Best of our wild blogs: 19 May 15

Babylonia aplenty at Changi
wild shores of singapore

Join NUS Toddycats at Ubin Day 2015 – Pedal Ubin and the ICCS, Palm Civet and Otter booths!

Pelagic Survey on the Singapore Strait – 17 May 2015
Singapore Bird Group

Singapore Bird Report – April 2015
Singapore Bird Group

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All hands on deck for Singapore's green mission

Samantha Boh My Paper AsiaOne 19 May 15;
Also as "Is going green mere lip service?" Samantha Boh The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 May 15;

PEOPLE who visit Singapore for the first time often rave about how clean and green this country is.

That is a fact and Singaporeans are proud of it.

What is not known to the visitors, though, is that the country's clean image is, in large part, the result of having an army of cleaners.

In other words, Singapore is a cleaned city.

In January, Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong wrote on Facebook that Singapore is likely to become a "garbage city", if not for the cleaners who pick up after its people.

As of September, there were 52,000 cleaners working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep Singapore clean.

ESM Goh's strong words came after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a photograph of the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay, which was covered with litter after 13,000 people attended the 2015 Laneway Music Festival.

The photo and Mr Goh's comments sparked yet another debate on littering. Many people wrote to The Straits Times Forum page, lambasting the litterbugs.

One reader, Jolly Wee, said that in addition to a hefty fine, litterbugs should be made to pick up litter in the area where they live. "This would be more shameful, as they would be seen by their neighbours - people who know them," he said.


Despite decades of national campaigns, tougher laws and stepped-up enforcement, littering remains a difficult problem to sweep away.

A total of 19,000 fines were meted out for littering last year, almost double that of the year before. This was despite the doubling of fines for littering in April 2013 to $2,000 for the first conviction, $4,000 for the second conviction and $10,000 for the third and subsequent convictions.

As Liak Teng Lit, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, said in an interview with The Straits Times in February: "My own impression is that the last couple of years were particularly bad. Behaviour began to shift, people no longer worried about being caught for littering.

"It is also the whole society changing. There are a lot of people who take it for granted that people will pick up after you."

Earlier this month, the first national litter-picking event was held with the hope of getting people to pick up after themselves and others, and to deter them from littering.

The islandwide, day-long Operation We Clean Up! saw more than 10,000 volunteers fan out across the country to pick up litter. The mass clean-up spanned 133 locations and resulted in the collection of more than 7,000kg of rubbish.

It was a good idea, but it remains to be seen if people will actually change their habits and behaviour for the better.

Another area that can do with more enthusiastic responses from the ground is domestic recycling.

Singapore wants to have an overall recycling rate of 70 per cent by 2030. For years, it has succeeded in pushing up this rate, from 49 per cent in 2005 to 60 per cent last year.


But when it comes to domestic recycling, the results are dismal.

In 2013, the domestic recycling rate was only about 20 per cent, compared with the 61 per cent overall recycling rate. Last year, the rate for domestic recycling fell to 19 per cent.

The poor showing was in spite of national efforts to make domestic recycling convenient for residents.

In September, the National Environment Agency (NEA) achieved a long-term environmental goal of having one recycling bin placed at the foot of each Housing Board block.

In January last year, the HDB said it would install recycling chutes in all new HDB blocks, with throw points on every floor, after an encouraging pilot programme in Punggol.

The drop in the domestic recycling rate last year was largely attributed to an increase in food waste output. About 788,600 tonnes of food were thrown away last year, with only 13 per cent recycled, even though food now accounts for about 10 per cent of all waste in Singapore.

This is one problem that the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources is trying to tackle, most recently with a pilot programme to be conducted this year. Two hawker centres will each get a recycling machine to convert food waste and leftover food into compost or water.

Another recycling initiative is the seven-month electronic waste recycling pilot organised by the South East Community Development Council, the NEA, Panasonic and e-waste recycler Cimelia. It collected about 10,200kg of recyclables from over 1,800 pieces of e-waste contributed by residents. The programme is now being expanded to five more neighbourhoods in Marine Parade.

