Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jun 15

Additional SG 50 Intertidal Walk for members of the public, 5 Jul, 6.15am – 10.45am
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Reefy Changi
wild shores of singapore

Toddycats at Ubin Day!

In a pinch
The annotated budak

Drops of Heaven
Saving MacRitchie

Common Flangetail ovipositing
Bird Ecology Study Group

Pink-necked Pigeons nesting in a flower pot
Singapore Bird Group

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PUB launches study on underground water reservoir and drainage system

Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE: The national water agency, PUB, is exploring the feasibility of constructing an underground drainage and water reservoir system which could mitigate the impact of climate change, and act as a buffer against droughts.

The move was announced by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivivan Balakrishnan at the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) and Innovation Summit on Tuesday morning (Jun 16).

The two-year study will look into the design of such a system, which PUB said could include tunnels to transport excess stormwater to underground caverns for storage. A pumped storage hydropower system could also be developed to harness energy from when water flows from the surface to underground caverns.

The study will include geological surveys to obtain detailed information on soil and rock properties. PUB said knowledge of such geological conditions is critical, as there are challenges involved in the construction of underground facilities. The location and development of caverns and underground reservoirs will also require suitable rock material.

The study is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

- CNA/es

PUB to explore underground space for drainage and water storage
AsiaOne 16 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB will be studying the technical and economic feasibility of developing an integrated underground drainage and reservoir system, according to a statement from the agency.

PUB will launch a 24-month study to look at the feasibility of the system to reduce the impact of climate change and enhance resilience against droughts.

This study will look into the design options for an Underground Drainage and Reservoir System (UDRS), which could integrate three key components - stormwater conveyance tunnels, underground reservoir caverns, and a pumped storage hydropower system.

One possible option is to have tunnels to convey excess stormwater to underground caverns for storage. The caverns can add to Singapore's reservoir water storage and enhance drought resilience. In addition, the study will explore the possibility of having a pumped storage hydropower system to recover energy from the flow of water from surface water bodies to the underground caverns.

"Besides allowing us to overcome land limitations for key drainage and water storage infrastructure, the UDRS study can potentially allow us to mitigate the impact of climate change and flood risks, and strengthen the overall drought resilience of Singapore's water supply," said Mr William Yeo, PUB's Director of Policy and Planning.

There are challenges involved in the construction of underground facilities and the knowledge of underground geological conditions is critical. The location and development of caverns and underground reservoir will require suitable rock material. The study will include geological surveys to obtain detailed information on soil and rock properties.

"In carrying out this study, we will work closely with key agencies and stakeholders to ensure that the geological surveys are conducted with care and sensitivity to the environment," added Mr Yeo.

The study is expected to be completed in end-2017, according to PUB.

Singapore to look into underground reservoirs

SINGAPORE — Flood water from intense storms here that would have otherwise gone to waste could eventually be turned into another water and even power source.

National water agency PUB is exploring using underground space to collect and store excess storm water. It will call for a tender for a 24-month study on the technical and economic feasibility of developing an underground drainage and reservoir system.

The study will explore design options for the system, such as stormwater conveyance tunnels to transport water to an underground reservoir cavern. There could also be a pumped storage hydropower station that could convert kinetic energy of the water flowing in the tunnels to electricity.

Expected to be completed by the end of 2017, the study will also include a geological survey to find a location with suitable soil and rock properties.

Announcing this at the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Technology and Innovation Summit yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore receives about 2.4m of rainfall a year. But because of a shortage of land to capture and store rainfall, much of it is discharged into the sea. At the same time, prolonged droughts dry out the current reservoirs, leading to water shortage.

“Climate change increases the probability of both intense rainfall and prolonged periods of drought,” said Dr Balakrishnan in a speech. “ ... Consequently, an underground drainage and storage network will mitigate the impact of climate change and enhance Singapore’s drought resilience, whilst overcoming our land limitations.

“We will be able to take the excess rainfall from the storms, convey it to underground storage, harvest its energy as it percolates through those tunnels and reuse that energy later when we need to pump the water out again.”

Civil and environmental engineering experts TODAY spoke to said the caverns could be as big as five million to 50 million cubic metres, and finding the most cost-effective way of building this underground system would be the biggest challenge.

“There are no special challenges compared to typical tunnelling and underground excavation work,” said Associate Professor Tan Soon Keat, director of Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Research Centre. “The challenge is more on the balance sheet.”

Some experts felt the reservoir should be designed as one big central cavern, while others said smaller, multiple caverns spread across an area was more cost-effective. They also differed on how deep the reservoirs should be.

