Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jan 16

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China-based developer launches $40bn cross-border project it claims is a ‘model’ of future housing

Aidan DevineNews Corp Australia Network Daily Telegraph 26 Jan 16;

Forest City is a $40bn Chinese development project underway to create a “futuristic” city for 500,000 people.

‘IF YOU build it they will come.’

This is the thinking guiding one of China’s most ambitious projects yet — a plan to build a “smart” city for 500,000 people, from scratch, on four man-made islands in South-East Asia.

Forest City will consist of four man-made islands in the strait separating Singapore and Malaysia.

The $40 billion project is the vision of Yeung Kwok Keung, chairman of private Chinese development company Country Garden, who wanted to build a city of skyscrapers atop three subterranean levels of roads and parking.

“The public would not see any vehicles on the road as [the] city would be filled with greenery on the top layer while underneath is for roads and parking,” Mr Yeung said.

But the project, dubbed “Forest City”, is not short of controversy. It is being built in the Strait of Johor, between Singapore and Malaysia — a region where vast amounts of housing are rapidly hitting the local market — and critics say there is no demand for a project of this scale.

Country Garden have countered these claims by pointing out that their aim is to attract buyers from all around the world, who will be drawn to the opportunity to live in a futuristic city of 300,000 homes, the likes of which has never been seen before.

Forest City will include sky gardens, its own duty free zone, man-made lakes and beaches, commercial buildings, schools, medical facilities and even its own water supply.

“Our philosophy is that we will create the market and the customers will arrive,” Mr Yeung said.

At the development’s Singapore launch, Country Garden CEO Mo Bin added that the company sees Forest City as a model for cities of the future — one they hope to spread around the world.

The city will have no cars on ground level.

Apartment buildings will be covered in vertical greenery.

He said Country Garden’s successes in China have given it a considerable pool of capital to use as a platform for entering housing markets around the world — including Australia, where the company is already active.

Forest City will be completed in 2035.

Multi-billion ringgit project on man-made islands
ZAZALI MUSA The Star 27 Jan 16;

GELANG PATAH: Thousands of prospective home buyers from Malaysia, China, Singapore and Hong Kong thronged the Forest City sales gallery here to have a look at the multi-billion ringgit mixed development project.

According to the company spokesperson, the sales gallery was for exclusive previews and bookings in preparations for the official launch of the project in the first-quarter of 2016.

The project is a joint-venture between Hong Kong-listed property developer Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd and Johor’s Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd.

The lush urban gateway is located on four man-made islands in Iskandar Malaysia, and the project spans over 1,386.05ha with an estimated investment of RM175.8bil over the next 20 years.

“Forest City is South-East Asia’s first and largest mixed-use green development in terms of the number of units to be built with a vertical greenery and smart city design theme,’’ said the spokesperson during a media tour recently.

He said the project is positioned close to the economic centres of South-East Asia and envisaged to become a global hub that would attract innovation and talents.

The project is expected to fuel the economy within Iskandar Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore.

Phase one of the project comprising high-rise condominium units and costal residences would be released for global sales in due course in Malaysia, China and Singapore.

The two to four-bedroom condominiums and high-rise coastal residences with a build-up area of between 818 sq ft and 1,915 sq ft are situated within leafy foliage corridors and car-free avenues in a gated and guarded precinct.

The entire development revolves around a multi-layered three dimensional city planning, with lush vertical greenery covered with dense foliage, multiple forms of public transportation and sustainable and renewable energy infrastructure.

Other facilities within the development include a world-class hotel, fitness club and swimming pool for residents and tourists with education, healthcare and tourism being the main economic pillars for the growth of Forest City.

The long-term planning for the project is to have dedicated entry points to the development such as a light rail transit system and ferry services linking Johor Baru and Singapore.

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Festival Fan: Yes to Music, No to Mess

Movement hopes to get fans at Laneway Festival to clear their rubbish
NOOR ASHIKIN ABDUL RAHMAN, The New Paper AsiaOne 26 Jan 16;


That was how Mr Timothy Chua described the aftermath of last year's Laneway Festival.

Last January, heaps of rubbish were strewn on the ground by the record 13,000-strong crowd at the end of the 12-hour event.

This year, Mr Chua, who recently graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS), hopes to spark a change through his Traceless movement.

It aims to achieve a litter-free environment at this year's edition of the annual music festival on Saturday.

Laneway Festival kicks off at 11.30am at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay, with the last acts taking to the stage at 10.55pm.

Together with his NUS undergraduate girlfriend, Miss Sumita Thiagarajan, Mr Chua hopes to get other festival goers to pick up after themselves.

The pair launched the Traceless movement via Facebook last week and urged others to join them in "changing old ways".

"Instead of leaving our trash on the grass, find a bin or if you can't find one (as we couldn't last year), bring it home with you in a tied-up plastic bag," they wrote.


Mr Chua, 25, told The New Paper yesterday: "It's important that we learn to value our environment and help make the cleaners' jobs easier. Hopefully we can make this a yearly affair."

