Best of our wild blogs: 4 Jul 15

Soft coral garden at Chek Jawa
wild shores of singapore

Back at sea fan garden of Changi
wonderful creation

Pulau Hantu (03072015) - "Lost clams"
Psychedelic Nature

Quick Walk At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (29 Jun 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Plant-Bird Relationship: 4. References
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Singapore commits to ambitious pledge to cut emissions


SINGAPORE — The Republic has pledged an ambitious target to reduce carbon emissions, a move environmental observers have hailed. However, they said it requires all parties, from industries to individuals, to play their part to achieve it.

Joining 16 other countries in stating targeted carbon emission cuts to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), Singapore said it intends to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide per GDP dollar by 36 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Termed Emissions Intensity, the target will drop from 0.176kg per dollar to 0.113kg per dollar.

Separately, Singapore expects the total volume of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to carbon dioxide it produces a year to peak at 65 million metric tonnes, which it pledged to keep to, regardless of economic growth.

In a statement from the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, said: “For a very small country with limited alternative energy options, the stabilisation of our emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030 requires serious effort by everyone.

“We have to strive for higher levels of energy efficiency, including deployment of best-in-class technologies.”

Across sectors, industry, buildings, and transport form the major contributors of carbon emissions here. To hit the carbon emission targets — otherwise known as Intended Nationally Determined Contribution — new or enhanced measures will be introduced, said the NCCS.

The Government will continue to seek feedback on what needs to be done and give businesses and households sufficient lead time to adjust to new requirements, it added.Details will be announced by the respective agencies later, but examples of action that could be taken include improving energy efficiency and providing incentives for industries, and raising the usage of public transport and encouraging walking and cycling for individuals.

Parties to the UNFCC — 195 nations — will be meeting in Paris in December to craft a new global climate agreement for post-2020.

Singapore is already among the top 20 per cent of most carbon efficient countries in the world, contributing 2.2 per cent in trade but accounting for just around 0.11 per cent in global emissions.

The city-state has also been working towards reducing its emissions to achieve its unconditional pledge of reducing emissions by 7 to 11 per cent below business-as-usual levels by 2020. For example, the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Scheme and solar panel installations have improved the energy efficiency of buildings. The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 has also set out 2030 targets of extending cycling paths to 700km and increasing peak hour journeys on public transport from 63 per cent in 2013 to 75 per cent.

Describing Singapore’s emissions targets as a step in the right direction, lead environmental engineer at the Singapore Environment Council Kavickumar Muruganathan said the Republic is “definitely punching above our weight to reduce total carbon emissions and fight climate change”.

On how limiting carbon emissions after 2030 will impact economic growth, Professor Michael Quah, director of the Energy Office at National University of Singapopre, said it may stimulate the economy by bringing in less energy-intensive industries while making the existing industries more energy-efficient.

Mr Eugene Tay, who is a director of sustainability consulting firm Green Future Solutions, added that the economy would have to go through “de-carbonisation” by becoming more energy-efficient and using more renewable energy.

However, executive director of Nanyang Technological University’s Energy Research Institute Subodh Mhaisalkar said Singapore should not underestimate the challenges in meeting the new targets. “It is an exciting target from a technology perspective but I’m concerned that going forward, the easy things are done,” he said.

Both he and Prof Quah said companies would need to look at making processes more efficient and finding ways to recycle waste heat and gases produced.

Prof Mhaisalkar noted that mindset changes are also needed, such as individuals choosing walking over driving, or wider acceptance of working from home and adoption of e-commerce.

Singapore pledges to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
Singapore will also aim to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, in support of global efforts to reduce environmentally harmful emissions.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 3 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has made a pledge to stabilise and limit its yearly greenhouse gas emissions to about 65 million tonnes by 2030. This is part of the country's contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.

In all, 196 pledges or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions are expected from various countries and parties. The pledges will be discussed at the annual Conference of Parties in Paris in December this year, to develop a new global climate agreement for the post-2020 period.

In its contribution Singapore pledged that it intends to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. Emission intensity refers to the amount of greenhouses gas emitted per dollar of gross domestic product.

According to the IEA Key World Energy Statistics in 2014, Singapore has one of the lowest emissions intensity globally. It is ranked 113 out of 140 countries and is among the lowest 20 per cent. Currently, Singapore accounts for just 0.11 per cent of global emissions.

To achieve the reduction, the Government will build on its efforts to achieve economic growth in a carbon-efficient way. Back in 2009, the country set a target to reduce emissions by 16 per cent below business-as-usual levels by 2020 if there is a legally binding global agreement. Singapore has progressively switched from fuel oil to natural gas for cleaner power generation. Today, over 90 per cent of electricity here is generated from natural gas.

"Singapore plans to further reduce our emissions intensity as part of international efforts to address climate change. or a very small country with limited alternative energy options, the stabilisation of our emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030 requires serious efforts by everyone. We have to strive for higher levels of energy efficiency, including deployment of best-in-class technologies”, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean who is chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change in Singapore.

- CNA/vc

S'pore pledges to rein in greenhouse emissions by 2030
Feng Zengkun Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Jul 15;

Singapore has set itself the ambitious target of stopping any further increases to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

It has also pledged to become greener economically, by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) - by more than a third.

The figures were set out in a document submitted to the United Nations yesterday, ahead of the Paris talks in December aimed at reaching a new climate agreement amid rising concerns over global warming and the dangers posed.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, said yesterday that, "for a very small country with limited alternative energy options, the stabilisation of our emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030 requires serious efforts by everyone".

Singapore emitted greenhouse gases equivalent to 46.83 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2010. It plans to cap the figure at about 65 million tonnes by around 2030, and stop any more increases.

DPM Teo also called for the adoption of "best-in-class" technologies by industries here, to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, welcomed these targets, but said much more innovation would be required from people and businesses.

"We have already reduced our energy intensity substantially by changing from fuel oil to natural gas. Going forward, it will definitely be more challenging," he said.

Prof Michael Quah, director of the National University of Singapore Energy Office, said industrial energy efficiency will be "the toughest target, as industries are focused on high-quality, reproducible products with tried and true processes".

