Best of our wild blogs: 30 Dec 16

Seagrasses disappearing in Singapore because not enough sex!
wild shores of singapore

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Growing problem for Singapore's seagrass

Jose Hong, Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Dec 16;

Male flowers of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides)
The small white dots on the seagrass blades are the male flowers, and many of them have not been spotted for at least three to four years. A lack of sexual reproduction could endanger seagrass populations, which are effective at storing carbon, and are key feeding grounds in Singapore waters for sea animals such as dugongs.
Photo: RIA TAN

Most of Singapore's seagrass have not been sexually reproducing for at least three to four years, and worried scientists are working to find out what is wrong.

A lack of sexual reproduction - creating new plants through flowers and seeds - could lead to decreased genetic diversity in seagrass populations here, making them more vulnerable to mass die-offs.

This would harm the environment in many ways, as seagrass meadows are up to 30 times as effective as rainforests at storing carbon, and are key feeding grounds in Singapore waters for sea animals such as dugongs.

Hidden by the waves and frequently overshadowed by more colourful coral reefs, seagrass meadows dot the shores and seas around the country (see map).

Like much of the country's natural heritage, they have been in decline for decades, with around 40 per cent of the original cover lost to coastal development.

Singapore has 12 seagrass species, out of 23 in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the National Parks Board (NParks).

Since 2007, scientists and volunteers have regularly monitored them to check on their health.

As an aside to their actual survey work, they would frequently see seagrass producing fruits and flowers.

Dr Siti Maryam Yaakub, 35, led many of these trips, and said that because Singapore is a tropical country, seagrass should flower and bear fruit all year round.

"We would expect to see them at almost every low tide."

But around three to four years ago, the senior marine ecologist at environmental consultancy firm, DHI Water and Environment, started noticing that most of the flowers and fruits had simply stopped appearing.

Seagrass populations can grow by cloning themselves, and long-term surveys have indeed seen certain meadows increasing in size, such as those at Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin.

But Dr Siti said this clonal growth - if it is indeed what Singapore's seagrass are doing could mean all the new seagrass are equally vulnerable to stressors like disease, making it more likely for entire new populations to die at the same time.

Furthermore, without seeds lying around in the environment, it would be much harder for new plants to return.

Ms Samantha Lai, a PhD candidate at the Experimental Marine Ecology Lab at the National University of Singapore (NUS), said there was already one such case on the shores of Pulau Semakau.

In 2009, a seagrass meadow off the island suddenly died, and aside from a few scattered patches of seagrass, the area remains barren, she said.

Ms Lai said environmental factors were also to blame, but added that one of the consequences of not having enough sexual reproduction "is not having enough seedlings or seeds to help the recovery of Semakau".

Dr Siti described the study of seagrass as "very nascent", and admitted there is still so much that researchers do not understand, but they are "working very hard to fill in many of these gaps".

This is the aim of their current research, which involves NParks in collaboration with NUS and DHI.

Dr Karenne Tun, director of the National Biodiversity Centre (Coastal and Marine) at NParks, said the three-year research project, which ends in the middle of 2018, intends to better understand the dispersal patterns of seagrass, in addition to assessing how resilient they are when faced with various stressors.

"Through the assessment of the status, connectivity and productivity of seagrass meadows in Singapore, we will be able to formulate measures for the conservation of seagrass, including the restoration of habitats for them," she said.

Said Dr Siti: "We are only scratching the surface in understanding what makes seagrass tick.

"Filling these gaps in our knowledge is the best chance we have of ensuring their continued survival."

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Looking forward to 2017: Environment - Sustainability still key, with challenges ahead

Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Dec 16;

Sustainability is the global buzzword these days and Singapore has done well in walking the talk over the past year.

It has opted to buy paper from sustainable sources, made strides to curb food waste and laid out its action plan to mitigate climate change by boosting energy efficiency across all sectors. These initiatives, among many others, do not just help the environment - they make monetary sense too.

Using energy-efficient appliances could help businesses and households reduce costs over time.

This focus on sustainability looks set to continue next year, as Singapore strives to limit environmental damage in its quest for development.

But it will not be painless, especially when it comes to conserving nature - which is something that cannot be valued in dollars and cents.

Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, summed up the challenges in straddling the fine line between development and nature conservation, when he quoted United States diplomat Henry Kissinger, who once said: "The great tragedies of history occur not when right confronts wrong but when two rights confront each other."

One case study that exemplifies this is the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) move earlier this year to clear a 30ha secondary forest plot in Lentor - through which two rare freshwater streams run - to make way for private housing.

On the one hand, the forest plot is rich in biodiversity and home to several rare animals, including the globally critically endangered Sunda pangolin. On the other hand, providing homes for Singapore's growing population is a national need.

The good news is that the Government has demonstrated its willingness to listen, at the very least, to concerns aired by the environmental community.

To save wild animals in the Lentor plot, for example, the URA embarked on a novel wildlife management plan that involves gradually clearing the site so animals can naturally move to nearby green areas.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has also listened to nature groups and taken steps to reduce the impact of development of the upcoming Cross Island Line, which could potentially tunnel under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

In June, it announced that it will adopt another 10 mitigating measures - on top of an earlier nine - to reduce the impact of soil testing works on plants and animals in Singapore's largest nature reserve.

These were adopted on the back of talks between the LTA and nature groups, and works in the reserve are due to start soon.

On the surface, it may appear encouraging that the LTA has adopted additional measures to reduce the impact of works on the reserve. But the Cross Island Line saga has highlighted several important questions: Is sustainable development just about limiting impact?

Could this result in the term "sustainable development" being used as a catch-all phrase to justify development in all areas? Even in a protected nature reserve - a representative site of the Republic's key natural ecosystems?

The year 2017 is likely to be one in which more of such questions will arise, and will likely be marked with more debate, dialogue and discussion among stakeholders, including the Government and conservation groups.

It is no easy feat to accommodate differing needs in just 719 sq km of land, which is all Singapore has.

As Prof Ng says: "I expect even more challenges to come to the front. This is only to be expected.

"We are starting new things in conservation, research and juggling often conflicting needs. Easy? No.

"But it has to be done anyway."

2016: Notable events
Audrey Tan Straits Times 29 Dec 16;


This year will go down in history as the year in which concrete steps to mitigate climate change were taken. The Paris climate pact, successfully negotiated by almost 200 nations last December, became international law last month.

In July, Singapore outlined its action plan to help the nation meet its green targets - a key strategy of which is to continue to improve energy efficiency across all sectors, namely power generation, industry, buildings, transport, household, waste and water.

The plan also laid out measures to help Singapore boost its resilience to climate change amid erratic weather patterns, in areas such as coastal protection, managing the water supply and improving food supply resilience.


To build or not to build a train tunnel under a nature reserve - that is a question that the authorities have yet to answer. Still, debates over whether the 50km Cross Island Line should go under or around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve were heightened since February, when the Land Transport Authority unveiled the findings of the first phase of an environmental impact assessment.

The study had found that tests to see how the train tunnel could be built through the nature reserve would have a "moderate" impact on plants and animals there, but only if measures to reduce the impact are strictly implemented. Otherwise, the soil investigation works could have a large impact on highly sensitive parts of the nature reserve.


Singapore will have an eco-tourism hub of five wildlife parks by 2023, when development of the leafy Mandai area is complete.

The area will also have eco-lodges, free-access public spaces such as boardwalks and playgrounds, and a nature-themed education centre, according to plans unveiled by developer Mandai Park Holdings in June.

But as the area sits just outside the biodiversity-rich Central Catchment Nature Reserve, nature groups have pointed out the irony in replacing native biodiversity with imported wildlife.

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Looking forward to 2017: Greener rides on track

Christopher Tan. Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Dec 16;

Green will be the colour for 2017 in the land transport sector.

Several changes and developments will pave the way for a more environmentally sustainable way of travel, starting with the opening of Downtown Line 3.

When this 21km MRT line stretching from River Valley to Expo opens by the second half of the year, it will encourage more people to leave their cars at home and take the train.

It will complete a 42km line that links the east of the island to the city centre and the north-west.

Hence, its full potential as a pan-island transit project will be realised.

Trains will not only reach new catchment areas, such as Jalan Besar, Kaki Bukit and Upper Changi, but also provide more convenient options to commuters who may not have to make transfers to complete a journey.

And if a breakdown occurs, say, on the East-West Line, commuters do not have to go far to get onto another line.

Meanwhile, people working in Tuas will get to ride a new line earlier.

The Tuas West Extension - a 7.5km line that goes west from Joo Koon station on the East-West Line - will open in the second quarter.

The extension, which was originally slated to open by the end of this year, will be a boon to those who work or have business operations in the Tuas district.

Despite its vastness, the area is not well served by public transport.

Those who have no choice but to drive today will have an alternative when the line opens.

The two new MRT lines will help boost daily rail ridership towards the 3.5 million mark, up from just more than three million today.

