Best of our wild blogs: 22 Mar 15

Paint along with Pui San, 29 Mar 2015
from Art in Wetlands

Life History of the Ultra Snow Flat
from Butterflies of Singapore

Morning Walk At Admiralty Park (21 Mar 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Water everywhere… Happy World Water Day!
from BES Drongos

7 Suggestions for Public Consultation on Climate Change and Singapore
from Green Future Solutions

Read more!

Waterways warrior calls for more hands to help keep waters clean

Jack Board Channel NewsAsia 22 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Eugene Heng is a veteran hand when it comes to plying Singapore’s extensive waterways. He is a warden of the canals that stream like veins through an urban landscape, a loyal protector of the waters that give life to a thirsty nation.

The reservoirs are not like they used to be. Where once armed guards stood patrolling alongside barbed wire fences, now the water is an aquatic playground, where children rock playfully on dragonboats and keen athletes test their prowess on streamlined kayaks.

With no natural water source, Singapore as a nation has historically needed to fight and innovate to keep the taps running and the environment in check. And Eugene, the founder of Waterways Watch Society, understands better than most just how fragile water can be.


“You cannot create water and with the irregular weather and conditions we are experiencing, one cannot take water for granted. Water is life, and every one of us has a responsibility to understand this and behave in a way that respects this commodity,” he said.

Under an overpass of the Nicoll Highway, on the banks of Marina Reservoir, Eugene’s understated headquarters for his non-government organisation provides a perfect vantage point to watch the reservoir come to life with water users, and to launch out into its cobalt expanse.

But Eugene is no sight-seer. His mission is to patrol, monitor and educate and he has dedicated a life to encouraging his countrymen and women to treasure a precious resource. At the very least, he wants them to stop polluting it.

Yet, he remains troubled on a daily basis by the amount of pollution washing into the country’s reservoirs, waste created by the dozens of communities and townships up river, which eventually flows into Singapore’s source of drinking water.

“The Marina Reservoir is so urban-connected with people, and people create litter. You cannot blame it on anyone else,” he said. “We find plastic bags, drink cans and even a lot of household items. That tells you people are either ignorant or irresponsible. Your drainage system today is actually your drinking water tomorrow."


As we explore the passages around the reservoir, litter is not hard to spot. Most of it is clustered at the water’s edges where pieces of plastic, food waste and styrofoam lay congealed in a thick vacuum of muddy ooze. After heavy rain the problem is greatly magnified.

“We actually find a lot of litter, and pollution of our waterways in terms of oil, paint and foam, and all this relates to the fact that there are a lot of people not understanding that this waterway is our lifeline,” he said.

Eugene is also able, with regular timing, to reach into the water using his trusty net to extract bottles, cans and even the odd badly-injured bird, which he takes ashore for treatment. He laments that other water users do not do the same, simple acts that would collaboratively help keep the water clean and contribute to a feeling of collective ownership.

“What is really disappointing is when we see young people enjoying their kayaking and dragonboating, and they pass floating trash bags without a second thought of picking it up,” he said.

“For 16 years we've been here, and I have never, ever seen any water user actually stop and pick it up. That's very sad.”

Nearby fishermen cast their lines illegally. They are meant to only fish in designated areas of the reservoir, but Eugene says, like the fish, they rarely go where they are told. A woman bathes neck deep by the shoreline. Swimming is illegal and Eugene puts over on his motorboat to gently suggest she move on.


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently bemoaned how the nation is becoming more cleaned than clean, and nowhere is this more evident than Marina Reservoir, where dozens of cleaners on land and on water wearily earn their pay, filling endless bags with trash.

“As we increase our population from 5.4 million to 6.9 million this problem will be even more challenging, and hiring more cleaners is not the solution,” Eugene said. “If we are able to educate, share with people - if the people are more aware and take more social responsibility and take more ownership and they now know what to do and what not to do - I think you will find much less litter in our waterways.”

Eugene is far from a solitary voice in trying to promote this message. His organisation has about 400 volunteer members who help conduct regular education workshops for school students and corporate groups as well as providing bicycles and kayaks to encourage learning beyond the group’s makeshift classroom.

His work in turn has been widely recognised in Singapore. He was given the President’s Award for the Environment in 2014 and a Public Service Medal in 2005 for his role in environmental conservation. At the core of his mantra is a yearning to see each Singaporean play their part.

“For us, prevention is better than cure,” he said. “While you have this resource, don't take it for granted, enjoy it, respect, value it - don't pollute it."

UN World Water Day is held every year on March 22, highlighting a different global water issue each year. For more information click here.

- CNA/jb

World Water Day: Water self-sufficiency part of Lee Kuan Yew's legacy, says DPM Teo, Grace Fu
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 21 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said it was Mr Lee Kuan Yew's determination and the vision as the nation's first Prime Minister which pushed Singapore towards water self-sufficiency.

Speaking at celebrations to mark World Water Day at the Sports Hub on Saturday (Mar 21), Mr Teo wished Mr Lee well. The former Minister Mentor has been at the Singapore General Hospital since Feb 5, when he was admitted for severe pneumonia.