Professor Lui Pao Chuen, who is adviser to the National Research Foundation and who first floated the idea in 2012, said there could be multiple caverns, starting with a first “module” of five million cubic metres and having its capacity increased over the years.

Prof Tan said keeping it relatively near the surface at 30m to 40m underground would be a good depth to move the stored water freely.

“The longer it (takes water) to pump up, the more friction you have to overcome,” he added. “Whereas in a shallower surface, there is still friction but it is manageable.”

On the other hand, Assistant Professor Chew Soon Hoe from the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the National University of Singapore said it may be more cost-effective to build a big central cavern. Conveyance tunnels to transport water from different areas can be built cheaper at shallower depths, he said.

A permanently half-filled underground reservoir, if located at the fringes of the more densely-populated central areas of the island, would also be useful for collecting excess storm water and alleviating floods where economic costs would be the highest. But that would require a sizeable cavern and greater depths of 100m to 150m underground, Asst Prof Chew added.

While more power is needed to bring up water from greater depths, the hydropower that could be generated from the system could come in handy. “If you need to supply power, it’s very costly,” he said. But if the water going in can generate power supply, then “the newly-generated power to pump the water up to the reservoir … would be ideal”.

Given that the caverns would require rock that is not porous, experts suggested potential sites in central and north-eastern Singapore. Prof Lui said the rock mass west of Bukit Timah Expressway may offer a few potential sites.

As for concerns about the extent of underground digging done on the island, Asst Prof Chew gave the assurance that engineers would be able to mitigate any impact on the surroundings with proper design.

“The underground still promises a great opportunity for bigger exploration ... We can afford to build a lot more at a greater depth,” he added.

PUB delves into underground reservoirs
Audrey Tan My Paper AsiaOne 17 Jun 15;

Singapore could soon be digging deep for an answer to its water challenges.

National water agency PUB is looking into creating underground reservoirs to get around the space crunch above ground, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

Tapping on such structures will also help the city better deal with the effects of climate change, such as more intense rain and prolonged dry spells, as excess water can be stored and used when needed.

"In Singapore, we receive an average of about 2.4m of rainfall a year... In theory, we should not be short of water... The real limiting factor is not rainfall, but land," said Dr Balakrishnan at the opening of the inaugural Singapore International Water Week Technology and Innovation Summit yesterday.

The two-day water conference, which focuses on research and development, is a prelude to the Singapore International Water Week next year.

The underground drainage and reservoir system is likely to have three key components: Tunnels to channel stormwater below ground, caverns for water storage and a pumped storage hydropower system, which can convert energy from water flowing into underground caverns to electrical energy. This can then be used to pump the water back to the surface.

Such systems have long been championed by experts here as solutions to weather fluctuations and land scarcity.

One of them, Lui Pao Chuen, a National Research Foundation adviser who spearheaded research into Singapore's underground ammunition facility, noted: "One third of Singapore is made up of granite rocks, which are very strong, and rock caverns for underground reservoirs can be constructed there."

Chua Soon Guan, PUB's deputy chief executive, said that a tender for a two-year feasibility study on building such a system will be called in the next few months. Expected to be completed at the end of 2017, it will include geological surveys on soil and rock properties, and look into the design options.

William Yeo, PUB's director of Policy and Planning, stressed that it will work with relevant agencies and stakeholders to ensure that the surveys are "conducted with care and sensitivity to the environment".

Geological studies are essential since the underground storage reservoir must be built on rock mass instead of softer soil, which may not be able to support it, said Chong Kee Sen, president of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore.

Tan Soon Keat, director of the Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute, added that building in a rocky area would also ensure that there is less water loss and would prevent the water from being contaminated by soil minerals.

PUB would not comment on possible locations or other details, but the three experts believe it could be located in the central or north-eastern part of Singapore.

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What's that animal called in Hokkien?

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 16 Jun 15;

What's in a name? Plenty, when compiling a list of animals in Hokkien.

What started out as a hobby for two curators at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum has evolved into a labour of love that documents, for the first time, Hokkien animal names as they are used here.

Called Minnan (Hokkien) Animal Names Used In Singapore, the 58-page directory was published as an e-book on the museum's website earlier this month, and can be downloaded for free.

Apart from common translations like kau (dog), the directory of more than 300 animal names, complete with photos, lists some less-heard-of ones, such as hai tur (literally translated as sea pig, which refers to the dolphin) and even mythical creatures like the hong (phoenix).

Its main aim is to document Hokkien animal names and their pronunciations as they are used in Singapore, said Mr Tan Siong Kiat, 41, one of the two men behind the project. The other is Mr Kelvin Lim, 48.