He added: "It's really about spreading the awareness and hoping the message takes root in people. If just one person among each group of friends is aware and makes the effort, we're already making progress."

Last year, the ugly mess left behind after the sold-out festival caught the attention of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who both posted on Facebook to comment on the situation.

PM Lee wrote: "It takes continuous effort to keep Singapore clean. We need to progress from being a cleaned city to a truly clean city."

Later this week, Mr Chua and Miss Sumita, 21, plan to share tips on taking responsibility for one's trash with fellow festival attendees on the Laneway Festival and Traceless Facebook event pages.

On the event day itself, they might be making placards to remind festivalgoers.

"We shouldn't think that keeping the environment clean is someone else's problem to deal with.

"It's ambitious to expect zero trash, especially in the first year of the movement. But I hope to see a venue that is not covered in trash, with as little rubbish as possible," said Mr Chua.

At press time, his post about Traceless has garnered just 12 likes on the Laneway Festival event page.

But instead of feeling disappointed over the lacklustre response, Mr Chua is heartened as "this is better than nothing".

"I'm positive that more people will find out about it in the coming days, especially because we plan to post about it more and more," he said.

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Singapore, US agencies partner to find alternatives to animal testing

WONG PEI TING Today Online 26 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Less-cruel ways of testing the potential harm of chemicals that do not involve the use of animals could be developed here, under a partnership between Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the United States’ Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

In particular, they will focus on the areas of kidney, liver and developmental toxicity, such as a novel type of “liver spheroids” that resemble liver tissue that could be used for toxicity testing.

The collaboration will also build on the EPA’s ToxCast programme, which has collated and generated data on more than 1,800 chemicals that can be used to predict the safety of those chemicals in the future.

The announcement comes amid growing urgency within scientific circles to seek animal-free methods in research, following a 2013 ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing in the European Union.

Tens of thousands of chemicals are currently in use, and hundreds more are introduced every year in products like preservatives, sunscreen filters and washing detergent.

But as chemical testing is resource-intensive, only a small fraction of chemicals have been fully evaluated for potential human health effects, said Dr Russell S Thomas, director of the EPA’s National Centre for Computational Toxicology, at the Symposium for Non-Animal Approaches to Predict Safety and Efficacy, organised by A*STAR.

Dr Kenneth Lee, senior director of A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council, said a 2007 US National Research Council report had brought to the fore issues surrounding animal testing as a predictor for human toxicity. “Even though we share a 99 per cent similarity in genes with mice … humans are definitely no 70kg mice,” he said, adding that A*STAR had already developed capabilities that could help in the search for non-animal testing methods.

For example, a team at A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) has already developed a kind of 3D liver spheroids that allow for better control during testing.

In the area of kidney toxicity, the IBN and the Bioinformatics Institute (BII) have developed a cell-based platform for the accurate prediction of kidney toxicity in humans. It uses proximal tubular cells, which IBN found a way to produce from human-induced pluripotent stem cells effectively. IBN and BII also developed a process that could test much larger numbers of compounds at much lower costs. WONG PEI TING

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Litterbugs caught in 2015 hit 6-year high

Samantha Boh, Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Jan 16;

THE number of people caught littering hit a six-year high last year.

More than 26,000 fines were issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) - the highest number since 2009, when just over 41,000 were given out.

NEA told The Straits Times that most litterbugs were caught discarding cigarette butts, tissue paper, cigarette box wrappers and plastic cups inappropriately.

It added that about 69 per cent of them were Singapore residents.

Last year's figures mark a jump of 32 per cent from 2014, when 20,000 tickets were meted out.

In 2013, 9,346 tickets were issued for littering offences, up from 8,195 in 2012. More than 11,000 people were fined in 2011, down from almost 24,000 in 2010.

Last year also saw the number of corrective work orders imposed by the courts for littering rise to more than 1,300 from 688 in 2014. In 2013, the figure was 261.

NEA said the increase is due to stepped up enforcement efforts against littering.

It added that the Government has also taken a tougher stance on littering.

In April 2014, it doubled the maximum fines to $2,000 for the first conviction, $4,000 for the second and $10,000 for the third and subsequent ones.

The court can also impose a corrective work order, which requires offenders to clean public areas for up to 12 hours.

Those caught littering for the first time can face a $300 composition fine.

Edwin Seah, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, said while the significant rise in the number of littering tickets issued is a concern, it is even more important to know and understand who are fined and why they choose to litter.

"A person would not litter at home or in the office, so why would they do so in public? It is a highly inconsiderate and anti-social behaviour," he said.

He added that values must be nurtured from a young age so everyone sees the need to protect and conserve the environment they share.

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Environment, Lee Bee Wah, suggested that the Ministry of Education remove cleaners from schools, as is the case in Japan and Taiwan, to inculcate such values.

In October last year, she suggested implementing a reward system like that in Taiwan, where people are given a portion of the summons payment after they submit evidence of litterbugs caught in the act.

She told The Straits Times that Singapore's littering woes are not due to lack of effort on the part of the Government but a lack of conviction from the public on the benefits of having a clean environment.

