Best of our wild blogs: 23 Nov 14

Going green: We need to get people more involved
from Green Future Solutions

Butterfly of the Month - November 2014
from Butterflies of Singapore

A Stream of Ashy Bulbuls at Chek Jawa
from Singapore Bird Group

A Look Along The Longkang
from Winging It

Rare mangroves and seagrasses at Seringat Kias
from wild shores of singapore

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Eugene Tay: We need to get people more involved in going green

Environmentalist Eugene Tay, 37, talks about why he gives a “B” grade to the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 in the Supper Club interview.
Walter Sim Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Nov 14;

Q: What do you think of the blueprint (an update of the 2009 masterplan setting out targets and strategies for sustainable development until 2030)?

There’re a few areas I’m quite pleased with. For example, the push for sustainable housing, ramping up public transport infrastructure, and setting a domestic recycling rate for households. (The Government aims to recycle 30 per cent of the average 317.6kg of domestic waste produced annually by each person, by the year 2030.)

More importantly is the focus on how the public sector can take the lead on sustainable practices. Each ministry will have to appoint a sustainability manager, and the civil service will publish a sustainability report every three years.

Q: Was there anything you were surprised by?

The domestic recycling rate was not in the 2009 blueprint. The Government had set a fixed overall target – 70 per cent by 2030 is what it has been using.

It must have realised that rates are quite low. Last year, it was 20 per cent, and it intends to increase it to 30 per cent by 2030. But even then that’s still a bit sad.

There’s definitely more room for improvement, based on the experience in South Korea, where there is mandatory waste sorting for households. In Taipei, residents have to buy a bag to put their refuse in, so they have to pay more to dispose more trash.

Probably in the short term, Singapore does not see such an urgency to really go all out for recycling or to mandate paying by the amount of waste disposed.

Our Semakau landfill can last for another 20 to 30 years. We’re building a new waste-to-energy plant, and an integrated waste-management facility. But if things become more drastic in future, we might need to implement such policies.

Q: You are founder of the consultancy Green Future Solutions, and you were recently given the EcoFriend award by the National Environment Agency. So tell us, what does the blueprint lack?

I give it a “B” grade. There is no focus on consumption, there could be bolder targets and policies, and there should be a shift from a technological top-down approach to a more bottom-up one, involving more experimentation and behavioural change.

Q: How should there be more focus on consumption?

People have to start looking at buying less, and using less disposables, which is not really covered in the blueprint.

Instead of the typical linear economy, where we take, make and then throw away stuff, we should move towards a circular one. Biological components can be returned to the environment safely, while technical ones can be reused, repaired, remanufactured or recycled.

This requires more policies, and take-back programmes for items like appliances, plastics, cans and bottles.

Without considering the impact of consumption, the blueprint is but a very nice utopian picture where you just reduce a little bit of water, reduce a little bit of energy, recycle a little bit, and we can live happily ever after.

The demand for green products is also still small. People say these are expensive, but to reduce costs you need demand and economies of scale.

One way to resolve that is through sustainable procurement by the civil service, which could become a large buyer of such products. This addresses the demand, and then prices will fall and consumers will benefit.

I also represent the Sharing Economy Association (Singapore). This is an alternative form of consumption which focuses on access rather than ownership.

When you buy an electric drill, what you want is the hole and not the drill, right?

It’s a different way of consuming, where instead of buying stuff, you buy a service, or rent or borrow an item.

Q: How is the blueprint lacking in ambition? Do you think the targets err on the safe side?

That’s the usual style of the Government – it underpromises and overdelivers.

(But it) could be bolder in areas like domestic recycling and sustainable procurement. Maybe it will make bolder decisions or targets – not now, but in three to five years.

For example, having already far exceeded its original target of 50ha of high-rise gardens by 2030 – as of last year, they totalled more than 61ha (an area the size of 195 school fields) – this was revised to 200ha.

Q: What about the area you found lacking – a shift towards a more bottom-up approach?

This would involve looking at policy design, experimentation and consultation with stakeholders such as residents and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) right from the start.

For big projects, the Government should also consider conducting a mandatory environmental impact assessment, with early stakeholder involvement.

Citizens want to be involved, and such bottom-up involvement probably started in 2001 with the Chek Jawa issue, which was probably the first time there was a groundswell of people who came together to push or petition for conservation. (There were plans to pile on the sand to turn Chek Jawa – a wetland at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin – into solid land for military training.)