"The translations were compiled from memory, experience, and from Hokkien speakers who are mainly the older members of our families and social circles," said Mr Tan.

The names are not simply direct translations from Mandarin. Rather, they are colloquial names used by ancestors to refer to animals, and both men stressed that the list is "neither comprehensive nor authoritative" .

For example, the tapir, a herbivorous mammal that people seldom encounter, does not appear to have a Hokkien name yet, although the curators admit it is possible that they just "have not met or talked to anybody who knows".

"People have come forward to tell us (animal) names that have been omitted," said Mr Tan, and more names will be added, should there be a second edition of the book.

The directory could be a resource for those keen on learning more about Hokkien, although it is not a guide on how to speak it, the writers said.

Nature lovers and guides who talk to older folk may also find it useful.

"Our grandmothers wouldn't understand us if we tried to talk to them about interesting animals using their English names," noted Mr Tan.

The directory had its beginnings in mid-2013, when a volunteer at the museum, then called Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, wanted to learn more about Hokkien, said Mr Tan.

So Mr Tan and Mr Lim, both native Hokkien speakers, started conversing with her in Hokkien. These conversations sparked the idea to compile a list of Hokkien animal names.

Said Mr Tan: "Singlish now seems to be the lingua franca for young Singaporeans.

"We hope the book will be useful for those of Hokkien descent who are interested in discovering their roots."

Undergraduate Sean Yap, 23, a volunteer guide at the museum as well as with Naked Hermit Crabs, which holds nature tours for the public, believes the directory will help him connect with his audience.

"When guiding, we try to be as conversational and colloquial as possible, and it really helps when you can connect with the people and how they view wildlife," he said.

Businessman Michael Jow, 39, the moderator of the Facebook group, Revival of Non-Mandarin Chinese Vernaculars in Singapore, said that the directory is useful.

Mr Jow, who is also the leader of the Singapore Hokkien Meetup Group, said that the directory gives students a good background, with its list of "colloquial terms used by our ancestors".

The directory is available at

A Hokkien sampler

Two curators at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum worked for a year to compile a new directory of Hokkien animal names.

The two men, both native Hokkien speakers, are Mr Tan Siong Kiat, 41, and Mr Kelvin Lim, 48.

Here are some examples from the 58-page directory:

Cat: Niau The term niau has also come to be a colloquialism to describe people who are fastidious, fussy or stingy.

House Gecko: Sien Nang/Sien Thang/Sin Nang (good/kind worm)

Crocodile : Bua Ya/ Bua Ia (After the Malay name buaya)

Orang-utan: Ang Mor Seng Seng (red-hair ape)

A hand-reared piglet: Gu Ni Tur/Gu Ni Ti

In Hokkien, a piglet is simply referred to as tur k'ia (literally translated as pig child). But a specific term has been devised for piglets which have been rejected by the sow and are hand-fed with cow's milk. Hence, the literal translation of Gu Ni Tur is cow's milk pig.

Porcupine: Hoh Tur/Hoh Ti (Grand pig) Ci Tur/Ci Ti (Spiny pig)

Otter: Zui Thuaq

Dinosaur: Khiong Liong

The literal translation of Khiong Liong is terror dragon.

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Pet fish shops struggling to hook customers

Jessica Lim My Paper AsiaOne 16 Jun 15;

That local tropical fish shop in your neighbourhood may soon become a rarity.

There were about 300 licensed aquarium shops in 2002, at the peak of the craze over luohan or flower horn fish, said to bring good luck to owners.

But latest figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore show there were just 120 licensed aquarium shops at the start of the year, down from 140 in 2012.

Industry players say many shops have been hit by falling interest in rearing fish and direct Internet sales.

Among the casualties is Soon Heng Aquarium in Yishun. Owner K. H. Koh, 60, said he closed shop last year because "business was so poor".

Meanwhile, the remaining players are feeling the heat.

At Pet Mart in Serangoon North, ornamental fish sales have fallen by 20 per cent in the past year. Managing director Benjamin Wee, 40, said: "A lot of effort is needed to rear fish and there are so many competing hobbies now.

"Kids watch television shows, have an iPad. The interest in fish isn't there any more," he said, adding that the business will be shuttered after he retires.

"Even if my children want to take over, I will tell them no. Honestly, you cannot earn much and it's really hard work." He pays himself $3,000 a month.

Over in Serangoon North, M. C. Li, the owner of Heisenberg Pet and Aquarium Centre, is thinking of closing when her lease is up in two years' time.

