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Bacteria outbreak: Stalls told to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes


SINGAPORE — Food stalls here have been ordered to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes until they can comply with stipulated guidelines, after investigations by the Ministry of Health (MOH) found a definite link between eating these dishes and Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection, which can potentially cause permanent disability and even death in severe cases.

To date, two persons have died from GBS infections this year, said MOH today (Nov 27), without providing details. One of the cases was not linked to the ongoing outbreak, and the other is being investigated.

MOH said it has been notified of 355 cases of GBS infections so far. Of these, about 150 cases had the Sequence Type (ST) 283 strain which causes Type III GBS disease. In comparison, there were, on average, 150 cases of GBS infections per year from 2011 to last year.

The consumption of Chinese-style ready-to-eat raw-fish dishes was found to be associated with Type III GBS disease, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a joint media briefing yesterday with the MOH and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). MOH had said previously it has not found any links between the GBS infection and the consumption of Japanese raw meat or fish dish sashimi. Examples of popular Chinese-style raw-fish dishes are “yusheng”, which is usually eaten during Chinese New Year, and raw-fish porridge.

Over 70 stalls selling Chinese-style raw fish dishes have been identified by the authorities. NEA met with the owners of some of these stalls to brief them on its directive and guidelines, which include buying fish from suppliers which can provide certification on the health of the fish from authorities in the country of origin. Other measures include proper cold chain management, such as keeping fish for raw consumption chilled at the right temperature, and proper hygiene practices like using separate kitchen tools for preparing raw fish.

NEA said it has ruled out food handlers as the source of the bacteria. Tests on stool samples from 82 food handlers and fishmongers from retail food establishments, market stalls and wholesalers found that they did not carry the ST283 strain. Contamination of the fish could have occurred along the food chain supply, the probe concluded.

The authorities began investigations following reports in July that there was a spike in local GBS infections. Within the same month, NEA issued an advisory to food stalls, asking them to temporarily stop the sale of raw fish dishes made from Song fish and Toman fish. Since then, the number of GBS cases notified to MOH has decreased to “a usual baseline of less than 5 per week and continues to remain low”, the ministry said. Most of these cases were not due to raw fish consumption.

Between August and last month, the AVA and the NEA carried out tests on 400 fish samples from various species and across the food chain supply including fishery ports, wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets, and retail food establishments.

A fifth of the samples were found to contain the GBS bacteria, and 4.1 per cent tested positive for the ST283 strain.

Infectious disease experts TODAY spoke to pointed out that GBS bacteria is found naturally on fish and handling practices could have led to cross-contamination where fish meant to be eaten raw were mixed with fish for cooking and carrying the ST283 strain.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, from the Rophi Clinic in Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, said: “Someone must have started a new practice of handling the fish in the recent year and it’s still ongoing. It could be very harmless handling of just using the same box (to hold the fish) and then the cross-contamination occurred.”

The particular strain could also be causing the spike in GBS infections because it seems to be associated with “greater virulence or greater deadliness”, said Dr Hsu Li Yang, a physician at the ID Clinic in Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre.

Mr Derek Ho, NEA’s director-general of environmental public health, reiterated that most food in fisheries and markets here are not meant for raw consumption. “They’re meant for cooking… If you want to eat food that’s raw, you should ensure they are procured from proper sources,” he said. Some supermarkets have dedicated counters for selling raw products, he noted.

However, experts felt that food stalls would face difficulties in following NEA’s guidelines. As a result, most could stop selling the dishes, they noted. Dr Hsu said: “(Food stalls) have to be able to trace the source of the fish down to how they store it, how they serve it and prepare it… Even if they get it from a supplier who can tick all these boxes for them, they still have to go through great lengths in terms of how they store the fish in the hawker stall and prepare it.”

Dr Leong described NEA’s directive to the food stalls as “a right order but... a tall order”. “It’s good to come up with some protocols but implementation will be extremely difficult… It requires a higher understanding of science, and it’s a new level of understanding and education,” he said.

NEA issues new advisory cautioning consumption of ‘inherently risky’ raw foods
Stallholders will be banned from selling raw fish dishes, unless they comply with guidelines. NEA says it will work with stallholders on how to abide by its guidelines, after further investigations into the spike of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections reported in June.
Justin Ong, Vimita Mohandas, News 5, Channel NewsAsia 27 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) issued an advisory on Friday (Nov 27) for the sale and consumption of raw fish after further investigations into the spike of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections reported in June.

With findings showing a link between the consumption of raw fish dishes and disease caused by GBS, NEA has cautioned the public over the inherent risks of consuming raw food, while food stalls are to immediately stop selling raw fish dishes until they adhere to guidelines set out by the agency.

In the first half of the year, the number of GBS cases at hospitals rose from an average of 150 a year in the past four years to 238 a year. In July, with some samples of raw fish found to contain GBS bacteria, the NEA advised stallholders to temporarily stop selling raw fish dishes using Song and Toman fish.

To date, there have been 355 cases of GBS infections reported this year, of which about 150 cases were the Type III GBS ST283 strain linked to the consumption of Chinese-style ready-to-eat raw fish dishes, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

There have been two deaths among the GBS cases this year, according to MOH. One death was of a recently reported case and it is still under investigation, while the other was not linked to the outbreak, the ministry added.

While there has been a dip in GBS cases to less than five a week, the cause of these baseline infections remains unknown, said NEA.

A joint-investigation with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the MOH has determined that food handlers are unlikely to be the source of the GBS bacteria, after 82 such individuals were tested and returned negative results.

Between August and October, the AVA and NEA also tested about 400 samples of a variety of commonly-used fish and found GBS present in 20.1 per cent while 4.1 per cent carried the Type III GBS ST283 strain associated with the consumption of Chinese-style raw fish dishes like yusheng.

The authorities could not pinpoint the exact source of contamination but said it could have occurred at any part of the food supply chain, from fishery ports to wet market stalls to food shops. It did not rule out that the GBS bacteria could have been imported from its original source.

"The fish that we receive in Singapore are either farm bred or wild caught," said Mr Derek Ho, NEA’s director-general of its Environmental Public Health Division. "They could be from farms or sea. They could come into Singapore through various channels - through the fishery ports. Some are air flown in and of course at various supply chains from the ports it goes to distribution points for example, the wet market stalls before it finally ends up at the retail end."


In light of its findings, NEA has advised consumers to exercise caution over the consumption of raw fish and in general, raw foods, as harmful bacteria may be present. Cooking raw food is still the most effective way to kill bacteria, it said.

“Most food we find in our fishery ports and markets are not meant for raw consumption," said Mr Ho. "They are meant for cooking, so we shouldn’t be buying from markets and thinking these could be just cut up and you can eat it raw."

“If you want to eat food that’s raw, you should ensure they are procured from proper sources,” he added. “For example, if you are preparing your own yusheng, you should ensure the raw fish you intend for raw consumption is procured from sources where the fish is intended for that purpose ... in supermarkets, we have dedicated counters for selling such raw products.”

The NEA director-general also said: “The consumption of raw foods in itself is inherently risky, especially for vulnerable groups. If you are pregnant, immune-compromised, or have young children, it’s best you don’t take raw food.”


According to Mr Ho, NEA would inform over 70 stalls selling raw fish dishes that with immediate effect, “they should cease sales of such raw fish, until such time they are able to comply with the advisory and guidelines which will be issued to them for safe handling of ready-to-eat raw fish”.

“These include ensuring the fish is procured from sources where there is assurance that the waters are cleaner, and there’s a proper cold chain system in terms of processing and handling of fish,” said Mr Ho. “And right down to the stall itself to ensure proper segregation of fish intended for raw consumption from other raw products meant for cooking.”

“Proper segregation from the source all the way down to the point of sale will ensure the ready-to-eat fish is of the highest quality and safe for consumption,” he said.

The ban on the sale of raw fish dishes will be in place unless stall holders complied with guidelines. NEA said it would directly engage and work with stallholders on how to properly recognise the advisory and abide by its guidelines.

