Best of our wild blogs: 25-26 Jan 15

Revision to the Common Names of Butterflies 4
from Butterflies of Singapore

Bats and the two banana plants that were flowering: Part 1
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Night Walk At Pasir Ris Park (23 Jan 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

diving osprey and chase @ SBWR - Jan2015
from sgbeachbum

Media Alert! – NUS News (Highlights): Prying open the life of a giant clam
from Neo Mei Lin

Four-clawed Gecko (Gehyra mutilata) @ Tampines
from Monday Morgue

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Clean-up in Whampoa River after whitish discharge discovered

Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The Whampoa River - which flows into Marina Reservoir - is being cleaned up after whitish discharge was spotted at 8.30am on Saturday (Jan 24).

But the authorities said online sensors showed that water quality downstream is within the normal range. Initial checks showed the discharge had flowed from a riverside drain along Jalan Ampas, into the Whampoa River. The discharge was contained at 10.30am.

The authorities say they take great effort to ensure raw water is treated properly, before it reaches households. PUB monitors the quality of the raw water in our reservoirs and the raw water is treated at the waterworks to World Health Organisation drinking water quality guidelines before it is supplied to households.

Water samples have been collected for testing, and investigation is ongoing.

- CNA/ec

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When spring tide is in, boardwalks are out

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Jan 15;

Visitors to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve last Thursday and Friday may have found themselves closer to the water than expected.

High spring tides of up to 3.5m submerged the wooden walkway on both afternoons.

The reserve's deputy director, Ms Sharon Chan, said such high tides occur several times a year and added that there are plans to raise the height of the reserve's boardwalks.

"Some sections of the boardwalks may be flooded during the spring tides," she told The Sunday Times. "On these days, signs are put up to inform visitors that the trails are closed."

Spring tides occur when the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned, according to the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The gravitational pull of the Sun is "added" to the gravitational pull of the Moon on Earth, causing the oceans to bulge more than usual.

This means that the high tides are a little higher and low tides are a little lower than average.

Tide timetables on the National Environment Agency's website show that the high tides are expected to reach 3.4m on Feb 20 slightly before noon and on Feb 21 at about 12.30pm.

Visitors to the Sungei Buloh reserve were unfazed by the occasional flooding.

"Even if you get there and some parts of it are closed, there are lots of other things you can do," said Ms Georgina Tan, 30, a sales executive.

The reserve recently opened a new extension that includes five lookout points that give people unobstructed views of the reserve and the sea, and a gallery featuring plants and animals found in the mangroves.

Entry to the reserve is free and it is open from 7.30am to 7pm from Mondays to Saturdays, and 7am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. For the tidal timetable, call 6794-1401.

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Murky future for turtle museum as area redevelops

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's only turtle and tortoise museum may soon have to close its doors for good, if its owner cannot find another location when its lease expires at the end of this year.

Now at the Chinese Garden in Jurong, the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is home to more than 500 turtles, tortoises and terrapins from 49 species, many of them endangered.

But the animals, including rare species like the pig-nosed turtle and the African spurred tortoise, could become homeless when Chinese Garden and its surroundings are redeveloped into a larger Jurong Lake Gardens.

Plans for the area's makeover were first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last August.

Jurong Lake Gardens will combine the existing Chinese and Japanese Gardens and Jurong Lake Park. A new Science Centre, to be completed around 2020, will also be included.

These plans are part of a larger transformation of the Jurong Lake District over the longer term, Mr Lee had said then.

Museum owner Connie Tan, 45, told The Straits Times that she had heard about redevelopment plans in 2013, but they became more concrete only last year.

She had considered Neo Tiew Crescent in Kranji, but said it is too inaccessible for visitors.

"I understand that development is necessary, but I need help to do something for this place," said Ms Tan. She started the museum at Chinese Garden with her father Danny Tan in 2001.

Ms Kartini Omar, director of parks at the National Parks Board, said it will be calling for public feedback on the new Gardens.

