Best of our wild blogs: 12-13 Jul 15

Life History of the Common Yeoman
Butterflies of Singapore

Short Walk At Mount Faber (10 Jul 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Two more species of birds attracted to Macaranga bancana fruits
Bird Ecology Study Group

Toddycats at Ubin Day, 13-14 Jun 2015

NUS Toddycats at the Festival of Biodiversity, 27-28 Jun 2015!

Make a difference – Toddycats eulogised by Joseph Koh during NUS Life Sciences commencement!

Semakau Landfill Expanded to Meet Singapore’s Waste Disposal Needs
Zero Waste Singapore

Cannonball Sponge Crab (Dromidiopsis indica) @ Pulau Sekudu
Monday Morgue

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Section of East Coast Park beach closed due to 'oil slick'

Today Online 12 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — A section of East Coast Park beach was closed off to swimmers today (July 12) due to an "oil slick", the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

Twitter user Gurmit Singh (@gurms) first alerted TODAY to the incident. Mr Singh said that there was a “smell of petrol in the air”.

An NEA spokesman said it was notified at around 1.45pm of the oil slick. Officers who arrived later at the site found the area near the rock bund and shoreline of Area C3 East Coast Beach to be affected.

The oil patch measured approximately 10m by 5m, said the spokesman and a 100m stretch of the beach was temporarily closed to beach-goers as contractors commenced a clean-up of the affected area.

A Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) spokesman also said it had been informed of the sighting.

The MPA "did not receive any report of oil spill from ships", the spokesman said.

When TODAY went down to the scene, a sign had already been put up warning beach-goers of “contaminated” waters.

'Contaminated' waters close section of East Coast Park beach
A sign had been put up warning beach-goers of "contaminated" waters and cleaners were seen on site.
Channel NewsAsia 12 Jul 156;

SINGAPORE: Parts of East Coast Park beach was closed off to swimmers on Sunday (Jul 12) due to water contamination.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) told Channel NewsAsia that it was notified of an oil slick at the East Coast Beach at about 1.45pm.

"NEA officers arrived at the site and found the area near the rock bund and shoreline of Area C3 East Coast Beach to be affected," said a spokesperson from NEA. "The oil patch measured approximately 10 metres by 5 metres."

A Twitter user going by the name of Gurmit Singh (@gurms) first alerted TODAY to the incident at about 2.58pm. Mr Singh said that there was a “smell of petrol in the air”.

"The affected 100 metre stretch of the beach has been temporarily closed to beach-goers, and NEA’s contractors have commenced the clean-up of the affected area," added NEA's spokesperson.

However, when contacted, a Maritime Port Authority (MPA) spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia that MPA did not find any oil after it was "informed of sighting of an oily mixture confined to a small area at the shoreline off East Coast Seafood Centre".

"MPA craft surveyed the waters off East Coast Park and eastern anchorages and there were no sighting of any oil. MPA also did not receive any report of oil spill from ships," said the spokesperson.

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Gardens’ UNESCO success sparks calls for more sites to be protected

VALERIE KOH Today Online 13 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s successful bid to have the Singapore Botanic Gardens recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site earlier this month has sparked discussion, and hope, that more sites reflecting the nation’s heritage may gain recognition and protection.

Top on the wishlist of heritage experts and the public are Pulau Ubin, Bukit Brown and Jalan Kubor cemeteries, Jurong industrial estate, and even the types of public housing built over the years.

As the largest Chinese cemetery outside China with about 100,000 graves, Bukit Brown is a historical site comparable to others around the world, said Singapore Heritage Society vice-president Terence Chong. “More importantly, Bukit Brown is a showcase of the complexity of overseas Chinese culture with Fujian influence lying beside Peranakan aesthetics,” he added.

The society’s president, Dr Chua Ai Lin, said the cemetery was placed on last year’s World Monuments Watch, a global list of endangered cultural heritage sites. This is testimony to the fact that it has considerable heritage value, she said. Jalan Kubor, Singapore’s oldest Muslim cemetery and home to about 15,000 graves, is equally rich in heritage, she added.

The decision to build a road through Bukit Brown in 2012 resulted in consternation among conservation groups, which lamented the ensuing loss of heritage and biodiversity. Meanwhile, calls have been made to preserve Jalan Kubor by making it part of the Kampong Glam conservation district.

Last week, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the Botanic Gardens was “just the very first site” that Singapore could offer to the world, and that there was much to reflect upon with regard to the nation’s next heritage site.

Indeed, the Gardens’ success has led to much discussion about what else can be done to recognise other heritage sites — even if they do not have the potential to get on UNESCO’s list.

Singapore formally protects heritage sites through the inscription of National Monuments and conserved buildings. But Dr Chua noted that heritage-rich sites such as Bukit Brown slip through the cracks of protection.

