Best of our wild blogs: 9 Aug 15

Olive-backed Sunbird and Hoya spp.
Bird Ecology Study Group

Life History of the Common Evening Brown
Butterflies of Singapore

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Ideas for a nation, beyond SG50

LIN YANQIN Today Online 9 Aug 15;

Singapore — If necessity is the mother of invention, then for much of the first 50 years after gaining independence, Singapore had plenty of inspiration, not only to survive, but also to thrive — a fledgling nation grappling with unemployment, housing shortages, and a lack of land and natural resources.

The Republic’s first generation of leaders was able to pluck the best practices from elsewhere and create something uniquely Singapore, such as taking the concept of public housing and fusing it with social aims by way of the Ethnic Integration Policy.

But in the next 50 years, no longer can the Republic merely adapt and refine what others have done — our future depends on original ideas, solutions, technologies and skills if we want to make our presence felt globally.

To innovate is to transform and challenge convention, and it takes nerve to make risky decisions and stare down the possibility of failure. This won’t come easy to most — particularly when the success of Singaporeans thus far means there are many conventional roads to a life of relative comfort and security.

As such, it is those among us who are willing to take a chance on the unknown and chase bigger dreams that we want to celebrate in our National Day special edition this year.

New ways of thinking

For example, as the Government ramps up efforts to mine the ground beneath our feet for space, Associate Professors Tan Soon Keat and Chu Jian of Nanyang Technological University and their colleagues are envisioning life underwater — think activities that lend themselves to the dark, such as cinemas and shopping malls — and have developed the material needed to build undersea structures.

Other researchers are concerning themselves with the business of moving Singaporeans efficiently from one place to another — a field that has never been more important at a time when our public-transport system is showing signs of strain. Dr James Fu of the Singapore-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alliance for Research and Technology is among the scientists here leading projects to make driverless vehicles a reality on our roads. Other institutions, such as the Future Cities Laboratory, are looking for better ways to predict traffic conditions, to create a transport future that anticipates demand and supplies ways of getting around at the push of a button.

Businessman Allan Lim and his team, meanwhile, have dedicated themselves to making urban rooftop farms in our concrete jungle a reality and wean Singapore off food imports, despite not having made back a cent since they set up the business. His dream? To build the biggest rooftop hydroponics farm in the world, “to show people we can (do it)”, said Mr Lim, who has already built a successful biofuels business.

Outside the laboratory, innovation can shape the community. When The Thought Collective’s Kuik Shiao-Yin, Tong Yee and Elizabeth Kon set up their tuition agency 13 years ago, they thought mainly of helping students prepare for their General Paper exams. Yet The Thought Collective has grown into a viable enterprise with a social heart, where students are placed in communities to do social work — subverting conventions one may hold about the tuition industry.

The Lien Foundation meanwhile, with CEO Lee Poh Wah at the helm, is looking for new ways to care for the vulnerable in our society — from children to senior citizens and to getting Singaporeans to plan a good death. Working with industry players, it is pioneering new models of care, such as a new preschool set up with voluntary welfare organisation Asian Women’s Welfare Association that will see special-needs children learning and playing together with their mainstream peers.

And against all odds, marine biologist Peter Ng, together with his mentor Professor Leo Tan, managed to raise S$46 million to open the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, forging the way forward for Singaporeans to better appreciate — and fight for — our natural heritage.

Overcoming fear

Small countries, said The Thought Collective’s Ms Kuik, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament, must “play a big game to survive in the world”.

“People in small countries must take the risk to think long, see wide and dig deep,” she said.

Unfortunately, the fear of taking paths less travelled, an “addiction to playing it safe” and an “obsession with model answers” limit Singaporeans’ capacity to compete in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Innovation, she feels, could come only from people with “hope”. “If we choose to linger in doubt, cynicism or disillusionment, we stop ourselves from seeing possibilities and will not get there,” she added.

In.Genius founder Lim Seng, who is in the middle of efforts to put the first Singaporean in space, said the young in Singapore must be trained to be “global” and think like leaders from Day 1. “One key weakness (among Singaporeans) is lack of courage to take responsibility, (in other words) the paranoia of failure and making mistakes,” said Mr Lim, who has weathered scepticism over his space dreams, despite a successful career in aviation and defence technology that spans the public and private sectors. “A lot of people love to ask permission (and) push the buck up, to shun taking ownership. This is a terrible disease.”

Ms Pat Law, founder of social influence agency GoodStuph, concurred. “At risk of ‘Margaret Thatchering’, I believe we need to instil a greater sense of ownership among Singaporeans. That water bottle littered on your HDB’s stairway isn’t the Government’s problem, for crying out loud … can’t you just pick it up and throw it into the bin?” she said. “We are known to be champion complainers — which isn’t a bad thing for we demand standards, but we were, once upon a time, self–sustaining as individuals too.”

To succeed, Singaporeans cannot fear the judgment of others. Said Lien Foundation’s Mr Lee: “If you want to solve the deepest problems of human life, you have to be in a sense abnormal. Stop accepting the status quo, stop going with the flow, stop conforming.”

Staying the course

Innovation, said In.Genius’ Mr Lim, also requires perseverance, grit and the willingness to take responsibility for one’s vision. “It’s not a ‘eureka’ moment, but a very tedious journey.”

Once, when he was asked how to ensure success when building a hypersonic space place, Mr Lim shared the process: Create a model of a draft design, do simulations, test a prototype in a wind tunnel, test a demonstrator, crash and “redo this cycle 400 times till we get it right”.

Stressing that there are no “short cuts”, he said: “Our education system produces many paper engineers or good administrators … we lack doers. Only doers will and can make mistakes, and ‘crash’ and learn and ultimately succeed.”

The Singapore Brand — efficiency and credibility of institutions here — and the Republic’s nimbleness as a small country are assets that should not go to waste. NTU economics professor Euston Quah noted that Singapore’s strengths lie in her ability to recruit top talent from around the world and heavy investment in education. Also, he said: “Singapore has no dogma or ideology that is necessary for the nation to subscribe to.”

Added architect Joshua Comaroff, whose firm Lekker Design is among those that designed a pre-school for a Lien Foundation showcase of unusual pre-school concepts: “I find it interesting that many Singaporeans describe their society to me as reactive and uncreative. This is funny because many people from outside Singapore see it as a very restless, dynamic place ... a society that has the will to totally restructure and rebuild itself, and to make almost ridiculously ambitious plans.”

