Best of our wild blogs: 5 Oct 14

Fun workshop with volunteer guides at the Sisters Islands Marine Park! from wild shores of singapore

Life History of the Common Redeye
from Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At MacRitchie Reservoir (03 Oct 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Changeable Lizard - Male displays
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Recycling gets easier with a bin at every HDB block

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE - The list of excuses for not recycling that plastic bottle or stack of paper just got shorter - every HDB block in Singapore now has a recycling bin, completing an initiative begun three years ago.

Since 2011, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has required public waste collectors to provide one bin per block, under its new waste collection contracts, compared with one per five blocks previously.

Last month, Veolia Environmental Services started its new contract for the Tanglin-Bukit Merah area - the last remaining sector without comprehensive coverage. A spokesman confirmed that recycling bins had been installed at all the housing blocks.

Environmentalists said the expanded coverage will encourage more people to recycle - provided residents know where the bins are located.

Mr Eugene Tay, founder and director of Green Future Solutions, a non-governmental organisation that promotes environmental awareness, said some bins are in places convenient for the waste collectors but not for residents, as is the case at his block in Bedok.

"The public waste collectors should look at where most people go and the walkways they use, or perhaps place the bins somewhere near the lifts," said Mr Tay, who received an EcoFriend award from the NEA this week for his outstanding environmental contributions.

Ms Bhavani Prakash, founder of environmental website Eco Walk the Talk, suggested putting up fliers at common notice boards to explain how to sort waste items and what to put in the recycling bins.

"They should be in an easy- to-understand pictorial form," she said. "It's also important to explain why we should recycle, and what happens to the waste sent for recycling, to nudge people."

Ms Doris Koh, a 63-year-old housewife whose Queenstown block of flats recently got a bin, said it had made recycling more convenient.

"My daughter, who lives nearby, also has one on her doorstep now. Before, we had to walk quite a distance."

More than 80 per cent of Singapore's resident population live in Housing Board flats.

The NEA said waste collectors have to provide a 120-litre recycling bin at each landed property as well.

The latest milestone comes as the authorities seek ways to boost the country's overall recycling rate - from 61 per cent last year to 70 per cent by 2030.

Nearly all construction debris here is recycled, but rates for more common materials such as paper and plastics lag far behind.

Last year, slightly more than half of all paper and cardboard waste - but only 11 per cent of plastic waste - was recycled.
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Move to ensure nuclear security for Singapore

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE - Singapore has outlined nine research projects to build up its nuclear expertise, which could help the country protect itself in the event of radioactive fallout from accidents or terrorist attacks.

The projects are in the areas of radiochemistry, radiobiology and safety analysis, and will start in 2016 when temporary laboratories are set up.

Scientists with expertise in radiological sciences - the use of radiation in medical treatment and nuclear radiation studies - will lead the research under the auspices of a National Research Foundation (NRF) unit, The Straits Times has learnt.

They are part of a $63 million, five-year research and education programme launched by the NRF in April this year. A government study in 2012 found current nuclear energy technologies not suitable for Singapore as yet but said it should take part in global and regional talks on nuclear safety.

The research programme will help Singapore take part in these talks, better protect its people, and prepare for the nuclear option "in the distant future", said Dr Yeoh Lean Weng, NRF director for the Energy and Environment Research Directorate.

Projects in radiochemistry, for instance, will collect data on background radiation, enabling the country to monitor radioactive levels and detect unusual levels. In radiobiology, the health effects of low doses of radiation will be studied. Said Dr Yeoh: "People are concerned when they hear about radiation. But our body is quite adaptive."

Safety analyses using modelling and simulations are another priority. These include research on the impact of nuclear accidents, and how radioactive particles can travel.

Mr Joe Eades, council member and chairman of the Institution of Engineers Singapore's process safety sub-committee, said the projects will help Singapore develop protocols to handle incidents such as terrorist strikes or accidents in the transport of nuclear material through Singapore waters.

Professor Andrew Palmer, of the civil and environmental engineering department at the National University of Singapore (NUS), called for ways to improve public perception of nuclear energy. "This could clear up misconceptions, such as associating nuclear power stations with nuclear bombs."

The $63 million effort, which includes a fund to train people in nuclear sciences, has received 10 applications for postgraduate scholarships. Said Dr Yeoh: "This is a specialised area, and we need to ensure a critical mass of scientists to build expertise."