The agency said it would keep the raw fish stalls under active monitoring and surveillance. If any rules are flouted, NEA said it would have legal provisions to take action, whether through demerit points, fines ranging from S$300 to S$2,000, or the suspension of the stall’s license in cases of repeat offences.

Asked if it would provide monetary support for stalls with raw fish dishes as their main livelihood, NEA said: “We are not considering financial assistance at this point. Stallholders have to make the necessary adjustments.”


Stall holders Channel NewsAsia spoke with said business has dropped since the GBS Bacteria was found to have been linked to raw fish.

"Ever since authorities started looking into the matter, and after the media started covering the incident, the market (raw fish stalls) has been affected," said Mr Kiang Choon Tong, owner of Soon Heng Pork and Fish Porridge at Amoy Street Food Centre. "While we usually sell about 70 to 80 portions a day, now we can't even sell 10 plates a day. Because the moment people hear 'yusheng', they're scared."

Mr Kiang added that business has been poor since July.

"It's really hard to survive," he said. "People now have a fear of yusheng. They're all scared after reading or watching news reports."

Mr Wong Yeow Loy, owner of Tian Tian Porridge at Chinatown Complex Market, shared similar experiences. He said he has seen a "40 per cent drop" in sales.

Both stallholders say they have stopped from using Song fish and are now using Xi Dao fish (Wolf Herring).

"Xi Dao fish and Song fish, in terms of pricing, Xidao is more expensive by nature," said Mr Kiang. "Song fish is more popular, both with stall holders and customers, as its value for money."

"Xi Dao tastes really good. But because of its price, many avoid it," he added. "However, more discerning customers would still choose Xi Dao instead."

Due to the increase in cost, the price of each dish has also gone up.

"We had to increase our prices ever since we started using Xi Dao fish. It used to be S$2.50 per plate for Song fish, now it's S$5," said Mr Wong. "I'd like to tell customers that the Xi Dao fish is approved for use, so that they will have more confidence (in buying the dish).

"We intend to stick with using Xi Dao fish until the Song fish has been approved for use again."

- CNA/kk

355 cases of GBS infections so far this year: MOH
LAURA PHILOMIN Today Online 17 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — To date, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said there have been 355 cases of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections this year, with two deaths so far.

Of these, 150 cases were the Type III GBS ST283 strain linked to the consumption of Chinese-style ready-to-eat raw fish dishes. One death was of case recently reported to MOH and is still under investigation while the other was not linked to the outbreak, said the ministry.

“Since mid-July 2015, following the advisory issued by NEA to licensed food retail establishments to temporarily stop the sale of RTE raw fish dishes using Song fish and Toman fish, the number of GBS cases notified to MOH has decreased to a usual baseline of less than 5 per week and continues to remain low. Most of these cases did not report raw fish consumption. The cause of the baseline infections remains unknown,” it added.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has ordered all food stalls to stop selling Chinese-style raw fish dishes until they can comply with stipulated guidelines.

There were, on average, 150 cases of GBS infections per year from 2011 to last year.

Raw-fish stalls close, tweak menu after bacteria scare
STACEY LIM Today Online 28 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — In the wake of new guidelines that hawkers must comply with to keep selling raw-fish dishes, those interviewed by TODAY expect the prospects for selling this mainstay of their menus to remain dismal. Some also felt that there should be more scrutiny of suppliers of raw fish.

The new guidelines, issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA), came after investigations by the Ministry of Health found a definite link between eating these dishes and Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection.

Some hawker stalls selling raw-fish dishes have already stopped operating in the wake of earlier reports about such links a few months ago, while others are depending on selling other dishes to keep their businesses float.

TODAY’s visits to several food centres yesterday (Nov 28) showed that some of the hawker stalls known for selling raw-fish dishes were either closed or not selling raw fish anymore.

Mr Lim Siew Leong, the 70-year-old owner of Jiu Ji porridge stall at Chinatown Complex Market, still sells raw-fish porridge, but said that business had dropped by 60 to 70 per cent.

“People are scared, but the die-hard customers still come,” said Mr Lim, who has been operating his stall for the past 40 years.

Although fish reared in ponds are “one to four times cheaper”, Mr Lim said he has always been buying fish caught from the sea from Jurong Fishery Port, an international port for foreign fishing vessels to land their fish catch, so that he can assure his customers they are being served better-quality fish.

Some hawkers told TODAY that they had been observing the recommended hygiene practices, and felt that fish suppliers should also come under scrutiny.

Mr Koh Tong Hien, 58, who manages a stall at Tekka Market with his wife, suggested the delivery trucks carrying raw fish should be examined.

“It is quite odd for a porridge stall to stop selling raw fish, it is something people look for to eat with their porridge, just like how some prefer peanuts or chicken meat,” he said.

Mr Koh has just started selling fish head bee hoon as well to make up for the drop in demand for his raw-fish porridge dishes.

Mr Kiang Choon Tong, owner of Soon Heng Pork and Fish Porridge at Amoy Street Food Centre, said the NEA should have given hawkers more time and introduced hygiene standards for suppliers of raw fish instead of banning hawkers from selling raw-fish dishes unless they comply with the guidelines.

Mr Kiang, who said he is now earning S$200 to S$300 less a day, added: “There’s nothing we can do but to stop selling the raw fish.”

Thoroughly cooked fish poses no GBS risk: Experts
LAURA PHILOMIN Today Online 28 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Eating fish that is thoroughly cooked poses no risk of a person contracting Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection, even for those with weakened immune systems. Infectious disease experts said this in the wake of the Health Ministry’s investigation findings that linked these infections to the consumption of Chinese-style raw- fish dishes.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), which has ordered stallholders to stop selling these dishes indefinitely, warned of inherent risks in eating raw food. As a general precaution, it has advised vulnerable groups of people such as children, pregnant women, the elderly or those with chronic illnesses to avoid consuming raw food.

But experts said the risk is not eliminated just because a fish is cooked. They stressed that cooking fish thoroughly is the key.

A case in point is a 75-year-old woman who in late September contracted GBS, which doctors suspect came from her consumption of steamed fish that was not thoroughly cooked. She had to be hospitalised for two weeks and put on antibiotics for one month.

Her 37-year-old daughter, who declined to be named, said her mother had an underlying condition called cellulitis, which makes it difficult for fluids to flow through her body and causes leg swelling.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam from the Rophi Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre said that thoroughly cooking food kills all bacteria and properly cooked fish poses no risk, even to those with weaker immune systems.

“As part of public health education, the only GBS that we’re scared of with regard to fish consumption is this particular outbreak strain (ST283),” added Dr Hsu Li Yang, infectious disease physician at the ID Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre. “But as long as fish is cooked, it should be fine.”

MOH confirms link between Chinese-style raw fish and GBS bacteria
The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE - Food stalls are no longer allowed to sell Chinese-style raw fish dishes unless they comply with guidelines set out by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The guidelines include purchasing from suppliers who can show the quality of the fish - by providing a valid health certificate, for instance - and ensuring that the fish are kept at below five degrees Celsius during transportation and chilling.

This comes as the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed an association between the consumption of Chinese-style raw fish, such as song fish (Asian Bighead Carp) and toman fish (Snakehead fish), and Type III Group B Streptococcus (GBS) disease, specifically due to Sequence Type (ST) 283. The ministry was investigating the spike in the number of GBS infections reported here since the middle of this year.

Most recently, a 52-year-old man fell into a coma days after consuming a bowl of yusheng-style raw fish porridge on Nov 15.

Food handlers are unlikely to be the source of the bacteria causing GBS infections, the NEA, MOH and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said in a joint statement today.

"The stool samples of 82 food handlers and fishmongers from retail food establishments, market stalls, and wholesalers were tested. None of them carried the Type III GBS ST283 strain," the statement said.

Between August and October, the AVA and NEA tested fish samples from retail food establishments, wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets and fishery ports. GBS was detected in 20.1 per cent of these samples, and 4.1 per cent were confirmed positive for Type III GBS ST283. The contamination of the fish could have occurred along the food supply chain, the NEA, MOH and AVA said.

