Best of our wild blogs: 2 Mar 16

Wild fun for kids during the March school holidays!
wild shores of singapore

Temasekia: 50 Plants and Animals Native to Singapore available in stores
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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Cross Island Line: Key step needed in environment assessment process

Straits Times Forum 1 Mar 16;

I applaud the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for engaging various stakeholders regarding the Cross Island MRT Line ("Both possible alignments for CRL will be studied" by Mr Chew Men Leong of the LTA; Feb 22).

However, the letter showed a significant lack of understanding of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which has caused undue stress to residents, businesses and nature lovers.

In the EIA process, scoping is a critical early step that surfaces social, environmental and economic issues before any project or development (in this case an alignment) is conceptualised, so that voices can be heard and decisions can be made with a holistic view in mind.

Leaving out engagement at the scoping stage, while subsequently throwing in a seemingly speculative figure of $2 billion and announcing the possible social impacts after the completion of EIA Phase 1, unsettles the public and is contrary to the goal of constructive, inclusive decision-making.

Nonetheless, there are agencies and projects which are moving towards a much more effective model.

For instance, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and National Parks Board, through the Friends of Ubin Network, put in a valiant effort to engage a relatively diverse group of non-governmental organisations, businesses and residents to understand their needs, concerns and dreams in order to scope out a list of acceptable projects and developments on Pulau Ubin.

I urge agencies to carefully consider their approach to future projects and the engagement process, to avoid polarising the public and to encourage cooperative deliberation instead.

Chen Dexiang

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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Publish environmental impact studies as a matter of course

KWAN JIN YAO Today Online 2 Mar 15;

I refer to the report “Govt agencies may post environmental impact studies online in future” (Feb 27), which reported that after the unprecedented release online of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report by the Land Transport Authority, government agencies will consider doing the same for future reports. This is especially if there is significant public interest involved.

Publishing such reports online should be the norm, not the exception, especially when the definition of “significant public interest” can be ambiguous. It also allows the Government to better gauge sentiments, enriching discourse in the process.

Arguments that EIA reports could be too technical or too voluminous, or may not be easily understandable or interesting to the layman, are not necessarily valid.

First, if this is an issue, it may point to the need for public agencies to not only make these reports more readily available, but to also improve how the findings from these studies are communicated or presented.

The second point concerns knowledge and knowledge-sharing. The EIA reports provide valuable information, and it is true that not all Singaporeans will be able to grasp the content, especially when it is technical. But if access to these reports is made more convenient, more groups of professionals who have recognised skills and knowledge across different domains can make sense of them, and share valuable feedback.

The third point concerns consultation. In addition to consultation after the publication of these EIA reports, it appears useful to involve more Singaporeans at an earlier stage.

Public participation may be messy, yet considering a wider range of viewpoints can strengthen the eventual justifications made.

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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Dry and warm conditions expected in first half of March: MSS

The Meteorological Service Singapore says temperatures may reach as high as 34°C during this period.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The dry weather experienced in the past week is expected to extend into the first two weeks of March, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said on Tuesday (Mar 1).

The temperature during this period is expected to range between 24°C and 33°C on most days, but on some days the daily maximum temperature may reach as high as 34°C.

MSS said dry and occasionally windy conditions are expected to prevail on most days, but there will be localised short-duration thundery showers. These will be expected mostly in the afternoon around the middle of the fortnight period.

"The showers may be heavy at times on days when there is convergence of winds coupled with strong solar heating of land areas," it said.

According to MSS, Northeast Monsoon conditions are forecast to persist in March with low-level winds blowing predominantly from the north or northeast, and rainfall for the first half of the month is expected to be "near-normal".

- CNA/mz

Mostly dry and warm days ahead for first two weeks of March
Today Online 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — The next two weeks should see mostly dry and warm conditions, said the weatherman on Tuesday (March 1).