"Suitable suggestions that are aligned to the design principles of the new Gardens will be incorporated into the brief for the masterplan design competition to be called later in the year," she said.

"It is therefore premature to commit to the continued presence of the museum, which houses mainly non-native species of turtles and tortoises, at its current location."

Some of the reptiles have been the Tans' pets from 1978, before Singapore joined an international convention in 1986 to ban the import and export of endangered species. Others found home at the museum after being abandoned by collectors.

None were captured from the wild, said Ms Tan, who is also director of an events logistics firm.

A notice at the museum informs visitors that it is a sanctuary for turtles and tortoises. It said: "If released back to nature, they will not be able to survive as they have been cared for as pets since young."

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Volunteers may be given authority to issue summonses for littering, illegal smoking

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) is considering empowering community volunteers such that they can take direct enforcement action against people who commit a range of public health offences.

Since the Community Volunteer Scheme was launched in 2013, a total of 259 volunteers have been empowered by the ministry to remind litterbugs to clean up after themselves. Should they refuse, the volunteers have the authority to request for the offender's particulars for further action by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

To date, these volunteers have clocked a total of 830 engagements, with 10 cases of enforcement actions taken. Under the proposed changes, volunteers will be able to issue summons directly to not just litterbugs, but also to those who smoke in unauthorised places and those whose actions cause mosquitoes to breed.

As these volunteers hail from NGOs like the Singapore Environmental Council, Waterways Watch Society, Singapore Kindness Movement and the Cat Welfare Society. The ministry is also thinking of tapping their skills in areas such as such as outreach, training, and research.

Revealing this at a consultation session held on Saturday (24 Jan), ministry officials sought feedback from volunteers about the changes. "When we do patrolling, we're seeing more than littering,” said Mr Low Kok Peng, a member of the Singapore Environment Council. “We're seeing people smoking, spitting on the ground. I'm definitely supporting this expanded scope for volunteers."

Others said that volunteers would need more training to carry out enforcement correctly, especially to deal with people who are defiant and potentially violent. “More hands-on, on-the-job experience is also important to build up confidence levels and also your courage to execute the job correctly and systematically," Mr Low said.

Some spoke of a need for changes in mindsets. "The social norms will have to shift,” said Public Hygiene Council chairman Liak Teng Lit. “You would observe in Singapore, in certain places, almost nobody would litter. But in another context, another place, some of the people begin to litter a bit more. So if every Singaporean can treat the public like their own home, we won't have a problem."

"The majority of people are reasonable. When they know that they did something wrong, they would correct themselves," added Mr Liak. “But we need protection from the very small minority who may turn violent. Police backup should be nearby."

The session was conducted under Chatham House rules, which meant participants cannot be identified in reports. While volunteers were largely in favour of the proposed changes, a few said they needed more training to deal with people who are defiant and potentially violent.

Permanent Secretary of MEWR Choi Shing Kwok said the ministry would take the feedback into account. Mr Choi said it was not possible to legislate against everything, and that the key to a cleaner and safer environment will involve getting people to treat common facilities like their own homes.

- CNA/xq/ec

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New mobile app OneService enables one-stop municipal feedback

Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 25 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: To provide more timely feedback on municipal issues in Singapore, the public can now make use of "OneService" - a mobile app for Android and iOS users.

Minister in the Prime Minister's office Grace Fu, who is also the Minister overseeing the Municipal Services Office (MSO), launched the app on Sunday (Jan 25).

The app was developed with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. The government agencies participating in the app include AVA, HDB, LTA NEA, NParks, People's Association, PUB and the Police.

The app aims to make it easier and faster for the public to report any issues they encounter. For starters, feedback can be submitted according to categories such as "Animals", "Cleanliness" and "Roads and footpaths" instead of agencies.

This way users do not have the added worry of identifying the agency in charge of a particular issue. The app will automatically channel all feedback to the relevant agencies so more timely service and response can be provided.