But Singapore must also see itself in cosmopolitan terms, as an exporter of ideas to the larger world. “This also involves a more open self-image, of Singapore as a diverse and fluid society,” Mr Comaroff said. While Singaporeans have been frustrated by the influx of foreigners, immigrants help fuel small, “highly dynamic” societies, he added.

Ms Kuik’s big idea to take Singapore forward: Stop defining children by grades. “So much potential and possibility are snuffed out by our ridiculous obsession about exam grades. Help our children discover the skills and strengths that make them who they are,” she said. “Let them be free ... and they in turn will lead this country into an amazing future.”

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The good troublemaker

ALFRED CHUA Today Online 9 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — Even as a secondary-school student, he was no stranger to causing a stir, taking a flying fox — alive and breathing — to a school exhibition, among other things.

“The teachers wanted to kill me, but we went ahead with it anyway,” recalled Professor Peter Ng, director of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, of his days as a member of Raffles Institution’s Natural History Society.

Despite the school’s initial misgivings, the exhibition — flying foxes and all — was a roaring success.

“After a while, I think the teachers just gave up. They just told us not to cause too much trouble,” he said.

Years later, as a biology teacher at River Valley High, he again landed in “trouble” with his superior for wanting to take his students to Endau Rompin National Park in Johor.

“The head of science said I was siao (crazy). I was told, ‘How can you take our Secondary 3 and 4 students to the jungle? Cannot, not allowed!’” recounted Prof Ng, 51.

But thanks to a supportive principal and consenting parents, the trip was allowed to proceed, and the teacher, two other colleagues and the students spent 10 days roughing it out in the jungle — and enjoying themselves.

His reputation as a risk-taker and willingness to push the boundaries led Singapore’s Ambassador at Large Tommy Koh to, years later, call him “a good troublemaker”.

“Good in the sense that the trouble I create tends to be for the greater good,” said Prof Ng, laughing.

As for his penchant for taking risks, he said: “If you don’t take risks, you don’t succeed. You have to be brave enough to take risks and do things.”

No surprises, then, that under his watch, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum has grown from a small gallery tucked deep in the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus to a S$46 million building that has hosted near-capacity crowds every weekend since its opening in April this year.


But the journey to the current site was no mean feat, especially since finding the money for the museum, which is located next to the University Cultural Centre at NUS, was a key challenge.

The idea for a bigger natural history museum was first mooted in the mid-2000s by Prof Koh.

“For the longest time, we were hoping that the Government would give us some sort of start-up fund, like it did for the Asian Civilisations Museum.

“But we didn’t have that luxury, so we had to do fund-raising,” said Prof Ng, who, together with his former teacher, Prof Leo Tan, sought out sponsors for the museum.

“When we had the fund-raiser, we had thousands of people coming forward to give us money. It was amazing,” he said.

The money raised, along with a one-for-one matching grant by the Government to NUS, helped ensure the museum’s survival.

With a tinge of pride in his voice, Prof Ng added: “Ours is a unique model, in that we don’t rely on the Government’s money. It’s the people’s money.”

Prof Ng said a minister once told him the museum was “nobody’s child”, since it did not fit a particular genre and that affected where the funds came from and how theywere raised.

But he laughed it off, saying: “We’re nobody’s child, because we are everybody’s child.”


Speaking like a proud father, Prof Ng declared that a walk through the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum offers an experience not found in other museums.

“In some sections, we let you get very close to the specimens. Most museums will put a glass wall around them, but I believe that being up close and personal is a very powerful approach,” he said.

Interspersed around the museum space are exhibits, such as a dinosaur bone, that visitors are allowed to touch.

“Most people think we are crazy, as it’s very expensive. In theory, (visitors) can damage it, but then there is a trade-off against the experience (of the museum),” Prof Ng said.

“I think human senses are three-dimensional. I can show you a picture of an extinct bird — there are lots of extinct-bird pictures around. But seeing the actual dead body is different.

“This museum is not designed to preach or prescribe. We don’t want to do that,” he added.

Prof Ng, whose unwavering interest in biodiversity began from childhood, said he is lucky to have a job that is tied to his passion.

“The one thing you learn is that you are always stupid. I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, and every time I go out for research, there will always be one or two things that make me go, ‘S***, I have never seen this before!’” he said.

Prof Ng was once lauded by the scientific journal, Nature, for his work in the less-glamorous peat swamps — as compared with coral reefs or rainforests — that uncovered more than 80 new species of fish.

The father of three gamely admitted that since his primary-school years, he had “always loved playing with animals”.

And with a wave of his hand, he said: “Not humans, I find (them) a very odd group of animals.”

“They drive me crazy,” he added, before breaking out in a chuckle.


Despite the success of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Prof Ng did not dismiss the possibility that its fortunes could still be affected by things beyond its control, such as an economic downturn.

“If the economy is badly hit ... it will take a lot of the support out of (the museum). Without enough money, interest in this may die down,” he said.

His other deep fear: Complacency.

“People may think that all the things are already in place, and they become complacent. That is dangerous. The thing about natural systems is that you can never let your guard down,” he said.

Prof Ng added that he always tells his staff this: “We have crossed the big bridge, but there are many more bridges ahead. It is a never-ending battle.”

The interview took on a slightly more serious tone when Prof Ng turned to the issue of leadership succession.

“What’s next? I need to plan for my own departure. Everybody is expendable. How do you plan for your own demise?” he told TODAY.

He answered his own question by saying: “The wonderful luxury in life is that I have nothing to lose.”

He then paused, as if to reflect on the journey that he had undertaken with the museum, before smiling. “This journey to get the museum up and running has been one where, at the start, a lot of things were deemed impossible. But the nice thing about it is that we have nothing to lose.

“And surprisingly, when you have nothing to lose, you gain the most,” Prof Ng said. Alfred Chua

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Socially conscious smart thinking

HOLLY MATTHEWS Today Online 9 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — When three friends started a tuition centre 13 years ago, they had modest aims: To help students pass their General Paper (GP) exams, and to gain a better understanding of the society they grew up in.

“Then, it became work,” said Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, drawing laughter from her fellow founders of The Thought Collective, Mr Tong Yee and Ms Elizabeth Kon.

