Best of our wild blogs: 21 Mar 15

Forest City reclamation seen from Singapore's last western reefs at Tuas
from wild shores of singapore

Singapore's last western reefs are alive!
from wild shores of singapore

Underwater fantasy at Tuas
from wonderful creation

Pasir Ris Mangroves: New Beans
from The Green Beans

Close Encounter With A Stag Beetle
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Singapore Waste Statistics from 2003 to 2014
from Zero Waste Singapore

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Fish Farmers Association, AVA discuss ways to alleviate plankton problem

Channel NewsAsia 20 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: The Fish Farmers Association of Singapore met with the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Friday (Mar 20), to discuss possible ways of alleviating the "red tide" plankton or algae bloom problem, as well as providing assistance to affected fish farmers.

This was in response to the red tide occurrence last month, which affected about 55 fish farms and resulted in the deaths of almost 600 tonnes of fish.

Currently, fish farmers can get financial assistance from the Agriculture Productivity Fund. But fish farmers hope authorities can help cover 90 per cent of their equipment costs this year - 20 per cent more than last year - to help them through this difficult period.

In terms of dealing with the cause of the plankton bloom, the Fish Farmers Association proposed spraying clay into the sea to clump the water, hence killing off the plankton - a method which has been successfully tested in Korea and Japan.

Some fish farmers also expressed their hope that authorities will allow the temporary shifting of their farms to Pulau Tekong as a short-term solution if a similar episode reoccurs.

Further discussions with AVA will take place next week.

Mr Chan Wei Loong, Programme Chair for Marine Science and Aquaculture at Republic Polytechnic, said: “Shifting to another area to farm, it could be feasible, really depending on the location because for the south of Tekong, I guess it is actually closer to the open ocean, then obviously the current flow as well as the water flow could be better.

“And if it is better, then obviously chances of having an algae bloom because of nutrients being congregated together at a certain location are (lower)."

Said Mr Timothy Ng, president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore: "Unfortunately, what we heard or what was told to us was that the Government at this moment has no plans to give financial assistance for restocking or restarting.

“We were asking basically that apart from fish fry, assistance on restocking of fish fry, that there could be some assistance also on feeding of the fish, the fish feed, because that constitutes the biggest part of the costs of any fish farming operations."

- CNA/ms

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Why Singapore still needs more cars

Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Mar 15;

WHEN the COE system was just four years old in 1994, well-respected transport and behavioural economist Anthony Chin predicted that, in time, only top earners in Singapore would be able to afford cars.

The Government dismissed his assertion and, in the two decades since, it would seem that Professor Chin - who died last year at the age of 57 after a short illness - got it wrong.

Car ownership has been rising, not falling. By 2012, 45 per cent of households owned cars - up from less than 35 per cent when the certificate of entitlement (COE) system was introduced in 1990.

But the trend is reversing. After allowing the car population to grow at 3 per cent a year since 1990, the Government halved it to 1.5 per cent in 2009. The cap has been lowered three more times since and is now at 0.25 per cent.

And last week, Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo announced in Parliament that it is likely to go to zero per cent some time "in the future".

With Singapore's population growing, what this means is that the percentage of car-owning households will start shrinking. In fact, the contraction has already started.

Currently, it is estimated that 44 per cent of households own cars - one percentage point lower than in 2012. And when the population grows to, say, 6.9 million, that figure could go down to 35 per cent.

That is assuming the number of cars remains constant. But there are signs that the car population has been dipping, even with an allowed 0.25 per cent growth.
Last month, there were 597,152 cars on the road, the lowest number in four years.

If and when zero growth kicks in some time "in the future", the shrinkage might well accelerate. Then, the late Prof Chin's pronouncement in 1994 might ring true indeed.

It is not an unexpected outcome, though. Any pricing mechanism, taken to its logical end, will always mean the less well-to-do making way for the more well-to- do. And in any land-scarce city, it is also logical that the majority relies on public transport.

The question is: Why did we allow the car population to grow at 3 per cent per annum for 18 long years before deciding that it was not sustainable?

It is much harder to persuade someone who has been driving to give up his car than to convince him he does not need a car before he went out and bought one.

So why 3 per cent? Actually, the growth rate was pegged at just below the historical growth rate of Singapore's car population in the pre-COE days before 1990.

And it was pegged well below the foreseeable growth rate that would have resulted from rising income levels.

Here's the interesting thing, though. The actual growth rate was more than 3 per cent. Between 1991 and 2010, the car population grew by an average of 4 per cent per annum.