The need to recycle more has grown over the years, as Singapore's landfill will run out of space between 2035 and 2045, if the nation continues to dispose of more than three million tonnes of rubbish a year.


While there are many initiatives and programmes to get Singaporeans to go green, they are effective only if people do their part.

To be sure, some people are genuinely clueless about how to be eco-friendly, and that is where education comes in.

But having the right attitude is just as important.

In an NEA study done from 2009 to 2010, two in 10 people did not think they were littering if their serviettes were blown away by the wind. Three out of 10 thought leaving rubbish on a park table after a barbecue was not littering.

Such mindsets have to change.

To be fair, there are areas in which Singapore has done well.

It reduced its carbon intensity - or the amount of carbon dioxide emission per dollar of gross domestic product - by 30 per cent between 2000 and 2010. This was way ahead of the average decrease of only 0.12 per cent globally.

Singapore also implemented the Energy Conservation Act, which took effect in April 2013, that requires large energy users such as waste-management firms to appoint an energy manager, monitor and report energy use, and submit energy-efficiency improvement plans.

More and more buildings are also meeting the Building and Construction Authority's various Green Mark standards, part of a scheme that rates buildings on their environmental impact and performance.

It was launched in 2005 and as of September, there were close to 2,200 buildings which met Green Mark standards.

Over the years, the Government has run many programmes and campaigns to educate and encourage Singaporeans to be environmentally friendly.

But until its people consciously do their part through good habits for the sustainability of Planet Earth, all the talk of being green is merely lip service.

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Government calls tender for hawker centre food waste management pilot

The winning bidder will be tasked with leasing and maintaining food waste recycling machines, and training cleaners and stallholders at two hawker centres - as Singapore moves towards becoming a "zero-waste nation".
Channel NewsAsia 18 May 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday (May 18) called a tender for an on-site food waste management pilot to be run at Ang Mo Kio Block 628 Market and Tiong Bahru Market. The tender closes at 4pm on Jun 4.

NEA said in a press release that the two-year pilot aims to test the economic viability and operational feasibility of food waste segregation and recycling in hawker centres, as Singapore moves towards becoming a “zero-waste nation”.

The winning bidder will be required to provide the leasing and maintenance of two recycling machines, which will convert segregated food waste and leftover food from hawker stalls to either compost or water. The machines are expected to reduce the volume of food waste by at least 90 per cent per day, NEA said.

The company will also need to provide training and infrastructure for cleaners and stallholders to properly segregate the food waste, as well as submit project reports that will help authorities assess the success of the pilot.

The agency revealed that the two markets were selected for the pilot based on the number and mix of stall types, as well as the space available for food recycling facilities. Each of them is estimated to generate more than one tonne of food waste per day.

This hawker centre pilot - which is expected to launch in Q4 - is one out of two food waste management experiments planned by NEA for the year. The other aims to examine the economic viability of district-level food waste collection and off-site treatment at a centralised recycling facility, and will be conducted in Clementi.

- CNA/hs

Two hawker centres to get new food waste recycling machines
SIAU MING EN Today Online 19 May 15;

SINGAPORE — Food waste recycling machines will be placed at two of Singapore’s larger hawker centres in a two-year pilot, as part of the authorities’ overall efforts to curb the growing volume of food waste in Singapore.

These machines are expected to reduce the volume of food waste at the hawker centre by at least 90 per cent each day.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) called for a tender yesterday for vendors to supply the machines at Tiong Bahru Market and Ang Mo Kio Block 628 Market.

Contractors will have to lease and maintain two food waste recycling machines that can convert one-tonne worth of food waste from the hawker stalls to either water or compost. They are also expected to provide training and infrastructure for cleaners and stall holders to properly segregate food waste, said the NEA.