"By and large, our agencies are already providing good municipal services,” said Grace Fu. “However, there is scope for improvement, particularly in areas where multiple agencies need to be involved or when the issue is complex in nature.

“OneService app is a common platform for the public to provide feedback on municipal issues with convenience. There is no need for you to know which agency to send your feedback to, as the categories are organised by issues, such as trees and greenery, roads and footpaths."

The app will automatically channel all feedback to the relevant agencies so more timely service and response can be provided. There is a geo-tagging function in the app which will automatically pinpoint the exact location of the problem.

The app's launch follows a three-month trial involving 1,700 users - including public officers and grassroots leaders. Over 400 municipal issues were reported during the trial.

"They have piloted and test-trialled the whole app,” said South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling. “I have seen how very complex issues that cut across NEA and NParks … were resolved in a couple of days, simply because of this IT platform that allows the integration of competencies and information across the agencies."
According to MSO, agencies will send an acknowledgement reply upon receiving a feedback.

While turnaround time may vary from case to case, users can expect a response within a week of submission for straightforward municipal-related issues. Feedback requiring further investigation or review may take up to three weeks.

Members of the public can download OneService from the Apple App Store and Google Play for free.

- CNA/rw/ec

New app for feedback on municipal problems
XUE JIANYUE Today Online 26 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — Instead of wondering which government agency to submit a complaint to, the public can now turn to a new mobile application that will handle feedback on municipal problems, whether they be about pests or grass-trimming, that may cut across agencies.

Created by the Municipal Services Office (MSO), the OneService app was launched yesterday after a two-month trial with 1,700 public officials and grassroots personnel.

Users of the app will see a menu allowing them to lodge complaints in six categories: Animals; pests; roads and footpaths; water supply and drains; cleanliness; trees and greenery. The feedback will then be sent to the relevant government agency. Those uncertain of the nature of the issue can pick a seventh option that lets them send an email to the MSO directly.

The MSO was set up in October to improve the delivery of municipal services, especially in the areas where multiple agencies need to be involved.

It partnered with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) to develop the app. It also brought eight government agencies on board — the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, Housing and Development Board, Land Transport Authority, National Environment Agency, National Parks Board, People’s Association, PUB and the police.

Speaking to the press at a recycling event in Bukit Gombak, where the app was launched, South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling said the app will shorten the time needed to resolve municipal cases. On average, half of the time taken to resolve cases were spent on communication between different parties.

“Instead of community leaders and grassroots advisers having to pull the various agencies together to do problem-solving, I think the MSO capabilities and solutions, such as the OneService app, will allow the integration of such conversations and capabilities in a more time-effective way,” said Ms Low.

Users can download the free app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Users can also select sub-categories that specify more details about the problem, such as “choked drain” or “litter bin” under the Cleanliness category. A form then appears, requesting the location and a description of the problem.

The feedback is then sent to the relevant government agency. However, TODAY understands that multiple agencies will meet to coordinate the response to the case when necessary.

Also present at the app’s launch was Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. In her opening remarks, Ms Fu noted that cleanliness is the top municipal issue among residents, with agencies receiving an average of 1,000 cases of feedback on the issue each week, she added.

The MSO will continue to fine-tune the app, add new features and invite more agencies to participate.

Cleanliness, pests among top municipal issues reported via OneService app
Channel NewsAsia 30 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: "Cleanliness", "Pests" and "Road and Footpaths" – these are the top three types of municipal issues reported by Singaporeans via the OneService mobile app, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu on Friday (Jan 30).

The app, which was launched last Sunday, already has more than 10,000 registered users and more than 900 cases so far have been reported through the app, said Ms Fu in a Facebook post.

She added that cases reported through the app have been automatically routed to the respective agencies for attention. She also noted that members of the public have been forthcoming with various suggestions to improve the app.