There have been issues like the Rail Corridor (in 2010, nature and heritage groups asked the Government to conserve what they termed the Green Corridor – returned Malaysian railway land and a 14km stretch towards Jurong), redevelopment plans for Bukit Brown cemetery, and, more recently, the Cross Island Line, which will cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

For the latter, there was no consultation before it was announced. The Government said it would form a consultation group, but only after people started to make noise.

I guess both the Government and civil society are still learning how to engage one another.

Q: What do you consider the most pressing environmental issue in Singapore? How does the blueprint address this?

People do not see themselves as part of nature.

In the blueprint itself, there is a diagram of three concentric circles representing the society, economy and environment, and where the overlapping portion is sustainability. That’s bulls**t.

The economy is a subset of society because it’s the people who provide goods and services. The society is a subset of the environment because that’s where you get resources. We forget that we ultimately depend on nature and its ecosystem.

So, even as people are more aware of environmental issues now, there’s still a gap between awareness and action which has not been bridged.

Q: How should people be urged to do their part?

We need to move from education to engagement. The Government has always been focused on mass campaigns through one-off events – that’s not really engagement. It has to craft different messages to suit different groups of people. It has to understand what they need, and why they are doing what they are doing.

To get someone to practise the habit of green behaviour, it’s really the same as other habits like losing weight or quitting smoking.

It’s not something that you do only once in a while by pasting posters. To form a habit, you probably need three to six months of prolonged effort and reminders, to get people involved and to cultivate the habit.

Q: Are incentives unavoidable? We see the Government dangling carrots such as free rides to urge commuters to travel early to ease the peak-hour crush.

Such incentives might help, but the whole programme should be more structured and holistic.

Take domestic recycling. There are a few barriers. People do not know where their recycling bins are, or the bins may be inconveniently located. People are unsure what can be recycled, and may also think that recyclables end up being incinerated.

To resolve this, the Government needs to look at the different aspects, from the location of recycling bins to going door to door to tell residents how to recycle, and even involving residents in sorting out the waste for recycling.

It should also use stories to evoke emotions, because human beings have emotional needs and wants. But they cannot be broad messages like “Save the environment” or “Save the polar bears”, because this simply will not work.

You have to look at specific groups and tailor the message according to their needs. Using the medium of film may also help, because it is powerful.

Q: At a more personal level, how do you walk the talk?

I buy and consume very little. For example, I started using a smartphone only last year; before that, I was using a Nokia 8250. I’d use something until it cannot be used any more. Only then will I buy a new one.

I also recycle, although it is some distance from my apartment to the recycling bins.

I don’t have an air-conditioner at home, and I also take public transport everywhere.

Next year, I’ll be setting up a mentorship programme together with a few other activists, to nurture youth to commit to the environment for the long term.

Related links Going green: We need to get people more involved on Green Future Solutions for points that were edited out of the final article

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Kampung spirit alive in Lim Chu Kang

Aw Cheng Wei The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Nov 14;

It was the wild, wild (north)west of Singapore until about 20 years ago, before weeds were cleared and land put under cultivation.

Deep inside Lim Chu Kang, an area was carved out for farming, one of six major farming areas on this highly built-up island.

Today, more than 62 farms can be found in this place marked by thick foliage and winding, narrow roads, close to military

But in just three years' time, the first of these farms will be uprooted to make way for military uses, it was announced last month. By 2021, 62 farms will all have moved, as ploughshares make way for arms.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the area's "meaningful size" and location made it an apt replacement for the current training land the Ministry of Defence is giving up for the development of Tengah New Town, which is expected to host 55,000 homes in about two to four years. AVA did not reply to Straits Times queries about the actual size of the area.

As if portending the impending end of the Lim Chu Kang farms, the road to these farms feels ominous: Tree canopies on both sides of the road arch towards each other, almost touching, blocking out sunlight.

Not far away, Singapore's largest cemetery - Choa Chu Kang Cemetery - looms.

To get to the farms, one heads north of the cemetery and passes Singapore Armour Centre at Sungei Gedong to reach a 2km stretch of road.

On its right are the snaking paths leading to the nine lanes of Lim Chu Kang Road. Pass the 2km mark and one hits a coast guard base and a jetty.

The area is deserted enough for bus drivers of service 975, the only one that plies there, to park and stop for a smoke before the return trip to Bukit Panjang. Their only company is the occasional stray dog.

