Best of our wild blogs: 13-15 Jun 15

Festival of Biodiversity @ Vivocity – 27 & 28 June

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Buffy Fish Owl) June 8, 2015
Rojak Librarian

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and its black excrements
Bird Ecology Study Group

Bats roosting in my porch: 24. A bag of red chillies
Bird Ecology Study Group

Life History of the Grey Pansy
Butterflies of Singapore

Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) @ Dairy Farm Nature Park
Monday Morgue

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New biodiversity research facility on Pulau Ubin: Desmond Lee

A new facility will be set up on Pulau Ubin to support biodiversity research, says Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee. Phase one of the development will be opened by the end of 2015.
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 14 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE: A new facility to support biodiversity research and floating wetlands to attract new species will be opened on Pulau Ubin by the end of 2015, announced Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee announced on Ubin Day on Saturday (Jun 13).

More than 1,500 people gathered on Pulau Ubin to celebrate Ubin Day and partake in a weekend of games, cultural events and activities. Among them were some 1,000 Siglap residents including National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The island is known for its rustic charm and the diversity of its flora and fauna. Several initiatives were announced last year by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to better protect and enhance the nature and heritage spaces.

The Ubin Living Lab is among the initiatives announced and will be situated at the former Celestial Resort, which consists of 25 buildings.

Two of the buildings will undergo restoration and be transformed into seminar rooms, classrooms, a field laboratory and a 12-bed facility. It will be open to schools, community groups and researchers.

"A lot of researchers are not being able to store the samples they've collected, not having the facilities to do proper research and identification of species. They have to go back to the mainland," said Mr Lee.

"If they have Ubin Living Lab, they can operate out of this facility and thereby enable them to better study and better support our biodiversity."

Mr Lee said a feasibility study is being carried out for Phase two of the development. This includes having a jetty to accommodate a large group of students, and an outdoor classroom.

Other new features are bat houses at two locations and floating wetlands on the Pekan Quarry.

The base of the wetland will be a floating mat through which roots are able to grow. The second layer will be made of woven coconut fibres which are permeable and can yet hold nutrients and the top-most layer will have plants of different height, all of which will come together to mimic a natural island.

The quarry is currently a habitat for herons but National Parks hopes the wetlands will also be ideal for birds like kingfishers, as well as frogs and dragonflies.

A group called "Friends of Ubin Network’, or Fun, has developed a code of conduct to preserve the island’s heritage and biodiversity. Its five tenets include respecting and bonding with the community and being considerate towards the island.

Volunteers intend to impart these points to children and other people who visit. These values will also be put up on signboards around the island.

- CNA/ec

Integrated lab facility on Pulau Ubin to be ready by end 2015
AsiaOne 13 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE - A new Ubin Living Lab with facilities for students and researchers, new bat houses, as well as floating wetlands prototypes, are some of the new installations that visitors can expect on Pulau Ubin by the end of the year.

Rolled out under The Ubin Project, the Ubin Living Lab was unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last November, in conjunction with his launch of Ubin Day 2014, according to a media release by Ministry of National Development (MND).

The Ubin Project was launched in March 2014 by MND to gather public feedback and work with the community to preserve and sensitively enhance the island. The aim is to keep Pulau Ubin an enjoyable rustic destination for the public.

At the two-day Ubin Day event on Saturday, Minister of State for National Development Mr Desmond Lee said since the project was launched, many Singaporeans have come forward to share ideas on how to "sensitively enhance Ubin and keep it rustic".

Mr Lee said: "With the development of the Ubin Living Lab, various species recovery and habitat enhancement programmes and cultural mapping initiatives."

Ubin Day is a community event which celebrates the different facets of the island, organised by more than 20 community groups including Team Seagrass, Nature Society (Singapore) and Butterfly Circle.

The event is also supported and facilitated by relevant agencies.

Ubin Day was first held in 2002, this is the fourth time that the event is being organised.

At the event, Mr Lee also encouraged participants of Ubin Day 2015 to adopt the "Ubin Way", a Code of Conduct guiding ecologically and socially responsible behaviour on the island.

By following the "Ubin Way", Mr Lee said the island can remain a familiar and rustic destination for current and future generations of Singaporeans.

Visitors to the island this weekend can participate in Ubin Day with activities such as guided nature walks, bird watching, mangrove and quarry kayaking, and coastal clean-ups.

NParks to build 'homes' on Pulau Ubin for bats, birds and other creatures
CHEW HUI MIN Straits Times 14 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of National Development is concerned not just with housing Singaporeans, but also other rarer species.

The National Parks Board (NParks) will be installing bat houses and other "homes" for animals on Pulau Ubin, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan revealed on the Ministry's official blog on Sunday (June 14).

