Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jan 15

Life History of the Small Branded Swift
from Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At MacRitchie Reservoir (16 Jan 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

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Malaysia: Johor project developer wants CIQ facility

The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Jan 15;

The developer of the controversial luxury housing project on four new islands in the Johor Strait says it is looking at a CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) facility being set up to ease access from Singapore. It also wants a direct connection to the Second Link.

The Johor megaproject off Tuas - whose total land size of 1,386ha is nearly three times that of Sentosa - will take 30 years to complete, the master developer Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) said on its website.

The site, which details the concept behind the Forest City project and shows artist's impressions of the condominiums, landed houses and commercial projects coming up, was made public after the project received environmental approval to go ahead.

Under the Frequently Asked Questions section, CGPV said "yes" to a question on whether Forest City would have a direct connection to the Second Link.

"Yes, it is our hope and part of our long-term plan that the reclaimed land will have a direct link to the second bridge to Singapore," it said. The developer added that it was "studying the requirements of setting up the new CIQ" facility.

Vehicles from Singapore now pass through the Malaysian CIQ complex on the Tanjung Kupang side of the Second Link after passing through the Singapore checkpoint.

CIQ facilities are operated by the state authorities who would first have to agree to this arrangement. The project, though, does have powerful backers.

CGPV is a 60:40 joint venture between Country Garden Holdings and Esplanade Danga 88.

Country Garden Holdings is the third-largest developer in China by floor area sold, according to Bloomberg. It is controlled by China's richest woman, Ms Yang Huiyan, 33.

Esplanade Danga 88 is 20 per cent owned by Johor state's investment arm, Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

The remaining stake in Esplanade Danga, according to Malaysian media reports, is controlled by Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail and royal court member Daing A. Malek Daing A. Rahaman.

The project has faced flak from Johor residents who see the planned luxury condos and landed houses as targeted at Singaporeans and wealthy people.

Fishermen have complained that their catch of fish and crabs has plunged since reclamation work started last year. "I used to be able to land between RM2,000 (S$740) and RM3,000 of fish a day," said Mr Azrul Izhan, 35. "These days I make do with 10 per cent or less of this," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

A Johor MP, Mr Liew Chin Tong, said the project does not make economic sense as there is "massive oversupply" of high-end housing in Iskandar and southern Johor.

Mr Liew, Johor chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party, is also concerned that the project would narrow the navigation channel for ships using the nearby Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia's biggest container port.

Forest City's developer said its project has more than the minimum buffer zone required for shipping navigation.

Reclaiming land for projects ‘not new’
The Star 18 Jan 15;

PASIR GUDANG: The Johor government says that the development of projects on reclaimed land is “not something new” as it has been done in other countries such as Singapore and Holland.

“Look at Singapore. They have also done massive land reclamation,” Mentri Be­­sar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said.

Referring to the multi-billion ringgit Forest City project, which will see reclamation of a huge part of Straits of Johor to create four man-made islands, he said the public should not be affected by negative views on the environmental impact.

The project would now proceed as it had received approval from the Department of Envi­ronment (DOE) on Jan 9, he said after atten­ding the SMK Pasir Gudang Parent-Tea­chers Association meeting and presenting aid to students yesterday.

Mohamed Khaled said that all projects on reclaimed land in Johor had to meet stringent requirements and receive en­­vi­ronmental impact assessment approval from the DOE.

Mohamed Khaled said the state government would ensure that the welfare of fishermen affected by the land reclamation in south Johor would be taken care of under the Fishermen’s Fund.

Under a state ruling introduced last year, property developers involved in land reclamation within Iskandar Malaysia have to contribute to the fund.

It was reported that about 3,237.48ha of land would be reclaimed within the country’s first economic growth corridor under its Comprehensive Deve­lopment Plan from 2006 to 2025.

The Forest City Project, which was initially suspended for six months, was finally green-lighted by the DOE to resume.

However, its size was scaled down from about 1,978ha to 1,368ha.

From Today Online 17 Jan 15;

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PM: Govt 'has drawn lessons from planning inadequacy'

LOH CHEE KONG Today Online 16 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — For a Government known for its foresight, the fact that it did not build up its infrastructure quickly enough in anticipation of a population growth driven mainly by an influx of foreign workers still gnaws on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who cited this as a regret in his 10 years or so leading the country. But lessons have been learnt: In future, policymakers have to be prepared for a wide range of outcomes and “insure ourselves”, he said.

“We have to plan in future less conservatively and try to be less precise in our prognostications,” said Mr Lee, adding that the external environment has a huge bearing – apart from government policies - on how the country shapes up in the next decade.

It is precisely with this approach that the Government put up the Population White Paper last year, with a 6.9 million population planning parameter for 2030 which was, however, misunderstood by the public as a target. “We do not want 6.9 million as a target but I want to have infrastructure… I want to get myself ready. If unexpected things happen, I can be prepared,” Mr Lee said. “That is the attitude which the Government needs even more, and so does the population. And when things turn out not quite right, well, we accept that that is the way the world is.”

Nevertheless, he could understand the public’s “strong emotional reaction” to the White Paper. On hindsight, the Government could have done better in communicating the White Paper if it had “a bit more time to prepare the ground - to explain it, to soft-sell, and prepare people to understand what is the issue”, he said.

In 2013, Mr Lee first admitted that the Government did not have 20/20 foresight, resulting in the problem of inadequate infrastructure. He brought up the issue again, when he was asked if he has any regret during his tenure as Prime Minister. “At the time we thought we were doing the right thing - pacing it, measuring it out, building it when we needed it and not spending resources until we needed to spend them,” he said. “It turned out that things did not pan out the way we expected.”

The Government has since taken steps to rectify the situation, ramping up public housing, tightening the inflow of migrant workers and improving public transportation.