The Thought Collective is today more than a tuition centre — it has grown into a social enterprise that not only prepares students for exams, but also matches them to community projects in need of support. Its ultimate aim: To create a new generation of socially-minded Singaporeans.

The trio, who have been friends since their university days, set up The Thought Collective after Mr Tong, 41, and Ms Kon, 40, who taught GP at junior colleges, realised students were completing their A-Level exams without having a good understanding of their home country.

“(There was a) social gap (as) lots of kids were coming out of the (education) system and ... were generally very centred on their own success or failure. They weren’t actually thinking of the success or failure of society as a whole,” said Ms Kuik, 38, who had been a web-design entrepreneur before co-founding The Thought Collective.

In 2002, the trio started giving GP tuition outside their full-time jobs. Starting with only 20 students, they now have 900 under their care.

Their social enterprise has also grown, with five brands now under its umbrella: School of Thought, which still offers GP tuition; Think Tank; Thinkscape; Common Ground and Food For Thought.

Each brand fulfils a different part of what the founders call a value chain. For example, School of Thought and educational magazines by Think Tank aim to reshape students’ perspectives, while Food for Thought’s restaurants introduce people to social issues through regular events.

Thinkscape offers learning journeys to help students explore and form opinions on issues critical to Singapore’s survival and success.

Ms Kuik, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament, said the company’s success was partly due to this “ecosystem of brands that support one another”, such as through higher revenues, garnering public awareness, or strengthening ties with stakeholders.

“All our brands benefit from this multi-pronged, multidisciplinary approach. It has allowed us to share a diversity of resources, experiences and expertise across the companies,” she added.

The final link in the “value chain” is The Thought Collective’s new brand Common Ground, a platform through which the founders hope to start community children centres and children’s bookshops in low-income neighbourhoods.

The centres will provide empathy-building community activities to address issues in the area and provide employment opportunities for mothers in the neighbourhood who need flexible work options.

Mr Tong said they are looking at Jalan Kukoh — a small, low-income housing estate nestled behind Hotel Miramar on Havelock Road — as a location for Common Ground’s first centre. The project, which is still in the works, has the potential to not only help residents in the neighbourhood, but also empower youth volunteers who work with the collective, said Mr Tong.

Noting that a significant number of the 6,000 residents in Jalan Kukoh have been incarcerated or are looking for employment, or both, he added: “The idea is, how do I get a young person in this space and have him or her see the context of what is also happening in Singapore?”

The trio’s desire to raise youth’s awareness of issues affecting Singapore is a factor that has kept them going, even as they grapple with the challenges of managing a social enterprise.

“I worry about whether there is an understanding that social harmony is something you cannot take for granted,” said Mr Tong, adding that messages about social harmony are often dismissed as a National Educationcliche. “When they (youth) go through classes, experiences, then they get it,” he said.

Besides the satisfaction of seeing their charges develop a greater sense of civic responsibility, the collective’s founders are sometimes inspired by their students’ personal triumphs.

Ms Kuik recalled the case of a junior-college student who, during her first class at the tuition centre, opened up to Ms Kuik about her problems and the abuse from her family that she had suffered.

When Ms Kuik asked her why she chose to confide in a stranger, the girl replied that she had grown up reading Ms Kuik’s articles in Think Tank’s Broader Perspectives magazine.

“She said, ‘I know what you stand for, I know what your values are. You’ve heard my story — I don’t trust any adult, but I chose to trust you’,” said Ms Kuik. “That’s why I continue to do what I do, because I don’t know what are the one million stories out there that I don’t know about.”

Mr Tong said listening to students in this way was something he had not had the time to do as a school teacher. “It was the first time I really began to hear empathetically what (students) were going through,” he added.

Ms Kon has another motivation to reach out to Singapore’s youth — to promote the spirit of innovation and problem-solving that the nation’s founding fathers were known for.

“It’s not just (a question of) intelligence, it’s the drive … The courage and innovation in (Singapore’s) early years don’t come up enough,” she noted. Ms Kon hopes to pass on such values to the next generation. “I think that’s the greatest thing I could ever do.”

The trio, who wear their patriotism on their sleeves — and good-naturedly teased one another about it during the interview — are determined to keep The Thought Collective focused on Singaporean issues.

“Singapore is a miracle,” said Mr Tong, citing the fact that the island state with few natural resources has not only survived, but also thrived. “You don’t squander a miracle,” he added.

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Heat relief with cool new technology

LOUISA TANG Today Online 9 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — Without air-conditioning, many workers would probably have to sit under coconut trees to escape the island’s sweltering heat and humidity.

This scenario of coconut trees as shade was painted by then-Environment Minister Lim Swee Say in 2001 in a speech to executives in the air-conditioning industry. He wanted to stress the crucial role the cooling system plays in Singapore’s economy.

Indeed, air-conditioning was once described by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew as the greatest invention in history. One of his first moves as the nation’s first Prime Minister was to install air-conditioners in civil-service buildings, which he felt was key to public efficiency.

Yet, despite Singaporeans’ dependence on air-conditioning all these years, current systems still take up a lot of space and energy. Air-conditioning alone consumes about half of a building’s total energy here.

However, things are set to change, as researchers here are looking to adapt current technologies or develop new ones to produce more energy-efficient systems.


At the National University of Singapore (NUS), a team of researchers is hoping to change how the air-conditioning system operates.

About three years ago, Dr Ernest Chua, an assistant professor from the Faculty of Engineering’s department of mechanical engineering, and three other researchers began work on a new, sustainable system, which dehumidifies and cools air without harmful chemical refrigerants.

Dehumidification, or the removal of moisture from air, is essential in buildings, as overly humid air can lead to mould, equipment damage and even respiratory illnesses caused by flourishing bacteria or fungi.

Also, instead of clunky systems made up of many components, especially energy-intensive ones such as compressors, Dr Chua’s technology takes “just two components to accomplish the same thing”.

“Removing moisture from, and cooling, air suck a lot of energy. By decoupling — or separating — the processes and letting two systems handle the two processes, we’ll see great improvement in energy efficiency and system control,” he said.

Conventional chillers that have been in operation for a few years use between 0.75 and 0.85 kilowatts per tonne of energy, which Dr Chua aims to reduce by up to 40 per cent.