They added that the number of GBS cases reported has decreased to the usual baseline of fewer than five per week and continued to remain low since mid-July, when the NEA issued an advisory to food stalls to temporarily stop selling Chinese-style raw fish dishes. The cause of these baseline infections remains unknown.

Members of the public are advised to purchase Chinese-style raw fish from establishments that have separate processes to handle these raw fish from other raw food meant for cooking.

Most fish sold at Singapore's general markets and fishery ports are intended for cooking, and should not be eaten raw. Proper cooking would ensure that naturally-occurring bacteria or parasites are killed. Procuring fish that are intended for raw consumption reduces the risk of foodborne illness, the authorities said. Such fish are typically bred or harvested from cleaner waters, and are stored and distributed according to appropriate cold chain management practices.

Raw fish porridge falls out of favour after GBS cases
Linette Lai, The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Nov 15;

Several hawkers selling raw fish porridge said they stopped doing so when the National Environment Agency (NEA) advised against it four months ago, and have not restarted sales since then.

"Everyone is scared to death of eating raw fish now," said Mr Kiang Choon Tong, 68, who owns Soon Heng Pork and Fish Porridge at Amoy Street Food Centre.

"Even if I sell it, nobody will buy it. As long as there's raw fish in the porridge, nobody wants to eat it," said Mr Kiang, who now sells pork porridge instead.

Mr Kiang Joon Chin, 60, who owns Zhen Zhen Porridge at Maxwell Food Centre, said: "We haven't been selling any raw fish porridge since July, after the scare. We sell porridge with only cooked ingredients now."

The Straits Times visited three food centres yesterday and found that some hawkers have stopped selling raw fish porridge. Those that do use a species of fish not linked to the bacteria scare in July.

Raw fish dishes are under the spotlight again after 52-year-old salesman Sim Tharn Chun was hospitalised on Thursday last week after eating a raw fish dish at Tiong Bahru hawker centre. He was admitted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and remains in critical condition.

In July, the Health Ministry (MOH) said it found a link between the consumption of raw fish and Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections in a "limited number" of cases.

Shortly after, NEA issued an advisory to more than 70 raw fish porridge stalls asking them to temporarily stop selling raw fish dishes made from Song fish, or Asian bighead carp, and Toman fish, also called snakehead. The raw fish pieces are usually served with sesame oil, ginger and chilli.

Preliminary findings from MOH's investigations found some samples from the two species had traces of GBS. In August, MOH reported that GBS cases had fallen from an average of 20 cases a week since the start of the year to around three cases a week in the first three weeks of August. GBS is a common bacteria found in the gut or urinary tract of about 15 per cent to 30 per cent of adults, and does not usually cause disease in healthy people. But it may occasionally cause serious infections of the joints, brain, heart and blood.

It is not known how many GBS cases have been diagnosed in Singapore since January. An MOH spokesman said in July that one of the larger hospitals had treated 76 cases of GBS this year, up from a yearly average of 53 in the past five years.

Yesterday, Mr Sim's wife, Mrs Cathryn Sim, 43, said her husband's condition is not improving.

She said she needed answers on whether "raw fish in Singapore is healthy. I'm not going to blame the hawkers because they don't know".

Raw fish and GBS infection: 7 questions about the bacteria answered
Linette Lai, The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Nov 15;


It is a bacterium commonly found in the gut and urinary tract of about 15 to 30 per cent of adults without causing any disease. But it may occasionally cause infections of the skin, joints, heart and brain. It can lead to meningitis, which is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Having chronic conditions, such as diabetes, put people at a higher risk of getting GBS infections.


The serious cases this year have been found to be associated with a particular strain of GBS known as Sequence Type 283 (ST283). Although this strain is not fully understood as yet, it is believed to be more aggressive than others.

There are many different strains of GBS, not all of which have been fully studied. However, these bacteria are generally not considered food-borne pathogens.


In general, newborns and people with poorer immunity, such as those who have diabetes, cancer and HIV, are usually more vulnerable to the infection, say doctors. But the cases this year affected both young adults and the old.

Traditionally, GBS infections have been associated with pregnancy as mothers who are carriers of the bacteria may pass it to their babies during birth.


The most common symptom of infection is a fever, said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist with Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

It is important to recognise and treat it early, said Dr Leong, adding that it can be treated with common antibiotics such as penicillin.

Other more serious symptoms include infection of the joints, brain, lungs and other soft tissue in the body. The kind of symptoms a person has depends on the site of the bacterial infection.


Most of these Chinese-style dishes use fish that are intended for cooking and should not be eaten raw. They may contain parasites or bacteria, which are killed by cooking.

Fish used for sashimi are usually bred or harvested from cleaner waters.


You should make sure that the people you are buying from handle raw fish separately from other raw food that is meant to be cooked. For example, they should have separate counters, chopping boards, and knives to prepare fish meant to be served raw.


It is unlikely. The stool samples of 82 food handlers and fishmongers were tested, and none of them were positive for the specific strain of GBS associated with the outbreak.

Eateries take steps to keep raw fish dishes safe
Jessica Lim, Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Nov 15;
Several eateries selling raw fish dishes here are making doubly sure that their supplies are up to the mark, given a rise in Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections here this year.

Many are doing this even though they are not serving the three types of fish linked to the infection - song fish (Asian bighead carp), toman fish (snakehead) and tilapia.

Mr Kevin Cheong, 46, owner of Hinoki Japanese Dining in the Central Business District, called his raw fish suppliers last week to get the assurance that their fish are GBS-free.

"We asked them for necessary certification and are monitoring the situation," he said. His firm imports only sashimi-grade raw fish from Japan, Norway, Thailand and Indonesia, and all its supplies come from farms certified by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), he added.

However, since the GBS scare began in July, demand for raw fish at his eatery has dipped 15 per cent year- on-year with a few customers asking if he served the three fish types linked to the infections. "Some are avoiding raw fish altogether," he said, adding that staff have been reminded to follow proper hygiene procedures.

Japanese restaurant chain Sakae Sushi, which has about 50 outlets here, has informed its suppliers about the GBS scare and is monitoring the matter closely. Mr Douglas Foo, the chain's founder and chairman, said he visits the farms of his raw fish suppliers - in countries such as South Africa - to take samples from the water the fish are reared in for lab tests. Independent auditors visit the farms regularly and each batch of raw fish that arrives here is tested for various bacteria, including GBS.

Supplies are tagged with radio frequency identification chips to track if the cold chain has been broken. The fish are harvested, chilled and iced at the farms, then stored in large refrigerators and either flown or shipped to Singapore. "If the cold chain is broken, the batch will be rejected," said Mr Foo, adding that the restaurant group has not yet seen a dip in demand for raw fish.

The authorities stated last Friday that there is a definite link between the GBS infections - which can lead to meningitis - and Chinese-style raw fish dishes, including raw fish porridge. Hawkers have been told to stop selling such dishes unless they can prove the fish used are from safe suppliers. The Ministry of Health said it has been notified of 355 cases of GBS infection this year.

Supermarket chain FairPrice and the Dairy Farm Group - which runs Cold Storage and Giant - said they have strict standards for temperature control and personal hygiene, and do regular audits. Prime Supermarket chief executive Chong Wee Cheong said the AVA took samples of its fish for testing two months ago and they passed. At Sheng Siong, demand for song, tilapia and toman fish have fallen by 5 per cent from the same time last year. Head purchaser Kong Cheu Soon said staff have been reminded to tell customers the fish are not for eating raw. AVA tests on its supplies have come up negative.

But consumers like Madam Amutha Kumaran, 45, a sales executive who has two children, are playing it safe. "I told my family not to eat any more raw fish," she said.

Additional reporting by Linette Lai

Man, 22, dies from GBS infection
AsiaOne 3 Dec 15;

A 22-year-old man died from Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection on Tuesday (Dec 1), mere hours after he was admitted to the Singapore General Hospital, local media reported.