On what he was most satisfied with, Mr Lee cited the continued emphasis on education, with a slew of far-reaching initiatives rolled out over the years. “Right from the beginning, at my first National Day Rally, one of my themes was on the young. We were talking about schools - Teach Less, Learn More and getting people to get the maximum out of their education,” he recounted.

Acknowledging the work of “successive capable, strong Education Ministers supported by competent and passionate professionals”, Mr Lee added: “We have followed through on that in many ways.” He cited the Government’s investments in schools, Edusave and building up the Institutes of Technical Education, among other initiatives. The polytechnic and university sectors have also been enhanced, with more university places being created for Singaporeans. Beyond formal education, there are also opportunities to develop skills relevant to the future and pursue lifelong learning.

Addressing criticism that the education system heaps too much pressure on students and parents, Mr Lee said: “If parents were unconcerned about their children’s education… we would have another set of problems… But we also would like people to have a holistic education. It is not just grades.”

The Ministry of Education has sought to re-emphasise character education in recent years, to reduce the fixation on academic grades. Mr Lee said: “Collectively, we put too much emphasis on tuition. We think that if we hothouse our children, it will make all the difference. I am not so sure.”

He added: “I can understand the concerns of the parents who want to give their children the best but we also want to give the children the time and the space to grow up. Have a certain steady attitude towards how the children are doing in school. If you get the top marks, that is good. If you did not quite get the top marks, it is not the end of the world. If you get into the school you prefer, well, congratulations; if you did not… keep on trying your best.”

Looking back on a decade as Prime Minister, Mr Lee said an important personal lesson is the need for the country – from the public, right through the Civil Service, ministries and the Cabinet - to work together. More than ever, the Prime Minister needs to depend on a strong team, he added. “That has been much more so than I expected. I would say for my successor, it would be even more so because the problems will be even more complex.”

'Slower growth but S'pore can still prosper'
LOH CHEE KONG Today Online 16 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — The days of 5 to 6 per cent economic growth are behind Singapore, but the Republic can prosper if it responds well to a global environment that will be in constant flux with new technologies and competitors emerging, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. And part of the response, he added, lies in raising productivity – a national effort that must continue even though it has yet to bear fruits.

In 2010, the Government set an ambitious target of achieving 2 to 3 per cent productivity growth per annum over the decade. Since then, the lack of progress in the country’s productivity drive has led to businesses and economists casting doubts on the Government’s strategy.

On whether it was time to relook the approach, Mr Lee said: “We have to persevere, it is not something that can happen quickly, but something which we have to continue working on. We have the schemes, we have the emphasis… There is no alternative to this.”

Mr Lee did not mince words in expressing dismay at the progress of the productivity drive in his recent New Year message - he had described the productivity performance as disappointing and warned that incomes would soon stagnate if there was no improvement. Nevertheless, he acknowledged during the interview the scale of the task, which is tough “because you are asking companies to change the way they are doing things”.

“They have to learn new skills and they may need a new organisation - they may not be able to operate as one little shop,” he said. “You may need to franchise or join together, you may need to change altogether and instead of having one waiter per table, you have self-service and the waiter just comes at the beginning and pours your coffee for you.”

The economy was a recurring theme throughout the 70-minute interview, and Mr Lee said that internationally, it is recognised that Singapore is a developed economy “so it is not possible to grow 5 to 6 per cent per year anymore”.

“If we can (grow) 2 to 3 per cent per year for the next five years, we are doing well. Domestically, we have to get used to what that means. Three per cent (growth) per year means your wages will go up correspondingly, gradually year to year - maybe not every year but over four, five years you will see improvements if we are successful in our policies.”

For its part, the Government will try to keep costs down and is also doing more to help the low-income groups.

Mr Lee noted that for the middle-income, efforts to keep the tax burden considerably low, for example, are succeeding when compared to Hong Kong and Australia.

This, he said, means that “what you earn, you keep, rather than I spend on your behalf. If we can maintain that, then we can improve our lives progressively. If we cannot maintain that, we go to zero growth - I think we have a problem”.

With the outlook still murky for the major economies of the United States, China and Japan, Mr Lee said the global economy would be uncertain for a long time to come. “The global economy is never going to be certain, I mean, when everybody thinks that things are going swimmingly well, that is when you should get very worried that we are not paying attention to some danger and we are about to crash into something pretty soon,” he said.

“That was the situation before 2007 and everybody thought things were well, markets were brilliant and all making money and then you ran into a serious disaster.”

PM Lee on his achievements and regrets, after a decade at the helm
Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: As the nation gears up to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, Singapore should take the occasion to take stock and focus on its vision for the years ahead, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview with Singapore journalists earlier this week.

In his first such interview since reaching the milestone of 10 years at the helm, Mr Lee touched on a broad range issues, such as the evolving political landscape, the challenges facing Singapore and Singaporeans, and his vision for the country.


"I would say putting a lot of emphasis on education. Right from the beginning, my first National Day Rally, I remember one of my themes was on the young. And we were talking about the schools - 'teach less, learn more' - and getting people to get the maximum out of their education.

"We've followed through on that in many ways, investing in the schools, Edusave, resources for the principals, making sure every school is a good school, developing tertiary education, building up the ITEs. I've now opened all three of them - the East, the West and most recently, and the best of all, I think is the Central campus.

"We've expanded our polytechnics and upgraded our polys and they are now a very attractive option for many young people.

"We've expanded university education. SUTD was one manifestation. It means a lot more young people are getting into our universities now and we are expanding the numbers further and opening up new paths with UniSIM, with SIT (Singapore Institute of Technology), and we are talking about beyond formal education, skills future, lifelong learning.

"I think it is not a single decision, but it is a continuing, consistent emphasis over a long period of time and successive capable, strong Education Ministers supported by competent and passionate professionals. I think that is very important to our future."