- CNA/ac

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Consumers can monitor energy, water consumption using mobile app

Haikal Latiff Channel NewsAsia 25 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: Consumers can now monitor their energy and water consumption levels by simply using an app on their mobile phones. The app, launched by SP Services earlier this month, has been downloaded more than 25,000 times.

One user who has found the app useful is Flora Aw. The working mother of two uses it to compare her monthly consumption levels. She can also compare her usage with the average consumption of similar households in her block. From there, she can set a target of how much she wants to reduce her bill by for the next month.

The app also offers various energy-saving tips, which Ms Aw finds handy in changing consumption patterns. "After looking at the tips from the SP app, one of the things that I would do immediately is to wash my clothes on full load. I used to separate out my laundry and do it every two days, every alternate day," she said.

"So I think now I will try to put full load and on cold wash because I didn't know that cold wash is good enough for our normal laundry. Another thing that I would do is get my air-conditioner cleaned because I didn't know that if you have a clean air-conditioner, it actually is more energy efficient," added Ms Aw.

- CNA/al

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Smart Nation initiative set to change Singapore's urban landscape

Wong Siew Ying Channel NewsAsia 26 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The relentless march of technological innovation has transformed the way we communicate. Soon it will change the urban landscape in Singapore.

The next generation of buildings is set to become a lot smarter, thanks to the increasing convergence of new data streams, sensor technology and breakthroughs in building material science.

Singapore has come a long way since horse drawn carriages plied Commercial Square in the mid-19th century. The area was later renamed Raffles Place and it still stands as Singapore's prime commercial district.

Skyscrapers have replaced many old buildings, but experts said they could themselves be transformed - as society's needs and technology evolve.

Chong Keng Hua, assistant professor of architecture and sustainable design at Singapore University of Technology and Design, said: "Starting from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, we have different needs of the society that the architects or the urban planners are trying to fulfil. From the basic needs in the 60s, to a more society needs in the 80s and 90s, when we talk about identity, when we talk about tropical architecture, what is Singapore architecture to the 2000s when we talk about sustainability and liveability."

Singapore's built environment has evolved over the past decades and in the last 10 to 20 years, there has been a greater focus on sustainable development, improving accessibility in buildings as well as boosting labour productivity in the construction sector.

One key initiative that has taken off is the Green Mark Scheme, launched by the Building and Construction Authority in 2005, to encourage developers to adopt more environmentally-sustainable practices.

The number of green buildings in Singapore has grown from just 17 in 2005 to more than 2,100 today. Last year, the BCA introduced a new masterplan that would drive the Singapore's green building strategy for the next five to 10 years.

Buildings are getting greener and industry players say they will get a lot smarter too in the not so distant future as new technology integrates with building design. A big part of it will ride on Singapore's Smart Nation initiative, with greater use of data analytics, and a range of infocomm and media technologies.

Developer CapitaLand said it is open to new ideas which innovation may bring. CapitaLand's chief of Design Review Unit, Poon Hin Kong, said: "With your phone you can control your switches, your washing machines or your ovens, and in the States they are also intelligent enough where the fridge can tell you that it's time to buy a new carton of milk because your are running out.

"Or the moment you step in, it remembers what you have, the music you like or the lighting level you like and it will automatically turn it on to accommodate what you want. We are certainly keen to explore all these ideas and tap on the latest and newest technology to keep up with what the market wants."

Meanwhile Keppel Land highlighted the potential for sensor technology to offer optimised energy usage solutions in commercial buildings. "Imagine, we can put in sensors in such a way that if the system detects that there are heavier people workload in a particular floor or area, then more air-con cooling capacity will be directed to that location to make it cooler," said Tan Swee Yiow, Keppel Land's president (Singapore).

"For meeting rooms, for example, if they are empty, they are not occupied, then there is no need to blow cool air over there. Imagine if we can develop a system that can automatically do this, that will save a lot of cooling load and yet at the same time provide comfort for the occupier," Mr Tan added.