This, in turn, will potentially reduce car usage. The annual mileage clocked on average here has already dropped to 17,500km - down from 21,075km in 2006.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said: "In recent years, the bus contracting model, bus enhancement programme, bus service reliability framework, new rail financing framework, upgrade and renewal of train systems, all have contributed to make Singapore's public transport system the preferred mode of travel."

Elsewhere, a review of the annual growth rate cap on the vehicle population is on the cards next year .

Currently at 0.25 per cent, it could be cut to zero when the new certificate of entitlement quota starts in February 2018.

In line with its aim to make Singapore "car-lite", the Government has already hinted strongly at a zero growth rate.

Prof Lee said this might prove to be "a culture shock" to people "who have long recognised driving as the most convenient mode of travel".

"To a large extent, the city was designed to serve motorised vehicles," he added.

For a successful shift from private to public transport, Prof Lee said a fine balance between "push and pull measures" must be in place.

In this vein, a national electric vehicle sharing scheme slated to be plugged in - possibly by the third quarter - might come in handy.

Of course, questions remain - such as how economically viable the scheme is without subsidies, and how practical it is for families to squeeze into the small bubble-shaped hatchbacks to be used.

But if the scheme takes off, it will contribute in a small way to cleaner air in the city.

So will two other changes slated for 2017 - implementation of Euro 6 emission standards for petrol vehicles in September, and a review of the current Carbon Emissions- based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) by June.

Euro 6 is the strictest emission standard in Europe today. It stipulates a significant reduction in noxious tailpipe emissions, in particular nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter.

Singapore currently enforces the Euro 4 standard for petrol vehicles and Euro 5 for diesel models.

By 2018, diesel vehicles here will have to conform to Euro 6 too.

Just as significant will be a revision to CEVS.

The current scheme, slated to run out by the end of June next year, dishes out tax rebates and surcharges according to how much carbon dioxide a car produces.

The revision is likely to also take into account other pollutants and, as a result, possibly be kinder to electric vehicles.

"We are heading in the right direction," Prof Lee noted.

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Choked drain at MRT site caused flood

AUDREY TAN & JALELAH ABU BAKER, The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Dec 16;

A choked drain in a nearby construction site for the upcoming Upper Thomson MRT station led to the flash floods that put a dampener on the festive mood at several eateries on Christmas Eve.

This was uncovered during investigations by national water agency PUB.

To fix the problem, the Land Transport Authority will get the worksite's contractor to further improve the flow of water in the temporary diversion drain, which acts as a conduit for rain water while drainage upgrading works are ongoing.

"As part of works to construct Upper Thomson MRT Station, PUB is also working with LTA to upgrade the drain along Upper Thomson Road to enhance flood protection for the area," the authorities told The Straits Times.

PUB has also reminded the construction industry to conduct checks on the public drains in the vicinity of their respective construction sites in preparation for the monsoon season.

The flash flood incident took place last Saturday, at a row of shops between Jalan Keli and Jalan Todak near Thomson Plaza.

About eight businesses along Upper Thomson Road were affected by the flash floods, and tenants said they suffered thousands of dollars in losses.

The Meteorological Services Singapore said average rainfall over Singapore that day was 35.5mm, with the highest daily rainfall that day recorded at Tai Seng (86.0mm).

Mr Jamal Mohamed, 50, a cashier at The Roti Prata House, one of the affected eateries, estimated his loss at about $30,000, including the hours that the shop had to stay closed while workers cleaned up.

After it closed at about 5.30pm on Saturday, workers managed to keep regular business hours only on Monday.

"We salvaged what we could, but flour, masala, rice and eggs were wasted," said the employee, who has been working at the food joint for nine years.

The nearby construction for the Upper Thomson station, is part of a 22-station Thomson Line, started in 2014. The station will be built underneath a stretch of Upper Thomson Road between Thomson Plaza and the Church of the Holy Spirit.

The Christmas Eve flash flood was just one of 10 days when flash floods occurred as of Wednesday. This is up from the six that took place during the El Nino year last year, but down from the 17 flash flood days recorded in 2014.

PUB has undertaken efforts to reduce flood-prone areas in Singapore, including the widening and deepening of drains and canals, the construction of new drains and the upgrading of ageing ones.

Such efforts have helped reduce the flood-prone areas in Singapore to 30.5ha to date - down from the 35ha last year.

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Will the drive to make Singapore car-lite succeed?

Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 30 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE: Twin sisters Woo Li Ling and Woo Li Shan jumped on the cycling bandwagon about five years ago after joining an online cycling group. Li Ling, 55, now says cycling is a constant in her life. She rides from her home in Toa Payoh to her Jurong East workplace every day, and takes her bike with her whenever she travels.

But Li Shan has not quite caught on yet. “I don't cycle much mainly because of the traffic,” she said. “Usually I go on the bus lane because bus lane allows bicycles, but it's not nice to occupy the bus lane when the buses are all behind me.”

Still, both are in sync when it comes to what they would like the authorities to do to encourage people to give cycling a go.

"I first had a fear of cycling on the road because Singapore roads are so congested,” Li Ling said. “And although I ride everyday to work now, I start early, before the traffic becomes heavy. I'd like to have more PCN (park connector networks) along the roads, like what they have at Ang Mo Kio and Tampines."

Ang Mo Kio is Singapore's first "walking and cycling" town, launched in July 2016. A 4km cycling path loops around Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1, 3 and 8, taking residents to nearby amenities like the MRT station. The network will be the longest of any town once it is completed in 2019, authorities say, and give cyclists a direct route to the city.

The Ang Mo Kio initiative and others like it reflects Singapore’s desire to push its citizens to adopt public and alternative transport, with an emphasis on reducing car use. This comes even as the city-state grapples with an ageing rail network and land constraints, which affect its ability to build more car parks and roads.

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), every HDB town will have its own cycling network by 2030, including new HDB precincts and BTO projects, like Bidadari,Tampines North and the new BTO projects in Sembawang and Yishun. Cycling links in Bishan, Buangkok, Dakota, Dover, Potong Pasir, Woodlands, and Yew Tee are completed, while those in Clementi, Hougang, Marsiling, Promenade, and Sengkang will completed by end 2016.

"What we hope to see is really over the next 10 to 15 years, to see an increase in terms of uptake,” says LTA’s director of Active Mobility Tan Shin Gee. “It’s about 1.5 per cent of people who cycle in Singapore, so we hope to grow that three to four times."

Ms Tan was citing a 2012 LTA large-scale household interview and travel survey done once every five years,focusing on commuters' travel patterns. The next edition of the survey will be conducted next year.

Besides launching more cycling networks, Singapore will also join the ranks of cycling cities like New York and London next year with its first-ever bicycle-sharing program in the Jurong Lake District - which promises more than 1,000 bicycles and 100 docking stations. Such programs have “catalysed the uptake of cycling” in other cities, Ms Tan said.


2016 has also seen more commuters use personal mobility devices like e-scooters and hoverboards on Singapore streets. In December, LTA embarked on a six-month trial, allowing people to take their devices on board trains and buses during peak hours for the very first time. Since then, LTA says it has seen 10 to 15 people do so at each station every day during the morning peak period.

“So far the numbers have not been large, but it's something we will continue to monitor and as we go along perhaps adjust the rules of codes of conduct,” Ms Tan said.

For example, the new Active Mobility Act will be passed in Parliament next year – spelling out the speed limits, penalties, and other guideline for commuters using such devices.

But beyond the numbers, Ms Tan said the aim is “to see a change in terms of peoples' openness to these active modes”.

“In the medium to long term you would regard walking or cycling or using these personal mobility devices as commonplace as hopping on a bus or a train,” Ms Tan says.

But besides making it easier to walk and cycle, one researcher says Singapore's climate also needs to be taken into account.

"At the end of the day, it also means that it's not just mere statistics that we say 80 per cent is within 10 minutes walk or households are within a 10-minute walk of train stations,” says CPG transport consultant Vincent Loh. “We need to ensure that walking is good, comfortable, should be able to attract someone on the sidelines desiring whether to own a car, to purchase a car or to take public transport. So if you make public transport really attractive, I think we could wean off some of this desire."

Mr Loh’s work focuses, among others, on urban design - and making roads or neighbourhoods more accessible to pedestrians. He has proposed that authorities can turn more disused infrastructure, like the Rochor Canal, into linear parks - one way he says countries like Japan have made walking a way of life.

"I think certainly we are always on the lookout to see how we can make our infrastructure fit in better with the surroundings, appeal more to people,” Ms Tan said, when asked about Mr Loh’s proposals.

LTA aims to build about 150 kilometres more sheltered walkways by 2018. And from July this year, commercial developers must submit their plans complete with shelters and crossings for cyclists and pedestrians.


But Mr Loh also says that it is one thing to make public transport more attractive. More steps are needed for Singapore to go car-lite.

"We need to still, I believe, have the other aspect, the other element of vehicle restraint,” he said. “I don't think we can move away from that."