Still, he noted: "Singapore's goal is good as it shows commitment and connotes sustainable growth."

Currently, Singapore accounts for just 0.11 per cent of global emissions, even though it makes up 2.2 per cent of global trade.

The new targets were submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets a framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle climate change. The aim is to develop an agreement for the post-2020 period that would help keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 deg C above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Scientists say that, given current emission trends, the world could see double that increase, which is likely to cause disastrous droughts, storms, floods and rising sea levels.

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‘Move to nuclear power needed’ if Singapore wants to cut emissions

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 4 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — In the next 50 years, Singapore can either choose to continue using natural gas to meet most of its energy needs, or move to nuclear power, said a panellist at an Institute of Policy Studies conference yesterday.

Nuclear power is the option if Singapore wants to seriously address climate change and cut carbon emissions, said futurist and business strategist Peter Schwartz, who is also on Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council.

“You’re going to continue to need electricity, and renewables will be insufficient. You’re either going to have to continue using natural gas ... or move to nuclear power,” said Mr Schwartz at the session on energy, the environment and the resilience of cities at the Singapore at 50: What Lies Ahead conference.

“In the end, if we’re really serious about climate change, then we’re facing one alternative. And that one alternative that we actually have is nuclear power.”

Despite high-profile disasters such as Fukushima in Japan, he said nuclear power has been safe.

Nuclear energy technology has advanced, and Singapore could consider one of three options: Have nuclear power plants on offshore barges, build an underground plant, or collaborate with neighbours to build one on a neighbouring island, said Mr Schwartz, who is also senior vice-president of strategic planning at

In 2012, the Government had said nuclear energy was not yet suitable for deployment in Singapore, as power plant designs still posed more risks than benefits for the Republic.

This was after it had conducted a pre-feasibility study, as part of efforts to diversify Singapore’s energy mix and ease energy constraints in the long term.

At the session yesterday, Dr Liu Thai Ker, a fellow panellist and former chief planner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, was asked how long-term planning for infrastructure and economic activities could be done, given uncertainty over the shape of the future economy and employment patterns.

Dr Liu, an architect-planner, said the Government is aware that the economy is changing all the time and it has policies such as 99-year leases for commercial and residential land, as well as leases as short as 15 years for industrial land.

However, long-term and intelligent planning is nonetheless needed, and “the job of a planner is to look at the changing patterns and create land spaces as well as building spaces”, he said. NEO CHAI CHIN

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Singapore Botanic Gardens declared UNESCO World Heritage Site

It is Singapore's first World Heritage site and the third Botanic Gardens to be listed as a World Heritage Site, after Kew Gardens in England and the Padua Gardens in Italy.
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 4 Jul 15;

BONN, Germany: The Singapore Botanic Gardens is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after it was inscribed at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany.

The decision was met with cheers from a jubilant Singapore delegation, led by Culture, Community and Youth Minister, Lawrence Wong. Others in the delegation included chief executive of the National Heritage Board Rosa Daniel and CEO of the National Parks Board, Kenneth Er.

The 156-year-old Singapore attraction joins more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in some 160 countries. It is the third Botanic Gardens to be listed as a World Heritage Site, after Kew Gardens in England and the Padua Gardens in Italy and Singapore's first World Heritage Site.

The inscription comes almost five years after a feasibility study by the authorities found that the Botanic Gardens was Singapore’s best candidate to achieve UNESCO World Heritage status.

Singapore officially submitted the Gardens' nomination dossier to UNESCO in January last year.

Last September, a technical assessor from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) visited the Gardens. In May, ICOMOS recommended the Gardens to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, saying it was an "exceptional example of a British tropical colonial botanic garden in Southeast Asia".

Still, the final decision lay with the 21-member UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Before he left for Bonn, Minister Wong said he was optimistic about the bid, and said the World Heritage status would strengthen conservation efforts at the Gardens.

The Botanic Gardens spans 74-hectares and includes the National Orchid Garden which has over 1,000 orchird species and 2,000 hybrids on display.

It was once home to a host of animals, including a sloth bear, emus and a leopard. Watch Channel NewsAsia's special the Botanic Gardens: Stories and Secrets here.

- CNA/ly

Jubilation after Botanic Gardens declared World Heritage Site
Close to 100 people witnessed a historic moment as the Singapore Botanic Gardens was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site following a unanimous endorsement by the 21-member World Heritage Committee on Saturday (Jul 4).
Nur Afifah Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 5 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Botanic Gardens was a scene of jubilation on Saturday (Jul 4) evening. Close to 100 people witnessed a historic moment as the Gardens was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site following a unanimous endorsement by the 21-member World Heritage Committee.

"For me, there is a gush of joy ... that we are there, that we've reached. And it happens during our Jubilee year," said a visitor.

"I felt very happy, very excited because I have an emotional attachment to this place," another said.

Singapore ministers also joined in the celebrations online.

In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated the various parties involved and said the Gardens "played an important part in making Singapore a Garden City".

Similarly, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan posted on his blog that the decision came as a great gift for SG50.

Other ministers took time to congratulate the successful UNESCO bid at various events.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Masagos Zulkifli, said: "I'm elated. It is the third only garden in the world that's been given this status. The other two, like Kew Gardens ... are world heritage standard. To be acknowledged as a World Heritage standard is a great SG50 gift for Singapore. So on behalf of Singapore, I'm really thankful that they recognised this and we are celebrating as a nation.

"All the effort we have put in, to preserve our Botanic Gardens, make it a garden open for everybody, also a place where we practise conservation, has paid off and it's paid off in a way that's most meaningful for Singapore by getting the World Heritage status."

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said the inscription recognises how far Singapore has come and the efforts it has put in to build the city. But he said the country now needs to find a balance between conservation and development.

He pointed out: "This is just the beginning, and it is the beginning of a journey for us to leverage this status, for us to build up on competencies to better take care of our environment."

"The (UNESCO) status is one thing; to be able to use it, to have a group of people who can conserve our buildings, know what to do, to strengthen our conservation and heritage work is another thing. So I think this is a very good platform for us to build that kind of competencies so that we mature as a country."