These days, besides the smoke from cigarettes or the haze from Indonesia, an air of unhappiness hangs over rows of greens like chye sim and nai bai.

Most of the 10 farmers The Straits Times spoke to were shocked that they could no longer extend their leases, calling this a step backwards in food security.

An overwhelming 90 per cent of food in Singapore is imported, they said. The farmers, whose plots are about 3ha to 4 ha, said they have been offered the option of a move to smaller plots at Sungei Tengah and another part of Lim Chu Kang, far from the current farming areas. But the shorter leases may lead some farmers to call it a day.

Previously, they held on to their land for 20 years - which they considered "still too short for multimillion-dollar decisions". The new arrangement comes with a confirmed lease for just 10 years, with the promise of another decade's extension if they produced enough.

Ironically, Singapore had just risen 11 places to finish fifth in a world ranking of countries' food security based on its availability, affordability, quality and safety released in September.

Stable local production was a reason for the improved ranking, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The bad news from the Singapore Land Authority - relayed to the farmers in a white, crisp envelope in September - comes even as farmers see more interest in local produce.

For example, at least 8,000 urbanites trooped out to the countryside here for farmers' markets in June and October.

Farmer Alan Toh, 50, whose 4ha farm Yili produces Chinese cabbage and baby bok choy, even calls the scene at these markets his favourite memory in his 18 years at Lim Chu Kang.

He said: "It's a good experience for consumers to understand farming in Singapore and for farmers to understand local demand."
Farmers have also noticed more tours and signs put up to direct the growing visitor traffic.

Frog breeder Chelsea Wan, 31, of Jurong Frog Farm said: "It's a growing community of farmers and people interested in farming."

"The kampung spirit is very much alive here. We have a WhatsApp group that we update each other on and will turn up at anyone's farm if they need help."

For some of the farmers, this is not the first time that they will have to sink their roots elsewhere.

Yik Zhuan Orchid Garden's Mr Jack Lim, who grew up watching his dad work on the farm, remembers slurping up $2 noodles near the Neo Tiew Estate now used as an urban military training ground. Their current farm is their second after they moved from Ama Keng in the early 2000s.

Referring to the Lim Chu Kang farm he is now at, he said: "The area was covered with a lot of trees and had no tall structures in sight. There was only one food centre and wet market because the place was so secluded."

Fish farmer Eric Ng, who has moved twice, said he will remember the joy he felt, plucking fruit such as mangosteen, chiku and buah long long as the season rolled in between June and October.

The 41-year-old owner of Apollo Aquaculture said: "I have seen farms move before but this particular one feels like a revolution. Many farmers I know who watched me grow up are ending their businesses. It's a sad thing to know they are going into history."

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Urban escapes

Gurveen Kaur The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - Ulu, a colloquial Malay word that refers to remote areas, has shed some of its negative connotations. While the term used to suggest danger associated with unfamiliar terrain, ulu places are exactly where urbanites here are heading to seek respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. From Changi in the east to Jurong in the west, Life!Weekend takes a walk on the ulu side of Singapore and unearths four secluded spots you can explore - right in your own backyard

Canoe, camp and more in Sembawang

Nestled deep in the forested areas of Sembawang is a water sports facility that is a throwback to kampung days.

Run by the People's Association, Water-Venture (Sembawang) is housed within buildings featuring traditional Malay architecture.

En route to the centre, visitors can spot Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, a quaint green and yellow mosque built in the 1960s that once served as the religious and social meeting point for Muslims living in nearby Malay villages.

The 8,671 sq m Water-Venture facility, which cannot be seen from the main road, is a 15-minute stroll from the nearest bus stop after Andrews Avenue, a private residential area.

Built in 2008, the centre offers a resplendent view of the Strait of Johor as well as activities such as kayaking and sea-rafting. It also organises nature trails and orienteering courses in the nearby forests.

Those who want to make a night out of the experience can now sleep under the stars.

The centre, which completed its expansion works last month, lets visitors camp in the great outdoors for $5 a night. The less adventurous can book a bunk in the four dormitories on site, which can sleep 40 people each. The accommodations are geared towards bigger groups and those going as a party of 10, for instance, can expect to pay $45 a person.

It is the only Water-Venture outlet, among the eight islandwide, that offers dormitories and camping facilities.

Visitors can go back to basics and try their hand at outdoor cooking using a charcoal stove or indulge in technology-free games such as navigating through portable props and a team-building exercise in which participants use simple materials such as ropes to clear obstacles.

