Best of our wild blogs: 9 Nov 14

Butterflies of Pulau Ubin
from Butterflies of Singapore

Leopard lingering on Lotus
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Morning Walk At Venus Drive (08 Nov 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

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Community learning campus to open at former Bottle Tree Park

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 8 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: A new community learning campus will be built at the former Bottle Tree Park in Khatib. The remaining land at the park has been leased out to an operator that plans to have a recreation centre at the site.

The campus is expected to cost S$6 million. Named the Kampung Kampus, it is an initiative by non-profit organisation Ground-Up Initiative (GUI).

Spanning 26,000 square metres, or 4.2 football fields, the campus will nurture leaders through craftsmanship, urban farming, design thinking, heritage and the arts. It will also help build communities that are more gracious and green.

Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, who is also MP for Nee Soon GRC, was present at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new campus.

"It's a very good initiative. And we were impressed because of the amount of energy and enthusiasm that young people show for this,” said Mr Shanmugam. “Beyond looking at things from a commercial perspective, it brings people very much in touch with something that they yearn for in an urban environment like Singapore - nature, doing things with your hands, the spirit of self-reliance."

Mr Shanmugam also weighed in on the incident involving Mobile Air - a shop at Sim Lim Square that allegedly scammed a tourist. Mr Shanmugam said there are laws that can deal with that kind of conduct.

He said the Attorney-General's Chambers are working with the police on the issue.

He was asked if there could be changes to the law as Sim Lim Square's Management Committee has said it is unable to deal with errant retailers, as current laws do not empower them to reject unethical tenants. In response, Mr Shamugam said the matter needs careful study.

"Whether we should go further and broadly look at laws between landlords and tenants, we need to be careful and study it properly,” he said. “There are hundreds and thousands of tenants in Singapore. And if it becomes easier for landlords to move them out on a variety of grounds, that could have substantial implications.”

- CNA/xq

Eco-friendly site to take root in Khatib
David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

A non-profit group that has drawn thousands of volunteers with its philosophy of living in harmony with the earth and people, now has a larger space to do even more.

Ground-Up Initiative (GUI) has secured 26,000 sq m of land at the former Bottle Tree Park in Khatib for what it calls a "Kampung Kampus", to nurture leaders through urban farming, craftsmanship, arts and heritage, and to build a kampung spirit.

When it is ready in about two years' time, the eco-friendly site will include organic farming plots, camping grounds, an amphitheatre, a heritage centre and a prototyping zone for people to design useful technologies such as solar lamps.

The project is expected to cost GUI $6 million, which it hopes to raise from government grants and by offering its popular educational programmes to schools and corporations.

The group has 12 full-time staff and has attracted 35,000 volunteers since 2008 to help with farming, composting, carpentry workshops and making organic food, among other activities.

It had earlier looked as if GUI would have to move from its rent-free base in the former Bottle Tree Park, after the lease secured by the supportive former management expired this year.

But the group has been thrown a lifeline: Chong Pang Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) is leasing the land from the Government for community use for six years, and is subletting it to GUI at a "very soft rental", said Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the site's ground-breaking ceremony yesterday.

GUI founder Tay Lai Hock told reporters that the group is paying a monthly rent of "close to five figures".

Mr Shanmugam said that to help keep the rental low, Chong Pang CCC offered to become the tenant on the basis that the area would be used for community projects.

He said that while letting the non-profit group use the site would mean less income is earned, and there were competing uses for the land, "you can't put a money value" on how GUI's work benefits people.

"We were impressed because of the amount of energy and enthusiasm that young people show for this," Mr Shanmugam said.

"Beyond looking at things from a commercial perspective, it brings people very much in touch with something that they yearn for in an urban environment like Singapore - nature, doing things with your hands, a spirit of self-reliance."

Mr Tay said: "In the past six years, I have seen so many families and young people come up to me to thank me for building a space like this. It provides a breathing space and safe place for many to experience their sense of purpose and empathy for Singapore, the earth and humanity. It makes us feel like human beings again."

The former Bottle Tree Park had restaurants and a fishing pond, with tenants paying monthly rents of about $15,000.

The remaining land there will be leased by China-based Fullshare Group, which secured the lease in July with a tender bid of $169,000 a month. The company, which invests in health care and international trade businesses in Singapore, is expected to turn the area into a leisure park attraction, with restaurants and activities such as camping and fishing.

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A sustainable future for Singapore

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 8 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Bold plans have been unveiled to create a cleaner and greener future for Singaporeans. They are part of a review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint - which aims at responding to the challenges that the nation face.

The Government will commit S$1.5 billion to support the roll out of the programmes under the blueprint. This was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the launch of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 on Saturday (Nov 8).

The blueprint, first released in 2009, maps out strategies for Singapore's sustainable development. As part of the review, close to 6,000 people were involved in consultations and discussions.

A long-term vision for Singapore is a model city for green living, even as the country grapples with environmental challenges such as a dry spell earlier this year. Other challenges include housing a growing nation within limited land; mitigating carbon footprint while planning early for climate change; and securing access to water, energy, food and raw materials.

Prime Minister Lee said: "We can do more, we need to do more, as our environmental challenges grow. For example, climate change ... in February, we had our longest dry spell ever. The reservoir water levels dropped below normal - everywhere our grass, the grass in our parks, turned brown. We had 'lalang' fires all over Singapore, even one or two forest fires in the nature reserves. But fortunately our lives were not disrupted because we ran our desalination plants at 100 per cent and we increased our NEWater output to meet our needs.