"Right here on the river in the 1960s and 1970s where the water was black, oily and dirty, he had the vision to think of this place as a beautiful bay that we could clean up and enjoy and which can give us life-giving water and with determination and persistence, and with cooperation from everyone, this is what we have today – a beautiful bay with life-giving water," said the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Teo said that with Singapore marking 50 years of nation building this year, Singaporeans should remember the hard work that enabled Singapore to transform the country's water vulnerability into an advantage.

And looking ahead, Mr Teo said climate change will pose new challenges to the country's sustainable development efforts. To safeguard Singapore against changing weather patterns, the Government will continue to invest in water infrastructure ahead of demand, he said.

For example, a third desalination plant at Tuas will be completed by 2017, adding another 30 million gallons a day of desalinated water to Singapore's water supply.

Over at celebratons at Jurong Lake, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu said during his term as Prime Minister, Mr Lee was very conscious to make the country's water supply a key priority.

"With disappointment and sadness that we are now facing the reality that our founding prime minister is critically ill in hospital, I think it is very timely and appropriate on this day to really remember and acknowledge the contributions of Mr Lee," she said.

"From the very first day, Mr Lee has highlighted the importance of water, particularly from a security and sovereignty point of view. Connected by water pipelines at the time of independence, Singapore needed water from other countries to keep us alive, so that was of critical, strategic importance - a factor that really has a profound effect on how we were going to survive as a new country.

"And in fact, the Water Supply Agreement forms part of the Separation Agreement and both of them became the Document of Independence. We owe it to Mr Lee today, that we can proudly say that through 30, 40 years of research development and hard work we have almost reached water self-sufficiency."

Water demand in Singapore is currently about 400 million gallons a day - a figure which is set to double by 2060. That is equivalent to more than 1,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

- CNA/es

Read more!

Australia: Reef 2050 plan a good start - but much more investment needed

WWF 21 Mar 15;

Sydney, Australia – WWF-Australia said the final Reef 2050 plan released today includes a number of good initiatives but the $100 million in new funding announced by the federal government falls short of what’s required to halt the Reef’s decline and remove the threat that it is listed ‘World Heritage in danger’.

The joint Australian/Queensland Government blueprint is the key factor to be considered by the World Heritage Committee when it decides this June whether to list the Reef.

“It’s a positive sign to see the new Queensland Government’s Reef election commitments have been added to the plan including the intention to ban the dumping of dredge spoil in the World Heritage Area,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

“Whilst we welcome the Federal Government’s ban on dumping in the marine park we repeat our call for a federal ban to cover the entire World Heritage Area because that would provide the strongest level of protection.

“It’s critical that we see a ban implemented before the World Heritage Committee meets in three months’ time,” he said.

“We welcome that the Queensland and Federal Government are committed to achieving an 80% reduction in nitrogen run-off by 2025 and will both inject an additional $100 million over five years to tackle pollution.

“But considering the Reef will generate $30 billion for the economy over the next five years, a much more substantial investment from the Federal Government is not unreasonable.

“Billions not millions are needed to save the Reef.

“The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority must also be given the legal powers and resources it needs to become a champion for the Reef.

“The long-term survival of the Great Barrier Reef depends on the world acting together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including stronger action from Australia.

“When it comes to the Reef the existing level of spending is simply not working. The Federal Government’s own Outlook Report says the Reef is in poor shape and getting worse,” Mr O’Gorman said.

Read more!

Carbon emissions from forests down by 25% between 2001-2015

Better forest management and slowdown in deforestation contribute to emission reduction
FAO 20 Mar 15;

20 March 2015, Rome - Total carbon emissions from forests decreased by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2015, mainly due to a slowdown in global deforestation rates, according to new estimates published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today.

Global emissions from deforestation dropped from 3.9 to 2.9 Gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year over the period of 2001-2015. Deforestation is defined as a land-use change, from forest to other land uses.

"It is encouraging to see that net deforestation is decreasing and that some countries in all regions are showing impressive progress. Among others, they include Brazil, Chile, China, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Uruguay, and Viet Nam," said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva. "I urge all those countries to share their successful experiences with other countries. Through South-South Cooperation programme, FAO is ready to facilitate this collaboration and knowledge exchange."

FAO emphasized at the same time that despite the overall reduction in carbon emissions from forests linked to less deforestation, emissions from forest degradation have significantly increased between 1990 and 2015, from 0.4 to 1.0 Gt CO2 per year. Forest degradation is a reduction in tree biomass density from human or natural causes such as logging, fire, windthrows and other events.

FAO published these figures for the first time on the occasion of the International Day of Forests, celebrated on 21 March 2015. The data are excerpts from a larger FAO study based on the FAOSTAT Emissions database and FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 (FRA), which will be launched in September 2015 as one of the highlights of the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban. This will be the first time this global event is organized in Africa, under the auspices of the Government of South Africa, with more than 5,000 participants expected.