"In retrospect, it's easy to say that we should have been building up our infrastructure a lot faster; that we should have got our trains running; that we should have got our HDB flats built more.

"At that time, we thought we were doing the right thing, pacing it, measuring it out, building it when we needed it and not spending resources until we needed to spend them. It turned out that things didn't pan out the way we expected and I think in the future, we have to plan less conservatively, and try to be less precise in our prognostications.

"You want to predict what's going to happen."


"I think there was a strong emotional reaction when we put out the White Paper. In retrospect, if we have had a bit more time to prepare the ground, to explain it, to soft sell and prepare people to understand what it is that is the issue and what we are trying to do, we should have done better. But that's water under the bridge.

"I can understand the reactions of people because they are not reacting on the basis of reading a paper and then trying to take a dispassionate, almost academic approach, to what should be done. They are reacting on the basis of their direct context - colleagues at work, people on MRT trains, public places where foreign workers may gather - and they have a reaction, to say things have changed.

"I am not surprised there is some such anxiety among Singaporeans. I think we have worked hard at this. We have calibrated the policies, we have slowed down the inflows, we have tightened up on foreign workers. In fact, it is causing employers a lot of pain.

"We will continue to adjust to get the balance as right as we can, but I don't think we are able to relax because we have to continue in a sustainable way. But neither are we able to say: 'We go to zero and let's do away with all these people. We don't need them to build our trains, we don't need them to make houses. We don't need them to serve us noodles in the middle of the night when we go down to the hawker centre.' I think that is not practical.

"People ask me: 'Next year, what is the growth?' Or 'Ten years from now, what will Singapore be?' The answer is what I can guess, but actually a lot depends on what we do, a lot depends on how the world goes. We have to be prepared for a wide range of outcomes and insure ourselves."


"I think it makes me a lot more conscious in pitching what I want to say, to ask myself: How will I distil this down in a form which somebody can digest on Facebook or Instagram? On Twitter it is very hard. It's 140 characters, I can just put a bit, but please click on this to read more.

"But on Facebook, you can say a bit more, on Instagram, if you choose the right picture, the picture can tell a lot of stories. So it makes me a lot more conscious of the way I boil down my messages down into small chunks, and also the timing and the sense of the messages. You cannot always be putting out long, learned dissertations on some cosmic issue or other.

"There are times when you have to be light-hearted. There are times when you see a beautiful sunset, you share it with people and hope that they enjoy it with you. When you catch an owl somewhere in the Istana, maybe somebody is interested to see the owl. It's something unusual and personal. And I think that is helpful.

"But it's necessary, through Facebook, Instagram or whatever the next new thing is coming - I've not gone into Snapchat yet - to have not just light banter, but really some serious response, serious content as well."


"In 1984, when I entered politics, nobody brought up the issue of cost of living. At that time, people were a lot less well-off than the people now, but nobody really felt they didn't have enough money. Or at least, they did not view this as the most important issue of their lives. This was because everyone believed their lives will improve and tomorrow will be better as long as they continued to work hard.

"Right now, our lives have indeed improved, and this applies even for low-income families. They live in better environments and their children have more opportunities to get a good education. But everyone still feels they don't have enough money. Why is that so? This isn't just a statistical problem and it also isn't just about the Consumer Price Index.

"This is about different lifestyles and people's aspirations. It's about people seeing what the average standard of living should be and everyone aspiring towards that. It's about them feeling the need to accomplish what they want in life and yet feeling that they can't because they don't have enough money. So they think they have a problem with the cost of living. It's not easy to solve."


"We're all considered Asia's four new dragons, and we've all experienced a period of rapid growth. But in the last 10 years or so, we've been moving in different countries. Hong Kong is a part of China, but what is Hong Kong worried about? Housing prices, whether young people can afford their own houses. If they can't find a place to stay, they don't even have to think about starting a family.

"They're worried about China, not just in terms of competitiveness, but also whether the massive China society would overwhelm Hong Kong's uniqueness. So Occupy Central is about electoral issues against the backdrop of Hong Kong's political and societal context.

"As for Taiwan, I believe most Taiwanese want to maintain the status quo and its political position. Taiwan's economy has run into some problems in the last decade because their growth has been slower, and young people there want to find jobs and upgrade themselves. Graduating is not a problem as they have many universities and many of them are graduates.

"But many graduates are not satisfied with the jobs they've had to do. Some drive taxis, some do small businesses, while others have had to come to Singapore to work. Why? It's because their economy has not had a clear direction to move towards.

"If they move towards China, they're afraid of over-relying on China. Yet they can't completely move away from China because China's draw is huge. If they let foreign workers in, they're afraid it'll change their society. But if they don't, their economy can't progress. So their young people have reasons to worry, and this was reflected in their recent elections.

"We have our challenges. In terms of housing, Singaporeans may feel that we are not building them fast enough, but regardless, it's not difficult if you want to buy a house. In China, Hong Kong or Taiwan. If you ask a young person when he intends to buy a house, he may think you're trying to make fun of him. It's because they just can't imagine buying a house unless they're very rich.

"In Singapore, you have to buy a house before you get married, so it's completely different. In terms of jobs, our economic development has been quite good in the past 10 years, so we have enough jobs. Once you graduate from polytechnic or university, you can basically find suitable work. Maybe you're hoping for higher pay, but to find a job at least is not a problem. And about 90 per cent manage to find proper work within six months, and these are good jobs.

"Everyone wants higher pay, better jobs, shorter hours - I'm hoping for these too. But with work, there'll be tradeoffs. We need to import foreign workers and new immigrants if we want economic development, so we have a different set of challenges. We need to achieve a balance.

