Best of our wild blogs: 21 Apr 15

Sunrise survey of Chek Jawa
wild shores of singapore

“Marine Life and the Threat of Marine Trash” – motivating students at the American Centre for Education (ACE)
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Fungus Life
Saving MacRitchie

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Hooked: More illegal fishermen

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Apr 15;

MORE people have gone fishing in forbidden waters, going by the jump in violations in recent years.

Fishing violations have doubled in the last two years, national water agency PUB told The Straits Times. A yearly average of 500 summonses were issued last year and in 2013, double the 250 yearly average in 2011 and 2012, said PUB.

Fishing at reservoirs here is allowed at only 10 locations, including Marina, Lower Peirce, Upper Seletar and Kranji. Anglers are not allowed to fish outside designated areas in these reservoirs.

The PUB figures also include cases where anglers break the rule allowing only the use of artificial bait, meaning no worms for example, to prevent water pollution.

PUB attributed the rise in illegal fishing cases to stepped-up enforcement. At Marina Reservoir, one of the illegal fishing hot spots, patrols have grown more frequent since two years ago.

PUB said another reason was the growing popularity of fishing.

Indeed, Mr Luke Gino Cunico, owner of the Fishing Kaki online forum, noted that the forum now has about 400,000 registered members - three times more than three years ago. It has 2.6 million page views monthly.

In turn, anglers said they fish in forbidden waters as it is harder to reel in a fish at the legal spots.

An angler, who wanted to be known just as Zul, said it takes him about 11/2 hours to catch a fish in legal waters, compared with half an hour elsewhere. Some nights, he goes home empty-handed after staking out the legally sanctioned fishing spots.

The 33-year-old hotel service worker said: "It is harder to catch a fish at the legal areas as the fishing pressure is higher and there are fewer fish there."

Angler Isaiah Manivannan, 32, said the thrill of netting "trophy fish", such as snakehead and peacock bass, draws anglers to illegal spots.

"Places such as the waterfront area near Marina Bay Sands and Marina Barrage are popular places to catch them (peacock bass) as they like to dwell in areas with structures and deep waters," he added.

Some called for a licensing scheme or for more fishing areas.

Mr Cunico, for instance, suggested a recreational fishing licence such as that in Australia, where anglers pay a yearly fee and limits are set on the number of fish they can catch.

Founder and chairman of Waterways Watch Society Eugene Heng said a licensing scheme can help ensure accountability. "You can't prevent anglers from fishing at illegal areas, but if you provide some training on responsible fishing practices and issue them with licence cards, they won't be able to say that they don't know that this is illegal," he said.

In response, PUB said it is studying the feasibility of a licensing scheme. It said that it is aware of the growing interest in fishing and intends to "open up more areas where possible" but this has to be reviewed, taking in considerations such as safety.

PUB director of catchment and waterways Ridzuan Ismail said while it has opened up reservoirs for activities like water sports and fishing, they serve "first and foremost" as storage for raw water.

Those caught violating fishing rules will be fined $50 for the first offence and $200 for the second offence. Offenders will be prosecuted for subsequent offences and may be fined up to $3,000.

Calling for good fishing habits, Mr Ridzuan said: "If we are able to push for responsible fishing, then we need not rely so much on enforcement."

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How Singapore's port helped change the country's economy

Dewi Fabbri Channel NewsAsia 21 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE: The port of Singapore has played a significant role in the development of Singapore, helping the Republic become a first world economy in one generation. The maritime industry currently contributes about 7 per cent to Singapore's GDP, or 10 per cent of the services sector - which makes up three-quarters of the Singapore economy.

PSA now manages the container terminals in Singapore.

At PSA's control centres, ships are told where to dock, and crane operators move containers around remotely from ships to trucks to storage warehouses. The whole operation comes together seamlessly using sophisticated technology.

Mr Ng Pi Rui, a control centre deputy manager with PSA Singapore Terminals, said: "We handle an average of 91,000 containers every day - handling about 60 ships on average every day."