Singapore was among the first cities to adopt vehicle restraint measures like electronic road pricing (ERP), and auctions for car quotas. Public car park rates have risen this year for the first time in 14 years, and Mr Loh said such policies are likely to continue.

"The issue is whether the provision of car park is at the expense of space for other users in the city and elsewhere,” he said.” At the end of the day we want to have more of this space to cater to the larger population which are going to use these facilities. “

But as many in the transport sector say -"car lite" doesn't mean "car-less”, with shared cars still having to play a part in getting people from point to point.

To that end, Singapore’s first large-scale electric car-sharing programme will be launched in 2017, starting in towns like Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East and Punggol. Private hire companies like Uber and Grab have also come out with similar schemes.

But ultimately, those we spoke to say that a car-lite society is possible if Singaporeans takes that first step away from their cars, and shift their travelling habits.

“We hope that over time that beyond the infrastructure plans and the policies we have been changing over time, that we also have the support of the community to get this movement going," Ms Tan said.

"As cyclists, we also have to be responsible,” added Ms Woo Li Ling. “If we are friendly to the drivers, to the motorists, they are friendly to us."

- CNA/dl

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2 Vietnamese men jailed for smuggling songbirds, animal cruelty

Channel NewsAsia 29 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE: Two Vietnamese were jailed six months each for smuggling 12 endangered songbirds into Singapore, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Thursday (Dec 29).

AVA said that the two men were also sentenced to four months' imprisonment for subjecting the birds to unnecessary pain or suffering. Both sentences have been backdated to Dec 15 and will run concurrently.

AVA said it was notified that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) had found the birds in the luggage bags of the men, who had arrived on a flight from Vietnam to Singapore, on Dec 9.

The birds were concealed in white plastic containers measuring 21cm by 6.5cm by 6.5cm, and covered with personal belongings in two luggage bags.

The two men were detained and the birds and luggage bags were seized for AVA's investigation, the authority said.

AVA’s investigations identified the birds to be Chinese Hwamei, a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The birds had been confined for about 12 hours in the plastic containers without food and water, and one did not survive, it added.

As part of the investigation, the remaining 11 birds were tested for avian influenza. One of the birds was found positive for antibodies against Influenza A virus (H3N8), meaning that the bird was exposed to the virus before its arrival in Singapore.

As a precautionary measure, the bird was euthanised and the remaining 10 birds are being monitored in quarantine for signs of diseases, AVA said.

The agency noted that animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status and may introduce exotic diseases, into the country. AVA maintains Singapore's bird flu-free status through strict import regulations and enforcement, it added.

Under AVA regulations, ornamental birds can only be imported from countries that are free from bird flu, and must undergo a 21-day pre-export isolation in the country of export. The birds must be tested free from bird flu before import and checked again for clinical signs of diseases upon arrival in Singapore.

Importing animals or birds without an AVA permit carries a maximum penalty of S$10,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

Offenders who bring in CITES-protected species, including their parts and products, without a CITES permits can be fined up to S$50,000 per scheduled species, to a maximum of S$500,000 and up to two years' jail.

If the animals or birds were subjected to unnecessary suffering or pain, offenders are subject to a maximum fine of S$10,000 and imprisonment of up to 12 months.

- CNA/mz

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Malaysia: Stay away from high tides, villagers warned

The Star 30 Dec 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Stay away from the beach, the Civil Defence Force (APM) has warned.

The caution is out as high tides are expected to continue through the days ahead.

State APM Disaster Management, Opera­tions and Logistics officer Lt Norasmawi Abdul Mutalib said waves reached up to 2.5m at Kampung Tanjung Gelam in Kuala Nerus on Wednesday night.

He said many people were seen standing on a slippery slope watching the big waves hitting the shore.

“This is dangerous, what if they slipped and fell? We will have a disaster. People should not get too excited,” he added.

The high tide phenomenon that night saw huge waves hitting some homes in the village located by the beach, damaging the road as well.

Lt Norasmawi said villagers living close to the beach were advised to move away “as staying put can be dangerous”.

“So far, one family has moved to stay with relatives. Their house is directly facing the beach,” he said.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman announced an immediate allocation of RM1.2mil to stem erosion in the village.

He said the allocation was a short-term measure to protect the coastline.

“For the longer term, we have a RM40mil federal allocation.

“We are designing a breakwater to overcome the erosion,” he told reporters after visiting Pulau Sekati bridge here yesterday.

Ahmad Razif said the state government had acted to minimise erosion at the Tok Jembal beach, mainly around Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Teluk Ketapang, by building wave breakers.

“The DID has suggested that we do the same in Tanjung Gelam, where two breakwaters must be built.

“However, it needs to study this in detail, so that it does not affect the beaches around Batu Rakit and the surrounding areas,” Ahmad Razif added.

He said the Federal Government had allocated RM90mil to tackle erosion in the coastal villages of Tok Jembal, Tanjung Ketapang and Teluk Gelam, with another RM30mil allocation to the Public Works Department, raising the figure to RM120mil.

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Malaysia: Reclamation works won’t start until EIA completed, says Penang

LO TERN CHERN and CHONG KAH YUAN The Star 29 Dec 16;

BUTTERWORTH: The Penang state government has assured that the reclamation project south of the island would not start as the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) studies have yet to be completed.

Penang State Local Government, Transport Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said they are waiting for the setting up of a joint committee by the Natural Resources and Environmental Ministry to study the reclamation projects in Penang.

“We will wait for Federal Government approval before starting work to reclaim land south of Penang Island,” he said adding that the state assembly had also passed a motion that the reclamation work will not start without approval from Putrajaya.

The state had proposed reclaiming about 1,500ha of land off the southern tip of Penang island to create three islands – Island A (930.78ha), Island B (560ha) and Island C (330.22ha) – under the South Reclamation Scheme (SRS) to fund its RM46bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) project.

On Wednesday, Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar called for Penang to halt its reclamation projects pending a new dual-assessment system for the development projects.

Dr Wan Junaidi said a committee would be set up to look into, among others, legal and constitutional aspects pertaining to the developments.

He said the study would then be used as a test case for other reclamation projects nationwide including to draw a new system on EIA and Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA).

He also said the Cabinet, the National Land Council and the National Physical Planning Council would consider the new guidelines that will include a wider range of elements to be considered before development projects are approved.

Two NGOs from Penang supported this call, saying that all reclamation work in the state should be put off until new and improved requirements for EIAs and DEIAs are put in place.

President S.M. Mohamed Idris of both Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said the announcement by Natural Resources and Environment Ministry for new requirements to the existing EIA regulations and DEIA guidelines are long overdue.

“Urgent improvements need to be made to overcome existing shortcomings in the current system.

“There should be a serious consideration of alternatives to proposed projects, including a no-project option, so that projects are not allowed to proceed if the environmental and social impacts are serious.

“Other measures should include the hiring of independent consultants which are paid through an independent fund to which project proponents provide financial resources.

This will prevent the dangers of having consultants who produce biased EIAs or DEIAs which favour their paymasters,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Penang hopes new EIA requirements not retrospective
The Star 30 Dec 16;

BUTTERWORTH: The state government says new guidelines for the Environment Impact Assess­ment (EIA) and Detailed Environ­mental Assessment (DEIA) should not be made retrospective for EIA studies already underway in the state.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said it should not apply in cases where the Department of Environment (DoE) had already approved the terms of reference.

“We hope the new EIA requirements are not made retrospective,” Chow said yesterday.

The state has proposed reclaiming about 1,500ha of land off the southwestern coast of the island to fund its ambitious RM46bil mega-transportation project.

The terms of reference for the on­­going EIA study has been approved by the DoE.

On Wednesday, the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry said new compulsory procedures for EIA and DEIA studies for all development projects in the country would be submitted to the Cabinet, National Land Council and National Physical Planning Council before implementation.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said when approved, it would be the new EIA and DEIA system to be followed nationwide.

He urged all states to stop reclamation projects pending the study for a new dual-assessment system for development projects.

Chow assured that the reclamation project south of the island would not start as the EIA had yet to be completed.

“We welcome the setting up of the joint committee to study reclamation projects in Penang by the ministry.

“If the ministry feels there are certain areas which need to be stu­died in greater detail, we are ready to cooperate,” he said.

“We are willing to comply with any additional requirement and work within the legal framework.

“We will wait for Federal Govern­ment’s approval (based on current approved guidelines) before starting work to reclaim land south of Penang Island.”

Chow said this when visiting the pump house at Taman Chai Leng in Prai.

He said the state assembly had also approved a motion that the reclamation work at the south of the island would not start without Putrajaya approval.

“This is to inform all that we are conducting the EIA according to the terms of reference agreed by DoE,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sahabat Alam Malay­sia and Consumers Associa­tion of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris called for the new EIA and DEIA requirements to include alternatives and the option to call off the proposed projects if the environmental and social impact was severe.

Mohamed Idris said public feedback should also be taken into account.

He said independent consultants, paid through an independent fund, would prevent biased EIA or DEIA “that favour their paymasters”.