“The pilot aims to test the economic viability and operational feasibility of food waste segregation and recycling in hawker centres, as part of the Government’s efforts to move towards being a zero-waste nation,” a spokesperson said.

The tender will close on June 4, and the pilot is expected to be launched between October and December.

The two hawker centres were chosen based on the number and mix of stall types they had, as well as the space to house the machines. The centres at Tiong Bahru and Ang Mo Kio have 342 and 219 stalls respectively. TODAY understands that a good mix of stalls from these centres would provide more representative pilot results.

The pilot was first announced by Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu in March.

Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of the total waste generated in Singapore, but less than 15 per cent of it is recycled. Last year, 788,600 tonnes of food waste were generated, of which only 13 per cent was recycled. The rest of the food waste was disposed of at incineration plants, then landfilled.

Over the past 10 years, food waste has increased by about 48 per cent and is expected to rise further with a larger population and greater wealth.

Commenting on the pilot yesterday, Ang Mo Kio Block 628 Market’s hawker association chairman Lim Joo Song, 65, said while the pilot is a good idea, some hawkers were concerned with the extra work involved in segregating the food waste.

Mr Lim, who has been selling fresh seafood at the centre for 25 years, is also worried about machine breakdowns if the food waste isn’t properly segregated.

With a food recycling machine within the centre, Tiong Bahru Market’s hawker association’s general affairs representative Tan Soon Cheah, 54, felt it would make the recycling process cleaner as food waste would not be left in the open for long periods.

He suggested monetary incentives to encourage stallholders to change their mindsets and make a conscious effort to separate their food waste.

According to the tender documents, contractors will have to provide a project report every three months detailing the amount of food waste processed and incident and training reports, among other things.

At least once a day, contractors have to man the basic operations of the machine together with the cleaners, weigh and record the amount of food waste input, and the contaminants removed, among other tasks.

Contractors also need to have at least one year of “successful experience” in processing food waste in Singapore or elsewhere, and have sufficient trained personnel to provide service support.

Eco-Wiz, a local supplier of food waste digestors, has expressed interest in submitting a bid for the tender. “It’s very good for us to participate and try to encourage more food waste (to) be recycled rather than to go to the incinerator,” said chief executive officer Renee Mison, who believes Singapore will move in the direction of food waste recycling eventually.

A food waste digester with one-tonne capacity can cost about S$100,000 and take up about 15 sq m of floor space, said Ms Mison.

Supplying food waste digestors to hawker centres instead of hotels could mean a longer training period in the segregation of food waste, she added. “You are dealing with hundreds of different stall owners, so you have to educate them one by one.”

Cutting down food waste with machines
The National Environment Agency called a tender for a food waste management pilot to be run at two hawker centres. One company, Eco-Wiz, says it will be bidding for the tender.
Nur Afifah Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 21 May 15;

SINGAPORE: Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of total waste generated in Singapore. According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), 788,600 tonnes of food waste was generated in 2014, and only 13 per cent – or 101,400 tonnes of that amount was recycled.

The rest of it was disposed of at incineration plants and then landfilled.

NEA this week called a tender for a food waste management pilot to be run at two hawker centres.

One food waste management company, Eco-Wiz, said it will be bidding for NEA's tender. It will have to provide on-site recycling machines as well as relevant training for cleaners and stall-holders. It has helped more than 30 food establishments in Singapore recycle their food waste.

Swissotel Merchant Court’s General Manager Rainer Tenius said: "We are recycling approximately 1 tonne of food waste every day which, considering our total waste in our hotel, is approximately a 45 per cent reduction of our waste."

The hotel uses a waste disposal system to do the job. After food waste is segregated, it is dumped in another machine. Inside, microbes will decompose the food waste, which is done at a rate much faster than under natural conditions.

The sludge produced is then run though a grease separator and filtered. The process produces water that can be reused for various purposes, such as landscaping.

While the process looks simple, Eco-Wiz said the biggest challenge will be to train users about the importance of segregating food waste.