Since the facility started running trial camps in January, it has drawn close to 3,000 campers.

Mr Michael Foo, People's Association's director of community sports, says: "Water-Venture Sembawang's recent extension offers more facilities that cater to a wider group of people. Given its location along the coastline, residents are able to retreat from the bustling cityscape to relax in the quaint and rustic waterfront."

For senior programme manager Henry Ang, the centre is a "hidden gem" that fellow Sembawang residents he spoke to are unaware of.

He discovered the place by chance while dining at the now-defunct Bottle Tree Village in Jalan Mempurong more than two years ago.

"It has a rustic location compared with the other Water-Venture outlets," says the 50-year-old, who has lived in Sembawang for 14 years.

An active grassroots leader, Mr Ang is also the newly appointed chairman of the Water-Venture Committee (Sembawang) and plans to organise a 2km brisk-walking event soon. The walk will start from a residential neighbourhood in Sembawang and end at the Water-Venture facility.

"We have our own playground close to home, set in the hub of nature," he says proudly.

Location: 60 Jalan Mempurong
How to get there: The nearest MRT station is Sembawang. Board bus 882 at the bus stop opposite the station and alight at the 11th stop, after Andrews Avenue. Walk along Andrews Avenue and turn left once you see Jalan Mempurong.
Open: 9.30am to 6pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday.
Info: Use of water sports facilities starts from $25 a day. Call 6755-0225 for more information.

Walk along the defunct Jurong Railway Line

Three years ago, the Rail Corridor, which stretches from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands, was the talk of the town. People flocked to soak in the history of the 24km-long stretch, which Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu trains used to run along till it was returned to Singapore in 2011. Many have strolled along the disused railway tracks, but few have visited its lesser known sibling, the Jurong Railway Line.

Branching out from the former Bukit Timah Railway Station near King Albert Park, the railway tracks of nearly 20km run all the way to Shipyard Road in Jurong Industrial Estate. Laid out in 1965, the tracks served as a mode of transport for goods and raw materials into the then newly constructed Jurong Industrial Estate from Malaysia. Due to inadequate traffic, it was made obsolete in the 1980s.

Today, the railway tracks have been incorporated into the greenery and roads. A key indicator of its existence is the rusty brown cast-iron bridge that arcs across the Sungei Ulu Pandan Canal.

Though it is a less flashy and more rugged railway line, with no distinctive railway station to boast of, the short-lived Jurong Railway Line has much more to offer: It shows greater evidence of railway tracks mingling with surrounding flora and fauna.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, 57, vice-president of Nature Society (Singapore), says that about 20 per cent of the railway tracks are still visible along the Jurong line, compared with just 1 per cent for the Rail Corridor.

To him, the Jurong Railway Line has a rustic and mysterious quality that should appeal to those who want a glimpse of Singapore's railway history. Mr Leong says: "Unlike the main line, of which most of the tracks have been returned to Malaysia, the Jurong Railway Line is, in this sense, more of a rail corridor, with a larger presence of railway tracks."

He recommends Sunset Way as a good starting point for exploring the line, a trek which takes about half a day. There, one would first notice a sea of green as lalang plants and clusters of wild plants, such as the Simpoh Air, flank the railway tracks.

Along the way at Clementi Avenue 4, one would be greeted by a community farm, where nearby residents have planted vegetables, herbs and fruits.

Visitors can venture into one of at least three dark train tunnels. Be warned though - they can get muddy, especially during the rainy season now.

Nature Society (Singapore) is working on a comprehensive guide to the entire railway line, scheduled to be released next year.

Heritage blogger Jerome Lim, 50, has trekked on both the Rail Corridor and Jurong Railway Line multiple times. He says the allure of the Jurong line lies in that "one can be transported to a rural Singapore we have largely forgotten about".

"It is a place that takes me away from the urban world. Spaces like these are rare today and they help me to see that there is a lot more to Singapore," he adds.

Location: There is no one entry point, but a recommended spot would be the intersection of Sunset Way and Clementi Street 14, where a small bridge stands.

How to get there: The nearest MRT station is Clementi. Hop on bus service numbers 52, 154 or 184 from the bus stop outside the station and alight at the fifth stop at Block 109 Clementi Road. Head north-east towards Sunset Way and you will see the bridge.