"Singaporeans love Pulau Ubin for its lush greenery, rustic landscape and laid-back charm. Animals are fond of Ubin too," he wrote on a blog entry titled "Ubin is for all".

The bat houses are meant for two species to roost in: the Ashy Roundleaf Bat, a native of Ubin, and the Lesser False Vampire Bat, which is found only in Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.

"We are also making provisions to encourage nesting for three uncommon bird species - the Red-wattled Lapwing, the Baya Weaver and the Blue-throated Bee-eater," he added.

NParks will also be installing floating wetland units at the Pekan Quarry.

Other resident species including herons, crakes, rails, kingfishers, dragonflies, and frogs will benefit from the programmes as they can look forward to more nesting and roosting sites, Mr Khaw said.

Plans for new Living Lab on Pulau Ubin unveiled at Ubin Day 2015
NParks Press Release 13 Jun 2015

Community groups celebrate the adoption of “Ubin Way”

13 June 2015 - A new Ubin Living Lab with facilities for students and researchers, new bat houses, as well as floating wetlands prototypes, are some of the new installations that visitors can expect on Pulau Ubin by end 2015 (Please see media factsheet for details.)

Rolled out under The Ubin Project, these initiatives were first unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last year, in conjunction with his launch of Ubin Day 2014 in November last year.

Ubin Day is a community event which celebrates the different facets of the island, organised by more than 20 community groups including Team Seagrass, Nature Society (Singapore) and Butterfly Circle, and supported and facilitated by relevant agencies. First held in 2002, this is the fourth time Ubin Day is being organised.

At the event, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee also encouraged participants of Ubin Day 2015 - which include volunteers, nature groups, grassroots leaders and residents of Siglap - to adopt the “Ubin Way”, a Code of Conduct guiding ecologically and socially responsible behaviour on the island, so that the island can remain a familiar and rustic destination for current and future generations of Singaporeans. Initiated and drawn up by nature lovers, grassroots leaders, Ubin operators, educators and volunteers, the “Ubin Way” encourages visitors to:

Relive and experience the kampong lifestyle
Appreciate and conserve our cultural heritage
Discover and cherish the diversity of nature
Respect one another and bond with the community
Care for Ubin, and be considerate towards its environment

“Since the launch of The Ubin Project, many Singaporeans have come forward to share with us their ideas on how we can sensitively enhance Ubin and keep it rustic. By the end of this year, we can see some of these ideas come to fruition, with the development of the Ubin Living Lab, various species recovery and habitat enhancement programmes and cultural mapping initiatives. But, what make the island truly special are our people - the residents, volunteers and visitors – who activate, discover and celebrate the island. I hope that everyone who visits Ubin will embrace the Ubin Way, so that the island will remain a special place for all Singaporeans, where our children and their children can build lasting memories” said MOS Lee.

This year, the annual Siglap Day was held in conjunction with Ubin Day. Guest-of-Honour Minister Khaw, together with Ministers of State for National Development Desmond Lee and Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman (also Adviser to East Coast GRC Grassroots Organisations), spent the afternoon on the island with Siglap residents participating in various Ubin Day 2015 activities and reliving the kampong experience. Some of the other activities organised by Siglap grassroots organisations include a showcase of a Malay wedding, and tours of House 363B (a traditional Chinese Kampong House) and the Sensory Trail.

The Ubin Day 2015 will take place on 13 and 14 June. The event is open to public. Visitors can participate in activities such as guided nature walks, birdwatching, mangrove and quarry kayaking, and coastal clean-ups at the event.

The Ubin Project Partnerships and Sponsors
NParks Press Release 13 Jun 2015

The Ubin Project has received strong support of sponsors, enabling outreach and conservation projects to be conducted on Pulau Ubin. With the generous contributions of these partners and sponsors, future generations of Singaporeans can continue to enjoy the island’s rustic charm, natural environment, biodiversity and heritage.

Some of the initiatives supported by our partners include:

Nature Gallery, children’s book and tree planting supported by HSBC

HSBC has pledged a sum of $170,000 to support conservation and education projects at Pulau Ubin. This sum will go towards refreshed educational displays at the Nature Gallery, a children’s book about Pulau Ubin, and the planting of trees on the island

Habitat enhancement efforts supported by Syngenta

Syngenta has contributed a sum of $30,000 to support reforestation and planting efforts at Ketam and the foothills directly below 363B home. These activities will be carried out later this year.

Plant-A-Tree Programme

Since 2013, many organisations have supported reforestation efforts at Pulau Ubin by supporting the Garden City Fund’s Plant-A-Tree Programme.

