Best of our wild blogs: 11 Jan 16

Birdwatching in Bidadari (January 10, 2015)
Rojak Librarian

Records Committee Report 2015-Change of Status
Singapore Bird Group

Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor) @ Lim Chu Kang
Monday Morgue

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Tanglin Halt’s feathered wildlife the subject of a show

MAYO MARTIN Today Online 11 Jan 16;

For the past six years, artist Lucy Davis has lived in Wessex Estate right next to the rail tracks, where she would regularly hear or catch a glimpse of a whole host of birds, from violet cuckoos and oriental magpie robins to eagles, kites and blue-crowned hanging parrots.

“The day before yesterday, I had a blue-winged pitta visit our garden,” she recalled during our interview. “This guy flies down from Indochine, rests in Singapore, goes to Indonesia and may even end up in Australia.”

In fact, the area along the former Malaysian railway tracks between Wessex, Alexandra and Tanglin Halt is a kind of bird central for both local and migrant feathered folk — around 105 species have been spotted there, according to a survey done by Davis and her collaborators under the Migrant Ecologies Project, together with the Nature Society Of Singapore Bird Group.

With the impending development plans of the area due to One North, Mediapolis and the proposed Rail Corridor by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, however, the future of the wildlife in the area is now a huge question mark.

The looming changes in the area form the backdrop for the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival multimedia exhibition Railtrack Songmaps. Conceptualised by Davis, and done with the help of artists and scientists, including sound artist Zai Tang, video artist Kee Ya Ting, biologist David Tan, the show aims to paint a layered portrait of Tanglin Halt’s community of people and birds.

“It’s about the relationship between humans and birds in this particular area, with older-generation HDB flats running alongside the railtracks. A number of residents has already had to move out and other blocks are going soon, so there’s the context of threatened nature and culture,” said Davis. “But we didn’t want it to be a ‘sad’ project — it’s more of this treasure trove of possibilities in this area. The experience I hope will be one that is quite ephemeral and magical — just like when a bird comes into your life for a couple of seconds and leaves again.”

Railtrack Songmaps comprises a few elements, such as an interactive touchscreen map where one can pick out from a selection of recorded bird songs. There will also be spectrograms or visual renditions of bird songs and 30 short films of fragments of stories related to birds and interviews with a whole range of people, including Tanglin Halt residents, primary school students, bird trappers and songbird keepers, alongside Davis’ own musings about her experiences living in the area. “We’re bringing them together in this uneasy dance, where the edges of the stories don’t really fit together,” she said.

Another section of the exhibit takes a more “forensic” bent, featuring photographs by Kee Ya Ting who captured birds crashing into buildings around Singapore, including a particularly famous Northern Boobook owl — the first of its kind for Singapore — that crashed into Amnios Building at One North along the rail tracks at Tanglin Halt. The stories of these birds were derived from avian urban casualties research by David Tan of National University of Singapore. “The installation will be a little bit like a crime investigation corner,” Davis added.

For her, the Rail Corridor issue remains a complex one. “On the one hand, this is the first biodiversity corridor through the whole of Singapore and a major victory for the wildlife lobby. But on the other hand, it seems counterintuitive to build over the rail corridor and add fancy cafes, fountains and noisy attractions at nodes like the one planned for Buona Vista. The main attraction of this corridor has to be this entirely unique combination of informal cultural heritage and biodiversity.” She hopes Railtracks Songmaps in some ways will add to the discussion. “I hope it somehow evokes a degree of engagement with the everyday magic of existing nature and culture. We’re hoping that the (different) sorts of stories will resonate with people, and get (them to see that) you don’t need attractions to see attractions. The wildlife is the attraction.”

Railtrack Songmaps runs from Jan 13 to 24 at Blk 47 Malan Road #01-25, Gillman Barracks. Free admission. For more details about the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, visit

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Change practices to reduce food waste, urges Masagos

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 10 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — In calling food waste one of the biggest streams of waste here, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said all stakeholders have a role to play in managing this.

Some practices such as the culture of excess at banquets must change, “without totally changing the way we live as a community in Singapore”, he told reporters after the SGfuture dialogue “Moving Towards a Zero Waste Nation: Food Waste” led by his ministry today (Jan 10).

Reducing food waste is a way for households to save money, and Singaporeans should not take the amount of food available here for granted, he added.

Food waste has gone up by about 50 per cent in the past decade, and nearly 790,000 tonnes were generated in 2014, equivalent to two bowls of food per person per day.

Zero-waste champion Eugene Tay said the Government could study measures such as stopping supermarkets, distributors and retailers from throwing away unused food, and incentivise food donations.

Businesses could allow consumers to choose their meal portions and take away leftovers, as well as accept imperfect food and donate unsold food. Individuals could learn more about composting, said Mr Tay, founder of ZeroWasteSG.

Mr Masagos expressed interest in trying some ideas from the dialogue in Tampines, where he is a Member of Parliament — such as the use of food waste by the town council for compost.

The 33 dialogue participants, who included hotel representatives, youths and environmental groups, noted challenges in redistributing food. Event organisers might know that a certain amount of food would be left over only at the last minute, for instance.

Mr Tay said he is working with some National University of Singapore students to launch an app this year that will alert students of excess food at various club or staff events. The students could then help to finish the food.

Businesses with good practices could be the subject of case studies and have their practices highlighted, participants suggested.

Siliso Beach Resort managing director Kelvin Ng estimated that his company has reduced food waste by about 40 per cent through several measures, such as by offering lunch and dinner a la carte instead of having a buffet. The resort uses earthworms for food composting, which helps fertilise the resort’s vegetable garden.

