Best of our wild blogs: 23 Mar 15

How is Pasir Ris marinelife after the mass fish deaths?
from wild shores of singapore

What activities affect water quality at Pasir Ris?
from wild shores of singapore

Battlefield Tour by Jon Cooper (Sun 29 Mar’15, 9.30am – 12pm)
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Back to Chek Jawa Boardwalk
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Laced Woodpecker pecking on an Oil Palm Fruit
from Singapore Bird Group

Celebrating the spirit of the Independents on World Water Day!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Brownback Trevally (Carangoides praeustus) @ Pasir Ris
from Monday Morgue

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PUB moves to protect desalination plants from algae in seawater

SIAU MING EN Today Online 23 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — With the drier weather conditions of late, national water agency PUB has for the first time installed silt curtains at the waters off Tuaspring and Singspring desalination plants, to protect the plants’ reverse osmosis membranes from higher levels of algae in the water. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore put up a notice last Thursday alerting the shipping community that there would be installation works for the silt curtains from March 13 to April 20 at the Johor Strait off Tuas View.

In response to queries, PUB said it was installing the silt curtains at the intake points of Singapore’s two desalination plants, as it had noticed a slight increase in levels of algae in the seawater around that area. “They act as an additional barrier to protect the reverse osmosis membranes from fouling,” said the PUB spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that the agency would continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, the silt curtains will stay on beyond April 20.

Silt curtains, which drop to the seabed, can help keep out silt particles or other materials. Desalinated water is one of Singapore’s four national taps and the two plants currently can meet up to 25 per cent of Singapore’s current water demand.

Director of Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Research Centre Tan Soon Keat said in this instance, the silt curtains would be able to block out primarily suspended solids and, to a certain degree, oil slicks.

“In the case of a desalination plant, the objective is to ensure (that the) quality of water entering the intake structure (is not) being affected by suspended solids in the water column, and flotsam and oil slicks (to some degree), and to buy time to respond in the case of potential influx of suspended solid plume or other flotsam,” said Assoc Prof Tan.

For the optimal operation of a desalination plant, the raw water supply must meet certain water quality standards, he said. In the case of lower-quality raw water, the plant may then need to include additional pre-treatment processes that would incur additional cost, added Assoc Prof Tan.

During dry weather, he noted, the surrounding lands around desalination plants would be drier, leading to more land-based washoff with sudden rain. He added that there may be elevated levels of phosphorus and nitrate in the runoff. Installing silt curtains is good practice, as it can buy time for the desalination plant to respond.

Singapore has experienced dry weather in the first two months of the year and to maintain healthy water levels in the reservoirs despite the dry weather, PUB has had to adjust the production of NEWater and desalinated water in order to meet demand. Rainfall for the whole of this month is expected to be below average, according to the National Environment Agency’s fortnightly outlook.

An algal bloom in the East Johor Strait in recent weeks has killed up to 600 tonnes of fish at fish farms here. Such blooms can be triggered by unpredictable weather, a higher concentration of nutrients in the seawater and poor water exchange between the high and low tides.

Over the past few months, concerns have also been raised over the possible environmental impact from the reclamation works carried out for the Forest City project in Johor, which will see four man-made islands built in the waters in Tanjung Kupang between south-west Johor and north-west Singapore.

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Forest City's critics are jealous: Johor Sultan

Shannon Teoh My Paper AsiaOne 23 Mar 15;

Johor's Sultan has accused detractors of the massive Forest City reclamation project just west of the Tuas Second Link of being "jealous" as he insisted that the 1,386ha project is a catalyst for the state's development.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar also explained in an interview with the New Sunday Times published yesterday that it is difficult to acquire a similar land bank, one surrounded by water, in the state.

Forest City, a 60:40 joint-venture between one of China's top developers, Country Garden, and a company the Sultan controls, will be a four-island "green" city just north of Tuas once completed within 30 years.

The project has sparked concern over damage to the environment in the area, especially from local fishermen and residents, as well as neighbouring Singapore.

"They politicised Forest City because they are jealous. It's a case of sour grapes," Sultan Ibrahim said, without saying who he was referring to.

When asked about Singapore's reservations regarding the narrowing of the Johor Strait and restricted water flow, he pointed out that the Republic's Tuas reclamation "breached Johor's port limit by so many metres".

