Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jun 15

Big stars on big Beting Bemban Besar
wild shores of singapore

Life at the edge at Terumbu Raya
wonderful creation

The marine trash on Tanah Merah beach is appaling!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

“Marine Life and the Threat of Marine Trash” – ICCS talks for your organisation in Jun-Jul 2015!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Singapore's green efforts get mixed report card

Feng Zengkun and Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE received a mixed report card for its environmental efforts yesterday, even as global citizens marked the United Nations' World Environment Day.

While the Republic has made strides in protecting marine plants and animals, and in getting people to use less water and electricity, it still has some way to go in recycling and in getting people to throw away fewer gadgets and household appliances.

That was the view of experts at the Eco Action Day panel discussion yesterday. They also called for more organisations here to switch to buying greener products, for example, when sourcing office supplies.

The forum was organised by Ricoh Asia Pacific and website Eco-Business, with other partners such as the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and Singapore Business Federation.

NEA chief executive Ronnie Tay, who was among the panellists yesterday, said Singapore has to minimise its use of natural resources and reduce waste and pollutant emissions for the sake of future generations.

"Considering our resource constraints, improving sustainability even as we grow economically is very important. Our efforts have paid off to a large extent, since Singapore is one of Asia's most globalised, investor-friendly and green cities," he said.

Eco-Business editor Jessica Cheam pointed out that Singapore had stepped up its green efforts in recent years.

"The government has come up with policies that tackle heavier issues such as recycling, energy efficiency and the green economy. The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 in particular has outlined the effort, and our aspirations to become a car-light, zero-waste nation are all very good ideals," she said.

However, she noted, there is still no legislation on electronic waste or household recycling.

"It is high time we did that, instead of waiting for multi-sector collaborations and people to become aware," she said. "Without government efforts to legislate, the progress will be very slow."

SEC executive director Edwin Seah said he, too, would like to see greater commitment by organisations and individuals to buying products from sustainable sources.

"The Government can come up with platforms and infrastructure, but the individual consumer must also want to take action," he said.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs website, told The Straits Times that more Singaporeans became aware of environmental issues after the 2013 haze crisis, and they are working more closely to tackle the problems.

"An example is the Ubin Project, which brought people together to work on the complex issues affecting Singapore's last unspoilt island," she said.

The ongoing project, by the Ministry of National Development, aims to maintain the island's rustic charm.

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900 HDB blocks, eight govt sites to be equipped with solar panels

SIAU MING EN Today Online 5 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE — Less than four years after it explored solar leasing as a power option, the Government has pushed on more aggressively to tap the sun’s energy with a first-ever tender for photovoltaic (PV) panels to be installed across multiple public-sector premises.

The tender put up today (June 5) for solar panels capable of collectively producing 40 megawatts-peak (MWp) — the largest to date in both the private and public sectors — will include 900 Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks as well as installations at eight Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Public Utilities Board (PUB) sites. The contracts for the housing blocks alone is nearly as large as all those awarded by the HDB from September 2011 until now.

Under this tender, solar PV systems will be installed at Tuas Checkpoint, Woodlands Checkpoint, Home Team Academy, Airport Police Division and MHA-HQ at Phoenix Park under the MHA. For the PUB, the installation will be at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, Bedok Waterworks and WaterHub. The solar energy generated will be used to power their facilities.

The systems will also be installed on the rooftops of about 900 HDB blocks managed by the Pasir Ris-Punggol, Holland-Bukit Panjang, Ang Mo Kio, Chua Chu Kang, Sembawang and Nee Soon town councils.

The solar energy will be used for common services, such as to power lifts, corridor and staircase lights. A capacity of 40MWp could potentially generate enough electricity to power about 10,000 four-room units for a year.

With the latest tender, close to 2,000 HDB blocks will be partially powered by solar energy. There are currently more than 9,000 HDB blocks in Singapore.

In a joint press release today, the HDB and the Economic Development Board (EDB) made clear that more tenders would be called in the next four to five years, as the Government goes for the target of having solar power contribute 350MWp to Singa­pore’s system by 2020.

More public agencies are primed to harness solar energy under the SolarNova programme spearheaded by the EDB, which encourages government bodies to hop on the bandwagon. With the Government driving the push, it will spur the growth of the solar industry in Singapore, said an EDB spokesperson, while agencies with a smaller solar PV demand will benefit from economies of scale and enjoy cheaper solar energy.

Last August, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the defence and education ministries had expressed interest in having solar panels installed on their premises. TODAY understands both ministries are keen on participating in future tenders.

In response to queries, executive director of Cleantech in EDB Goh Chee Kiong said the programme is open to all government agencies to participate in, and more than 10 agencies and ministries had expressed interest in the programme. Some examples of government buildings with solar panels include the National Environment Agency’s Upper Air Observatory building and Jurong Town Council’s Cleantech One.

An MHA spokesperson said the ministry would explore the feasibility of extending the use of solar technology to more of its facilities.