"And we didn't have to ration water, as we planned for a margin of safety. So we endured the drought, and eventually the rains came, and Singapore became green again. But we cannot become complacent because climate is changing. I think we must expect more such extreme episodes, more droughts, more heavy rains at different times and we must be able to cope with that."

Plans announced on Saturday which would enable Singapore to be cleaner and greener would focus on three areas: 1) A Liveable & Endearing Home; 2) A Vibrant & Sustainable City; and 3) An Active & Gracious Community.

For a high-quality living environment, there are plans to more than double skyrise greenery from 61 hectares in 2013 to 200 hectares in 2030. Last year, there were 4,040 hectares of parks. Come 2030, there will be 0.8 hectares of park for every 1,000 people. And more will find it convenient to get to parks, with 90 per cent of households within a 10-minute walk from a park in 2030. In 2013, the figure was 80 per cent.

Land set aside for water bodies will also increase - from 959 hectares in 2013 to 1,039 hectares in 2030. Innovative features in new and existing towns will also help residents to be more environmentally friendly. These include eco-pedestals that allow water used for hand washing to be used for flushing; LED lighting with motion sensors at staircases; and more bicycle parking lots.

And on the roads, a cleaner mode of transport to reduce carbon emissions and enjoy fresher air. The length of cycling paths will be extended from 213km in 2013 to 700km in 2030. Innovative features and designs will be introduced in some estates for a better cycling environment, starting with Ang Mo Kio.

The aim is to increase the share of journeys during peak hours made via public transport to 75 per cent. In 2013, the figure was 64 per cent. To do so, the length of rail network will be extended to 360km in 2030 from 178km in 2013. The proportion of households within a 10-minute walk from train stations will be increased to 80 per cent in 2030, from 58.5 per cent in 2013. Electric car-sharing and driverless car trials will also be conducted.

To conserve precious resources, the government encourages the reuse and recycling of materials. It aims to raise the national recycling rate from 61 per cent in 2013 to 70 per cent in 2030. There will be centralised chutes for recyclables in all new HDB flats, and better recycling infrastructure for private housing.

An integrated waste management facility will be built, which will have the capacity to segregate recyclables from waste. There will also be more initiatives to reduce food waste in business and improve recycling of electronic waste.

For a green economy, solar power will feature prominently in Singapore's energy system, with plans to boost adoption to 350 megawatt-peak by 2020, a significant increase from the existing 15 megawatt-peak of solar power capacity. It will form about 5 per cent of peak electricity demand in 2020.

The Government is also aiming for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark Certified rating, up from the 21.9 per cent last year. To reduce carbon footprint as well as improve energy and water efficiency, the Government has initiatives to encourage green buildings. These include a S$52 million fund for research on promising solutions. Innovation districts incorporating educational institutions and industrial estates will be test-beds for new technologies.

However, for the vision to come to life, a collective effort is required. "The responsibility - some of it lies with the government, a large part of it has to do with what each of us individually choose and decide to do with our own lives. HDB can build more convenient chutes for recycling, but households have to use them and have to practise the 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle," said PM Lee.

"Together, we have to develop new norms if we are really going to succeed in being clean and green. And that's why people are at the heart of this Sustainable Singapore Blueprint and we hope Singapore will be an active and gracious community."

Thus, there will be more activities for residents to shape their landscape. For example, in the "Bright Spots Challenge", organisations and individuals clean up community spaces and turn them into "Bright Spots". The challenge aims to have a total of 500 such spots by the end of next year. There are now more than 300 "Bright Spots" since the movement was launched in 2012.

Under another initiative, the public can pledge to reduce food waste and the use of disposables on certain days. They can then post photographs on social media to show how they did so. The challenge aims to collect pledges of 50,000 "No Waste Days".

In a Facebook post, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: "We have made much progress since the first version of the SSB (Sustainable Singapore Blueprint) was rolled out in 2009. We need to evolve in order to face the major challenges that the future will bring due to climate change, urbanisation, resource depletion and pollution. But these same challenges also present us with opportunities to build the model city of the future. Singapore will only be our best home if each and every one of us does our part. We need a sense of personal ownership and collective responsibility."

- CNA/rw/al

Sustainable development: Much progress made, much more to be done

SINGAPORE — Five years after the first Singapore Sustainable Blueprint (SSB) setting out the Republic’s goals on sustainable development was published in 2009, progress has been made and, in some instances, even achieved ahead of projected timelines.

But while the Government has added significantly to Singapore’s green spaces, expanded the use of renewable energy and stayed on track in meeting emission targets, experts and observers say much remains to be done — in particular, improving public attitudes towards environmental conservation and sustainable living.

The SSB 2009, the first of its kind on sustainable development, covered four broad areas. The first was to green Singapore’s urban environment by setting aside more land for parks and creating more skyrise greenery or rooftop gardens. Second, Singapore would look at making better use of resources, through initiatives such as exploring renewable energy, energy-efficient buildings, improving recycling and waste management.

Third, Singapore would aim to become a lead example in green technology, as a test-bed for new technologies, such as solar energy and “green” buildings.