Five thousand - or about 6 per cent of those containers - end their journey in Singapore, while the rest are shipped on to destinations around the world.

Singapore's lack of natural resources means that almost everything needs to be imported using such containers. They contain things like food, cosmetics and building materials - anything Singapore's six million inhabitants need on a day-to-day basis. There are also refrigerated units, which can carry flowers and pharmaceuticals as well.

In 2014, PSA handled 33.5 million containers - lined end-to-end, that is enough to encircle the globe four times.

Associate Professor Peter Borschberg, who is with the Department of History at the National University of Singapore, explained the significance of Singapore's ports: "Singapore was always conceived and designed as a free port, and it remained so through the 19th and much of the 20th centuries as well.

"There are, of course, certain developments that are very important to mention in this context. The opening of the new harbour, later renamed Keppel Harbour, the opening of trade with Siam in the middle of the 1850s, the arrival of the first steamships in Singapore from the mid-1840s onward, the abolition of the British East India Company, and the founding of the Straits Settlements in 1867, and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

"With these developments, Singapore was emerging as an important calling station between India and West Asia in general and the Far East."

Singapore's geographical location at a crossroads of the East and West also contributed to its success as a trading port.

Assoc Prof Borschberg added: “If you come from West Asia or the Bay of Bengal and you want to go to the Far East, and you're doing this either in the age of sail or in the age of steam, there are really just two entry points. There is only the Straits of Malacca or the Sunda Strait.”

Then, ships came from all over the world with goods packed deep in their hulls. On arrival, they were unpacked and transferred manually - loaded onto tongkangs and rowed down the Singapore River to where they would be stowed in warehouses.


An important milestone in Singapore's maritime history was the birth of containerisation. On the Jun 23, 1972, the newly-built Tanjong Pagar container port welcomed its very first container ship. It was also Southeast Asia's first container port then.

Two hundred and twenty-five personnel were specially trained for this momentous occasion - some to operate the giant cranes, and others to become all-purpose workers at the new container port.

And there has been no turning back since then as the port has grown from strength to strength. In 2000, there were a total of 15 shipping groups in Singapore. By 2014, that number grew to 130.

Mr Ng added: "Through larger cranes, deeper berths and longer quay lengths, Singapore is one of the few ports in the world that is able to handle mega ships."


But the industry has not been without its challenges. The opening of Johor's Tanjung Pelepas port in 1999 saw Maersk shipping move all its operations across the Causeway, and business dropped by 10 per cent for the Port of Singapore.

Ms Tan Beng Tee, assistant chief executive of development with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, said: "Because shipping is a global industry, it is evolving all the time, so there are a lot of geopolitical and economic uncertainties that the industry has to look at.

"There is a greater demand on the yard space - how do we ensure that these are turned around quicker, maintaining our competitiveness. So these will be one of the challenges we see with the alliances coming in. The other challenge we see will be greater competition, because we have got every port building their infrastructure, there will be competition and what should our response be to the competition."

To cater to future demand for cargo trade, the expansion of Pasir Panjang Port has been accelerated. It is in phase three and four of an expansion and will be fully operational by the end of 2017. The new terminals will be expected to handle 15 million containers, bringing Singapore's total handling capacity to 50 million containers a year.

Looking ahead, all PSA-operated terminals will move to a megaport in Tuas by the end of the next decade.

"The needs of the industry evolve. It is continuously evolving, and when it evolves, you have certain trends that come about, and certain additional requirements," added Ms Tan. "So we have actually announced that in the long-run, we will consolidate the port at Tuas, and Tuas port, when fully operational, should be able to let us handle up to 65 million tonnes of container throughput."

- CNA/ac

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Grand Copthorne launches food waste recycling project

Prisca Ang, The Business Times AsiaOne 20 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE - The Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, one of Millennium & Copthorne's (M&C) five properties in Singapore, has partnered the National Environment Agency (NEA) to launch a food waste recycling pilot project.

