Best of our wild blogs: 8 Jan 16

NSS Kids’ Watery Fun at Kallang River@Bishan-AMK Park
Fun with Nature

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Singapore has to work together for sustainable future: Masagos Zulkifli

Speaking at a symposium on Thursday (Jan 7), Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli says the nation cannot depend on just one person, or a group of people to do their part in building a more sustainable future.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 7 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans must stop waiting for the Government to act when it comes to building a more sustainable future, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said at a symposium on Thursday evening (Jan 7).

He said the nation cannot depend on just one person, or just a group of people to do their part.

“Our challenge is to turn this movement into a culture. So it's not just a movement of some people or a group of people with common intentions but it's a culture of what it means to be a Singaporean. And I think this is what we all should inspire or aspire to be,” Mr Masagos said.

“I believe in this saying: The Government is what we do together. It's not what the Government does. It's what we do together,” he said.

About 300 guests attended the symposium at Gardens By The Bay. It kicked off a series of dialogues on building cleaner, greener and smarter homes, which will take place throughout January.

The dialogues are hosted by the Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Communications and Information. This is part of the SGFuture dialogue series which was launched last December, to engage and gather ideas from Singaporeans on what they would like to see in the future, and how they can make that vision come to life.

These engagement sessions, which begin on Saturday, aim to gather ideas on how Singaporeans can play a bigger role in creating a more liveable and sustainable future, and inspire them to take action.

They cover four main topics: City in a Garden; Vibrant Community Spaces; Eco-Smart Towns and Gracious Living; as well as A Green and Conserving Culture.

"We look forward to hear the ideas in how we can move towards becoming a zero-waste nation, and redefine waste as a valuable resource for our society; to inspire and gather more to have a greater shared responsibility in keeping Singapore clean; to adopt a long-term perspective in caring for our clean and green environment; and to ingrain a culture to improve resource efficiency and conserve water," added Mr Masagos.

The ministries hosting these sessions will also try to support the ideas that come up in the dialogue.

"Think about concrete action that you can be involved in. Today's symposium is really meant to kick-start a series of conversations, but it should not be just talk. We really want you to get involved, if you've got good ideas, share (them); better yet, do something about it, and let us know and we in MND or MEWR can support you. We will do our best to support you and work with you to translate your ideas into actions,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

- CNA/dl

Have a say in tackling green challenges
Adrian Lim, Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Jan 16;

While Singapore has grown into a sterling city in a garden in 50 years, the next phase will be fraught with more acute challenges, driven by increasing land constraints that could mean trade-offs between commercial, residential and green spaces.

Climate change will also result in rising sea levels, more intense rainfall and warmer weather, and globally, there will be more pressure on resources such as food and raw materials.

But Singaporeans will have a say in how these challenges will be met, and the future they envision, through a month-long series of engagement sessions titled "A Cleaner, Greener and Smarter Home" launched yesterday.

The discussions will be based on four main themes: City in a Garden, Vibrant Community Spaces, Eco-smart Towns and Gracious Living, and A Green and Conserving Culture.

It will delve into topics, including how to cut down on food and electronic waste; how homes can be built to be more environmentally friendly; ways in which the community can maintain the island's greenery; or how technology can be used to improve the daily commute.

They are part of the larger SGfuture discussions that started in November and are expected to run till the middle of this year. Last month, the focus was on building a caring community.

To kick-start this round of dialogues, a symposium was held yesterday at Gardens by the Bay, involving some 300 participants, and attended by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

In a call to action, Mr Wong said the sessions "should not just be talk only", but those with good ideas should come forward.

The Government will work with individuals to "translate your ideas into actions", he added.

Ms Masagos gave the example of Mr Tan Ken Jin as an individual who made a difference. Mr Tan started the Singapore Glove Project, where people meet to pick up litter during their jogs and runs.

"The one-man movement has grown to more than 500 members... Our challenge is to turn the movement into a culture," he said.

During yesterday's symposium, participants raised several suggestions, including an open gardens concept, where the gardens of private homes or estates could be open to the public on a regular basis.

One participant also asked whether urban areas could be re-designed to make them more walkable, like in Western cities.

There will be 17 engagement sessions this month, and one next month. While the dialogues will be held at the Marketplace, near The Future of Us exhibition, there will also be site visits to the rail corridor, HortPark and the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

Members of the public who would like to attend any of the dialogues can sign up at

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8,000 lanterns to light up the sky at Chingay 2016

This year’s parade will feature sky lanterns, a 66-metre “flying” LED dragon, aerial performances and the biggest full-scale illuminated show ever performed in Chingay.
Shivaanan Selvasevaran Channel NewsAsia 7 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: This year’s Chingay is set to be one of the brightest, with more than 8,000 lanterns shaped like light-bulbs illuminating the sky during the parade, the People’s Association (PA) revealed on Thursday (Jan 7).