Nature-watching at Sengkang Riverside Park

Developed in the late 1990s, Sengkang has never quite shaken off its image as a quiet, remote housing estate. There is, however, a hidden gem in the northeastern neighbourhood that is worth making the journey to - Sengkang Riverside Park.

Sure, Punggol next door might have a scenic waterway and distinctive bridges, but this 21ha park which opened in 2008 and is one of the biggest in Singapore, has its own trump card - a manmade wetland that sits among the greenery. There is also the Sengkang Floating Wetland nearby, one of the largest manmade wetlands here at about half the size of a football field.

Go animal-spotting at the wetlands, which serve as a natural habitat for turtles, small fishes and other creatures such as the purple heron, collared kingfisher and common scarlet dragonfly.

The park boasts vast green swathes where visitors can walk, jog, cycle and do other exercises.

The verdant sanctuary also features more than 60 types of fruit-bearing plants. These include mangosteen, mango and starfruit as well as uncommon fruits such as the batoko plum and velvet apple.

To refuel, stop at al fresco halal eatery Mushroom Cafe near the park's main entrance, which serves local and Western fare with infusions of mushrooms.

Mr Lawrence Goh, 40, was having a bite with his wife and three young sons at the cafe when Life!Weekend visited the park on a recent Sunday afternoon. "We like coming here once a month as it's quieter and not as crowded as the other parks. The kids can also be closer to nature," says the entrepreneur, who lives in Buangkok.

For teacher Terrenz Huang, the ulu quality of the park is what attracts her and her husband to drive there from Yishun. "It's much easier to get a parking spot here compared with at Punggol Waterway Park and we enjoy the peace and serenity of the place," she adds. The couple will be moving to Punggol next year, but Ms Huang, 28, says they will still visit Sengkang Riverside Park.

There will be a free cycle-in movie event at the park on Nov 29, the first of its kind to be held at a park here.

Participants will embark on either an 8km or 14km cycling tour along the North Eastern Riverine Loop, which is part of the Park Connector Network that includes Sengkang Riverside Park. It will be followed by a screening of Rise Of The Guardians (2012) at the event lawn.

Registration for the cycling event has closed, but visitors can still have a picnic and catch the film.
Location: 50 Anchorvale Street
How to get there: Alight at Farmway LRT Station on Sengkang LRT Line West Loop and walk for five to 10 minutes westwards towards the park.

Cafe-hopping in Changi

The cafe craze that started here around 2011 has spread to sleepy Changi.

At least four cafes have sprung up in the eastern tip of Singapore over the last three years, including The Coastal Settlement in leafy Netheravon Road and Peloton Coffee & Juice Bar in Changi Village Road. Other cafes in the area include Chock Full Of Beans and Crepes & Puffs.

A spokesman for The Coastal Settlement, which opened in 2011, says the owner picked the secluded location on purpose. "We chose this location because of the luscious greenery and surroundings that complement our vision. The Coastal Settlement is not just a place for dining, but it is also a getaway."

With vintage decor including Vespa scooters, rotary telephones and old-school typewriters, the 670 sq m cafe that can seat 180 customers indoors and 100 outdoors evokes nostalgia and aims to be a dining haven away from the city.

Drawing both families and hipsters on weekends, it serves Western fare and local delights such as roast chicken, nasi lemak and tom yum spaghetti. Prices range from $16 to $42 for main dishes.

Less than 2km away is Peloton Coffee & Juice Bar, the new kid on the block in Changi.

When it opened in May, it was a cafe-cum-retail store selling finger food along with sportswear and triathlon gear.

The retail section moved to a bigger space at the nearby Changi Civil Service Club last month and the 1,200 sq ft premises, which can seat 40, are now dedicated to serving food and beverages. Ms Rashidah Saheer, 43, Peloton's co-owner, says that while its initial target customers were sportsmen and cyclists, the cafe has drawn diners from all walks of life, including young families and students. Business tends to be quiet on weekdays, but she says things pick up on weekends.

The cafe offers light bites such as gourmet sandwiches (from $7.90), its signature sweet and savoury waffles (from $10.90) and a wide range of coffee drinks (from $3) and juices ($6). While Ms Rashidah acknowledges that Changi is "very ulu", she also appreciates its rustic charm and proximity to the coast.

"Customers can enjoy the atmosphere here. They can sit for hours and have a nice, long chat with their companions," she says.
This is precisely what draws teacher Jasvir Kaur, 24, to the coffee joints in Changi.

A self-professed cafe hound, she visits The Coastal Settlement and Peloton every few months.