Besides commercial buildings, the technology can also be used in hospitals and data centres, where clean and dry air is critical for medical or equipment-maintenance purposes.


Another NUS project, which aims to improve indoor air quality, combines dehumidification and air purification.

The project’s technology filters out pollutants, such as smoke haze particles or micro-organisms, which current systems are unable to.

Such volatile organic compounds may affect a person’s health and cause serious illnesses such as asthma.

“Even in air-handling units, there are conventional and old technologies that use desiccants, which use a lot of energy to dry air and have mechanical parts that experience wear and tear. We’re trying to replace this with new technology that dries air with minimal pressure drop and also cleans it before it enters a building,” said NUS associate professor Ho Ghim Wei, who is leading the project.

The system would reduce energy consumption by up to 40 per cent and can be retrofitted into existing air-conditioning units with little hassle. It also uses a low-cost aerogel composite, making it cost efficient.

“Since we spend 80 per cent or more of our time in buildings working, the more we should try to think of solutions to be healthy and productive indoors,” said Dr Ho, of the Faculty of Engineering’s department of electrical and computer engineering.


Large air-conditioning units or ductwork take up a lot of physical space. With 3for2, a project led by researchers from the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) at the Singapore-ETH Centre in partnership with Siemens and United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA), developers will be able to build three floors of office space in an area that conventionally holds only two.

Bulky ductwork that would normally comprise 1m of ceiling space will be hidden along the facade’s exterior.

The researchers also hope to save up to 40 per cent of energy by using water to cool rooms. 3for2 technology will be implemented in the 550 sq m administration building of United World College South East Asia, which will open later this year.

However, project manager Adam Rysanek said that while the technology has been implemented in Switzerland and other parts of Europe, Singaporeans could potentially reject it.

“The Swiss like absolute silence. Here, there would be way too much draft and noise (for the Swiss). With 3for2, there’s also a little less air moving, the temperature could be higher – can we guarantee comfort?” he added.

Similarly, another project by the FCL could free up space in backlanes in neighbourhoods such as Boat Quay. Reclaiming Backlanes aims to declutter shophouse facades clogged with air-con units by moving them to other sheltered areas in the buildings, such as roofs or unused balconies.

A new kind of semi-centralised cooling system, called the HeatBus system, will also be used. Water-cooled units will replace air-cooled ones, allowing up to 50 per cent less energy consumption.

Project manager Marcel Bruelisauer said: “Nobody wants to go to backlanes. They’re dark, dirty and uncomfortable — full of air-conditioning units that blow heat into the area, and noise from the units, fans and compressors.”

Added fellow researcher Sonja Berthold: “By freeing up backlanes, we can create spaces for business owners or the public to use. So, it’s not just the technological air-conditioning aspect, it’s the community aspect, too.”

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Saving Sungei Buloh

Nature Society’s Dr Ho Hua Chew says the Government’s willingness to preserve Pulau Ubin as well as build public shelters and trails at Kranji Marshes for better access are encouraging signs for nature conservation.
A feather in the cap of Nature Society, whose hard work to get area conserved succeeds
Charissa Yong Straits Times 9 Aug 15;

Dr Ho Hua Chew still remembers the magical moment in 1986 when he first visited the coastal wetlands of Sungei Buloh.

It was low tide and migratory shorebirds were taking off in the hundreds, he recalls. "The air was alive with them. The view of the flocks gathering and wheeling around was simply spectacular."

Right away, Dr Ho knew he had to do something to preserve Sungei Buloh, which had been earmarked to be part of an agrotechnology park where prawns would be intensively farmed.

This was an exceptional thing to want to achieve in a nation which then focused on being exceptional in terms of economic development.

If successful, it would be the first time a sizeable area was set aside for nature conservation since Independence. It would also be the first time a civil society group successfully lobbied the Government for a change of plans.

As it turned out, it was "the biggest milestone in the history of nature conservation in Singapore", says Dr Ho, 27 years later.

The nature enthusiast, now in his 60s, was part of the local chapter of the Malayan Nature Society - since renamed Nature Society (Singapore) - and feared the wetlands would suffer the same fate as the Sungei Serangoon estuary: Despite being known for attracting globally endangered migratory birds, it had been converted into a dumping ground a few years earlier.

"I felt very depressed by what I saw at Sungei Serangoon. Mangroves and mudflats were dwindling, vanishing right before my eyes as the tractors and lorries surged towards the shore," says Dr Ho, now vice-chair of the Nature Society's conservation committee.

He took the matter to the society's bird group, which formed a committee to work on a proposal to conserve the area, to be submitted to the Government. They made an inventory of the birdlife in Sungei Buloh and met eight times in 1987 to work on the proposal.

It was submitted in October 1987 to the National Reserves Board, which helped to channel the document to the relevant agency.

The group was heartened when then President Wee Kim Wee agreed to visit Sungei Buloh before any official decision was given.

"We had a delightful and sumptuous picnic under a lovely sky provided by Mr Wee gratis. I believe he had a wonderful time with us showing him the fascinating avian scene around," says Dr Ho.

The good news came in April 1988 from the Ministry of National Development, which told the group their proposal had been accepted.

Although they had proposed conserving about 318ha, only 85ha was eventually green-lit as the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

"Nevertheless, I felt a tremendous sense of relief - and elation," says Dr Ho. "Because at that time most people I spoke to about our proposal said 'Don't hope for it'."

Sungei Buloh was officially designated in 1989 as a sanctuary for wild birds, and opened to the public as a nature park in 1993.

The success was unexpected. In fact, people had warned them about "repercussions". Dr Ho says: "Perhaps we were lucky."

He thinks the proposal may have been well-timed, coming before the 1992 United Nations conference on the environment and development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Singapore chaired the preparatory committee for the summit.

Whatever the reason, the times were a-changing, with a string of civil society breakthroughs on its heels. (See sidebar)

Dr Ho notes: "The Government is more open and very friendly and the sort of tension (of the) 1980s and 1990s has subsided tremendously, if not almost vanished."

Although the fight remains tough because the mantra of land scarcity is deeply ingrained among Singaporeans, the activist is optimistic.

He cites the Government's willingness to preserve Pulau Ubin as well as build public shelters and trails at Kranji Marshes for better access as encouraging signs.

"There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel in recent years," he points out.


The Government is more open and very friendly and the sort of tension (of the) 1980s and 1990s has subsided tremendously, if not almost vanished.

