Best of our wild blogs: 12 Nov 14

Dive boat squashes reefs off Pulau Hantu
from wild shores of singapore

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015
from Green Future Solutions

A Glimpse Of Paradise
from Winging It

Migration of Juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzards over central Singapore
from Singapore Bird Group

All bees visiting flowers of Singapore Rhododendron must indulge in “buzz pollination”
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Costlier vegetables for Singapore likely after Cameron Highlands flash floods, crackdown

The Star/Asia News Network AsiaOne 12 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS - The crackdown on illegal workers in Cameron Highlands soon after flash floods damaged farms there will mean costlier vegetables and flowers in coming months.

Several farmers said the higher prices will impact local consumers as well as exports to Singapore and other countries, particularly during the Christmas season next month and Chinese New Year in February.

The Immigration Department has hauled in scores of foreign workers, who allegedly do not have proper work permits, after a Home Ministry investigation revealed that a syndicate was bringing in thousands of illegals here.

Many other foreign workers have also reportedly gone into hiding as the crackdown continues, giving the farmers a headache over how to tend their crops in the wake of the sudden shortage in their workforce.

This happened soon after flash floods and landslides caused much damage and killed five people on Nov 5.

The flooding was triggered by a long drawn out downpour that evening, which state authorities have blamed on illegal land clearing activities.

Yesterday, a team from The Star saw only skeleton crews tending to vast hectares of farmland in Ringlet town and other areas. Normally, there would be two or three workers for each hectare of farmland.

A farmer who asked to be identified only as Tan, 62, said he now has only two workers at his onion and vegetable farm where he had six previously.

"Taikor (boss) also has to work now!" he said as he tended to his plots with his wife.

The couple has four grown up children, but they have since moved away after getting married.

Another farmer who only gave his name as Chua, 55, only has three workers now for his 0.809ha mint leaf farm.

He said prices of vegetables and flowers would increase because many farmers may have to hire more help at short notice or suffer a limited harvest.

"Prices are going to go up. I sell a kilo (of mint leaves) for RM2 (S$0.80) now. This will go up by two to three ringgit by year end.

"It will definitely go higher around the Chinese New Year period due to the flood damage and crackdown on illegals," he said.

One 25-year-old woman, whose father farms flowers and vegetables, agreed with Chua.

"We can't say by how much just yet. But a bunch of flowers is about RM8 and will probably cost much more by the holiday season," she said, declining to give her name.

"Supply is also limited. Our harvest for specifically that period was partially destroyed by the floods. More farms were damaged this time, compared to the flash flood last year."

S. Vanitha, who runs a flower nursery, said many workers have been hauled up.

"There is much fear among worker communities. Not just farm hands are affected, also those working in restaurants, souvenir shops and other businesses."

Indian national Muniandy, 28, a farm worker, said his boss keeps his documents close at hand in case of any spot checks.

"Many of us have also been told not to speak to any people unfamiliar to us," he said.

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Eco-village to take root in Kallang Park

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Nov 14;

A BIODIVERSITY pond to teach students about nature, walls painted with murals of the old Kampong Bugis and bins in the shape of frogs or bottles will soon spring up at Kallang Riverside Park.

Founder and chairman of Waterways Watch Society (WWS) Eugene Heng has dreamt up an ecovillage on a 400m stretch of the park to ignite a green spark in park users.

The environmental group is the first non-governmental organisation to sign an agreement with the National Parks Board (NParks) to organise and run activities in a park.

Mr Heng, 65, a retired bank executive, said he mooted the idea of the society taking on more responsibility for the area about five years ago.

WWS, which has 380 volunteers, including two full-timers, has been patrolling and picking up litter there for the past 16 years. It also does clean-up and environmental activities in other places.

Its latest project is in line with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement last Saturday that the Government will work with partners who want to do more for the environment.

NParks director of parks Kartini Omar said with WWS's experience in developing programmes and outreach, the partnership will provide more recreational opportunities for all to enjoy.

NParks has previously joined hands with other environmental NGOs such as WildSingapore and the Toddycats on activities like guided nature walks, bird watching and nature photography.

Mr Heng said he plans to build a biodiversity pond, which will help students learn more about plants and wildlife. In addition, his society hopes to team up with institutes of higher learning to raise awareness of environmental issues such as littering.

"We may also hold exhibitions on recycling, repaint walls or redesign some of the rubbish bins to make them more appealing," he added.

"The park is very quiet on weekdays, so we hope to enhance it so that people will come here to enjoy nature."

Experts called the collaboration a win-win situation.

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment Lee Bee Wah noted: "Non-government groups can sometimes be better attuned to the public's needs, and can... be free from red tape (compared with) a government agency."