According to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS), daily temperatures during this period is expected to range between 24°C and 33°C on most days. There will be days that the daily maximum temperature could reach up to 34°C, the Met Service added.

Nonetheless, rainfall for the first half of March is expected to be near-normal. Localised short-duration thundery showers are expected in the afternoons of some days, with heavy showers possible on days when there is convergence of winds coupled with strong solar heating of land areas.

Singapore is in the midst of the North-east Monsoon conditions, with low level winds blowing predominantly from the north or north-east. Last month was the fourth warmest February since 1929, with the highest daily maximum temperature recorded ranging between 33.8°C and 34.2°C, while the mean monthly temperature was 27.8°C. This is despite the fact that the second week of February saw occasionally windy and cool weather conditions, with the lowest daily minimum temperature recorded between 21.5°C and 22.5°C due to a monsoon surge that affected the region.

The warm conditions though did not mean less rainfall. Rainfall across Singapore was above average last month, said the Met Service. The highest rainfall of 186mm (68 per cent above average) was recorded over the eastern part of Singapore around Changi. Rainfall was lowest over the north-eastern part of the island around Seletar, where 178mm (11 per cent above average) was recorded.

More windy days ahead with north-east monsoon
Adrian Lim, The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Mar 16;

Even as the dry weather carries over from the past week into the fortnight ahead, Singaporeans will feel the wind in their hair.

This is because the north-east monsoon, which brought heavy showers in December and January, is reaching its end.

"The windiness is typical of this time of year... Based on historical data, by mid/late March, it should be calmer as inter-monsoon conditions will prevail," said Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's department of geography.

A Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) spokesman said that over the next two weeks, occasional windy conditions with daily average wind speed of 15kmh to 30kmh can be expected. The northern and eastern parts of the island are likely to experience windier conditions.

The MSS said that during the north-east monsoon season - between December and March - cold and dry conditions develop over much of continental northern Asia. "Intense high-pressure systems in these regions produce occasional surges of strong and cold winds that flow southward to the South China Sea and our surrounding region," it added.

In terms of rainfall over the fortnight, the MSS said there will likely be localised, short-duration thundery showers in the afternoon on some days. The temperature is expected to range between 24 and 33 deg C on most days.

Housewife Merinna Choy, who is in her 60s and lives in Upper Thomson, said: "These days, it's windy not just in the evenings but also during the afternoons when it is sunny.

"My wind chimes at home are making a lot of noise," she quipped.

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Approval required for sale of GM fish for human consumption: MND

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will consult a national committee in assessing the food safety of the fish, with reference to guidelines established by the UN and World Health Organisation.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: Those who wish to sell genetically-modified (GM) fish in Singapore for human consumption must first seek approval from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (Mar 1).

In a written parliamentary reply to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera, Mr Wong said the AVA will consult the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) in assessing the food safety of the fish, with reference to guidelines established by United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation.

GMAC is a national committee comprising representatives from government agencies, research bodies and other supporting organisations overseeing aspects of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in Singapore - such as research and development, production and handling.

Mr Wong said those who wish to conduct research on GM animals including fish, must also first obtain GMAC's approval.

"In deciding whether to allow the proposal to proceed, GMAC will consider whether appropriate measures are in place for the safe containment, handling and transport of the GM animals, in accordance with the Singapore Biosafety Guidelines for Research on GMOs," said Mr Wong. "This is to keep research safe and ensure public and environmental safety."

- CNA/hs

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Explore new industries such as urban farming, solar power: Leon Perera

In his adjournment motion speech in Parliament, the NCMP suggested the authorities be more proactive in grooming local SMEs to develop new technology.
Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: In his adjournment motion speech in Parliament on Tuesday (Mar 1), Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera said Singapore could explore, invest in, and export new industry sectors such as urban farming or generating solar power.

He also said the authorities should be more proactive in grooming local Small and Medium Enterprises to develop new technology.

"We hope these suggestions would lead to more fact-finding on the part of the relevant Government agencies, working with academia and the private sector, so as to develop these two sectors as engines for economic and non economic benefits for Singapore," Mr Perera said.