Managing forests sustainably to address the impacts of climate change

A more sustainable management of forests will result in a reduction in carbon emissions from forests and has a vital role to play in addressing the impacts of climate change, the FAO Director-General stressed.

"Forests are critical to the Earth's carbon balance and hold about three-quarters as much carbon as is in the whole atmosphere. Deforestation and forest degradation increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but forest and tree growth absorbs carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emissions", he said.

Graziano da Silva also highlighted the important role of sustainable agriculture to reduce pressure on forests, along with implementing the UN-REDD programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Imbalances between countries and regions

The absorption of carbon by forests helps to counterbalance, although not entirely, overall emissions due to the conversion of forests to other types of land use. Forests absorb and store an additional two billion tonnes of CO2 per year (2011-2015), excluding emissions from deforestation. Half of the forest carbon sink is related to growth in planted forests.

Developed countries continue to represent the bulk of the overall estimated carbon sink, with a share of 60 percent (2011-2015). This share, however, has decreased from 65 percent (2001-2010), mainly due to a decrease in the establishment of new planted forests.

Developing countries account for the remaining 40 percent of the total carbon sink.

At the regional level, Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean all continued to release more carbon than they absorb, although emissions from Africa and Latin America decreased between 1990 and 2015. Brazil alone represented more than 50 percent of the overall estimated reduction in carbon emissions between 2001and 2015.

The forests of Europe and North America functioned as net carbon sinks between 1990 and 2015 since they absorb more carbon than they release, whereas Oceania did not show a clear trend in forest emissions over the same period.


The FAO analysis is based on national data reported to the agency by countries using ground-based and aerial measurements. They are not directly comparable to measurements using satellite imagery only, which, although useful, do not capture certain types of forests or stages in the growth cycle, and do not easily capture land-use change dynamics.

For example, dry forests in Africa or central Brazil have great spaces between trees and often have few leaves for large parts of the year, making them difficult to capture by remote sensing, and regular harvesting activities in managed forests may be detected as deforestation by satellite surveys.

Share on facebookShare on twitterMore Sharing Services

World on track to meet ambitious forest restoration goal
IUCN 21 Mar 15;

Bonn, Germany, 21 March, 2015 – New restoration initiatives were announced today by Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa at the second international Bonn Challenge conference on forest landscape restoration taking place in Germany. With these announcements, a total of 59.2 million hectares have now been contributed to the Bonn Challenge – a global movement to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020.

The conference brought together environment ministers and government representatives from China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Liberia, Republic of Korea, Sweden and the US, along with representatives from key donor countries, such as Germany and Norway, business leaders and nature conservation organisations.

"We are well on our way to achieving our goal of restoring a total of 150 million hectares of destroyed forests by 2020," says Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks. "With the restoration of forests we can pursue multiple objectives simultaneously: We can do something about climate change and species extinction and help restore the livelihoods of millions of people.”

At today’s meeting, El Salvador revealed its plans to launch a Central American partnership for restoration. In Africa, Ethiopia and Liberia announced continued action on the Great Green Wall Initiative, which aims to curb the spread of the Sahara by restoring forests. In Southeast Asia new ideas to extend cooperation between governments and businesses on forest restoration were announced.

“The world is recognising that forest landscape restoration offers a critical contribution to addressing some of our global challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity, food security and economic growth,” says Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN, one of the co-hosts of the event. “The Bonn Challenge is about much more than simply planting trees – it’s about addressing the most pressing issues of our generation, and of future generations.”

The Bonn Challenge was launched in 2011 at an event co-hosted by Germany and IUCN. It was endorsed at the 2014 Climate Summit and supplemented by the New York Declaration on Forests with a goal to restore an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.

According to IUCN, achieving the 150 million hectare challenge could bring more than USD 85 billion per year to local and national economies and USD 6 billion in additional crop yields. Achievement of the goal could also reduce the current CO2 emissions gap by 11 to 17 percent.

A New Climate Economy analysis found that achieving the expanded Bonn Challenge goal of 350 million hectares by 2030 could generate USD170 billion per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products, alongside carbon sequestration.

In addition to restoration commitments from countries and organisations, key donors noted today that they would increase their support for global restoration
“We are now at the point where just reducing emissions will not be enough,” says Tine Sundtoft, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment. “We must actively remove carbon out of the atmosphere. Forest restoration is the most cost-effective carbon capture option we have. The New Climate Economy Report from last year showed us that conserving and enhancing the forest can be done. And it can be done while also achieving economic growth.”
Support for restoration is also increasingly coming from private sector sources.

“Restoring millions of hectares of degraded land is one of the great ideas of our times,” says Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO of the World Resources Institute, a co-host of the event. “No wonder, then, that political and financial momentum is building across every continent.”

The Bonn Challenge conference was co-organised by the German Federal Environment Ministry, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Notes to editors

To mark the International Day of Forests (March 21) proclaimed by the United Nations, the Bonn Challenge participants have planted a maple tree together as a symbol of their joint efforts. A photo of the event as well as photos of the conference can be found here:

Read more!