"If you say narrowing the straits, look at Pulau Tekong," he said, referring to ongoing reclamation on the island that is close to Pengerang on Johor's south-eastern coast.

He said "I am sure Singapore followed all the rules", adding that Johor, too, had its own plans that it needed to implement.

The Sultan called Forest City - which will have a gross development value of RM450 billion (S$167 billion) once completed - a catalyst for Johor's development, with more than 250,000 jobs set to be created.

He also said it was necessary to reclaim land as "on shore, you have acquisition" problems. "Where can I find an existing piece of land here in Johor of that size surrounded by water?" he asked.

Sultan Ibrahim, speaking ahead of his coronation today, said other plans by Johor include replacing the Causeway with a bridge to allow better flow of water across the Johor Strait.

"Let it be a landmark and we can call it the Friendship Bridge. Let the bridge show how friendly we are with our neighbours."

He also called on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to "come to my house, have tea" to discuss outstanding issues.

"When it involves two countries, it must go through the Prime Minister's Office, Wisma Putra (Malaysia's Foreign Ministry) and the Singaporean counterparts. But any discussions between Johor and Singapore, for just the two of us to agree upon, can be decided over a cup of tea."

On what legacy he wants to leave, he said he wants change and progress in order for Johor "to be even better".

"I want a lot of changes, including the people's mindset," he said, singling out litterbugs who dirty places such as the crown arch in front of Istana Bukit Serene, his official residence.

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Haze continues to shroud Singapore’s skies

Today Online 23 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — Hazy conditions persisted over the weekend, although the situation was improved from Friday, when the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading crossed the 100 threshold.

The three-hour PSI rose to a reading of 77 at 4pm yesterday, before tapering off to 59 by 7pm, following thunderstorms across the island.

A PSI reading ranging from 51 to 100 is moderate, while anything from 101 and 200 is considered unhealthy.

As of 7pm yesterday, the 24-hour PSI reading was 65 to 70. In comparison, the 24-hour reading as of 7pm on Saturday was 71 to 81.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has said the hazy conditions were due to particulate matter accumulating under light wind conditions, and burning activities in the region could have contributed to an increased concentration of particulate matter.

On Friday, clusters of hot spots were detected in Myanmar. The three-hour PSI reading peaked at 6pm at 106, before dipping below 100 at 8pm. The 24-hour PSI at 7pm that day was 72 to 93.

Under moderate air-quality levels, the public can continue with normal activities. But the NEA said the health impact of the haze is dependent on one’s health status, the PSI level and the length and intensity of outdoor activity.

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Makeover for 2 river projects in the East of Singapore unveiled

Faris Mokhtar Channel NewsAsia 22 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Residents in the eastern part of Singapore can now enjoy more recreational spaces along two rivers which have received a makeover.

New lookout decks, more seating areas and upgraded footpaths are some of the features that can be found at both Sungei Api Api and Sungei Tampines, located between Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3. The river projects were officially opened on Sunday (Mar 22) by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also an MP at Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Other features along the two rivers include rain gardens which retain and treat rainwater runoff. They are also equipped with a subsoil pipe system to channel the filtered water into the river.

Residents whom Channel NewsAsia spoke with said the new facilities will benefit the community.

"I think more people will come, have fun and sit down. It brings the community together," said Mr Muhd Faris Nordin, a resident of Pasir Ris.

"There's more greenery now along the river compared to a few years ago," added Ms Tong Siew Hwa, who also lives in Pasir Ris. "I can see the aunties and uncles sitting at the sheltered sitting areas, and some bring their dogs down for a stroll."

Upgrading works for the two rivers started in 2013. The Public Utilities Board (PUB) said care was also taken during construction to minimise the impact to existing mangroves at Sungei Api Api - construction work for the lookout decks were confined to the embankment.

Mr Teo urged residents to also play their part in keeping the environment clean, "so that we can enjoy our rivers, waterways, as we continue to improve our living environment and improve community bonding in Pasir Ris," he said.

The makeover is part of PUB's ABC Waters Programme which was launched in 2006. It aims to integrate Singapore's canals and reservoirs with the surrounding environment to create water parks and community spaces for the public.

As of now, 27 projects under the programme have been completed, while more than 100 potential locations have been earmarked for improvements by 2030.

- CNA/es

Two revitalised rivers in east Singapore open
XUE JIANYUE Today Online 22 Mar 15;
SINGAPORE — Two revitalised rivers at east Singapore, Sungei Api Api and Sungei Tampines, were officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean this morning (March 22) as part of World Water Day.