The National Heritage Board is delighted with the outcome, but said effort must be made to continue preserving the site.

Cheryl Koh, director of marketing and corporate communications at National Heritage Board, said: "We're really happy, but the work doesn't stop here, because we have to continue to preserve the site to make it the World Heritage Site that everyone will love and continue for future generations of Singaporeans."

Meanwhile, as a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Singapore Botanic Gardens already has plans to improve itself.

"We will be developing our Tyersall learning forest and refreshing our National Orchid Gardens with a bigger cool house in the years to come," said Dennis Lim, deputy director of festival, events and exhibitions at National Parks Board.

Singapore Botanic Gardens is the first botanic gardens in Asia to become a World Heritage Site.

- CNA/al

UNESCO delegates laud S’pore’s nomination of Botanic Gardens as World Heritage Site
SIAU MING EN Today Online 5 Jul 15;

BONN — To a man, all 21 members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee were so impressed with Singapore's nomination bid that every single one of them expressed their support and congratulations - an uncommon sight in the history of the committee's deliberations - even before the final decision to list the Singapore Botanic Gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was delivered today (July 4).

At the start of the session to assess Singapore’s nomination, Ms Ruchira Kamboj, India’s permanent delegate to UNESCO who also chaired the session, said: “I must add here that each and every committee member wishes to take the floor on this nomination.”

By the time the 8th speaker spoke, some committee members had already started walking up to the Singapore delegation to offer their congratulations, even though the final results were yet to be announced.

The Botanic Gardens joins a list of 11 other newly-inscribed World Heritage Sites announced so far by the committee at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Bonn, Germany.

Speaking on Singapore’s nomination bid, Ms Maria Theresa P Lazaro, the Philippines’ permanent delegate to UNESCO, said the well-preserved site illustrates the British tropical botanic gardens that has been playing a key role in advances in scientific knowledge in the world. She also lauded the gardens’ exceptional plant collection, the digital inventories of living plants and archival plans, among other things.

Other delegates praised the nomination dossier, describing it as “well-prepared”, and a “perfect example of how (a) nomination should be presented”.

Mr Jose Filipe Mendes Moraes Cabral, Portugal’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, said: “With more than 150 years of history, the 74-hectare gardens hold an unique and significant place in the history of Singapore and the region and have succeeded in encapsulating natural and cultural heritage over all these years.”

Mr Huseyin Avni Botsali, Turkey’s permanent delegate to UNESCO said the inscription of Botanic Gardens as a World Heritage Site was a “source of inspiration”. He added that Singapore’s “remarkable commitment to the state of integrity of the site has overwhelmed” the committee. “This small state with the obligation of maximizing the use of every square centimeter of land is making a very generous contribution by creating the site. We believe Singapore will not only have its first site inscribed by the Botanic Gardens, but it will become a leader in this area, and inspire and lead all other interested parties and stakeholders who have similar sites,” he said.

Speaking to the Singapore media on the sidelines of the session, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre director Kishore Rao said the committee was unanimous in its approval of the recommendation from the International Council on Monuments and Sites’ (Icomos), to list Botanic Gardens as a World Heritage Site. He noted that the members recognised that the gardens’ values were outstanding, and “therefore felt that they needed to endorse the recommendation, so everybody spoke in support of it”. “It’s not always, in relation to all these inscription proposals, that such a unanimous decision takes place, not everybody speaks,” said Dr Rao.

Unesco title plants Singapore firmly on world map
Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE - The Botanic Gardens' joining the international league of Unesco World Heritage Sites is a feather in the cap for Singapore, said experts from across the fields of heritage, nature and tourism.

They described it as a significant endorsement from an independent, reputable body that raises the profile of the country's heritage and plants it firmly on the world map.

Cultural geographer Professor Lily Kong from the National University of Singapore called it a "fitting tribute" for Singapore in its 50th year of independence, while heritage conservation expert Johannes Widodo said it is an "amazing achievement" for a small country.

The World Heritage Committee listed the 156-year-old Gardens as a Unesco site during its 39th session in Bonn, Germany yesterday.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites, a panel of experts appointed by Unesco to assess the site, said the Gardens demonstrates the evolution of a British tropical colonial garden into a modern and world-class botanic garden, scientific institution and place of conservation and education.

Congratulating Singapore for its well-prepared nomination dossier, Portugal ambassador and Unesco delegate Jose Filipe Mendes Moraes Cabral said: "With more than 150 years of history, the 74ha Gardens holds a unique and significant place in the history of Singapore and in the region, and has succeeded in encapsulating natural and cultural heritage over all these years."

Nature Society president Shawn Lum said the successful listing celebrates the vision of the Gardens' founders, the work of its directors, the research produced there, the work of grounds-keeping staff, and the economy.

Meanwhile, tourism experts reckon the title adds a new dimension to the Singapore experience, which is known for modern marvels and attractions such as the Singapore Zoo, Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay.

"It highlights to visitors that we have a well-preserved green space in Singapore despite its rapid development which tourists and even locals may not quite take notice of," said Ngee Ann Polytechnic senior lecturer in tourism, Dr Michael Chiam.

But the title should not be wielded as a promotional tool or gimmick, they said. Instead, it is about raising awareness among Singaporeans about the gem in their midst, encouraging them to visit the place and to learn more about its history.

It also serves as a reminder that much of what and who made Singapore and its history and heritage started before 1965, said Prof Kong. "The much deeper roots of our history and heritage deserve to be embraced and celebrated."

It is also important that Singaporeans "feel proud about this Unesco heritage emblem" and become "ambassadors for this achievement", added Mr Kevin Cheong, the chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions.

But the work does not stop there, said Singapore Heritage Society's honorary secretary Yeo Kang Shua.

There is heavy responsibility on the part of the Government to give its commitment to maintain the site for posterity, he said. "When a site is inscribed, we are effectively telling the world that it not only holds significance to us, but the entire world," he said.

Mrs Katherine Oehlers, 67, who has been a volunteer guide at the Gardens for eight years, said foreigners she has taken on tours of Singapore have been very positive and impressed by the site.

"This, I would say, is the crowning glory for SG50. I feel a great sense of pride, I am overjoyed. I think it is a matter of national pride as well."