Arup, a global multi-disciplinary engineering and consulting firm has pieced together what buildings could potentially look like in 2050 when the world's population may hit nine billion, with 75 per cent living in cities.

Arup projects that buildings in the future are not passive shells, but rather "living and breathing" structures plugged into the smart urban infrastructure. They will boast a network of sensors that provide real time data to the building system, allowing it to respond accordingly to environmental changes. And the city will be seamlessly linked by cable cars.

Arup says skyscrapers of tomorrow could comprise modular components which can be rearranged and assembled by robots. The buildings will also be able to harness energy and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Andrew Henry, principal of Arup Singapore, said: "At the moment, there are trials for solar paints, we would be able to paint our buildings with solar technology, so if you can imagine, all our buildings being able to harness technology, the effect that will have on the sustainability of our buildings, the look and feel of our buildings will be amazing.

"And I think a huge potential is using buildings for food production. So we are developing facades and skins of buildings that can not only act as energy storage elements, but also act as food generation element."

Dr John Keung, CEO of Building and Construction Authority, said: "Many of those features that are proposed for these buildings in 2050 are happening now. We can give you many examples like rainwater collection, recycling, energy generating lifts although we have not put everything together in one single building.

"Going forward, if we can integrate more and more such sustainable practices for our buildings, through our Green Mark assessment system ... I think we are going to be able to get there quite soon - we probably don't have to wait till 2050."

But as the city changes over time, there is also a need to preserve buildings of architectural significance or are representative of its time. The Singapore Institute of Architects says it is keen to work with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to look into it.

"Perhaps URA could say that every 10 years, we have a concerted effort, or let's review the top 10 buildings of the past 10 years and give it some form of status - that would be one way to preserve the better architecture buildings for generations to come ... and perhaps some of the first generation HDB flats," said president of Singapore Institute of Architects Theodore Chan.

"Because to my mind, the architectural character of Singapore, you cannot divorce it from HDB because no where in the world you'll find public housing of that kind of scale. For instance, the mall at Toa Payoh Central - if you walk through, the lovely scale of the small little shops downstairs and the residential units upstairs, it is a very humanistic, social kind of scale, which is quite void now in the big shopping centres," he added.

The institute also suggests that incentives be provided to encourage developers to "free up" the first two storeys of new buildings and turn them into public spaces with parks or atriums to enrich the quality of life in the city.

As waves of technology sweep across Singapore, the urban landscape will continue to change - just as Raffles Place did, from the 1980s till now. So Singapore's skyline today - iconic as it is - may well look very different in the not-too-distant future.

- CNA/al

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Urban Lab launched to help address urban challenges

Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: A new dedicated exhibition space was launched on Friday (Jan 23) to help address urban challenges and create solutions for a more sustainable environment.

The Urban Lab - located at the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Singapore City Gallery - kicked off the initiative by featuring an exhibition on "future cities", which brings together the Swiss-Singapore perspectives in addressing urban challenges.

Highlights included studies on transportation planning and making walking more accessible in Singapore.

The Urban Lab will have exhibitions and outreach programmes all-year round where visitors can view diverse research ideas and solutions on how cities are planned using 3D geospatial mapping and visualisation tools.

An MOU was also signed to develop an integrated land use transport model for Singapore. The model, called MATSim Singapore, simulates various travel patterns and commuter behaviours, and is expected to be completed by October this year. The MOU was signed by URA, Singapore-ETH Centre, and the Land Transport Authority.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan said: "We live in a time of rapid innovations. In fact, embracing innovation has become a key strategy in overcoming space constraints and achieving high quality standards of living.

"We encourage test-bedding of new ideas. We empower cross-disciplinary research and development. We strive to nurture an innovative eco-system involving the public, private and the people sector."

- CNA/al

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Jurong Port to have world's first green berths next year

New Straits Times 25 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - By next year, Jurong Port will be home to the world's first green berths made of recycled concrete from existing berths and yards.