Under NEA's 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) funding scheme, the hotel has purchased the latest model of the Eco-Wiz Wet System food for S$108,870.

Installed and tested on-site in November last year, the food waste digester can handle up to one tonne, or 1,000 kg, of food waste per day.

By using enzymes to accelerate the decomposition process, the machine converts waste into compost and nutrient-rich liquid for discharge into the sewage system.

Grand Copthorne's management aims to recycle at least 35 tonnes of food waste per month. It will use the 14,000 litres of water produced by Eco-Wiz monthly to water plants and wash common areas on its hotel grounds.

The machine saves the hotel nearly S$3,000 a month on disposal charges and water usage.

Grand Copthorne received the BCA Green Mark Gold Award in 2011. Certified a Water Efficient Building by the Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB), it is also the first hotel in Singapore to achieve the Gold status for water efficiency.

The project is part of Singapore-owned M&C's commitment to reduce, re-use and recycle materials across its 120 hotels worldwide.

M&C is the London-listed subsidiary of City Developments Limited (CDL). Both M&C and CDL are members of the Hong Leong Group of companies.

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Denmark, Singapore share interest in green growth

XUE JIANYUE Today Online 20 Apr 15;

SINGAPORE — Having policies and infrastructure that support cycling as a primary mode of transport are some of the lessons that Singapore can learn from Denmark, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew today (April 20).

Speaking at a reception to celebrate 50 years of Singapore-Denmark relations, Mr Lui said that while he was on a visit to the Scandinavian country last year, he was fascinated by how cycling is a primary mode of transport there, instead of just a complement to the main modes. Half of the commuters in Copenhagen move around on bicycles.

“Even in the deepest parts of winter, you see Danish people cycling tens of kilometres to their destination,” said Mr Lui at the Danish Ambassador’s residence, where the reception was held.

He added: “I am not suggesting that Singaporeans do that, but in terms of providing the infrastructure, in terms of the policies, in terms of making it a more friendly mode of commute in Singapore, that is something we are going to pick up further from Denmark.”

At the launch of the latest Sustainable Singapore Blueprint last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that if the Danes can cycle in the winter, so can Singaporeans in the tropics.

Besides cycling policies, Mr Lui said both Denmark and Singapore want to provide timely and accurate information of public transportation from Denmark. For example, both countries are trying to release more data on bus arrival times and crowd levels in buses to help commuters decide whether to wait for the next bus or walk to their destination, he said.

Last week, the Land Transport Authority updated its MyTransport.SG mobile application to show more accurate bus arrival information and indicate whether there are seats on a bus through colour-coding.

The reception yesterday also celebrated the birthday of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II. Speaking at the reception, Mr Henrik Sass Larsen, Denmark’s Minister for Business and Growth, said the Danish Embassy was “working intensely” to promote new initiatives from Denmark for “Smart Cities” solutions in Singapore.

One of these initiatives are electricity-saving smart grids. Launched in 2013 by the Danish government, the smart grid combines electricity meters read on an hourly basis with variable tariffs and a data hub, enabling consumers to use the power when it is least expensive. “We are trying all the time to get better solutions by using electricity better, how to save electricity,” Mr Larsen said.

Stressing that Denmark is working with Singapore as equal partners, Mr Larsen said both countries have had a strong bond since 1965 and are cooperating in many new areas today. This includes the Danish food industry, which is becoming firmly established in Singapore, as well as architecture and urban development, he said.

Last year, the Danish and Singapore Environment Ministries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on water and environmental innovation. “We hope to expand this corporation in creating liveable and sustainable cities,” said Mr Larsen.

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Cycle paths for Punggol, Jurong Lake, East Coast

Danson Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Apr 15;

PUNGGOL, Jurong Lake and East Coast will be the next three housing estates to receive bicycle networks of their own under the 2013 Land Transport Masterplan.