Singapore looking to perhaps have another UNESCO site: Khaw Boon Wan
“For Singapore, there is much that we can offer to the world. So the Botanic Gardens is just the very first site," says National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 5 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is already looking ahead, to perhaps having another UNESCO World Heritage Site, after the Botanic Gardens was placed on the list.

“For Singapore, there is much that we can offer to the world. So the Botanic Gardens is just the very first site,” said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan. “What else can be our next heritage site is for us to reflect upon. For Singapore to be successful as a city-state without anything and yet we remain outstanding for 50 years, I think that concept, that idea to the world must be a great heritage.”

Other ministers also lauded the UNESCO milestone on Sunday (Jul 5), calling it a gift and tribute to Singapore's pioneers.

“My NParks colleagues in Bonn texted back the news to us in Singapore and we were all jumping for joy,” said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee. "It's a great gift for Singapore on our 50th anniversary. A gift from our forefathers and our pioneers. Certainly a tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who stood for a green Singapore and who started planting the seeds of our city in a garden."

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam added: "I think it's wonderful for all of us as Singaporeans. The Botanic Gardens is a real gem, right there in the middle of our city. It's taken a century and a half, but we've kept it up very well and I really give great credit to NParks for keeping the place so beautiful and letting nature have its own course as well. It's a real pride for Singaporeans."

For Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu, the Gardens hold special meaning to her as she spent time there during her teenage years, and it is also part of the nation’s historical heritage.

"We were able to develop rubber industries out of the scientific know-how in Botanic Gardens. And now we're still very much involved in a lot of scientific research, for example into orchids. So there's a lot of know-how in the garden, and of course we should protect the historical heritage that we have,” she said.

“We're so delighted that it has been named a UNESCO heritage site. It's an important decision and I think it will bring more visitors to Singapore to Botanic Gardens to appreciate the beauty of the garden."

- CNA/cy/dl

Stronger conservation efforts to come, as Botanic Gardens named UNESCO site
"It will motivate us to do even more to strengthen our conservation efforts in the gardens and elsewhere in Singapore and to invest even more in heritage development in Singapore," says Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong.
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 5 Jul 15;

BONN: The inscription of the Singapore Botanic Gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage Site has inspired authorities to do even more to strengthen conservation efforts in the Gardens and around Singapore, said Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong after the Gardens received unanimous support for its bid from the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany on Saturday (Jul 4).

After working on the bid for five years, it came down to the World Heritage Committee, made up of 21 state parties.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens had earlier been recommended to be inscribed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a panel of experts appointed by the World Heritage Centre to assess bids.

But the overwhelming support from the committee took the Singapore delegation by surprise. "The state party of Singapore is our nearest and closest neighbour, not only physically, but also historically and culturally. We share the happiness of the state party,” said Dr Zainah Ibrahim, Malaysia Commissioner for Heritage, Department of National Heritage.

Philippines echoed similar sentiments. “This inspiring site reminds us that research is the ground of innovation, the past is the foundation of the future, memories the soil of the imagination. Congratulations Singapore,” said Ms Maria Theresa P Lazaro, Philippine Ambassador, Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.

The site became the third botanic gardens to be placed on UNESCO's prestigious list.

The decision was met with resounding applause as members came up to congratulate the delegation, led by Minister Lawrence Wong.

"All the comments from the state parties, the ICOMOS, the professional bodies show that they recognise the efforts we have made over the years in maintaining this very good balance between nature, heritage and urban development,” he said.

“They recognise this being done in the Gardens and they also recognise these efforts being made in Singapore as a whole. It will motivate us to do even more to strengthen our conservation efforts in the gardens and elsewhere in Singapore and to invest even more in heritage development in Singapore.”

Heritage experts like ICOMOS said the accolade is the start of a journey for Singapore to ensure that the Gardens is protected, and that an expected rise in visitors is managed with education.

Dr Nigel Taylor, Director, Singapore Botanic Gardens, said: "You can educate visitors in many different ways and you have to use a diversity of ways, no one individual will like a particular method.”

“You can use standard signage, we can have the one-to-one experience of a volunteer guide, we can use electronic methods like apps. We are actually doing all of these things already. All we have to do now is to ramp this up to increase the amount we're doing because clearly there will be more people coming with a hunger for knowledge about the gardens. 'Why was it inscribed on the World Heritage List'? 'What does it mean?'

"In future, we will have an exhibition about the World Heritage programme in a general way so that people can understand what world heritage really means,” he added.

Dr Taylor said the Gardens could also do more with more volunteers, although they will need to be trained first.

In his speech thanking the committee for their support, Mr Wong said the UNESCO listing is a "wonderful" Golden Jubilee present for the whole nation. The UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription will be unveiled at the Gardens on the Golden Jubilee weekend.

- CNA/dl

Visitors head to Botanic Gardens after World Heritage Site listing
Singaporeans said the gardens' new achievement is a good way to mark the nation's golden jubilee, while others said it is a moment they are glad to be a part of.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 5 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: Just a day after the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park already seemed more crowded than usual. Despite the relentless midday sun, visitors streamed into the Botanic Gardens on Sunday (Jul 5).

Singaporeans said its new achievement is a good way to mark the nation's golden jubilee, and some came down just to show their support.

“It is not easy to have a natural setting like this to be named as a UNESCO site. It takes a lot of effort and time to have all these plants being grown to beautify the surroundings,” said Ms Yvonne Lin, 34.

Mr Soh Ah Siang, 66, was also at the gardens on Sunday. “We came here to support the Botanic Gardens, as we are so happy that the nation received this award,” he said.

For Mdm Kah Gen Guek, she decided to make a trip down after hearing about the accolade on the news. “I saw this on the news yesterday. I watched the news twice and I still didn't understand where the Botanic Gardens was, so I called my son-in-law up and got him to take me here today,” she said.

Ms Caroline Sim, 33, said the title is something to be proud of. “Being a Singaporean, we're quite pragmatic people, so we will only come when we have free time, but I think it is a moment of national pride.”

For the people who have come to call Singapore home, it is a moment they are glad to be a part of.