The 60-year-old said the shop barely breaks even each month. Two years ago, it used to earn several thousand dollars a month. "It's hard for us to continue," she said, adding that ornamental fish are sold online.

"Nowadays, the tropical fish farms here can sell directly to customers too," she said.

Andy Yap, the deputy chief executive of Qian Hu Corporation, the leading supplier to local fish shops, said customers often buy fish from the farm after visiting. However, he added that the company makes sure its prices do not undercut those at the shops it supplies fish to.

Mr Yap pointed to other reasons for the falling number of fish shops. "During the flower horn fish craze, there were so many new players who opened up to tap on it. After the craze, they shut down because they did not have the know-how to continue," he said, adding that Qian Hu's sales to retailers here have remained stable over the past decade.

"Shops are also closing because children are not taking over the business from the older generation," he said, adding that there was no new trend after the luohan craze.

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Making Ubin accessible for wheelchair users

SERENE LIM Today Online 15 Jun 15;

A weekend jaunt to Pulau Ubin is always a great way to experience the rustic side of Singapore and immerse in the outdoors, with sights such as Check Jawa. For many, the most inconvenient thing would probably be travelling to Changi Village and hopping on a bum boat. But for those with physical handicaps, the challenge begins with getting out of the house.

But a coming event called Wheels At Ubin is hoping to highlight issues of accessible travel by taking 100 wheelchair users to the island on June 26.

Those who aren’t physically handicapped take a lot of things for granted, said Wheels At Ubin co-founder Dennis Quek. “In 2010, I met a guy in a wheelchair who asked for help finding a washroom in Bukit Merah. That incident, helping him with the most private yet basic thing, was such an eye-opening experience,” said Quek. It eventually led to him and his friends coming up with the idea for the Pulau Ubin trip in April, when the island’s fate was a hot topic during the Budget debates.

Coming up with the idea was one thing, planning for it was another. “The most important issue was getting the wheelchair users across safely. We asked the ferry operators who all turned us down because of the risk,” recalled Fiona Phua, an event committee member and director of events management firm Imagine+.

Enter the Singapore Navy, which agreed to commit six fast craft utility (FCU) units to the cause. In addition, 30 navy personnel will also be onsite to assist. In addition, other organisations have also stepped in.

The event is supported by the SG50 Celebration Fund; SMRT Taxis, which volunteered 100 taxis to fetch wheelchair-bound participants to and from their homes; the Changi Sailing Club, which opened its premises for wheelchair users to board the FCUs more conveniently; National Parks Board, which will provide planks for easy disembarkation on the beachfront of Pulau Ubin; Republic Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic students, who will be staging performances at Ubin; and six nurses from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and two doctors, who have also volunteered their services.

A total of 500 volunteers will also be present to assist the participants, who are from the Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA), Hand-Cycling Association of Singapore (HAS) and Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC). The youngest participant is nine years old and the oldest is 77.

Wheels At Ubin has reached its maximum capacity, but Quek said it has a waiting list and will get in touch with individual wheelchair users if there are slots available. And while there have been requests to open the event up to the visually impaired, limited resources meant sticking to the original plan. “Planning a tour for the visually impaired would require an added dimension, a more sensory experience,” he explained.

But Phua also pointed out that these issues are precisely what an event like Wheels At Ubin hopes to highlight. “There are so many forms of disabilities and we’re just touching the surface. We hope to encourage more advocacy,” she said, adding that the Pulau Ubin trip is also a “symbolic” one that can get building designers, companies and government organisations thinking about issues of accessibility.

“Accessibility is not just about physical accessibility for wheelchair users. It’s also about able-bodied people being accessible to them, whether it’s to lend a helping hand or just to be there to talk to them in everyday life.”

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Malaysia: WWF-Malaysia calls for better sea turtle awareness and conservation

WWF-Malaysia 15 Jun 15;

15 June 2015, Kuala Lumpur: As sea turtles fill a vital role in the balance of our marine ecosystems, WWF-Malaysia (World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia) calls for more awareness in saving this species in conjunction with World Sea Turtle Day (WSTD) on 16 June 2015.

Sea turtles have travelled great distances across the world's oceans for centuries and face many dangers during their journeys. Sadly, humans’ ignorance have attributed to the loss of these marine creatures. This includes the consumption and trade of turtle eggs, direct capture of turtles for their meat and shell, fishery-related mortality (accidental death in the nets and long-lines of fishing fleets), poorly planned coastal development, marine and nesting beach pollution leading to loss of nesting and feeding habitats, unsustainable tourism, and climate change.