Idris said Penang should put on hold the reclamation work pending the approval of new requirements.

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Malaysia: Pack up and leave! Alor Star to phase out usage of polystyrene packaging

EMBUN MAJID New Straits TImes 29 Dec 16;

ALOR STAR: The Alor Star City Council (MBAS) today launched a campaign to reduce the usage of polystyrene materials for food and drink packaging here beginning next year.

MBAS secretary Hakim Ariff Md Noor said the campaign focuses on all types of eatery outlet operators, including restaurants and night market traders.

He said polystyrene packaging is widely used by eatery outlet operators and night market traders in the city, and the material is among the major contributors to the city's landfill in Jabi, Pokok Sena.

Hakim said the council will be organising talks and campaigns, with help from SWCorp Malaysia, to educate eatery operators on the dangers to the environment posed by polystyrene materials.

“We want to reduce the usage polystyrene packaging in the city, and replace it with bio-degradable material,” he told newsmen after launching the campaign today.

Hakim added that the campaign will pave the way towards achieving MBAS’ long-term vision of cultivating a greener Alor Star.

Negri to continue using plastic bags
The Star 30 Dec 16;

SEREMBAN: Negri Sembilan has decided not to follow the “zero plastic bag” campaign so as not to burden the people.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Moha­mad Hasan said the state government, on the other hand, preferred to educate the public on recycling to protect the environment.

“If we do away with plastic (bags), the people have to pay (to get bags). This will be burdensome to them.

“In Negri Sembilan, we don’t want to add to the people’s burden but educate them on recycling,” he was quoted as saying in a Bernama report after chairing a state executive council meeting at Wisma Negeri here on Wednesday.

He was earlier asked by reporters if the state government would follow in the footsteps of the Selangor state government which is banning the use of plastic bags and polystyrene containers from Sunday.

Mohamad said the implementation of the “zero plastic bag” policy or campaign would only enable other quarters to profit.

“The supermarkets and business owners can make money by selling plastic bags which should be given for free. It’s up to them, I will not emulate it,” he said.

In Johor, the Johor Baru Municipal Coun­cil (MBJB) said it would stop using polystyrene food containers during its events.

The move, which takes effect immediately, is in line with the state government’s plan to use only biodegradable food containers in Johor from 2018.

Johor Baru mayor A. Rahim Nin said this would help underscore the message on using biodegradable food containers.

“MBJB will be taking a strict approach. All caterers or food ope­rators involved in our programmes or activities will not be using non-biodegradable products,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Rahim said MBJB would also en­­courage the use of biodegradable food containers among business owners and food operators in Johor.

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Indonesia: Number of natural disasters hit 14-year high in 2016

Fachrul Sidiq The Jakarta Post 29 Dec 16;

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Thursday that 2,342 natural disasters had been recorded in Indonesia this year, the highest figure in 14 years.

“It’s a new record, the highest since 2002,” said BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho when he presented a year-end report at the BNPB headquarters in Jakarta.

He further said 766 of the total calamities were floods, followed by whirlwinds and landslides, which ranked second and third with 669 and 612 cases, respectively. The disasters claimed 522 lives, displaced more than 3 million people and damaged 69,287 houses and 2,311 public facilities in areas across the archipelago.

By way of comparison, Sutopo said Indonesia was hit by 1,732 natural disasters in 2015, lower than the 1,967 in 2014, 1,674 in 2013 and 1,811 in 2012.

“This year, there has been an uncertain period of dry and wet seasons, which have led to an escalating figure for natural disasters. Even during what was supposed to be the peak of our dry season, floods and landslides still occurred,” Sutopo said. Bandung in West Java, Bima in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) and Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Belitung were among the areas prone to flooding, he went on.

Sutopo said raising public awareness on an effective disaster risk management was imperative to prevent, and mitigate the impact of, disasters in the future because millions of Indonesian people were currently living in disaster-prone areas. (ebf)

Disaster mitigation agency predicts fewer disasters in 2017
Fachrul Sidiq The Jakarta Post 29 Dec 16;

Indonesia will see fewer natural disasters next year thanks to the weaker effects of the La Niña and El Niño phenomenon, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) predicted.

BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said his office predicted that hydro-metrology catastrophes would still dominate natural disaster figures in 2017, but they would not be as disastrous as in 2016, in which 2,342 natural calamities occurred.

“Next year, the peak phase of hydro-meteorology disasters will be in January to February. However, rain density will be normal so the risk of flooding, landslides and whirlwinds will be lower [as compared to 2016],” he said during a year-end presentation at the BNPB in East Jakarta on Thursday.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) expects the strong effects of La Niña, which involves a natural cooling of Pacific Ocean waters and generally follows El Niño, which carries the opposite effect, will last until before the first half of the year, after which the dry and wet seasons will return to normal, Sutopo said.

According to the BNPB’s year-end report, floods ( 766 ), whirlwinds ( 669 ) and landslides ( 612 ) were the most frequently occurring natural disasters in 2016, with landslides and floods the deadliest catastrophes, having claimed the lives 188 and 147 people, respectively. (evi)

Indonesia records highest number of natural disasters in 2016
Fardah Antara 31 Dec 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia was battered by 2,342 natural disasters in 2016, the highest in the past 14 years, making it one of the most violent years in recent memory.

According to data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the number of natural disasters increased by 35 percent during 2016 from 1,732 in the previous year, with flooding, landslides and whirlwinds still dominating.

As many as 522 people were killed, and some three million others were affected or displaced in the disasters, which also damaged at least 70 thousand houses. The nation lost tens of trillions of rupiahs due to the catastrophes.

Ninety-two percent of the natural disasters that hit Indonesia during the year were hydro-meteorological in nature -- floods, landslides, and whirlwinds.

The country was stricken by 766 floods (up 52 percent from 2015), 612 landslides (up 19 percent), and 669 whirlwinds (up 15 percent).

Flooding claimed 147 lives and affected 2.72 million people. Landslides killed 188 people, an increase from 135 in 2015.

"Natural disasters have caused a lot of suffering, mostly among the poor," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of BNPB said in a statement issued on Dec 29, 2016.

"Surveys in several regions show that the poor people have suffered more because of the natural disasters. Imagine, those living along Bengawan Solo River have been hit by floods five times a year, and in Sampang (Madura) 15 times a year, on average," he said.

He called on the media to help promote greater awareness of disasters among the public.
The knowledge about natural disasters has indeed improved significantly, but it has not been applied in daily life, he said.

As an example, he cited the fact that although Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because the country lies between the Ring of Fire and the Alpide Belt, very rarely do people build earthquake-prone houses.

The Ring of Fire is a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur annually. With its 40 thousand km horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes, including more than 75 percent of the worlds active and dormant volcanoes.

Indonesia has experienced some the worlds deadliest natural disasters, such as the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa Volcano, and a magnitude-9.3 earthquake off the waters off Aceh that triggered a massive tsunami on Dec 26, 2004.

The Indian Ocean earthquake and its resulting tsunami killed an estimated 225,000 to 230,210 people, mostly in Aceh Province and Nias Island (North Sumatra Province), as well as in several other countries in Southeast and South Asia.

In the latest major earthquake, measuring 6.5 on the Richter Scale, which hit Aceh Province on December 7, 2016, the fatalities numbered 103, and some 8,000 others were injured.

In fact, a total of 5,578 earthquakes were recorded during 2016, or an average of 460 tremors every month; 12 of them were destructive.

As for volcanoes, out of 127 active volcanoes, 16 volcanoes indicate above-normal activity, including Mount Sinabung, located in North Sumatra, which has been erupting since the past several years.

Currently, 9,319 residents of the nine villages located surrounding Mt Sinabung are still in refugee camps while 4,919 others from four villages are also bracing for evacuation.

However, there was good news in the fight against forest fires. Indonesia remained haze-free in 2016, after two decades of experiencing annual forest fires, which had triggered haze, Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has confirmed.

"For the first time, in 2016, we did not experience major forest fires thanks to the joint hard work of many regions. The number of hotspots decreased by 80 to 92 percent, according to the NOAA and Terra satellite methods," the minister said on Dec 10, 2016.

The number of hotspots recorded from January 1 to December 9, 2016 was 3,844, a significant drop from 21,847 during the same period in the previous year.

Indonesia will likely experience more intense disaster events by January 2017 due to a strong La Nina phenomenon, known for causing torrential downpours and widespread flooding across the state, the BNPB has predicted.

The agency has warned the people to be vigilant against hydro-meteorological disasters during January-April and November-December 2017.

"From June to October, drought that could induce forest and plantation fires might happen. And there might be earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, too," Sutopo said, while releasing the agencys predictions of disasters during 2017.

Indonesia recorded 1,967 natural disasters in 2014, 1,674 in 2013, and 1,811 in 2012.(*)

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Is China Building a Ghost City on Malaysian Islands?