These organisations include:

TTJ Design and Engineering Pte Ltd [50 trees, 2015]
Burea Veritas Marine (Singapore Pte Ltd) [50 trees, 2014]
Norinchukin Bank [50 trees, 2014]
StarHub [50 trees, 2013]

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Pulau Ubin's place in local hearts and history

JEAN CHIA AND CHUA AI LIN for the Straits Times 13 Jun 15;

It will be Ubin Day again today, when the island has an open house for visitors.

At last year's Ubin Day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the need to document the island's cultural heritage in order to "honour our past, treasure our present and shape our future".

PM Lee's remarks reflect the Government's growing recognition of the importance of heritage awareness.

Earlier this year, the National Heritage Board (NHB) commissioned research on Pulau Ubin which includes an oral history project and video documentary. Concurrently, the agency is embarking on an unprecedented nationwide survey of the country's tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Cultural self-knowledge is important. Despite Ubin's accessibility, we know startlingly little about its rural culture.

The island's rudimentary infrastructure means that different skills are required to live there, and it is precisely these skills that distinguish the culture of Ubin from that of the mainland.

What special knowledge is required on a day-by-day, or season-by-season basis? What leads someone to live on Pulau Ubin? What is life like when the weekend crowd disappears?

One might be surprised to learn that, despite the island's size and dwindling number of residents, there are unique environmental and ecological practices, human-animal relations, settlement patterns, community networks and religious traditions that characterise "island life".

In the context of contemporary Singapore, these characteristics become particularly fascinating for citizens and tourists alike.

Over the years, there have been efforts to document the nature and history of Pulau Ubin. NParks has recorded and indexed the island's biodiversity with help from nature group volunteers.

These efforts have paved the way for conserving and even reviving some of the plant and animal species familiar to the island. In addition, NHB has previously commissioned historical research on Ubin, which will allow us to install heritage walking trails and informative signs at historically significant sites.

With the right mix of diligence and building code allowances, we may even be able to conserve and restore some of the climate-appropriate architectural heritage in the area.

However, we still do not have enough "cultural data", that is, information on the way people live on the island. There is no comprehensive study of the traditions and practices of Singapore's last remaining island community.

Hence, we know little about the livelihoods of Ubin's residents and the contemporary challenges they face. Without this information, it is difficult to know what to conserve, how development should proceed or assess how residents (and visitors) would be affected by development plans.

We do know that life on Ubin has never been static.

Before colonialism, Ubin was home to the indigenous, riverine, semi-nomadic Orang Seletar (people of the Seletar River), who fished and harvested from the forest and mangrove swamps along the Seletar River and the Johor Strait.

Following the arrival of the British, the population increased to serve the needs of the larger Singapore island. From granite quarries to farming and agriculture, parts of Ubin were linked to various economic industries on the mainland.

In the 1980s, farming practices and communities began to diminish, and Ubin became a place of recreation and tourism.

Pulau Ubin holds particular significance for Singaporeans. A visit to Ubin is to go "back in time" to an era before public housing and mass rapid transit.

There is very little motorised traffic to mask the sounds of nature and local architecture in the form of timber houses built by villagers themselves is well suited to the tropics before the era of air-conditioning.

Residents use well water (though visitors consume water brought from the mainland), and diesel generators are the primary source of power (or in the more experimental present, solar panels and biodiesel generators).

As our nation matures, we need to acknowledge the continuance of the past in our present. Beyond merely documenting cuisine, cooking techniques, "traditional" customs or "dying" trades, the nationwide survey on Singapore's cultural heritage must study how the national narrative of progress has encompassed the lives of Singaporeans over the years. This would include recognising the significance of our cultural loss.

As we sow the seeds for our future, it is critical not to underestimate the value of such self-understanding.

Discussions over Pulau Ubin's future are closely tied to the larger question of how we understand ourselves and the role we play in shaping our own future.

Is ours a root-less future without any consideration of our proud past, or is it a future arising from a shared history?

Ubin presents a wonderful opportunity for Singaporeans to be involved in shaping a way forward that considers our cultural heritage. We would be wise to take it.

Jean Chia is an anthropologist and member of the Singapore Heritage Society, where Chua Ai Lin is president.

For Ubin Day information, go to

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Siglap residents to plant 100 trees in Pulau Ubin for SG50

The island will also be hosting activities such as a trail walk and a tour, so that visitors can experience the kampung spirit.
Nuranisha Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia 12 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE: One thousand Siglap residents will plant a hundred trees in Pulau Ubin this weekend to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee, but it is not just a reforestation project. The island will host some exciting activities this weekend to let visitors experience the kampung spirit.

From taking a walk through the NParks Sensory Trail, to touring the different kampungs, the Siglap SG50 Day@Ubin event by Siglap grassroots organisations hopes to encourage family bonding, as grandparents tell of life in the past and how it has changed.