Fostering community action on leading environmentally-friendly lifestyles through greater outreach comprised the fourth area of focus.

The second edition of the SSB is due today, following a review that began last year.


The 2009 blueprint had set a target to reach 4,200ha of parkland by 2020 and 0.8ha of parkland per 1,000 people by 2030, by opening new parks such as Gardens by the Bay and Coney Island Park. On track to reach this target, Singapore’s current park space measured 4,040ha as of last year.

Significant headway has also been made in expanding green spaces upwards through rooftop gardens on blocks of newer flats and on the top decks of Housing and Development Board (HDB) multi-storey carparks. Originally set at 50ha by 2030 in the blueprint, figures from the Ministry of National Development show Singapore already exceeded this target with 61ha last year.

Despite this visible progress, Nature Trekker founder and wildlife guide Ben Lee said increasing park space and skyrise greenery has little impact on preserving Singapore’s biodiversity, which requires large spaces with more vegetation to thrive.

Assistant professor at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Geography Harvey Neo also pointed out that the 2009 blueprint had made no mention of increasing the number of nature reserves or expanding the size of existing ones.


In the 2009 blueprint, the goal was to raise national recycling standards from 56 per cent in 2008 to 65 per cent in 2020. Two major types of waste — plastic and food — were singled out for their low recycling rates and a study on the feasibility of mandating the recycling of such waste was set out.

To get households to actively recycle their waste, more recycling facilities have been provided through a pilot of separate chutes for recyclables in housing estates. At the beginning of the year, it was announced that future public housing developments would have eco-friendly features such as centralised chutes for recyclable waste.

This followed the success of Singapore’s first eco-precinct Treelodge@Punggol, where centralised chutes for recyclables collected three times the amount of recyclables compared with other HDB blocks. Under a three-year initiative, public waste collectors also installed a blue recycling bin at every HDB block.

National recycling rates have been steadily climbing over the past few years. Singapore recycled 61 per cent of the 7.8 million tonnes of waste it generated last year, of which household recycling rate was about 20 per cent. However, household recycling rates have always lagged behind industrial recycling here and public education efforts seem to have little effect on changing public behaviour, said Dr Neo.


The authorities had also set out to have 80 per cent of the buildings here achieve Green Mark certification, an eco-friendly rating that is awarded by the Building and Construction Authority, by 2030. To date, more than 25 per cent of the buildings have been certified.

While the process of greening Singapore’s buildings has been slow, programme director (EcoCampus) at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) Nilesh Jadhav noted that new developments, such as new lighting technology and more efficient air-conditioning systems, have quickened the pace.

To speed things up, Mr Nilesh said the authorities could consider making Green Mark certification for buildings that are seven- to 10-years-old a mandatory requirement.

As solar energy sets to be Singapore’s most promising source of renewable energy, the blueprint also cited plans to invest in solar technology test-bedding projects to prepare for a larger-scale adoption of this energy.

In March, the Government said it would raise the total installed solar capacity to 350 megawatts-peak (MWp) by 2020, or about 5 per cent of the annual electricity demand. At present, Singapore has a total installed capacity of about 19MWp.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the ERI@N, said he was confident Singapore will hit the 2020 target. “There is acceleration of implementation primarily by the public sector and (as) prices fall, there are clear signs that payback periods are in the five-to-eight-year range. And this will make it very attractive even for private companies to install solar (systems) on their rooftops,” he said.


Promoting greener modes of transport, such as walking, cycling and public transport, was another key feature of the blueprint. Setting out to make public transport more accessible, the Government intended to double the rail network to 278km by 2020 and at the same time, invest in cycling networks and bicycle-parking facilities at key transport hubs.

Last year’s Land Transport Master Plan set an even more ambitious target of making eight in 10 homes within a 10-minute walk from an MRT train station with the expansion of the rail network to 360km by 2030.

The National Cycling Plan announced last month further outlined plans to develop a 700km-long cycling network by 2030, starting with 100km of intra-town cycling paths in Yishun, Punggol and Bedok next year.

Noting that Singapore is on the right track, Dr Neo said investments in public transport will take time to materialise, but he is optimistic that the issues of over-congestion will improve over time.

However, he said convincing the public that cycling is a viable alternative option would be a challenge without adjustments and improvements to make the road system faster and safer for cyclists.

The blueprint also laid out plans to test a slew of greener transport technologies, including diesel hybrid and electric vehicles, given how transport is a major cause of air pollution.

And since 2011, the authorities have been studying the feasibility of electric vehicles on Singapore roads, where the Land Transport Authority concluded the first phase of an electric vehicle test-bed in December last year.


Despite measures in the 2009 blueprint to rally the public into making environmental sustainability part of everyday culture in Singapore, observers say more needs to be done to engage the community meaningfully before any change can be sparked.

And though there are plans to fund new initiatives and programmes by non-governmental organisations and the Community Development Councils, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council Liak Teng Lit said change must start with the individual. “It’s not about the plan only, it’s also about societal attitude and values, how we see our responsibility,” he said.

Citing examples of littering and cluttered HDB common corridors, he said Singaporeans have not learnt to take care of the environment beyond their front doors “I think we’re not quite there yet. The average person in Singapore does not internalise the message that they have a role to play.”

And with Singapore being one of the most consumerist societies in the world, Dr Neo said future plans to address sustainable living would have to target specific behaviours, such as reducing food waste or improving recycling, instead of a focus on using less.

