Best of our wild blogs: 28 Dec 14

Morning Walk At Venus Drive (27 Dec 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

2014 - Looking Back...
from Butterflies of Singapore

Pasir Ris Park (28 December 2014)
from Psychedelic Nature

Strait to the city
from The annotated budak

Leopard cats in the news: illegal wildlife trade
from Through the Eyes of the Leopard Cat

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Foreign worker volunteers clean up East Coast Park

Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Over 300 foreign workers from the construction industry spent part of their rest day to help clean a 7-kilometre stretch of East Coast Park on Sunday morning (Dec 28). The initiative, which started at 8am, was organised by their employer GATES PCM Construction.

The company said the workers, who participated in the clean-up, did so voluntarily. They come from countries such as India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines.

The initiative is part of the firm's corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Last year, the company brought some of its workers to help out at an old age home. For its CSR initiative this year, it got every foreign worker on its payroll involved.

Its CEO M Krishna said: "Last year's effort was warmly welcomed, when we involved a fraction of our foreign employees. Therefore, I felt this year, I should give all my foreign employees an opportunity to give back to the country that has given them a better life."

Sivanessan s/o Kitnasamy, director of GATES PCM Construction, said: "A lot of them are quite veterans in terms of their work in Singapore...(as long as) about 12 to 14 years. So these guys have a little bit of sense of belonging to Singapore and this is one of the ways they can display that."

One employee, Kaleeswaran Vdaiyar, said: "I don't mind taking a half day (of my rest day to clean the East Coast Park), because I like Singapore, and I want to help clean the park. I like to do social service."

One park user was grateful for the clean-up. Katherine Ee said: "Feel thankful, feel very thankful. Since I know that they are doing on (a) volunteer basis, I think if I jog past them, I will appreciate it, say thank you..."

- CNA/ir

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Malaysia: Flood situation in Johor improving

Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 27 Dec 14;

JOHOR BARU: The number of flood victims in Johor continue to decline with only 439 victims still being sheltered at 10 relief centres as at 4 pm.

At noon, the number stood at 1,096 victims at 14 centres in six districts in the state.

The Johor National Security Council (NSC) said there are still 10 flood relief centres in operation while five centres have been closed.

There are 182 victims from 37 families currently being sheltered at three relief centres in Kluang, which is the hardest hit district, while in Segamat, two centres are still in operation housing 19 victims from four families. In Batu Pahat, two centres remained open with 94 victims from 31 families.

In Kota Tinggi, one centre is currently operating to house 72 victims from 20 families while in Kulaijaya, 54 victims from 14 families are currently seeking shelter at one centre. In Muar, one centre is in operation, housing 18 victims from six families.

160,000 evacuees to date
The Star 28 Dec 14;

PETALING JAYA: The number of flood evacuees rose by more than 40,000 to over 160,000 as the floods worsened due to bad weather.

Rescue and relief efforts intensified as Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, Johor, Perlis and Selangor recorded a rise in the number of evacuees yesterday.

The floods have killed eight people, including an 18-month-old child, two cousins and a husband and wife.

Kelantan was the worst-hit state, with the number of victims displaced nearly doubling to 81,925 from 45,467 on Friday.

They are part of 160,921 victims nationwide seeking shelter as at 3pm yesterday, up from 120,341 on Friday.

In Pahang, the number of evacuees stood at 35,564, Terengganu at 35,246, Perak at 6,730, Johor at 1,096, Perlis at 195, Selangor at 85 and Negri Sembilan at 80.

There is no sign yet that the situation will improve, with the Meteorological Department issuing an alert to warn of the possibility of monsoon rains occurring from tomorrow to Wednesday.

States affected by the alert are Perlis, Kedah, north Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Sabah (Kudat and Sandakan) and Sarawak (Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Sarikei, Sibu, Mukah and Betong).

In Kelantan, Welfare Depart­ment director Nik Omar Nik Abdul Rahman said the victims were being sheltered at 254 evacuation centres.

