Best of our wild blogs: 29 Dec 14



Pollution at sea? Boats ramming reefs? Call MPA immediately!
from wild shores of singapore

2014 Macro Photography Highlights
from Macro Photography in Singapore

G√ľnther's Frog (Hylarana guentheri) @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue


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Doing more to make Singapore green

RICHARD HARTUNG Today Online 29 Dec 14;

How green is Singapore? The answer depends on which report you read.

The latest good news from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) is that the Republic’s carbon intensity — the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of gross domestic product — fell by 30 per cent between 2000 and 2010. It also recently announced the S$1.5 billion Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 to create a more liveable and green environment, which could place the nation as a leader in conservation.

Other statistics, however, paint a less favourable picture. While carbon intensity decreased, Singapore’s total greenhouse gas emissions actually increased by about 21 per cent to 46 million tonnes during that period, albeit as GDP increased 76 per cent.

And a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) showed that Singapore’s environmental ranking has worsened to the seventh-worst ecological footprint per person among 150 countries analysed, moving down from the 12th-worst spot a year before.

About 70 per cent of the city’s footprint comes from carbon emissions, with electricity usage and high consumption of imported food and services contributing to the large amount of carbon emissions produced, based on the WWF’s 2014 Living Planet Report. Doing far more to create a better environment and give green businesses a more credible base of operations could bring a multitude of benefits.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

A good first step towards making Singapore even more environmentally friendly is to set more ambitious targets in MEWR’s 2015 blueprint and then working to change people’s habits sooner.

The blueprint contains targets reducing per capita water usage from 151 litres per day to 140 by 2030, for example, as well as increasing domestic recycling rates to 30 per cent and raising the target for sky-rise greenery from 50ha to 200ha.

Yet average daily water consumption is already down to 107 litres per day in Denmark and stands at about 130 litres per day in Hong Kong. The household recycling rate in Taiwan is already 42 per cent and in the United Kingdom, it is 44 per cent. Adapting best practices from places such as Taiwan for recycling and Hong Kong for lower water usage could lead to far greater improvements than the blueprint’s current goals.

And since transport accounts for about 14 per cent of carbon emissions, further promoting public transport and considering policies to encourage more fuel-efficient cars and reduce the number of highly inefficient sports cars or sport utility vehicles could have a significant impact.

MEWR has criticised the WWF report as failing to recognise Singapore’s unique circumstances as a small island city-state with no hinterland and with little control over upstream manufacturing or processing of imports.

Yet, areas policymakers could consider is where Singapore imports goods from and how to promote a change in consumer mindsets so that products from nearby countries or with a lower ecological footprint are perceived more positively than ones from far away. Importing more fruit from nearby countries rather than Africa, consuming beverages produced in Asia rather than in Europe and importing sustainably grown lumber from nearby countries are a few of many opportunities for improvement.

As WWF International’s director-general Marco Lambertini said, Singapore should “consume products that have a lower footprint or no footprint, or products that are incentivising sustainable practices”.

While such changes by consumers can make a significant dent in improving the environment, it is also critical to change practices in the industrial sector — such as the manufacturing, refining and chemical businesses — as it accounts for 60 per cent of carbon emissions.

Parliament took a brave step by passing the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, requiring industries to install air pollution control equipment to meet emission standards, in order to avoid the economic loss and impairment of health which it said air pollution caused. So, too, could today’s Parliament support a similar stance to encourage refineries or other heavy polluters to take proactive steps more quickly to reduce their emissions.

To support businesses in the sector, Singapore could further showcase technology from companies such as Germany’s E.ON that are setting up offices or research labs to develop carbon emissions reduction technology for export.

If it wanted to go even further, Singapore could enhance its growing role as a leading global investment hub by applying sustainability standards to investments and investing in companies with high environmental standards. As Mr Lambertini said, it could redirect investments towards applying sustainable standards, investing in companies with high corporate social and environmental standards and divesting from fossil fuels.

Whether it is in the daily activities of consumers or the practices of large businesses, promoting faster progress towards a better environment and a green economy can improve health, liveability and businesses.