On Saturday (Jun 13), Siglap residents will participate in reforestation and coastal clean-up activities, and enjoy other activities like the trail walk. Members of the public can take part in the trail walk and kampung tour on Sunday.

"We are going to bring the residents there to cherish the present and really preserve the future," said Dr Maliki Osman, Mayor of the South East District. "As part of the Government's effort, in keeping Ubin as rustic as it can. We want Siglap's residents to go there and mark and celebrate this 50th anniversary celebration."

Dr Maliki is leading efforts in Siglap to raise S$50,000 towards the education of five young beneficiaries under a project called 50@50. Fifty 50-year-old residents and grassroots leaders are participating.

Residents have also been busy printing 5,000 T-shirts with an orchid motif that they can wear during National Day.

- CNA/hs

Siglap residents to raise funds for needy children to mark SG50
HOLLY MATTHEWS Today Online 13 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE — As they celebrate their 50th birthday with Singapore this year, 50 Siglap residents will be doing their bit for five children from low-income families.

They aim to raise S$10,000 for each of the children’s education by selling 1,000 limited-edition polo T-shirts printed with a special SG50 design.

Among those involved in the fund-raising is Mayor of the South East District, Dr Maliki Osman, who felt it was a meaningful way to mark the personal milestone. “What better way for us to come together ... to say thanks to Singapore for what she has done for us, than (by) giving back in our small way to these five kids.”

Agreeing, Mr Lim Khay Guan, one of the Siglap residents taking part in the fund-raising, said: “You (would) feel like you have done something, even though it’s small ... We’re planting seeds for the next generation.”

Dr Maliki also announced other activities Siglap will hold to mark SG50.

For instance, 1,000 residents will spend the day in Pulau Ubin today as a way to discover Singapore’s past. They will be visiting Malay and Chinese kampung houses, eating traditional food and celebrating a mock Malay wedding, among other things.

Another initiative is an ongoing project to have some 5,000 residents print an orchid SG50 logo on red or white T-shirts to be worn at Siglap’s National Day Observance Ceremony.

Dr Maliki said these initiatives all stemmed from the idea of bringing residents together to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

“Celebrating SG50 is to celebrate the Singapore spirit and ensure it remains alive for many generations to come.” HOLLY MATTHEWS

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Vivian joins call to keep biking trail open

Danson Cheong The Straits Times 12 Jun 15;

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan has urged NParks to reconsider closing one of its trails in the Central Catchment Area after a cyclist wrote to him concerning the closure.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has urged the National Parks Board (NParks) to reconsider closing a trail in the Central Catchment area.

He revealed this in an e-mail on Monday to concerned cyclist Lee Kee Tar, 45, who earlier wrote to him about the closure.

Called the Butterfly Trail, the 3.2km route popular with mountain bikers was closed by NParks in March as parts of it fell within the construction site of the upcoming Chestnut Nature Park.

Mr Lee posted the reply on a Facebook group page for mountain bikers. In his e-mail, Dr Balakrishnan called the trail, which had its beginnings decades ago as a kampung path, one of the "best secrets" in the mountain biking community. "I am very familiar with the Butterfly Trail as I used to cycle there personally many years ago," he wrote. "I have appealed for reconsideration by NParks. Will wait for their response."

With the opening of the Chestnut Nature Park, NParks is considering permanently closing the trail, known for its gnarled tree roots and views of Upper Peirce Reservoir. The Nature Society (Singapore) is lobbying for it to stay closed, noting recreational activities have damaged the century-old nature area off Chestnut Avenue.

NParks said it had received Dr Balakrishnan's request and was studying it.

There are only four other areas officially open to mountain bikers - in Bukit Timah, Mandai, Kent Ridge and Pulau Ubin.

Mr Lee told The Straits Times yesterday he was thankful Dr Balakrishnan had written to NParks.

"It was very nice of him," said the finance manager. "Being a cyclist himself, he would understand our concerns, and obviously he rode there before, so he knows how special the trail is."

Last week, the Nature Society (Singapore) met the Mountain Bike Association Singapore (MBASG) to exchange views on the trail's closure.

"This area is well known to be high-quality primary and regrowth forest hosting many nationally endangered species of flora and fauna throughout its extent," said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, chairman of the society's plant group. He noted the society stood firm that no recreational activity should be allowed in these areas.

Meanwhile, an MBASG petition started last week to save the trail has garnered more than 1,200 signatures. "We will be submitting it to the Government soon," said MBASG president Calvin Chin. "The Government has to take a stand and allow some recreation in nature areas. They've made it happen in areas like MacRitchie."