It also offers help and provides worms for schools that want to start wormeries, said Mr Ng, who learnt about earthworms and composting when he was a teenager studying in Perth.

Singapore needs to rethink food wastage: Masagos
In Singapore, about 790,000 tonnes of food waste was generated in 2014 - equivalent to each person throwing away two bowls of food every day.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE: There is a need to rethink how to reduce, reuse and recycle food waste amid an increase over the years, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Sunday (Jan 10).

In 2014, Singapore generated around 790,000 tonnes of food waste, equivalent to two bowls of food per person each day. Only 13 per cent of that amount was recycled.

Over the past 10 years, the amount of food waste Singapore generates has increased by about 48 per cent, and the number is set to increase as the country continues to grow in terms of population and affluence.

Singapore has only one landfill left - Semakau Landfill - and it is expected to run out of space if habits do not change.

"Unfortunately, we do have old cultures that we need to modify to achieve this. As an example, (at) banquets where we produce so much food, and so much variety in the menu, I think, it is quite onerous to finish everything, and indeed, the intent is to ensure that you don't finish everything, to show there's a lot of food provided on the table. So these things need to change, without totally changing the way we live as a community in Singapore."

Mr Masagos was speaking at one of the SGFuture Engagement Series sessions on "A Cleaner, Greener and Smarter Home", as part of efforts to engage with the public and seek their ideas on how to build a liveable and sustainable Singapore.


Some of the proposals put forward include teaching communities to make compost out of their food, and getting supermarkets to educate consumers about food management.

For 21-year-old Sumita Thiagarajan, she has already started to raise awareness of how much food is being wasted in Singapore. She started a project called #unhappyplatesg - a Facebook photo album featuring plates of uneaten food.

"I was just trying to raise awareness on food wastage, so together with the photos, I've put together a description about how much food Singaporeans waste. I hope that through the photos and through the descriptions, that friends and people that see it and share it can actually reduce their food intake," said Sumita.

Now, even her friends are sending her pictures of these so-called unhappy plates, to add to the collection.

For Eugene Tay, founder of Zero Waste SG, he is looking at developing an app that can match companies with leftover food to individuals or charities that need it.

"The other thing we're looking at is best practices and case studies from companies - companies who are doing their part to reduce food waste, we try to document these kind of best practices and make it available to their peers in the industry," he said.

About 30 to 40 members of the public, including youths, stakeholders and partners from various associations, industries and non-governmental organisations shared their thoughts and plans on how to cut down on food waste, and move towards a zero-waste nation.

- CNA/xq/dl

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Malaysia: Padi farmers worry lower rainfall will affect harvest

LOSHANA K SHAGAR The Star 11 Jan 16;

PETALING JAYA: The El Nino heatwave is expected to affect local food production, with padi farmers in the north already complaining of 50% less harvest.

Vegetable growers in the lowlands, especially in Johor, have also been warned to look for alternative sources of water.

In Alor Setar, a Kampung Suka Menanti farmer known as Din, 40, said the current heatwave was the worst in his 25 years of farming, adding that the situation was made unbearable due to poor water supply.

Din, who claimed to be among the hundreds of farmers affected, said water level at the river dropped from 2.5m to 1.8m recently.

“The irrigation system supplies the padi field with water from the river, but a recent flood mitigation project has hindered the supply and the scarce rainfall does not help.

“Due to the lack of water, the padi grains have shrivelled in size and we expect the yield this time to be halved,” he said yesterday.

Hamzah Salleh, 62, who farms his padi field in Pantai Johor said the harvest might be late this season due to the lower rainfall since November.

“During normal seasons, padi can be harvested in 90 days, but dry spells may stretch the growth to up to four months and affect our harvest.”

Thirty percent of the country’s rice is imported from countries such as Thailand.

Recently, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau said Peninsular Malaysia along with Limbang and Miri in Sarawak, would be experiencing hot and dry weather until March.

The weather condition is a result of El Nino, which is also expected to reduce rainfall by about 20% to 60% and cause temperatures to rise between 0.5°C and 2°C .

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said farmers in the lowlands might have to start looking at alternative water sources to avoid problems in the next few months.

“For Cameron Highlands, the water sources here are enough.

“Even Perak and Selangor farmers can turn to the former mining areas as an alternative,” he said, adding that they would only be facing problems should the dry season last beyond the predicted period.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said they did not expect the drop in local production to be alarming as not all source of supply was local.

“If there’s a drop of, say 10%, we will increase imports by 10% to compensate,”he said, adding that they were monitoring the situation.

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Indonesia: Hectares of farm land in Gunung Kidul, Java suffer water shortage

Antara 11 Jan 16;

Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) - Hectares of agricultural land in Gunung Kidul district in Yogyakarta, Central Java, is suffering water shortage as no rain has fallen in the past few weeks.

Farmers have started buying water and also dug wells to get water supply.

Mujinugroho, one of the farmers from Playen village, said here on Sunday he started planting when the rainy season began early in December but rain only fell several days after that.

"Now we buy water to save the rice plants that have started to dry," he said.

He said he had bought water to supply his rice field five times at a cost of Rp46,000 per hour of supplying and "this is not yet maximal."

Muji said the two-month old plants were still good now and but he had to continue to assure they would remain alive.

Edi Prasetya from Pulutan said that no rain had fallen for the past few months causing rain-fed wells for farming and animal husbandry to dry.

"Some of the wells have dried up and the condition is worrying because no rain is coming," he said.

He said other farmers bought water from private suppliers adding he hoped the district government would help to meet the needs of clean water.(*)

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