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint launched

SINGAPORE — Maintaining green spaces and reducing reliance on private car transportation for a liveable home, creating a “green economy” and increasing domestic recycling for a sustainable city, and greater community engagement.

These are just some of the key areas highlighted in the latest Singapore Sustainable Blueprint 2015 (SSB 2015).

Unveiled at the launch of the year-long Clean & Green 2015 Campaign today (Nov 8) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the blueprint mapped out the government’s vision to commit S$1.5 billion over the next five years to create a more liveable and sustainable future.

Environmental challenges stemming from climate change - like the Singapore’s longest drought in recorded history in February this year - are expected to grow, said Mr Lee. “We cannot become complacent, because climate is changing and I think we must expect more of such extreme episodes - more droughts, more heavy rains at different times - and we must be able to cope with it."

It is the second blueprint on sustainable development after the first one was released in 2009. Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) showed that Singapore was mostly on track to meeting the original 2030 targets set in the 2009 blueprint. The SSB 2015 will see these 2030 targets stretched further, especially for indicators where Singapore had already exceeded the original target.

One such area is the amount of skyrise greenery or rooftop gardens. Originally set at 50 hectares by 2030 in the 2009 blueprint, Singapore had 61 hectares in 2013 and will see a new target of 200 hectares in the latest blueprint.

Other initiatives to enhance green spaces include maintaining public cleanliness and planning parks such that nine in ten households will be within a 10-minute walk from a park. While the length of park connectors has grown steadily from 113km in 2009 to 216km in 2013, it will be further expanded to 400km by 2030.

Continuing the 2009 blueprint’s focus of encouraging greater use greener modes of transport, the SSB 2015 has included introducing features in existing towns to create a more conducive environment for walking and cycling.

Because building more roads for more cars is not a viable option, Mr Lee said: "We want a solution in Singapore where the roads are clear, where there are many alternative for people to travel and to travel in a green and sustainable, and efficient and convenient way."

Under the National Cycling Plan announced last month, the length of cycling paths will be expanded from the current 213km to 700km by 2030, along with intra-town cycling networks that will be piloted in Ang Mo Kio and Tampines.

In addition, new and upcoming MRT lines will increase the length of rail network from 178km to 360km so that 80 per cent of households – compared to the 58.5 per cent in 2013 – will be within a 10-minute walk from a train station.

Other plans to reduce the usage of cars also include introducing driverless vehicles, piloting an electric car-sharing scheme and creating more car-free zones in the city through roads closures for public activities like at Haji Lane and Ann Siang Road.

With domestic recycling rates much lower than industrial recycling, improving household recycling was also addressed by introducing more facilities such as centralised chutes for recyclables in all new HDB flats and Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems in more towns.

Initiatives to raise adoption of solar power and other sustainability practices in Singapore-based companies were also outlined to create a “green economy”. The number of “green jobs” is also expected to grow with more demand for expertise and research in areas like improving energy and water efficiency, and pollution and waste reduction.

Underpinning the initiatives in the SSB 2015 was the focus on greater community engagement commitment to environmental awareness. As part of the review of the SSB 2009, MEWR had conducted public consultations and surveys with about 6,000 participants. Findings from the survey showed that 78 per cent of respondents were concerned about environmental issues and almost nine in ten believed caring for environment is the community or individual’s responsibility.

To that end, the SSB 2015 intends to support community projects to enliven community spaces and foster stronger community stewardship over caring for the environment and sustainable living practices. For a start, the blueprint aims to grow the number of active green volunteers from over 1,000 to 5,000 by 2030, as well the number of Community in Bloom Gardens from over 700 to 2,000.

Stressing the importance of more people stepping forward to do their part for the environment, Mr Lee said the government provide the infrastructure but individuals also have a responsibility.

"We can build a better transport network, but we have to adjust our commuting lifestyles and habits. HDB can build more convenient chutes for recycling, but households have to use them and practice the 3R’s - reduce, reuse and recycle,” he added. "So together, we have to develop new norms if we’re really going to succeed in being clean and green.

NEA launches ‘no waste days’ challenge
AMANDA LEE Today Online 8 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — To tackle the increasing amount of waste generated in the Republic, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has launched a No Waste Days Challenge to encourage the public to reduce waste and benefit the environment and community.

Launched today (Nov 8) in conjunction with this year’s Clean & Green Singapore campaign, participants of the challenge can choose any day from now till June 30 next year to make an effort not to waste food, and reduce their use of disposables. The NEA hopes to reach up to 50,000 “No Waste Days” by then.

The public can participate in various ways including submitting photographs and pledges to demonstrate their individual “No Waste Days”. They can also hashtag “#nowastedays” on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Another challenge is the Bright Spots Challenge in which the Public Hygiene Council and partners of the Keep Singapore Clean (KSC) Movement is inviting companies, organisations, schools and individuals to take action to improve the cleanliness and hygiene conditions of their community spaces and turn them into “Bright Spots”. Since the launched of the KSC Movement in Sept 2012, there have been more than 300 “Bright Spots”, and the aim is to have 500 “Bright Spots” by the end of next year.

The public can participate by identifying a location and rally stakeholders – such as schools and companies – and taking ownership of its cleanliness. They can then carrying out activities such as picking up litter and inspire others by sharing their stories and experience on the Public Hygiene Council’s website.