NParks puts up the infrastructure and lays out policies while WWS does the ground work of engaging people, she added.

NParks will continue to own and manage the park, but WWS can develop and maintain other facilities in the village, such as a portable stage for water sports events and signboards to support its programmes, subject to NParks' approval.

People who want to organise public events in the village will also have to go through WWS first, although NParks has the final say.

Said Mr Heng: "Over the years, we have seen more volunteers who are passionate and have the relevant expertise. I believe we can tap on that."

But he acknowledged that more sponsorships and full-time staff will be needed.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, the Nature Society (Singapore) vice-president, added that the partnership is a big step forward for civil society here.

"It breaks new ground... Hopefully more such partnerships can be done in nature conservation and heritage," he said.

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Two companies certified under national e-waste standard

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 12 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Standards Council on Wednesday (Nov 12) announced the implementation of Singapore Standard SS587, which will provide guidelines on how businesses can get rid of their electronic waste responsibly.

The announcement was made at the Electronics Recycling Asia Conference this morning, and the standard was first revealed in September last year.

About 60,000 tonnes of e-waste are generated annually in Singapore, of which about half are common household IT products ad home appliances while the rest are IT equipment generated from business and industrial sectors, the NEA estimated.

The establishment of the standard aims to promote the adoption of best practices by businesses and industries in managing their electronic waste, and raise awareness among businesses and industries on environmentally responsible electronic waste management, the agency added.

To help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) adopt the standard, SPRING Singapore will co-fund up to 70 per cent of the costs associated with adopting the standard. There is also an accreditation scheme for companies that adhere to e-waste guidelines.

Two companies that were first to have achieved the SS587 accreditation were recognised on Wednesday. Green packaging company Greenpac and Solvay Specialty Chemicals Asia Pacific both received their certificates.

- CNA/kk

National standard to guide businesses and industries in managing e-waste
Today Online 12 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Standards Council announced the implementation of Singapore Standard SS587 today (Nov 12), which aims to promote the adoption of best practices by businesses and industries in managing electronic waste.

The joint announcement was made at the Electronics Recycling Asia Conference held earlier this morning.

The NEA estimates that about 60,000 tonnes of e-waste are generated annually in Singapore. Of this, about half consists of common household IT products and appliances, while the rest are equipment generated from the business and industrial sectors.

The establishment of the standard also seeks to raise awareness among businesses and industries on environmentally responsible electronic waste management.

To help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) adopt the standard, SPRING Singapore will co-fund up to 70 per cent of the qualifying costs of adopting the standard.

An accreditation scheme for companies will also recognise establishments that practise socially responsible disposal methods.

Two companies, Green packaging company Greenpac and Solvay Specialty Chemicals Asia Pacific, were the first to achieve this a

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Culture of high-rise gardens takes root

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE has hit its greening targets two decades before its deadline of 2030 - and the Government has decided to raise the bar significantly.

Last year, plants covering building exteriors totalled more than 61ha, an area the size of 195 school fields.

This far exceeded the target of 50ha the government had hoped to hit by 2030.

The new target is now 200ha of building greenery by the same deadline.

A spokesman from the National Parks Board (NParks) attributed the rapid increment of skyrise greenery to several programmes.

This includes the Urban Redevelopment Authority's enhanced Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush) programme, and NParks' Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme, which offers incentives and subsidies to encourage the installation of skyrise greenery.

The greenery targets were spelt out in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint - first in 2009 and again in the latest document released last Saturday.

This blueprint sets out the Republic's targets and strategies for sustainable development until 2030, in areas such as recycling and air quality.

Green roofs, vertical greenery and gardens in the sky can reduce urban heat gain, which could translate into energy savings, said Mr Tan Seng Chai, group chief corporate officer of CapitaLand and chairman of the CapitaLand Sustainability Steering Committee.

For instance, green roofs and walls can cool surface temperatures by up to 18 deg C and 12 deg C, respectively.

Skyrise greenery also has the potential to improve air quality and create habitats to enhance biodiversity in urban areas.

The new target is not too ambitious, the NParks spokesman said, adding: "We are confident that with the whole of government approach coupled with partnership with private developers, this target is achievable."

For NParks, this would include working with other agencies, such as the Education Ministry, as well as developers of public and community infrastructure, to green their buildings.

The Housing Board is also looking to incorporate skyrise greenery into their buildings so that it becomes "a signature of their developments". The private sector also welcomed the new target.

"In land-scarce Singapore... more skyrise greenery can maximise the use of space to bring about many benefits," said Mr Allen Ang, head of innovation and green building at property developer City Developments.

Mr Stephen Pimbley, founder and director of architecture firm Spark Architects, said much of Singapore's skyrise greenery is "fairly divorced" from the everyday experience of architecture.