"So I think all three societies have different situations. We learn some of their lessons, but we also need to understand that we are Singapore. Singapore is different from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan."


"I think it must change. I'm not sure which way it will change. We are in a very unusual situation where there is a clear consensus for the ruling party, for the People's Action Party.

"There's desire for alternative views, but basically Singaporeans want the PAP to govern Singapore. And if you ask the opposition party, whether it's the Workers' Party or SDP (Singapore Democratic Party), nobody says: 'Vote for me, I will form the Government, I will be the Prime Minister, I will run this place better'. Nobody.

"So in that situation, for the Government to continue to maintain support and to be able to carry the consensus of the population over the long term - I think it's very important. Will it remain the present situation exactly today? I don't think so. How will it change? I cannot say.

"It depends on voters. It depends on how the new MPs and ministers we bring in bond with the people. It depends on what situations we run into. If we run into a turbulent situation, I think people will be very worried about the dangers and there will be a flight to safety. If you are in a peaceful and prosperous environment, people will say: 'This is the way the world is, why do you need the Government? We can prosper without the Government.'

"So there is no safety net, no certainty that what we have now is going to continue. And each election is a very serious contest for who is going to form the next Government."


“I think there’ll be quite a few (new candidates). You have already seen some of them, so you can do an estimation.

“(The number of Group Representation Constituencies) will be decided by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. But at the last General Election, the average number of MPs assigned to each GRC went down, and there were a few more SMCs (Single Member Constituencies). I am satisfied with that.

“In principle, every MP should be able to contest on his own to keep his constituency. I think every MP should be prepared for this because they won't be able to know whether the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee will carve out an SMC from their GRC. The objective of having GRCs is to ensure we will have minority representation in Parliament. I think this is still necessary, so we definitely will not change the GRC system.

“There is no institution that can guarantee it will never be overturned. Even if you don't hold elections, there may still be revolutions. So in Singapore, if everyone just assumes the Government will not be unseated and votes as he wishes, I think that is a very dangerous assumption."


“It's very possible (my successor) is already in the current Cabinet line-up, but it's not an absolute because I want to bring in a group of new candidates with strong leadership potential in the next election. I believe we should be able to find my successor from the previous two elections or the next one.

“Times have changed, and his background would also be different. He would need some time to establish his authority, to let Singaporeans know his character, his working style and his leadership abilities. In other countries, it's quite rare to find a Prime Minister that has had many years of experience before leading a country.

“But he may not be a stranger.”


"I think that for the next phase, the narrative cannot be a single word, nation-building. It has to be that we live in Singapore, we have a home, this is a place which is quite special, if you travel, you would know it's very special. Not just if you travel to developing countries and backward areas.

"If you travel to developed countries, you would know that this is a place where you don't find the same kind of multiracial mix, you don't find the same kind of opportunities as you would in Singapore and many places.

"I think we can make this something really outstanding for ourselves and our children. And for Singapore, as well as for the individual, we have to work at it ... it's not easy, but we have the resources, and if we can work at it, it will be better.

"Better to do what? Better for you to fulfil what you want to do in life. We accommodate one another, we are not just so many individual human beings but a society. In Singapore we get on together, and I think we can have a good future, a bright future."

- CNA/ly/ms

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Fishing port to lifestyle hub?

Nabilah Said The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - Jurong Fishery Port will be upgraded and architects think it has the potential to be a lively restaurant and retail centre

Something fishy has been going on in Jurong.

In the wee hours of the morning, goods are unloaded off boats, money changes hands and, by sunrise, much of the business winds down.

Not many people know about the Jurong Fishery Port, a 5.1ha area that integrates a port for docking of fishing vessels, a 400m-long wharf and a 9,000sq m wholesale fish market. The port started operating in 1969.

Up to 3,000 people, including fish retailers and a smattering of members of the public, head to the market every day to buy up to 250 tonnes of seafood, such as red snappers, prawns and crabs.

According to a Lianhe Zaobao report published two weeks ago, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan announced last year that the fishery port will be upgraded, although no dates were given.

A spokesman for the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), which operates both the Jurong and Senoko fishery ports, says: "AVA is planning to redevelop the Jurong Fishery Port. More details will be shared at a later date."

Lianhe Zaobao also interviewed fish merchants operating in the market, who said that the new port could include a multi-storey centre, seafood processing facilities and eateries to attract both businesses and consumers.

If these hoped-for changes take place, the Jurong Fishery Port may become something like the bustling tourist attractions such as Fishermen's Wharf in San Francisco or Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, the Zaobao report said.

Though it is still early days, architects Life!Weekend spoke to say that the Jurong Fishery Port does have the potential to blossom beyond its current form.

"An array of restaurants and retail facilities selling fresh sashimi and seafood, as well as related restaurant supply shops, will certainly add to the vibrancy of the place," says Mr Seah Chee Huang, director of DP Architects.

He adds that like Fisherman's Wharf, "recreational and civic spaces" located near the pier, such as a visitor centre, heritage gallery and festive markets, can add dynamism to the port.

Mr Jason Pomeroy of architecture consultancy, Pomeroy Studio, envisions that the port can be a "home to a cluster of high-tech, innovative vertical fish farms", citing Singaporeans' growing appetite for home-grown and sustainable food sources, coupled with land scarcity.

Such farms make use of recycled water systems to allow fish farming activities to take place in industrial settings.

However, the architects caution that infrastructural changes are necessary to increase the accessibility of the port, which is located near Jurong River.

Director of RSP Architects Planners & Engineers Seah Chee Kien says the location is "not conducive", adding that the "heavy industrial port traffic" makes it difficult to turn it into a compelling attraction. But he adds that the development of the Jurong East area and Jurong Lake District would bring more people into the vicinity.