Unlike solar leasing tenders awarded before October last year, the HDB and the other agencies taking part in the latest bulk tender will not need to fund any portion of the upfront costs of such projects due to the economies of scales reaped from larger tenders.

The HDB also noted the development of the local solar industry, citing the growing participation from companies in the HDB’s past solar leasing tenders — there were three bidders in its first tender in 2011, while the latest one last year attracted seven firms. “As the scale of and capabilities in the local solar industry grow, the implementation of solar technology on a larger scale has become more cost-effective,” it added.

Experts whom TODAY spoke to welcomed the Government’s lead in calling for the bulk tender, noting that the industry would become more competitive and encourage more in the private sector to take up solar technology.

Installation works that fall under this bulk tender are expected to be finished by the end of 2017. The tender will close on Aug 14, and will likely be awarded in the fourth quarter of this year.

Bigger, more competitive solar market ‘possible with Govt push’
SIAU MING EN Today Online 6 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE — By ramping up its push for the adoption of solar leasing across public agencies, the Government would drive the emergence of a more competitive market and spur more widespread take-up in the private sector, said experts.

Mr Nilesh Jadhav, programme director (EcoCampus) at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N), said the Government’s first bulk tender consolidating demand across multiple agencies put out yesterday makes an impactful statement.

It will be a shot in the arm for the solar industry, and the winning bidder will be able to secure lower prices with the huge volume of orders, he said.

As a result, more parties would pay attention to the Singapore solar market, said Mr Nilesh. “This way, we can also attract solar companies from outside, which will bring in (better) quality of installations ... the really good quality engineering solutions ... will also be brought in,” he added.

Besides lowering the overall cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment, Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), said demand aggregation from the bulk tender would be effective in standardising, and therefore simplifying, the procurement process.

Both experts noted that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is one of the biggest adopters of solar energy. “If we include HDB blocks, currently more than 50 per cent of the total solar capacity in Singapore is installed on government buildings,” said Dr Reindl. He added: “It wouldn’t make sense that every agency builds up and trains its own PV team on how to optimally call for a PV tender. The HDB has a long history in test bedding and rolling out solar PV systems, and therefore is naturally the (consolidating) agency.”

Mr Nilesh also noted that the solar leasing model seemed to be the only model working well here, where building owners do not have to fork out high upfront costs and yet pay for cheaper green electricity.

Despite the relatively high adoption rates, there is potential for even more buildings to be powered by solar energy, said Dr Reindl. Citing two major documents — the Solar PV Roadmap by SERIS and the White Paper on solar and biomass by the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore — he said both papers “expect a market in the Gigawatt range by 2020”.

Solar firms TODAY spoke to said they are keen to bid on the bulk tender. Having worked with the HDB on a handful of solar leasing contracts, Sunseap Leasing business development manager Shawn Tan said this particular bulk tender is attractive.

While Phoenix Solar said a tender of this size “merits close consideration”, REC Solar’s vice-president of sales and marketing in Asia-Pacific Jen Tan hopes the authorities would also focus on the quality and durability of the solar PV systems when evaluating the bids. SIAU MING EN

Big boost for solar power
Janice Heng The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Jun 15;

THE Government's solar energy push is hotting up, with solar panels to be installed at places such as the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints by the end of 2017.

Another 900 HDB blocks will also get solar panels, taking the total to almost 2,000, or about a fifth of all blocks here.

The energy generated at HDB blocks helps to power lifts and lighting in common areas.

The increase comes under a tender called by the HDB yesterday, the first to consolidate multiple government agencies' demand for solar-panel installation.

It is for a capacity of 40 megawatt-peak or MWp, making it the largest solar leasing tender in Singapore to date, the HDB and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said in a joint statement yesterday.

The HDB will take up about four-fifths of the capacity.

The rest will be taken up by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and national water agency PUB, with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to be installed at eight sites.

The five MHA sites are Tuas Checkpoint, Woodlands Checkpoint, Home Team Academy, Airport Police Division and the MHA headquarters at New Phoenix Park.

For the PUB, solar PV systems will be installed at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, Bedok Waterworks and WaterHub.

The tender closes on Aug 14 and is estimated to be awarded in the fourth quarter of the year. Installation is expected to be finished at the end of 2017.

This is the first tender to be called under SolarNova, a programme spearheaded by the EDB to lead demand for solar energy.

The scheme encourages government agencies to come together to tap solar power. This government demand is then meant to spur the growth of the solar industry in Singapore.

The aim is for solar power to contribute 350 MWp to Singapore's energy system by 2020, or about 5 per cent of projected peak electricity demand.

Increased adoption of solar energy will create opportunities for innovation in smart energy grids and energy management, said EDB executive director for cleantech Goh Chee Kiong.

"This initiative will strengthen Singapore's position as the leading clean-energy hub in the region," he said.

More tenders will be called under SolarNova over the next four to five years.