Two berths at the port have received an award for environmentally friendly upgrades that will be completed by 2016.

The Building and Construction Authority gave the Green Mark (Gold) Award for environmentally sustainable construction methods that will be used during upgrading.

For instance, concrete from the existing berths will be crushed and recycled for reuse. There will also be green features such as solar panels on the substation roofs.

"Construction of these green berths is one of several initiatives Jurong Port has taken to promote environmental sustainability," said CEO Ooi Boon Hoe, according to a press statement released on Sunday.

"This and other initiatives based on a green port study supported by the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore will be implemented progressively."

The upgrading will deepen the berths so that they can handle larger vessels, and add almost 30 per cent more storage space.

- See more at:

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Malaysia Floods: More than 2,000 evacuees in Sabah, Sarawak

The Star 25 Jan 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of flood victims at relief centres in Sabah increased on Sunday while the situation in Sarawak has improved.

In Sabah, there were 1,233 evacuees compared with 1,214 on Saturday night.

A spokesman of the Beaufort Flood Operations Room said the number of flood victims at two relief centres in the district remained at 195.

In Membakut, two relief centres - Dewan Baru Membakut and SMK Beaufort Dua - recorded an increase from 1,019 to 1,038 evacuees.

The situation in Sarawak, however, improved with 1,684 people being housed at the relief centres.

A spokesman from the National Security Council said there were still nine flood relief centres in operation.

Samarahan division has the highest number of victims at 788 followed by Limbang (570), Miri (249) and Mukah (77).

In Kelantan, all 255 victims from 62 families were still being housed at eight flood relief centres in Kuala Krai. - Bernama

Minister: We need RM1bil for repairs in peninsula
The Star 25 Jan 15;

KUCHING: At least RM1.09bil is needed to carry out repairs on flood-damaged roads and for landslide mitigation infrastructure in Peninsular Malaysia, said Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof.

He said the cost of damage due to floods in Sabah and Sarawak was still being tabulated as the floods in some areas had not receded fully.

“A total of RM45mil has already been distributed to finance repairs that are needed quickly in the peninsula to restore accessibility to areas that have been totally cut-off,” he said here yesterday.

“The roads will be repaired as soon as possible. Or, if that takes a longer time, we need to build alternative routes.

“The overall cost of repairing the roads is estimated at RM660mil,” he said.

Fadillah said his ministry had identified 215 hills that would need suitable landslide mitigation reinforcements.

He said the flood situation in Sarawak had improved and the state Public Works Department was now compiling damage reports for the ministry.

On the road between Limbang and Brunei, which was submerged last week, Fadillah said it was only upgraded five years ago.

“But, clearly that was inadequate,” he said.

Scores of commuters were left stranded on both sides of the border when the road was inundated.

“We increased the road height based on previous flood levels, but we will still need to raise it further,” he added.

The National Security Council reported that there were still 2,761 evacuees at 14 relief shelters across Sarawak as at noon yesterday.

In Kuching, although all relief centres were closed on Friday, two were reopened early yesterday to house 187 evacuees following a downpour.

Floods lead to coconut quotas in Penang
JOLYNN FRANCIS The Star 25 Jan 15;

GEORGE TOWN: An acute shortage of coconuts, caused by the floods that hit many parts of the country, has led a wholesaler in Rangoon Road to set a quota on the number each customer can buy.

Anba Coconut Trading Sdn Bhd owner P. Sarasvathy, 56, said she set the quota last month to cope with the expected coconut shortage for the upcoming Thaipusam celebration.

“Some of my customers have asked for 100 coconuts, but I can only give them 50. However small the amount, I still have to supply them with the coconuts as they have to conduct their businesses.

“I used to have a lorry delivering up to 12,000 coconuts at one time. But, this had been reduced to between 2,300 and 5,000 per delivery,” she told a press conference at her shop yesterday.