The sky lanterns symbolise the core values of Singaporeans being passed down to the next generation, PA said, adding that the parade will also feature a 66-metre (m) “flying” LED dragon, aerial performances from a 50m-tall crane and the biggest full-scale illuminated show ever performed in Chingay.

These sky lanterns will be launched during the Chingay parade. (Photo: Shivaanan Selvasevaran)

With the theme “Lights of Legacy, Brighter Singapore”, the parade will feature 50 contingents with troupes from 10 countries. For the first time, there will be a joint performance by more than 30 religious organisations led by the Inter-Religious Organisations Singapore (IRO).

An estimated 160,000 spectators are expected at the parade, which will be held at the F1 Pit Building from Feb 19 to 20. Chingay Night Fiesta will run at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Feb 21.

"We chose the theme 'Lights of Legacy, Brighter Singapore' to remember the values that were fostered by our pioneers," said Mr Ang Hak Seng, Chief Executive Director of PA.

A commemorative book titled Chingay 2015 – An SG50 Gift from the People to the Nation was also launched on Thursday. The 150-page book explores how Singaporeans celebrated SG50 through Chingay and captures the memories of the performers and organisers behind the parade last year.

- CNA/cy

Chingay Parade 2016 to highlight values fostered by founding fathers
STACEY LIM Today Online 7 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Core values fostered by our founding fathers will be brought to light at the 44th Chingay Parade, to be held on Feb 19 and 20 at the F1 Pit Building in the Marina Bay area.

At the first media conference today (Jan 7) for the annual Chinese New Year event, organisers said that the theme “Lights of Legacy, Brighter Singapore” was chosen because it marks the “beginning of our new chapter to SG100”.

The opening segment of the parade, titled “Voyage SG100”, will show an all-inclusive contingent of 800 youth performers atop a majestic float, symbolising a youth-led nation for the next 50 years towards Singapore’s 100 years of independence.

People’s Association, the parade organisers, will be collecting drawn sky lanterns signed by Singaporeans — expressing values such as racial harmony, social cohesion, integrity, prudence and a can-do Singapore spirit — and will be displaying 8,000 of them as the highlight of the parade’s grand finale.

Children and youth in primary and secondary schools will be encouraged to draw, on cubes provided by organisers, their dream homeland of Singapore in 2065. Mr Ang Hak Seng, chief executive director of People’s Association, said: “Only when we live our values as one people, will we have a brighter Singapore. (A) brighter Singapore is about confidence in our future, so what best way to capture (that) by asking the youth.”

To allow audiences to be part of the lights and sounds, the 25,000 people at the spectators’ stands for each night will be given hand-held light bulbs.

The parade opening and finale will be specially choreographed and is the biggest ever full-scale illuminated show in the Chingay history, with 8,000 performers this year and a total of 50 parade contingents: 40 contingents from Singapore and performance troupes from 10 countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia.

This year’s Chingay will be the first to introduce a joint performance by 30 religious organisations and groups. Deacon Matthew Kang, chairman of New Creation Church, said: “We hope that this will further evoke the sense of pride among our people, among Singaporeans, that indeed Singapore is a nation (that has) inter-racial and inter-religious harmony — and we are really, really proud of that.”

Classic Chinese New Year symbols will still be there, highlighted this year by the world debut of a 66m LED-lighted flying dragon, made from Shaanxi, China for the parade.

Tickets for the parade are available at SISTIC from S$28.50.

Chingay lanterns will not be released into the sky: PA
The People’s Association confirmed on Jan 8 that the 8,000 sky lantern to be displayed during this year’s Chingay Parade would not be released into the sky.
AsiaOne 8 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — The People’s Association (PA) clarified today (Jan 8) that the 8,000 sky lanterns to be displayed at this year’s Chingay Parade are not meant to be released into the sky, following concerns of the possible environmental impact if the lanterns were released.

The lanterns, which will be featured as the highlight of the parade’s grand finale, are “performance props”, said the PA on Facebook. “They will not pose any environmental issue.”

The PA said the lanterns will be reused and exhibited at the PAssionArts Festival 2016 and community events such as National Day celebrations after Chingay 2016.

They will eventually be recycled and proceeds from the recycling will go to charity, said the association.

At least 10 concerned members of the public had left comments on PA’s Facebook page asking about its plans for the lanterns.