“It is neither a building nor a monument,” she said, adding that there needs to be a comprehensive review of heritage legislation. “One of the things we’ve been saying is there is already existing legislation, but are they sufficient in protecting all sites?”

For instance, Singapore University of Technology and Design architecture assistant professor Yeo Kang Shua said public housing, ranging from Singapore Improvement Trust flats to more recent HDB homes, was worthy of consideration too, given the country’s success in this area.

Said Dr Yeo, who is also Singapore Heritage Society’s honorary secretary and whose work includes the restoration of Yueh Hai Ching Temple on Phillip Street: “We can look at the different periods of development and how we keep it as part of our landscape.” However, he acknowledged the challenges of getting public housing inscribed. “It’s a lived environment and, because of that, we have to accept that it’ll change over time.”

Architect and urban historian Lai Chee Kien pointed out that Jurong industrial estate, a “Garden Industrial Estate”, was revolutionary in its planning and design. “It’s the only industrial estate I know that crisscrosses industrial areas with greenery ... the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, Bird Park and lake area provide greenery for workers’ respite,” he said. “Jurong is a lesser-known but important idea that Singapore has given the world — that you can integrate green areas to ameliorate industrial areas, rather than setting them apart.”

Pulau Ubin, said Dr Chua, also needs further protection. “Pulau Ubin is not protected by any legislation now, but is a place that is rich in cultural heritage and deserves to be protected.”

Wishlists aside, Dr Chua said what is more pressing is the need to involve Singaporeans in the ongoing public conversation on heritage. Agreeing, Dr Yeo said: “Having a title tends to raise awareness. We congratulate ourselves for getting Botanic Gardens (listed), but what’s next?” He called for a public platform where people could “discuss heritage openly and transparently, be it our local community heritage, national heritage or world heritage”.

Responding to media queries, the National Heritage Board (NHB) said it has no plans to nominate other sites in Singapore for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. NHB CEO Rosa Daniel said putting up a bid for such a status requires a lot of resources from government agencies and the community, and the work continues even after a successful inscription. But the board is open to exploring possible sites with experts and stakeholders, she added.

While most may expect a World Heritage site to be of certain grandeur, such as China’s Great Wall, Dr Chua felt that in Singapore, it could be any place that is “deeply valued by the local community and which meets UNESCO criteria”.

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Potong Pasir waterfront gets makeover

LEE YEN NEE Today Online 12 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — A 400m stretch along Kallang River in the Potong Pasir estate was the latest to be transformed into recreational space under national water agency PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme.

The area between Potong Pasir Avenue 1 and St Andrew’s Junior School was the 28th site to come under the programme.

At the official opening today (July 12), Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, Member of Parliament (MP) for Potong Pasir, said the project had been part of the 2006 General Election manifesto. “This vision that we set out 10 years ago is now a reality, and today, our Potong Pasir residents are able to use this amenity,” said Mr Sitoh, who became the constituency’s MP in 2011.

The makeover included an open plaza with two shelters that can accommodate about 750 people, four lookout decks and three rain gardens with plants that hold and treat rainwater before discharging it into the river.

Besides the Kallang River initiative, other improvements that have been made to the estate included lift upgrading, adding more childcare and elderly activity centres, as well as equipping the community centre with facilities, such as a supermarket. “That’s not the end of the story. Going forward, we want to continue with what we have begun,” said Mr Sitoh.

Residents of Potong Pasir have welcomed the changes. Student Viviana Xie, 20, who has lived in the estate for 16 years and who jogs frequently along the Kallang River, said: “There used be a smell from the river. Now, with it having been cleaned, it’s a lot nicer to jog here, so I think it’s a good initiative.”

Waterfront in Potong Pasir gets makeover
A 400-metre stretch along the Kallang River in Potong Pasir has been given a makeover, transforming it into a vibrant community space.
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 13 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE: Residents of Potong Pasir can now enjoy new community spaces along a 400-metre stretch of the Kallang River that has been transformed into a vibrant and an aesthetically-pleasing waterway.

The makeover cost about S$7 million.

Community events and outdoor learning activities can be held at an open plaza which is able to accommodate about 750 people. Four lookout decks and new seats along the waterfront also allow park users to enjoy the scenery.

Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin officiated the opening of the transformed waterfront, which is located between Potong Pasir Avenue 1 and St Andrew's Junior College, on Sunday (Jul 12) morning.

"If you look at our election manifesto in 2006, 10 years ago, we had a dream to create this ABC Kallang River park that will cater to our residents and will cater to the morning joggers and people who walk in the evening. I'm very happy and proud to say that this dream has now become a reality," said Mr Sitoh.