More food items and relief supplies have begun arriving by air to Kelantan at the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, including donations by ordinary Malaysians and non-governmental organisations.

Airport manager Ramzi Ahmad said the airport remained open although some areas nearby were already flooded, including parts of Jalan Sabak, Jalan Pengkalan Chepa and Jalan Tok Guru.

Two previous floods recorded more victims
The Star 28 Dec 14;

PETALING JAYA: The current floods that have hit many states are some of the worst in Malaysia, but there had been two incidents in the past decade that saw bigger numbers of victims.

A 2013 statement by the National Security Council (NSC) on its website stated that flooding at the end of 2010 triggered the evacuation of 230,000 residents.

Heavy rain in Kelantan, Johor and Kedah that year also damaged 45,000ha of rice fields.

NSC said 140,000 people were evacuated when a typhoon that landed over the Philippines and Vietnam led to heavy rain from December 2006 to January 2007.

The 2006 floods affected a number of states that included Pahang, Negri Sembilan and Johor.

The worst ever flood to hit Kelantan was in January 1926.

It was referred to as the “red flood” (bah merah) as the water, which inundated almost all parts of the state, was reddish in colour, a departure from the usual milk tea or brown-coloured water.

The reddish tint was caused by the many landslides following 10 days of non-stop heavy rain.

The current flood situation, meanwhile, has yet to show signs of abating with the Meteorological Department issuing 38 severe weather alerts since Dec 18.

Fifteen were categorised as “red” alerts, 15 as “orange” alerts and eight as “yellow” alerts.

With the exception of Putrajaya, alerts have been issued in all states and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

A yellow alert involves a possibility of a monsoonal surge within the next 24 to 48 hours, while an orange alert is for moderate to heavy monsoon rains from a low-pressure system or tropical depression with sustained wind speeds of 50kph to 60kph, or when there are strong winds of between 50kph and 60kph for more than two hours.

A red alert is for moderate to heavy widespread monsoon rain accompanied by wind speeds of 60kph or more with moderate to heavy rain for over two hours.

Red alerts hint at the strong possibility of flooding that is accompanied by swift currents.

East West Highway cut off due to landslides
HARIZ New Straits Times 27 Dec 14;

IPOH: The East West Highway in Gerik, near here, is still cut off at its KM63 due to a landslide on Tuesday evening, while a part of the highway at its KM83 (Jeli-bound) is also closed due to a landslide.

Three roads in Perak Tengah - Jalan Selat - Teluk Sena, Jalan Bota Kanan - Teluk Intan and Jalan Parit - Siputih, are also closed to all vehicles as they are inundated by flood water of between four and five-metre depth.

A state National Security Council spokesman said Jalan Sungai Korok - Cangkat Banjar (Parit) in Perak Tengah; Jalan Telok Bakong - Kampung Gajah; and Mile 38 of the Alor Pongsu - Bukit Merah road in Kerian are only accessible by heavy vehicles.

Meanwhile, another road in Kerian, which connects Bagan Serai and Selama (at KM17), and Jalan Lintang - Pekan Lintang in Sungai Siput had been declared as risky for light vehicles.

The main road at Felda Lapang Nenering (KM8.5) in Pengkalan Hulu was also affected by a landslide, but still accessible with only one lane.

Road users who wish to travel in Perak can check on accessible roads by contacting the state Public Works Department hotline at 1800-88-33-77.

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Malaysia: Sibu achieves first-ever zero-styrofoam target

Raymond Tan The Borneo Post 28 Dec 14;

Styrofoam containers can leach out toxic dioxin into warm food or drink, posing health threats to the gastrointestinal tracts and kidneys and even more dangerously, the toxin is carcinogenic in nature.

SIBU has marked a milestone in environmental preservation by becoming the first town in Sarawak to ban polystyrene – or more known as styrofoam – takeaway containers.

Effective Jan 1 this year, styrofoam meal boxes which eateries have been using for three decades, have all but vanished from food stalls, coffeeshops and restaurants across town – to be replaced by bio-degradable paper boxes.

The Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) have been working with local food operators for nearly two years towards achieving this zero-styrofoam target; and their indefatigable ‘greening’ efforts have earned them the reputation as being the most successful among other councils in the state in such endeavour.

For years, it has been working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to raise awareness among the townsfolk of the benefits of composting or making natural enzymes from organic food waste which in turn, could flourish home gardens.

The townsfolk have also been encouraged to reduce the use of plastic bags, practise the 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) and segregation of refuse to cut down landfill waste, recycle e-waste, as well as to continue observing the annual Earth Hour in March and Love Earth Day in April.

The council held dialogues with food operators in implementing the ban against styrofoam containers, apart from introducing it on a trial basis during last year’s Borneo Cultural Festival and other major food fests and also bringing the idea to schools, kindergartens and social organisations as well as educating the public through the media and forums.

The announcement on the ban came in July last year – which SMC felt was the right time for the implementation.
The then-deputy chairman Daniel Ngieng pointed out that the council was determined to enforce the ban, stressing that it would deal firmly against those defying the regulation.

He reminded food operators: “The ban will be a clause under the licence of all eateries. There will be two warnings for offenders – come the third offence, their licence will be revoked.”

Sibu food operators now have turned to using paper takeaway packs.

Kudos for move

When the ban came into effect on Jan 1 this year, it earned praises from environmental conservation groups, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia.

Its head of conservation for Sarawak, Dr Henry Chan, lauded SMC’s move in supporting the Local Agenda 21 slated for sustainable development.

“We’re pleased that Sibu is taking this initiative – the first in Sarawak. It is not only benefitting the community, but is also a noble act towards environmental conservation. Banning polystyrene is how society can play its communal role for the environment,” he said.

Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos also gave his support for the initiative, adding that styrofoam packaging should not be used at all because it could adversely affect people’s health and the environmentin view of it being a by-product of petroleum containing hydrocarbon.

Dawos, a former state environmental advisor, pointed out that styrofoam containers could leach out toxic dioxin into warm food or drink, posing health threats to the gastrointestinal tracts and kidneys and even more dangerously, the toxin was carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in nature.

“Polystyrene packaging is also environmentally-unfriendly because it takes (five) centuries to biodegrade. It’s is even more poisonous than plastic bags because when hot, it (styrofoam) releases dioxin more quickly.”

Adding on, Dawos said most developed cities around the world had already banned such packaging.

Meanwhile SMC secretary Hii Chang Kee said the council was determined to work with the people to ensure the success of the ban.

“Our long-term objective is to create a friendly environment for future generations.

“According to our contractors, lots of drain blockages are caused by styrofoam containers being thrown into them. These containers also collect water and in turn, become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”

The SMC has reasons to worry about the accumulation of waste in their Kemuyang landfill, noting that nearly 30 per cent of the dump are plastic materials inluding polystyrenes, as well as paper products and paper boards.

Chain reaction

The participation of food operators and members of the public in the polystyrene-ban movement has been encouraging.

Food operators had already switched to using paper takeaway boxes one month before implementation of the ban, as a way to acclimatise their customers to the change.

One economy rice stall owner at Tuanku Osman Road said he started using paper containers on Dec 1, charging them at 20 sen apiece.

“Surprisingly, public response was encouraging. If you want to save costs, (you should) bring your own (non-polystyrene) containers.”

So far, he hasn’t received any negative feedback.

It seems that SMC’s effort in banning styrofoam packaging has sparked a chain reaction.

On Oct 2 this year, neighbouring town Sarikei took the bold step in launching their ‘Say No to Polystyrene For Packaging of Food’ campaign in response to concerns over the health hazards and negative environmental effects caused by polystyrene.

Sarikei District Council (SDC) chairman Chan Phan Chan said: “For the good of the community and the environment, we discourage the use of polystyrene materials. As the authority entrusted with overseeing the operation of local eateries, SDC is duty-bound to ensure that food operators would strictly comply with food safety regulations.”