She used to visit popular cafes such as Group Therapy Coffee and Chye Seng Huat Hardware in town, but was put off by the crowds.

"I just want to get away from the masses during the weekends and chill out at a cafe, and the cafes in Changi give me that luxury," she says.

Location: 200 Netheravon Road
How to get there: The nearest MRT station is Pasir Ris. Head south towards Pasir Ris Central Street 3. Board bus 89 at the bus stop opposite Pasir Ris Town Park and alight 14 stops later, before Cranwell Road. Walk north-east towards Cranwell Road and turn right onto Netheravon Road, where the cafe is located.
Open: 10.30am to midnight (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday except during or on the eve of a public holiday.

Location: 01-2008, 1 Changi Village Road
How to get there: The nearest MRT station is Pasir Ris. Head south towards Pasir Ris Central Street 3. Board bus 89 at the bus stop opposite Pasir Ris Town Park and alight 17 stops later, before Singapore Aviation Academy. Head west on Telok Paku Road towards Changi Village Road, where the cafe is located.
Open: 11am to 5.30pm (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday), 11am to 10.30pm (Friday), 8.30am to 10.30pm (weekend), closed on Wednesday.

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Cycle to the festival

Gurveen Kaur The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - With at least 10 film festivals in Singapore annually, the options are endless for film fanatics these days.
Next year, another one will join the fray. And it has a distinctive element that sets it apart from the pack - it centres on the humble bicycle.

When the Bicycle Film Festival runs here from March 26 to 29, there will be at least five films screened, both indoors and outdoors, an art show featuring local artists who will create recycled bicycle installations, a gala dinner-cum-auction, a community bicycle ride and post-event parties to end each evening.

There will also be VIP treatment for those who cycle to the events - in the form of valet parking.

Details such as the films to be screened, venues and ticket prices have yet to be confirmed, and will be released closer to the end of the year.

The festival, founded in 2001 in New York by its director Brendt Barbur, 43, serves as a platform to celebrate the bicycle through film, art and music.

The American created the festival after he was hit by a bus in New York while riding a bicycle 15 years ago.

"It was obviously an incident that was profound enough to make me think a lot. I decided to do something positive and the idea of a celebration of bicycles through art, film and music came to mind," he says in an e-mail interview.

The festival has since been showcased in more than 60 cities globally, including London, Istanbul, Hong Kong and Mexico City, with more than a million attendees.

Films shown range from shorts to documentaries to feature films. There are also films specially made for the festival, such as short film Mark On Allen (2010) by renowned director Spike Jonze, and documentary Bike For Bread (2013) by amateur film- makers Claude Marthaler and Raphael Jochaud.

Singapore will be the first South-east Asian nation to host the festival.

Mr Barbur says: "Singapore is the gateway to Asia and it is important to be in Singapore if the Bicycle Film Festival is to spread in this part of the world."

The edition here will be organised by sports marketing and event management company, Firefly Connections.

The company's founder, Mr Lyndon Yeo, who is the consultant to Mr Barbur for South-east Asian matters, says the cycling culture in Singapore needs to be more cohesive.

He says: "There are many cycling groups and more events, but they are self-contained. Nothing comes close to a festival of this nature and magnitude that is all inclusive and combines art with sport."

In the cities the festival has been to, Mr Barbur noticed that it has been "a major catalyst for the resurgence of the bicycle as a major mode of transportation".

He adds: "In London today at rush hour, it is almost impossible not to see bicycles breezing by. City cycling is a major solution to many urban ailments and we would love to share how wonderful life is when you choose to ride daily."

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Getting Singaporeans to walk more often

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Nov 14;

A year-long project focused on the city centre has been started to shed light on why and how Singaporeans walk, and what would encourage them to do so more often.

The project, by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Land Transport Authority (LTA) and two institutes, will also map some of Singapore's walkways to find out how to improve them so that more people would use them.

In a new blueprint for Singapore's sustainable development launched on Nov 8, the authorities said that "a more walkable environment will encourage healthy lifestyles".

This is important as Singapore's population of residents aged 65 and above is set to more than double from 400,000 now to nearly one million by 2030, according to the blueprint.

The project started in March and is ongoing, said Dr Alexander Erath, a senior researcher in mobility and transportation planning at the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory.

He told The Straits Times that the work will involve observing pedestrians, who have given consent to being studied, to see how they choose their paths and their walking patterns.