Facebook user Veerappan Swaminathan expressed fears that the lanterns, if released, would “affect marine and land animals adversely”. These comments were echoed by users such as Shirley Yong and Ria Tan. Others, such as Lai Chiu Yun, said there would be “no way of recovering [the] lanterns once ... released” and likened it to littering. The PA replied the users, saying that the lanterns would not be released.

The lightbulb-shaped lanterns, signed by Singaporeans, will highlight core values fostered by Singapore’s founding fathers, such as racial harmony, social cohesion and integrity.

Themed “Lights of Legacy, Brighter Singapore”, the annual Chingay Parade will be held on Feb 19 and 20 at the F1 Pit Building in the Marina Bay area. Featuring 8,000 performers and 50 parade contingents, it is set to be the biggest ever full-scale illuminated show in the parade’s 44-year history. ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN

2,000 local, international artistes to light up Chingay Night Fiesta
There will be performances by 2,000 local and international artistes. Three hundred members of a combined choir from Community Clubs and schools will pay tribute to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and other pioneers.
Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: This year's Chingay Night Fiesta will be held for the first time at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. Set to take place on Feb 21, the Fiesta is themed "Lights of Legacy, Brighter Singapore".

The event will also feature performances by 2,000 local and international artistes from countries like China and Russia. Three hundred members of a combined choir from Community Clubs and schools will pay tribute to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and other pioneers.

During the parade, about 50,000 Singaporeans can also get up close with the performers, who will showcase modern and traditional dances, songs and martial arts.

At the park, there will be booths where people can request for calligraphy with words on Singapore's core values.

Among the sights will be 10,000 sky lanterns and lighted cubes, displaying illustrations by Singaporeans pledging support to the core values. It will be the first time Singaporeans will see this number of lanterns and cubes on display.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching will also attend the finale and join Singaporeans in reciting the National Pledge.

Mr Ang Hak Seng, chief executive director of the People's Association, said: "Ten thousand sky lanterns and cubes will light up the path of legacy, complemented by our Chingay float. For sights, for the first time in Singapore and in the region, you will see a 66-metre LED sky lantern or dragon that will light up the sky.

"And for sound, 50,000 Singaporeans and residents will recite our National Pledge to reaffirm our commitment as one united people towards a brighter Singapore."

- CNA/ms

Related link
Chingay 2016’s 8000 balloons not meant to be released into the sky The Online Citizen

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Malaysia: Real-time monitoring of mangrove forests starts in Selangor

RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 8 Jan 16;

SUBANG: Conservation of endangered mangrove forests has been given a boost with the start of the first real-time monitoring project in Sabak Bernam, Selangor.

The monitoring would enable the local community, researchers and authorities to observe soil conditions, humidity, water levels, temperature and air conditions of the mangrove area via an automated online cloud computing system developed by Ericsson.

Ericsson Solutions CU Malaysia and Sri Lanka vice-president Sebastian Barros said the mangrove trees were directly connected to its system via sensors and high speed mobile broadband.

“Mangroves are the crossroads between the oceans and land.

“They are one of the most complex ecosystems in the planet.

“Mangrove forests act as ‘bodyguards’ for the coast to defend villages from natural disasters such as tsunami or flooding.

“Unfortunately, they are under various threats and we would like to conserve it,” he said yesterday.

Barros said it was estimated that almost 50% of the mangroves in Malaysia had been destroyed due to illegal logging, threats from pollution and other factors, such as fire, over the past three decades.

“It is a sad reality that in some places the coastal areas are completely naked of mangrove and open to threats such as floods and tsunami,” he said.

Besides replanting mangrove trees, the company has also successfully tracked the growth of specific trees.

“We were told by the villagers that the life expectancy rate of mangrove trees is low.

“They estimate that seven out of 10 mangrove trees planted will reach adult stage.”

He said the company would use the data derived from the monitoring for future conservation and the protection of the ecosystem.

“We are looking at expanding this to other areas such as in Terengganu and Pahang,” he said, adding that the company was also looking for sustainable ways to fund the pilot project.

Barros said that the technology could also be expanded to other agricultural sectors including the palm oil and rubber industries.

The company partnered with a non-governmental organisation and a local company to undertake the conservation project.

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Indonesia to sue another 10 firms over forest fires

Francis Chan Indonesia Bureau Chief In Jakarta Straits Times 7 Jan 16;

The Indonesian government plans to take 10 more companies to court over illegal forest fires, strongly believed to have led to the transboundary haze crisis last year.

The move, revealed by Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Tuesday, is part of President Joko Widodo's promise to get tough with errant companies found to have burned forests and peatlands to clear them for cultivation.

It also comes a week after the government suffered a major setback in court over a similar lawsuit brought against local pulpwood plantation company Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) for similar violations.

