Best of our wild blogs: 16 Feb 15

Identify and track key future trends with the Futures Centre
from Green Business Singapore

Batik Golden Web Spider (Nephila antipodiana) @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Johor fire brings light haze to north-eastern areas

Today Online 15 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE — After reports of hazy conditions in the east over the past few days, a light haze and burnt smell lingered in the air over Sengkang, Hougang and Serangoon early this morning (Feb 15), causing some to wonder if the smog had returned.

As it turned out, the cause was a fire at a landfill site in southern Johor.

In an advisory tonight, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said its Malaysian counterparts confirmed that a bush fire last Thursday evening had affected one of the cells at the landfill in Pasir Gudang in southern Johor.

The Malaysian authorities said they were working to put out the fire in the area and cap burnt areas with soil to prevent fires from recurring, it added. “They are monitoring the situation closely, to prevent the fire from spreading further.”

The air quality in Singapore remained in the moderate range today, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) ranging between 55 and 70 at 9pm. Readings peaked at 73 in the southern region at 9am, easing to 70 at 9pm.

“NEA will continue to monitor the air quality readings and notify the public if there are any changes to the PSI,” the agency said.

In a Facebook post tonight, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the Malaysian authorities are still trying to resolve the problem. “We stand ready to assist if requested,” he added.

Last October, the NEA said the threat of serious haze appeared to have been averted for the year, with the onset of the inter-monsoon season signalling the end of the traditionally dry period in the region. But last month turned out to be drier than usual for the second year running, with the dry phase of the North-east Monsoon setting in prematurely. Last Friday, some people reported hazy skies and a burning smell in eastern areas such as Pasir Ris, Tampines and Bedok.

Slight haze in Singapore caused by fire in Malaysian landfill
AsiaOne 15 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE - Slight haze in Singapore over the past few days was caused by a fire started at a landfill site at Pasir Gudang in Malaysia, said Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan in a Facebook post on Sunday night.

He said that the fire started last Thursday and smoke from it was blown to Singapore by north-east winds.

Pasir Gudang is an industrial town east of Johor Baru.

Dr Balakrishnan said the Malaysian authorities are still trying to resolve the problem.

"We stand ready to assist if requested," he said in his post.

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Sengkang, Hougang, Serangoon residents complain of haze and smoke smell

Channel NewsAsia 15 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: Some residents in Sengkang, Hougang and Serangoon complained of haze and the smell of smoke on Sunday morning (Feb 15).

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that these could be due to localised fires in southern Johor, blown to Singapore by the prevailing northeasterly winds. It said it is in touch with its Malaysian counterparts for their reports on the situation there. The NEA said it stands ready to provide assistance if requested.

This comes after hazy conditions were reported in the Eastern part of Singapore on Feb 13.

The air quality in Singapore remains in the moderate range. NEA will continue to monitor the air quality readings and notify the public if there are any changes to the PSI. For updates, you can go to the NEA website at, the haze microsite at or NEA Facebook ( and NEA Twitter (@NEAsg).

- CNA/ir

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Pasir Ris is third HDB town to have cycling path network

Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 15 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: Pasir Ris is now the third town in Singapore, after Tampines and Sembawang, to have its own cycling path network. It is part of the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) plans to build such networks in all HDB towns by 2030.

The network aims to make cycling safer and more seamless for residents. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, officially opened the completed network on Sunday (Feb 15).

The new cycling paths add 9.3 kilometres to the existing network, which had been built by the town council previously. This brings the total length of the cycling network to 13.3 kilometres.

The town council had started building cycling tracks in the early 2000s, but Mr Teo said this had imposed many impediments on cyclists and did not cover the whole town. This resulted in the cycling tracks not being well utilised.

Residents can now cycle from their homes to places like Pasir Ris MRT station, the bus interchange, White Sands shopping centre, and other key amenities. They can also ride to adjacent towns like Tampines and Changi Village through the park connectors.

Residents told Channel NewsAsia the new cycling paths could ensure the safety of cyclists.

"In the past, there was no proper path just for cycling, so sometimes we bumped into each other. But now it's much better,” commented Pasir Ris resident Mdm Heng Meng Jee.

"It was difficult to pass by the cars or the motorcycles while cycling on the side of the roads. But now that they put the cycling path on the pedestrian side, so it's much easier and much safer," said Mr Dariush Taheri, who has lived in Pasir Ris for seven years and cycles three times a week.

Bicycle crossings have also been built at two traffic light junctions at Pasir Ris Drive 3 and Drive 1, where cycling traffic to and from the town centre is heavier. The bicycle crossings run adjacent to the pedestrian crossings and cyclists will not need to dismount to cross the road.

But Mr Teo also called on road users to look out for each other even as the Transport Ministry is currently working on developing clear rules and norms for cyclists.

"Given that Singapore has land constraints, we are not that big. It is not possible to build dedicated cycling paths for all popular routes everywhere,” said Mr Teo. “So there will be situations, many situations where pedestrians, those walking and cyclists need to cross paths or to share space, and we want to avoid accidents as far as possible.”

“The less vulnerable should look out for and give way to the more vulnerable. Those who are more vulnerable should also be aware of their own vulnerability,” he added.

LTA said it is on track to bring dedicated cycling paths to more HDB towns. Yishun residents will be the next to benefit, with their dedicated cycling path network expected to be completed by the second quarter of this year. Works will also start in Taman Jurong and Changi-Simei, with completion expected by the end of this year.

- CNA/by/xq

Pasir Ris the third town to get cycling path network
YVONNE LIM Today Online 16 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE — Pasir Ris is now the third town in Singapore to have its own network of dedicated cycling paths, after Tampines and Sembawang.