DR HO HUA CHEW, on the climate then and now

• 1986: Disabled People's Association becomes first advocacy group officially registered.

• 1990: Nominated Member of Parliament scheme starts - provides more alternative voices in Parliament.

• 1993: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve officially opens, result of a proposal by the Malayan Nature Society - now Nature Society (Singapore).

• 1997: Women's Charter is amended to give family members, not just spouses, more protection against family violence, after campaigning by Association of Women for Action and Research.

• 2000: Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park opens.

• 2011: Greenery along 26km Rail Corridor to be preserved, after civil society groups campaign.

• 2013: Mandatory for employers to give domestic workers a day off every week. • 2014: Law protecting animal welfare is beefed up, following advocacy.

The man behind Sungei Buloh
Subaraj Rajathurai Straits Times Forum 16 Aug 15;

It was Mr Richard Hale, an avid birdwatcher, who in 1986 first came across the area of mangroves that the Nature Society successfully lobbied to conserve as the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve ("Saving Sungei Buloh"; last Sunday).

He was impressed with the thousands of migratory birds using the area, which had arrived to refuel before continuing their journey back to their breeding grounds in the north.

He knew of no other birdwatchers there at the time, until he met Dr Christopher Hails, who was then with the Ministry of National Development's Parks and Recreation Department, working to bring birdlife back to the urban environment.

No one else knew of the area until Mr Hale got together a small group of Nature Society members that included Dr Clive Briffett, Dr Hails, Dr Ho Hua Chew, Dr Rexon Ngim and myself, to spend eight months preparing an illustrated booklet highlighting the richness of Sungei Buloh's birdlife.

The document detailed the potential of the area as "a veritable microcosm of culture and natural history interest" and pointed out its educational value.

Included were suggestions on how the area could be managed, including a visitors' centre and a programme of guided walks.

Copies of the proposal were sent to permanent secretaries, ministers, MPs, as well as the prime minister and president, and anyone who could be of help.

Mr Hale worked tirelessly behind the scenes. With his network of contacts, he persuaded key decision-makers, including then President Wee Kim Wee, to visit the area . Perhaps as a result of the behind-the-scenes lobbying and Mr Hale's personal touch, the Government responded positively.

By 1989, Sungei Buloh Nature Park (now Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve) became a reality, and it was officially announced by then National Development Minister S. Dhanabalan.

At the closing ceremony of the 1991 Clean and Green Week, the Nature Society was presented with the Green Leaf Award.

This complemented the previous year's award when Mr Hale won under the individual category. This was an award given to organisations and individuals who had made outstanding contributions to environmental protection and preservation.

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The road less driven on

REGINA MARIE LEE Today Online 9 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — Fewer private cars. Shared vehicles that have no human drivers and that communicate with each other on their speed and number of passengers. A cycling network catering to the needs of commuters, linking homes, workplaces and schools. Footpaths that make walking a pleasure.

While Singapore’s roads are being widened and lengthened to make space for more cars, and frustration with the adequacy of public transport grows, some here dream of an entirely different kind of transport future — one that is flexible and customisable, and less driven by private cars.

With Singapore’s limited land area, transport capacity is limited, said Dr Alexander Erath, senior researcher at the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL), who is helping to build a simulation model to better predict travel demand.

“If you want to build new roads or new metro lines, it will be very costly because you need to tunnel it,” he said. “The challenge is using existing infrastructure more effectively, for example through travel-demand management.”

Other researchers are hedging their bets by turning to autonomous vehicles (AVs). “If every vehicle is automated, driving patterns become more predictable,” said Dr James Fu, who leads the research on AVs under the Singapore-Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Alliance for Research and Technology, an institution set up in partnership with the National Research Foundation of Singapore (NRF).

“Vehicles can drive closer to each other, possibly bumper-to-bumper, at higher speeds.” A driverless vehicle could be better utilised, moving around to serve a number of people during the day instead of being parked during office hours, for example.

Commuters could use AVs as a pre-arranged shuttle service for a group of commuters or as an on-demand service similar to a taxi.

“We hope to see AVs complementing and encouraging the use of public transportation,” said Dr Fu, who envisions AVs connecting commuters from their homes to the train network.

With widespread use of shared AVs, Dr Fu expects car ownership to drop. “There will be this large proportion of people who may not mind not owning a car; all they care about is just getting to where they want quickly and efficiently. Maintenance would be by a company or fleet operator.”

It could take another 10 to 15 years before an AV roams Singapore’s roads. Researchers will need to map all roads using laser sensors, and are still working on algorithms to allow cars to make decisions intelligently.

But deploying AVs on a smaller scale, such as in a satellite town or on segregated lanes, could come within three to five years if there is demand, said Dr Fu. As more people share AVs, the number of vehicles in Singapore could also drop.

For now, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Infocomm Development Authority are experimenting with aggregating demand and providing commuters with a more customised option.

The newly-launched Beeline app is premised on commuters indicating where they would like to be picked up and where they want to go. And when enough people ask for a similar route, a private bus service can be activated. The app also allows users to book seats on the shuttle.

Transition to next stage

Even if AVs are introduced, such vehicles can still share the roads with traditional cars, thanks to technology such as the vehicle-to-everything (V2X), which allows cars to communicate their intentions and drive safely. The technology is being tested by researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

With V2X, vehicles with on-board units (OBUs) can communicate with each other and with units in traffic lights, car parks and a central control and monitoring centre, among others.

The information shared could include a vehicle’s position, speed and intended route. With this, taxis can more efficiently be allocated to passengers based on location — to improve availability, for example. Or a bus driver on a crowded bus can be informed of another bus close behind with many empty seats and decide not to take on passengers, reducing bus-bunching, said Associate Professor Peter Chong, who is part of the NTU team working on the project. He estimates that mass adoption of this technology could take 10 years.

V2X can also improve road safety. A car that brakes suddenly could, without the driver’s intervention, send an alert to the cars behind, even to those 1km away, to moderate the impact of an accident, even if a pile-up cannot be avoided entirely. The traffic police could monitor speeding more comprehensively through OBUs instead of speed cameras. And emergency cars could, through their OBUs, request vehicles in front to give way.

Being a generic technology that works in any type of vehicle, V2X could help ease the introduction of new technology such as AVs and electric vehicles, said Assoc Prof Chong.

