Best of our wild blogs: 11 Oct 14

Night Walk At Venus Drive (10 Oct 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Bees and the Bilimbing Averrhoa bilimbi flowers
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Indopinnixa shellorum, A new species of crab described from Singapore!
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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Smart Nation: 1,000 sensors deployed to monitor air, water quality and public safety

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 10 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: As part of the first phase of Singapore's Smart Nation Platform (SNP) rollout, 1,000 sensors will be implemented in six areas across the island to monitor things such as air and water quality and public safety. It is a scheme that aims to provide better connectivity, facilitate the sharing of data among Government agencies and, eventually, allow Singaporeans to better anticipate and react to events.

Environmental sensors - some of which are able to record video - will be installed in the Jurong East estate of Yuhua, potentially allowing authorities to monitor the air quality in the area. At present, the National Environment Agency does not provide PSI figures for specific estates.

Sensors will also be installed in five other "high traffic" areas: the Civic District, Orchard Road, Singapore River, Little India and Geylang. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore announced this in a media briefing on Friday (Oct 10). IDA said it received feedback from agencies that these are the areas that require "immediate operational requirements".

IDA Assistant CEO Khoong Hock Yun said: "Many agencies have different requirements, so we will deploy those first. We want to enhance safety and security requirements in areas like Little India and Geylang. As for the Singapore River, we want to prevent flooding and ensure that the water level and quality can be measured. The environment sensors are for monitoring the levels of air quality in different parts of Singapore due to wind conditions."

Currently, different agencies have their own tracking equipment. For instance, security cameras are already installed at certain spots in Little India. However, IDA said a Smart Nation Platform will support the agencies' existing operations and allow them to share data.

Mr Khoong added: "What is critical for us is to put in the infrastructure fabric. So, you may be able to take sound data, mash it together with video data, mash it together with other forms of sensors to provide a deeper insight. A lot of this is providing the infrastructure so you can then move forward with better services."

A tender for the deployment of the sensors will be issued by end of the year, and works are expected to be completed by end-2015, it added. According to IDA, Phase 2 of the Smart Nation plan will see these sensors being deployed nationwide. To kickstart the process, it will be seeking the industry's views on the design of the entire system. Consultations will be held as early as the first quarter of next year.

The SNP was announced in June. IDA said then that the SNP will comprise of key components such as the communications backbone, sensor networks, data analytics and real-world applications that will empower individuals, government and businesses alike.

- CNA/kk

Sensor network to track range of conditions around the island
Tan Weizhen Today Online 11 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — From tracking safety and security in public places to monitoring air quality to checking water levels in flood-prone areas, about 1,000 sensors will be deployed by the end of next year under Phase One of the Smart Nation Platform (SNP) to improve the quality of life of Singaporeans, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said yesterday.

For a start, they will be placed in high-traffic areas such as Orchard Road, Little India, Geylang, the Civic District and the Singapore River, the IDA said. Sensors will also be placed at the Yuhua housing estate, as part of a trial in the Jurong Lake District, which will be a live test-bed for the Smart Nation initiative.

Mr Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive of development group at IDA, said the SNP common infrastructure, which all government agencies can tap, will translate into cost savings as each agency would not have to build its own individually. “These are places where agencies have come back and said they have immediate operational requirements and they need us to roll out as quickly as possible.”

“In places such as Little India and Geylang, we want to enhance our safety and security requirements. In the Singapore River areas, it is flooding and water quality. And in terms of the environment, (it is) air quality — to see if different parts of Singapore have different air quality,” he added.

The IDA also envisions smart housing estates, in rolling out sensors in the Yuhua area. “You think about anticipatory services, being able to prevent problems from happening, for example, flooding … traffic congestion, (and providing) better healthcare monitoring for patients as they are travelling in ambulances,” said Mr Khoong.

Tenders for the sensors will be called before the year is out, moving Singapore one step closer to its vision of being a Smart Nation, which was announced in June.

The IDA had said then that collecting and analysing data from everyday situations would be a key driver in Singapore’s big push to become a Smart Nation, to enable better delivery of government services.

The SNP Phase One rollout will also include the 100 above-ground boxes in common outdoor areas, such as bus stops, parks and traffic junctions, which the sensors will transmit data to. The information will be sent to the various agencies for analysis, so measures can be taken to improve the provision of services. Fibre connectivity and secure wireless networks will also be built to enhance capabilities, as well as a Smart Nation operating system.