Sea turtles’ survival is critical as they help maintain the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs that benefit commercially-valuable species such as reef fishes, shrimp, lobster, and tuna. They attract marine tourists and are considered charismatic by divers and non-divers. Turtles are also flagship species for both local and regional conservation, and conserving these species and their habitats will protect wide marine areas on which both marine and human species are dependent upon.

Recognising the urgent need to save these creatures, WWF-Malaysia heightens its turtle conservation efforts in Terengganu and Malacca.

Ms Lau Min Min, Senior Marine Conservation Officer, Conservation of Hawksbill Turtles & Painted Terrapins of Melaka, WWF-Malaysia, explained, “We constantly work on three main turtle conservation components in the State: nesting habitat and egg protection, hatchling dispersal pattern research, and engaging local communities in turtle conservation.”

“Our work in Kerteh and Setiu focuses on turtle nesting beach monitoring, working closely with government departments and local rangers to manage turtle hatcheries and monitor nesting females,” added Ms Sharifah Ruqaiyah Syed Mustafa, Senior Marine Conservation Officer, Terengganu Turtle Conservation, WWF-Malaysia.

In line with WSTD, WWF-Malaysia in Malacca has planned a series of awareness activities revolving on the slogan, ‘Penyu Karah Melaka: Jual pun tidak, makan pun tidak’ or ‘Malacca’s Hawksbill Turtle: Not for Sale, Not for Consumption’. While in Terengganu, WWF-Malaysia’s Turtle project team is organising relevant activities focusing on ‘Telur Penyu Dibiar Tetas, BUKAN untuk Dijual’ or ‘Hatch My Eggs, They are NOT for Sale’. An upcoming turtle fun run and Terengganu Turtle Camp will be held in Ma’Daerah Turtle Sanctuary, Kerteh from 18 to 20 August.

In the context of legislation, turtle protection laws are inadequate and current Federal laws on turtles are limited. Under the Federal Constitution, each respective state has the authority in making its own laws on turtles. State laws vary from each state and are inadequate in combating human practices of consuming turtle eggs.

Everybody should work together and play their roles. The law on turtle egg consumption and sale should be amended and additional resources and enforcement on the ground should be heightened to protect and manage key nesting and feeding habitats. The public should, in turn, help by not consuming eggs or meat and not buying souvenirs made of turtle parts. Local communities which found turtles empowering should be engaged and involved in turtle conservation work and environmental stewardship. With strong, combined efforts, let us hope that sea turtles survive for years to come.

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Nations warn time running short to prepare Paris climate deal

Alister Doyle and Megan Rowling PlanetArk 12 Jun 15;

Several nations expressed growing unease on Thursday that time is running short to resolve disputes about global warming after U.N. talks ended with little progress toward an international deal to combat climate change meant to be agreed in December.

Delegates representing almost 200 countries trimmed a few pages off an 89-page draft text at the June 1-11 preparatory meeting in Bonn, but stopped short of confronting major underlying issues such as whether to set a global goal for phasing out greenhouse gases this century.

Several governments called for a faster pace, noting there were only two preparatory sessions left before a summit in Paris in December meant to agree a global deal.

"We have not seen as much progress as we would like," said Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation. "It is not something we can tinker around with indefinitely."

A senior U.S. official called the meeting productive but said: "We would like the pace to be quicker." Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: "These are negotiations of great moment to countries. The details matter a lot."

The United Nations said the talks were on track.

"This is a step-by-step process," Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference, saying there had been progress in streamlining the text and clarifying options for action.

Su Wei, China's chief negotiator, said all countries wanted an "ambitious and balanced outcome in Paris" to limit greenhouse gases.

The U.N. panel of climate scientists says it is at least 95 percent probable that most global warming since 1950 is caused by human activities, led by burning fossil fuels.

The Alliance of Small Island States, representing nations from the Pacific to the Caribbean at risk from rising sea levels, said there had been progress in Bonn but: "We are acutely aware that we still have considerable work."

Negotiators meet again in August and October but delegates say the toughest issues will be left for Paris, including aid for developing nations and how to make the deal legally binding.

Nations asked the co-chairs of the meeting to work on the draft text before the next meeting.

Co-chair Ahmed Djoghlaf accused the media of being too negative. "Saying that the process is going nowhere is not a responsible statement," he said. "The job is huge, we are talking about a revolution."

On Monday, the Group of Seven industrialized nations set a goal of phasing out global fossil fuel emissions by 2100. The U.N. talks are deeply split about whether to follow suit.

Many developing nations favor a tougher deadline of 2050 for shifting to renewable energies while some OPEC producers would prefer to omit any deadlines at all.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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