Meanwhile, FCL’s Multi-Agent Transport Simulation (MATSim) model for Singapore would allow transport planners to predict demand for new transport options, such as car sharing, AVs or a new MRT line. “You can also test different pricing structures and see how the usage and occupancy rate change,” Dr Erath said.

The simulation model is based on data about socio-demographic trends and travel patterns. For example, planners can model cutting a bus route in half to increase its reliability, and compare the effects of greater reliability against the need for some commuters to transfer services.

Initially, access to data on social demographics and travel patterns to build the model was a challenge. “I think the main concern is data privacy, which I fully support, but there are ways to release data publicly after anonymising them,” he said. The situation has since improved, and now the team is collaborating with the LTA and the Urban Redevelopment Authority to produce the MATSim model for transport and urban planning purposes.

Cycling and walking: the ‘Low-hanging fruits’

In the midst of testing new technology, the “low-hanging fruit” of active mobility — mainly walking and cycling — has been neglected, noted Dr Erath.

Making these active alternatives more attractive than vehicular transport could also allow for flexible transport routes and less congestion. To encourage this, bicycle lanes or even a bicycle highway could make cycling safer, said Dr Erath. Tracks for inter-town cycling can also be built to provide a seamless route from one’s home to one’s destination. Greater use of electric bicycles, which would provide speed with less physical effort and is more sustainable than motorcycles, would also help. “What’s needed for this is a paradigm shift in how our streets are designed and who they prioritise,” said Dr Erath. REGINA MARIE LEE

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Turning to nature

LYNETTE TAN Today Online 9 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — A common aquarium fish or a mangrove tree might not draw a second glance from most.

But when researchers Dr Lam Siew Hong and Dr Gong Zhiyuan look at their aquarium of zebrafish and medaka, they see a chance of better-monitoring Singapore’s waterways for pollutants.

And for Associate Professor Loh Chiang Shiong and his team, mangroves are a source of inspiration for coming up with more energy-efficient methods of desalination.

All three are from the National University of Singapore Environmental Research Institute (NERI).

Dr Lam and Dr Gong, who are also part of NUS’ Department of Biological Science, are looking at genetically engineering fish to glow in the presence of water contaminants, while Assoc Prof Loh and his colleagues are studying the natural desalination mechanism found in the salt glands of the Avicennia officinalis species of mangrove.

Drs Lam and Gonghit on the idea of using fish to monitor water quality, with water being a fish’s natural habitat. Said Dr Lam: “I think what needs to be appreciated is that the genetically modified fish used here ... gives real-time reporting. They are there in direct contact with the pollutants, they glow and it’s alive.”

They took the gene of the green fluorescent jellyfish and inserted it into a zebrafish embryo, and bred the fish such that it glows only when pollutants are present. Most chemical tests show only the presence of pollutants, but these fish biomonitors allow immediate identification of the contaminant, explained Dr Gong, who is also known for creating Glofish, luminescent zebrafish sold as pets in the US.

Currently, the fish have been engineered to detect three types of contaminants: Oestrogen, chemicals from heavy metals, and certain man-made chemicals such as those from plastics. Usually imperceptible to the naked eye, the glow is detected by a fluorescent microscope.

The fish can be traditionally bred, as the gene can be passed to offspring upon maturity. Species such as zebrafish and medaka are also easily available in large numbers, and can be maintained at low cost.

While the researchers have developed a set-up for using the fish in Singapore’s water bodies to monitor water quality, this is probably some way off, given Singapore’s strict laws on genetically modified animals.

Meanwhile, Assoc Prof Loh and his team have turned to studying mangroves to address inefficiencies in current desalination methods, which rely heavily on membranes. This is energy intensive, and membrane-fouling is also an issue.

The Avicennia officinalis, which can be found locally, have water-channel proteins called aquaporins. These have high water-permeability and are highly selective, allowing only water molecules to pass, and would be superior to the chemical-based filtration membranes used in desalination, explained Dr Lin Qingsong, one of the team members.

While the team has made breakthroughs, they continue to face challenges in their research. For example, as very little is known about the genetics of the species, molecular genetic studies are a challenge to perform.

In future, their research findings could inspire novel desalination devices such as salt glands that are used as an individual unit, suggested research fellow Dr Tan Wee Kee, who professes to be a “plant lover since young”.

Added Professor Prakash P Kumar, one of the researchers: “It may not be my generation ... but, I’m very positive and will risk the speculation that such new technologies will help us harvest water from the sea in a much more efficient way.”

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Fish farmer dreams of saving ocean

AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD Today Online 9 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — In a messy terrace house in Changi, marine farmer Shannon Lim uses old-school but innovative science to produce more fish and more types of seafood than conventional fish farms.

Yet, the 29-year-old, who rears marine life in 14 black and blue tanks connected by water pipes, said he spends less on equipment and electricity bills than his competitors, making his company, Onhand Agrarian, one of the most profitable in the industry.

Launched four years ago, Onhand Agrarian supplies a variety of seafood — from fish such as sea bass and grouper to pricier catches like lobsters, prawns and sea grapes — to pet shops, restaurants and walk-in customers.

Its Changi quarantine site and a 40,000 sq ft farm in Lim Chu Kang produce at least 80kg of seafood per cubic metre of water. For the same amount of water, they also produce eight times more fish than regular fish farms, said Mr Lim, the company’s managing director.

The farms are so productive because they run on an Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture System (IMTRAS), he explained. IMTRAS allows waste from an organism to be recycled as food for another, creating an ecosystem of various species.

For example, waste from fish serves as food for crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs. These crustaceans also produce waste, which are further broken down into fertilisers by sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

As a result, the fertiliser enables macro algae like seaweed and sea grapes to thrive. These algae provide oxygen for other organisms, while “cleaners” such as mussels and oysters keep the water hygienic. This removes the need for expensive oxygen and filtration equipment and saves on electricity bills.

“If you know how a biological system works ... you don’t need the hardware ... (IMTRAS) to me is more high-tech than spending S$30,000 on stuff (when) a lobster will do it for you,” he said.

His fish also survive far longer than those in regular farms, where fish are commonly reared in open water and exposed to natural parasites and pollution.

Mr Lim’s farming journey began when he was still working as a financial planner for AIA Singapore about six years ago. Then, the Republic Polytechnic graduate in Media and Fine Arts analysed market trends and predicted a shortage of fertilisers.