"The bigger plan is to connect the ABC water project from Upper Pierce all the way to barrage at Marina. Going forward for all of us, we want to continue on what we had begun and complete it, so we hope that residents can give their support."

Students from St Andrew’s Secondary School had helped to plant the rain gardens along the waterfront in June.

The gardens, together with the vegetated swales, help to filter out sediments naturally and improve the quality of rainwater runoff entering the river. The transformed area presents learning opportunities for the students.

"We get to learn about the different types of plants and not only that, we get to see things we don't really get to see in our daily lives, like otters in the rivers," said St Andrew's Secondary School student Marcus Lim.

Students also conduct water quality tests regularly, and the data obtained is sent to PUB.

The project is part of the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme by national water agency PUB.

The programme aims to transform drains, canals and reservoirs into beautiful streams, rivers and lakes that are well-integrated with the surrounding parks and spaces.

- CNA/rw/ec

Kallang River waterfront rejuvenated with lookout decks and new plaza
AsiaOne 12 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE - A 400m rejuvenated stretch of waterway along the Kallang River was officially opened on Sunday by advisor for Potong Pasir SMC, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin.

Complete with lookout decks and an open plaza for community events, the project by national water agency PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) took about one and a half years to complete.

Under the $7 million project, plants were grown on the banks of the river and four lookout decks with timber seating were built. The new plaza can accommodate up to 750 people.

Last month, students from St Andrew's Secondary School had lent their hands in planting rain gardens along the waterway. Rain gardens treat rainwater runoff using specially-selected plants and soil media before it is discharged into the river.

The school has been actively conducting frequent clean-ups, river studies and projects along Kallang River since 2005. The school is also developing a learning trail in the long run, which will be conducted for the community on a regular basis.

Mr Tan Nguan Sen, PUB's chief sustainability officer, said he was heartened to receive support from schools, residents and community groups who participated actively in shaping this project.

"Under the ABC Waters Programme, we endeavour to revitalise pockets of blue spaces along Kallang River, the longest river in Singapore serving a large catchment area that includes estates like Toa Payoh, Bishan and Potong Pasir," said Mr Tan.

A breath of fresh air for Potong Pasir
My Paper AsiaOne 13 Jul 15;

REJUVENATED: Residents at a lookout deck along an improved 400m stretch of the Kallang River yesterday.

Residents of Potong Pasir can enjoy a new and improved waterfront near their homes, with viewing decks and a plaza for community events.

The 400m stretch along the Kallang River was officially opened yesterday by Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin.

Rain gardens and vegetated swales will cleanse rainwater run-off, and decks with timber seating offer a soothing view of the waterfront.

An open plaza has also been built to accommodate 750 people for community events and outdoor classroom learning.

Said Irene Ong, 62, who has lived in the estate for more than 20 years: "The water is very clean and the scenery, with different types of plants and flowers, really makes people want to come down to have a look."

Last month, students from St Andrew's Secondary School helped to plant rain gardens along the waterway. Rain gardens treat rainwater run-off using specially selected plants, for instance, before it is discharged into the river.

The school has conducted cleanups and projects along the Kallang River since 2005.

The Potong Pasir waterfront has been 11/2 years in the making, under national water agency PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme to spruce up water bodies here.

The $7-million project is the 28th under the programme to be completed. Over 100 potential locations have been identified for a makeover under the ABC Waters programme by 2030.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines, Mr Sitoh cited other work that has benefited residents, including lift upgrading and a home improvement programme.

Potong Pasir was held by opposition MP Chiam See Tong for 27 years, but it elected the People's Action Party candidate in 2011.

"There are still a lot of things to be done," said Mr Sitoh. "We want to carry on and complete the journey that we have started."

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Malaysia: Pollution suspected in mass fish deaths

The Star 13 Jul 15;

GEORGE TOWN: A strong stench permeated the air as hundreds of dead fish littered the mouth of Sungai Bayan Lepas.

To make matters worse, flies had a feast after the water level subsided in Permatang Damar Laut.

The sudden mass fish death has raised environmental concerns among residents and fishermen living nearby.

Fisherman Saidin Ismail, 69, who has been fishing in the area for decades, said the sight of dead fish shocked him.

“It’s happened before but never this severe. Last year, there were dead fishes floating in the river but it was never this much. This could be due to pollution,” he said.

State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said water samples had been sent to the laboratory for tests.

He said Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) and Department of Environment (DOE) officers visited the site to conduct checks.

“They took away water samples. It will take around two weeks for the results to be out.

“According to DOE, the dead fish are mullets which are usually near the river mouth.

The incident could be due to pollution at the river mouth,” he said in a statement.

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Phillipines: BFAR widens red tide areas

James Konstantin Galvez Manila Times 12 Jul 15;

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has widened anew its red tide warning after sampling in five coastal waters in the country showed positive for paralytic shellfish poison that is beyond the regulatory limit.