In conjunction with the campaign, the National Parks Board (NParks) will also be offering a new free public guided tour of the Pasir Panjang Nursery on Nov 15 at 9am. The tour will offer the public a rare glimpse into NParks’ behind-the-scenes nursery operations and will take about one a half hours to two hours. Limited spaces are available with more than half of the slots already taken up.

To attend the tour, prior registration is required on a first-come-first-served basis. Interested participants may register by e-emailing with their names, email-addresses and contact numbers from today.

More details can be found at

NParks adds more slots for Pasir Panjang Nursery tour
Today Online 9 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — The National Parks’ Board (NParks) has added more time slots for a new free public guided tour of the Pasir Panjang Nursery, after all 60 spots available were snapped up hours after the tour was announced yesterday (Nov 8).

Held in conjunction with this year’s Clean and Green campaign, the tour would give the public a rare glimpse into NParks’ behind-the-scenes nursery operations. Today, the NParks announced it would add another 15 spots to the first 60 slots for the tour at 9am on Nov 15.

It would add two more tours — one at 10.30am with 75 spots, and one at 2.30pm with 50 spots.

The tours will take about one-a-half hours to two hours. Registration is required on a first-come-first-served basis, and interested participants may register by emailing with their names, email-addresses and contact numbers.

More details can be found at

Towards a 'car-lite', zero-waste Singapore
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

Singapore will commit $1.5 billion over the next five years to lead the country towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this yesterday as he outlined wide-ranging plans to turn Singapore into a "car-lite" and zero-waste nation.

These include an electric car-sharing pilot scheme, using Ang Mo Kio and Tampines to test-bed ideas to encourage cycling, and underground pipes to whisk away rubbish in new Housing Board estates, reducing the need for garbage trucks.

Neighbourhoods will also become "eco-smart", through the use of solar panels to power common facilities for instance.

Pointing to Singapore's 50th birthday next year, PM Lee said "it's a good time to celebrate our clean and green efforts for the (last) 50 years, and to chart a vision for the future", as he launched a year-long Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign at an event in Choa Chu Kang.

He also revealed an ambitious Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015. The 112-page document updates the original 2009 blueprint which sets out Singapore's targets and strategies for sustainable development until 2030, to ensure the country remains an oasis for everyone.

The latest blueprint, which more than 6,000 people contributed to and took into account local and global developments in technology, sets wide-ranging targets over 15 years, from increasing how much Singapore recycles, to its air quality, even to the amount of skyrise greenery.

For the first time, separate recycling goals for households and industry have been included, in a bid to get more residents to do their share. Last year's non-domestic recycling, which includes the work done by industries, was 77 per cent.

But for households, it was just 20 per cent, pulling down Singapore's overall recycling rate to 61 per cent. The aim is to bring the overall rate up to 70 per cent by 2030, but that means getting households to do much more.

Ms Melissa Tan, chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore, believes this is possible if "more is done to raise awareness".

This means getting the message through to the elderly, for instance.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng also lauded the new car-sharing scheme - which he said kills two birds with one stone.

It would not just reduce the number of cars on the road, but also solve the problem of people not wanting to buy eco-friendly electric cars due to their prohibitive costs. As of September, there was just one pure electric car on the roads here.

"We can't keep building more roads for more cars," said PM Lee, hoping that Singapore can learn from other cities, such as Copenhagen, where cycling is a way of life.

He recalled a 2009 visit to the Danish capital, where he saw people cycling in the freeze of winter.

"They made their city cycling-friendly, with lanes, ramps, and other infrastructure... there, cars have regard to bicycles and give way. We have to learn from these examples... and... pilot ideas to see how we can get them to work in Singapore."

PM Lee also made it clear yesterday that it would take all Singaporeans working together to hit the new sustainability targets. He recalled how the first Keep Singapore Clean campaign in 1968 took a similar "massive effort".

Police and health inspectors advised people against littering while patrolling, fliers were displayed in coffee shops, bus shelters and offices, and the campaign slogan was even printed on cinema tickets.

"We have built a home... we can be proud of. But we must do more as our environmental challenges grow," he said, highlighting how climate change led to prolonged dry weather between January and March.

"Fortunately our lives were not disrupted as we ran our desalination plants at 100 per cent and increased our Newater output to meet our needs," he said.

"But we cannot become complacent as the climate is changing and we must expect more such extreme episodes." "But we cannot become complacent as the climate is changing and we must expect more such extreme episodes."

PM Lee, who also presented Heritage Tree Dedication Awards to Singapore Press Holdings, City Developments and Sembcorp Industries for their contributions to the Garden City Fund, was encouraged that many Singaporeans are already organising themselves to do more for the environment.

Expect extremes

"Fortunately our lives were not disrupted as we ran our desalination plants at 100 per cent and increased our Newater output to meet our needs. But we cannot become complacent as the climate is changing and we must expect more such extreme episodes." -PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, highlighting how climate change led to prolonged dry weather between January and March

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Malaysia: Cameron Highlands - The worse is yet to come, warn environmentalists

New Straits Times 9 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Wednesday’s mud floods and landslides in Bertam Valley, Ringlet and Kuala Terla are just the beginning of more disasters to strike the highlands, warn environmentalists.