These off-road cycling paths will be built by 2017, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) told The Straits Times in response to queries. Cycling path networks will also be completed in Yishun, Changi-Simei and Taman Jurong this year, the LTA said.

Earlier in February, the LTA completed a 13.3km network of paths in Pasir Ris - the third cycling town here so far after Tampines and Sembawang.

The LTA chose the towns based on "strong community interest and support for cycling", and the availability of land.

Cycling paths will be built in every housing estate by 2030, as part of the Government's plan to encourage bicycle use for "first and last mile" journeys.

Part of its efforts include rolling out bicycle-sharing trials for the Jurong Lake District and Marina Bay city centre by the year's end.

Last month, the Government announced that it would hold a consultation exercise for rules on motorised bicycles and other personal mobility devices, which have grown in popularity.

In February, the LTA called a tender for consultants to design cycling networks for a further six HDB towns - Ang Mo Kio, Choa Chu Kang, Toa Payoh, Bukit Panjang, Woodlands and Bishan.

But how these networks will eventually turn out will depend on factors such as connections between residential areas and train or bus stations, and existing site conditions, said the LTA.

"Where we can, we will try to separate cycling paths from footpaths to allow pedestrians and cyclists to have their own space," the authority said.

The Straits Times understands that the design solutions being studied by the LTA include a model designed by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Called the "level-of-service acceptability matrix", or Losam, the NTU model makes recommendations on whether cycling paths should be widened or segregated.

It matches pedestrian and cyclist traffic flow with a rating of how "serviceable" the path would be, said Associate Professor Wong Yiik Diew, director of NTU's Centre for Infrastructure Systems, who co-developed the model.

"This model will allow the authority to judge, for instance, that at areas near the train station with high traffic, you would need segregated paths," he said.

"Slightly further away, you might need to only widen existing footpaths. And if you go even further, perhaps you can just leave the existing paths alone."

Cyclists in towns with the upcoming networks are looking forward to the new paths.Contractor Muhammad Ghouse, 60, thinks they will make hiscommute to Bedok MRT station safer.

"Sometimes, there are many pedestrians on the pavements... If there are bike paths, it would be good for old-timers like me," he said.

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Malaysia: DAP man protests against Penang reclamation

LO TERN CHERN The Star 21 Apr 15;

GEORGE TOWN: A giant banner has appeared at Middle Bank protesting against possible reclamation under the Penang Structure Plan 2007.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu put up the 10m x 3m banner yesterday with the words “Save Penang. No To Reclamation Project 2015” at the site, which is also known as Pulau Gazumbo, located between the Penang Bridge and the Sungai Pinang river mouth.

“The site is an important breeding and foraging ground for marine organisms and should be gazetted as a protected area,” said the DAP assemblyman.

“The Penang Structure Plan is renewed every five years and I hope that under the 2012 plan, which is still under review, the state will seriously consider protecting the marine ecosystem,” he told reporters after visiting the site with Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey.

Teh, an environmentalist, added that he had highlighted the matter in the state assembly in 2012 but there was no response from the state.

“I hope the leaders and the state government will be transparent on the issue because this concerns the state’s marine ecology. Seagrass is not only a marine habitat but also a food source for sea horses,” he said.

Teh said there were only four seagrass beds along the Straits of Malacca, from Johor to Phuket.

“The seagrass patch in Middle Bank is the second largest in peninsular Malaysia after Merambong in Gelang Patah, Johor.”

It was reported that the Penang Development Corporation had called for a Request for Proposal to reclaim the area.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had said the reclamation project would only proceed if the environmental impact assessment permitted it.

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu School of Marine Science and Environment dean Prof Dr Zulfigar Yasin said Middle Bank dissipated the impact of the 2004 tsunami.

On the proposed 3km Penang Sky Cab project linking the mainland to the island, Teh said it would be wiser to build a double-storey tunnel that allowed pedestrians to travel across on one level and another for a Mass Rapid Transit like in many advanced countries.