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5 ideas every city should steal from Singapore

Meera Senthilingam, for CNN 12 Jun 15;

(CNN)Singapore is small, hot and heavily populated -- the 5.5 million residents of the tropical city-state live in less than 750 square kilometres of land. And population is expected to reach 6.9 million by 2030.

Despite these challenges, Singapore continues to be amongst the most liveable and economically successful cities in the word, with a GDP equaling that of leading European countries.

With more than 50% of the world's population living in cities already (a figure projected to reach 70% by 2050), Singapore -- where everyone is a city dweller -- is setting trends for rapidly urbanizing countries worldwide.

But how have they done it?

1) Have a plan

Concept plans have been in place since 1971, with long-term visions and predictions for the design of Singapore's infrastructure. Such long-term planning was crucial as the population was growing much faster than originally anticipated.

"The top priorities for Singapore as a newly independent state were to provide housing for its people and to create jobs," says Khoo Teng Chye, Executive Director of the Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore.

With limited land and no natural resources, there was always a focus on greenery, the environment and intensive development of utilities and infrastructure including power plants, deep-underground sewerage and refuse incineration. "Planning for clean air, clean water and green cover was integral to Singapore's city planning," says Khoo.

Decentralization of commercial hubs was also key in the country's urban design to reduce congestion and commuting time -- improving liveability.

"High density does not necessarily mean low liveability," says Khoo.

2) Don't waste your waste

With high-density living comes high-density waste.

But Singapore has been organized with its refuse management systems, not only by collecting it efficiently but even employing it to make more land.

"They don't have the space to store waste," says Dirk Hebel, from the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability.

Waste is managed instead through regular incineration and the resulting ashes are combined with marine sand to extend Singapore's land mass.

"They use ashes for landfill to extend the territory," says Hebel.

In addition, the country has set a precedent for water resources through its desalination plants and NEWater plants, where sewage is filtered to recycle it into drinking water.

But Hebel's group are now working on new avenues for using waste -- this time to construct buildings instead of land.

"In Singapore you have almost 80% high-value resource waste," says Hebel. This category of waste includes plastics and glass, which could be re-purposed for building materials.

Hebel's team recently exhibited the possibilities of waste recycling during the 2015 New York City Ideas Festival.

They built an arched canopy pavilion comprised of waterproof panels made from discarded beverage containers. The canopy was anchored to a base composed of stacked, wooden pallets.

Hebel sees future possibilities in Singapore: "There are things surrounding us that can be used in a secondary life as a building structure," he says.

3) See green with A/C

Due to its close proximity to the equator, Singapore's climate is hot and humid, with temperatures averaging above 30 degrees Celsius and little variation throughout the year.

The built-up nature of the city increases temperatures further through the 'heat island' effect -- caused by buildings blocking air flow, transport emissions and long-wave radiation heating up the island nation.

As a result, a lot of the city's energy expenditure goes towards cooling people down.

"Up to 60% of Singapore's electricity is for buildings," says Arno Schlüter, Professor of Architecture and building systems, also with the Future Cities Laboratory. Most buildings use electricity to cool-down and dehumidify public and work spaces. "Singapore is a noisy city due to all the [cooling] units on the wall," says Schlüter.

To overcome this overconsumption of energy, Schlüter's team are now piloting a project with the United World College of South East Asia in which they are dehumidifying the air external to a building and flowing the resulting cool air over the façade of a building.

According to FCL, "the technology consists of passive chilled beams, distributed ventilation units combined with an underfloor air distribution network and new control systems," and removed the need for air conditioning systems. "It means we can save a lot of space -- up to 1/3 of a building," says Schlüter.

Designs for new buildings in Singapore now also regularly incorporate design for natural ventilation by capturing and promoting wind flow through a public space.

4) Go underground

When population increases and demand for land spikes accordingly, the tendency is to build upwards -- as is the case for most cities worldwide.

But with unique -- and more pressing -- land restrictions compared to the rest of the world, Singapore has now begun to build downwards and is taking workplaces underground.

And they're going deep underground -- first with ammunition facilities, then the Jurong rock caverns storing oil in caverns deep below the ground and soon other industries, such as science laboratories.

"[It's a] new way of using underground space on a larger scale," says Jian Zhao, Professor of Geomechanics at Monash University, Australia. Zhao was previously at Nanyang technical university in Singapore where he developed the first research proposals exploring the options to go underground.

The design involves digging caverns into rocks more than 100 meters below the ground.

"Underground, everything is much more stable," says Zhao referring to factors such as vibrations, temperature and humidity which are important for facilities such as power plants, water reservoirs and industrial settings in general. "The idea is to make the city more liveable by putting everything undesirable underground," he says.