The WWF has outlined opportunities for improvement, and following its suggestions from the report as well as other global best practices could enable Singapore to improve the environment, enhance quality of life and make the city more attractive for top talent. We can indeed do far more to move faster towards what MEWR described as a more liveable environment for all of us and “a hub for the cutting-edge business of sustainable development”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Richard Hartung is a financial services consultant who has lived in Singapore since 1992.


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Singapore ‘faces constraints in further emission cuts’

With economy reliant on manufacturing, significant reductions are tough: Analysts
SIAU MING EN Today Online 29 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — As the Republic prepares to commit to a global pact on climate change in Paris next year — when targets for carbon emission levels after 2020 will be set — experts TODAY spoke to felt Singapore faces limitations in its potential to further reduce emissions.

The nation has taken significant steps to manage emissions, most notably shifting from fuel oil to natural gas to generate electricity, and has limited options in making further cuts, they said. With an economic base still focused on processing and manufacturing, significant reductions will be hard to achieve, some felt.

WHERE SINGAPORE STANDS

In 2009, Singapore pledged to cut carbon emissions by 7 to 11 per cent below 2020 business-as-usual (BAU) levels and, in the case of a binding global agreement, by 16 per cent below BAU levels. This is based on a projection that the nation’s emissions would reach 77.2 million tonnes by 2020 if no measures were taken.

Statistics from Singapore’s first Biennial Update Report — a summary of the Republic’s actions to mitigate climate change and its effects — noted that the country’s growth in emissions slowed to an average annual rate of 2 per cent, lower than the 2.2 per cent globally.

In 2010, the nation’s carbon emissions totalled 46.83 million tonnes, of which about 45.2 million tonnes was carbon dioxide (CO2).

Separately, figures on the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources website showed that, in 2012, Singapore produced 41.5 million tonnes of CO2 from burning fossil fuels — excluding emissions from waste incineration and bunker fuels — more than the 39.06 million tonnes in 2007.

The nation managed to reduce carbon intensity — the amount of carbon emissions per dollar of gross domestic product — between 2000 and 2010 by 30 per cent, far more than the global average decrease of only 0.12 per cent. This was largely due to a switch from fossil fuels to a cleaner fuel mix of natural gas that produced lower carbon content per unit of electricity generated.

In 2010, the energy and transformation industries — which burn fossil fuels to produce electricity — contributed 46 per cent of carbon emissions from fuel combustion in the energy sector, while industrial activities accounted for 38 per cent. Transport, commercial-institutional and residential sectors took up 15 per cent, 1 per cent and 0.4 per cent, respectively.

Despite Singapore faring better in the global carbon intensity rankings — the International Energy Agency ranked Singapore 123rd among 137 countries in 2011 — the country’s per capita emissions remain high, coming in 27th of 137 nations.

STEPS TAKEN TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT this year

Solar energy is set to be Singapore’s most promising source of renewable energy. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) called for its largest solar leasing tender to date in May for about 680 HDB blocks in four residential towns.

In March, the Government also said it would raise the total installed solar capacity to a 350-megawatt peak by 2020, or about 5 per cent of the annual electricity demand.

Last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled Singapore’s second Singapore Sustainable Blueprint, which focused on maintaining green spaces and creating a “green economy”, among other things.

In the third Green Building Masterplan unveiled in September, a new S$50 million fund was introduced to help building owners and their tenants from small and medium enterprises offset the cost of retrofitting spaces to make them more eco-friendly.

Since April, PM2.5 readings have been incorporated into the Pollutant Standards Index to reflect more precisely the amount of fine particulate matter in the air. In August, Singapore also passed laws on transboundary haze pollution that allow entities causing or contributing to haze here to be fined up to S$2 million.

CUTTING EMISSIONS: CAN SINGAPORE DO BETTER?

Research associate Melissa Low from the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS) told TODAY it is hard to compare the nation’s performance with that of other countries, given how Singapore is a small city state that is reliant on imported fossil fuels and that its economy still depends on energy-intensive industries such as processing, unlike in the European Union, where the economic downturn has led to a growth in services, which may help reduce emissions in the continent.

