Best of our wild blogs: 21 Oct 14

Lots of dead farm fishes washed up at Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Buloh
from wild shores of singapore

Green Drinks: Developing the Sharing Economy in Singapore
from Green Drinks Singapore

Pelagic Survey on the Singapore Strait – 19 October 2014
from Singapore Bird Group

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Pulau Ubin: Weekend spot for many, home to a few

Goh Wei Hao My Paper AsiaOne 21 oct 14;

QUIET SPOT: Pulau Ubin, located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore, housed 2,000 villagers during its heyday. Now, just over 30 remain.

SINGAPORE - Today, just over 30 villagers remain on the once bustling island - all of whom are elderly.

Pulau Ubin, located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore, housed 2,000 villagers during its heyday.

"People started leaving for Singapore and Malaysia to look for jobs when the ubin (Malay for granite) quarry closed," said Madam Tan, the daughter-in-law of the dead village chief.

These days, Madam Tan can be found sitting on the front porch of her two-storey home, where she lives alone. She spends most of her time planting crops, cleaning the house and playing with her dog.

On weekends, her three sons and two daughters come to visit.

"Whenever my children come, they will keep asking me to move in with them," she said.

She has resisted their overtures.

"I like it here because it is less crowded," she explained. "The air is also fresher after the quarry closed and people stopped practising slash-and-burn farming."

Madam Tan, 76, married the village chief's eldest son when she was 15.

"My husband had eight brothers, so I had to take care of 10 people," she said. "I also had to rear the pigs and chickens, and help to tend my father-in-law's provision shop."

However, she was very contented. "If I was unhappy, I would have left ages ago!" quipped Madam Tan.

According to her, the main source of income for the villagers used to be from the quarries, rubber plantations and farming.

"I started working at a very young age, helping my father tap rubber sap and my mother push carts in the quarry," she said.

Today, these industries are obsolete. Instead, the main village is filled with bicycle rental shops and seafood restaurants, all vying for the patronage of visitors to the island.

One such store can be found deep within the island: a food and beverage store opened by Mr Ahmad, 78, and Ms Saipiah, 75 who have been together for more than 50 years.

The couple enjoy spending time at the five-year-old store - selling coconuts, drinks and Malay snacks - because they get to interact with visitors. Their other pastimes include watching TV and listening to the radio.
On Fridays, the couple travel to a mosque in Bugis or Geylang for their prayers.

Even though the number of villagers has dwindled, the "kampung spirit" is still alive and well on the island.

Ms Juhaini, a 46-year-old production operator, is a prime example of this. Even though her parents have died, she returns to the island to help her neighbours on weekends, especially with translations.

The other big draw is that living expenses on the island are closer to those during the 60s. Ms Lee, an illustrator in her 30s, said both her parents spend less than $1,000 a month, with the bulk of it going to groceries and phone bills, as the rent is just over $100.

The island's tranquil pace of life makes it easy to see why it is still a draw with visitors, who come during weekends or holidays to fish and cycle.

"The visitors are normally from the Philippines, Indonesia and China," said Mr Heng, 69. "Singaporeans normally only come to cycle during the weekends or during Qing Ming Festival to sweep their ancestors' tombs."

Mr Heng, who lives in Hougang, visits the island every few months to stay at his friend's house - located a stone's throw from the jetty.

"When I am here, I like to fish, cut the grass, clean the house or just sit here (outside the house)," he said. "Sometimes, I bring my brother or my kids."

According to him, the villagers - although greying - are still very healthy and mobile.

"You will be surprised because many of the villagers in their 90s can still walk faster than me," he said.

He added: "The villagers who are ill have all left the island."

So have the children of the villagers, who have moved to the mainland.

One such person is Ms Lee, who left because "it was too troublesome to keep travelling to and fro".

According to her, she belongs to the "last generation of Ubin-born children".

The Lasalle School of the Arts graduate added: "During my time, there were only around 10 children left."

When she visits her parents with her older brother and sister on weekends, Ms Lee makes sketches of the island in her black notebook.

She still holds many fond memories from her childhood, especially of cycling and exploring the island with her neighbours. "I like that it is less congested and the air is much fresher. I might retire here one day," she said.

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New Jurong gardens will retain heritage

Aw Cheng Wei The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Oct 14;

THE new Jurong Lake Gardens will not be developed in a rush, assured Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, promising to maintain the area's special character and heritage.

To drive this patient rejuvenation of a "people's garden" is a steering committee led by Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong, said Mr Tharman yesterday.

Its challenge, he said, is to retain the natural feel and history of the place, and yet inject life and enable many more Singaporeans to enjoy what he hopes will become "an endearing place".

"Jurong Lake Gardens and its surroundings will give a new face to our neighbourhood, something to be enjoyed by residents and Singaporeans everywhere on the island," he said, before joining over 700 families in an event to clean up Jurong Lake.

The Jurong Lake Gardens, which covers more than 70ha by combining the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden and Jurong Lake Park, will be completed in phases, said Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister and an MP for Jurong GRC.
The makeover was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally in August. It will begin with Jurong Lake Destination Park, which will be done by 2017.

Following that, Science Centre Singapore's new home near Chinese Garden MRT station is expected to be ready by 2020.

Mr Wong said his committee wants to put in place a long-term masterplan that will guide development in Jurong Lake District for many years. "This is not a typical (Urban Redevelopment Authority) planning committee. We should look at it more broadly."