5) Embrace technology

The technological development of Singapore cannot be forgotten as this aspect of city living has long been incorporated into the design of the city-state.

The Singapore mass rapid transit (MRT) is considered among the best public transport systems in the world -- needed due to restrictions on vehicle ownership -- and intelligent buildings have been in use for more than a decade aiding movement and entertainment through public and work spaces.

But increasing density is putting more pressure on the country's infrastructure. "Singapore needs to adapt and innovate," says Khoo, in order to meet needs for residence, recreation and lifestyle.

Innovation has been at the root of the country's development -- both for liveability and sustainability.

"Technology is a key feature of green buildings," says Yvonne Soh, General Manager of the Singapore Green Buildings Council. "[It can] respond to the environment quickly and to people," she says.

Responding to movements and uses of space in real-time can cut energy requirements dramatically. This emphasis on technology has helped Singapore become one of the Greenest cities in the world.

...and share your knowledge
Singapore is now exporting its expertise in urban planning to other cities in Asia where rapid urbanization is taking place -- including the Tianjin Eco city, China and the new capital city in Andhra Pradesh, India -- paving the way for cities around the world.

"Through greater collaboration among cities, mass urbanization -- the result of a rapidly growing global urban population -- will ultimately benefit the human race," says Khoo.

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Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum Celebrating Biodiversity

Marcella Segre Jakarta Post 15 Jun 15;

A new museum just opened in Singapore — unique among its kind and the biggest in the region.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) is a permanent exhibition and an important educational institution that houses the world’s largest collection of specimens from Southeast Asia as well as significant fossils that illustrate the evolution of life on Earth such as three 150-million-year-old dinosaurs.

With over 500,000 catalogued and stored specimens, a minimalist design and an innovative use of light and sound, this permanent exhibition takes visitors through the history of biodiversity and of scientific research in Southeast Asia.

This valuable depositary of the region’s natural heritage consolidates Southeast Asia’s position in scientific research and offers opportunities to scientists and students worldwide.

Located within the campus of the National University of Singapore (NUS), the gallery covers an area of 2,500 square meters and completes the cultural hub of Alice Lee Plaza, which connects art, science and music in the same area of the university.

Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, a writer and curator who worked on the museum’s Heritage Gallery, explained that Singapore has long been a center for study of the natural world in Southeast Asia.

In fact, she said, the systematic study of the biodiversity of Southeast Asia began in the mid-19th century with European naturalists such as Alfred Russel Wallace, who classified specimens collected in the region according to Linnaean taxonomy.

“Singapore was the transit point to less accessible places such as the dense rain forests of Borneo and what were known as the Spice Islands [now the Maluku Islands]. Many naturalists and explorers traveled through Singapore and shipped their specimens from Singapore to European museum and private collections.” she said

The museum’s natural history collection began in that period as part of the Raffles Museum; it later moved to NUS and became the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR), which gradually gained international recognition as one of the world’s most advanced marine research centers.

Over the years, scientists’ intense fieldwork and generous donations have contributed to increase the collection exponentially and, as officially stated by the museum’s website and by NUS publications, the new LCKNHM was named after the founder of the Lee Foundation, the support of which has helped to implement this project, which cost around US$46 million.

“The current museum houses the largest collection of Southeast Asian specimens in the world and the oldest in Southeast Asia and represents Southeast Asia’s growth in terms of cultural appropriation of contents and means.” Laura Miotto, design director of gsmprjct, said.

“Unlike traditional natural history museums, the LKCNHM does not bring visitors to exotic lands, but it offers a comprehensive look over the region’s natural wonders. In fact, it is very site-specific.”

The gsmprjct team worked in close collaboration with the museum’s curators and conservators, whose magic hands have revitalized and brought to visitors’ appreciation over 2,000 specimens; rock fossils, microscopic organisms, plants, fungi, mollusks, arthropods, cnidarian and echinoderms, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

“The collection is displayed combining a modern scientific approach to the study of biodiversity with a fresh look over interactions among living organisms and environmental issues faced by the region. Through this approach, Singapore establishes itself as the guardian of Southeast Asian natural heritage and as a well of resources for the advancement of scientific research.” explained Maude Desjardins, a museologist who developed the contents of the gallery.

Gsmprjct, the same firm that completed the galleries of the National Museum of Singapore in 2006, conceived the narrative and developed the exhibition design of the galleries at LKCNHM.

For this project, the team opted to arrange the rich collection following a stylish and user-friendly approach.

“The overall concept reflects the idea that Southeast Asia is a biodiversity hot spot and that Singapore provides the ideal position to observe and research it.” Laura Miotto pointed out.

“The story of the biodiversity gallery focuses on the importance of contemporary knowledge and offers insights on the Tree of Life, with the aim to develop appreciation and respect towards our living environment.”