They said the highlands would see the horror of more floods and landslides if land-clearing continues. They are asking for regular monitoring and stringent enforcement on all land-clearing activities to be in place to ensure that they are not carried out at the expense of the environment.

Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan said the situation would turn from bad to worse if no short-term and long-term solutions were found.

“The similar disaster in Bertam Valley here on Oct 23 last year merely served as a warning. Wednesday’s incident is the beginning of more disasters to come. We are currently on auto-pilot mode and have yet to hit turbulence. The worse is yet to come,” he said after taking reporters to see the destruction happening on the highlands.

Checks showed that the road and river reserves from Kampung Raja right up to Bertam Valley and Ringlet had been encroached on for illegal farming activities.

Hidden behind the Cameron Highlands trunk road were vast plots of illegal dumping sites. Rotten vegetables, flowers and bags of fertiliser were thrown into the rivers.

According to Ramakrishnan, water from these rivers flowed through a 10km tunnel to the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam in Bertam Valley.

He alleged that the “out-of-control” illegal land-clearing activities was made worse “with rampant corrupt practices from top-down”.

“I can show you that illegal land-clearing activities are taking place despite the authority’s ‘No Encroachment’ signs being put up. If this is not corruption, then prove me wrong.”

He claimed that political interference also aggravated the situation.

Environmental Management & Research Association of Malaysia president Ellias Saidin cited the improper planning of agriculture land in the highlands as the main cause of the tragedy in Bertam Valley.

“The whole world is affected by climate change and extreme weather conditions. The rainfall pattern has changed and it’s high time for the authorities and developers to engage in proper development planning to not worsen the condition.

“Land is exposed when it is used for agriculture and it seems difficult, or rather, we don’t see any enforcement to address this issue,” he told the New Sunday Times.

Ellias said developers needed to be responsible and adhere to guidelines, such as by building drainage and water retention systems.

Malaysian Nature Society president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, the National Security Council, Pahang government and other agencies should play a major role in enforcement.

“Coordination of various agencies is crucial. Floods, if not 100 per cent preventable, can be controlled. Ignoring the facts is just asking for the repeat of past tragedies.”

Permata Greenland Organisation deputy president Dr Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abdul Kadir said the authorities should be proactive, stressing that development should come with contingency plans.

“All felling of trees must be followed-up with replanting. The authorities must control all development on hills and ensure a proper drainage system. Besides the local authorities, the developers should obtain approval from a geologist.”

Ramakrishnan called on the relevant parties to get their act together if they were serious in solving the problems on the highlands.

“If nothing is done in another 10 years, Cameron Highlands will no longer be a pristine hill resort.”

‘Camerons rivers failed to cope with heavy rain’
BY THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 9 Nov 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE floods in Cameron Highlands were caused by discharge following heavy rainfall that the river system in the district could not cope with.

Drainage and Irrigation director-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Husaini Sulaiman said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and relevant authorities would look into measures to mitigate the issue to prevent such tragedies from recurring.

“DID officials will work on improving the rivers, which includes widening, excavating and constructing flood walls. We will also provide flood plains.

“No buildings or any activity will be allowed along river banks or reserves,” he told the New Sunday Times yesterday.

Ahmad Husaini said RM40 million had been allocated for work to improve Sungai Bertam, which would commence soon.

As for Sungai Ringlet, he said the department was in the midst of finalising the planning and design, as well as awaiting the allocation of another RM40 million to be approved by the ministry for the upgrading works.

He also said the authorities would manage or stop development along the river basins because the extra discharge into the river was caused by land clearing activities, as well as the use of plastic houses for agricultural activities.

He said the public should also stop throwing rubbish into rivers.

Land clearing continues as flood fears grip town
PATRICK LEE The Star 9 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Even as police searched for those washed away by Wednesday’s floods, it was business as usual – as far as land clearing was concerned.

On Friday, opposite the Kea Farm market, heavy machinery was flattening a large patch of land while tourists shopped nearby. Work only seemed to stop the following day, likely due to the rain which fell throughout the day.

Ten years ago, visitors here were greeted by rolling hills with lush forests and rivers carrying clear running water.

Today, there are vegetable farms almost everywhere, some even on the steep slopes. And what little is left appears to have been taken over by construction, with an upcoming shopping centre downhill from Kea Farm towards Tringkap.

Other buildings are just a stone’s throw away from nearby rivers, with only a muddy slope in between.

The constant land clearing here has irked many, such as Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan.

He said warning signs set up by the district office were ignored by farmers, who seemed to have no problem manning fields stretching from the main road to the rivers.

There is also no restraint on the dumping of rubbish and unwanted vegetables and flowers into the rivers.

Silt from poor soil management here has turned many of the rivers murky.

Ramakrishnan said dirt and rubbish had raised river levels, and affected the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam.

The effects can be clearly seen with landslides and large cracks seen on one stretch of the main road.

Even Kuala Terla’s town signboard, near where C. Munesh, 15, was swept away by floodwaters, has fallen into a riverbank.

With the dam filled to the point of overflowing, many residents, especially those living downstream, are fearful of a downpour.

Ramakrishnan cautioned that unless the Govern­ment took drastic action, things would get a lot worse here.

“Last year was a warning. This year is just the beginning,” he said.