According to Lianhe Wanbao, Certis Cisco protection officer Roy Ng fell sick on Nov 23.

For over a week, Mr Ng had a persistent fever that rose to 40 degrees celsius at one point.

He also suffered from abdominal pain, vomiting, and had blood in his urine, his father told the Chinese evening daily.

The elder Mr Ng decided to send his son to the hospital after noticing that he looked pale in the early hours of Tuesday. He struggled to breathe and also wrapped his arms around his abdomen from the severe pain.

At the hospital, doctors found that Mr Ng's blood pressure had plunged to nearly half of the normal reading of 130/80, and there was fluid buildup in his lungs.

They operated on the young man in an emergency surgery but pronounced him dead three minutes later.

A doctor told Mr Ng's father that the bacterial infection had spread to his heart and kidneys, causing them to fail.

The Straits Times reported on Wednesday (Dec 2) that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is now investigating whether Mr Ng's death from GBS infection is related to the consumption of Chinese-style raw fish dishes also known as yusheng.

According to the deceased's father, he did not like eating yusheng. However, the elder Mr Ng was unsure if his son had consumed them while dining out with his friends.

Mr Ng's death marks the third fatal case of GBS infection this year.

MOH said last Friday (Nov 27) that it was notified of 355 GBS cases from the beginning of the year. Of these, 150 were linked to consumption of yusheng.

Joint investigations conducted by the National Environment Agency, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, and the health ministry confirmed an association between the consumption of yusheng with Sequence Type (ST) 283 - an aggressive strain of the GBS bacteria.

Uncooked freshwater fish such as Song fish (Asian bighead carp), Toman fish (snakehead) and tilapia were among those found containing ST283.

The authorities also ordered hawkers to stop selling the raw fish dishes unless they can prove that the fish came from safe sources.

What it should have been
Straits Times 9 Dec 15;

In the Nov 29 report, "Eateries take steps to keep raw fish dishes safe", Hinoki Japanese Dining owner Kevin Cheong was quoted as saying that he imported raw fish only from farms certified by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). The AVA has clarified that it does not certify such farms but conducts inspection and sampling of imported food, including fish, at import points.

Read more!

Ensuring there's enough water - always

Ng Joo Hee, The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Nov 15;

Not many people know that there are 17 freshwater reservoirs in Singapore, or that we have a large reservoir across the Causeway in Johor.

Constructed by the PUB following a 1990 treaty supplementary to Singapore's 1962 Water Agreement with Malaysia, the Linggiu Reservoir dwarfs them all. In fact, with an 18km girth and 55 sq km in area, Linggiu is five times larger than all of Singapore's other reservoirs combined.


Two weeks ago, my boss, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, made the bumpy trek to Linggiu.

He did so with one aim: to tell the Singaporean public that - because of persistent dry weather - Linggiu Reservoir is more than half empty and that, while water supply in Singapore remains steady and resilient, the dry weather may eventually also affect us.

As I write, several parts of Johor Baru are well into the fourth month of water rationing. Many of Johor's own reservoirs are at critically low levels and a "one-day-on- two-days-off" scheduled water supply has been in operation since early August.

The water authority there has asked PUB to augment its supply during this period with an additional five million gallons a day (mgd) of potable water from our treatment plant in Johor, which we readily agreed to do.

Imported water - which can meet half of Singapore's daily demand for drinking water - is under threat and steadily depleting, but the taps continue to flow for consumers here.

This is an unappreciated blessing. For sure, this outcome is not in any way due to good fortune. It stems from long and careful planning, and conscientious implementation by PUB and other parts of the Government.

Singapore's continued ability to ensure water security and sustainability guarantees our national survival and economic prosperity. This was the case at Independence and it remains so now, when Singapore has turned 50.

Singapore's current demand for water is approximately 400 mgd, roughly 730 Olympic-size pools full of the life-giving stuff, with each person using an average of 150 litres a day.

As industry and commerce grow and our population increases, the demand for water can only rise. We expect total demand to double by 2061, to 800 mgd. This is also around the time our 99-year water agreement with Malaysia will end.

By 2030, 15 years from now, total demand would have reached 560 mgd, or a third more than today's.

This is water that we do not have now - water that we will need to find and treat.

There is just not enough space in Singapore to collect and store all the water that we need. Although right on the Equator and in the tropics, Singapore is actually a severely water-challenged country. We spend a lot of time and devote a lot of resources in planning for the future. PUB always builds ahead of demand.

Construction of Singapore's third desalination plant will soon commence. Plans for a fourth have just been announced. And you can be sure that we are busy working on the one after that.

Water security is a matter of life and death for us in Singapore. Our existence as a sovereign nation is directly contingent on enduring water security. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first Prime Minister, recognised this fact from day one, and worked tirelessly throughout his life to secure our water future. He once said: "Water dominated every other policy. Every other policy had to bend at the knees for water survival."

Singapore's water strategy comes in three parts. First of all, we have to maximise our own yield. So we strive to collect every drop of rain that falls here. This means turning as much of Singapore as possible into a water catchment, and keeping our drains, canals and waterways pristine.

Second, we have to think of water as an endlessly reusable resource. In our minds, the H2O molecule is never lost. Water can always be reclaimed and re-treated so that it can be drunk again.

PUB is a world leader in this. Today, we are able to turn wastewater into sweet water for very little money. We reclaim every drop of sewage and turn much of it into drinking water again.

And third, because Singapore is surrounded by sea, we turn seawater into drinking water. When membrane separation technology made desalination economically viable, PUB adopted it with great zeal. And we continue to research better desalination technology to find less expensive ways of desalting water.

Our plan, in the long run, is for fully 80 per cent of Singapore's water needs to be met by desalinated and recycled water.


The future of water security in Singapore may lie with desalination and reuse, but we also know that if we just do more of the same, the next drop of water will always be more expensive to collect, to treat and to deliver. So, PUB is always looking for new ways of doing things, new innovations that will let us produce water cheaper, and in an easier way.

Because the heavens do not give us enough water or the space to keep it, we have looked to clever science and high technology, and to human ingenuity, for improvements... It will be technology and innovation that will allow us to collect and clean our wastewater, and continue to keep our soil, rivers, lakes and seas clean and hospitable.

We are crystal clear about achieving three outcomes for research and innovation in the water sector: to increase water resources; lower the cost of production; and improve security and system resilience.

In order to achieve and sustain these outcomes, PUB has invested and continues to invest a lot of money in water-related scientific research, in nurturing human talent in water technology and engineering, and in actively developing a thriving and globally competitive water industry.

Water R&D is an exciting and fast-moving area. The cutting-edge science that PUB is supporting in research laboratories all over Singapore suggests that we are on the cusp of realising some truly game-changing technologies. Let me provide a few examples.

Desalination may be weather- resistant, but it is energy- intensive and a costly means of making seawater drinkable. Working with collaborators, PUB is ready to demonstrate electro-deionisation - the use of a new separation technology - as a far more energy-efficient way of taking salt out of seawater.

But why stop there? Mother Nature, as always, does it best. Mangrove and fish in the sea need fresh water too, and they are able to remove excess salt with minimal effort. Biomimicry offers great promise and is another area of research that we have devoted considerable resources to.

PUB engineers who have made wastewater treatment their life work will tell you that there is "gold" in sewage. Sludge, an inevitable by-product of sewage treatment, is concentrated organic material.

Energy can be readily recovered from sewage sludge in the form of methane gas. Because sludge management technology is advancing by the day, modern sewage treatment facilities are fast becoming waste-to-energy plants. PUB's planned Tuas Water Reclamation Plant will be just that.

To be developed jointly with the National Environment Agency's Integrated Waste Management Facility, this combined unit will be a world first, bringing unprecedented synergies in terms of land use, energy savings and operational efficiency.

Leaky pipes are enemy No. 1 for water network engineers. It is quite senseless to expend effort and energy in making water potable only to lose it through leaks in the water transmission network.