In line with Singapore's advancing capabilities in nuclear research, NUS will introduce a new minor in medical physics in January. The NRF said it is in talks with the Nanyang Technological University to set up a similar minor or summer programme.
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Sumatra, Kalimantan fires rage on

Expected dry weather set to worsen situation
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 4 Oct 14;

FIRES in South Sumatra, South Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan provinces show no signs of abating, despite stepped-up efforts to contain them.

The situation is made worse by tropical cyclone Phanfone hovering over the Philippine sea, and sucking in moisture over parts of Indonesia, an official said.

This means weather in the lower parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan will likely continue to get drier in the coming days, worsening fires and haze.

"We forecast slightly higher pressure on Saturday there, or cyclone Phanfone growing bigger," Mr Lutfi Fitriano, a weather forecaster at the national meteorological, climatological and geophysical bureau in Jakarta, told The Straits Times.

The forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra, South Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan have raged in recent days, affecting flight and shutting schools there.

The northern part of Kalimantan, Central Sumatra - which includes Riau province - and North Sumatra may, however, see some light rain in the coming days.

"Riau is wet enough, therefore it is safe from fire as they have ample rain," Mr Lutfi added. Riau is the second-closest province to Singapore, after Riau Islands province. Dumai city in Riau province was the epicentre of last June's haze when Singapore and Malaysia saw record-high PSI.

The total number of hot spots detected in Kalimantan was 389, and 31 in Sumatra yesterday, Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an update on its website. But the low count in Sumatra was due to partial satellite coverage.

Central Kalimantan governor Teras Narang said the haze thickened yesterday. He will hold a coordination meeting today with all regency heads in his province to discuss ways to step up efforts to fight the raging fires.

"The haze has gotten very, very severe. Schools are closed, the number of residents with respiratory illness jumped, and flights have been affected," Mr Teras told reporters yesterday.

Water bombing operations in Central Kalimantan were partially impeded yesterday as the haze was too thick for the helicopter to operate, the provincial head of disaster mitigation agency, Mr Muchtar, told, the news portal owned by Indonesia's largest newspaper.

"We can barely see our neighbour's house 10 metres away," Mr Muhammad Muza, a Banjarbaru resident in South Kalimantan, told local news portal

The number of people suffering from respiratory illness in the South Sumatran capital of Palembang almost doubled to 4,839 last month, from 2,852 the previous month. Visibility level in parts of the province fell below 500m.

Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency chief Syamsul Maarif has deployed 2,200 military officers and 1,050 policemen to take part in the ground firefighting efforts.

"Law enforcement must continue to be stepped up," Mr Syamsul said.

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No shark finning activity in Malaysia

The Star 5 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Shark finning or the harvesting of shark fins and releasing the fish back to sea has not been carried out in the country, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob assured.

He said sharks were not the primary target of local fishermen who focused mainly on the commercial species.

“Shark catches in Malaysia are low as in 2013, only 7,833 tonnes of sharks were landed and this contributed to just 0.5% of the total marine fish catch in the country.

“The entire shark could be fully utilised both as food or processed into other uses,” he said when launching a “Say No to Shark Fin” campaign here.

Also present were ministry secretary-general Datuk Mohd Arif Ab Rahman and Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Ismail Abu Hassan.

Ismail Sabri said to date, 27 countries and the European Union had banned shark finning, as well as trading in such products.

He said apart from raising awareness on the management and conservation of sharks, the ban was also seen to be able to reduce demand for shark fin soup by 30%.

Ismail Sabri, however, explained that trading of shark fins was still carried out and in 2012, a total of 1,894 tonnes of shark fins valued at RM19.5mil were imported.

The minister said it was time to reduce the demand for shark fin soup, apart from taking proactive measures for shark conservation by the Government.

According to Ismail Sabri, the campaign was conducted in line with the Cabinet decision on May 21 to ban the serving of shark fin soup at all official events.

He also called on all parties, including the private sector, restaurant operators and hotels, to support the campaign by not including the dish in their menus.

At the ceremony, Ismail Sabri also launched a National Shark Conservation and Management action plan book to ensure sharks do not become extinct. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Intensity of Friday’s downpour in Penang a once-in-40-year occurrence, says state exco

royce tan The Star 5 Oct 14;

GEORGE TOWN: The high rainfall of 137mm, recorded during Friday’s storm, is a once-in-40-year occurrence, said State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow.

“The downpour last night was estimated to be a 40-year average recurrence interval (ARI) which means that it will occur once every 40 years or at a 2.5% chance of occurrence in any given year,” he told a press conference at the Town Hall here, Saturday.