In Phase Two, the IDA will consult the industry from the first quarter of next year on the technical design and architecture of the SNP to prepare for large-scale deployment. Security and data protection will also be discussed, it added.

'Smart nation' sensors here, there and everywhere
Irene Tham The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Oct 14;

THEY will be on the front line of Singapore's push to be a "smart nation", popping up on roads, in drains or in high places to keep tabs on everything from traffic to water levels and the air.

Up to 1,000 sensors - which can be in the form of computer chips or surveillance cameras - will be deployed across Singapore as the Government officially kicks off its "smart nation" plan.

These sensors will support various government projects, such as one to increase surveillance in Little India and Geylang, and another to better monitor the risk of the Singapore River flooding.

"These are places where agencies have immediate operational requirements and need system rollout as quickly as possible," said Mr Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive of development group at the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

He said a tender will be called by the year end for the installation of the sensors, as part of Singapore's Smart Nation Platform. To be completed by the end of next year, this system is expected to lead to substantial savings as the infrastructure will be shared by various agencies.

The sensors will be linked to Aggregation Gateway boxes, typically installed at traffic junctions, parks or bus stops to feed data from, say, surveillance cameras or air quality sensors, to the relevant agencies for analysis.

For a start, the sensors and boxes will be mainly in high-traffic areas including the Civic District and Orchard Road.

The rollout will run alongside similar trials in Jurong Lake District, named in June as the test bed for Singapore's push to be a smart nation.

The 15 trials in Jurong include sensors in parks that adjust lighting based on motion and the time of the day, and high-tech cameras that help wardens issue tickets for illegal parking more swiftly.

IDA said lessons from the trials in Jurong Lake District will be applied to the Smart Nation Platform's rollout next year.

Wider applications being looked at for nationwide deployment include flood and traffic jam prevention, and better patient monitoring in moving ambulances. Free public Wi-Fi services can also be deployed quickly throughout Orchard Road, for instance.

Mr Khoong said a common platform could spur better data sharing and coordination across agencies to meet the public's needs.

Separately, Punggol and Yuhua have been picked to provide the first prototypes of what a "smart home" here would look like.

IDA is looking for ideas from the private sector on possible applications, which could include better security monitoring or Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the home.

Engineer John Wong, 36, said he hopes these high-tech installations will solve his daily transportation woes, among others.

"My idea of a smart nation is citizens being able to board a bus or flag down a cab, peak hour or not. This comes with high-tech prediction capabilities," he said.

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How Changi has transformed over the years

Janice Lim Channel NewsAsia 10 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Idyllic, rustic and homely - Changi Village is one of the few places in Singapore that truly deserves such a description. On weekends, the area teems with crowds, from cycling enthusiasts to people having supper.

However, before it became a popular location for leisure pursuits, Changi was known as a military base set up by the British for its Far Eastern defences in the 1930s. It only flourished when the British Royal Air Force (RAF) was firmly established at the base after World War Two.

Ex-RAF serviceman Mr Mike James used to be stationed at Changi, and remembers the days when Changi Village was part of the RAF camp. "The Village was our shopping centre, you might say. I used to go to the Village at least once a day and try to do some shopping. If we wanted any clothing, we went there."


Eventually, more and more local businesses were set up to cater to the needs of the servicemen. One of these establishments belonged to the father of Mr Charlie Han, a long-time resident of Changi Village.

"My father was learning how to cook Western food. After graduating, he came back and opened a shop here. They set up shop here because they wanted to do business with Caucasians," he recalled. "At first we were Milk Bar, after that we became Millie Bar. After Millie Bar, we changed to Millie Coffee House."

Helping his father at the cafe while growing up, Mr Han had front-row seats to the life of the British servicemen. He said: "During weekends, some of them were not working, so they brought their wives and children out to eat. On weekdays, those who were not married, once they finished work, around 7pm, they came straight here without even changing out of their uniform.

"So the tables were all put up, with everybody happily drinking beer and singing. Morning and lunch time was quite normal. Most people would leave after they finished eating. People started streaming in about 3pm. They came to sit, eat and drink until 8 or 9pm before heading home. Their wives came as well."


Things changed in 1971 when the British withdrew and the Singapore Government took over the reins. "This whole area was totally dismantled. The Housing Board came, reclaimed the land and built new buildings," said Mr Han. His family business moved out of the area, but he returned to Changi in 1979.