Determined to find a way of farming without using fertilisers, he started talking to clients who were marine biology and aquaculture professors to learn more about farming techniques, and reading up extensively on the subject during his free time.

Soon, he designed his first IMTRAS and later collaborated with a professor who had researched the system to improve on his model.

When he tried to sell his idea to other fish farms, they refused to give up their traditional practices. Most were not making enough money to invest in IMTRAS equipment. Mr Lim said: “So I thought, ‘Since I have an idea, why not go ahead and do it?’”

Mr Lim, who has invested about S$160,000, has high hopes for his business, aiming to supply 15 per cent of Singapore’s seafood eventually.

Currently, only 8 per cent of fish consumed here is produced locally, according to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

But Mr Lim, who runs his farms with the help of about 30 volunteers, said he is not in the business only for the money. His dream is to “make seafood so cheap” that he can cripple trawling businesses that destroy marine life.

“I firmly believe that sustainable food should always be cheaper than unsustainable food, for the simple reason that I am not incurring extra costs,” he said.

Mr Lim’s dream of selling cheap seafood while preserving the ecosystem is tied to his love for the ocean, which started when his dad took him, as a 10-year-old, to the beach to appreciate nature.

“A lot of problems in the world are the result of environmental mismanagement,” he said. “We are taking urbanised bits of Singapore (and) returning it to nature.”

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Farming, one rooftop at a time

AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD Today Online 9 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — In the heart of the nation’s bustling shopping district, some Singaporeans spend their time in a rooftop “garden”, carefully tending to basil and mint plants.

Comcrop co-founder Allan Lim, 42, and his team of four full-time urban farmers are part of a small wave of Singaporeans trying to grow their own food.

The urban farming collective runs a 6,000 sq ft farm — equivalent to the floor area of five five-room Housing and Development Board flats — on the rooftop of *Scape on Orchard Road.

“Our aim is to grow the most amount of food on the smallest amount of land,” Mr Lim said.

Comcrop produces herbs and seasonal produce such as basil, mint, eggplants and peppers. Plants grow from 5m-high vertical frames comprising terraces of water-filled pipes. Before entering the pipes, the water is run through large tanks of tilapia fish, whose waste provide nutrients for the plants.

The farm churns out up to 30kg of produce weekly. Considering the amount of land utilised, the farm is 50 per cent more productive than conventional ones, Mr Lim said.

“We apply our technology to marginalised land, which is something very important to Singapore,” he said.

Land-scarce Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food, and only 8 per cent of its vegetables are locally grown, according to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

Although he knows the odds are against him, Mr Lim hopes to see his produce on tables islandwide one day.

“My personal ambition is to make an impact on the food system of Singapore,” he said.

For now, Comcrop supplies to more than 20 food and beverage outlets, most of which are high-end establishments such as 28 HongKong Street and Halia at Raffles Hotel. This is because chefs at these eateries appreciate the value of high-quality ingredients, said Mr Lim.

Another Comcrop farmer, Mr Lim Yuan Kang, 28, said herbs grown on the farm smell and taste better than those available on supermarket shelves.

“There’s a big difference in quality and taste,” he said. “I think the way we grow (herbs) creates a strong flavour; the fish waste offers a constant supply of nutrients.”

He added that herbs sold in supermarkets are usually less fresh because of the time it takes for them to be brought in from Genting Highlands or Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

Despite their confidence in the quality of their produce, things are far from rosy for the ambitious farmers.

“We’ve not made back a single cent,” Mr Allan Lim said of his business. He has spent at least S$300,000 on Comcrop since its launch four years ago.

He attributed his losses to underestimating the challenges of growing crops on a rooftop.

“We lack knowledge on pests, insects,” he said. “We lost 400 tomato plants in one season without fruiting because of environmental factors such as heat and humidity.

“We are still struggling quite a bit. The purpose of this farm is really to break new ground and to learn as much as possible from there.”

Despite the difficulties, Mr Lim and his team are determined to wean Singapore off food imports.

“If you look at where we are now — 95 per cent of food (imported) from 35 countries — in the next 10 years, the GDP of (these countries) will probably go up by at least 10 to 20 per cent.

“What this means is that … as we go along, the food security of Singapore will come under tremendous pressure.”

To overcome this, he intends to launch a new farm that he dubbed as the “biggest rooftop hydroponic farm in the world”.

Slated to open next year on top of an industrial building in Woodlands, the rooftop farm will occupy an area about the size of a football field.

“The solution is no longer on paper, the solution has to be on the ground,” Mr Lim said. “(The new farm) will define us Singaporeans when people say we cannot grow food. Let’s grow it and show people that we can.”

The new farm will produce more fruits, vegetables and herbs, and provide jobs for the marginalised workforce, such as ex-offenders, he added.

What others say

Urban farmers and experts TODAY spoke to said it is not impossible for a farming industry to thrive here.

“There are all sorts of generally under-utilised space,” said Mr Robert Pearce, co-founder of Edible Garden City, which runs urban farms in Chinatown and near Dempsey Hill. “You could cover the entire area of Singapore in farms if you just farmed on a rooftop.” He also lamented the removal of fruit trees in Singapore, which were part of the island’s natural landscape, due to squabbles among some members of the public over the fruit.

“Such a shame. If we can just work a bit of a better system of managing that … it’s worth it,” Mr Pearce added.

Kranji Countryside Association honorary secretary Chelsea Wan said: “Singapore prides itself on being a garden city to make the country look good. Why not make it more practical by growing food gardens so we can keep the harvest for everyone?”

The association works with public and private organisations to maintain 1 per cent of Singapore’s land for growing food.

But Nanyang Technological University biological sciences professor Lee Sing Kong, who has developed new technologies for urban food production, warned that produce from local urban farms may not be able to compete with cheaper imports.

“With technology, it is possible to produce a sizeable volume of vegetables for supply to Singapore. But whether prices are competitive will be a strong consideration for the initiative to be a success here,” he said.

“Ultimately, consumers will buy cheaper vegetables, rather than vegetables (that cost more), even though they may be fresher … or cleaner,” added Prof Lee.

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Spotless in Singapore

Long and arduous task to tackle filth and squalor to become a clean and green city
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 9 Aug 15;

It was Oct 1, 1968. More than 1,500 community leaders had filed into the Singapore Conference Hall and were about to hear an announcement that would change the face of Singapore.

