Best of our wild blogs: 21 Dec 14

Night Walk At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (19 Dec 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Butterfly of the Month - December 2014
from Butterflies of Singapore

Return to Mandai mangroves
from wild shores of singapore

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Extreme weather, rising sea levels among future environmental challenges

Channel NewsAsia 20 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: After the prolonged dry spell in 2014, a water-rationing exercise could be on the cards in 2015 to educate the public on how to save water, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia.

He said the dry spell and rising sea levels serve as a warning of extreme weather in the future, which Singapore needs to be prepared for.

In February 2014, Singapore faced the its driest month in 145 years, which led to blistering weather, parched landscapes as well as an increase in the demand for water.

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore saw through the period thanks to decades of investment in infrastructure, such as desalination plants, and in technology such as NEWater. Going forward, the Ministry is reviewing its current infrastructure of reservoirs and storage capacities, and could roll out more desalination plants.

But water demand needs to be managed. "I'm still contemplating when or how we should embark on a public education campaign, perhaps with a water rationing exercise - not because we are desperately short but because we have to make the point that we do need to be prepared and if we do need to reduce water consumption, how does it affect our daily lives,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

“So that's something we may need to think about next year and perhaps the best time to do that is precisely at the time when there isn't a dry spell."

From June 2015, large commercial water users will have to submit to PUB their plans to use water more efficiently. Dr Balakrishnan said once the companies and the authorities can get a sense of "what works and what does not", the plan could be rolled out to smaller non-domestic consumers.

The dry spell also brought haze to the region earlier. Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore was spared the brunt of it because of several factors - from favourable wind direction to the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. Under the Act, errant companies could be fined up to S$2 million should the haze hit "unhealthy levels".

Turning to another perennial problem - dengue - Dr Balakrishnan warned that the virus could take on a new form. “After having two years of predominantly dengue type 1, we know from past experience, when there is a subsequent serotype switch in a year or two or even three years from now, there is the danger of another rebound epidemic, so dengue will keep us occupied,” he said.

“We are also studying the possibility of using a special strain of mosquitoes with Wolbachia infection in order to try to reduce the population of mosquitoes. If we are convinced that it is safe, then it is possible that sometime next year, we can embark on field trials."

In late 2014, the government released the second Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which charts the environmental vision for the next five years. It includes reducing the reliance on private transportation as well as improving Singapore's recycling rate. Dr Balakrishnan said food recycling is a key focus going forward, as it currently stands at a lowly 13 per cent.

Globally, the international community is grappling with climate change. Sea levels are projected to rise between about 28 and 98 centimetres by 2100, which could prove to be catastrophic for countries with coastal, low-lying areas if they are not prepared. To guard against this, reclaimed land in Singapore has to be 2.25 metres above the highest recorded tide level. Previously, the minimum requirement was 1.25 metres.

This will affect the land where Changi Airport's new Terminal 5 will be located. The terminal will be built on an existing plot of reclaimed land measuring some 1,000 hectares. Channel NewsAsia understands parts of the land do not meet the 2.25-metre criteria. The Ministry of Transport says they will have to be topped up.

"The airport will be safe enough from future sea level rise, but this doesn't take into account other factors,” said Dr Wong Poh Poh, coordinating lead author of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “What if there were to be an extreme high tide that coincides with storm surges? Anything can happen. You must always remember that tsunamis can happen in this part of the world."

Dr Wong said solutions can be found in the eco-system. Coral reefs have been found to reduce energy produced by waves by up to 80 per cent and mangroves can be grown to protect shorelines. Dr Wong said ideal locations for mangroves can be in the waters around Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong and Singapore's southern islands.

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: Cage farming trend is in

The Star 21 Dec 14;

LANGKAWI: The demand for seafood is expected to rise in tandem with the increase in world population.

World Fish Centre, an international research organisation, re­­ported that the world fisheries output amounted to 160 million metric tonnes per annum and the demand was expected to reach 238 million metric tonnes per annum in the next 15 years.

However, it may not be possible to meet the demand as marine resources are increasingly being depleted due to large-scale fishing using technology and giant nets. Fishermen worldwide are already seeing their catch decreasing.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) anticipates that if the large-scale fishing continues, the world’s fishery resources will be depleted by 2030.

However, many nations are trying to reverse this trend. And one country in the forefront is Norway, which boasts a successful salmon cage farming industry.

Norway is today the biggest salmon exporter and has proven to the world that high technology marine fish culture is the best way forward in reversing the depletion of fishery resources.

And Malaysia is not far behind in addressing the problem. The marine fish culture using the open sea cage farming method at Pulau Simpang Tiga in Langkawi is a pri­vate undertaking led by Aquagrow Corporation.

Its CEO Mohamed Razali Moha­med (pic) said the company applied the same techniques used in Norway in its operation which started three years ago.

LANGKAWI, 19 Dis -- Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif Aquagrow Corporation Sdn Bhd, Mohamed Razali Mohamed.--fotoBERNAMA (2014) HAKCIPTA TERPELIHARA.

