Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jan 15

downtown eaglets @ singapore - Mar 2013
from sgbeachbum

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Reclamation works for Tanjung Piai oil hub project can now begin

The Star 28 Jan 15;

PETALING JAYA: Benalec Holdings Bhd has received the Department of Environment (DOE) approval to commence reclamation work for its Tanjung Piai petroleum hub and industrial park in the Straits of Johor, the company said in a Bursa Malaysia announcement.

This is the second major approval given for land reclamation works off the shores of Johor that separates Malaysia and Singapore in a space of two weeks.

On Jan 14, Country Garden Pacific View, which is a joint venture between China’s Country Garden and a state government entity, got the approval to reclaim 1,368ha of land near the Second Link connecting Johor and Singapore for a development project called Forest City.

The land reclamation works has not gone down well with Singapore that has expressed its concern to Putrajaya.

According to Benalec, its 70%-owned subsidiary Spektrum Kukuh Sdn Bhd and Perbadanan Setiausaha Kerajaan Johor received the approval that came with several conditions.

Among them is that the reclamation works in Phase 1 of the proposed project should include the construction of an oil terminal, the construction of a jetty and a bridge linking the island to the mainland and dredging.

The company said the approval was valid for two years.

Benalec plans to develop an Integrated Petroleum & Petrochemical Hub and Maritime Industrial Park on the reclaimed land to enable the company to earn recurring income.

Phase 1 of the proposed project is targeted to commence next month, the company said.

The company did not state the size of the land approved for reclamation, but based on previous announcements, the Tanjung Piai project encompasses 1,410ha, of which some 404.7ha have been identified for the purpose of constructing and operating a crude oil and petroleum storage facility together with a private jetty.

According to reports, among the directors of Spectrum Kukuh are the Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Idris Sultan Ibrahim and Daing A Malek Daing A Rahaman, who are said to be partners to Benalec in the Tanjung Piai reclamation project.

Benalec said the approval represents a major milestone for the company and takes it a step closer to realising its business plans and to be in sync with the country’s aim of establishing itself as a storage and trading hub in Asia Pacific.

Benalec’s shares rose six sen at yesterday’s close to 78 sen, with 8.6 million shares changing hands. The stock is now trading at a two-month high..

The project was first proposed in March 2013.

The project will be financed via internally generated funds and bank borrowings, an earlier announcement said.

In a note late last year, following Benalec’s first-quarter financial year 2015 results, CIMB Research’s Sharizan Rosely said that he expected Benalec’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation margins to trend lower than its forecast 24% for the full year.

At current prices, Benalec is trading at a price-to-earning ratio (PER) of 26 times and a forward PER of 11.64 times with a market capitalisation of RM623mil.

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Smart cities: What it takes to build a city

Akshobh Giridharadas, Channel NewsAsia 27 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: What goes into building a city and what does it take to build a city from the ground up?

Managing Director at PwC Capital Projects & Infrastructure, Keith Martin said on Tuesday (Jan 27): "The starting point of good planning is really to understand the demand for a new city space or new urban development.

“So, there must be a way of measuring demand, assessing that demand, understanding the type of demand, the timing of that demand, the population growth, and the affordability of the demand, so that the master plan can be demand driven and reflect the needs of the end users.”

An oversupply of infrastructure could be as detrimental as an under supply. The oversupply of housing in certain parts of China has sparked fears of an impending property bubble.

Apart from balancing the physical needs of land, water and the environment, analysts have pointed out that is also important to consider social needs in the entire ecosystem.

EY Advisory Services Partner, Sam Wong said it is not only important to look at the physical or infrastructure aspects, but the human side of it as well.

He said: “People make up and exhibit the culture and this is what a city should be known for. In commercial terms, we call it unique selling points. Similarly in a city, what is the unique selling point is that it is relevant to its stakeholder."