Mr Seah from DP Architects agrees, suggesting that alternative transportation routes for cycling and even water taxis could be explored, on top of improving vehicular access. If these suggestions are implemented, the new port might net an increase in visitors and even tourists in the future.

One such visitor, Mr Adib Jalal, 32, welcomes these potential changes as he feels that "we Singaporeans sometimes have a disconnect with knowing where our food comes from".

The creative director of urban consultancy Shophouse & Co has visited the wholesale market twice in the past two months, attracted by the prices of the seafood, which are about 25 per cent cheaper compared to regular markets.

But while he believes that the fishy smell of the market is "part of the experience", Nanyang Technological University student Kamarulzaman Mohamed Sapiee says he could do without the stench.

The 24-year-old wishes for a jetty for people to stroll along, as well as restaurants, but hopes that the changes will not be too complex. "At the end of the day, it is still a fishery port and the area shouldn't change into a garden or park or something else," he says.

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Crows swoop down on unsuspecting people in Hougang

Ronald Loh The New Paper AsiaOne 18 Jan 15;

They perch on branches and lamp posts, watching the people below them walking by.

When they spot something that catches their eye, like a plastic bag that could potentially carry food, they strike.

Flapping their big black wings, the crows swoop down on their targets, peck at their victims and startle them. This has been happening over the past few days, just outside Hougang MRT station. Men, women, children - no one is exempt.

About half a dozen crows began their attacks on Tuesday evening, reported Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao.

When The New Paper visited the area on Wednesday at about 7pm, we spotted at least five big adult crows swooping down on unsuspecting people.

We followed some of the birds and were led to a small tree just outside Hougang Mall on Hougang Avenue 10, opposite Block 425. A few crows nestled in the tree while the rest perched on top of lamp posts.

We noticed that they would particularly strike at those carrying plastic bags walking near their tree.

In half an hour, seven people were attacked. All the victims did not see the crows flying down on them.

By the time they felt the crow's beak and the flap of its wings, the offending bird would have flown off.

While some people shrieked in shock, most were left puzzled and looking around before they hurried away.

A woman in her 20s was walking past the tree with a plastic bag of groceries in each hand when a crow flew down and pecked her head.
She started, spun around and immediately swung her plastic bag at the bird.

She said: "I'm okay. I was just shocked, that's all. Perhaps the crow was hungry."

Ms Aini Abdullah, 41, who works at a booth at the carpark near Hougang Mall, said the crows appeared in numbers on Monday.


"One afternoon when I was in the ticketing booth, I heard loud noises from the roof. When I came out of the booth to check, I saw many crows perched on top, pecking away at my roof. It shocked me," she said.

A biodiversity expert told TNP that the attacks could have stemmed from people feeding them.

Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt from the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences said the attacks were likely carried out by house crows, or Corvus splendens.

"What they're doing could be misinterpreted as them attacking people, but they may actually just be wanting to be fed.

"Like monkeys, they are incredibly smart and they are able to recognise plastic bags, which they think will have food for them," he said.

An Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) spokesman told TNP that the AVA will conduct surveillance and crow control operations when it receives reports on crow attacks, to safeguard public safety.

These include tree pruning to deter the birds from roosting, properly disposing of food to deny the birds available food sources and bird control operations.

There were 260 crow-attack reports from the public last year, down from 460 in 2013.

When TNP visited the area again yesterday, we spotted six crows, although the birds did not attack anyone.

While most Hougang residents said they have not seen or experienced attacks by crows, some voiced their concern about the recent development.

Said Ms Cheryl Chong, 19, a student: "Of course I'm afraid. I didn't know this was happening. I take the MRT every day and I have to pass by the area."

Another resident, Ms May Lee, 23, a stewardess, said she may avoid the area near Hougang Mall for now.
"It is scary and it worries me to be walking on the streets now," she said.

The best thing for residents to do is to stop feeding these birds, said Prof Rheindt.

"Many people don't realise that feeding these birds with food scraps is a bad thing. Plus, what you are feeding them may not be healthy for them," he said.


260: Reports of crow attacks by members of the public made last year, down from 460 in 2013.


Seek shelter immediately and avoid the area as it may be near their nest

Wave your arms or umbrella at the crows to scare them off

Use shiny objects to scare them off

Contact AVA at 1800-476-1600 or through its website


Keep your surroundings litter-free.

Properly dispose of trash and keep trash bins covered.

Clean up after feeding your pet as crows may look to scavenge leftover food.

Crows 'opportunistic when it comes to food'

House crows are not native to Singapore.

They were brought here from India on trading ships in the 1940s to feed on crop pests.

Today, house crows have settled down and made the urban jungle of Singapore their home, said Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt of the National University of Singapore.

"But these birds are not considered a desirable part of Singapore's fauna as they were introduced into the ecosystem. They are not supposed to be here in the first place," he said.

Over the years, they have been able to survive and thrive in Singapore - becoming cohabitants of the human settlement here - because of their intelligence. For example, they make their nest at the top of trees where they will be out of reach to most predators, he said.

He added that crows have also been reported to use tools when finding food.

Mr Alan Owyong, the vice-chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, said crows have also been known to attack larger birds, such as eagles.

"When they see an eagle carrying food in its talons, they will attack in a group knowing they have strength in numbers. The eagle, when harassed, will then drop the food, which the crows will pick up."

Crows, being omnivores, are also highly adaptable and eat practically everything, said Prof Rheindt.

"They feed on anything such as plants, food scraps and dead animals on the road. They are opportunistic when it comes to food," he said.

Prof Rheindt also said some crows may have grown used to people feeding them.

"That could be why they are swooping down on people, hoping to be fed by them."

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said crows are also particularly protective of their young and may attack when threatened. They can also hold grudges and may attack if you have accidentally offended one of them.