With HDB acting as the Government's central procurement agency for solar panels, agencies with smaller demand can enjoy solar energy at a lower cost, thanks to economies of scale.

The HDB has procured about 55 MWp of solar power so far, excluding the latest tender.

By the end of this month, about 250 HDB blocks islandwide will have solar panels, with installation works in progress for another 772 blocks. With the latest tender covering another 900 blocks, almost 2,000 HDB blocks in total will be ready to harness solar energy by 2017.

By 2020, the goal is to have solar panels at 5,500 HDB blocks - more than half of all blocks here.

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Wildlife crime still thriving in Indonesia

Warief Djajanto Basorie, Jakarta Post 7 Jun 15;

Pangolins and cockatoos, two species native to Indonesia, command high value. They are, however, endangered wildlife. Trading in them is illegal. Two recent police busts, one in North Sumatra and the other in East Java, revealed the lengths smugglers go to in order to profit from wildlife crime. The two cases underscore the huge, shady business of illicit wildlife trafficking, which has been given a further boost by online technology.

In Medan in late April, authorities seized 5 tons of frozen pangolin, 77 kilograms of pangolin scales and 96 live pangolins. Meanwhile in Surabaya on May 4 officials found two dozen yellow-crested cockatoos stuffed in plastic bottles.

Pangolins, or trenggiling in Indonesian, are scaly anteaters. One place where they thrive is in West Kalimantan province. In the Gunung Bulat area in the district of Sambas, night poachers use trained dogs to track and sniff out pangolins, a nocturnal creature.

The anteaters are smuggled out to Sarawak ,north of the border with East Malaysia. They are then routed through Tawau in Sabah to China. The meat is a delicacy. The keratin-based scales are used to make (scientifically unproven) medicine.

Human fingernails are made from keratin. One kilo of the pangolin’s plate-like scales, similar in appearance to a pine cone or the skin of the salak fruit, can fetch Rp 3 million (US$230) for the trader.

“Certainly, if exploitation in the wild becomes intensive, extinction is within sight,” declared Albertus Tjiu, project leader for WWF Indonesia’s West Kalimantan program. The Bali tiger, the Javan tiger and the West Kalimantan rhino are believed to have already become extinct.

Kalimantan is a rich depository of biological diversity. Its land area mass is under 1 percent of the world’s land mass, yet it houses 6 percent of the world’s flora and fauna. One hectare of Kalimantan forest, for instance, holds more than 150 tree species. As for fauna, its lowland tropical forests are home to 30,000 kinds of beetle, 666 species of dragonfly and 122 species of swallowtail butterfly.

Online wildlife trafficking, especially of protected species, is becoming more widespread, according to Profauna, an environmental organization based in Malang, East Java, which tracks illicit wildlife trading. In 2014 the group counted no fewer that 3,640 online ads offering the Javan hawk-eagle, Siamang gibbon, Surili, Javan langur, palm cockatoo, black-capped lory, slow loris and eclectus parrot, Profauna stated in a January 2015 report.

The organization filed at least 78 cases of wildlife crime in Indonesia in 2014, including the attempted smuggling out on Aug. 23 from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, of 28 helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) beaks. These beaks are worth Rp 2 million per 100 grams. On Oct. 28, officers thwarted the shipment of 53 black-capped lories, four yellow-crested cockatoos, one eclectus parrot, three cassowaries, and a number of deer tusks on a ferry in Bitung, North Sulawesi.

Indonesia has at least 16 laws that relate to biodiversity. They include the 1999 Forestry Law, the 2007 Coastal and Small Islands Management Law, the 2009 Environment Protection and Management Law and the 2013 Prevention and Eradication of Forest Destruction Law, to name four. Against illegal wildlife trading, prosecutors tend to use the 1990 Living Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation Law (UU KSDA).

Activities that “lead to a change in the integrity of a natural sanctuary” are classified as crimes. Such acts include poaching and setting forest fires. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a Rp 200 million fine.

“Without strong law enforcement, biodiversity will be devastated. When all is gone, there is no return,” declared Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) director Maha Adi. Law enforcement officials confess to a common handicap. In trying biodiversity cases, they lack qualified prosecutors and judges knowledgeable of the environment and environmental law.

Weak law enforcement can be remedied by enhancing the capacity of judicial officials in environmental law. Chemonics, a USAID contractor in international development, has a “Changes for Justice” project. It supports the Supreme Court’s enhancement program in environment law for district court and high court judges.

Similar enhancement work must also be undertaken for prosecutors, police officers, environmental campaigners, investors in environment-related businesses and journalists. Officials at national and subnational levels must boost their awareness of environmental issues. The new Environment and Forestry Ministry must get involved in reinforcing the legal knowledge and capacity of biodiversity stakeholders.

A business-as-usual attitude to biodiversity would be tantamount to a license to let Indonesia’s biodiversity die.

The writer, who teaches at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute, Jakarta, is a senior environmental journalist.

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