Losses because of leaks are a perennial challenge for water utilities the world over, and the water systems in some countries can lose as much as half of their production due to leaks. Despite fastidious attention to finding and plugging pipe leaks here, keeping our losses at the current 5 per cent is a daily challenge for our engineers and technicians.

Again, technology offers a solution. PUB is busy fitting out our extensive water conveyance network, most of which is underground, with sophisticated pressure and acoustic sensors. These not only detect pipeline ruptures, but careful study of sensor data will even help us predict imminent leaks before they happen, allowing us to do pre-emptive repairs.

Despite severely limiting geographic constraints, today's Singapore is not short of water.

As long as we at PUB continue to be smart and clear-eyed about our nation's water situation, and do our work well, there should always be enough water. This is possible only because we have used our imagination, researching and testing continuously, and have exploited technology to overcome our water challenges.

In this way, we have turned disadvantage into strength, and seemingly insurmountable vulnerability into endless opportunity.

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New desalination process can save energy, cut costs

Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Nov 15;

The sea may surround Singapore but the costly process of turning seawater into potable water has been a major obstacle in purifying it for daily use.

But a new technology developed by American company Evoqua, with funding from Singapore's water agency PUB and the Economic Development Board, is paving the way for a more cost-effective desalination process.

The discovery - from a three- year pilot project started in 2010 at the PUB Variable Salinity Plant in Pasir Ris - uses half the amount of electricity required by conventional seawater reverse osmosis.

As a result, PUB told The Straits Times that it will roll out the Evoqua technology at its Tuas Water Reclamation Plant next year, with the capability to produce up to one million gallons of water a day.

PUB also hopes to further reduce the amount of energy needed for the process to just 1.5kWh for every cubic m of desalinated water.

The existing requirement using Evoqua technology is about 1.65kWh to 1.8kWh of electricity.

But with the conventional reverse osmosis method, 3.5kWh of electrical energy is usually needed.

The desalination process in reverse osmosis essentially involves pumping filtered seawater through a membrane with tiny pores under high pressure, to remove dissolved ions such as sodium, chlorine, calcium and sulphates.

On average, the concentration of these ions in seawater is about 3.5 per cent.

The goal is to reduce it to a level that meets drinking-water standards.

With the Evoqua technology, the ions are removed by a process known as electrochemical desalination.

These ions, which carry either a positive or negative charge, are eliminated from the water when they are attracted to electrodes of the opposite charge.

As a result, there is no need to pump the seawater through the tiny pores of a membrane under high pressure, thus saving on energy.

This energy-efficient method makes desalination a more viable and sustainable alternative for water- scarce Singapore.

Currently, Singapore uses 400 million gallons of water a day. The demand could almost double by 2060.

Up to one-quarter of the present demand is met by desalinated seawater. PUB hopes desalination can continue to supply the same proportion even in the long term when demand goes up.

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Singapore’s Coney Island: 10 things to know

A new hotspot for nature-loving cyclists, Coney Island has received tens of thousands of visitors since re-opening on Oct 10, after redevelopment under the Punggol 21 plan. Home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, here are 10 things you may not know about Coney Island Park.
Ray Yeh Channel NewsAsia 27 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: Coney Island is Singapore's latest nature destination. The island, about 100 hectares in size, consists of the Coney Island Park, a future interim park and an area zoned for sports and recreation.

The Coney Island Park occupies the northern half of the island. Its popularity with cyclists is evident especially on weekends, when large groups of cyclists whizz past trekkers on the main gravel track that cuts through the island from the east to the west.

Many visitors to the island, which was once owned by the Haw Par Brothers, are curious about the holiday beach villa the brothers built in the 1930s. Another star attraction is the elusive free-roaming Brahman bull, whose presence on the island remains a mystery.

Whatever your reason for dropping in, here are 10 things about Coney Island Park that you should know:


Coney Island is not connected to the mainland’s power grid or water system, in an effort by the National Parks Board (NParks) to keep the park as rustic and environmentally-sustainable as possible. Since no lighting is provided after dark, the park closes at 7pm daily.

The only toilet at the park uses zero energy, and is self-sufficient. Water harvested from the rain is used for flushing and hand-washing. Solar energy powers the pumps. Diffused sunlight provides indoor lighting, and the green roof reduces ambient temperature.

Lamp posts found near the park entrances are attached with solar panels that harvest solar power for lighting without the need for electricity.


“Last year we had a storm, and quite a number of trees got uprooted. So we recycled some of the wood for benches, signage, and we recycled most of them for a boardwalk at the mangrove area,” said Ms Ang Chiean Hong, NPark’s Deputy Director of Parks.

NPark also built a playground out of recycled wood, called the Casuarina Exploratory, near the West Entrance. “It’s interesting to see how the children interact with these wood pieces, and imagine a way to play with them. It helps children identify with nature,” Ms Ang said.


Casuarinas are tall, conical-shaped trees with needle-like twigs and fruits that look like tiny durians. These characteristics allow them to thrive in coastal regions where they are exposed to high wind and high salt spray. Coney Island is dominated by these trees.

The name Casuarina is derived from the Malay word for the cassowary, kasuari, a flightless bird. It alludes to the similarities between the bird's feathers and the plant's foliage. However, in current standard Malay, the tree is called Rhu.


For those who cannot get enough of the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio family of otters, you might want to check out their less famous counterparts. “In the morning, if you come at about seven plus, you’ll see otters,” Ms Ang suggested. “There is a group of eight otters, and they usually play along the dam.” The dam is found at the East Entrance of the park, along Pasir Ris Industrial Drive 6.

The smooth-coated otter, found only in Asia, is a vulnerable species due to the loss of its wetland habitats.


Woodpeckers, Kingfishers and Bee-eaters - these are just a few bird species that make Coney Island home, at least for a few months a year. Some of the 80 species of birds found here are migrants, stopping over as they escape winter up North or down South.

To increase the availability of suitable nesting sites for these winged creatures, NParks have installed nest boxes around the island. Some of them are found on tall trees, such as those for Woodpeckers, while others are buried in sandy mounds, such as those for Bee-eaters.

You might also spot these hanging nests that look at like tear drops. They are built by male Baya Weavers who use them to attract the females. To increase their chances at pairing up, the males usually build many partial nests and start courting, and only complete the nests when they find a mate.


Bird watchers and photographers have three bird hides on the island to choose from. As the name suggests, these stainless steel structures are covered in creepers to hide humans from animals, to facilitate wildlife observation at close quarters.

These structures are built to withstand the impact of falling trees, and you can take shelter there during a thunderstorm.


Coney Island is home to the last two surviving cycad specimen in Singapore. The trees once grew along the coast of Singapore at Katong, but were affected by development works. NParks transplanted them to Coney Island Park, back to their native beach habitat.

Even though they grow very slowly, these trees can live for as long as 1,000 years.


The wooden Coney Island sign that serves as the backdrop for many Instagram photos is actually a relic from a past era. NParks gave the words a fresh coat of paint, but no one knows for sure when it came to be.

It could have been left there by Indian businessman Ghulam Mahmood, who bought the island in the 1950s and wanted to turn it into a resort modelled after New York’s Coney Island.

Two other vintage pieces that can be found near the Coney Island sign: a stone bench and a metal bin. Don’t try to stuff your trash in it, it is only for display.


Despite the "No Entry" sign, curious visitors still find their way to the villa through the mangrove swamp.

Built by the Haw Par Brothers in the late 1930s, the villa has a central hall and an open veranda that surround the house. “It used to be quite a grand piece of architecture, I would think so, fronting the beach and also surrounded by the natural vegetation,” Ms Ang said.

The building has been left unoccupied for decades and is structurally unsound. NParks has built a fence around it to prevent entry. The statutory board also strongly discourages members of the public from visiting the villa on their own as It is situated in a mangrove area and visitors could get trapped by the rising tide.


As you take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk under the canopy of tall Casuarina trees, you might feel droplets of water falling and think it has started drizzling. While that could be true, there is another possibility.