By then, low-rise HDB flats and other amenities had sprung up, and the area was designated a recreation and tourist spot. Many of the old RAF buildings have since been re-purposed into hotels, chalets, clubs and restaurants.

Mr Lim Tow Soon, president of the Changi Village Merchants Association, feels that Changi's combination of good food and relaxing scenery is what makes it unique. "People can take scenic walks, enjoy the beach. It is something quite different from what you have in town, in the city."

Even as they grow, the businesses in the area are only too aware that Changi's appeal lies in its laidback charm. "Everything is changing. We do like to preserve the way the life is also," said Mr Lim. "What we are also concerned about is the area suddenly becoming too urbanised. Then I would say that our paradise here would be lost. Because you must maintain this kind of charm, the way it is."

- CNA/xy

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Malaysia: API levels worst in Nilai

BALQIS LIM New Straits Times 11 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE skyline in cities across the nation was shrouded in haze yesterday, accompanied by an arid, burning smell.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) readings on the Department of Environment’s website showed the highest readings were recorded in Nilai at 115 and Port Klang at 114 as of 6pm yesterday.

Areas which recorded high/moderate readings include Kuala Selangor (96), Batu Muda (96), Shah Alam (94), Petaling Jaya (94), Cheras (91), Kg Air Putih in Taiping (89), Banting (88), Seri Manjung (87), Seberang Jaya 2 in Perai (86), USM station in Penang (85), Port Dickson (85), SK Jalan Pegoh in Ipoh (83) and Bukit Rambai (80).

Thirty-two areas in the country recorded moderate readings while 16 other areas had good readings.

The areas that recorded good readings were Langkawi, SMK Tanjung Chat in Kota Baru, Tanah Merah, Kangar, Keningau, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, ILP Miri, Kapit, Limbang, Miri, Sibu, Sri Aman, Kuala Terengganu and Labuan.

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100 (moderate); between 101 and 200 (unhealthy); between 201 and 300 (very unhealthy); and over
301 (hazardous).

The Meteorological Department’s deputy director-general Alui Bahari said the haze was a result of forest and plantation fires in Sumatra, Indonesia, being blown into Malaysia’s airspace.

“The westerly winds are heading towards our country but this is a transition period where the wind direction could change.

“Whether Malaysia will experience a prolonged period of hazy weather will depend on wind direction,” he said, adding the haze should clear by next month as the wind would begin blowing in from the northeast.

Haze is back in Penang
MELISSA DARLYNE CHOW New Straits Times 10 Oct 14;

GEORGE TOWN: Haze has made its seasonal comeback to Penang, with an unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) recorded at the USM station on the island here today.

Checks showed that the island was not visible from the Penang Bridge.

As at 3pm today, the API reading on the island stood at 107, rising from a reading of 91 just an hour before.

The readings at the two stations on the mainland remained at moderate levels, with the Perai station recording a level of 76, and the Seberang Jaya 2, Perai station a reading of 95.

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Indonesia Not Doing Enough to Halt Rapid Wildlife Decline -- WWF

Harry Pearl Jakarta Globe 10 Oct 14;

Jakarta. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has failed to adequately address the population decline of Indonesia’s wild animals and curb the country’s growing ecological footprint, the director general of WWF International says.

Marco Lambertini, who was in Indonesia to relaunch the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)’s Living Planet Report 2014 on Friday, said Yudhoyono has “not done enough and the government has not done enough” to halt species decline or slow unsustainable growth.

But he added: “I don’t think any leader has.”

The comments follow WWF’s release of the tenth edition of its Living Planet Report last month. It claimed the world’s wildlife population had dropped by more than half since 1970.

The population of vertebrate wildlife species — mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish — fell 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, according to the organization’s Living Planet Index, which measures trends in more than 10,000 wildlife populations over roughly 3,000 species.

The worst decline was among populations of freshwater species, which fell by 76 percent over the four decades to 2010, while marine and terrestrial numbers both fell by 39 percent.

The report said species loss was most acute in the tropics, particularly in South America, but the Asia-Pacific area was not far behind.

“The trend in Indonesia reflects trends overall in the tropical region. The tropics have suffered much higher [loss],” Lambertini told the Jakarta Globe.