A rainfall between 30mm to 60mm is considered heavy and figures above 60mm are classified as very heavy.

“The capacity of the drains in Penang is between two-year and 10-year ARI and that was certainly not enough to withstand the heavy downpour.

“Our drainage system is not designed to cope with such rainfall intensity.

“It’s quite impossible to build a drain taking into account a high level of ARI in Penang. If we do, then the drains will be as wide as the roads here,” he said.

Clean up in Penang begins following Friday's heavy downpour
winnie yeoh AND royce cheah The Star 5 Oct 14;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) workers started early on Saturday, cleaning up areas hit hard by the previous night's heavy rain and resulting flash floods.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the rainfall accumulated from Friday’s storm was one of the highest in the past 20 years, a record of 110mm for the whole day.

“The average recurrence interval was that of a 20-year storm, which is considered of a heavy proportion,” he said when contacted.

State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said that volunteers had distributed food to over 2,000 residents from the Jalan P. Ramlee and Sungai Pinang areas early Saturday morning.

“Some residents from Jalan P. Ramlee had to evacuate from their houses temporarily last night.

“The water was rising fast. But they were back early this morning,” he said.

He added that the flash floods only affected the island and that on the mainland, the situation was manageable.

Over at Taman Gottlieb near Kebun Bunga, several residents were evacuated on Friday following a landslide.

Fire and Rescue Department personnel and policemen are still on standby at the scene for any untoward incidents.

The rain started on Friday evening with Jalan Masjid Negri, Jalan Mount Erskine, Jalan Transfer, Jalan Gurdwara, Jalan Scotland, Jalan Air Itam, Jalan Datuk Keramat, Jalan Anson, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Terengganu, Jalan Makloom, Jalan Hospital and Jalan Macallum among the affected areas.

The state government’s flood mitigation committee is expect to hold a press conference.

Authorities on standby in Penang for more flash floods
christopher tan The Star 5 oct 14;

GEORGE TOWN: It's has been raining in many parts of Penang since Saturday night and the authorities are on standby to respond to any flood emergency.

The wet spell is expected to last for the next three days.

The Malaysia Meteorological Department only expected fair weather on Thursday.

Last Friday saw several areas in Penang hit by flash floods.

Motorists were caught in traffic snarls for two to three hours.
Among the places that were flooded were Jalan Masjid Negri, Jalan Mount Erskine, Jalan Transfer, Jalan Gurdwara, Jalan Scotland, Jalan Air Itam, Jalan Datuk Keramat, Jalan Anson, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Terengganu, Jalan Makloom, Jalan Hospital and Jalan Macallum, and the Pulau Tikus, Taman Hye Keat, Taman Lumba Kuda and Batu Uban areas.

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Queensland plan to dump dredge spoil onshore 'will not harm wetlands'

Deputy premier Jeff Seeney says despite conservation group’s concerns, nationally significant wetland will be preserved
Australian Associated Press 4 Oct 14;

A controversial plan to dump dredge spoil onshore will not damage nationally significant wetland, Queensland’s deputy premier, Jeff Seeney, says.

Three million cubic metres of dredged material linked to the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen in north Queensland was destined to be dumped in waters off the Great Barrier Reef.

But a backlash against the plan, which had gained federal approval, prompted the state government to endorse onshore dumping instead.

Seeney says the strategy has been submitted for federal government approval.

“We are confident that, if approved by the commonwealth, we can have state-owned land ready to receive dredge material for when licensed dredging activity begins next March,” he said in a statement.

But the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation project could be delayed by green groups, which have launched federal court proceedings challenging the environmental approval validity.

The Mackay Conservation Group secured more time in late September to put its case to the court, initially due at the end of October, saying there was uncertainty around the onshore dumping plan.

The group remains opposed to dredging, saying onshore dumping will damage a nationally significant wetland that is home to several threatened species.

Documents submitted to the commonwealth on Friday state that if approvals are not granted “in a timely manner”, the spoil could be dumped at sea.

“Project proponents that need to dredge at Abbot Point will have no option but to dispose [of] material in the [Great Barrier Reef] marine park in accordance with existing approvals,” the document said.

Seeney said the wetlands would be preserved under the onshore dumping strategy.

“We are inviting the local community and environmentalists to work with us to restore freshwater flows to degraded areas of the wetland, expand its area and consider access points for the general public to boost tourism activity in the area,” he said.

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