Called “cicada rain” or “honey dew”, it is the excess liquid that cicadas expel after drinking tree fluids.

NParks' guided tour of Coney Island Park are fully registered for the rest of year.

- CNA/ry

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'Five trees' take root in Esplanade Park

Samantha Boh, Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Nov 15;

By the time lovers discovered their sheltering embrace and shade, they were already mature trees.

For decades, at least between the 1960s and the 1980s, five Angsana trees stood over young lovebirds as they sat cheek-to-cheek on the grass below them at the Esplanade Park, then better known as Queen Elizabeth Walk.

Sometimes, there were groups of friends chattering or strangers taking a break as they watched merchants going about their business.

The massive trees lent the popular spot the name, gor zhang chiu kar, Hokkien for "under the five trees".

"I used to go there to relax and chat with my friends in the 1970s before we went and ate at Satay Club," said Mr Mah Ah Wah, 67, recalling the open-air food centre nearby then.

"People there were mostly in pairs; we were the light bulbs," said the noodle seller, chuckling as he used an expression for unwanted third parties among dating couples.

But the lovers' lane just along Connaught Drive was hit by a fungal disease outbreak which infected the five trees in the 1990s.

They had to be chopped down by the National Parks Board (NParks), to prevent further spread of the disease which, at its height between 1989 and 1995, killed nearly a tree a day.

But now, gor zhang chiu kar is back, with the agency's first disease-resistant Angsana tree transplantation project there.

After months of careful planning, the NParks transplanted five Angsana trees from a field in Bidadari, where they had been cultivated to replace those removed long ago.

The transplanting process itself took about a month, during which the trees were pruned, uprooted, wrapped and ferried to the Esplanade Park, where they were carefully planted and secured down.

The exercise was completed early this month, as part of the Civic District enhancement project by NParks and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The trees stand in the very same spot as before, and NParks has been watering and feeding them nutrients and root hormones to keep them healthy.

Mr Oh Cheow Sheng, director of Streetscape at NParks, said the aim was to keep alive the Civic District's rich heritage and history.

"We hope uncles and aunties who have fond memories of the place will re-visit it with their children if we re-create this piece of history for them," he said.

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HDB project to introduce green features completed at Yuhua

Today Online 27 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — A pilot programme to bring green features to Yuhua marks its completion this month, three years after it was launched.

The initiative sought to introduce energy-efficient, water management, and waste management features to the estate.

Features installed include a rainwater harvesting system, a pneumatic waste conveyance system that uses high speed air suction to transport household waste via an underground pipe network to a centralised bin centre, green roofs and vertical greenery for blocks to reduce block surface temperatures and an enhanced pedestrian and cycling network to encourage green commuting.

Yuhua, which spans 38 blocks and comprises about 3,200 households, has also been conferred the BCA Green Mark Award (Platinum) in recognition of the initiatives.

“With the completion of HDB Greenprint, we have made Yuhua more green and brought sustainable living to our residents. They now enjoy a cleaner, greener and more pleasant living environment,” said Dr Cheong Koon Hean, chief executive officer of HDB in a press statement today (Nov 27).

“HDB will continue working towards making every town and estate more liveable with sustainable initiatives that improve the lives of our residents,” said Dr Cheong.

After Yuhua, Teck Ghee in Ang Mo Kio is the second estate to undergo the HDB Greenprint project. The HDB announced in July that works to fit environmentally friendly technology in 40 blocks in the estate would be carried out over the next three years.

Yuhua now a 'green neighbourhood' after revamp
With the completion of HDB Greenprint @ Yuhua, residents there now have access to energy-efficient features, as well as water and waste management, says HDB.
Channel NewsAsia 27 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The completion of the HDB Greenprint @ Yuhua project means residents there are the first to experience "sustainable living" in an existing public housing estate, said the Housing and Development Board (HDB) on Friday (Nov 27).

The project, which was launched in 2012, aimed to bring energy efficient, water and waste management features to the estate. The blocks in the project range from 209 to 240 at Jurong East Street 21 and comprises about 3,200 households, the press release said.

Among the features introduced is the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System, which makes use of high speed air suction to transport household waste to the Centralised Bin Centre. As it is enclosed and automated, this method reduces waste spillage, foul smells and pest issues, HDB said.

The project has also enabled limited resources to be used more sustainably over the long term. For example, with the Elevator Energy Regeneration Systems installed in the lifts of 16 blocks, they now use an average of 20 per cent less energy compared to conventional lifts, HDB said.

As a result of the revamp, Yuhua was awarded the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark Award (Platinum) for existing residential buildings - the highest accolade under the award scheme, it added.

"HDB will continue working towards making every town and estate more liveable with sustainable initiatives that improve the lives of our residents," HDB CEO Cheong Koon Hean said in the press release.

- CNA/kk

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Malaysia: Endangered Leatherback Turtle Last Landed On Terengganu Shore In 2010

Bernama 27 Nov 15;

MELAKA, Nov 27 (Bernama) -- The endangered leatherback turtle's last recorded landing at the shores of Terengganu was in 2010.

Fisheries deputy director-general (Development) Zulkafli Abd Rashida said only eight nests were recorded during that landing and worse, the eggs did not hatch at all.

"Leatherback turtles will only land and lay eggs at Terengganu's shores but they will keep away because of the human activities and too many lights at the beach.

"If the situation continues, the species will become extinct," he told reporters after the launch of the Endangered Species Awareness and Conservation Programme here today.

The programme was launched by Melaka Tourism, Beach, River and Island Development deputy exco Datuk Ghazale Muhamad.

Meanwhile, Zulkafli said the population of green turtles had increased nationwide, with about 2,000 landings in 1996 to 4,000 this year.


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Malaysia: MMEA Seizes Tugboat Trying To Smuggle Out Sand At Tanjung Sedili

Bernama 26 Nov 15;

JOHOR BAHARU, Nov 26 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) seized a sand-laden tugboat and detained its skipper and 10 Indonesian crew members 17 nautical miles off Tanjung Sedili in Kota Tinggi yesterday.

Sedili district MMEA enforcement chief, Captain Amran Daud said his officers spotted the tugboat at about 10.00 am while they were patrolling the surrounding waters.

"Upon inspection, we discovered that the tugboat, which was registered with Bestlink XVIII, was heading towards a neighbouring country and was towing a barge laden with 4,800 tonnes of river sand," he said in a statement here this evening.

The skipper and crew members, aged between 20 and 50 years, were later taken to the Tanjung Sedili Maritime office for further investigations.

The case is being investigated under Section 135 (1)(e) of the Customs Act 1967.


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Malaysia: Reclaimed land to fund project in Penang

TAN SIN CHOW The Star 28 Nov 15;

GEORGE TOWN: The RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) might be funded through the auction of two plots of reclaimed land in the southern coast of Penang island.

SRS Consortium, the appointed Project Delivery Partner (PDP) of the plan, has proposed the reclaimed land as an asset for the state to raise funds to deliver the project in a timely and sustainable manner.

The two man-made islands, located near Permatang Damar Laut, will be known as the South Reclamation Scheme (SRS) spanning 930ha and 445ha.

A third plot of 323ha reclaimed land next to the two islands has also been identified if there is a future demand for land activities.

SRS Consortium project director Szeto Wai Loong said Danist Hydraulic Institute, an internationally reputed water environment expert, recently carried out extensive studies on the southern coast of the island.

The institute, he said, confirmed that the coast was the most suitable for reclamation due to its natural bay area with weak tidal currents, shallow water and natural shelter from the effects of tsunami.

“They checked all the coastlines in Penang island, and found that the southern coast is most technically viable for reclamation as it has limited environmental sensitivity, with no seagrass or coral reefs.

“Our communications team will be engaging with the fishermen in the area. We want to hear them out,” he told reporters at a briefing in Komtar here yesterday.

Szeto said the man-made islands would see a new smart green city called SRS Smart City, aimed at re-energising Penang’s economic engine for the next 50 years.

He said the new city’s location would be close to the Bayan Lepas International Airport and this would allow the Free Trade Zone’s 471 small and medium enterprises and 117 multinational companies to expand.