In South America species decline has been at its most dramatic, about 83 percent on average since 1970. The Asia Pacific area had the second-highest rate of decline at 67 percent.

“Development in the tropics and in the Asia Pacific has accelerated over the past three decades,” Lambertini said. “It [loss] is a reflection of [that] acceleration.”

An unsustainable toll

The trend doesn’t bode well for Indonesia, whose economy is one of the world’s fastest growing, but geared towards manufacturing, agriculture and extractive industries.

Indonesia already has the highest rate of deforestation in the world — almost twice that of Brazil, according to a recent study — with vast tracts of primary and secondary forest cleared for the plantation sector, notably oil palm plantations.

And despite a moratorium on logging in 2011, deforestation is increasing.

“We should worry because biodiversity is the foundation of all ecosystems on earth,” Lambertini said. “It helps ecosystem stability, productivity.”

“They [species] provide invaluable services for us — clean air, raw materials, pollination.”

“Indonesia is one of the top-10 countries in terms of biodiversity. It’s a powerhouse of biodiversity.”

Habitat loss and degradation, along with unsustainable exploitation through hunting and fishing were identified as the primary drivers of wildlife loss in the report. Climate change was the next biggest threat and its impact was growing, Lambertini said.

The report also measure humanity’s ecological footprint, which captures how much biologically productive land and water is required to fulfill human demand. The world’s ecological footprint showed that 1.5 earths would be needed to keep pace with the demands humans make on nature each year.

“The consequences are diminished resource stocks and waste accumulating faster than it can be absorbed or recycled,” the report said.

Lambertini said the main challenges to halting wildlife decline were moving away from a fossil-fuel economy and creating a more sustainable supply chain.

Decoupling human development from an increasing ecological footprint was also a challenge, he said.

“It’s down to good land planning and a framework guide at government and local government level. The situation is very serious around the world and Indonesia is not an exception.”

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No Paris climate deal better than bad one – former French climate minister

Serge Lepeltier says global warming deal at Paris in 2015 must be binding, as capital hosts pre-summit meeting
Arthur Neslen 10 Oct 14;

A French diplomatic effort to seal a deal on cutting carbon emissions at next year’s Paris climate change summit has opened with a warning from the country’s former climate change ambassador that it would be better to have no deal at all, than a bad one.

The World Summit for the Regions on Climate in the French capital on Friday and Saturday is a showcase for efforts to mobilise business sectors in a ‘bottom-up’ initiative to enable commitments on carbon cuts ahead of the 2015 UN climate conference.

The approach is in line with the ‘pledge and review’ idea proposed by the US in which countries would put the emissions reduction measures they are prepared to offer on the table for review at a later date. EU negotiators hope a climate deal next year will include a mechanism that could trigger moves to binding cuts if countries’ emissions go too high.

But Serge Lepeltier said that without agreed minimum ambitions to curb man-made global warming in 2015, the bottom-up approach could be “an excuse” for the lack of a comprehensive effort, with scattered results.

“There has to be a global agreement with binding constraints,” he told the audience of policy-makers, businesses and environmentalists on Friday. “Without those commitments, what is done by local authorities and companies will remain marginal.”

“Can we risk non-agreement in Paris? We can’t have a minimal agreement that won’t truly combat climate change,” he said. “We should take the risk of no agreement rather than accept a weak agreement.”

Lepeltier, a former French environment minister, insisted that failure to agree a climate deal at the UN Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 was not the disaster that it had been painted as at the time. “Copenhagen was portrayed negatively for many years but it enabled a lot of things to move forward that were decided in CancĂșn the next year,” he said.

The CancĂșn summit made progress on key developing world demands – such as the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to disburse $100bn a year by 2020. But it failed to achieve a collective commitment to reining in carbon dioxide emissions, which last year increased at their fastest rate in the atmosphere for 30 years.

Because of the wide differences between states with some commitment to cutting emissions and those such as Russia, Canada, Australia and Japan which have withdrawn from international treaties, UN officials have played down the chances of material emissions cuts emerging from next year’s Paris summit.

Bernard Spitz, the president of the French Insurance companies association, AFA, told the conference that if global warming continued on present trends, an estimated 20% of world GDP could be lost by the end of the century.

“In 2007, the cost of natural disasters represented €34bn, or 16% of the [French] insurance budget. In the next 20 years, that could double to more than €60bn,” he said.

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