Miotto gave a tour around the exhibition, where the space suggests an interpretative but open itinerary that allows visitors to explore the museum in different ways.

At the Biodiversity Gallery, visitors immediately embark on a kaleidoscopic adventure into the diversity of living forms.
The collection showcased in the Biodiversity Gallery on the ground floor is the entry point to the realm of living things; the minimalist design facilitates the introduction to taxonomy, the scientific classification of life and to amazing living strategies and cultural beliefs related to living things.

From birds’ courtship behavior to regional recipes featuring insects, visitors can contemplate the intricacy of living forms while learning about the surrounding environment and listening to the pulsing sounds of nature.

In this open space, four thematic zones highlight fundamental landmarks in the evolution of life on Earth and important natural cycles in rain forests and coral reefs.

“Through interactives, breath-taking displays and a dynamic use of light and sound, each zone is a distinct and immersive educational experience into the wonders of nature,” Miotto explained.

On the upper floor is the Heritage Gallery, dedicated to the history of zoology in Singapore and to Singapore’s ecological transformation.

Last but not least, three gigantic sauropods original fossils dominate the central hall and an ongoing light and sound-transforming scenario dramatizes their presence.

“The light design, evocative of time, follows a slow cycle of white light; it is synchronized with an original soundtrack and, every half an hour, light and sound build up a sensational climax that animates the display,” Miotto explained.

These majestic dinosaurs inspire a sense of awe that complement the wonder, curiosity and inquisitive approach elicited by the rest of the exhibition.

Conceived as a university museum and a research center, the LKCNHM is the result of the collaboration of different stakeholders and donors who took part in the making with their vision and expertise to integrate scientific knowledge with design strategies in order to create a museum that is engaging and relevant to the public.

The outcome has gone beyond expectations and, four years after the project kicked off, the LKCNHM is today a reality and a space for science, history and culture that caters to researchers and students as well as to casual visitors.
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Change at local levels ‘possible through collective individual action’

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 15 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE — When calling for a change in society, individuals must be prepared to play a part and not underestimate what can be achieved at the local level, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday at a dialogue with youths.

“All of us collectively add up to what society is — who we are, what we believe in, what we do or what we don’t do. So, society, when you break it down, is about us,” he said at the closing dialogue of the Singapore Indian Development Association’s Youth Leaders Seminar, which was attended by about 130 Indian youth aged 16 to 20.

“Never underestimate the changes that you can make at the very local level ... Imagine if everyone in this room begins to actually do something about the things you believe in, and reach out and change. How many people would you be affecting? And then, collectively, similar groups elsewhere. And that’s where I think society begins to change.”

Held at the National University of Singapore’s Prince George’s Park Residences, the event was part of a camp for students from junior colleges, polytechnics and the Institutes of Technical Education to explore the role of youths in social change.

Mr Tan urged the participants to look at what they could do, such as spending time mentoring younger children or paying regular visits to citizens with limited mobility to help clean up their homes.

“It’s not wrong to be critical, it’s not wrong to have ideas but it’s always easy, isn’t it, to offer suggestions on things we don’t really have to execute. So, I put to you, what are the things you can do? ... Big ideas need to be deconstructed to bite-sized chunks, things that I can do,” he said.

Asked about his goals as Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Tan spoke of the importance of mobilising the community and upstream measures to help groups such as single mothers.

A Member of Parliament of Marine Parade GRC, he said he is constantly trying to recruit volunteers while on house visits. Some tasks do not need to be performed by social workers and “it’s a very different society when we begin to be invested”, he added.

Help is available for single mothers, but he wondered if preventive measures could also be taken through schools and youth outreach programmes.

Mr Tan said he became more involved in helping the less-privileged over the years. In 2009, while he was still in the army and involved in organising National Day celebrations, Mr Tan’s team had soldiers and the military police doing drills at Assisi Hospice as part of efforts to reach different segments of society.

Asked by a participant if equal help and resources could be devoted to the elderly and transient workers, Mr Tan said the Government is addressing issues on both fronts but noted that there are many other causes including special-needs children, the environment, and heritage. Not all issues are addressed by the Government, as contributions are also made by voluntary welfare organisations and citizens, he added.

“I’d suggest not to look at it as, ‘Why are we not treating every sector equally?’, but (whether we are) dealing with the issues at hand: What more can we do, how do we improve it? I think that’s fair. That’s where we’ve got to keep on pushing boundaries.”

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Pop down to pop-up beach

The Straits Times 13 Jun 15;

Singapore's first pop-up urban beach appeared in the heart of Marina Bay yesterday, complete with a pool, palm trees and a beach bar.