The government had sued BMH for 7.8 trillion rupiah (S$801.7 million) last year for clearing land in 2014 using the outlawed slash-and- burn technique, a method which often leads to uncontrollable fires that produce thick haze.

A Palembang district court, however, ruled on Dec 30 that there was no evidence showing that BMH had deliberately started fires.

Ms Siti declined to name the 10 companies facing the Indonesian government's next lawsuit, but she reportedly said that they were also suspected to be involved in forest and land "arson".

To deter firms from flouting environment laws, the Indonesian government has the authority to issue administrative sanctions such as suspending the business licences of errant companies.

But hitting them in their wallets - where it hurts most - is not as easy. Monetary fines can be meted out only by the courts.

Last month, 16 plantation companies, including BMH, had their business licences suspended and three others were ordered to stop operations for good after a government probe found that they were responsible for illegal fires last year.

Those fires, which spread across Kalimantan and Sumatra provinces, are said to have caused the haze crisis which affected many countries in South-east Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore.

The smoke from the fires last year also sent air pollution to record levels, resulting in at least 19 deaths from haze-related illnesses and more than half a million Indonesians suffering from respiratory infections.

Environmentalists have said that plantation companies often resort to illegal slash-and-burn methods to clear land, as hiring excavators to do the same job would cost at least seven times more.

Ms Siti said that her ministry is preparing to appeal against the court ruling handed down in favour of BMH.

She added that she was disappointed with the Palembang court's decision because BMH has damaged the environment.

Ms Siti explained that a 20,000ha land area located in a forest managed by BMH was indeed set on fire in 2014.

Hot spots were detected over the Simpang Tiga Sakti district and Sungai Byuku district, as well as Ogan Komering Ilir regency, which was one of the areas most badly hit by forest fires last year.

Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry has been suing plantation companies for causing land and forest fires since 2013.

Yesterday, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla denied that the government was having problems collecting evidence against BMH in the 2014 case. "It depends on the court," he told Detik news.

Govt Seeks Expert Help in Forest Fire Case Appeal

Jakarta Globe 7 Jan 16;

Jakarta. The Ministry for the Environment and Forestry has enlisted the help of 23 legal experts to prepare an appeal against a recent decision by a South Sumatra court to rule in favor of a plantation company accused of slash-and-burn practices.

On Friday “there will be a meeting with legal experts [at the ministry's office] from environmental law experts to administrative law experts,” Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Thursday as quoted by Tempo.

The appeal comes after the Palembang District Court threw out the ministry's Rp 7.8 trillion ($560 million) lawsuit against Bumi Mekar Hijau, who was accused of causing fires on 20,000 hectares of concession land in 2014.

The court, presided over by Judge Parlas Nababan, however, ruled the government failed to prove that the company was directly responsible for the fires.

Siti refused to comment on the highly criticized decision, including the court's argument that no environmental damage was caused to the company's concession area as the area “can still be replanted with trees.”

Herwinsyah, a lawyer for the ministry, earlier said the team of lawyers are planning to lodge the appeal to the South Sumatra High Court on Monday.

Bumi Mekar Hijau was also accused of committing the same practices in 2015, contributing to forest fires that resulted in choking haze for months, affecting the health of hundreds of thousands of people in Kalimantan, Sumatra and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

The case for the company's purported violations in 2015 has not yet been brought to trial.

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Drought, heat slash grain crops: study

AFP Yahoo News 6 Jan 16;

Paris (AFP) - Drought and heatwaves depleted grain harvests by 10 percent from 1964 to 2007, with sharper losses in the latter two decades and rich nations, reports a study released Wednesday.

The first global overview of how extreme weather disasters affect grain output comes as climate scientists project even more severe and frequent warming over the next half-century.

At the same time, other research has shown, food production will probably need to double by 2050 to feed a population of more than nine billion people.

The study "highlights the important historical effects of extreme weather disasters on agriculture," the authors note in a study published in the journal Nature.

It also "emphasises the urgency with which the global cereal production system must adapt to extremes in a changing climate."

A trio of researchers led by Corey Lesk of McGill University in Montreal crunched data from 177 countries covering nearly 3,000 heatwaves, drought and floods.

Using average yields as a benchmark, they looked at how extreme weather events affected output of 16 cereals, including wheat, maize and rice.

"Until now we did not know exactly how much global production was lost," said co-author Navin Ramankutty, also of McGill.

During the 43-year period examined, some 1.2 billion tonnes of grain were lost to heatwaves, and 1.8 billion tonnes to drought -- the equivalent of global wheat and maize output for 2013.