"We are at our best when we apply ourselves to overcoming our natural limitations," he added.

In response, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said the Ministry was working with the Ministry of National Development and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore to grow these emerging industries.

She said the Committee of the Future Economy is also looking at identifying other new sectors: "We are moving into adjacent growth areas, and all this, some of these benefits extend beyond direct economic impact and present exciting potential with room to grow."

- CNA/mz

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New dengue cases fell to 513 last week

The number of dengue cases reported in Singapore fell to 513 last week, after a spike in the previous week which saw 593 dengue cases reported, according to the National Environment Agency.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The number of new dengue cases in Singapore fell to 513 in the week from Feb 21 to 27, after rising sharply to 593 the previous week, according to latest figures published on the National Environment Agency (NEA) website.

Another 73 cases were reported between Feb 28 and 3.30pm on Feb 29.

A total of 4,548 dengue cases have been reported in Singapore since the start of the year. Two people - a 47-year-old man living in Marsiling Rise and a 67-year-old man living in Toa Payoh - have died of the disease so far.

The Ministry of Health and NEA have warned that the number of dengue cases in Singapore may exceed 30,000 this year, higher than the record of 22,170 reported in 2013.

This is due to factors such as warmer conditions brought about by the El Nino weather phenomenon, faster breeding and maturation cycles of the Aedes mosquito population and a change in the main circulating dengue virus, said both agencies at a joint media briefing.

The biggest cluster of dengue cases is now located in Yishun Ring Road and Yishun Street 81, with 112 cases reported, including five in the past fortnight.

- CNA/cy

New dengue cases drop to 415 last week
This was 97 cases fewer than in the previous week, and continues the downward trend, according to the latest data from NEA.
Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The number of new cases of dengue reported continued its downward trajectory, with 415 cases reported from Feb 28 to Mar 5, according to the National Environment Agency's latest data on Tuesday (Mar 8).

Last week's figure was 97 cases fewer than those reported in the previous week, it added. This meant there were 512 cases reported from Feb 21 to Feb 27, which was revised down from the 513 that was earlier reported.

Another 72 cases were reported from Mar 6 to 3.30pm on Mar 7, according to NEA's website.

A total of 4,889 dengue cases have been reported in Singapore since the start of the year. Two people - a 47-year-old man living in Marsiling Rise and a 67-year-old man living in Toa Payoh - have died of the disease so far.

The Ministry of Health and NEA have warned that the number of dengue cases in Singapore may exceed 30,000 this year, higher than the record of 22,170 reported in 2013.

This is due to factors such as warmer conditions brought about by the El Nino weather phenomenon, faster breeding and maturation cycles of the Aedes mosquito population and a change in the main circulating dengue virus, said both agencies at a joint media briefing.

The biggest cluster of dengue cases is now located in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, with 102 cases reported, including four in the past fortnight.

- CNA/kk

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Volunteers to get anti-littering enforcement powers

Changes to the National Environment Agency (NEA) Bill were passed in Parliament on Tuesday (Mar 1), including granting greater enforcement powers to community volunteers.
Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: Changes to the National Environment Agency (NEA) Bill were passed in Parliament on Tuesday (Mar 1), including moves to give individuals such as community volunteers the powers that an NEA officer has in relation to environmental offences.

Under the provisions of the Bill, individuals who are passionate about public cleanliness but are not affiliated with any non-governmental organisation can be a part of the NEA’s expanded Community Volunteer Programme.

The expanded programme allows for volunteers to receive training, similar to that of regular NEA officers. They will be involved in advocacy, outreach and educational activities for issues such as littering, smoking in prohibited places, spitting and urinating in public areas.

NEA's chief executive will also have the power appoint any individual as an auxiliary officer, with the enforcement powers of an officer or employee of the agency. It will be a punishable offence if anyone exhibits abusive or threatening behaviour against these individuals while they execute their duties as public servants.