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Birds, rats found dead near Pasir Ris animal shelters

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Jan 15;

SEVERAL birds and rats have been found dead in Pasir Ris Farmway 2, where a number of animal shelters are located. Volunteers at the shelters suspect that the animals might have been poisoned after eating kibble in styrofoam boxes left along the road.

The volunteers have been told to be more careful when walking the stray dogs under their care in the area. In particular, they should ensure that the canines do not eat anything off the ground.

No dog has been found dead so far.

In a Facebook post on Jan 8, independent dog rescuer Ray Tan sounded an alert to those volunteering in the area. "Lots of dead birds and rats (found) along Pasir Ris Farmway 2. Suspect poisoning. Avoid walking the dogs if possible," the post read.
It was accompanied by a photograph of a dead bird.

Mr Tan, 45, added: "It could be that someone is trying to poison the rats. But it should be done properly, by getting pest control in."

In response to queries, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority told The Straits Times last Friday that it was aware of the case. Investigations are ongoing.

"Our officers have visited the site and collected the dead birds for testing," said its spokesman, adding that no food was found though.

Welfare group Mutts and Mittens said its volunteers had removed the leftover food "for fear that more small animals might become victim to poisoning".

Said Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of welfare group Save Our Street Dogs, which has a shelter in the area: "This area is known for having a high concentration of dogs, so volunteers should ensure they (the dogs) do not consume food lying on the ground."

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PUB to give Bukit Batok Canal a makeover

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 17 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: Come next year, Bukit Batok residents can look forward to new features in their neighbourhood, including two activity hubs and a spruced-up canal.

The makeover of the Bukit Batok Canal costs $400,000 and is part of the PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme. It is the first of four such projects to start in 2015. The other three are Kallang River (Upper Boon Keng/Sims Drive), Kallang River (Bishan-Braddell) and Sungei Bedok.

The 230-metre stretch between Bukit Batok West Ave 2 and 4 will be spruced up. There will be spaces for communal activities and timber seats along the waterway to encourage residents to gather and bond there.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Dr Amy Khor, who is also the MP for Hong Kah North, said: "By having a community water scape and a community space like this, we look forward to it becoming a community focal point, where the residents can come down, rest and relax, enjoy the landscape, the waterway as well as congregate and bond. And the area can be a hub for activities too."

As part of the makeover, rain gardens with specially selected plants will be incorporated along the canal bank. They serve the function of detaining and cleansing rainwater runoff before discharging the water into the canal.

Residents are looking forward to the makeover. Sitti Amnah, a 53-year-old housewife who has been living in the area for 29 years, said: "After the project is completed, I must call my clique, my friends, residents to come here to jog or walk with me."

Xie Guang Yu, a 33-year-old software developer who has been living in the area for around six years, said: "The children like greenery. When the area is beautified, we will bring them here more often to play."

The canal is the first of smaller ones in the west to undergo the PUB's ABC Waters programme. The programme was launched by PUB in 2006 to transform Singapore's water bodies into beautiful and clean ones with community spaces for all to enjoy. Over 100 potential locations have been identified for implementation over the next 20 years.

PUB's Chief Sustainability Officer Tan Nguan Sen said: "In the initial phase of the programme, we actually did the projects in all the major waterways, like Kallang River, Sungei Punggol, and also the reservoirs like Bedok Reservoir and MacRitchie Reservoir.

"So now, going forward, we want to bring the ABC Waters project to the heartlands to improve the liveability of the HDB estates."

Referring to the Bukit Batok Canal makeover project, Mr Tan said: "This project, for example, we are doing it within a HDB precinct. It's a small project but it will help to improve the environment, enhance the environment next to the canal. There'll be some other projects similar to this which we are going to start, for example, in Sungei Whampoa, Toa Payoh Lorong 8."

The construction of the Bukit Batok Canal project is expected to be completed by early 2016. To date, PUB has completed 26 ABC Waters projects, with 11 ongoing projects.

Bukit Batok residents will also benefit from two other projects costing $1.8 million. They will provide more community spaces for residents. The Ministry of National Development will be funding the cost of these projects.

Dr Khor said: "We're calling them the family hub and active-living hub. One is more family oriented, one is more towards the youths. But in both areas, there will be fitness corner, three-generation in that sense, barbecue pits, and also communal space where we'll landscape it -have sitting areas, pavilions and so on so that people can congregate, take part in activities and enjoy the breeze."

Feedback from residents will be sought on the draft plans. Construction for these two activity hubs will start in the last quarter of this year and is likely to be completed in 2016.

- CNA/rw/ir

Part of Bukit Batok Canal to be redeveloped for community purposes
Today Online 17 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — A 230m stretch of Bukit Batok Canal, located between Bukit Batok West Ave 2 and 4, is being turned into a community space, announced national water agency PUB today (Jan 17).

Dr Amy Khor, Member of Parliament for Hong Kah North, was the guest-of-honour at the groundbreaking ceremony this morning.

Some of the features include rain gardens and timber seats along the waterway. A PUB statement said that the project aims to transform the neighbourhood into a “vibrant communal space while allowing residents to get close to and better appreciate the waterway”.

As part of the makeover, rain gardens will be incorporated along the canal bank to detain and cleanse rainwater runoff before discharging the water into the canal. In addition, creepers along the canal walls and new plantings will give the area an aesthetical boost.

PUB’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Mr Tan Nguan Sen, added that schools in the vicinity can use the site to learn how specially selected plants can cleanse water naturally and enhance biodiversity.

Construction is expected to be completed by early 2016.

The facelift comes under PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme. To date, PUB has completed 26 ABC Waters projects with 11 ongoing projects. Seven ABC Waters projects will be completed this year, including at Rochor Canal, Sungei Tampines and Kallang River (Potong Pasir).