Sarasvathy attributed the shortage to the floods which have affected supplies.

“More than 150,000 coconuts were brought in from Kuala Bernam, Perak, last year. But this year, I only managed to get 30,000,” she added.

She said the situation had become so bad that coconuts were being harvested every 25 days instead of the normal 50 to cope with demand .

She believes that the coconut stocks will only fully recover in April or May.

Sarasvathy said she did not sell Indonesian coconuts.

“The shells are too hard and unsuitable for breaking during Thaipusam.

“Even for santan (coconut milk), the Indonesian coconuts are not as tasty,” she said.

Sarasvathy said her wholesale price of RM1.60 per coconut was determined by her contract with the estates.

“My profits are more than enough, so I do not wish to increase the price.

“I am even willing to lower the price if I have enough supply,” she said.

Consumers’ Association of Penang education officer N.V. Subarrow, who was at the press conference, asked the Government to import a higher number of coconuts in view of the demand during Thaipusam.

“The price of a coconut is expected to increase from RM2 to RM2.30 by Feb 3.

“Those planning to break coconuts for Thaipusam are encouraged to reduce the number and spend their money on charity instead,” he added.

Rising dam water levels quench dry season concerns
TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 25 Jan 15;

RAWANG: Klang Valley residents should have an easier time enduring this year’s dry period if the water levels at Selangor’s dams mean anything.

The most important of them all – the Sungai Selangor dam in Kuala Kubu Baru – is at 80% of its capacity, said Deputy Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid,

This dam alone supplies 60% of Klang Valley’s needs.

“We will monitor the situation closely, but so far the dam levels are heartening,” Mahdzir told reporters after launching a massive mosquito eradication session here yesterday.

Levels at the Sg Tinggi dam, the Klang Gates dam and the Batu dam are at 68.7%, 98.6%, and 98.7%, respectively, while the Sg Langat dam is full.

“Based on current readings, we have sufficient raw water for the upcoming dry season and the situation will not be as bad as last year,” he said.

He added that people still needed to moderate their consumption as they were currently using too much water.

On a separate note, Mahdzir said his ministry would look into the possibility of setting up solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and rainwater harvesting systems at flood relief centres.

“We are still collecting information from the ground. Each state uses different buildings as relief centres – halls, schools, mosques and so on. We need to find out more information about them,” he said.

Mahdzir added that many relief centres often lacked electricity, which hampered communications as cellphones and other devices could not be charged.

He said many people were unable to contact their friends and relatives during the recent floods in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Perak as their cellphones were out of power.

PV systems could offer some relief while waiting for the electricity supply to be restored, he added.

“Once we have all the information, we can put together a proposal to the Government outlining how many units are needed and the technical specifications.”

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Indonesia: Floods trigger chaos in Jakarta, commuters badly affected

Straits Times 24 Jan 15;

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The heavy rain that inundated Greater Jakarta from Thursday night into Friday morning triggered chaos across the capital, as floods hit dozens of spots and the infrastructure in several key locations.

The commuter line serving Depok-Jatinegara was disrupted on Friday morning as water inundated several railway stations, including Kampung Bandan and Rajawali.

Meanwhile, trains serving Bekasi-Kota were forced to stop at Manggarai station due to flooding. Commuter line operator PT KCJ later provided a feeder service to transport stranded commuters from Jatinegara to Kemayoran station.

The commuter line official Twitter account, @CommuterLine, was busy from early morning providing updates on commuter line services, as well as answering commuters' questions about disruptions.

Mr Taufan SD, who works in BSD City, was among commuters affected by the chaos.

"I departed from Duri station, but my train stopped at Kampung Bandan. I had to wait for an hour to continue my journey to my office," he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Other office workers preferred to avoid being trapped in congestion and the unpredictable state of public transportation.

"On a day like this, all I want to do is to text my boss and say I can't make it to the office because of flooding and stay at home," complained one commuter Ade Nurhayati.