The SDC now requires all food operators to use bio-degradable materials for takeaway packs.

Sibu Rural District Council (SRDC) followed suit. On Oct 18, it launched a similar drive against the use of polystyrene for food packaging.

SRDC deputy chairman Oliver Kuo said notices were sent to food and drinks operators a month in advance, adding that they were allowed to use up the remaining polystyrene packs.

“By 2015, there will be no more polystyrene meal boxes in Sibu Jaya as well as in Selangau.”

Kuo said just like SMC, SRDC had also identified styrofoam packs as the main cause for blocked drains.

SRDC’s jurisdiction covers the outer parts of Sibu, including the villages along the west bank of Sungai Bidut, the new township of Sibu Jaya and the hinterland town of Selangau.

It appears that with implementation of the ban by both councils, the prohibition against the use of polystyrene food packaging in Sibu is total.

Dr Henry Chan hopes that other town councils and local governments across the state would emulate SMC’s effort in replacing polystyrene packaging with alternative ones made from recycled paper and bio-degradable products, as well as encouraging customers to bring their own food containers.

A beach along an island in the Pacific, miles away from human habitation, is littered with polystyrene and plastic waste that have been washed ashore.

Wake-up call

THE use of polystyrene or styrofoam meal packs is still frustratingly extensive in Sarawak because only three local councils have enforced the ban against them. This means over 90 per cent of the population across the state are still using polystyrene packaging.

If you are one of them, think of the consequence on you and the adverse impact you are building for your children:

=You’re adding polystyrene waste to your home space for the next 500 years because that is how long it takes for it to compose.

=You are adding to the 46,000 pieces of floating plastic per square mile in the ocean when the items you throw away flow to the sea. The latest figure in PLOS ONE journal shows that an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic, including polystyrene items weighing altogether over 250,000 tonnes, are floating around the world’s oceans. They will stay there for the next 500 years, unless they are mistakenly consumed by sea creatures, which will eventually kill them.

=You are adding to the 30 per cent of non-biodegradable waste in the landfill.

=You are eating poison because polystyrene contains toxic substances, styrene and benzene. You face the risk of getting cancer and suffering from neurotoxins. Hot food and liquids cause styrofoam to break down. Styrene, then, enters your bloodstream and tissues.

The accumulation of the residues in the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves causes acute or chronic functional impairment of the nervous system. You will suffer from depression, headache, fatigue, weakness as well as effects on kidney function and blood.

You are also drinking poison if you drink tea with lemon, coffee with dairy cream, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, oily hot soup and wine from styrofoam cups and bowls. These drinks, especially red wine, instantly dissolves styrene monomer.

You are spoiling your health if you heat Vitamin A-rich food like tomatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes in polystyrene containers. In packaged food with the addition of heat (including that induced via microwave), Vitamin A will decompose and produce m-xylene, toluene and 2,6-dimethylnaphthalene.

You are polluting Earth because polystyrene manufacturing is the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste due to its large power consumption that creates greenhouse gas effect. Polystyrene’s environmental impacts are also the second highest, behind aluminium.

You are contributing to global warming because polystyrene manufacturing process causes ozone depletion, which poses 1,000 times greater effect on global warming than carbon dioxide.

You are putting your health in danger and depleting the environment if you burn polystyrene waste in your garden. Burning releases carbon monoxide and styrene monomer.

A Green Action Plan: The four simple steps

Banning polystyrene food packets is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the array of green solutions to address global plastic pollution. Nevertheless, taking the first positive step means that half the battle is already won.

Use reusable cups at work instead of foam cups.

When shopping for groceries, select items that are unwrapped, or wrapped in non-polystyrene materials such as vegetables, eggs and meat.

Ask local restaurants and food suppliers to use a more environmentally friendly form of food packaging or takeaway packs. In Sibu, most food operators are using paper meal boxes.

Report to the SMC, SRDC and SDC should you encounter food operators in these areas serving you food in polystyrene packs.

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