Assistant Professor Chang Youngho from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Division of Economics noted that Singapore is using fairly advanced technology to produce electricity and any further breakthroughs to raise efficiency would not be easy.

NTU’s Professor Euston Quah pointed out that further efforts to cut carbon emissions or increase energy efficiency would result in higher costs, while barely making a dent in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere globally. At present, Singapore contributes to less than 0.2 per cent of global emissions.

“Given that our contribution is already so low, reducing (it) further by increasing energy efficiency would not make sense economically,” he said.

Carbon emissions, he felt, are “necessary by-products” of industry and economic activities, which not only bring about growth, employment and income, but could also provide financial resources to reduce pollution and other environmental degradation.

However, Associate Professor Matthias Roth from the NUS Department of Geography felt Singapore has some way to go. He noted how absolute CO2 emissions had been allowed to increase despite a fall in carbon intensity.

“The Earth’s climate is changing in response to an increase in absolute concentrations of carbon dioxide,” he said. “The atmosphere does not respond to statistics such as per capita emissions, carbon intensity ... but simply to the amount of carbon dioxide in the air that affects the radiative balance of the Earth-atmosphere system.”

TACKLING CARBON EMISSIONS

In response to media queries, a spokesperson from the National Climate Change Secretariat said Singapore’s achievements in reducing carbon intensity reflect the “significant early actions” taken.

However, sustaining such reductions will be difficult going forward, even with technology that is higher in efficiency and alternative clean-energy sources being explored.

Given Singapore’s limited alternative energy options, energy efficiency is a core strategy in reducing carbon emissions, the spokesperson added.

This includes the Energy Conservation Act that came into effect in April last year, under which large users of energy need to submit their energy-consumption data and develop plans to improve energy efficiency.

Ms Low said the National Environment Agency should share its initial assessment of energy reports submitted by 167 companies, which operate 211 energy-intensive industrial facilities. She also felt with SMEs forming the bulk of firms here, they can do more, while many are not fully aware of the grants available to help them become more energy efficient.

Prof Quah suggested that both the public and private sectors could do cost-benefit analyses and environmental impact assessments for proposed developments and projects.

In addition, he raised the example of imposing a carbon tax as an instrument to correct for the price distortion of economic activities by making people and firms pay for the external costs that their activities bring to society.

Ultimately, climate change is a people problem, said Dr Roth. “It will be very difficult to achieve significant reduction in carbon emissions as long as the population is allowed to increase at the present rate without drastically lowering the carbon footprint of industries and individual behaviour,” he added.


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Supply of vegetables hit by Malaysia floods

Ng Lian Cheong, Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: The supply of some types of vegetables in Malaysia has been affected by the continuing floods in the country.

This has, in turn, caused the supply of these products to Singapore to fall by about 20 per cent. To stabilise the market, importers are bringing in about 20 per cent more vegetables from the south of China.

"The Kuala Lumpur market is bigger, so the demand is higher and some vegetables have gone there,” said Mr Vincent Lee, a treasurer at Singapore Fruits and Vegetables. The supply to Singapore markets has fallen by about 20 per cent. The price has gone up by about 20 cents per kilogramme."

The floods have also affected other services. The only express bus service that travels from Singapore to the Eastern Coast of Peninsula Malaysia said it had to cancel its daily trips from Dec 27 to Dec 29.

With Kelantan one of the more severely hit areas, one logistics company that delivers construction materials and food told Channel NewsAsia it also halted operations.

- CNA/ec


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$18m green makeover well under way in Yuhua

Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE - The $18 million project to transform Yuhua in Jurong into Singapore's first "green" neighbourhood is well under way.

Among the initiatives rolled out thus far are a new bicycle parking system, a vertical green wall and LED lighting in carparks.

Under the Housing Board's Greenprint scheme announced in 2012, 38 blocks in the estate will be equipped with energy- and water-saving solutions.