‘Make Camerons a national park’

KUALA LUMPUR: CAMERON Highlands needs to be gazetted as a national park as it is one the most environmentally and ecologically-sensitive areas in the country with vital water catchments and forest reserves.

Universiti Sains Malaysia flood hazard management and climate expert Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng said because of its fragility, steep slopes, heavy rainfall and shallow soil, the Pahang government should work with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to gazette the highlands as a national park.

Chan, who spent five years doing research on Cameron Highlands, said there should be strict control on development through detailed environmental impact assessments (EIA) on the area.

He said the Environment (DOE), Drainage and Irrigation, Forestry and Health Departments, together with the Cameron Highlands District Council (MDCH), should be leading the effort with frequent monitoring and stricter enforcement.

“The MDCH should also expedite its master plan to guide development in the area with strict guidelines. Every development needs a detailed EIA, but looking at the present scenario (at the highlands), all developments should be frozen.”

Chan said there was currently no eco-audit for tourism, agriculture and housing on the highlands.

“The DOE should be the main body overlooking this together with the state government and MDCH, but there is a lack of consultation, collaboration and cooperation due to sector-based developments.”

He said deterioration of the environment in Cameron Highlands could not be blamed squarely on one sector or any group, adding that there was a need for education and awareness among tourists and developers on the do’s and don’ts.

“The highlands in Malaysia are unique ecosystems rich in bio-diversity and natural resources, but research in highland ecosystems is lacking and a great deal of flora and fauna have not been documented,” Chan said, adding that more research was crucial to understand the various ecosystems.

Among his other recommendations was to maintain the quality of river water in Cameron Highlands, which had deteriorated alarmingly. He said the rivers there, especially those used for water supply, should be protected and restored.

“This can be done by gazetting the river reserves and buffer zones, monitoring water pollution, having an integrated water supply to farms, advocating drip irrigation for farming, forcing polluters to pay principle, and generating greater levels of environmental awareness and education among stakeholders.”

Chan said most of the land degradation was caused by the traditional practice of excavating hill slopes and farming on exposed land.

He said the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry should recommend farmers to adopt good practices. This could be done by promoting the recycling of organic farm waste into compost, use crop coverings instead of farming on exposed land, terracing the hill slopes and adopting drip irrigation.

Chan said Cameron Highlands, being one of the top tourist destinations in the country, should also be looking at sustainable standards to avoid overcrowding and high human intervention in an ecologically-sensitive area.

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Restoring Sabah’s wildlife habitats

LAILI ISMAIL New Straits Times 9 Nov 14;

THE survival of some 11,000 orang utans and 2,000 Bornean pygmy elephants relies on the existence and the quality of Sabah’s lowland forests.

Orang utans are protected and listed as endangered, while elephants, endemic to North Borneo, have been declared protected.

However, because of fragmented habitats, at least 300 elephants and 800 orang utans are under threat in Sungai Kinabatangan.

For years, the oil palm industry has been blamed for the decline of the wildlife population, as well as riverbank erosion in the area.

However, an oil palm plantation operator, the world’s third largest, through its partnership with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Conservation Trust, will implement a five-year programme to support the protection and enhancement of forested areas in lower Kinabatangan, and to secure an important ecological corridor.

Felda Global Ventures (FGV) Sdn Bhd, through its subsidiary Pontian United Plantations, recently conducted a demarcation exercise involving voluntarily excising some 20ha of plantable and productive land for the reinstatement of a riparian reserve.

The reserve is part of the recently re-established Kinabatangan Mega Biodiversity and Wildlife Corridor.

FGV head of plantation East Malaysia Denys Munang said as part of its joint-venture land management programme with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Conservation Trust, oil palm trees along the new wildlife riparian corridor were removed to allow sunlight to penetrate the tree canopy.

“This move also enhances the growth rate of native trees.

“This 20ha piece of land will be part of the existing 280ha of forest reserve presently managed as a wildlife corridor,” Denys said at a tree-planting exercise at Orico estate in Kinabatangan.

FGV also welcomed Nestle Malaysia and Sime Darby Foundation’s support under the RiLeaf Project, which would see the reforestation of 2,400ha of land along the river.

As of September, 222,212 trees had been planted along the river.

Borneo Conservation Trust executive secretary Raymond Alfred said more than 85 per cent of Sabah’s flagship species resided within the corridor and it was feared that without strategic intervention and conservation plans, the population might be further fragmentised and isolated.

“This, in turn, may encourage inbreeding and cause genetic drift, as well as fuel human-wildlife conflict,” said Alfred.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said Sabah should take a leadership role by supporting the re-establishment and restoration of key wildlife corridors.

“To save the endangered species from further threats, the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Conservation Trust, with the support of FGV, are implementing conservation efforts recommended in the Species Action Plan, which was developed in 2010.”

The plan called for securing existing forest patches or land in lower Kinabatangan, connecting and restoring all key migratory routes for Borneo elephants to reduce conflict incidents, and finding alternative approaches to support the livelihoods of local communities to avoid illegal conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.

Laurentius said the corridor would serve to connect key habitats for orang utans, elephants and other wildlife species in Kinabatangan.

“The critical missing link will allow these flagship species to migrate between key habitats.”

“We hope that our steps in enhancing the wildlife corridor and increase the size of elephants and orang utan habitats in the Kinabatangan Mega Biodiversity Corridor could be duplicated by other palm oil plantation companies throughout the nation.”