A Chinese company is constructing high-rises on man-made land. Will people live there?
MIMI KIRK CityLab 30 Dec 16;

China is known for its hundreds of “ghost cities”—ultra-modern metropolises built for the country’s urbanizing population that have yet to attract many residents. High-rise apartment and office buildings, pavilions, sculptures, and even a man-made lake with music piped in among its surrounding paths sit almost devoid of human activity. The flip side to these eerily hollow cities are frenetic urban centers such as Beijing and Shanghai, where rural to urban migration has caused populations to explode.

Middle-class Chinese unable to afford residential investment properties in these desirable cities have traditionally looked internationally, to places like Vancouver and Sydney. In recent years, those cities, too, have become more expensive, pricing out buyers with smaller nest eggs. Today, in what Bloomberg calls the “world’s biggest real estate frenzy,” middle-class Chinese are buying apartments and homes in lower-priced areas, such as Houston, Orlando, Thailand’s Pattaya Beach (a resort area south of Bangkok), and Malaysia’s Johor Bahru, which sits just north of Singapore in a special economic zone.

While such investment generally concerns existing housing, in Johor Bahru, Chinese companies are building their own high-rises and villas. One outfit, Country Garden, is building enough to accommodate a whopping 700,000 people. Though Malaysians, Singaporeans, and other nationalities will purchase some of the units, they are being heavily marketed to Chinese, with planeloads of potential buyers flown in to peruse model apartments. Luxury two-bedroom units are going for as little as $180,000—around a third of what buyers would pay in central Shanghai.

The project isn’t just about housing. Country Garden is also developing office buildings, parks, hotels, malls, and an international school—all on four artificial islands four times the size of Central Park. The resulting metropolis has been dubbed Forest City. The Malaysian government granted Country Garden tax incentives and other preferential policies to develop the area.

Such projects are also good for the Chinese construction sector. “With less building occurring in China due to the slowing economy, Chinese construction companies are turning toward international opportunities,” says David Dollar, a senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. Dollar notes that Chinese companies more frequently look abroad to build infrastructure, such as railroads, power stations, and dams, as opposed to entire cities. However, China has constructed a few special economic zones and metropolises in such countries as Angola, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, with varying degrees of success.

Forest City fills individual and corporate investment needs. But the question remains whether enough apartments and homes will be sold. “God only knows who is going to buy all these units,” Siva Shanker, a former president of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents, told Bloomberg. So far, supply is far outpacing demand. Last year, the glut of housing in Johor Bahru caused the value of residential sales to drop by almost one-third.

Developers are banking on Johor Bahru’s proximity to Singapore, as well as the widespread use of Mandarin Chinese and Chinese dialects in the region, to make Forest City a desirable place for Chinese ex-pats to live. But even if there are enough buyers, owners may choose to simply keep the properties empty, as investments, or save them for retirement or their children—potentially creating an atmosphere not unlike a Chinese ghost city.

Professor Xu Yanzhuo of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing adds that Forest City will only succeed if it brings value to the local population. Area developers, shying away from residential projects now that Chinese companies are building housing en masse, are working to generate more business in the area to fill the high-rises with workers. “Industries…will bring a demand for the houses [being built],” Izzadin Idris, CEO of local property developer UEM Group, told Bloomberg.

If such demand isn’t created and the local community doesn’t benefit, says Xu, the metropolis “will quickly become a ghost city.”

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Indonesia: Bad haze unlikely to return next year

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Dec 16;

This year, there were only 14,490 hot spots recorded in Indonesia this year, compared to 78,164 last year.

The choking haze that enveloped Singapore and Malaysia last year is unlikely to be repeated next year, an Indonesian official said yesterday, as the weather in Sumatra and Kalimantan is forecast to return to the pattern of past years, thus reducing the threat of forest and land fires.

The number of hot spots last year - triggered by fires covering forests and the dry land on the two Indonesian islands - were recorded at a staggering 78,164, spawning the haze that sent air pollution indices in Singapore and Malaysia to very unhealthy levels.

This year, 14,490 hot spots were recorded, with no major haze.

Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of Indonesia's disaster management agency BNPB, said at a year-end briefing in Jakarta: "There won't likely be any strengthening of either El Nino or La Nina.

"That means there won't be a dry season that is too dry. Likewise with the wet season."

El Nino is a weather phenomenon which leads to prolonged hot and dry weather in the region like it did last year, while La Nina gives an opposite effect.

Indonesia will still have forest and land fires next year, he said, but the hot spot counts and their coverage would be small compared to last year.


"Why can't we put the hot spot count to zero? It is difficult because this is about a custom and people earning a living. Villagers clear their farm by burning," he said.

Dr Sutopo said the decline in hot spots was not only due to better weather but also harsher law enforcement on errant corporations and individuals, and better fire prevention measures by the government and private sector.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Dec 16

Checking up on Chek Jawa's northern sand bar
wild shores of singapore

Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2016
Conservation news

The top 5 CSR stories in 2016

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TP students help schools achieve sustainability goals

Despite the rejections they received, these four Temasek Poly students helped four schools achieve green goals during internship
Isabelle Liew The New Paper 29 Dec 16;

Their passion for environment sustainability started at the integrated facility management (IFM) course in Temasek Polytechnic's (TP) School of Engineering.

In their final year, they completed a six-month internship with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), where the team of four had to pitch to schools for the Back to School Programme, a pioneer environmental initiative.

Mr Gordon Lim, 20, Miss Tng Jie Min, 20, Miss Zoe Cheng, 21, and Mr Xue Jiade, 19,were rejected by six of 10 schools.

But the two secondary schools they helped received Green Mark Golds - a step above the lowest grade Green Mark Certified - and two primary schools got Green Mark Gold Plus - a step below the highest grade of Green Mark Platinum - for their Green Mark Rating.

The rating is where buildings are evaluated by BCA for environmental impact and performance. By 2020, all public sector buildings with more than 5,000 sq m gross floor areas but less than 10,000 sq m air-conditioned floor areas are required by BCA to attain Green Mark Gold.

The results came after months of conducting gap analyses, pitching ideas and assisting with implementation.

Some changes they introduced include switching the schools' air-con to an energy-saving one, and changing the lights to energy-efficient LED lights.

They also held meetings with the schools' principals and vice-principals, and conducted workshops and talks for teachers and students about environmental sustainability.

Mr Lim told The New Paper: "When I ( start working), I know I must push for environmental sustainability."

He has been inspired by modules including the sustainable facility management in his poly.

"TP's IFM course equipped me with the relevant knowledge. The people from the schools were surprised at the knowledge we had. But we need more than theory-based learning," he said.

The rejections the team faced were discouraging.

"We felt demoralised and were doubting our abilities. But I'm thankful the (people) from the schools (we worked with) trusted us," Mr Lim said.

Miss Tng also said the internship has helped her mature.

"I now look at the world (differently). There are a lot of hardships I didn't know about, such as rejections," she said.

Lecturer-in-charge of the internship, Miss Joanne Koh, said the schools had rejected the team as they were "only teenagers".

"Though they are students, they were able to help the schools accomplish their goal. They received commendation letters," she said. "BCA is looking to work with TP again, and the team will coach juniors taking up this internship."

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Man jailed 8 months for smuggling 23 puppies into Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 28 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE: A Malaysian man was on Wednesday (Dec 28) sentenced to eight months’ jail for illegally importing 23 puppies, 11 of which later succumbed to illness and died. Yeun Jian Iun, 21, will serve a concurrent four-month sentence for animal cruelty.

Yeun and his Singaporean accomplice, Cheow Yon Siong, 51, had tried to smuggle live puppies into Singapore on board Cheow's yacht on Oct 28, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a statement.

At around 4.15pm, the Singapore-registered yacht was stopped by Police Coast Guard officers for a routine inspection off Changi General Purposes Anchorage.

Officers found the puppies - comprising nine poodles, five shih tzus, four pomeranians, three French bulldogs, and two golden retrievers - kept in cramped conditions in six pet carriers, which were hidden under bath towels.

The men did not have AVA import permits or health certificates for the puppies.

AVA added that its investigators found that the puppies were not given any food or water during their journey.

Some of the puppies showed signs of lethargy, lack of appetite and diarrhoea, said AVA, adding that the puppies’ condition did not improve despite veterinary treatment.

11 of the puppies succumbed to illness and died.

While the case was being investigated, the 12 surviving puppies were cared for and quarantined at AVA’s Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station (SAQS). They were kept under observation for signs of infectious or contagious diseases, especially rabies – a disease which is fatal to animals and humans.

AVA noted that animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status, and that in the case of dogs and cats, the foremost concern is rabies. It added that Singapore has been free from rabies for over 60 years, but warned against complacency as the disease is endemic in the region.

To import an animal into Singapore, the animal needs to meet AVA’s import conditions, including vaccination and health certification requirements. Doing so without an AVA permit carries a maximum penalty of S$10,000 and/or jail of up to a year.

Cheow was charged for the same offence as Yeun, but intends to appeal. His case will be mentioned again on Jan 18 next year.