"The idea of empowering regular civilians to enforce offences is not a foreign concept. This does not only help to save resources and generate more efficiency, but as a ground-up initiative, it will have more social impact. It will foster social norms, and I hope that it will remind would-be litterbugs that there are eyes around them. There are people who care, who love the environment watching them all the time," said Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah.

Responding to Parliamentary questions, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said the move to empower volunteers was not meant to save resources for the NEA.

“The expanded CV (Community Volunteer) Programme is to allow more members to participate, take great ownership in the care of the environment. It is not (meant) to supplement NEA’s enforcement headcount; it will not help NEA save resources,” he said.

Since its launch in 2013, NEA's Community Volunteer Programme has attracted more than 340 individuals from various non-governmental organisations to engage more than 2,500 litterbugs on public cleanliness and to bin their litter.


But some raised concerns over volunteer motivations and possible abuse of powers.

"There had been some concerns over the selection criteria for CVs," said MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Gan Thiam Poh. "I hope the ministry will ensure a stringent screening process to choose suitable candidates. They must have the right public spirit, good communications skills and care deeply about our environment."

"Prior to joining the CV Programme, we will properly screen and interview each individual to assess his interest and maturity towards environmental activities," replied Mr Masagos. "We will monitor what they do. If they have the propensity to issue summons almost every hour, certainly these are not the right kinds of people we should be deploying. You need to affirm their contributions to the cause, and therefore training, monitoring will all be part of what we do with the volunteers."

Meanwhile, Workers' Party member Associate Professor Daniel Goh questioned the need to give citizens the power to book fellow citizens, calling it a move that will create a “new culture of antagonism between fellow citizens”, and turn “community volunteers into functionaries of the state”.

In response, the minister said that based on the experience of existing volunteers there has been relatively little need for enforcement action on their part, as the majority of litterbugs comply when asked to pick up their trash.

Mr Goh also raised the need to give them power, when only 1 per cent of cases required the power of pseudo police officers.

He said: "When NEA launched the Community Volunteer Programme in 2013, it was envisioned that the programme will involve stakeholder non-governmental organisations to encourage the community to take ownership of the environment and help tackle the littering problem. Volunteers were trained to approach litterbugs and speak to litterbugs as fellow members of a community, as peers, as fellow citizens or residents.

"Conversations between ordinary people, invoking the morality of living in the same community, work 99 per cent of the time. Only in 1 per cent of the time did the volunteers have to act like pseudo police officers. If this trend goes on, we will indeed create a new culture of caring for the environment. Which is why I find it very difficult to understand the necessity of giving the volunteers the full powers of an officer of the state."

The Bill was also amended to grant NEA's officers or employees more powers. For example, this allows them to photograph or take a video of any offence under laws related to the environment.

- CNA/ll/ek

Volunteers to get enforcement powers to deal with ‘green’ offences
TOH EE MING Today Online 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — The amended Bill to provide community volunteers with greater enforcement powers to deal with environmental offences was passed in Parliament on Tuesday (March 1) — but not before almost all six Members of Parliament (MPs) who spoke on the issue voiced their concerns about the implications this might bring.

Their concerns included the possible abuse of power by the volunteers, who will be appointed as the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) auxiliary officers, and how greater policing might create a culture of antagonism among fellow citizens.

During the debate on the Bill, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli noted that the state of public cleanliness in Singapore is a growing concern, and pointed to reports on the large amount of litter that was left behind after the countdown to 2016 at Marina Bay.

“Over the years, Singapore has earned a reputation as a clean city ... However, maintaining a clean Singapore cannot be left to cleaners alone,” said Mr Masagos.

Citing concerns about the need for a stringent selection criteria to choose the volunteers, Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) said he hopes that they will have the “right public spirit, good communications skills and care deeply about our environment”.