This was largely because the Government could not get the COE supply formula right and, for many years, dished out far more certificates than the number of cars taken off the road.

It came to a point where people who would normally buy a motorcycle decided to fork out a bit more for a car instead. One could get a new budget car for well under $30,000.
The oversupply situation was so serious that even motor traders publicly called for the COE supply to be cut.

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NEA tightens industrial emissions standards to improve air quality

Channel NewsAsia 20 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: New industries in the Republic will have to meet tighter industrial emissions standards over a range of pollutants with effect from Jul 1, the National Environmental Agency (NEA) announced in a news release on Friday (Mar 20).

The introduction of more stringent standards is part of NEA's "continued effort to further improve air quality and safeguard public health", said the release.

NEA said existing plants will be granted a grace period - until Jul 1, 2018 - to comply with the revised standards for compounds of mercury, lead, cadmium, ammonia and hydrogen fluoride. The standards for particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide have also been revised, and for this the grace period will end on Jul 1, 2023.

“NEA has been in consultation with the affected companies since early 2014 on the revision of industrial emissions standards,” the release added. “The grace period will give them time to adjust their plans - for example, upgrades of equipment - and processes so that they can meet the standards and still achieve their business outcomes.”

The NEA is also introducing a daily site-average limit for sulphur dioxide, that it says will help regulate the emissions generated from combustion sources on a daily basis. The industrial activity in Singapore accounts for about 99 per cent of the locally generated sulphur dioxide emissions, it added.

“Tightening the emissions standards will encourage industries to continually review and improve their industrial processes, equipment design and daily operational protocols to reduce emissions of pollutants,” it added.


- CNA/ct

Tougher emission standards for companies here from July
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Mar 15;

Companies in Singapore will have to meet tougher emission standards for a wide range of pollutants from July this year, to help improve the country's air quality.

Announcing the new guidelines yesterday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the pollutants include mercury, cadmium, ammonia, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

From July, new industrial plants will have to comply with the higher standards.

Existing plants have until July 1, 2018 to meet some of the guidelines, and until July 1, 2023 for the rest.

The NEA said: "The introduction of the more stringent standards will serve to improve our air quality as we strive towards achieving our air quality goals for 2020 and beyond."

It added that it had been in consultation with affected firms since early last year, and the grace period will give them time to adjust.

For example, they can upgrade their equipment.

Tightening the standards will encourage firms to continually review and improve their operations.

It is also in line with the Government's goal of growing industries here sustainably in the long term.

The NEA also introduced a daily limit for sulphur dioxide emissions from combustion sources, since industrial activity makes up 99 per cent of the emissions generated locally.

In 2012, motor vehicles made up the remaining 1 per cent, according to statistics on the NEA's website.

Last year, the Republic's sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter, particulate matter and ozone emissions all exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines.
Emissions here, however, are affected by haze from neighbouring countries.

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3-hour PSI tops 100 in Singapore, dips into 'Unhealthy' range

Today Online 20 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Haze was reported by members of the public on Friday afternoon (Mar 20), with the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading hitting 102 at 4pm, dipping into the 'Unhealthy' range.

The three-hour PSI reading at 8am was 65, before steadily rising. It continued to increase throughout the day. At 2pm, the 24-hour PSI was 64 to 73.

It crossed into the 'Unhealthy' range at 102 at 4pm and by 6pm, it peaked at 106. At 8pm the 3-hour PSI dropped back in the 'Moderate' range, at 99.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said that the "slight haziness could be due to the accumulation of particulate matter in the air under light wind conditions".

The National Environment Agency (NEA) added that "burning activities in the Northern ASEAN region, Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra could have contributed to the increased concentration of particulate matter."

NEA said hazy conditions are expected to persist for the rest of the day, with Saturday's 24-hour PSI expected to be in the 'Moderate' range. It said "given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities".

At 12.40pm, Channel NewsAsia received a call from Mr Wee, a member of the public, who said it was “very hazy” in Macpherson. A Twitter user, Jonathan Leong, said that it was "slightly hazy in Jurong this morning."

Yudi Setiawan also posted a photo on Instagram of hazy conditions this morning.

- CNA/ct

Air quality hits unhealthy levels, PSI peaks at 106
Today Online 21 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — Air quality reached unhealthy levels yesterday, when the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) breached the 100-mark. And the hazy conditions could continue into today, with the 24-hour PSI to be in the moderate range of 51 to 100.