The rivers, enhanced under the PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme, was rejuvenated in a way that preserves their original environment and natural rustic charm.

As part of the programme, the PUB aimed to bring the community closer to the water edge. An environment that “blends seamlessly” with existing lush mangroves and vegetation has been created at a 900-metre section of Sungei Api Api between Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3, said the PUB.

There are also enhanced footpaths, new lookout decks, shelters and seating.

At a 1.1km stretch along Sungei Tampines between Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3, new lookout decks, a community plaza, and footpaths were added to bring residents nearer to the river.

Care was also taken during construction to minimise the impact to existing mangroves at Sungei Api Api, said PUB. For example, construction works for the lookout decks were confined to the embarkment to avoid affecting the surrounding mangroves.

To showcase the role that specially selected plants and soil can play in cleaning rainwater runoff, a rain garden was incorporated at the promenade along Sungei Api Api while two such gardens are also included along Sungei Tampines.

Two eastern rivers get fresh look, cleaner waters
XUE JIANYUE Today Online 23 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — Two revitalised rivers in eastern Singapore, Sungei Api Api and Sungei Tampines, were officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday (March 22) as part of World Water Day.

Given a new lease of life under the PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme, designers had rejuvenated the two rivers in a way that would bring the community closer to the water’s edge, while at the same time preserving the area’s original environment and natural rustic charm.

At Sungei Api Api, a 900m section between Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3 was enhanced with better footpaths, new lookout decks, shelters and seating — all designed to blend “seamlessly” with the existing lush mangroves and vegetation, said PUB, which has been running the ABC Waters programme since 2006.

For Sungei Tampines, a 1.1km stretch of the river between Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3 has been given new lookout decks, a community plaza and footpaths.

Care was also taken during construction to minimise the impact to existing mangroves at Sungei Api Api, said PUB. For example, construction works for the lookout decks were confined to the embankment to avoid affecting the surrounding mangroves.

Features to filter rainwater runoff are another major addition. At a promenade along Sungei Api Api, PUB incorporated a cleansing biotope — which uses highly porous material such as lava stone to remove sediments — and a rain garden, made up of specially selected plants to help filter the runoff.

Twelve ceramic art pieces crafted by Elias Park Primary School students, featuring flora and fauna such as the giant mudskipper and the atlas moth, were also featured along Sungei Api Api.

In a speech at the opening ceremony yesterday, Mr Teo said: “Our residents can enjoy the refreshed waterscaping and landscaping work that was first done in the 1990s.”

He added that he was glad PUB has preserved the original rustic “kampung-style” charm of the mangrove environment while refreshing the rivers and bringing residents and nature-lovers closer to the water’s edge.

Sungei Tampines is visibly cleaner than before, according to residents TODAY spoke to. “It definitely looks nicer now. At least the river is not stinky. A few years back, it used to be quite dirty,” said Tampines resident Melvin Ang. However, the river water deeper inland is brownish and still not clean, said the 45-year-old.

Another resident, IT professional Tang Hai Tao, felt there was some improvement in the past two years.

“The seawater at the river mouth used to be quite dirty. Sometimes there were pieces of rubbish. Sometimes the water colour doesn’t look good,” said the 28-year-old, who occasionally jogs along the Pasir Ris coast.

Today, the water is cleaner but the filters can still be further improved, said Mr Tang.

Other ABC Waters projects opening this year include Siglap Canal near Telok Kurau Primary School and Kembangan Community Centre, a stretch of the Kallang River at Potong Pasir, and another stretch of the same river at Toa Payoh Lorong 8.

New green spots to roam in the east
Feng Zengkun My Paper AsiaOne 23 Mar 15;

Singaporeans can now enjoy a beautiful view of foliage and clear flowing water along two rivers in Pasir Ris and Tampines.

A 900m stretch of Sungei Api Api between the Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3 has been turned into a vibrant green corridor, with more plants along the water's edge and canal walls, as well as wider footpaths, shelters, lookout decks and seats.

At a 1.1km stretch along Sungei Tampines, also between the expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3, new decks and a community plaza will bring people closer to the river.

National water agency PUB opened its two latest Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters projects yesterday, a rejuvenation initiative to turn Singapore's drains, canals and reservoirs into beautiful areas that are integrated with surrounding parks and spaces.