- CNA/xk

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Preserving a unique slice of Singapore's rural life

Audrey Tan, The New Paper AsiaOne 28 Dec 16;

New coffee table book features Kranji countryside's charm, history, farms and people

Visitors to Singapore's countryside are often charmed by its farms and nature areas, but not many may know that the Kranji area is also home to an old fire-breathing dragon.

The brick dragon kiln in the Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle - one of the enterprises under the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA) - dates back to the 1940s. But it is still used today by potters who favour the disappearing art of using wood-firing kilns instead of contemporary methods of heating with gas or electricity.

Ceramics made in such kilns usually look unique as they are engulfed in fire and the ashes react with the glaze to produce unpredictable colours and textures during the wood- firing process.

Thow Kwang Industry offers hands-on sessions and tours of the historical kiln, but it is now possible to learn more about it in a new book, The Kranji Countryside - Soul Of Singapore.

The coffee table book, featuring photographs taken by French photographer Bertrand Chauvel, was written by marketing communications professional Carolyn Ortega, who is in her 40s.

The book highlights various aspects of the Kranji countryside - its history and wilderness, the farms, and the people hoping this slice of rustic life can be preserved.

Farmland takes up about 1 per cent of Singapore's land. Close to 600ha has been allocated to over 200 farms - many of which are in Kranji - for the production of food and non-food items.

But the agricultural sector, though small, plays a strategic role in the nation's food security, supplying some 10 per cent of its food.

Said Ms Ortega, who wrote the book on her own time: "We wanted to show Singaporeans and tourists the many facets of Kranji. Singapore is small, yet it has its own farms; we hope that the gem of our countryside can be preserved."

Earlier this year, 62 farms in the Lim Chu Kang and Kranji areas were told by the Government that they would have to move out by the end of 2019, to make way for the Defence Ministry's new training grounds.

The deadline had initially been June next year, but the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) pushed it back 2½ years to give farms more transit time.

Affected farmers will be able to bid for new farmland early next year, but exact details of the locations and new plot sizes have yet to be announced. The first tranche of land sales will be launched next year, AVA said last month.

KCA president Kenny Eng said the book is a photographic journey through Kranji, past and present, with its rich heritage and diversity. "The countryside is a unique ecosystem of mostly family-run farms... existing alongside natural conservation areas, poignant cemeteries and our defence forces. There is nowhere in the world a countryside is so small yet so rich. This book will be the only consolidated testament we have if it is removed."

The Kranji Countryside - Soul Of Singapore is priced at $30 and can be bought at Bollywood Veggies, Jurong Frog Farm, Hay Dairies, Nyee Phoe Gardenasia and at Uncle William's shop at

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2016 year in review: When animals crawl into the limelight

Chen Jingwen, Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Dec 16;

The surprise discovery of a rare and mysterious trilobite beetle in Singapore in November became big news in November when a Facebook video of it garnered millions of views.

Yet another testimony to the rich biodiversity hidden within the crevices of our modern concrete jungle, the "ancient-looking insect has kept scientists baffled for nearly two centuries", said the National Geographic Society.

The intriguing strange-looking beetle is so rare that researchers succeeded in observing its mating only twice, in 1924 and 1993.

If you think the spiders at Pulau Ubin are so scarily big, then it could be a more hair-raising experience if one is trapped in Charlotte's web.

Reportedly the world's biggest Huntsman spider ever to be photographed, Charlotte is an eight-legged whopper from Queensland, Australia, which became a Facebook sensation of sorts after her photos went viral in recent months.

A cousin of Charlotte also managed to spin headlines in Australia around the same time with its amazing feat.

Huntsman spider named Hermie (cover photo) aroused the interest of many after they saw it displaying 'Herculean' might as it dragged a poor mouse up a fridge in a video that went viral.

It would certainly be nightmarish if one were to be chased by a spiky predator.
But your heart might soften if Nelson the hedgehog snorts his way to you. You see, he has no spikes, and there's no way he can protect himself from meaner creatures.

Being taken care of at a rescue centre in Norfolk in the United Kingdom, Nelson gets a pampering oil massage thrice a day for he had lost his fur too.

The heartwarming story is another favourite among readers fascinated by news on the animal kingdom this year.

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Looking forward to 2017: Building momentum in efforts to protect local history

Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Dec 16;

Even as 2016 draws to a close, with many notable events shaping what has been called by many a year of change, 2017 looks to be a significant year. The Straits Times looks at what to expect for housing, education and heritage in the new year.


For years, the former National Aerated Water Company factory stood, disused and seemingly forgotten. Then, on Dec 9, came the news that the 62-year-old building in Serangoon Road had been sold to a Malaysian developer and could be razed to make way for a condominium.

It sparked rigorous discussion in the heritage community, which opposed the move, citing the building's history and architecture.

Although the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced later that the building could be conserved, its fate is still unclear and some sort of compromise between URA and the new owner will have to be struck.

This tension between development and heritage conservation and preservation could be eased when the results of the National Heritage Board's (NHB's) tangible heritage survey are released in the second half of next year.

The study - the first such comprehensive survey by the board - seeks to put together a list of Singapore's key landmarks and sites, with the aim of stepping up efforts to safeguard heritage as part of the NHB's broader mission of heritage commemoration and preservation. The findings will be shared with the public, who can contribute their personal stories and memories.

A $550,000 tender for the study called by NHB was awarded to art and history consultant Art Logica last year.

Dr Kevin Tan, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, who is part of the Art Logica team, said the public can look forward to "some interesting findings".

Singapore Heritage Society executive member Yeo Kang Shua said the data will come in useful if particular areas or places are targeted for development in future.

"The information will arm us with the knowledge of what we can safeguard. More importantly, it will also form the basis of an informed, rational and objective dialogue of what we can't save and take proactive measures to mitigate the loss," Dr Yeo said.

The survey results are expected to improve coordination among development agencies, heritage bodies and civil society.

Meanwhile, a team from anthropology company Ethnographica was tasked with handling NHB's intangible cultural heritage survey earlier this year.

NHB said results for this will likely be announced in 2018. About 150 types of intangible cultural heritage, including oral traditions such as folktales, are expected to be identified.

Within the sector, there could be a push towards greater emphasis on more skilled restoration techniques and processes.

At the URA's Architectural Heritage Awards in October, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee said: "While we can conserve buildings, we can achieve better heritage outcomes if they are restored through appropriate research, considered design and technical or scientific methods by professionals."

In a similar vein, experts have been calling for more Singaporeans to be trained to acquire the know- how to protect the country's historic structures and streetscapes. This would require all players, including academia, to contribute.

Another item on the community's wish list is better coordination of public portals among custodians of the country's historical records and heritage data.

This is on the back of a clear trend: More Singaporeans are interested enough to visit museums and heritage institutions.

Last year, about 3.8 million people - an all-time high - visited the national museums and heritage institutions, up from three million the year before.

Next year, new trails and revamped galleries will be added to the mix.

For instance, NHB will be launching a heritage trail of Little India next month. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, the board will be organising a series of World War II guided tours, among other things. And on Feb 16, the National Archives of Singapore will be re-opening its Memories at Old Ford Factory museum, which focuses on World War II.

The National Parks Board has also launched a Pulau Ubin trail to celebrate the island's cultural heritage and rustic character.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens will open its Learning Forest early next year as well as roll out an exhibition at its CDL Green Gallery, which will run from late February to April. This will feature the works of Mr Eng Siak Loy, who designed some of the Gardens' heritage landmarks such as its clock tower.

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Malaysia: Environment ministry set to propose new procedure in EIA, DEIA for all projects in the country

BALVIN KAUR New Straits Times 28 Dec 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The Environment and Natural Resources Ministry will propose a new ruling of a compulsory procedure for a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Detailed Environmental Impact Assesment (DEIA) system for all development projects in the country.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the new EIA and DEIA proposal would be submitted to the Cabinet, National Land Council and National Physical Planning Council before it was implemented.

"If the proposal is approved, it will be the new EIA and DEIA system practised in the entire country and not just in Penang," he said in a statement issued today. Wan Junaidi was referring to the land reclamation projects in Penang.

It was reported that the DAP-led state government had proposed some 1,500ha of land reclamation off the southwestern coast of the island to fund its ambitious mega-transportation project.

The RM46 billion Penang Transport Masterplan (PTMP) project, will include Light Rail Transit, Monorail, and expressway.

He said there had been many reports on the land reclamation of late, as such he had ordered for a detailed EIA and DEIA for land reclamation in Penang.

"The current EIA and DEIA only focuses on projects approved by the state government or federal government in protecting the environment.

It is not inclusive as many elements are sidelines, which eventually affects the environment." he said.