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Malaysia: Harm to environs caused recent floods - NGO

The Star 18 Jan 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Widespread environmental pollution has again been blamed for the murky waters during the recent east coast floods.

Kelantan Children’s Organ-isation president Datuk Noordin Abdul Razak, who lived through “equally bad” floods in 1967, claimed the recent flood waters were murkier.

“It is caused by the greed of humans who take the environment for granted.

“Pollution has become worse now that the population has increased,” he told a press conference yesterday.

The organisation, comprising Kelantanese living outside their home state, has launched a disaster fund campaign along with the Kelantan Al-Muhammadi Royalty Association to help in the rehabilitation of flood victims in the state.

Noordin said his organisation would work with the state flood committee to assess areas which needed help.

Noordin said those who want to contribute to the disaster fund can send their money to Maybank account number: 5640-7060-9764.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has offered additional emergency assistance worth 19mil yen (RM500,000) to ease the hardship of the flood victims.

A statement by the Japanese embassy here said Japan is offering tents, blankets and other humanitarian aid in response to the request of assistance from the Malaysian Government.

This is the second time Japan is giving emergency relief items to Malaysia.

On Jan 1, the Japanese government provided over 19mil yen (RM500,000) relief aid in the form of generators, water purifiers and other humanitarian goods to the flood victims.

Eight states were hit by massive floods last month, with Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang among the worst hit states.

More than 200,000 people were evacuated at the height of the disaster.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had earlier thanked the international community for their assistance in flood relief efforts.

Leptospirosis cases tripled in Kelantan: Health Ministry
New Straits Times 16 Jan 15;

BALIK PULAU: The number of leptospirosis cases has tripled in Kelantan following massive floods last month, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.

He said between 20 to 25 leptospirosis cases were recorded in Kelantan before the floods, but the number of cases went up to 94 after floods hit the state.

“Until this month, 94 leptospirosis cases were reported which is worrying as the disease is dangerous.

“Therefore, the ministry advises the public, especially residents of Kelantan and volunteers, to be more careful and to avoid using water from unclean sources,” he told reporters after a schooling aid presentation ceremony at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Balik Pulau, here today.

He said symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, shaking chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dry cough and muscle pain.--BERNAMA

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Malaysia: Group puzzled over EIA approval for Pitas aquaculture project

RUBEN SARIO The Star 17 Jan 15;

KOTA KINABALU: An approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for a shrimp aquaculture project in the northern Pitas district is puzzling an environmental group here.

The Sabah Environmental Protection Asso­ciation (Sepa) said the state Environmental Protection Department (EPD) had approved the EIA report without going through a meeting of a review panel as required.

Among those sitting in the panel are representatives of concerned groups such as Sepa.

Sepa president Lanesh Thanda said the last review panel meeting was held on June 5 last year, when the EIA report for the RM1.23bil aquaculture project was rejected.

“We have the minutes of the meeting sta­ting that it was not approved. We would like to know what happened between June 5 and Dec 19 when the EIA was approved,” she said.

She said it was not Sepa’s intention to stop the project, which is expected to create some 3,000 jobs in one of Sabah’s poorest districts.

“Our stand is that livelihood projects must go hand in hand with environmental care. The project must be environmentally sustainable,” Lanesh added.

EPD director Datuk Yabi Yangkat said among the conditions of the EIA approval was for the project developers to put in place mitigation measures for wildlife corridors, mangrove buffer zones, riparian reserves and rehabilitation of certain disturbed mangrove areas.

The aquaculture project is a joint venture between Sunlight Inno Seafood Sdn Bhd and state-owned Yayasan Sabah subsidiary Inno Fisheries Sdn Bhd.

The EIA was prepared by DH Water and Environmental Consultant (M) Sdn Bhd.

The terms for the project were submitted on May 13, 2013, and approved by the state environment department on July 10 that year.

This was followed up with the submission of the EIA report on April 29 last year, which was initially rejected by the EIA review panel on June 5 but approved on Dec 19 after issues of concern were resolved.

Yabi said his department was aware of the environmental sensitivity of the project and that the EIA implementation would be monitored closely.

EIA without consultation upsets Sepa
Daily Express 17 Jan 15;

Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) expressed disappointment that the EIA for the proposed Shrimp Aquaculture Project at Sungai Telaga, Pitas has been approved without further consultation with the EIA review panel members.

Sepa President Lanash Thanda said the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) had set a precedent with an undermining effect on the entire EIA review process in Sabah.

In a press conference here, she said Sepa was one of the panel members of the EIA review committee of the proposed project chaired by EPD Director, Datuk Yabi Yangkat on June 5 last year that rejected the EIA report.

However, Sepa was surprised to see Yabi's press statement that the EIA report was approved on Dec 19, 2014 after additional important information had been included that was re-submitted to EPD on June 24.

Lanash was also surprised to read the director's statement that the decision was made to enable the project proponent through their EIA consultant to submit additional information.

"Sepa is indeed surprised by this statement, as Sepa recalls no such decision being made at the meeting to allow the project proponent to submit additional information.

"With no further communication by EPD to Sepa on the status of the rejected EIA, it was fair for SEPA to maintain the belief that the rejected EIA remained rejected.

"It is based on this honest belief of the events that took place on June 5, 2014 that Sepa made the statement that appeared on Jan 12, 2015 in the newspapers that the project was forging ahead without EIA approval.

"In fact, prior to issuing that statement, Sepa made the additional effort to refer to the EPD website and found no indication that the EIA was approved," she said.

"In light of the new revelations by the EPD that the EIA was in fact approved, we call upon the EPD to share with the Review Panel and the public the additional information that was received by EPD on the June 24, 2014 as stated by the Director.

"We are as a Review Panel member are very anxious to see how adequately the many technical issues and limitations in the EIA report that was raised by the members are addressed," she said.