As expected, the impact of heatwaves was more short-lived than droughts, which sometimes extended over more than one growing season.

The losses over the period 1985 to 2007 were higher, averaging nearly 14 percent, raising the question of whether climate change is playing an greater role.

The authors pointed to other research suggesting that a jump of one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in seasonal mean temperature can shave six or seven percent off of yields in some regions.

But the additional crop losses at the end of the 20th century could be due to other causes as well, they said.

Global warming has heated Earth by 1C since the start of the Industrial Revolution, mostly over the last 50 years.

Under the umbrella of the United Nations, the world's nations have vowed to hold the increase to "well under 2C".

Somewhat surprisingly, heatwaves and drought claimed twice as much cereal production -- 20 percent -- in the United States, Canada and Europe than in the developing world.

This was probably due to the prevalence of industrial-scale mono-culture -- growing a single crop over vast tracts of land.

"If a drought hits in a way that is damaging to those crops, they will all suffer," Lesk said in a statement.

"By contrast, in much of the developing world, the cropping systems are a patchwork of small fields with diverse crops. If a drought hits, some of thos crops may be damaged, but others may survive."

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'Case is made' for Anthropogenic Epoch

Jonathan Amos BBC 8 Jan 16;

There is little doubt now that we have entered a new geological age, believes an international scientific panel.

The team, which has been tasked with defining the so-called Anthropocene, says humanity's impacts on Earth will be visible in sediments and rocks millions of years into the future.

The researchers are working towards a formal classification of the new epoch.

An open question is the formal start date, which some panel members think could be the 1950s.

This decade marks the beginning of the "Great Acceleration", when the human population and its consumption patterns suddenly speeded up.
It coincides with the spread of ubiquitous "techno materials", such as aluminium, concrete and plastic.

It also covers the years when thermonuclear weapons tests dispersed radioactive elements across the globe. Their long-lived activity will still be apparent to anyone who cares to look for it hundreds of millennia from now.

The report by the Anthropocene Working Group, published in Science magazine, is not a full and final statement on the subject.
Rather, it represents an interim position - an update on the panel's investigations.

But the key finding is that humanity's impacts on Earth should now be regarded as pervasive and sufficiently distinctive to justify a separate classification.

"The paper looks at the magnitude of the changes that humanity has made to the planet," explained group secretary Dr Colin Waters.
"Have they been sufficient to significantly alter the nature of the sediments now being accumulated at present, and are they distinctive from the existing Holocene Epoch that started at the end of the last ice age? That case has now been made," the British Geological Survey scientist told BBC News.

"Within the Working Group - and we have 37 members - I think the majority of them now agree that we are living in an interval we should call the Anthropocene. There's still some discussion as to whether it should be a formal or informal unit, but we'd like to have a specific definition. And a majority of the group are moving towards the mid-20th Century for the start of this new epoch."

In due course, the group will produce some final recommendations.

Ultimately it will be down to the International Commission on Stratigraphy to accept - or not - the "Anthropocene Epoch" as an additional unit in the official time scheme used to describe the planet's 4.6 billion years of history.

The famous Chronostratigraphic Chart featured in textbooks and on posters in school classrooms is unlikely to undergo an immediate redesign, however.

If the mid-20th Century is to be the official start date, it will have to be demonstrated with sample boreholes bearing some of the tell-tale signatures of the Anthropocene.

These could include ocean or lake sediments containing markers of pollution, such as the soot particles from fossil fuel burning.
Because these examples would need to reflect a global and not just a local footprint of human activity, the boreholes could take a number of years to collect.

The author and journalist Gaia Vince won this year's Royal Society Winton prize for her book, Adventures In The Anthropocene.

It is a kind of travelogue that tries to explain the enormous changes occurring on Earth at the level of the individual citizen.
I asked her what she thought of the Working Group's latest statement.

"There is a conceptual difficulty in appreciating that in just a human lifetime, our species (which has itself only existed in the briefest time) has profoundly changed this billions-years-old planet," she told me.

"And yet the evidence is increasingly obvious to us all, from satellite images of global transformations to local extinctions of butterflies, to our increasing experiences of extreme weather events. Nevertheless, it's a difficult and novel task for the geologists who must try to determine a start date for an era whose palaeontology and geology are still being created - there's no handy stripe in the rock layers to mark the Anthropocene yet.

"The mid-20th Century, the beginning of the global Great Acceleration (there are some great graphs for this), makes for a useful marker both scientifically and because it also represents the great social changes that have occurred.

"This is important because it was an evolution in human society that created this environmental planetary change - and it is the way human society develops that will shape this new age for the decades and centuries to come."

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