With the network spanning 13.3km, residents can use their two-wheelers to get to main amenities in the town, such as the MRT station, bus interchange and White Sands mall.

Cyclists can now also ride to nearby towns, such as Tampines and Changi Village, through the park connectors.

The Government plans to build intra-town cycling paths in all Housing and Development Board (HDB) towns by 2030. The project aims to make it safer and more convenient for people to opt for this green mode of transport.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) also plans to build cycling paths that are integrated with the National Parks Board’s Park Connector Networks. Together, the two will form an islandwide, off-road cycling path network spanning more than 700km by 2030.

In December last year, a comprehensive blueprint was unveiled to transform Ang Mo Kio into the model town for being bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly by 2018.

Preliminary ideas include narrowing roads to slow motorists down, carving out an extensive network of dedicated paths segregating pedestrians and two-wheelers, as well as a 2.6km-long all-weather channel spanning Yio Chu Kang MRT Station and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park for pedestrians and cyclists.

One of these ideas, signalised bicycle crossings, has been put in place in Pasir Ris. Cyclists can now cross roads without dismounting, using dedicated crossings next to pedestrian crossings on Pasir Ris Drive 3 and Drive 1, which see more traffic to and from the city centre.

Cycling “ambassadors” have also been designated to educate residents on safe and responsible cycling.

At the launch of the Pasir Ris cycling network yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary (Transport and Health) Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said a set of rules and norms for cycling conduct and behaviour was being pieced together.

“With these in place, I believe more people would find it safer and more convenient to cycle as a mode of transport, especially for short trips within the HDB town,” he said.

Meanwhile, the LTA said residents in Yishun can also expect new dedicated cycling paths by the second quarter, while those in Taman Jurong and Changi-Simei will see cycling path networks completed by the end of this year.

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Madagascar’s New Shark Sanctuary Protects 19 Shark Species

Environment News Wire 13 Feb 15;

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, February 13, 2015 (ENS) – The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society has assisted the Government of Madagascar to create the country’s first marine sanctuary for sharks as part of a new law to safeguard the country’s marine resources and the communities that rely on them.

At a news conference held in the capital Antananarivo February 2, government officials announced the law establishing a shark sanctuary in Antongil Bay while granting coastal communities exclusive use and management rights for local fishing areas.

The new shark sanctuary is inhabited by 19 species of sharks. A third of these species, including the great hammerhead shark and the zebra shark, are now threatened by unregulated fishing.

The new law restricts international fishing boats from operating in Antongil Bay, a 1,446-square-mile body of water slightly larger than Long Island Sound.

“With the support from Wildlife Conservation Society, we chose a participatory and collaborative approach for the development of this law and management plan and we opted for the search for a balance between fishing activities and ecological integrity to ensure rational and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources,” said Minister of Marine Resources and Fisheries Sem Ahmad.

The Wildlife Conservation Society has been working in Madagascar for over two decades, a partnership that resulted in the new shark sanctuary.

Alison Clausen, country director of the WCS Madagascar Program, said, “Long-term strategic alliances and partnerships forged with local communities, government agencies such as the Ministry of Marine Resources and Fisheries, and stakeholders during two decades of field presence of WCS investing in wildlife protection and sustainable natural resources management in Antongil Bay is key to this success.”

Madagascar’s local fisheries provide livelihoods and food security for hundreds of thousands of some of the poorest coastal communities in the world. The new law will facilitate a system of co-management between communities, fishers, and government to manage their local fish populations.

The new law legally empowers local communities to manage nearshore fishing grounds through a growing network of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), 25 of which have already been established with the support of WCS.

The regulations of these areas, including no-take marine reserves and temporary closures, are locally designed and enforced.

By securing management and use rights of LMMAs for local communities for the first time in Madagascar, the law aims to transform marine resources from open access areas that typically result in short-term exploitation at the expense of long-term sustainability to exclusive access for local fishers, who can reap the benefits of managing their own marine resources.

The law also establishes collaborative arrangements between artisanal and industrial fishers, civil society, and government to work together on the sustainable management of fisheries in Antongil Bay.

The regulatory changes build on previous initiatives to decentralize the management of marine resources and establish local fisheries management plans and collaborative management arrangements.

At the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress, President of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina said Madagascar “already [has] positive models of locally managed marine areas, of which Madagascar is proud to be a pioneer in the Western Indian Ocean region.”

He emphasized his commitment “to establish legal and regulatory frameworks for community management of marine and coastal resources.”

Venor Rason is a local fisherman and president of the community association managing the LMMA of Analanjahana in the southern part of Antongil Bay. “We are very pleased to hear that this new law that we helped develop has been released,” he said. “It will help us manage sustainably our marine resources by limiting the number of small-scale and industrial fishers allowed to fish in the bay and by delivering fishing licenses to local professional fishers.”

Dr. Ambroise Brenier, marine technical director of the WCS Madagascar Program, said, “This pilot initiative will reduce coral reef degradation, improve abundance of endangered species of sharks, and sustain fisheries yields with long-term livelihoods and food security benefits thanks to restored fish stocks potentially reaching 100,000 coastal inhabitants living around Antongil Bay.”

“WCS looks forward to working with the Government of Madagascar to implement this new pilot fisheries co-management initiative in Antongil Bay and promote its replication to other sites,” Clausen said.

The WCS Madagascar Program works to ensure the long-term conservation of the country’s unique biological diversity with a focus on activities in Antongil Bay and other priority landscapes and seascapes such as Makira Natural Park, Masoala National Park, Nosy Be seascape and the Toliara seascape.

The Wildlife Conservation Society manages about 500 conservation projects in more than 60 countries; and educates millions of visitors at the five institutionsit manages in New York City including: the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo.

WCS’s field work in Madagascar was supported in part by The Helmsley Charitable Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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