Mr Gerjo Van Den Berg, 33, said he usually visits the Botanic Gardens every month.

“The nice part is that we can bring the dog. For our little one it's really nice to run around, to play and sometimes we do picnics here. It's a really nice, relaxed environment. Now that it's world famous, we will come here more often, but it will (definitely) be more crowded than normal,” he said.

Ms Lindsey Marie Wendler, 30, who works in Singapore, said: “It's great that it has been added because it really is an amazing place. It's my favourite place in the world to run. It's just so beautiful to see the different areas of the park.”


The National Parks Board said it is heartened by the outpouring of public support.

“Generally, our Sundays and weekends are very packed. So today, it seems there are more people. We are also very encouraged. Our staff has been congratulated by a lot of visitors as they walk past. We also see a lot of people taking pictures of our buntings that declare that we are a UNESCO site,” said Mr Dennis Lim, Deputy Director, Festival, Events & Exhibitions, National Parks Board.

NParks is confident it can handle the increase in visitorship as they have contingency plans in place, and welcomes Singaporeans and overseas visitors to come and enjoy the gardens.

- CNA/dl

Botanic Gardens likely to boost tourism after World Heritage Site listing: Iswaran
Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran also pointed out the need to manage the growing interest in the Gardens.
Nur Afifah Ariffin, Channel NewsAsia 5 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Botanic Gardens is likely to help attract tourists to the country, now that it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, according to Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran.

But he also pointed out the need to manage the growing interest in the Gardens.

"In terms of its impact on tourism, the fact that we will have a World Heritage Site will of course be an added boost in terms of our ability to attract visitors to Singapore. The important thing is to manage the balance between visitorship on the one hand, and maintaining its beauty, so that the experience is one that is memorable for all,” said Mr Iswaran.

“So this is something that STB will of course incorporate the information in its marketing, and then we'll have to work very closely with National Parks and other stakeholders on how we'll manage the heightened interest in the Botanic Gardens going forward,” he added.

Mr Iswaran also said the gardens is a “national treasure”, which Singaporeans have grown to love and enjoy.

“In terms of the recognition as a UNESCO world heritage site, I think it's a fitting recognition of the important place it occupies in Singapore's society and in our own history - the 150 history - and it demonstrates an important part of a modern city like Singapore where we still maintain and preserve our cultural and natural heritage. And in this instance, the Botanic Gardens is an excellent example,” he added.


While more than 4 million people visit the Botanic Gardens each year, the National Parks Board expects this number to rise by 20 per cent after the Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Saturday.

According to tour groups Channel NewsAsia spoke to, the Botanic Gardens is not usually the first spot tourists flock to, as they prefer other places like Sentosa or the Marina Bay Sands.

But with the new accolade, they are now looking to include a trip to the Gardens in their city tour packages.

Those we spoke to said they welcome the news, and that the UNESCO nod benefits Singapore's tourism industry as a whole.

Mr Samson Tan, CEO of GMTC Travel, said the Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa are "trendy" tourism products, but with the UNESCO nod, the Botanic Gardens should be highlighted.

"If it's a World Heritage Site, we should make a point to put that attraction in our package. (For) a World Heritage Site, if people can go there and even take a picture, I think that is quite unique, very important for a tourist coming to Singapore," said Mr Tan.

- CNA/dl

UNESCO bid dossier a labour of love since 2010
SIAU MING EN Today Online 6 Jul 15;

BONN — When Ms Jean Wee, the director of National Heritage Board’s (NHB) preservation of sites and monuments division, was tasked to study Kew Gardens’ UNESCO nomination dossier in preparation for Singapore Botanic Gardens’ own bid, she felt discouraged.

Describing the gardens in the United Kingdom as the “mothership” of satellite British colonial-styled gardens, Ms Wee said it possessed outstanding structures and monuments, and unique features.

“Looking at (the aspect) of ‘human interchange’, I thought, ‘Good grief, they were miles ahead of us!’,” she said. “We know Kew is different from (the Botanic Gardens); you cannot compare oranges with apples. But it is so outstanding on that level (and) we have to somehow reach that and be on par with them.”

But after spending one-and-a-half years compiling and writing up the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ nomination dossier, Ms Wee felt confident enough to check the recommendation of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) — released past midnight on May 16 — only the morning after. The non-governmental organisation’s recommendation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is part of the bid process — it backed the inscription without reservation, the best recommendation possible.

The 156-year-old Singapore Botanic Gardens became the Republic’s first UNESCO site last Saturday — the culmination of preparation work set around a tight timeline since 2010, said Ms Wee.

The first thing she did was to create a timetable of all the deadlines she had to meet such that the Gardens’ possible inscription would be in time for Singapore’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The year 2012, in particular, was crunch time because Singapore had yet to sign the United Nations’ 1972 Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage to allow it to nominate the Botanic Gardens for UNESCO inscription.

Working with just two contracted staff, Ms Wee said the NHB’s role at the beginning was “more administrative”, where they had to secure the budget and sign-offs from the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, for instance. Consultations were held with government stakeholders, such as the Singapore Land Authority and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, to ensure government support for protecting the Gardens’ buffer zone from future development.


Research for the dossier began at least three years ago, around the time Dr Nigel Taylor arrived in Singapore to become the director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens — he was brought in specifically because he had participated in the UNESCO bid for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, between 2000 and 2003.

Putting the dossier together involved staff, past and present, of the National Parks Board (NParks), such as the Botanic Gardens’ long-time librarian Christina Soh, 60, who made two trips to the Kew Gardens in August 2011 and February 2012 to fill in the missing information in the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ history. For weeks, she also pored over boxes of archive materials and found photos and correspondence from the Gardens’ directors in the mid-1800s.

To research the history and architecture of the Gardens, individuals, groups and academics were roped in, Dr Taylor said. Associate Professor Timothy Barnard from the National University of Singapore, for instance, got his students to do individual research projects that looked into elements of the Gardens’ history.

And these students came up with interesting anecdotes that Dr Taylor said he would not have uncovered, including stories about how the former superintendent at the Gardens had his life threatened by staff he had problems with. “Those sort of things don’t get into annual reports because they are like the dirty linen no one wants publicised. But they are very important in understanding the history of the place,” added Dr Taylor.