An employee of Intel Indonesia, Mr Fauzy Herliansyah, decided to take the day off after floodwaters came into his house in Bendungan Melayu, Koja, North Jakarta.

"It's been more than five years since my house was flooded. Water overflowed as the authorities demolished an embankment at a nearby river for a dredging project, so floodwater started to come into the houses in the neighborhood at about 3 am," he said.

Mr Fauzy and other residents later moved their cars to Artha Gading shopping mall in anticipation of worsening floods, during which Mr Fauzy witnessed dozens of motorcycles trapped in a flooded section of road near Kelapa Gading bus shelter at 6am.

Mr Antonius Djatmiko, the principal of St. Peter elementary school in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, decided to close the school for the day as access was almost impossible.

"The school compound was fine but the access roads to the school were inundated with water reaching between 20cm and 40cm," he said, pointing out that 341 students were affected.

The Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) reported that North Jakarta suffered the largest number of floods.

Thirty-six areas in five municipalities were inundated, comprising 25 spots in North Jakarta, three in East Jakarta, three in South Jakarta, four in West Jakarta and one in Central Jakarta.

"The floodwater ranged from 10 to 100 centimeters deep," BPBD spokesman Bambang Suryaputra said.

The worst flooding, he said, occurred in North Jakarta's Rawa Binangun in Rawa Badak Utara, as floodwater reached 1m in depth.

Meanwhile, Kampung Pulo in East Jakarta was also hit by a 1m-deep flood.

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama blamed narrowing rivers as the cause of flooding in North Jakarta.

He added that the water pumps in Sentiong River had not been repaired yet, while the ones in Ancol, North Jakarta, had yet to be installed.

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South Africa moves 100 rhinos outside country to fight poaching

Ed Stoddard PlanetArk 23 Jan 15;

South Africa moves 100 rhinos outside country to fight poaching Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko
A rhino is kept in an enclosure at the Kruger national park in Mpumalanga province August 26, 2014.
Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa said on Thursday that it had moved around 100 rhinos to unspecified neighboring states as part of efforts to stem the illicit slaughter of the animals for their horns.

Home to around 80 percent of the global rhino population, South Africa is at the epicenter of a poaching crisis. Government figures released on Thursday show the country lost a record 1,215 rhinos last year, about a 20 percent increase on the 2013 toll, with 49 slain so far this year.

The animals are being poached to meet soaring demand for rhino horn, coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine in fast-growing economies such as China and Vietnam.

South Africa said in August that it planned to relocate rhinos from poaching "hot spots" in the famed Kruger National Park, where about two-thirds of the killings take place.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told a news briefing that for security reasons, the precise countries where the rhinos had been moved would not be named.

Conservationists have said Botswana is a likely candidate as it is vast, sparsely populated and has had little poaching. Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries where many of the poachers hail from, would almost certainly be off the list.

Molewa said that 56 of the animals had been moved within the Kruger itself, which is the size of Israel, from danger zones to an "intensive protection zone."

In 2015, another 200 rhinos will be moved from Kruger to what Molewa said were "strongholds" where the animals will be safer from poaching. Kruger's rhino population is around 9,000.

Twenty bids have been received to purchase the animals and are being evaluated. The money raised will be put back into conservation projects.

Private ranchers own around 5,000 of South Africa's roughly 20,000 rhinos, part of a thriving game farming industry in Africa's most advanced economy catering to eco-tourism and hunting.

The ministry revealed on Thursday that South Africa's stockpile of rhino horn, government and private - collected over the decades from animals that died naturally or from legal hunts - was around 25 tonnes.

Rhino horn -- the sale of which is strictly prohibited -- is estimated by conservationists to be worth around $65,000 a kg, more than gold or platinum, and so 25 tonnes could fetch an estimated $1.6 billion.

(This story was refiled to add dropped paragraph 12.)

(Editing by James Macharia)

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