Microsoft Public Service Group Director, Stephanie Hung said there are three big development considerations when building a smart city. She said the first is to consider how the Government can be assisted to build trustworthiness while the second is to deal with building sustainability. The third, she added, would be to focus on the people in the cities.

While people build cities, it is equally important that cities today are built for its people.

- CNA/xk/el

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Local standard for organic food in works

Audrey Tan Ruiping The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Jan 15;

Consumers may soon get to buy organic vegetables with a local stamp of approval.

A unit under the Singapore Manufacturing Federation is developing a new standard for organic produce, The Straits Times has learnt.

"Organic certification may build upon this new standard," said its spokesman in response to queries.

But as discussions with stakeholders are still at a preliminary stage, the federation's Standards Development Organisation is unable to disclose further information, she added.

Currently, Singapore farmers who want to label and sell their produce as organic must obtain certification from an organic certification body overseas. There are at least 200 of them from more than 80 countries, and each sets its own standards.

There is no widely recognised official organic food standard in Singapore, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said it does not have a definition or specification standard for organic produce.

So if local organic certification comes to fruition, it could boost the branding of local crops and help consumers better identify organic produce, farmers and marketing experts say.

Organic-certified food can cost up to three times as much as that produced by conventional methods, said Dr Guan Chong of SIM University's school of business. "Certification helps consumers recognise organic products in the market and provides assurance on the claims related to organic farming," she said.

"Without certification, consumers are less likely to trust marketeers' claims."

Farmer Liao Jun Jie, 26, from the family-run Quan Fa Organic Farm in Kranji, believes organic certification is good for the branding of local produce.

There is demand for organic-certified products these days, he said, especially among younger consumers. "But there are many products in the market that claim to be organic although they may not follow organic farming standards," he added.

Aside from not using synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilisers, organic farming has other requirements, such as crop rotation.

This means a crop cannot be grown on the same patch of land, as this affects nutrient levels in the soil.

Quan Fa has applied for organic certification from the Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand, which the farm will receive by the end of next month, but Mr Liao said local accreditation would better assure consumers.

Personal assistant Jileen Tan, 51, who occasionally buys organic produce, said a Singapore certification would be reliable.

"So far, Singapore has been stringent with quality control. So I would trust it more," she said.

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100 Days Into His Presidency, Jokowi Garners Plaudits From Indonesia’s Environmental Groups

The president has stayed mum on the reclamation of Benoa Bay, which is facing a massive development project
Kennial Caroline Laia Jakarta Globe 28 Jan 15;

Jakarta. Amid rising tensions and an onslaught of criticism triggered by the ongoing skirmish between the National Police and the national antigraft agency, President Joko Widodo has managed to come out on top in the eyes of one group.

One hundred days into Joko’s term in office, Indonesia’s environmental activists extended their appreciation to the president for his commitment to protecting the nation’s forests, saying the moves he has made so far have been largely “positive.”

Forest Watch Indonesia chairman Togu Manurung praised Joko’s “brave” stance against large corporations that control — and destroy — large swathes of Indonesia’s forests, while also defending the interests of the local communities.

“In his very first month in office, Joko flew to Riau to witness firsthand the devastation caused by haze and forest fires. He also addressed the issue of forest management, suggesting that the local people control the land; not big companies,” Togu told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

“Although it’s still much too early to evaluate Joko’s administration in terms of its commitment to the environment, Joko himself has been very supportive of our plight to save the nation’s forests and peat lands from fires and corporate mismanagement,” he added.

Togu’s sentiments were made on the same day Joko ushered in his 100th day in office amid a barrage of media reports scrutinizing his unpopular policies, most notably his recent controversial pick of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as the sole candidate for the influential role of National Police chief.

Joko chose not to withdraw his nomination of Budi, flagged in 2010 for his suspiciously “fat” bank accounts, even after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) declared him a graft suspect.