This is especially since the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail terminus might be built in Jurong East, and Pandan Reservoir could also be integrated into the area, he said.

An example which the committee - which will be supported by the URA - can learn from is Marina Bay, said Mr Wong.

"If you looked at what we did for Marina Bay, it went on for a number of years... We had a vision and we worked very hard to make the plans happen," he said.

The 15 members in the new committee will come from the Government, the private sector and the community.

"We deliberately put together people with a range of expertise in design, urban planning... as well as representatives from the local community," said Mr Wong, who is an MP for West Coast GRC, which is adjacent to Jurong GRC where the gardens are situated.

The members include Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo; Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee; Nature Society president Shawn Lum; Centre for Liveable Cities executive director Khoo Teng Chye; and Taman Jurong Citizens Consultative Committee chairman Goh Peng Tong.

They will look at ideas and possibilities, gather feedback before the plans are finalised, and also put on roadshows.

"We will certainly want to hear from Singaporeans (on) what they would like to see for Jurong Lake District," said Mr Wong, referring to the plans as a national project.

Mr Habibui Hasim Matbar, 42, who was cleaning up the lake with his seven-year-old son yesterday, said his family, who lives in Boon Lay, is looking forward to the changes. "My family comes here about two or three times a month, and we are very excited," said the Keppel Shipyard project manager.

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Egg prices continue to rise after suspension of third Malaysian farm

KELLY NG Today Online 21 Oct 14;

The prices of fresh eggs here have continued to rise as the supply shortfall widens, after another farm in Malaysia was suspended last month — the third in six months — from exporting eggs to Singapore.

This is so despite the three suspended farms accounting for less than 8 per cent of Singapore’s total supply of 1.68 billion eggs last year. In the past three weeks alone, a few supermarket chains have raised the prices of eggs several times.

School canteen vendor Margaret Tan, 60, who usually buys eggs from Sheng Siong, said a box of 30 eggs now sets her back S$5.95, up from S$5.60 last week and S$4.30 last month.

At NTUC FairPrice stores, fresh eggs now cost between S$1.95 and S$5.70 for a pack, up from between S$1.90 and S$5.55 at the end of last month.

A FairPrice spokesperson said prices of eggs had increased by about 12 per cent over the past six-and-a-half months for “various reasons such as reductions in supply and economic conditions”.

Egg prices at Giant have also increased by about 4 to 7 per cent in the past three to four months, said a Dairy Farm Group spokesperson.

Last month, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) suspended Charoen Pokphand Jaya farm after its eggs had been found to contain Salmonella Enteritidis — a bacterium that causes food poisoning. The two other farms, Chong Ne Nam and Teo Seng Farm 8, were suspended in March and July, respectively.

Singapore imported about three-quarters of its eggs from Malaysia last year, with the rest produced locally. There are currently 20 Malaysian chicken layer farms approved by the AVA.

Mr Tan Lau Huah, chairman of the Eggs Import/Export Trading Association, said prices first took flight around August, after the second farm was suspended, and had risen thrice since.

Wholesale prices are now at a record high of almost S$2.40 per dozen.

“We face higher costs from our Malaysian suppliers and demand has risen because of festivities this month, so we have no choice but to raise prices,” he said.

Mr Tan expects prices to remain unchanged for the next two weeks as demand is likely to subside only after Deepavali. KELLY NG

Suspension of Malaysian farms will keep egg prices high: Experts
Lester Hio The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Oct 14;

Egg prices are expected to remain high after three farms in Malaysia were suspended over a Salmonella scare.

Supermarkets and wholesalers here have put up prices due to a supply shortfall caused by the suspensions earlier this year.

Industry experts say they are unlikely to fall for the time being, as Malaysia remains the main source of eggs for Singapore - which has no other affordable alternative sources.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority suspended the third egg-laying farm in Malaysia last month.

Eggs from the Charoen Pokphand Jaya farm in Johor were found to contain Salmonella enteritidis, a bacterium that causes food poisoning.

Two other farms - Chong Ne Nam and Teo Seng Farm 8 - were suspended in March and July respectively for the same reason.

Fresh eggs at FairPrice now cost $1.95 for a pack of 10 and $5.75 for a pack of 30, up from $1.65 and $4.70 respectively at the start of August when the price hikes first started.

A FairPrice spokesman added that prices rose about 12 per cent on average over the last six months.

At Giant, a pack of 30 eggs costs $5.70.

A spokesman for Dairy Farm Group, which owns Giant, said its prices have increased by 4 to 7 per cent over the past four months.

Mr Tan Lau Huah, chairman of the Eggs Import/Export Trading Association, said prices have reached a 10-year high, with wholesale prices peaking at $2.40 for a dozen.

"The last time prices rose so much was during the Sars period in 2003," he said.

Housewife Maria Tan, 47, who buys about 30 eggs a month, said: "Everything costs more these days, so I have no choice but to pay a dollar or two more a month for eggs."

The suspensions have reduced the daily import supply by about 30,000 eggs, according to Mr Tan.

Singapore imports about four million eggs a day from Malaysia.

Mr Tan said that the association has tried to source eggs from other countries, such as Australia, in the past to diversify supply, but found that it was not feasible due to the high costs.

"Eggs from Australia cost more," said Mr Tan.

"A box of 30 will cost the customer more than $10. That's just too expensive."

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