A few months earlier, the Government had formed a national committee to tackle the country's cleanliness and littering problem. The group ran the gamut from representatives from the ministries of health, education and culture, to non-governmental groups. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew took the stage to launch the campaign's next step - to get ordinary Singaporeans on board.

"Everyone can see the point of a new home, clean kitchen, clean food and healthy children. But responsibility stops too often at the doorstep," he said.

The inaugural, month-long Keep Singapore Clean campaign, as it was called, was a blitz across the country, with posters and banners in Singapore's four official languages put up in shops, restaurants, offices, factories, community centres, bus shelters and public notice boards. Mini-posters, leaflets, pamphlets and car-bumper stickers were handed out, and even postal items and cinema tickets bore the Keep Singapore Clean slogan.

At the campaign's closing ceremony on Nov 1, then Minister for Health Chua Sian Chin said "there has been a visible transformation of the face of Singapore".

Although there were some bad areas where littering had continued, most people had done their spring-cleaning, there were litter boxes everywhere, and there was even "an air of cleanliness and confidence".

Mr Chua added: "We shall not lack the zeal and persistence and, if necessary, the ruthlessness, in this long and arduous war against filth and squalor."

The Keep Singapore Clean campaign became an annual event, and was joined by several other major projects to turn the Republic into a clean and green city.

Retiree T. K. Pillai, 86, who joined the then Sewerage Department in 1971, said work to develop a comprehensive sewerage system started in the 1960s and accelerated in the 1970s. This was to collect waste and prevent it from entering water bodies. "We had to lay sewers all over the island to connect new public housing and existing homes that were not served, to the sewerage system," he said.

By January 1987, Singapore had bid farewell to its night-soil bucket system, where workers went on daily rounds to empty and clean buckets of human waste. The then Ministry of the Environment spent $1.6 billion to develop the new sewerage system.

Mr Pillai said: "Without (such a) system to handle the waste, Singapore would not be able to have such a large population on such a small island without constant epidemics."

In 1987, Mr Lee awarded him and nine other people gold medals for their leadership in cleaning up the Singapore River and Kallang Basin.

National water agency PUB's chairman, Mr Tan Gee Paw, 71, drafted the ambitious 10-year plan to clean up the Singapore River in 1977, when he was the Ministry of the Environment's director of environmental engineering.

He said: "The water was dirty and public health so poor... There were infectious diseases, rodents and cockroaches, and you couldn't even be sure the food you were eating was clean... The clean-up required a strong-willed government. Now, we have clean water, clean air, good public and environmental health - that was the pathway to success."

• Oct 1, 1968: Singapore launches the month-long Keep Singapore Clean campaign, one of its first national campaigns as an independent nation.

• 1970s and 80s: More related campaigns, including Keep Your Factory Clean and Keep The Toilet Clean.

• 1990: Launch of Clean and Green Week that takes place every November.

• 2007: That becomes Clean and Green Singapore, to get people to care for the environment all year round. The new campaign also promotes energ

• 2015: The Public Hygiene Council, Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement and Singapore Kindness Movement organise OperationWeClean Up!, a first-of-its-kind, one-day event to pick uplitter across the country. More than 7,000kg of rubbish are collected.

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Malaysia: SAM hits out at rampant logging at Gunung Besout

The Star 8 Aug 15;

IPOH: Rampant logging in the Gunung Besout forest reserve near Sungkai has destroyed the eco-system there, claimed Sahabat Alam Malaysia president S.M. Mohamed Idris.

He alleged that creeks had eroded and rivers filled with silt, causing the water to be polluted by suspended solids and waste from deforestation.

Hillside erosion had also occurred due to the destruction of the forest on the steep hills by logging companies harvesting wood without discrimination, he claimed.

Mohamed Idris said the forest reserve was one of the last remaining natural habitats for wildlife, so its destruction was a concern.

“The destruction of forests for plantation-scale agricultural purposes in parts of the forest reserve is causing erosion and damaging creeks and streams, resulting in the deposition of mud,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He noted that the forest reserve was established on Nov 21, 1915, and some 3,178ha had been logged since 2010.

Mohamed Idris said SAM was worried that the exploitation of the forest reserve would affect its ability to supply raw water to the Gunung Besout water treatment plant.

The exploitation and destruction of the area could also impact the virgin jungle reserve (VJR).

“One of the rules concerning a VJR is that it should be located in a permanent forest reserve and surrounded by a managed forest, but the forest cover around Gunung Besout has been exploited and destroyed,” he said.

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Malaysia: Flood situation in Sabah monitored -- Najib

The Star 9 Aug 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: All the federal government and Sabah state agencies concerned will monitor the continuous rainfall and flood situation in certain areas such as Kota Belud and Beaufort in Sabah.

In the latest posts to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the people affected would also be assisted.

“In Kota Belud and other affected areas, all public property including schools and roads will be repaired by the ministry responsible if it is damaged while residents who need to be relocated will be given assistance as soon as possible,” he said.

The continuous heavy downpour since Monday caused another mudslide at Sungai Kedamaian in Kota Belud early yesterday causing residents of Kampung Malangkap Baru to be cut off from comunication.

In January, the districts of Beaufort, Membakut, Tenom, Sipitang and Papar were badly affected by the floods which also destroyed a number of homes, schools and crops. --Bernama

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Malaysia: Rescued sunbear finds new home

KRISTY INUS The Star 7 Aug 15;

SANDAKAN: A three-month old sunbear cub which was up for sale in the interior Paitan, has now been placed under the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre's (BSBCC) protection near here as of Wednesday.

The female bear which was named Tan-Tan is the 44th rescued sunbear since the centre was set up six years ago, according to a statement from BSBCC and Sabah Wildlife Department.

BSBCC founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said a concerned citizen came across a villager trying to sell the cub.

"The person bought the cub and informed the Sabah Wildlife Department, leading to the department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit sending her to our Centre. With her addition, we now have 35 bears presently at the Centre.

"The cub is under quarantine and is being given round the clock care by our staff,” said Wong.

Sunbear is one of the 11 listed under Totally Protected Species (Schedule 1) which included the Sumatran Rhinoceros, orang utan, Borneo pygmy elephants and clouded leopard.

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