The matter has since escalated into an all-out brawl between the police and KPK, with the president heavily criticized for failing to stand up for the antigraft body — widely popular among the public — against the infamously corrupt police force.

Togu cited Joko’s visit to Sungaitohor village, Riau, in late November, following a request made through

A Sungaitohor resident had asked the president to inspect a site not far from the village which has been ravaged by annual peat fires for more than 17 years.

During the visit, Joko pledged his support for local communities, who have often been blamed by big corporations for intentionally igniting fires in order to clear forests and peat lands to make way for plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The slash-and-burn method has been deemed responsible for the recurring haze crises that regularly disrupt flights and force airports to shutdowns, while endangering the health of tens of thousands of people in region. The environmental disturbance has even drawn criticism from neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, who are also affected.

Local farmers and activists, meanwhile, are pointing the finger at large corporate-run plantations, holding them responsible for the devastating fires.

“We appreciate Joko’s visits to several locations [afflicted by haze], such as in Riau and Pontianak, to experience the problem firsthand,” Togu said.

Joko has since repeatedly threatened to revoke operating licences of companies that cause fires in forested areas. He also pushed regional officers to quickly work on reducing the number of hotspots in their respective areas by whatever means necessary, adding that he would dismiss those who failed to do so.

“Such measures may seem extreme, but they are needed to preserve our forests,” Togu said.

“However, Joko needs to ensure that his promises are not mere lip service; he must push the minister to do her job,” he added, referring to Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya.

Another move praised by environmental groups was Joko’s decision to grant clemency to Eva Susanti Bande, an activist convicted and sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 for defending farmers of Luwuk, South Sulawesi, in a land dispute against a local palm oil plantation.

Still, Togu questioned the organizational restructuring of the Forestry Ministry and the Environment Ministry, which were merged into a single state entity under Joko.

“Since the merger, the government has failed to explain the new ministerial structure. This has to be addressed immediately to avoid confusion,” he said.

Executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Abetnego Tarigan, echoed the sentiment, saying the ministry’s performance in the next few years would largely depend on its bureaucratic structure.

“How can [Siti] draw up new policies if the ministry’s organizational structure is still in disarray? How can [the ministry’s officials] fully understand their respective roles?” Abetnego said.

The Walhi chief also questioned the implementation of Joko’s recent environmental promises.

“Since assuming office, Joko has been issuing statements that seem to convey his commitment to [Indonesia’s] environmental issues, including on the haze and fire crises. However, there have been no concrete policies to support his statements,” he pointed out.

Abetnego added that Joko’s administration still had the job of evaluating policies left by his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, including a contentious presidential decree issued last year that changed the status of Bali’s Benoa Bay from a conservation zone into a buffer zone, allowing commercial development in the area.

Despite public protests — conducted mainly in Bali and Jakarta — demanding the government to retract the decree, Joko has so far stayed mum on the issue. The reclamation of Benoa Bay is now continuing under a massive development project by Tirta Wahana Bali International (TWBI), a property development unit of tycoon Tomy Winata’s Arta Graha Network.

Abetnego last week expressed concern over what is now widely seen as systematic efforts to incapacitate the KPK through the criminalization of its leaders — four of them have been reported to police over different cases following the antigraft body’s naming of police general Budi as suspect.

Abetnego said this would hamper law enforcement in the deeply corrupt forestry sector, which has allowed companies to
irresponsibly cut down hundreds and thousands of hectares of trees by bribing local officials.

“To Walhi, the KPK represents a force of change in the sustainable management of Indonesia’s natural resources, which for years has been marred by corruption,” Abetnego said.

“Measures taken by the KPK have truly stirred fear among greedy government officials and businesses, even in the environmental sector.

“Walhi supports and encourages the people of Indonesia to unite in their fight against these corruptors and save the KPK,” he added.