FGV is also developing 7ha of a riparian buffer zone along the riverbank to serve as a mini eco-tourism destination.

The area, known as Pangkalan, would be designated as a recreational centre for visitors.

Pangkalan, which is equipped with basic facilities, such as toilets and open resting huts, is not far from the main eco-tourism centres.

Two rainforest lodges, Sukau and Bilit, are a 15-minute boat-ride away, and the area is frequented by tourists and wildlife researchers.

“In the past, we have participated in tree-planting efforts with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the state government.

“The fruits of our labour are now evident in the trees that have grown beautifully in Pangkalan,” said Denys.

“The local people (numbering four to five families) living along the riverside will be relocated to avoid human-wildlife conflict.

“They are also supportive of the idea as it would bring income to them,” he said, adding that they would be provided with homestay facilities to help them offset part of their loss of livelihood.

Endangered wildlife in lower Kinabatangan
New Straits Times 9 Nov 14;


The Borneo elephant, also known as the Borneo pygmy elephant, inhabits northeastern Borneo.

Its origins still remain the subject of debate.

Generally smaller than its African counterpart, it is also remarkably tame and passive.

Since 1986, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed it as endangered.

Its population has declined by at least 50 per cent over the last three generations (which is estimated to be 60 to 75 years).

The species is primarily threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.


The Bornean orang utan, Pongo pygmaeus, is a species of orangutan native to Borneo. It belongs to the only genus of great apes native to Asia. A highly intelligent creature, it shares approximately 97 per cent of its DNA with humans.

It is also a highly endangered species. Deforestation and hunting pose a serious threat to its continued existence.

According to the IUCN Red List of mammals, it is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The total number of Bornean orang utans is estimated to be less than 14 per cent of what it was in the recent past (from around 10,000 years ago until the middle of the 20th century). This sharp decline has occurred mostly over the past few decades due to human activities and development.


Protected by law in all regions of Borneo, the proboscis monkey is endemic to the island of Borneo and is most common in coastal areas and riverbanks. Perhaps the most aquatic of primates, it is a fairly good swimmer, capable of swimming up to 20m underwater and is known to swim across rivers.

The proboscis monkey is listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and listed in Appendix I of CITES.

Its total population has decreased by more than 50 per cent in the past 36 to 40 years because of habitat loss and hunting.

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Indonesia: Ministry to stop granting permits for forest use

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 8 Nov 14;

The government will impose a moratorium on the issuance of all forest-exploitation permits as part of its effort to slow down the country’s rapid deforestation rate.

The moratorium was announced on Friday by the newly installed Environment and Forestry Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, following a meeting with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the Home Ministry and the National Land Agency (BPN).

“In this four-to-six month period, I have ordered all echelon-I officials in the Environment and Forestry Ministry to halt the issuance of permits that allow the exploitation of land for corporation purposes,” she said at KPK headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta.

The moratorium was issued to support an order from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to tackle permit-issuance problems, which were often abused for mining or plantation purposes, Siti said.

President Jokowi has also ordered all services related to the issuance of permits to be brought under one roof.

“The President’s order is for permit-issuances to be fair, accurate, clear and accountable, which means that the procedure is clear and the result is certain,” said Siti.

She added that the government would continue issuing permits for forest exploitation once the new system was in place.

“We will halt issuance of all permits until the integration process is completed to the President’s satisfaction,” Siti said.

Environmental activists, however, were not impressed by the move.

Kiki Taufik from Greenpeace Indonesia said on Friday that the new moratorium was nothing new, as the administration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had actually imposed such a moratorium in 2011.

In 2011, Yudhoyono signed a decree suspending new concession permits for two years.

The moratorium was extended for another two years in 2013 and was expected to expire in May 2015.

The suspension applied to primary forest and peatland in areas designated as “Conservation Forest”, “Protection Forest”, “Production Forest” and “Other Uses of Land”.

“So if the new moratorium is for six months at most, then we think it’s far from what the public wants because even the last moratorium was extended twice but was still lacking,” Kiki told The Jakarta Post.

He said that even under the current moratorium, rampant violations persisted, included the burning of peatland for commercial purposes by forestry firms and palm oil companies.

“So a moratorium is supposed to provide complete protection for peatland. [Thus,] there should be no more peatland that can be opened,” Kiki said.

The current moratorium, Kiki added, also contained loopholes that could be exploited by both the government and private firms.

“While no new permits can be issued, the [Environment and] Forestry Ministry can still issue permits to convert the land from “Protected Forest” to “Production Forest” and from “Production Forest” to “Other Uses of Land,” Kiki said.

Citing an example, Kiki said in 2013 the Forestry Ministry approved the Aceh administration’s request to convert protected forest to non-forest zone through spatial planning bylaws.

Kiki called on the current government to come up with a more comprehensive work plan.

Ministry spokesman Eka W. Soegiri, however, said that the new moratorium was not merely an extension of the current policy.

“Now the moratorium applies to all kinds of permits, including permits to convert forest area,” he told the Post.

Eka also said that the ministry would ensure that the new moratorium would not adversely impact the forestry industry.

“The moratorium is for permits that will expire soon, so that they can’t be extended,” he said.

Unlike the moratorium imposed by Yudhoyono, which covers only primary forests and peat lands, the new ban will cover all forest areas in the country.

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