He said: "Imagine if our City in a Garden were able to grow its own food - Singapore could boast a network of productive urban gardens and reduce the need for food importation."

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Malaysia: Making a stork difference Bird sanctuary hopes to revive endangered bird species

MANJIT KAUR The Star 12 Nov 14;

TAIPING: The name may be unappealing but count your lucky stars if you meet the burung botak upeh at the Kuala Gula bird sanctuary.

That’s the local name for the endangered Milky Stork, which can be sighted in large numbers at the bird sanctuary in Kerian.

Taiping Zoo and Night Safari director Dr Kevin Lazarus said the species of the stork is nearly extinct and the Kuala Gula mangrove forest is the only place where the bird can be seen in the wild in Malaysia.

There were about 10 protected wading birds left in the forest during a census conducted 10 years ago, he said.

“About 25 years ago, there were more than 100 of the species, but the number of these birds has dwindled over the years. There is no sign of them breeding.

“The number has declined significantly due to poaching, people shooting the birds and the danger of predators such as eagles and monitor lizards eating the eggs,” he said yesterday.

However, bird lovers can also see the Milky Stork at the Taiping Zoo, which has 26 of the birds.

Dr Lazarus said Zoo Negara, together with the Perak Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), carried out a rehabilitation and reintroduction programme to breed the Milky Stork.

When contacted, state Perhilitan director Fakhrul Hatta Musa said a memorandum signed between the department and Zoo Negara had stated that about 150 of such birds were to be released at the bird sanctuary in stages.

“So far, 49 birds have been released. We are hoping for another 100 to be released by end of next month or early next year,” he said.

“The stork is endemic to the mangrove forest of Kuala Gula, and since the introduction of the programme in 2007, we have found four baby storks hatched in the wild.”

On another matter, Taiping Municipal Council president Datuk Abdul Rahim Md Ariff announced the birth of several animals at the zoo, which included a chimpanzee, a Malayan porcupine and five brush-tailed porcupines.

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Indonesia: Sinking Jakarta Starts Building Giant Wall as Sea Rises

Yudith Ho and Rieka Rahadiana Bloomberg 12 Nov 14;

If you worry that rising sea levels may one day flood your city, spare a thought for Michelle Darmawan. Her house in Jakarta is inundated several times a year -- and it’s 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the coast.

Whenever there’s a particularly high tide or heavy rain, the Ciliwung River and its network of canals overflow, swamping thousands of homes in Indonesia’s capital. In January, a muddy deluge washed over Darmawan’s raised porch, contaminating her fresh-water tank and cutting off electricity for three days.

“We were sitting on the second floor, looking down at the floods, calling out to neighbors to make sure they’re OK,” said Darmawan, 27, a marketing executive whose family had to store drinking water in buckets.

Jakarta, a former Dutch trading port, is one of the world’s megacities most at risk from rising sea levels. That’s because parts of the metropolis of almost 30 million people are sinking by as much as 6 inches a year, more than 10 times faster than the sea is rising.

The Indonesian capital ranks eighth among the 30 biggest cities in the 2015 Climate Change Vulnerability Index compiled by Bath, England-based risk-assessment company Maplecroft. The index is led by Dhaka, Lahore in Pakistan, and Delhi.

$40 Billion

The government’s solution: a $40 billion land-reclamation project unveiled last month. It includes a 32-kilometer (20-mile) sea wall, a chain of artificial islands, a lagoon about the size of Manhattan -- and a giant offshore barrier island in the shape of the national symbol, the mythical bird Garuda.

The first pile for the initial stage of the program -- a barrier to strengthen existing sea defenses along 32 kilometers -- was sunk at the Oct. 9 opening ceremony.

“The whole city is sinking like Atlantis,” said Christophe Girot, principal investigator of the Jakarta Study at the Future Cities Laboratory research group in Singapore. “You see the absolute most miserable and poorest population living right by the river, and they know they’re going to get flooded and may be killed three or four more times a year.”

The central and municipal governments will split the 3.2 trillion rupiah ($263 million) cost for the first 8 kilometers of the wall. Developers would put up the remaining 24 kilometers by 2030 in exchange for the right to build on reclaimed land.

Breached Defenses

Drenched by tropical downpours in the October-to-March rainy season, Jakarta is no stranger to flooding from its rivers, which flow into the coastal plain from the mountains of Bogor to the south. A new urgency arose in 2007 when, for the first time, the sea flowed over the embankments and levees in the north.

Records of a settlement at the mouth of the Ciliwung date to the 4th century. The area rose to prominence when the Dutch East India Company developed the city of Batavia in the early 17th century. As the port expanded, a Flemish military engineer, Simon Stevin, designed a walled city modeled on a traditional Dutch town, including canals to drain the Ciliwung delta into the sea. Today, the metropolis is home to almost 30 million people, making it the second-most-populous urban area in the world, after Tokyo-Yokohama, according to urban-policy research company Demographia in Belleville, Illinois.