Under the cooperation between the Fisheries Department and the Norway government, fish cages made from high-density polyethy­lene (HDPE), are brought in from Norway. So far, there are 18 HDPE cages being used to breed Crimson Snapper (Ikan Merah), Barramundi (Siakap), and two types of groupers – Tiger Grouper (Kerapu Hari­mau) and Grouper Spp (Kerapu Kertang).

Each cage could accommodate 40,000 fishes weighing up to a kilogramme each, he told Bernama during a visit to the marine culture site recently.

“This big scale venture involves a minimum capital of RM20mil. A huge investment means lesser production cost and higher efficiency.

“This is important in keeping up with countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia that are far ahead in marine fish culture,” Mohamed Razali said.

Before the fish are released into cages placed in the open sea, the fish eggs are hatched at the incubator nursery centre in Bukit Malut.

The Integrated Aquaculture Intelligent Solution (IAIS) currently being applied in Norway and Scotland is applied here. The IAIS technology measures multiple parameters – oxygen content in the water, sea current strength, pH value and temperature.

“Maintaining the correct para­meters during the initial stages is crucial to allow the fish fry to grow fast,” he said.

When the fries are one month old, they will be transferred to a nursery and fed with food pellets for two months until they reach 4cm.

They will then be transferred to the HDPE cages and fed with pellets until they reach the re­­quired size to be marketed locally and overseas.

The fishes are now exported to Singapore, Hong Kong and China while the processed fish fillet are exported to Australia, Europe and the United States.

“We produced 150 tonnes this year and we plan to produce 500 tonnes next year. We have set the target that by 2017, Langkawi will be able to produce 1,500 tonnes of fish,” he said.

Apart from Langkawi, Aqua­grow also introduced the cage system in Tok Bali, Kelantan, last year and the next location will be Pulau Perhentian off Terengganu.

“We are producing good quality fish that meet the taste of foreign markets. Local entrepreneurs should capitalise on cage farming so that the industry worth billions of ringgit keeps expanding.

“If more entrepreneurs venture into this cage farming, we could create more local experts in the fisheries industry that is now de­­pendent on foreign expertise,” said Mohamed Razali whose em­­ployees come from Australia, the Philippines, France, and Vietnam.

“Apart from that, if the industry expands, the cages will become cheaper, the fish processing centres will increase and more people will be able to afford fish bred through this method.”

To generate more entrepreneurs in the fishing industry, Aquagrow has made training new entrepreneurs as its corporate social responsibility.

The entrepreneur training programme is expected to start early next year with six local entrepreneurs from Langkawi.

They will be trained on the cage farming method in open sea. When the fry grow to the required size, Aquagrow will buy and market the fish.

“We will train them until they acquire all the skills,” Mohamed Razali said.

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Malaysia: Kelantan floods worst in a decade, say authorities

SYED AZHAR The Star 21 Dec 14;

KOTA BARU: Authorities said the floods in Kelantan are the worst of the past decade after rain fell continuously for more than 12 hours Saturday, swelling the number of flood victims at relief centres state-wide to almost 20,000.

"I was told this is the worst flood season over a ten year period. Luckily the authorities are ready to serve the 20,000 people seeking refuge at the relief centers" said Local Government, Housing, Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Abdul Fattah Mahmood.

Heavy rain that started at 3am on Saturday worsened the flood situation.

The official Kelantan flood portal at reported that Pasir Mas, especially Rantau Panjang town, had been crippled by floods since Wednesday.

A total of 11,184 people from 3,831 families have taken refuge at 37 relief centres as at 3pm on Saturday, up by more than 3,000 people from the day before.

Abdul Fattah said although there were 4,336 people from the various agencies on the ground assisting flood victims, there were a few grouses regarding the supply of food and other amenities.

He added that the authorities were doing their best to help the victims.

"There is enough food for flood victims but there have been complaints where food was slow to reach the victims.

"I have not seen so many evacuees at centres before, and food had to be airlifted to and dropped off at inaccessible areas.

"This situation is far from over as there will be continuous rain next week," he said.

Floods in Kelantan reach critical level, government clinics affected
PHUAH KEN LIN New Straits Times 20 Dec 14;

GEORGE TOWN: Two government clinics in Kelantan were submerged in waters up to chest level today as the flood crisis reaches a critical level in the state.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said the two clinics were located in the Rantau Panjang area.

He said the flood situation worsened and raised his concern about deteriorating hygiene in flood-hit suburbs.

"No one, especially children, should be allowed to play in the murky flood water as chances are the water is contaminated with harmful bacteria that pose a threat to human.

"Health officers will visit the two clinics next Monday and I will be there.

"We will deploy more doctors and nurses to attend to displaced people if more of them are found to have fallen sick," Dr Hilmi said after handing over school uniform to some 400 recipients at SMK Seri Balik Pulau.

It was reported that the flood situation in Kelantan had worsened with the number of people displaced increased to 19,715 as at noon today.

Four people have died due to floods in Kelantan, with one each in Tanah Merah, Tumpat, Kuala Krai and Kota Baru since the second wave of floods inundated the state on Dec 16.

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