She said Sepa would like to emphasise that it had always acted in good faith and with sincerity. "Sepa is made up of members who are volunteers to safeguard all our children's future by ensuring that Sabah has a healthy, thriving environment for generations to come," she said.

Also on hand were Harjinder Kler (vice president), Julia Hwong (secretary), Margaret Chin (legal adviser) and committee members, Alice Mathew.

Yabi was reported as saying that the EPD found the issues and concerns by members of the EIA Review Panel have been satisfactorily explained and addressed, the information given were sufficient and the proposed mitigation measures and monitoring programme updated and found to be appropriate, realistic and sufficient for EPD to formulate the Agreement of Environmental Conditions after it was resubmitted on June 24, 2014.

"Hence, the EIA Report was approved on Dec 19 2014," he said, adding that the EIA approval conditions for this project among others include mitigation measures for wildlife corridor, riparian reserve, mangrove buffer zone and rehabilitation of certain disturbed mangrove areas.

Besides the EIA approval conditions, the Land and Survey Department has also stated a special Terms and Conditions in the land approval conditions which included the provision of 100 meter riparian zone.

Violation to this specific condition is an offence under the Sabah Land Ordinance (Cap. 68), he said.

“EPD director’s discretion to final decision on EIA’
Jennie Lajiun Borneo Post 20 Jan 15;

KOTA KINABALU: The Environment Protection Department (EPD) director’s decision to approve the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report for the Shrimp Aquaculture Development project in Pitas has been made in accordance with the Environment Protection Enactment 2002.

EPD director, Datuk Yabi Yangkat, in his statement yesterday, said that Section 12D(1) of the enactment provides power to the director to approve an EIA report submitted to the EPD by any project proponent, even if no EIA Review Panel meeting is convened.

“However, it is always the EPD’s practice to refer all EIA Reports to technical departments or agencies for their technical comments,” he said.

He stated that in a case where a Review Panel convenes, the department is not obliged to refer any other matters back to the Review Panel members before making any final decision.

“It is the discretion of the director to make a final decision; hence, SEPA (Sabah Environment Protection Association) should not feel overly disappointed for not being referred again,” he said.

As for the belief of SEPA that the EIA remained rejected, Yabi said that SEPA could in good faith write to EPD or consult the department to seek clarification on the status of the project before making blunt accusation about the department and the project in the media.

He added that there are several environmental Non Government Organisations (NGOs) in Sabah which have expressed interests to participate in the EPD’s Review Panel meeting, but they had no opportunities yet because the department has to keep the number manageable and choose proper stakeholders that are seen inclusive and representative.

“We may need to be very careful to choose the right stakeholder who is willing to cooperate and work effectively with the department to protect the environment in Sabah in future,” he said.

He added that the EIA Report has been approved with strict provisions for wildlife corridor, riparian reserve, mangrove buffer zone and rehabilitation of certain disturbed mangrove areas.

“EPD or any other relevant departments may vary or add the terms and conditions for better environmental protection within or surrounding the project area,” he said.

“Hence, in fact, SEPA or any interested parties may at any time submit to EPD any technical inputs to further strengthen the environmental conditions for the EIA approval. However, any suggestion or inputs must be supported with technical facts and figures, not merely a personal concern or hearsay,” he said.

Yabi emphasized that he is guided by the Environment Protection Enactment 2002 in his decision-making process.

“Although technical inputs from NGOs are sometimes required in decision-making process, their agreement on the EIA Report is not a requirement for the department’s approval for the EIA,” he said.

SEPA president, Lanash Thanda, recently mentioned that the approval of the EIA for the project on Dec 19, 2014 came as a surprise to SEPA.

She said that during the Review Panel meeting held on June 5, 2014, it was unanimously decided that the EIA report was rejected.

“The director himself confirmed the rejection in his statement,” she said.

She also said that SEPA recalled no such decision being made at the meeting to allow the project proponent to submit additional information.

She urged EPD to share with the Review Panel and the public the additional information that was received by EPD on June 24, 2014.

She also said that SEPA was disappointed at EPD’s conduct of approving the EIA without further consultation with the EIA Review Panel members.

EIA for Pitas shrimp farm project gets state approval
The Star 21 Jan 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Despite misgivings from a conservation group, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for a RM1.23bil shrimp aquaculture project in the northern Pitas district has been approved.

State Environmental Protection Department director Datuk Yabi Yangkat said he had the final say in approving the EIA for such a project, which was provided for under the state Environment Protection Enactment.

Section 12D(1) of the enactment, he said, provided power to the director to approve an EIA report submitted by any project proponent, even if no EIA Review Panel meeting had been convened.

“However, it is always the department’s practice to refer all EIA reports to technical departments or agencies for their comments.”

The Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa), which was represented at the EIA review panel, should not feel disappointed following the approval of the project that had initially been rejected, said Yabi.

Sepa president Lanesh Thanda had said that it was surprised over the department’s move to approve the EIA for the shrimp project.

She said it was not Sepa’s intention to stop the project – expected to create some 3,000 jobs in one of Sabah’s poorest districts – but to insist that that any livelihood project must go hand in hand with environmental care.

The EIA report had been approved with strict provisions for wildlife corridor, riparian reserve, mangrove buffer zone and rehabilitation of certain disturbed mangrove areas.

“The department or any other relevant department may vary or add on the terms and conditions for better environmental protection within or surrounding the project area.

“In fact, Sepa or any interested group may at any time submit to the department any technical input to further strengthen the environmental conditions for the EIA approval.

“Any suggestion or input must, however, be supported by technical facts and figures, not merely a personal concern or hearsay,” Yabi added.

Related link
Malaysia: Destruction of mangroves continues in Pitas, Sabah Borneo Post 12 Jan 15;

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