ICOMOS Singapore helped with the research on the social and physical history of the gardens, said its president Kevin Tan, a law professor.

Over two months, the team, which included architecture historians and conservators, as well as an archaeologist, studied the Gardens’ physical structures and the socio-history of the place, such as the music performances that were held right through the Japanese Occupation.

Public engagement sessions were also held with the Gardens’ stakeholders, such as heritage and environment groups, volunteers and members of the public, apart from consultations with previous directors of the Gardens and the first commissioner of Parks and Recreation Wong Yew Kwan, he added.

To draw up a site management plan for the Gardens, they worked with a British consultant to look into the commonly-encountered operational procedures and issues to put up a list of recommendations, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation in NParks Leong Chee Chiew said.

Beyond the gathering of information, Dr Taylor said his team at NParks also had be trained to talk about the heritage of the Singapore Botanic Gardens so as to market it to the World Heritage Committee members, their ambassadors as well as other international heritage experts.

“You need to raise awareness with everybody, not just the people who may be close to the decision-making process,” he added.

After going through at least seven drafts over one-and-a-half years, the 700-page nomination dossier, was eventually completed in 2013.

Out of a “kiasu” mentality, Ms Wee revealed, they sent a draft nomination dossier to UNESCO in 2013 to check for completeness, before the official submission in January last year.

Dr Taylor, on the other hand, was always quietly confident of the Botanic Gardens’ bid. “I did all these 15 years ago and I could see that even though the Singapore Botanic Gardens is much smaller (than) the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it had a key place in history ... I can see that from the beginning and it’s probably harder for others to see,” he added.


Although she tried to avoid any near-misses by sticking to set deadlines — the nomination dossier was submitted two weeks before the deadline — Ms Wee said there were still minor glitches along the way.

For example, photos to be used in the report did not come in by the cut-off dates, she said. When the nomination dossier was sent for printing, the printing firm called to inform them that its machine was faulty and printed only 400 pages of the report. Even when the nomination dossier was finally ready for delivery, the courier service failed to pick it up from their office that evening, added Ms Wee.

“But we are in the business of putting up exhibitions as well, so we’re used to whatever that can go wrong will go wrong and we just have to find a way to deal with it,” she said.

On the international front, Singapore’s ambassador and permanent delegate to UNESCO Andrew Toh said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ role was to ensure that any document Singapore presents, such as the nomination dossier, is accepted in the context it was intended for.

While the gardens is usually seen as a natural landscape site, its nomination was for a cultural site and the Gardens’ cultural aspects were not easy to convey to others, he said.

Submitting the document to UNESCO was not the end of their work. Ms Wee said the NHB and NParks continued with promotional work to build up awareness of the Gardens’ heritage value among Singaporeans and convince them that the Gardens was worthy of the international accolade.

Recounting Singaporeans’ early remarks on the bid, she said: “Singaporeans say, ‘What, you mean Singapore Botanic Gardens can make it?’ ... ‘It’s a park, my goodness, why do you say it’s a world heritage site?’”

So they put up exhibitions in shopping malls explaining how the Gardens qualifies as a world heritage site, offering prizes for quizzes on the bid, among other activities to get Singaporeans involved.

Acknowledging that it is a challenge convincing Singaporeans, Ms Wee said many remain unaware of the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ history.

“I think people have taken (the Botanic Gardens) for granted over the years. They think it’s a place to do yoga ... to jump on that Tembusu tree or maybe in the past you feed the swans in the lake. But where is the cultural aspect?” she said.


After five years of planning and preparation, the moments before the results of Singapore Botanic Gardens’ bid to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site sparked many thoughts in her mind, said Ms Wee.

“Firstly, the moment we had always hoped for was finally about to happen. And on the other hand, I wanted to pay attention to the comments made by the state party members when the floor was opened to them,” she said.

On the congratulatory messages from the World Heritage Committee members, Dr Taylor said: “It was extraordinary, one of the longest salutations I’ve heard ... and every single member of the committee had something important to say and some had a lot to say in favour of the inscription.”

Looking back, Mr Toh said it felt like he had been taken on an emotional roller coaster for the past 18 months. “Like all projects, there are days where you feel reasonably confident, there are days where you feel maybe you’re over-confident, so you have these ups and downs,” he said.

Recalling his initial doubts, Mr Toh said he experienced a little bit of the Singaporean “kiasu” mentality, thinking he could have done better at times. But he added: “It’s obvious that a lot of the downsides were misplaced.”

Gardens' rubber research a key factor for accolade
Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 6 Jul 15;

Singapore was a major sorting and export centre for rubber from the 1900s to the 1960s, during which the trade picked up and boomed.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens played a pivotal role in that growth, as research into the crop allowed the gardens' first scientific director, Sir Henry Nicholas Ridley, to devise a rubber-tapping technique that yielded maximum quantities of latex without destroying the trees.

The gardens' role in plant research and its studies of rubber for cultivation were major factors that earned it the status as a Unesco World Heritage Site last Saturday.

Since the rubber trade declined, its role in Singapore's history has been largely forgotten by the public.

Given the gardens' intricate ties with rubber, the 105-year-old Rubber Trade Association of Singapore hopes the new status will help "boost awareness about rubber's economic heritage among younger generations of Singaporeans".

Mr Peter Tan, 71, a board member of the association, said: "We don't have rubber trees lining the country that can serve as reminders, but it's still a shame that some kids today might not even know how rubber feels like in their hands."

He recalled how Singapore was home to 15 rubber factories at one point. These factories came with mills and smoke houses, which cleaned the rubber and extracted moisture from the material.

Rubber, used in the production of tyres, was one of two commodities that built up Singapore's economy - the other being tin, said Mr Tan.

The rubber boom traces back to London's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which gifted the gardens here 22 rubber seedlings in 1877.

A dozen of them were planted in the gardens and studied to gather data about cultivation methods over the next two decades.

Sir Henry often visited Straits Settlements plantation owners with his jacket pockets filled with rubber seeds from 1,000 mature trees growing in the gardens.