As of last month, 27 projects have been completed under the ABC programme, which started in 2006.

Six more are slated to start this year, including one at the Bukit Batok Canal that began in January.

In the projects which opened yesterday, rain gardens and a cleansing biotope - a collection of plants and materials like soil and rocks - were created along the waterways to show how plants and soil can be used to treat rainwater.

The rain gardens use plants like Leucophyllum Frutescens (Texas ranger) and Loropetalum Chinense Var Rubrum (Chinese fringe-flower), three layers of soil and a pipe system to filter rainwater and channel it to the river.

The cleansing biotope uses highly porous materials like lava stone and hardy plants to remove sediments and some nutrients naturally from the rainwater.

Two mangrove sculptures were also erected at the entrance of Pasir Ris Drive 1 to represent the mangrove trees along Sungei Api Api. PUB minimised the impact of the lookout decks' construction on the mangroves by confining it to the canal's embankment.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was the guest of honour at the opening, said he hoped residents will enjoy the two waterways' transformation and improved facilities. "Let us all also play our part to keep the environment and waterways clean by not littering," said Mr Teo, who is also an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Pasir Ris resident Chiang Lan Eng said Sungei Tampines was pleasant in the past, but the makeover has made it even better. The 73-year-old retiree said: "While doing my daily exercise, I can relax by the river and take in the clean and beautiful view."

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Malaysia: Johor to collect RM50mil annually from raw water levy

NELSON BENJAMIN The Star 23 Mar 15;

JOHOR BARU: Johor hopes to collect RM50mil annually from the levy imposed for sourcing raw water from the sea, rivers, lakes or even underground in the state.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said even power plants using ­sea­water to cool their turbine would be subjected to the new rates.

Hasni said the rate for those using water for commercial purposes was 10 sen for each cubic metre of water used while five sen for agriculture purposes such as for oil palm.

“Even those sourcing water from underground for bottled water are subjected to these new rates,” he said in an interview.

Hasni said the state was losing millions as there were no proper laws governing the use of raw water at present.

He said the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) had issued about 100 permits.

Each location, he added, would be fitted with a meter similar to the ones installed at homes or commercial lots.

“Bakaj officers will check and issue a bill every month for them to pay according to their usage,” Hasni added.

He said these new levy was imposed following the implementation of the new Water Enactment in the state which also governs the use of raw water.

On another issue, Hasni said the state was hoping for RM7.674bil from the Federal Government for infrastructure and rural development under his portfolio in the 11th Malaysia Plan beginning next year.

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Indonesia considers lowering palm oil export tax threshold -industry

Reuters 18 Mar 15;

(Reuters) - Indonesia is considering lowering the threshold it applies to its monthly export tax for crude palm oil (CPO), a major industry group in the world's top producer said on Friday, in an effort to aid some processing industries hurt by low prices.

When international and local crude palm oil prices average below $750 a tonne, Indonesia currently cuts the CPO export tax it sets each month to zero.

Government ministries are now in talks about cutting the threshold to between $500-$600 a tonne, Derom Bangun, chairman at the Indonesian Palm Oil Board (IPOB) said after a meeting with other palm groups to discuss the issue.

"They would like to lower the threshold so the tax can be applied even if the price is lower than $600," said Bangun, adding that he had spoken to government officials about the matter and that no timeline had yet been given.

"The ministry of industry especially would like to have this change so the downstream industry, which is now in a difficult situation, can get back to full operations," added Bangun, whose group is an umbrella organisation of major Indonesian palm oil associations and gives policy recommendations to the government.

Indonesia's trade and industry ministry could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Southeast Asia's biggest economy set its crude palm oil export tax for March at zero, unchanged since October last year. Malaysian palm oil futures have fallen 20 percent over the last year.

The CPO export tax, which was designed to aid processing industries and secure domestic supplies of the tropical oil, rises to a maximum of 22.5 percent depending on how far above $750 average prices climb.

Looking to protect its biofuels industry against lower crude prices and cut costly diesel imports, Indonesia introduced several biodiesel mandates in recent weeks and has mooted the idea of tax breaks for CPO producers.

Major palm oil firms operating in Indonesia include PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology, Malaysia's Sime Darby and Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd .

(Additional reporting by Dennys Kapa; Reporting by Michael Taylor; Editing by William Hardy)

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