“We were told 30% of the companies had wanted to expand but there’s no room for them to grow at the moment.

“SRS Smart City will be able to help these companies expand. The islands will have their own self-cleansing system to prevent erosion and siltation.

“Besides providing attractive housing solutions, there will also be a 5km beach, a 25km coastal park, a 30km waterfront and 283ha of green areas,” he said.

He added that there would be an efficient rail transit system serving the new city.

SRS Consortium is a company formed by public-listed Gamuda Bhd and two local property firms – Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd.

It was appointed by the state in August to come up with a detailed execution of the master plan and engineering designs, and to gather public feedback and obtain all state and federal approvals for each PTMP component.

Among the components of PTMP were trams, monorail, light rail transit lines, e-bus, bus rapid transit, pan-island expressway, a catamaran system and a RM100mil highway interchange upgrading project.

Szeto said they had spent RM10mil to carry out feasibility studies on PTMP.

Penang Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the project was still “a work in progress”.

“The state government has not given any approval yet. Submission of detailed environmental impact assessment will only be done in June next year.

“We will be doing more than the legal provision requires. We will engage various stakeholders next month with a similar presentation. This will allow us to finetune the project after getting feedback,” he said.

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Malaysia: RM100,000 worth of fish found dead in Sabah

The Star 28 Nov 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Fish farmers in Kina­batangan, the site of Malaysia’s biggest Ramsar site, were stunned to find that all their fish, reared in cages, were dead.

“We noticed something amiss earlier. When dawn came the next day (last Friday), our worst fears were confirmed when we found all of them belly up,” said Kampung Mumiang Village Development and Security Committee head Mada Hussin.

The fish were reared in 50 cages.

Kampung Mumiang is located at the estuary of the Kinabatangan River and is about an hour away by speedboat from Sandakan.

The Convention on Wetlands of Inter­national Importance, better known as the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that looks into conservation wetlands and their resources. There are six Ramsar sites in Malaysia.

Mada said the farmers lost grouper, snapper and other types of fish, adding that the cost could come up to RM100,000.

This would impact about 50 families, he said.

“We want answers from the authorities. We want to know the cause. We want compensation from whoever is responsible for our losses,” Mada said.

The villagers, he said, would usually keep some fish for their own consumption and sell the rest.

“We have lost everything now,” he added.

He said the farmers were in a dilemma as they could not depend on catching fish at the nearby river due to dwindling numbers.

“The villagers are now waiting for test results on samples taken by the Fisheries Department.”

Mada said pollutants from a plantation could have flowed into the Malangking River, a tributary of the Kinabatangan.

“The last time we lost fish on this scale was about four years ago,” he said.

Cynthia Ong, the director of Forever Sabah which works towards an equitable and green economy, said such tragic events were typically associated with oxygen depletion in dead zones caused by fertiliser, palm oil mill effluents or disturbed peat soil.

“Studies in Malaysia and around the world showed that fisheries sustained by healthy mangroves are worth hundreds of dollars per hectare to the Sabah economy,” Ong said.

Deluge of fresh water could be the cause
The Star 1 Dec 15;

I REFER to the report, “RM100,000 worth of fish found dead” (The Star, Nov 28).

The fish were reportedly reared in suspended cages at the estuary of the Kinabatangan River.

The fish were saltwater species, mainly kerapu (groupers) and jenahak (presumably mangrove snappers), hence the cages were suspended in the estuarine location where the water is saline.

The Sabah Fisheries officials had taken samples to determine the cause of the fish mortality. I hope that they had also taken water samples in the vicinity to determine, apart from other parameters, the salinity of the water going through the cages.

From my earlier experience as a staff of the Fisheries Research Institute in Penang I had encountered similar instances of large- scale fish mortality in cages placed in the estuarine region of rivers, cages that were used for rearing saltwater fish.

My investigations then revealed that fish mortality was a result of a sudden deluge of fresh water from upstream due to a spell of heavy rain and that the fresh water would have most likely killed the fish in the cages.

Saltwater fish are unable to withstand a lowering of salinity to critical levels, especially when they are caged and unable to escape to safer areas down the estuary to the coastal zone where there is tidal effect.

Kulai Jaya

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Indonesia to show the world how to prevent forest fires at COP21 27 Nov 15;

Indonesia will present it's ideas on how to prevent forest fires and rehabilitate damaged peatland as part of climate change mitigation efforts at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris, France.

National Development Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil said on Friday that Indonesia's agenda at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP21 conference scheduled to begin on Nov. 30 was to promote serious management of forest fires.

"The most important thing is serious prevention, so that there will be no more forest fires, especially ones caused by humans. If they were caused by natural factors it would be different, but we also need to emphasize readiness," he said as quoted by Antara news agency.

The government has said it would accelerate peatland rehabilitation and halt new peatland clearing concessions following the massive forest fires that blanketed parts of the country over the last few months.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will lead the Indonesian delegation to Paris and is scheduled to depart on Monday. The event will be attended by 147 state leaders with the aim of deliberating measures to address climate change.

Indonesia will bring its previously announced target of 29 percent lower carbon emissions by 2030 as it's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) as part of the climate negotiations.

Sofyan said that Indonesia would focus on energy, transportation, waste management, food and other sectors in its efforts to lower carbon emission.

Separately, cabinet secretary Pramono Anung said Indonesia would also raise global awareness about the forest and peatland fires.

"Indonesia expects that the world will also be concerned about [the fires] and not only blame us. Because they have said that our forests are the lungs of the world," he said as quoted by

Foreign Affairs Minister Retno LP Marsudi said the government would summarize Indonesia's climate change policies in the conference and also remind the world that Indonesia was geographically prone to climate change, but at the same time, also needed space to boost its economic development.

Millions of Indonesians were affected by toxic haze due to severe forest and peatland fires in some parts of Kalimantan and Sumatra in recent months from slash-and-burn land clearing methods and a prolonged dry season.

Analysis using data from the NASA satellite has shown that Indonesia's emissions from forest and land fires skyrocketed this year and surpassed those from the country's severe 2006 fires, reported last month.

In October, total emissions from the fires soared from nearly one billion tonnes to nearly 1.4 billion tonnes. The fires also pushed Indonesia into the position of the country with the third-biggest polluter, after China and the US. (afr/rin)

Indonesia wants united front in climate mitigation efforts
Ina Parlina and Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 27 Nov 15;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is calling for shared efforts from both developed and developing nations to address climate change ahead of the upcoming UN climate talks, COP21, in Paris at the end of the month.

Leaders from 200 countries are expected to meet on Nov. 30 during the leaders’ event at the summit, which is expected to produce the first global commitment to cut emissions, which will extend or replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The Foreign Ministry’s director general of economic development and environmental affairs, Toffery P. Soetikno, said Indonesia would demand that developed countries contribute more to supporting developing countries in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions through, for example, increased financial support.

“There are differences [in the amount of carbon emitted]. We ask developed countries to put in more effort, while developing countries also contribute to addressing this issue,” Toffery said on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has said that Jokowi will also address the importance of respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.

Jokowi is set to arrive in Paris on Nov. 29 and is scheduled to deliver his statement during the leaders’ event on Nov. 30.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Indonesia would also seek political push for the joint efforts.

Jokowi has used various international forums in the past weeks, for example, the G20 Summit and the ASEAN Summit, to call on developed countries to act as role models in reducing carbon emissions, leading the action to make cuts, as well as to support the efforts of developing countries. Jokowi has also demanded that developed countries increase their financial contributions to developing countries and participate in technology transfers and capacity building.

Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said earlier that Jokowi would also bring to the table issues related to peatland management and fires.

“Peatland [fires and management] has become a global issue; therefore, Indonesia, of course, hopes the world also thinks about the issue,” Pramono said on Wednesday. “So, stop placing blame [ on us when fires occur] but treat us as the lungs of the world when nothing [no fire] occurs [here].”

Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also Singapore’s coordinating national security minister, recently expressed his commitment to work with Indonesia to prevent haze in the future, while Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during the recent ASEAN Summit that each member should work hand in hand to find solutions to the haze issue and other environmental problems.

During a national tree-planting event at the Sultam Adam Forest Park in South Kalimantan on Thursday morning, Jokowi renewed the government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 29 percent by 2030, as laid out its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), an outline of the post-2020 climate actions a country intends to take to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gasses.

A number of countries have submitted their INDCs, which are expected to shape negotiations at COP21.

“We also urge developed industrial countries and developing countries to share a similar commitment [to reducing carbon emissions],” Jokowi said.

Meanwhile, the government, through the Finance Ministry, plans to establish a management body (BLU) tasked to manage the country’s climate change funding in a bid to woo donors during COP21.

Climate Change Mitigation Board chairman Sarwono Kusumaatmadja said on Thursday that the government was designing the mechanism of the BLU.

“Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar is having intensive discussions with Coordinating Economic Minister Sofyan Djalil and Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro,” he said. “It looks like we can achieve something ahead of Paris and announce the principles that we want to adopt for our climate change finance mechanism.”

President Jokowi to deliver Indonesia`s vision at cop21
Panca Hari Prabowo Antara 27 Nov 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) will deliver Indonesias vision during the negotiation process at the Climate Change Summit in Paris next week.

Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi informed reporters at the Presidential Palace on Friday that President Jokowi along with 147 other leaders will deliver Indonesias vision and stance on various issues relating to climate change.

"During the leaders meeting, the president will deliver his statement for approximately three to five minutes. The statement will highlight several subjects, the first of which being to lend political support to ensure the success of these negotiations," stated Retno.

Minister Marsudi said Indonesia also explained the strategic position of Indonesia, considered as one of the countries with the largest forest area, but also susceptible to climate change due to its geographic position.

"With 17 thousand islands of which most are small, more than 70 percent of Indonesia comprises water, sea, and much more. It makes us highly vulnerable, and we, as a developing country, still need sufficient room to bring about economic development," noted Marsudi.

Minister Marsudi remarked that Indonesia had earlier conveyed its commitment on emission reduction.

Meanwhile, State Secretary Pratikno revealed that besides attending the climate change meeting, President Jokowi will also hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of other countries.


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Indonesia: President Urges Community to Get Involved in Forest Conservation

Donny Andhika Mononimbar Jakarta Globe 27 Nov 15;

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has called for greater community efforts to reforest Indonesia, following slash-and-burn clearing this year that razed some two million hectares of forests.

Speaking at an event to mark National Tree-Planting Day in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, Joko stressed the importance of forest ecosystems.

“Indonesia can reclaim its crown as a source of biodiversity and the lungs of the world,” he said in a statement.

Joko and his wife, Iriana, used the event to kick off a campaign by the local government to plant 10,000 trees, with the help of hundreds of primary school students.

The reforestation program, in the Sultan Adam forest area outside Banjarmasin, will be first in a series of similar programs to redress the devastation caused by the fires through much of the middle of this year. The Sultan Adam area itself lost 105 hectares of woodland to the fire.

Joko also used the occasion to witness the signing of an agreement between the Environment and Forestry Ministry and leaders of nine interfaith organizations to commit to boost community awareness of and participation in environmental conservation efforts.

Indonesia last year overtook Brazil in the volume of deforestation, while the forest fires this year, much of them in carbon-rich peatlands, resulted in more greenhouse gas emissions than the entirety of US economic activity on several days, according to the World Resources Institute.

The fires also caused haze that sickened hundreds of thousands in Indonesia and spread to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

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Indonesia: Minister calls for support palm oil industry to bring more forex earnings

Antara 27 Nov 15;

Nusa Dua (ANTARA News) - The palm oil industry must be supported as it produces a strategic commodity, which can bring significant foreign exchange earnings, Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman stated.

"Palm oil is a strategic commodity, so it must be supported. In 2014 alone, palm oil contributed Rp250 trillion to foreign exchange earnings," he noted at the 11th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference (IPOC) in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Friday.

Despite being the worlds largest palm oil producer and supplier, Indonesia is still unable to control the price of crude palm oil (CPO), he pointed out.

Therefore, he affirmed that Indonesia must strive to control the global CPO prices, so that the amount of earnings from the commodity can be larger.

"As the worlds main CPO exporter, Indonesia must be able to control the global CPO prices in the same way as wheat exporters are able to control the prices of wheat sold to importers, including Indonesia," he said.

He called on all palm oil producers in Indonesia and Malaysia to work closely, particularly after they formed the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) to improve the living standard of palm oil growers.

Palm oil plays an important role in improving the living standard of nearly 20 million people cultivating four million hectares of palm oil plantations, he stated.

"I am sorry this does not mean that we do not care about the environment," he remarked.

Indonesia and Malaysia must cooperate in fulfilling the global demand for CPO and strive to control the global CPO prices, he emphasized.

He forecast that Indonesias CPO production this year may reach 30 million tons, of which 6.8 million tons will be used to support the domestic biodiesel program.

(Reported by Dyah Dwi Astuti/Uu.INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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Indonesian Small-Scale Miners in 'Historic' Pledge to Halt Mercury Use

Basten Gokkon Jakarta Globe 27 Nov 15;

Jakarta. A group representing Indonesia’s unregulated small-scale gold miners has pledged to phase out the use of mercury over the next three years.

Indonesian mining companies have since 2013 been required to halt the use of the heavy metal in industries such as gold mining, cosmetics production and power generation, under the Minamoto Convention on Mercury, which the government signed along with 93 other countries in Kumamoto, Japan.

While small-scale miners are unregulated, the government in 2014 announced a plan to phase out their use of mercury by 2018, making Indonesia the first country to do so.

Now the miners themselves have finally committed to the move, with the Indonesian Artisanal Miners Association (APRI) saying on Friday that its members would cease using mercury in their operations by 2018.

“We fully realize the dangerous potential of mercury on our environment and health now and in the future,” Gatot Sugiharto, the APRI chairman, said at an event in Jakarta on Friday to announce the commitment.

While mercury is no longer used in regulated, large-scale gold mining, small-scale miners who typically operate illegally in existing concessions or forests continue to use the metal to bind gold flakes. They then burn off the mercury from the resulting amalgam, releasing toxins into the air and ground that then make their way into the groundwater.

The United Nations Environment Program has identified small-scale gold mining as the single biggest source of mercury emissions globally. In Indonesia, this kind of mining accounts for 57.5 percent of mercury emissions, equivalent to 195 tons per year.

Friday’s declaration was made before officials from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, and the Finance Ministry, who welcomed and praised the APRI’s commitment.

“The declaration will be a historic moment for Indonesia’s efforts in environmental management,” said Tuti Hendrawati Mintarsih, the Environment Ministry’s director general for toxics material and waste management.

Mercury is typically imported into Indonesia through legal channels for use in light industrial and medical applications, but a thriving black market exists for the illegal gold trade.

Heru Pambudi, the Finance Ministry’s director general of customs and excise, said that this year alone his office had confiscated 14 containers of illegal mercury, worth an estimated Rp 47.8 billion ($3.47 million) and destined largely for the illegal gold mining industry.

“The customs and excise office is ready to work together with everyone from the downstream to the upstream sectors to monitor illegal sales of mercury,” he said.

To get small-scale miners to stop using mercury, the government is promising regulatory incentives such as clearly marked-out concessions, said Bambang Gatot Suriyono, the Energy Ministry’s director general for minerals and coal.

“The central government can help with establishing gold mining sites for small-scale miners, but we also urge the local authorities to provide them with operating permits and to conduct feasibility studies,” he said.

Tuti said her office would undertake studies to find eco-friendly and harmless alternatives for mercury that the miners could use.

Tari Tritarayati, a senior adviser to the health minister on regulatory affairs, warned that substituting mercury with other metals, such as cyanide, could be just as dangerous or worse.

“We need to be very careful in finding the best alternatives for mercury,” she said.

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