"He believed so much in the value of rubber as a commercial crop for the region... He encouraged many to plant the crop," said Mr Tan.

The first to do so was Singaporean Chinese and tapioca estate owner Tan Chay Yan, grandson of Mr Tan Tock Seng. By 1901, he had a rubber plantation that spanned 1,200ha near Malacca.

Other Chinese entrepreneurs, such as Tan Kah Kee, Lim Nee Soon, and Lee Kong Chian, also started rubber businesses, which were handed to their descendants.

"The fortunes of many of Singapore's early millionaires were built on the rubber trade," said Mr Teddy Chua, 73, another board member of the association.

When he was 17, Mr Chua, who owns Eastland Produce, used to walk on Boat Quay's gangplanks to inspect rubber bales that pulled up in tongkangs (light wooden boats) at the Singapore River. He would grade them and ring up a manager at his father's rubber plantation, Hua Heng, who would price them and make a bid to the rubber owner.

Hua Heng was about 32,000 sq m, or about the size of six football fields.

Rubber packing and processing activities in Singapore declined in 1963, after Indonesia stopped exporting the raw material to be processed in Singapore following the start of Konfrontasi. Some firms, including Hua Heng, went under.

Today, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are the main suppliers of rubber to the world, producing 12 million tonnes in total each year - more than 70 per cent of the world's supply.

Botanic Gardens to get even better
Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 6 Jul 15;

WITH the Botanic Gardens now a newly minted Unesco World Heritage Site, efforts to protect it are ramping up.

Plans are afoot to improve facilities at the 156-year-old gardens, improve scientific research in horticulture and botany, and cater to an expected increase in footfall from 4.4 million today to six million by 2020.

A site-management plan was presented to the World Heritage Committee as part of Singapore's bid, and the Government has said it will adopt further measures to address concerns raised by a Unesco-appointed expert panel that assessed the gardens.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the listing "will motivate us to do even more to strengthen our conservation efforts" in the gardens.

National Parks Board (NParks) chief executive Kenneth Er pledged to preserve the key attributes of Singapore's first World Heritage Site, including its contribution to botanical research and its role as a gathering space for Singaporeans.

He said: "We are also committed to ensuring that we continue to conserve the gardens' heritage buildings, landscape and ecological heritage for Singapore and the world."

To deal with the expected increase in visitors, NParks will conduct a site evaluation at the end of next year to assess visitor impact on soil erosion, biodiversity and potential damage to historic buildings there.

The gardens, which runs on an operating and staff annual budget of $15 million, will refurbish the National Orchid Garden by 2018.

This includes enhancing the Cool House, the Yuen Peng McNeice Bromeliad Collection enclosure and the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House to showcase a greater diversity of orchids and other plants.

More space will also be provided for the propagation of orchids.

Other improvements in the pipeline include upgraded irrigation systems for the the Plant Resource Centre by next year, said the gardens' assistant director of arboriculture and the centre, Elango Velautham.

The gardens will also implement a site-wide biodiversity conservation plan, and conduct more studies to maintain an "up-to-date understanding" of the species and habitats within its grounds.

The frequency of inspections of the gardens' historic buildings by a professional engineer will go up, from once every five years to once every two years.

Visitors can also expect an improved experience, with plans to enhance wayfinding and visitor facilities, and provide more information on the gardens' heritage, nature, conservation and scientific work.

These measures are important to protect the gardens from issues such as commercialisation, commodification, neglect and man-made disasters, said heritage conservation expert Johannes Widodo.

Describing the site as an "heirloom", he said: "The gardens is something we should keep, nurture and pass on to future generations."

Gardens 'good the way it is' for some
Tee Zhuo Straits Times 6 Jul 15;

Little, if anything, can be done to improve the Singapore Botanic Gardens. That was the general opinion shared by visitors to the newly crowned Unesco World Heritage Site when The Straits Times visited yesterday. "Its current state is good," said Mr Jimmy Lim, 43, who works in sales.

"(Getting the heritage site status) hasn't made much of a difference to us. We like the green, open spaces here, where the kids can run around." The father of two visits the gardens every few months with his three siblings and their families, usually for picnics at the open field beside Swan Lake.

Mr Kenny Suen, 52, agreed.

The chartered surveyor from Hong Kong, who has been working in Singapore for three years, started visiting the gardens only six months ago, but now goes three to four times a month.

Expatriate Nirmala Shanker, 41, who has lived here for eight years, said she "wouldn't change" anything about the gardens.

"It's a great place to come on weekends with the children... I think they should just focus on preserving and conserving it the way it is," she said.

However, some visitors believed more could be done to explain the Gardens' history.

Mr A.P. Ng, 42, who works in e-commerce, said: "My daughters were telling me about this red brick path in the gardens. They saw the gardens in the news yesterday and wanted to come."

The red bricks that make up one of the gardens' staircases were made by Australian prisoners of war held by the Japanese in Changi during World War II.

They are etched with small arrows, a mark of passive resistance against their captors.

Mr Ng suggested that more educational signs about the gardens' history could be put up to allow visitors to appreciate the park from a different perspective.

Speaking on the sidelines of a People's Association event yesterday, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran noted that it is important for Singapore to manage the balance between visitorship and maintaining the gardens' natural beauty, something that the Singapore Tourism Board will work on.

"We will have to work very closely with the National Parks (Board) and other stakeholders on how we can manage the heightened interest in our Botanic Gardens going forward," he said.

Unesco listing: It takes a community
Melody Zaccheus Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Jul 15;

In 2011, National Parks Board librarian Christina Soh spent hours thumbing through boxes of archival materials in London's Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.

Her mission: to substantiate historic facts about the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was a satellite of the 1759 Kew Gardens.

The 60-year-old also sought to learn more about the key players in the Botanic Gardens' history, such as former directors Henry Ridley and Richard Eric Holttum.

At the time, Singapore was already working towards a bid to nominate the Botanic Gardens for Unesco World Heritage status. It was listed as a Unesco site by the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany, last Saturday.

Over two trips in 2011 and 2012, Ms Soh went through the handwritten letters and expedition notes of the gardens' first director, Sir Henry. These included letters to Kew asking for manpower and finances to run the gardens in Singapore.