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Malaysia: Johor reiterates pledge to end polystyrene packaging, plastic bags use by 2018

AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN New Straits Times 28 Dec 16;

ISKANDAR PUTERI: The Johor government has expressed its commitment to eliminating the use of polystyrene packaging and plastic bags in supermarkets and other businesses, given its January 2018 target to fully implement the ruling.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said a state government-initiated roadmap to eliminate the usage of polystyrene and plastic packaging is being drafted, and it will contain policies that will encourage businesses to gradually switch to biodegradable packaging alternatives.

"By June 2017, all large supermarkets in the state will be encouraged to replace the usage of plastics and polystyrene packaging and replace them with paper bags or other biodegradable alternatives.

Many supermarkets have done so now as there is the no-plastic bag day on Saturdays with a 20 sen charge if customers still want a plastic bag.

"But by 2018, the state government will fully implement (the ban) for plastics and polystyrene," said Ayub in a press conference at the Dato Jaafar Muhammad Building in Kota Iskandar, here today.

In April this year, Ayub had told the state assembly that the Johor government planned to replace the use of polystyrene and plastic packaging for food with biodegradable alternatives.

Only biodegradable containers for Johor in 2018
The Star 29 Dec 16;

ISKANDAR PUTERI: The state government will enforce the use of biodegradable food containers in Johor from 2018 to replace plastic and polystyrene food containers.

State Health and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat (pic) said an awareness campaign to promote the use of biodegradable containers along with bio compost would be carried out between January and June next year.

He said that after June, supermarkets and hypermarkets would be encouraged to start using alternatives, including paper bags or any other biodegradable bags.

“Although we have yet to start our campaign, some food operators have taken the initiative to replace the use of polystyrene food containers,” he said, adding that RM250,000 had been allocated by the state government for the effort.

He said Johor Biotechnology and Biodiversity Corp (J-Biotech) would be spearheading the effort.

This included creating awareness, research as well as finding biodegradable alternatives for food operators.

Ayub said the state would also be looking into the pricing of the biodegradable containers.

Although costlier compared to polystyrene containers, he said, prices would fall when there was greater demand.

“If the difference is only about five to 10 sen, it should not be an issue,” said Ayub.

He also applauded the effort by supermarkets and hypermarkets that introduced “no plastic bag days” on Saturdays and hoped they would extend this to other days.

“We also encourage local councils to take part in conducting awareness programmes, especially before we start enforcing it in 2018,” he said.

He pointed out that Selangor took two years before enforcing a ban on polystyrene food containers, which takes effect next month.

Ayub said that the effort was vital for the environment, as Johor produced about 1,800 tonnes of rubbish per day, including 360 tonnes of polystyrene and plastic.

Disposal of the waste costs the state RM360mil every year, he said.

On a separate matter, he said, Johor had to date recorded a 31% decline on dengue cases with 10,567 cases this year compared to 15,777 cases in the corresponding period in 2015.

He said the number of deaths from dengue also declined by 50% with 22 deaths recorded compared to the 44 deaths in the same period last year.

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Malaysia: Sunday's landslides, floods at Tanah Rata due to 'abnormal rainfall'

The Star 28 Dec 16;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The landslides and flash floods in several areas here on Sunday were not caused by land encroachment activities.

Cameron Highlands district police chief DSP Hasadid A. Hamid said they were due to abnormal rainfall, causing soil movements at the hill slopes.

He said Tanah Rata received over 100mm of rain compared to the normal 20mm, when it rained from 2pm to 5pm on Sunday.

"Investigations by the police, Public Works Department, district council and the Fire and Rescue Department found that the flash floods and landslides were caused by the extraordinary downpour," he told reporters at a landslide location at the Tenaga Nasional Berhad's (TNB) holiday bungalow, 'The Sharples,'

In the incident on Sunday, the landslide damaged the front portion of the bungalow and four vehicles but there was no loss of life.

Landslides and falling trees were reported at KM55 Tapah-Tanah Rata road, near the Bharat Tea Plantation; KM59 Tapah-Tanah Rata road, near the Oly Apartment; and Jalan Perdah, while the police housing at Tanah Rata was inundated by flash flood.

"All the locations which experienced flash floods and landslides have been reopened and safe for all vehicles except at The Sharples," said Hasadid.

He said police had received three reports to date, on the incidents and a full investigation report could be obtained within three months.

"But, I reiterate, that the incidents have nothing to do with land encroachments as there are no activities which flout the law on the hills," he said. - Bernama

Heavy rain, not illegal land-clearing to blame for Cameron landslide
ZAHRATULHAYAT MAT ARIF New Straits Times 28 Dec 16;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Illegal constructions or land clearing did not lead to the landslide on Sunday which occurred near Tenaga Nasional Berhad's (TNB) Sharples Bungalow. Cameron Highlands police chief Deputy Superintendent

Hasadid A Hamid said the landslide was triggered due to heavy rain. "During the incident, the state Meteorological Department recorded rainfall measuring a total of 100.9mm.

"The number recorded was above the normal rate of only 20mm per day.

The total rainfall on that day was similar to that of the day of the worst landslide here in Nov 2014," he told a press conference at the scene today.

Hasadid said police have conducted checks at the hill near the bungalow and no illegal activities were found.

"I also urge members of the public to not believe rumors on social media," he said, adding that the official report on the incident would be released in three months.

It was reported on Sunday that 13 guests were evacuated and four cars parked near the bungalow were damaged after a landslide hit the area following heavy rain. No one was injured in the 3pm incident. Occupants were immediately instructed to leave the building for their safety.

The heavy rain had also caused a landslip at Jalan Cameron Highlands-Tapah and a team of firemen were deployed to cut and remove the uprooted trees that had obstructed traffic in the area.

OCPD: Heavy rain caused Xmas Day flash floods in Camerons
T. AVINESHWARAN The Star 29 Dec 16;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The sudden flash floods and landslides in Cameron Highlands on Christmas Day happened due to heavy rainfall and not because of illegal land clearing, says OCPD DSP Hasadid A. Hamid.

“Based on our investigations, no land clearing works were on-going in the areas affected by landslides and floods.

“The incidents were deemed a natural disaster. There was excessive rainfall on that day which lasted for a few hours,” he said yesterday after inspecting the Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) bungalow at Jalan Tengkolok in Tanah Rata.

On Christmas Day, floods affected the district police headquarters, barracks and a housing area in Jalan Masjid.

Landslides also hit the TNB bungalow, Oly Apartment and the Cameron Highlands-Tapah trunk road which blocked access near the Bharat Tea Plantation in Tanah Rata.

No casualties were reported.

Thirteen people staying at the TNB bungalow for the holidays escaped unhurt after the landslide hit part of the house and damaged four cars.

“Cameron Highlands is safe to visit. Although there is risk when it comes to hilly areas, the authorities are always monitoring the situation, including the hotspots.

“Places like Bharat Tea Plantations in Tanah Rata, Bertam, Kuala Terla and Kampung Raja are always monitored if it rains.

“Several agencies are also checking the slopes for soil movement and water runoff.

“Don’t trust viral messages and photographs spread through social media and always seek verification first.

“You can share information sent out by the government agencies. It’s a crime to spread false stories. If you need clarification, please check with us,” he added.

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Indonesia: Dead Sun Bear Found in Lampung, Body Parts Likely Stolen for Black Market Trade

Feriawan Hidayat & Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 28 Dec 16;

Jakarta. A sun bear was found dead at Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park's Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation Center in Talangsimpang, Lampung.

The national park security patrol team found the bear's carcass near the park borders in Sugi Sane village earlier this month.

"We found the bear's chest cut open, indicating the perpetrator took its enzyme-rich gallbladder intending to sell it," Ketut, the national park's security patrol representative, said in a statement on Tuesday (27/12).

Ketut explained that the bear was likely tortured before its death as it was initially trapped by a sling iron. The perpetrator then appeared to have pulled out all of its teeth and claws with force. This was to get the bear's adrenaline flowing, which in turn makes its bile sac enlarge.

"The bear was tortured to extract its enzymes. We suspect that the enzymes would then be sold on the black market, where they are worth millions," Ketut added.

The national park's security patrol team found that the offender also took the bear's teeth and claws to be sold illegally.

Poaching is rampant in the national park. Our team often finds abandoned animal carcasses, the result of hunting in the area," the officer stated. The team previously found several porcupine and mouse deer carcasses, as well as deer legs, which were discarded after their meat was taken by hunters.

The bear carcass discovery proves that hunting protected animals is becoming too common and increased action and attention from law enforcement is needed to prevent this.

Sun bears are protected under Indonesian law and are listed as "vulnerable" in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Endangered Animals.

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Indonesia: Jokowi inaugurates Rp 6.18t-worth geothermal power plants

Lita Aruperes The Jakarta Post 27 Dec 16;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo inaugurated on Tuesday three geothermal power plant (PLTP) infrastructure projects worth Rp 6.18 trillion (US$532.07 million) belonging to state oil and gas firm Pertamina.