In its Shellfish Bulletin No.18-2015, BFAR warned the public from catching and consuming shellfish from coastal waters of Balite Bay in Mati, Davao Oriental; Mandaon in Masbate; Irong-irong Bay and Cambatutay in Western Samar; and Dauis in Bohol as the areas remained affected by the toxin.

BFAR also said that the coastal waters of Milagros in Masbate are now positive for the red tide toxin.

The agency said that all types of shellfish and acetes or alamang gathered and collected from the areas are not safe for human consumption.

BFAR, however, said that several species—including fish, shrimps and crabs—are safe to eat provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking.

Other major fishing grounds in the country, besides the aforementioned areas, continued to be unaffected by the toxins.

Red tide occurs when algae rapidly increase in numbers to the extent that it dominates the local planktonic or benthic community. Blooms are caused by environmental conditions that promote explosive growth.

Such high abundance can result from explosive growth caused by a metabolic response to a particular stimulus or from the physical concentration of a species in a certain area due to local patterns in water circulation, warm sea surface temperatures and high nutrient content.

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Indonesia: Riau warned about drought, hot temperatures

Arya Dipa, The Jakarta Post 13 Jul 15;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station has predicted that the prolonged drought currently hitting the Riau provincial capital will last until August this year and is calling on people to be extremely cautious about the hot temperatures.

“The extreme weather that has been hitting Riau is predicted to end in September,” the station’s data and information section head Slamet Riyadi said in Pekanbaru on Saturday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Slamet said that the dry season, which came with high air temperatures, had been there since May and would continue, although intermittent rain has been predicted to fall occasionally.

He said that the air temperature in Pekanbaru currently hovered between 31º and 34.5º Celsius.

The absence of the sun at night, he said, only made the temperatures go down slightly and he added that land fires could still easily be triggered.

The Aqua and Terra satellites, according to Slamet, had detected at least 215 hot spots across Sumatra Island, with the highest number, 192, found on Riau.

He called on people to be extremely cautious against the hot temperatures, especially while they were fasting. He also called on people to put on masks when doing outdoor activities because of the high intensity of dust and haze.

He expressed hope that the drought would come to an end as the rainy season started at the beginning of September.

He said that although rain would probably fall before September, it would be just of low to medium intensity. Rain of high intensity was expected to come only as August was approaching.

“There is potential that frequent rains will fall in the fourth week of July,” Slamet said.

He added that in general the weather in Riau was cloudy and bright. The chance for uneven rain of low intensity at night or in the early morning is predicted for central and eastern coastal areas of Riau.

Responding to the bad weather in Pekanbaru, Mayor Firdaus called on people to put on masks while conducting outdoor activities. He also banned people from burning domestic waste, or grass when clearing land.

“Do not burn garbage. Turn it into compost. When disposing of cigarette butts, make sure that they have been completely extinguished,” Firdaus said.

Meanwhile Erma Yulihastin of the climate variability team of the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space’s atmosphere technology and science center said the El Niño phenomenon, an anomaly in sea surface temperatures on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, will continue to strengthen until December this year.

“The El Niño index is currently 1.37 and is predicted to increase to between 1.5 and 2.5. This is the strongest index within the last five years,” Erma said in Bandung on Friday.

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Indonesia: Orangutan threatened with extinction due to habitat loss

N.Adri, 12 Jul 15;

An animal conservation activist has warned that habitat loss is the greatest threat faced by orang utans

"What orangutans are facing is a conflict, a fight for land where they live," Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) executive director Jamartin Sihite said on Sunday.

The conservationist said orangutans were threatened with extinction because forests in which they were living had been degraded or converted.

Citing an example, he said, primary forests that used to be the natural habitats of orangutans in Kalimantan had been converted into production forests, and trees where they used to make a nest or forage food had been chopped down. Parts of the forests had been converted into plantations, mining areas and human settlement.

Sihite said the absence of primary forests had hampered the BOSF’s plans to release hundreds of orangutans it had taken care of in its conservation areas in Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan, and Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan, back to their natural habitats.

Samboja Lestari is now home to 270 orangutans while in Nyaru Menteng, there are more than 600 orangutans.

"That’s why we focus our attention on providing special area for orangutans," said Sihite.

In 2009, the BOSF established PT Rehabilitasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI), which manages Kehje Sewen, a forest that used to be production forest concession (HPH) areas in Muara Wahau, East Kutai, and now is used as an area where orangutans will be released.

Meanwhile in Central Kalimantan, the BOSF releases orangutans into Bukit Batikap protected forest in North Barito regency.

Sihite said in the BOSF had released more than 100 orangutans in the two forests. (ebf)(+++)

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