So far, LED street lighting has been installed at all three open-air carparks and their driveways in the estate. It is estimated that this will reduce energy consumption by at least half.

New double-tiered bicycle racks have also been installed at the void decks of 28 blocks.

Known as a dual bicycle rack system, the frames allow for twice the number of bicycles to be parked in the same space.

Block 223 in Jurong East Street 21 has also received a green makeover - literally.

Its walls are now covered in plant creepers, which, besides enhancing the estate's greenery, are expected to reduce the building's surface temperature by up to 5 deg C.

Also afoot are works to install solar panels on the roofs of 29 blocks, as well as elevator energy-regeneration systems in 18 blocks.

The lift systems can shave off about 20 per cent in energy consumption, while the solar panels will be used to power common areas such as lifts, as well as corridor and staircase lighting.

Work has similarly begun on building a pneumatic waste conveyance system.

This automated method uses vacuum-type underground pipes to gather household refuse, hence reducing the manpower needed for waste collection.
These green initiatives, to be completed next year, are expected to save up to $144,000 annually, said the HDB.

Residents in Yuhua are getting on the green bandwagon with their own activities.

Through the HDB's Greenprint Fund, which supports the testing of green ideas, they have started three hobby farming zones, as well as two community "parklets" - landscaped corners at void decks where residents can rest and interact.

Research engineer Lin Min, 26, who lives in Block 231, said he feels lucky to live in Yuhua and likes the new bicycle racks.

"I grew up here and it's cool to see the estate having a fresher look, and with greener technology," he said.

"The novelty appeals to me, and it feels good to do something for the environment."


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Malaysia: Third wave of floods may hit east coast states, Johor

New Straits Times 29 Dec 14;

KUANTAN: Folks in Johor and along the east coast have been urged to brace themselves for a third wave of floods expected to strike the peninsula from today until Wednesday.

Tengku Mahkota of Pahang Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad yesterday called on the people in his state to be prepared, to ensure that aid and rescue missions could be carried out in an orderly manner.

“Two important things to focus on in times of floods are the efforts of the relevant agencies in saving lives and the delivery of basic needs, such as food and drinks, to victims.

“I urge people to evacuate when they are instructed to do so, even when the situation has not reached a dangerous level,” he said at the Pahang police headquarters here.

Tengku Abdullah was speaking after a briefing by State Secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail, who is also Pahang disaster committee chairman.

Four deaths have been reported in the state so far, with one each in Lipis, Jerantut, Temerloh and Sungai Lembing in Kuantan.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Meteorological Department commercial and corporate services director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said heavy rain was expected over the southern part of Terengganu, eastern Pahang and Johor in the coming days.

He said folks in Johor, especially, would have to brace themselves for the worst, given that they had yet to experience floods as severe as those in the east coast states. However, he said, Kelantan could look forward to a much-needed reprieve.

“We are expecting a lot more monsoon rain over the east coast and the coasts of Sabah and Sarawak, which may last for a few days, and less rain in Kelantan.”

Floods: Pahang prepares for third wave
The Star 28 Dec 14;

KUANTAN: The people in Pahang have been told to be prepared to face the third wave of floods expected to strike from Monday until Wednesday.

Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad, said being prepared was vital to ensure that aid and rescue mission could be carried out in an orderly manner.

"Two very important things to focus in times of floods are efforts of the relevant agencies in saving lives and delivery of basic needs such as food and drinks to victims.

"I urge the rakyat to evacuate immediately when they are instructed to eventhough it has not reached a dangerous situation. This is to prevent any untoward incidents," he said after attending a briefing at the Pahang Contingent Police Headquarters here.

So far four deaths had been reported in Pahang, each in Lipis, Jerantut, Temerloh and Sungai Lembing in Kuantan.

Tengku Abdullah said, Pekan, Maran, Kuantan and Rompin were still in critical situation.