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Malaysia: Boost for Sarawak conservation

YU JI The Star 21 Apr 15;

KUCHING: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is helping the Sarawak government expand totally protected areas from the present 830,000ha to a target of one million hectares.

WWF’s new programme leader Dr Jason Hon said the present totally protected area (TPA) was only around 600,000ha – far from the intended size. About 229,000ha of TPA currently covers water bodies.

“The one-million-hectare target has been around for some time. There is of course a revised target of 1.5 million hectares, but for now we’re still focusing on one million,” Hon said.

He was referring to the state government’s announcement last month on adding 500,000ha to the target.

The original one-million-hectare target was first talked about in the 1990s.

That target has not been achieved because of inter-related challenges, starting with land acquisition, said Hon, who was previously WWF’s Sarawak policy manager.

“The state government acknowledges there are people and claims over many areas,” he said.

“Negotiations take time. Otherwise, you’ll have national parks with a lot of disputes (by indigenous tribes) laying claim to the areas.”

Hon said WWF was drafting new TPA proposals, which would include national parks and expanding existing ones.

He revealed one of the proposed TPAs would be Paya Maga, at Ulu Trusan, bordering Sabah.

Other proposals are near hydroelectric plants. WWF aims for the first draft map to be ready in two months and act as a guiding document for the state government.

“Conservation requires special planning. It’s not just plucking areas out for conservation. We have to defend why a certain area is selected; whether it can be preserved as a corridor for connectivity, as an expansion of a current habitat, or because it preserves a unique ecosystem. It’s a systematic process,” said Hon.

Since last year, state government officials have been saying that as many as 20 new national parks and wildlife sanctuaries could be created, including extending current ones, like the Kubah National Park.

Today, the state has 30 national parks, six wildlife sanctuaries and eight nature reserves, according to the Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

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U.S., China top dumping of electronic waste; little recycled

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 20 Apr 15;

(Reuters) - The United States and China contributed most to record mountains of electronic waste such as cellphones, hair dryers and fridges in 2014 and less than a sixth ended up recycled worldwide, a U.N. study said on Sunday.

Overall, 41.8 million tonnes of "e-waste" -- defined as any device with an electric cord or battery -- were dumped around the globe in 2014 and only an estimated 6.5 million tonnes were taken for recycling, the United Nations University (UNU) said.

"Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable 'urban mine', a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials," said David Malone, the U.N. under-secretary-general and rector of UNU.

The report estimated that the discarded materials, including gold, silver, iron and copper, was worth some $52 billion.

The United States led e-waste dumping with 7.1 million tonnes in 2014, ahead of China on 6.0 million and followed by Japan, Germany and India, it said.

The United States, where individual states run e-waste laws, reported collection of 1 million tonnes for 2012 while China said it collected 1.3 million tonnes of equipment such as TVs, refrigerators and laptops in 2013.

Norway led per capita waste generation, with 28 kg (62 lbs) dumped per inhabitant, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Britain. On that ranking, the United States was ninth and China was not among a list of the top 40.

Researchers said that in many case it made economic sense to recover metals that included 16.5 million tonnes of iron, 1.9 million tonnes of copper as well as 300 tonnes of gold.

The gold alone was valued at $11.2 billion, with the precious metal used in devices because it is a good, non-corrosive conductor of electricity.

"At the same time, the hazardous content of e-waste constitute a 'toxic mine' that must be managed with extreme care," said Malone, referring to components such as lead and mercury which are found on some discarded devices.

Global volumes of e-waste were likely to rise by more than 20 percent to 50 million tonnes in 2018, driven by rising sales and shorter lifetimes of electronic equipment, the report said.

Ruediger Kuehr, one of the authors of the report, said many people were aware of the global problem of waste but often left aging toys or cellphones in drawers or cellars at home. "People don't see it as an issue in their own households," he said.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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