Yesterday, the three-hour PSI crossed into unhealthy territory at 4pm, and peaked at 6pm at 106, before dipping out of the unhealthy range at 8pm. By 9pm, the three-hour PSI reading was 88. The 24-hour PSI readings ranged between 75 to 83.

Responding to media queries, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said: “The haziness is likely due to an accumulation of increased particulate matter in the atmosphere under light wind conditions throughout today. Burning activities in the northern ASEAN region, peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra could have contributed to the increased concentration of particulate matter.” The regional haze map posted on its website showed that clusters of hot spots were detected mainly in Myanmar and some were scattered in Thailand.

Air quality enters the unhealthy level when PSI is between 101 and 200. The three-hour PSI readings began climbing after 7am yesterday, reaching 71 at 11am, 74 at noon and 80 at 1pm. It then hit 86 at 2pm and 94 at 3pm.

The agency added that PM2.5 levels were elevated in most regions of Singapore yesterday. Noting that prevailing winds today are expected to be light and variable in direction, they said hazy conditions can still be expected.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, the public can continue with normal activities, the NEA said, but noted that the health impact of haze is dependent on one’s health status, the PSI level and the length and intensity of outdoor activity.

Haze returns, expected to continue today
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Mar 15;
Hazy skies returned to Singapore yesterday and are expected to darken part of the island today as well.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said last night that the return of the haze was likely due to an accumulation of increased particulate matter in the atmosphere under the light wind conditions. "Burning activities in the northern ASEAN region, Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra could have contributed to the increased concentration of particulate matter," it added.

The day began yesterday with relatively clear skies, but the air quality deteriorated throughout most of the day, from 1am to 6pm, before improving slightly in the night.

By 4pm, the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) had crossed 100, the threshold where air becomes unhealthy. The three-hour PSI averages air quality readings in the previous three hours.

By 5pm, even the 24-hour index, which the Government has said is a better indicator of whether people should worry about their health, had inched close to that threshold, ranging from 69 to 92 across the island.

People in eastern Singapore, where the haze was worst yesterday evening, said they were worried that the burning smell was here to stay. "I was really hoping we wouldn't have to go through the face masks and air purifiers again," said 28-year-old sales assistant Joy Thng.

The NEA said hazy conditions can still be expected today, although the 24-hour PSI is expected to be in the moderate range.

Everyone can continue with normal activities given the air quality forecast, but people who are not feeling well should seek medical attention, it said.

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Indonesia: Mining activities continue unabated

Lita Aruperes, The Jakarta Post 20 Mar 15;

Efforts made by activists to obstruct mining projects in North Sulawesi due to their negative environmental impacts have been made increasingly difficult by the issuance of new licenses in the sector by local governments.

Head of North Sulawesi Energy and Mineral Resources Agency, Marly Gumalag, said that as of March 2015, 145 mining licenses (IUP) had been issued by regency, city and provincial administrations.

“They are spread in 12 out of North Sulawesi’s 15 regencies and cities, covering a combined area of 403,000 hectares,” Marly said.

Only three regions in North Sulawesi province are currently free of mining concessions, namely Sitaro regency, Kotamobagu city and Manado city.

Of the 145 licenses issued, according to Marly, 63 have been allocated for stone-mining activities, 60 for gold mining, and the rest for iron sand, manganese, nickel and iron ore.

Flora Kalalo from Sam Ratulangi University (Unsrat) Manado has blamed the environmental damage in the province on the numerous mining licenses issued by the local administration, many of which were illegal.

“Still, licenses continue being issued. Why? because its money doing the talking,” said the environmental law expert.

As an example, Flora pointed to the licenses handed out to mining companies on Bangka Island, East Likupang district, North Minahasa regency.

Flora said Bangka Island was a small island where mining was prohibited, but that the licenses were given out anyway.

“When money interferes in the name of investment, then many rules are put aside. The result is damage to the environment,” said Flora, who is also Unstrat’s deputy rector overseeing administration and finance.

In recent months, locals have staged regular demonstrations against mining in the province.

On Tuesday, for example, dozens of people from Buyat subdistrict, East Bolaang Mongondow (Boltim) regency, filed a complaint against a mining company with the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Manado.

A local representative for Buyat, Alfian Lasabuda, said mining had damaged the environment and created social divisions.

“People are now divided into two groups: those who are against and those who are for the mining. In such a situation, horizontal conflicts can just pop up, both mentally and physically,” Alfian said.

Alfian urged the Boltim administration to respond to the situation by siding with the people whose communities were being divided by the mining interests.

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