Eco-Wiz CEO Renee Mison said many cleaners feel “stressed out” about food segregation.

"We have a training programme and we simply train them on how to segregate the food waste with two different bins and we are going to tell them that it is important to segregate it from the source,” she said.

Marina Bay Sands uses a similar waste management system. It has five of such machines and recycles about 1.3 tonnes of food waste a day. The integrated resort is already looking at ways of improving its processes.

Executive Director of Sustainability at Marina Bay Sands Kevin Teng said: "We are looking at real tech-savvy ways to understand where our waste comes from. We are constantly looking at new and better technologies - whether it's a better enzyme mix or a new anaerobic process, whatever it is, I think we'd want to be at the forefront of that."

NEA's pilot food waste management programme is expected to be launched by the end of this year.

- CNA/dl

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Meet the last two people who still live on sleepy St John's island

Azim Azman The New Paper AsiaOne 19 May 15;

Peace and quiet.

That's the reason two men have made St John's Island their home away from home.

Mr Supar Saman, 67, says: "On the mainland, I can't sleep because there's so much noise.

"You can hear motorcycles and cars, even at night."

He and Mr Mohamed Sulih Supian, 69, are the last people still living on the sleepy island, a 30-minute ferry ride away from Singapore.

To get there, take the ferry from Marina South Pier. Return tickets cost $18 and the trip takes you first to St John's Island, then to Kusu Island.

A spokesman for Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) says St John's Island gets about 2,500 visitors a month.

The 39ha island has served different purposes in the past.

It was a quarantine station for migrants in the early 20th century. Later, it housed a rehabilitation centre for opium addicts.

Today, St John's Island is a haven for flora and fauna, with holiday camps for those who want to be closer to nature.

Mr Supar is the island's caretaker and he has been living there since his family moved here from Johor in 1955.

He was offered a caretaker role when SDC took over the running of the island in 1972.

The serious-looking Mr Supar works five and a half days a week but stays on the island even during his time off.

His official duties include monitoring the boats that arrive at the island's jetty, doing minor repairs to the holiday bungalows on the island and ensuring that visitors to the island know what time the last ferry leaves.

Unofficially, he also makes tea for the cleaners who work on the island.

"I just want to do it," he says.

He has a three-room flat in Chai Chee, where his wife, 69, lives with their 32-year-old daughter, her husband and young child.

But Mr Supar prefers his blue hut on St John's Island, about 50 metres from the coast. His wife visits him once a week.

He says: "I'm just more comfortable here. When I'm bored, I can go fishing."

Mr Supar adds, as his weathered face breaks into a smile: "There (on the mainland), I just sit between four walls."

Fellow islander Mr Sulih, who was born and grew up on St John's Island, also likes the idyllic life there.


Even though it's just the two of them on the island, they seem to prefer keeping to themselves, not out of hostility, but perhaps a sense of privacy.
When asked to if they could take a photo together, Mr Sulih demurs. "He needs to work," he says, pointing to where Mr Supar was talking to some visitors.

Mr Sulih too, was one of the island's caretakers, but retired in 2010.

Being able to go fishing anytime is one reason he still lives on the island.

He goes out to sea to check his fish traps every weekend when his eldest son visits. His other two adult children also visit with their families from time to time.

He says the haul has dropped in recent years, but he is still able to get about 20kg of fish whenever he checks his traps.

Now he spends his time mending and making more fish traps, and feeding the island's many cats.

Mr Sulih says he can live on the island because his wife, Madam Fauziyah Wakiman, 63, works for SDC as an island attendant at nearby Kusu island.
The couple have a flat in Pasir Ris.

While he hopes to continue living on the island, Mr Sulih is aware that it is not entirely up to him.

He says: "If it's possible, of course I want to live on the island."