"I am very satisfied with the work carried out by the agencies so far and after this, efforts should be focused on the districts which are still critical," he said. - Bernama

Floods: New school term postponed, to start on Jan 11, Jan 12: Muhyiddin
SAMEER AHMED SHAIKH New Straits Times 29 Dec 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The new school term has been postponed for a week due to the flood situation, says Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The scheduled school term will now take effect on Jan 11 for Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor while for the rest of the states, the school term will resume on Jan 12.

Muhyiddin said the decision was reached after looking at the flood situation and understanding the difficulties faced by teachers and students should the school term resumed as previously planned

He added, as of Dec 28, there are 340 schools in 7 states affected by floods either used as temporary relief centres or they were inundated.

Muhyiddin also said if the flood situation improves, schools are urged to use the period of postponement to organise gotong-royong to ensure an optimum learning environment.

Malaysian government under fire for flood response
More than 120,000 people forced to flee homes as rescuers battle to reach inundated parts of north-east of country
Agence France-Presse theguardian.com 27 Dec 14;

Rescue teams struggled on Saturday to reach inundated areas of north-east Malaysia as victims accused the government of being slow to provide assistance after the country’s worst flooding in decades.

Malaysians have vented their anger at the prime minister, Najib Razak, after the release of photos which went viral on social media showing him playing golf with the US president, Barack Obama, during the storms.

The number of people forced to flee their homes climbed past 120,000 with weather forecasters warning of no respite for the north-eastern states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

The under-fire Najib was expected to arrive in Kelantan on Saturday to lead the national flood response after cutting short his holiday in Hawaii, his aide Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad said.

The government has allocated about $14m to manage relief centres.

The deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, admitted rescuers were facing challenges with power outages and roads being washed away by the floods.

“I admit the situation is challenging to the rescue workers and we are trying our best to make sure that the food arrives to the victims depending on the flood situation,” he was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.

Military helicopters and trucks were seen in Kota Bharu area, which is near the border with southern Thailand, but rescue efforts were being hampered by fast rising waters and strong currents while roads to hard-hit areas were impassable.

“The severity and scale of the floods had taken the authorities completely by surprise as it was worse than anticipated, overwhelming all disaster management plans and preparations,” Lim Kit Siang, veteran opposition MP with the Democratic Action party said in a statement on Saturday.

Kelantan, one of the worst-affected areas, is led by the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic party (PAS) and is one of the poorest states in the country.

From the air, parts of the state capital Kota Bharu resembled a vast, muddy lake, with row after row of rooftops peeking out of the murky waters.

Tempers were frayed among people sheltering at a crowded relief centre just outside Kota Bharu, with fears the situation would worsen as it continued to rain in surrounding areas.

“I am angry with them [the government]. We don’t care about their politics. We just want the government to do what they should do and help us,” Farhana Suhada, 23, who works for a courier service, said.

Holding on tightly to her six-month-old baby, she said: “For breakfast I had three biscuits and tea. There’s not enough water and no food at all for my baby. I had to buy my own milk.”

Suhada was forced to abandon her home four days ago after flood waters rose quickly almost to neck level.

“I have lost everything, including huge damage to my house and my car and motorcycle,” said Suhada, who was among 200 people seeking refuge in a two-storey school.

Many flood victims were seen lying on the floor while children ran around.

Nur Fatin Nurnabilah, 13, said it was her first experience of floods and she was afraid for her family’s future.

“I am scared and I miss my home,” she said. I am scared because I can’t swim. And we lost everything we had.”

2-week closure for East-West link
New Straits Times 29 Dec 14;

IPOH: The East-West Highway, which has been impassable since Wednesday, will remain closed to traffic for up to two weeks, said state Public Works Department director Datuk Dr Safry Kamal Ahmad.

He said the department had to extend the closure because of more landslides along the highway.

“There were four landslides, at Km69, Km79, Km87 and Km90,” he said, adding that three of the landslides were in Perak, while the Km90 site, the worst of the four, occurred in Kelantan.

Safry said the department had initially sought to reopen the highway for between three and seven days.

He said 23 roads in the state had been closed to traffic, mostly in Perak Tengah and Hulu Perak districts.

Motorists can call the department at 1800-88-3377 for more information on road closures.


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