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Yes, we can live well and avoid climate disaster, says UK government

We can fly, drive and prosper while avoiding dangerous global warming – but only if billions remain in poverty and huge changes are made in areas such as energy and agriculture, new analysis from Decc’s Global Calculator shows
Fiona Harvey Guardian 27 Jan 15;

The world can enjoy higher standards of living and more travel, while drastically cutting emissions to avoid dangerous climate change – but only with sweeping changes to our infrastructure, the natural world and agriculture, a new analysis has found.

The UK government analysis also assumes that billions of people will remain in dire poverty at mid-century, despite efforts to lift them to greater prosperity, as the population rises to an estimated nine billion people.

Dealing with greenhouse gas emissions will require a transformation of electricity generation, including an expansion of renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as more public transport and changes to the built environment, according to the key findings of the Global Calculator, an online software tool developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), with partners.

The calculator is intended to show the likely outcomes of a variety of choices that policymakers and the public can make to tackle global warming, such as investing in nuclear, insulating houses, making electrical appliances more efficient and using electric vehicles.

Some of the findings are likely to be controversial. The analysis suggests that to cope with the food demands of a rising population, much more land will need to be brought under cultivation, which could have harmful side effects on biodiversity, and genetically modified crops may be needed to boost yields.

Far more intensive agriculture will be necessary, with the amount of beef raised in confined systems – vast cattle warehouses in which the animals rarely or never see grass – accounting for as much as 15% of the global herd by mid-century. Consumers must also switch away from eating beef to poultry and vegetables.

The analysis also found that deforestation must be halted and the extent of forested land increased by between 5% and 15% by 2050 – a mammoth task, given the failure of efforts so far to halt forest destruction.

However, the analysis depends on several key factors. For instance, within the emissions limits required to hold global warming to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels, in theory it ought to be possible for everyone in the world to travel 12,400km a year, up from an average of 8,300km a year at present.

Currently, people in the US travel an average of 16,000km a year, and in the EU about 10,000km, while the average Indian travels 6,000km and Chinese less than 2,000km a year. So the increases in air travel in the developed world seen in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of cheap flights, will have to be severely limited in future to stay within these levels.

Similarly, nutrition that fulfils our daily needs, of 2,100 calories a day, is possible for the entire planet, but is unlikely to reach everyone without a transformation in global equity. According to the models used to develop the calculator, billions of people are likely to remain in poverty at mid-century, and they are unlikely to benefit much in the form of the better nutrition, better housing or increases in travel which are theoretically possible.

Decc officials were unable to tell the Guardian what the emissions outcomes were likely to be if campaigners succeeded in “making poverty history”.

The cost of meeting the 2C scenario was likely to be about 2% to 3% of global GDP annually, on average, between now and 2050, the officials said.

Anyone can use the tool to experiment with different possible future scenarios, for instance by seeing how much renewable energy would have to be generated in a future where nuclear energy was avoided, where other emissions cuts would have to come from if people took many more flights than they do today, or how much land could be freed up for forests if more people adhered to a mostly vegetarian diet.

Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change, said: “For the first time, this calculator shows that everyone in the world can prosper while limiting global temperature rises to 2C, preventing the most serious impacts of climate change. Yet the calculator is also very clear that we must act now to change how we use and generate energy and how we use our land if we are going to achieve this green growth.”

Campaigners welcomed the tool as showing that action on climate change was compatible with prosperous lifestyles for much of the world.

Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, said: “The need for urgent action to avoid dangerous climate change is well accepted, but the steps we should take are often hotly contested. This excellent tool enables everyone to play the role of world leader and make decisions on the action we should take in key areas such as energy, manufacturing and farming.

“It shows we can still avoid the world warming by much less than 2C above pre-industrial levels – all we need is the will to act. This calculator demonstrates to our political leaders that a cleaner, safer, fairer world is possible.”

The tool is being offered to other governments, for use in the run-up to crunch negotiations in Paris at the end of this year, at which a new global agreement on emissions, to come into force after 2020, is supposed to be signed.

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