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Malaysia: Illegal logging enforcement teams uncover timber “mass graves”

M. HAMZAH JAMALUDIN New Straits Times 18 May 15;

GERIK: An all-out war against illegal logging in Hulu Perak in the past few months has uncovered various tactics used by loggers, including the latest one where those involved have buried the precious timber to avoid detection.

During a recent joint operation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Forestry Department at Temenggor forest reserve here, the team discovered three spots where the stolen logs were stacked inside and covered under tonnes of earth.

It was obvious that the culprits had been in a hurry as the red earth was still unsettled while parts of the logs could be seen exposed on the slopes.

In their desperate move to hide the evidence, the loggers had also dumped tree branches and other debris down the slope, causing nearby streams to become clogged.

The MACC has started targetting illegal logging in the interior of the 148, 870-hectare productive forest reserve, after the anti-graft agency first detected false tagging and declaration documents found on illegal timber taken out from the area in February.

It was not an easy task as the MACC had to station its staff at the main "matau" (timber collection centre) near the bank of Temenggor lake, about 45-minute boat ride from the Pulau Banding jetty.

This New Straits Times journalist joined the latest operation and spent a night in a `kongsi` (wooden long house for timber workers) before the MACC and Forestry Department convoy located the first spot where the logs were buried.

The convoy of several pick-up trucks had to make almost an hour trip into the jungle before it finally located the first site on a hilly terrain.

The team suspected something amiss when they realised that the red earth covered a plain the size of a football pitch. But there were no clear signs that logs could be found in the area until the team members started to dig the earth using spades.

To their surprise, they found the first log buried about a metre underneath, after digging for about 20 minutes.

Since it was impossible to dig out all the logs, checks made on the slope had enabled them to estimate the stacked logs to be as high as a two-storey building.

After the first success, the team moved to another location, which also took them about an hour to reach. Their earlier experience had made it easier for them to locate the logs at the second site, although they were buried in a deeper pit.

It seemed like the team had struck a jack pot when they also located the third site, not far from the second one. Menteri Besar's Office integrity head Anuar Mohd Noh said it was the first time that the enforcement agency had discovered such a modus operandi used by loggers.

"The culprits may have panicked and took such a drastic action to conceal their illegal activities. Most likely, they are waiting for the operation to end before they will extricate the logs and send then to the main "matau"," said Anuar who is MACC Assistant Commissioner.

He said initial checks made on the buried logs showed that they comprised of high grade timber, such as "merbau" and "meranti bukit", and those from the lower grade group.

"We believe that about 400 tonnes of logs worth more than RM1 million were buried at the three locations and the culprits are waiting for the right time to dig them out and sell them," he said.

It is learnt that MACC and the Forestry Department will find ways to bring the logs out of the pits, to enable the forensics team to confirm the timber species and how long they had been buried.

The logs will be seized before they are sold through open bidding. Initial investigations have also revealed that the latest discovery could have been related to earlier success, when the team found 84 trees that were fell outside the permitted 30ha compartment.

The finding had prompted the Forestry Department to initiate a major transfer with 20 of Hulu Perak staff were relocated.

Anuar said MACC would also investigate whether there was an element of corruption involved since the productive forest reserve, where controlled logging activities are allowed, should be monitored closely by the Forestry staff.

"We will leave no stone unturned, that is for sure. Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir himself is very concern about illegal logging as it will affect the environment apart from reducing the state's earnings," he said.

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Indonesia: Flawed Deforest Moratorium More of the Same, Activists Say

Erwida Maulia Jakarta Globe 18 May 15;

Tags: Deforestation, deforestation moratorium, Environment Ministry, Greenpeace Indonesia, Indonesia environment, walhi

Razed land in the Tesso Nilo National Park, an ostensibly protected forest area in Sumatra’s Riau province. (Antara Photo/F.B. Anggoro)

Jakarta. Activists have criticized a presidential decree issued last week that extends Indonesia’s moratorium on new logging and plantation permits, saying it once again fails to offer strong law enforcement measures to ensure implementation and protect the country’s waning forests.