The projects comprise the development of PLTP Lahendong unit 5 and 6 with a capacity of 2 x 20 Megawatts (MW) in Tompaso, North Sulawesi. The construction of the Rp 3.3 trillion-worth projects started on July 5, 2015. The third project is the construction of PLTP Ulubeli unit 3 with a capacity of 1 x 55 MW in Tanggamus, Lampung. The construction of the Rp 2.8 trillion project started in July 5, 2015.

Jokowi said Indonesia had vast geothermal power plant potential, which reached 29,000 MW. “Only 5 percent of the total potential has been utilized, which is still very small. The remaining 95 percent must be utilized. We are targeting to utilize 7,500 MW of our geothermal power plant potentials,” said Jokowi during the inauguration of the new power plants in Manado.

PLTP Lahendong unit 5 was finished on Sept.15, while unit 6 was completed on Dec.9, although the two power plants had been targeted to be completed by December and June 2017, respectively. Targeted to be finished in August, PLTP Ulubelu unit 3 was included in the Tanggamus electricity system on July 26, or one month earlier.

“Pertamina, as the mother company of Pertamina Geothermal Energy [PGE], appreciates all PGE workers who have proven their main competency by completing these projects earlier than scheduled so we can immediately help the government expand electricity services,” said Pertamina president director Dwi Soetjipto. (ebf)

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China in biggest-ever pangolin scale seizure: reports

AFP Yahoo News 28 Dec 16;

Shanghai (AFP) - Chinese customs seized over three tonnes of pangolin scales, state media said, in the country's biggest-ever smuggling case involving the animal parts.

Shanghai Customs found around 3.1 tonnes of pangolin scales mixed in with a container of wood products imported from Nigeria, state broadcaster CCTV reported Tuesday.

It estimated up to 7,500 of the creatures could have been killed.

The reclusive pangolin has become the most trafficked mammal on Earth due to soaring demand in Asia for their scales for traditional medicine and their flesh, considered a delicacy.

State media have previously said the scales fetch around 5,000 yuan ($700) per kilogram ($700) on the black market -- which would make the seizure worth more than $2 million.

Although the international pangolin trade is illegal in China and they are listed as one of the most-protected wild animals, law enforcement remains weak.

Pangolins are also farmed in the country and an online site selling traditional Chinese medicine offers them at 7,000 yuan per kilogram.

The scales are nothing more than keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails. Yet it has been falsely touted as a cure for multiple ailments, including cancer, among some practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.

Shanghai Customs arrested three suspects who were suspected of smuggling the scales from Africa since 2015, the report said.

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After Asia, palm oil faces backlash in Africa

AFP 28 Dec 16;

Its lower cost has made it popular in commercial food production, but after being blamed for deforestation in Asia, palm oil plantations are now getting a similar rap in Africa.

The sheer scale of land required is having an impact in Gabon, Cameroon and the Congo Basin, environmentalists say.

With financing coming from American, European and Asian agri-businesses, palm bunches are cultivated then cut from trees and sent to factories where oil is extracted by hot pressing.

But the production process accelerates deforestation, contributes to climate change and threatens fauna and flora in vulnerable areas, opponents argue.

However the companies say that palm oil is not only less expensive than soya or sunflower oil but requires much less land to produce and provides much-needed jobs.

Gabon -- where forest covers 80 percent of the territory -- is feeling the brunt.

Brainforest and Mighty, two environmental groups, investigated the activities of Olam, an agri-business from Singapore, which said it has planted 58,000 hectares of palm trees in Gabon.

"It is estimated that Olam has deforested 20,000 hectares in its Gabonese concessions of Awala et Mouila since 2012," the groups said in a report released in mid-December. "Investigators on the scene witnessed and filmed bulldozers knocking down huge trees en masse."

Olam said palm trees had been planted on 25,000 hectares of land which had previously been forested, but that this had been "highly logged and degraded secondary forest" and represented just 0.1 percent of Gabon's forests.

In response to the report Olam published advertisements touting the almost 11,000 jobs it has created, the 1,100 hectares of food crops planted and 251 kilometres (150 miles) of roads built.

- A wider impact -

But the impact appears wider. In their report, the environmental groups expressed fears that the Congo Basin, considered the lung of Africa, could go the same way as forests in Sumatra, Indonesia and on Borneo.

"A few decades ago, these places were almost entirely covered with forests, a paradise for orangutans, rhinos, elephants and exotic birds. Today, only 20-30 percent of the forest cover exists."

The report was released in Libreville when an environmental film festival honoured the French documentary "Et Maintenant Nos Terres" (And Now Our Land).

Its directors, Julien Le Net and Benjamin Polle, chronicled how villages in Cameroon and Senegal were being affected by what they called "land grabs" by multinational companies.

In southwest Cameroon 244 farmers have filed a trespassing complaint against a company that intends to plant 20,000 hectares of palm trees.

Hearings in the case against Sustainable Oils Cameroon, formerly a subsidiary of American company Herakles Farms, were postponed after reports of unrest in the area in November.

Greenpeace has asked Cameroon not to renew the company's concession which expired at the end of November, and it cited "six years of illegal foresting, trampling of locals' rights, unfulfilled investments and destruction of forest".

A petition signed by 180,000 people against renewal of the contract was sent last week to Cameroon President Paul Biya, Greenpeace said.

The government has not yet made a decision but Greenpeace said it hoped it would hear the voices of "thousands of Cameroonians".

Meanwhile the plantations of Socapalm, a subsidiary of the Luxembourg company Socfin in which the family firm of French businessman Vincent Bollore owns a large minority stake, were targeted by protests in November.

"No to pollution and massive environmental destruction" read one banner, while another urged the company to open a dialogue with residents.

"More than 5,000 hectares has been used," a resident called Ebeneser Ekango told AFPTV at the time, complaining there wasn't enough land to plant the staple crop cassava. "What do we eat?"

Greenpeace, which has complained that Socfin concessions have included old-growth forests, applauded the company publishing in December a responsible management policy commits to "eliminating deforestation".

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Dec 16

All That Wrapper
Hantu Blog

Consumer pressure to ditch deforestation begins to reach Indonesia’s oil palm plantation giants
Conservation news at Mongabay

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Singapore to tackle bacterial resistance to antibiotics

Carolyn Khew AsiaOne 27 Dec 16;

Singapore is developing a national action plan to tackle the problem of some bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

This is even as more Singaporeans reach out to such medication as a quick fix for their ailments.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) told The Straits Times that it is working with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the National Environment Agency and the National University of Singapore (NUS) to develop a nationwide strategy for antimicrobial resistance in Singapore.

This could include educating the public on which illnesses should or should not be treated with antibiotics, and stepping up the monitoring of their use.

Antimicrobial resistance refers to the ability of microbes such as bacteria and viruses to resist the effects of medicines that were previously able to kill them.

These microbes develop resistance to antimicrobial medicines when the latter are overused or misused.

Dr Hsu Li Yang, associate professor and programme leader of the antimicrobial resistance programme at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in NUS, said: "We are 'addicted' to antibiotics - it has become an integral part of human medicine and the livestock industry."

The more antibiotics a person takes, the more pressure there is for the bacteria to evolve and become resistant, he added.
While the ministry did not provide details of the action plan, The Straits Times understands that it will likely stick closely to recommendations made by the World Health Organisation to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Besides targeting human medicine, the recommendations also focus on the use of antibiotics in livestock.

This could mean examining the use of antibiotics in Singapore's farms.

The AVA currently has a surveillance programme which tests for antibiotic residues in locally farmed produce to ensure food safety.

Infectious diseases specialist Paul Tambyah said a comprehensive approach is needed.

"Public education can help, especially when it is targeted at those who may not need antibiotics. But the reality is that far more antibiotics are used in agriculture than in human clinics and hospitals," he said.

Bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics - including those found in livestock - can pass their resistance genes to others in the gut once the meat is consumed, especially if it is not cooked properly.

As for human medicine, Dr Tambyah said better methods to diagnose ailments are needed so that doctors can target antibiotic treatment at people who actually need it.

The MOH currently has guidelines for doctors on the prescription of antibiotics.

But they are not mandatory.

General practitioner Leong Choon Kit said this is because not all cases are clear-cut.

Even so, doctors do generally adhere to them, said those interviewed.

Dr Winston Ho, medical director of Parkway Shenton, which has 55 clinics, said the decision to prescribe antibiotics when treating a patient for a particular infection is made after carefully assessing the patient's medical history and symptoms, among other things.

Patient education is key, he said.

"We encounter pressure from some patients to prescribe antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) all the time... They need to know that the majority of acute URTIs are viral in origin and antibiotics do not work on viruses."

Investment analyst Issac Foo, 27, said he requests antibiotics from the doctor every time he has tonsillitis. "My tonsillitis is severe and I cannot get well unless I take antibiotics."

The rise of deadly superbugs rendering even the strongest of antibiotics ineffective is causing widespread concern around the world.

In September, world leaders agreed at the United Nations General Assembly to develop action plans that would curb the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.

It was only the fourth time in UN history that a health topic was discussed at the assembly, with the Ebola virus being among them.

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