Now the Dutch are back to help, with the new master plan drawn up by engineering and consultancy companies Witteveen+Bos and Grontmij. (GRONT)

Below Sea Level

“When a third of the city is under sea level and there’s nowhere else to put people, the only option is to go the Netherlands route,” said Paul Rowland, a Jakarta-based political consultant. “It’s just going to get worse.”

The works can’t come too soon. In October 2013, the sea rose to just 10 centimeters below the top of the defenses, threatening 4 million people, according to Deventer-based Witteveen+Bos. Global sea levels may increase by as much as 82 centimeters this century, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, North Jakarta is sinking by between 7.5 and 17 centimeters a year because of decades of pumping out groundwater to supply homes and businesses.

Coastal cities have been building barriers against the waves since Herod the Great sank barges full of concrete to protect the harbor of Caesarea Maritima in modern Israel before the birth of Jesus Christ. With the rise of sea levels accelerating, ocean defenses have become more popular -- from London’s Thames Barrier, opened in 1982, to Venice’s 5.5 million-euro ($6.8 million) MOSE project, scheduled for completion in 2016.

New Business

For local companies such as PT Agung Podomoro Land (APLN), Indonesia’s seventh-largest property developer, the Garuda project opens up a whole new area that has traditionally been blighted with run-down colonial structures and shanties, sandwiched between an airport and the nation’s largest port.

Podomoro is marketing a planned 160-hectare (395-acre) manmade island called Pluit City with apartments, a shopping mall, offices, an international school and a “floating” opera house.

“The sea level keeps rising while Jakarta is sinking, so without a wall the flooding will get worse,” said Wibisono, Podomoro’s head of investor relations, who, like some Indonesians, uses one name. “Development is happening across Jakarta, from East, West and South, but in the North it’s constrained by lack of land.”

15 Years

The company is awaiting a license to begin reclaiming the land, he said. The island city would take 10 to 15 years to complete.

The sleek images of the future contrast with the patchwork of slums, docks and walled compounds today. The first piles for the new sea wall are being erected in Muara Baru, near the sprawling Dunia Fantasi amusement park. On the shore, fishermen work on their boats next to a 3-meter sluice gate with pumps that keep the land from submerging.

Nearby, antique cars are parked in the driveway of a mansion in a walled compound and an Azimut motor yacht is tethered to its private dock.

In the narrow streets of Muara Angke to the west, the evening air is filled with the smell of salted fish, laid out to dry in front of crowded concrete houses. These streets have sunk more than 4 meters -- the height of the houses -- since records began in 1975, according to a report for the Jakarta Coastal Defence Strategy study in 2012. They wind down to the sea where Warkin, a fisherman sits in his wooden boat, mending his net before heading out for the night’s catch.

Fishermen’s Worries

He’s worried the project will disrupt fishing grounds and block the boats. “How will small people like us go out to sea if they build a wall?” said Warkin, who made almost a week’s wages in a single day during a flood last year by ferrying fresh fruit and vegetables to the rich neighborhoods. “How will we be able to keep fishing?”

That’s not the only potential problem. Skeptics are concerned about the amount of garbage and silt the city’s rivers would spew into the proposed lagoon, the corruption such a large project would attract and the danger posed by the fact that Indonesia is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.

The city’s acting governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, said the first stage -- strengthening the existing defenses -- will go ahead, while further studies need to be done before proceeding with the plan for the land reclamation and Garuda island.

Better Drainage

Darmawan, the marketing executive whose house is near a canal that joins the Ciliwung, is doubtful about the benefit.

“I’m not going to get my hopes up that it will get better, knowing how Jakarta is,” she said. “I’m not that optimistic about the sea wall. I think they should improve the drainage system.”

She said the government brought in dredging equipment after the January floods to remove garbage from the canals, but it hasn’t made much difference.

“The difficulty in widening and improving drainage along the Ciliwung River lies in entrenched practices of pumping ground water and dumping of human and industrial waste,” said Girot, who is also a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Z├╝rich. “Building the wall of course would guard against the rising seas very well, but we should first take care of the river.”

Residents caught between the rising sea and the flooding Ciliwung aren’t holding their breath.

“The giant sea wall is only a project to earn more money for government officials and give more land for real-estate developers,” said Charli Soegono, 38, who lost his red Honda Civic and whose prized Arowana fish swam away when water flooded his house up to the second floor last year. “It was like in that movie Titanic, where the ship is sinking and you have to rush to get all your valuables out of the water.”

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