President Joko Widodo last week signed the new decree extending the deforestation moratorium, which was first introduced by his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in May 2011.

The original moratorium expired in May 2013, but Yudhoyono extended it for another two years, before Joko signed another two-year extension last Wednesday.

Environmental activists, albeit welcoming the extension, lament the president’s failure to fortify the regulation.

“The government’s move of extending the forest moratorium deserves appreciation,” Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Yuyun Indrayadi wrote on a blog post published on the NGO’s website.

“It is very regrettable, however, that the only thing changing from the previous moratorium is only [the decree’s] number and the period of validity. We’ve found no clauses whatsoever on stronger [law enforcement] and protection in the forest moratorium that will be in place through 2017.”

As many as 63.8 million hectares of Indonesian forests are included in the moratorium, meaning that logging should be strictly prohibited in the areas.

Yuyun, though, said the moratorium only covered old-growth forests and peatlands that remain free of concessions and are listed as state-owned forests by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

Some of the forests that fall under the jurisdiction of local administrations are not included in the policy, and so are secondary forests and some primary forests that somehow have been given concessions that Yuyun thinks should also be rescued with the moratorium.

In total, 93.6 million hectares of forests should be protected under the moratorium, Yuyun said.

Law enforcement issues aside, Greenpeace estimates that as much as 48.5 million hectares of forests are facing deforestation threats because of the Indonesian government’s failure to identify all forests which need to be safeguarded.

Activists had campaigned for stronger deforestation moratorium months before the previous one expired last week, noting weak law enforcement and poor evaluation of implementation by the Yudhoyono administration.

In 2012, a year after the ban was first imposed, Indonesia surpassed Brazil’s rate of deforestation, becoming the fastest forest-clearing nation in the world, according to a study published last year in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya had talked with NGOs as they voiced their recommendations for stronger enforcement.

Arief Yuwono, the deputy minister for environment degradation control and climate change, also earlier said that several issues needed to be addressed before the new moratorium draft could be finalized — including law enforcement, synchronization with other related, existing regulations and the one-map reference issue.

Overlapping maps of concessions, community forests and protected forests have been identified as among the causes of problems in implementation of the deforestation ban by the previous administration.

It looks as though the government’s plan is to just extend the ban first, and perhaps revise the substance later.

“We’ve gathered recommendations from ministry officials and NGOs. But we need more detailed discussions [in order to strengthen the moratorium],” Siti said in Jakarta on Monday, according to newspaper Indopos.

Another Greenpeace activist, Teguh Surya, questioned Siti’s promise for more deliberations.

“The statement from the Environment and Forestry Ministry [...] offers hope for a stronger moratorium,” Teguh said.

“But the timetable remains unclear, when exactly can the moratorium be strengthened, while forested areas not included in the moratorium will remain prone to destruction. Strengthening the moratorium urgently needs to be done.”

Zenzi Suhadi, a forest campaigner at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), took note of revisions, which are allowed every six months, for areas covered by the moratorium under the new decree, but expressed concern that these would be vulnerable to abuses.

“The evaluations available every six months should not be used to revise the maps but to enforce the law, against evil scenarios and practices by corporations and some government officials conspiring to legitimize their deeds through concessions,” Zenzi said.

He scrutinized the ban’s exclusion of forest clearance in areas under the “principal concessions,” with which plantation companies can operate as long as they participate in safeguarding protected forests near their areas, as well as the exclusion of deforestation to grow rice and sugar cane.

“Land grabbing by corporates these days is being conducted on behalf of food and energy resilience [...] Large-scale sugar cane plantations and rice fields will become the new cause of deforestation in Papua, Maluku and South Sumatra,” Zenzi said.

On the other hand, he added, the moratorium fails to exclude small-scale uses of people’s forests by local people.

“One of the worst points of the presidential decree is its tendency to hamper the implementation of the president’s own commitment to allocating 12.7 million hectares for people’s forests,” he said.

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