The pool at the 50m-by-50m beach will have activities such as stand-up paddling, and the beach can hold up to about 250 people.

The initiative by DBS Bank aims to transform Singapore's new financial district and to draw more people to the bay to watch the 28th SEA Games boat and sailing races.

It said creating a man-made beach was "no mean feat" - 28,000kg of sand was used and the work took 300 hours.

In addition to SEA Games events, the DBS Marina Regatta - an annual water sports festival - will also see an estimated 2,500 paddlers competing across nine categories.

The beach will be at The Promontory@Marina Bay this weekend.

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Malaysia: Shark's fin soup ban in Penang state functions


GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government has banned shark’s fin soup at official functions with immediate effect.

The state exco has passed a resolution on ‘No shark’s fin soup for all official functions’ and notices will be sent to all state government agencies not to include the delicacy in the menu at any state hosted events.

The move, however, will not affect events held by the private sector.

State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the private companies would, however be encouraged not to serve the dish if possible.

He said the resolution was made in support of the World Wildlife Federation’s (WWF) Save Our Seafood campaign.

“Malaysia is listed in the top 20 shark catching countries by the WWF from 2002 to 2011,” said Phee after his speech during the prize giving ceremony for the Green Idol public speaking contest that was held in conjunction with the Penang Green Carnival 2015 at 1st Avenue Mall yesterday.

Phee, who is also the vice-pre­sident of the Penang Green Council, said since 2013, the state had made it a practice not to serve shark’s fin soup at state functions.

“Last year, the state exco had signed a pledge in support of a resolution to ban the dish at official functions, and it was officially passed this year,” he added.

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Indonesia: Forest moratorium fails to meet target

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 13 Jun 15;

After being heavily criticized for failing to improve on the moratorium on new concession permits for primary forests and peat lands, the government is set to remedy the weaknesses of the current moratorium, which was extended by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo last month.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry acknowledged that the current moratorium still had many flaws that prevented it from slowing the ongoing deforestation in the country,

“Because it is just an extension, [we] could not insert new articles. If we included new articles, then the name [of the moratorium] would change, it would not be an extension,” Ruandha Agung Sugardiman, the ministry’s director general of forestry planning and environmental governance, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Ruandha added that the ministry did not have much time to produce a new draft of the current moratorium as it would involve talking to ministries.

The current moratorium, like the previous two moratoriums enacted during the administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, takes the form of a presidential instruction (Inpres), which means it is only binding on the current administration.

The ministry is mulling a change to the legal basis of the moratorium to a government regulation (PP) after it concludes revising the moratorium map for the ninth time in November this year, according to Ruandha.

The moratorium map underwent its eighth revision recently by including an additional 926,030 hectares, bringing the total area covered by the current moratorium to 65.02 million hectares.

“One of the reasons why the covered area is growing in size is because there were some uncovered areas where the permits already expired and after we analyzed them we found they were primary forest,” Ruandha said.

The covered area could also decrease in size after the ministry crosschecks the map with data from regional governments, during which they will find out whether covered areas should be removed. Although the ministry has revised the map eight times, it has only increased the size of covered area twice.

Based on the previous moratorium map, at least 48.5 million hectares of forest — over three times the area of Java — remains under threat.

This includes 16.5 million hectares of primary forest and peat land that are excluded from the moratorium map or located inside the moratorium area, but which are already covered by existing undeveloped concessions and therefore not protected by the moratorium rules.

The remaining 32 million hectares are under threat because, despite consisting of areas considered as natural forest, they have been subject to commercial use, for example through selective logging, and are now classified as “secondary forest” and so not covered by the current moratorium.

Conservationists have long argued that the moratorium should also cover secondary forest.

“Secondary forest should have been included in the moratorium. The analogy is like forcing sick people to work, with secondary forest being ‘sick’. In the moratorium, ailing areas are forced to produce,” Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) forest campaigner Zenzi Suhadi told the Post on Friday.

Ruandha said the ministry was well aware of the fact that one of the reasons why deforestation was still ongoing in the country was because companies simply shifted their operation from primary forest and peat land to secondary forest.

“We are studying [the feasibility of including secondary forest in the moratorium]. If secondary forest is also covered in the moratorium, it means that there will be no more production area while at the same time there is a demand for us to increase production,” he said.

“The priority of the moratorium should be to return to the primary functions of forest. We do that by revoking permits [of firms] that cause environmental destruction,” he said.

Furthermore, the government should have prioritized giving forest permits to local people, as Jokowi’s campaign pledge, known as the Nawacita program, promised 12.7 million hectares of forest for local people, currently, the moratorium mainly benefitted private companies, said Zenzi.

Sugarcane plantations for instance are exempt from the moratorium.

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