She listed experts and members of the community who helped put together the gardens' nomination dossier for its Unesco bid. They included the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) Singapore, Nature Society Singapore and even the great-granddaughter of pioneer Whampoa Hoo Ah Kay, Madam Hoo Miew Oon.

Dr Nigel Taylor, the former curator at the Kew Gardens and current Singapore Botanic Gardens director, told The Straits Times that the staff engaged the community from the start to "raise awareness of the bid and make it clear that this was an all-inclusive project, not just one run by government".

On the sidelines of the announcement in Germany, National Heritage Board (NHB) chief executive Rosa Daniel credited the successful listing to community support.

"This would not have been possible if we had not been able to bring together the support of the community. It wasn't just from the public, but the stakeholders, our heritage interest groups, our experts who endorsed that."

Dr Taylor and Ms Jean Wee, director of NHB's Preservation of Sites and Monuments, embarked on their 1 1/2-year mission to assemble a nomination dossier in 2013.

Icomos Singapore, which comprises heritage practitioners, was commissioned to provide historic information. Among other things, it found the gardens continued its activities even during the Japanese Occupation. Its research into the Syonan Shimbun, or Syonan Times, showed performances by the Syonan Police Band were held there from May 1942 to September 1944.

Said its president, Dr Kevin Tan: "We were anxious for the pitch to succeed and we wanted to cover all angles as thoroughly as possible in terms of the site's social history and architectural heritage."

Meanwhile, Nature Society president Shawn Lum said his group emphasised the role that the gardens and its directors played in green conservation.

Madam Hoo did her part by contributing Whampoa's antique cactus pots and two large flower pots to add to the gardens' collection of artefacts. Her ancestor was fluent in English and a leading member of the Agri-Horticultural Society who helped negotiate with the colonial government for the gardens' establishment.

The gardens will continue to work with the community, said Dr Taylor. It has established a stakeholder committee, which will meet every six months and help oversee the gardens' site-management plan.

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Robot swans bring new advanced technology to water testing

EXCLUSIVE: Singapore researchers are testing robotic swans that could provide essential, highly advanced water testing in reservoirs around the country and the world.
Jack Board Channel NewsAsia 3 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: Floating on the surface of Pandan Reservoir in Singapore’s south west are what researchers hope will be the future of cheap, real-time water quality testing.

Developed by a team at the National University of Singapore (NUS), in conjunction with the national water agency PUB, the NUSwan utilises advanced water monitoring technology, fitted into the shell that closely resembles a living, breathing bird.

“We started with a number of smaller bird models, before we decided on the swan. It’s just the right size,” said Assistant Professor Mandar Chitre, one of the project’s lead researchers. “If you look at it in the environment, it just looks like a swan swimming around.”

A small team at the NUS Environmental Research Institute, working with the Tropical Marine Science Institute, initially conceptualised the robot back in 2010 but only began their first series of test bedding last year.

The aim is to mobilise the robotic swans to monitor different physical and biological compounds in fresh water, including pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll, which are common indicators used to determine if there are problems in a water source.

At present, water authorities face the logistical challenge of physically having to collect samples from large bodies of water, normally using a boat. It is an approach that requires time and manpower and restricts the speed at which officials can act in the case of an outbreak or a contamination.

“It would be expensive to do similar monitoring manually or using AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles),” said Asst Prof Chitre. “Hence to reduce reliance on manpower and increase efficiency in water quality monitoring, we are constantly looking into developing new technology with improved capabilities.”

“Scientifically, the NUSwan test drives a new paradigm of freshwater monitoring, one that is persistent and interactive, and is potentially able to sample the dynamics of water quality over space and time at improved resolution at an affordable cost,” he added.

The swans work by trawling particular areas of interest in a water body and wirelessly sending back data through cloud computing. Programmers will be able to remotely control the robots, but the aim is to ensure they are as autonomous as possible, requiring just basic monitoring and operation, which can happen from anywhere with an internet connection.

The researchers said the swans’ navigation is more advanced than an automatic vacuum cleaner for instance, which can avoid obstacles but cannot tell where it has already travelled. The SWAN uses GPS to ensure it does not duplicate its monitoring efforts, unless programmed to.

They are durable enough such that even if a recreational water user such as a kayaker, or even a small boat, hits the swan, it will not be damaged, according to the teams behind the technology.


They believe they are at just the tip of realising the potential of this system and have designed the NUSwan to be adaptable to various environmental challenges that may arise.

“The NUSwan platform is designed to be extendable – new sensors and actuators can be added on demand to increase its sensing capability,” said Mr Koay Teong Beng, one of the other leading researchers on the project.

Already the team is collaborating with other university researchers to combine technologies and stretch the swans to their technological limits.

This includes a highly sensitive freshwater phosphate sensor, which is being developed independently by a separate NUS team. Phosphates are key nutrients in the development of blue-green algal blooms, which can be devastating for water sources.

There is a hope that technology such as the phosphate sensor could be mobilised by the NUSwan, and provide a real-world alarm system to the threat of algal blooms, a common problem encountered in more polluted waterways as a result of fertilisers, sewerage and domestic waste.

Earlier this year, a proliferation of algal blooms in oxygen-depleted, bacteria-rich waters caused thousands of fish to die. While the phosphate sensor has only been tested in fresh water, it is this kind of scenario that it is designed to help prevent.

“Phosphate detection was lacking; phosphate sensors are not available in the market,” said Lanry Yung, Associate Professor of Chemical and Bio-molecule Engineering . “The prototype is finished. Now we are trying to do automation and collaboration with the NUSwan team to work on hardware.

“Salt complicates the process, but nonetheless it’s something to look into at the next stage,” he said.

The NUSwan has received interest from water authorities across the region, particularly in China where water pollution is a pressing issue and where the system will be tested on several rivers in the south of the country. That could potentially see the robotic swans floating on some of the world’s largest water reservoirs in the near future.

“We see the potential of having NUSwans deployed in urban freshwater bodies and coastal water beyond Singapore. With the data stored in the cloud, collaborators may share and aggregate data and understand global phenomena,” Assoc Prof Chitre said.

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