"They don't appreciate how littering can cause water to be collected in a discarded receptacle, resulting in mosquito breeding, for example," she said.

"In Singapore, some people think that they pay town council fees and, hence, someone will clean after them.

"We need a mindset change."

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Indonesia: How tweeting about floods became a civic duty in Jakarta

Monsoon floods hit the Indonesian capital in 2015, sparking 100,000 Twitter conversations. Here’s how those tweets were used in the rescue operation

Tomas Holderness and Etienne Turpin The Guardian 25 Jan 16;

Five major floods hit Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, in 2015, sparking more than 100,000 flood-related Twitter conversations in the city.

Jakarta, the world’s second largest city, is regularly devastated by flooding during the annual monsoon. The global proliferation of smartphones has meant citizens increasingly take to social media networks to share information during emergency events like these.

That’s why (Map Jakarta) was born: it’s an online platform that transforms Twitter into an emergency data gathering and critical alert service during flooding in Jakarta. Last February, by asking residents to confirm the flood situation where they were, was able to map 1,000 flooding sites across the city in real-time. The resulting flood map was used by the general public and emergency services alike and was viewed more than 160,000 times.

As far as we know, it is the first site of its kind to produce a real-time map of flooding in a city, driven by social media reporting. It allows citizens to contribute information without requiring them to learn a new technology, and provides answers to critical questions such as: “should I leave work early today?”, “is the evacuation shelter open yet?”, “which routes to my child’s school are flooded?” and “has the flood in my neighbourhood receded?”

Perhaps the most significant success of the system was its use by the Jakarta emergency management agency (BPBD DKI Jakarta). In 2015 the agency used as an early warning system, allowing it to identify and cross-verify locations of flooding, speed up its response, and communicate with residents in flood-affected areas in real-time.

Reports from were also fed directly to the Jakarta Smart City dashboard and to the office of the governor to provide a city-wide overview. At the launch of the platform in December 2014, the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, called on government employees and residents to report flooding as part of their civic duty.

Jakarta’s citizens are keen users of smartphones and social media - a 2012 study found Jakarta the most active city in the world on Twitter.

This month has begun to train 1,001 government employees how to use the platform during flood events and a second version of the platform has been launched, which integrates reports from the government-sponsored citizen-reporting app Qlue and Pasangmata, a citizen journalism app created by the Detik news agency.

The new version of the map will integrate flood reports with official government data, including river gauge readings and flood heights. This will provide a single point of reference for the emergency management agency to identify and alert residents to locations of flooding in real-time.

While previous funding initiatives have focused on networks of digital sensors to measure changes in the environment as part of the drive for smart cities, on their own these sensors do not create resilience. Digital sensors cannot provide context, convey urgency, or describe where aid is required.

Resilience is built by communities and agencies before, during and after a disaster. Resilience includes the work of volunteers, such as those in northern England who, following recent flooding, organised to clean streets, clear debris, and distribute aid to those in need.

In the information vacuum that follows disasters, residents the world over are organising themselves using social media. With extreme weather emergencies becoming more common because of climate change, cities and governments will need to harness that power.

Tomas Holderness and Etienne Turpin are co-directors of, a project led by the SMART Infrastructure Facility

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Record hot years almost certainly caused by man-made warming

Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 26 Jan 16;

OSLO (Reuters) - A record-breaking string of hot years since 2000 is almost certainly a sign of man-made global warming, with vanishingly small chances that it was caused by random, natural swings, a study showed on Monday.

Last year was the hottest since records began in the 19th century in a trend that almost all scientists blame on greenhouse gases from burning of fossil fuels, stoking heat waves, droughts, downpours and rising sea levels.

"Recent observed runs of record temperatures are extremely unlikely to have occurred in the absence of human-caused global warming," a U.S.-led team of experts wrote in the journal Scientific Reports.

Written before 2015 temperature data were released, it estimated the chance of the record run - with up to 13 of the 15 warmest years all from 2000 to 2014 - was between one in 770 and one in 10,000 if the series were random with no human influence.

Lead author Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, told Reuters that the group's computer simulations indicated those odds including 2015 had widened to between one in 1,250 and one in 13,000.

"Climate change is real, human-caused and no longer subtle - we're seeing it play out before our eyes," he wrote in an e-mail. Natural variations include shifts in the sun's output or volcanic eruptions, which dim sunlight.

"Natural climate variations just can't explain the observed recent global heat records, but man-made global warming can," Stefan Rahmstorf, a co-author from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact, said in a statement.

The scientists tried to account for factors including that heat from one warm year spills over into the next. And temperatures in many years are almost identical, making it hard to rank their heat with confidence.

Last month, almost 190 nations agreed at a summit in Paris to the strongest deal yet to shift from fossil fuels towards cleaner energies such as wind and solar power to limit warming.

Separately on Monday, the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed U.S. and British data showing 2015 was by far the hottest year on record and noted that a powerful El Nino event, warming the surface of the Pacific Ocean, had stoked extra heat.

"The power of El Nino will fade in the coming months but the impacts of human-induced climate change will be with us for many decades," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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