These participants will also be polled on their walking likes and dislikes, and their opinions on trade-offs such as whether they would walk a longer distance if the path's environment were nicer.

Dr Erath said: "We have also surveyed the pedestrian network's qualitative aspects. These included positive ones like paths along shophouses with interesting facades or with more greenery, and negative ones such as those with noise from traffic or overpasses. Academic studies have reported that all these urban design attributes impact the quality of walking."

The results will be used to develop software to help city planners evaluate and prioritise measures to improve Singapore's walkability, he added.

When asked, the URA and LTA said the project, which also involves the National University of Singapore, is to "strengthen" plans to make walking and cycling safer and more pleasant.

They said: "We are exploring innovative ideas such as the segregation of pedestrians and cyclists, safer road crossings and harmonisation of signage. We also plan to put in place more supporting facilities such as sheltered walkways and bicycle parks, and develop educational programmes to promote a safe and considerate culture."

Some of these plans and ideas will be piloted in several towns, starting with Ang Mo Kio. Successful initiatives will be rolled out in other towns.

The agencies said they will consult widely on the plans, such as through an exhibition in Ang Mo Kio slated for the end of this year, where residents will be invited to give their ideas.

- See more at:

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Shanmugam urges businesses to support animal welfare groups

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 21 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Law Minister K Shanmugam has urged businesses to lend their support to the various animal welfare groups in Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam, who was speaking at the first appreciation dinner by animal welfare organisation Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) on Friday (Nov 21), pointed out that the number of dogs under the organisation's care has shot up in 2014, reaching a historic high.

It is currently sheltering 78 dogs, almost double the 40 dogs it looked after in 2013. Fosterers are taking care of 48 dogs this year, as compared to around 30 dogs last year.

Mr Shanmugam said that the Government is working with civil society groups on the issue, and that it helps by granting financial assistance such as tax breaks and subsidies. However, he acknowledged that running a non-governmental organisation (NGO) is not easy, with cashflow remaining a problem.

For example, SOSD has to cover costs such as dog food, staff salaries and electricity bills.

Mr Shanmugam said: "I think they have to spend almost S$30,000 per month, nearly S$350,000 a year. This is an enormous sum for an NGO that was founded just three years ago. So financial support is vital for them as well as other animal welfare NGOs.

"If we improve the lot for animals around us, we really foster empathy and generosity, and we create a different society. We cultivate a spirit in society which cares not only for itself."

- CNA/ac

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Malaysia: Climate change will affect water supply

FAZLEENA AZIZ New Straits Times 23 Nov 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: CLIMATE change will affect all water-related sectors, including water supply and agriculture, resulting in drought, flood and degradation of coastal ecosystem.

National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia’s (Nahrim) Extension Study of the Impact of Climate Change on the Hydrologic Regime and Water Resources of Peninsular Malaysia shows there will be an increase in rainfall magnitude and intensity in the future.

“Global warming will affect peak flow, causing more extreme floods at river basins in the country, such as those in Johor, Kedah and Perak, as well as in Sabah and Sarawak.

“On the other hand, the decrease in monthly river flow and shifting of dry spells at river basins, such as Padas and Kinabatangan in Sabah, Limbang and Sadong in Sarawak, and Muda in Kedah, will affect future water availability.

“The increased fluctuation in the precipitation pattern and the impacts on the hydrological regimes, as well as other non-climatic factors will threaten our flood protection and security level, and increase drought risk.”

Nahrim said based on its streamflow study of 11 watersheds in Peninsular Malaysia, there would be water supply issues in the future, especially in areas with higher risk or vulnerability, such as in the Muda watershed in Kedah and small basins like Linggi.

“Drought or reservoir storage analysis based on 15 climate change scenarios, or projections, in Bekok Dam shows that there will be several critical drawdown periods from 2010 to 2100.

“The impact of climate change on water resources, particularly the rising intensity, magnitude and frequency of rainfall, and the shifting of wet and dry seasons, will lead to an increase of extreme flood and drought events.

“These changes will have a major impact on the development and sustainability of a country’s socio-economy.”

Nahrim said the main task was to mainstream climate change adaptation in future plans and developments, such as raising flood levels, review reservoir capacity, resize drainage and irrigation systems, and redesign ports and jetties.

Other measures, it said, included sustainable land use planning, flood warning systems, emergency response plans and awareness campaigns to minimise damage to property and prevent the loss of lives.

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