community programme here today.

Meanwhile, State Fisheries Department director Adnan Hussain said the department were in the midst of investigating what had caused the waters near Kuantan Port to be contaminated with the red-tide toxin as the case reported here was the first in Pahang.

He said the department had put up signboards to remind people not to collect or consume the cockles in the vicinity or collect the water in the area.

"Those who consume the toxic cockles will experience symptoms, such as numbness in the neck and lips, vomiting, dizziness and shortness of breath. The person should seek immediate assistance at the nearest hospital or clinic," he said, adding the department will continue to monitor the situation and provide information from time to time for the safety of the public.

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