The Workers’ Party (WP) Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) warned against equipping volunteers with “broad and sweeping powers”, such as as forced entry, search-and-seizure and arrest, as this would go against the very concept of volunteerism.

In addition, allowing residents to be able to penalise their fellow constituents for alleged environmental infringements could result in “potential flashpoints” for neighbourly disputes, said WP’s Png Eng Huat (Hougang).

He added: “I am deeply concerned that this Bill has the potential to make such disputes end in violence as the summons, deserving or not, will no longer be seen as coming from a neutral party.”

This Bill would also create “confusion” by adding another layer of enforcement action undertaken by appointed volunteer auxiliary officers, in addition to the duties executed by officers of the NEA and town councils, for instance, Mr Png said.

Non-Constituency MP Dr Daniel Goh, also from the WP, added: “This looks like a slippery slope down the road to a police state, where neighbours prey on each other and erode the mutual trust that we have painstakingly built up over the decades.”

In response, Mr Masagos pointed out that Singapore already has volunteer police with enforcement powers, stressing that volunteers should uphold their duties responsibly.

Proper screening and interviews would be conducted to assess the individual’s maturity and interest towards environmental activities, he added.

All volunteers must be Singapore citizens or permanent residents and at least 18 years old.

After undergoing training, they will be deployed in groups in certain areas, where needed. At the start, the volunteers will be paired with NEA enforcement officers to learn how to carry out their duties properly.

The volunteers will also be protected under the Protection from Harassment Act from any indecent, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour or words when executing their duties.

Mr Masagos stressed the need for people to cultivate a sense of responsibility towards the environment.

Agreeing, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) called for more in-depth educational projects, such as small community efforts targeted at hotspots for littering, beyond the usual national clean and green campaigns.

For instance, the NEA could do more research to identify the type of litter and demographic of litterbugs in a particular estate, before implementing the community projects.

Mr Masagos said: “We must ensure that the work (the volunteers) do is not the same work as our enforcement officers do, which is to enforce. They must be able to engage, to communicate and ensure that at the end of the day, they do this together so that everyone will love the environment deeply.”

Last year, the NEA issued more than 25,000 tickets to littering offenders, 32 per cent more than the previous year, and the highest in six years, said Mr Masagos in his speech.

2,800 reports of high-rise litter last year: MEWR
Last year, NEA took more than 800 enforcement actions against high-rise litterbugs, an 80-fold increase compared to 2011, when surveillance cameras had not been introduced yet, said Dr Amy Khor.
Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) received about 2,800 reports of high-rise litter in 2015, revealed Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor on Tuesday (Mar 1).

While no one was killed by killer litter last year, two people were arrested for causing harm by their actions, she said.

Dr Khor was speaking in response to questions on high-rise littering and whether current measures were sufficient. She said that NEA has "stepped up" the deployment of such measures, including the deployment of surveillance cameras, in cases of persistent high-rise littering.

"NEA has stepped up the deployment of these cameras over the years and has conducted close to 3,000 deployments since August 2012. Last year, NEA took more than 800 enforcement actions against high-rise litterbugs, an 80-fold increase compared to 2011, when the surveillance cameras had not been introduced yet," said Dr Khor, adding that offenders who were prosecuted in court received fines ranging from S$700 to S$5,600.

"NEA will continue to tackle high-rise littering by deploying surveillance cameras and secure the conviction of high-rise litterbugs," she added.

As for whether the ministry will consider tougher action on recalcitrant offenders, Dr Khor said the authorities must be mindful of certain specific factors, such as mental issues.


The Senior Minister of State was also asked about the deployment of cameras, and whether they were effective in leading to the identification and arrest of perpetrators.

"The success rate based on the number of cameras we deployed is about a third," she said. "The reason is, very often when we install the cameras, it may deter the litterbug from littering if he is aware that there is a camera focused on him or the unit."

Nonetheless, Dr Khor urged members of the public to help reduce killer litter.

"While the effective conviction of high-rise litterbugs will serve as a deterrent to would-be offenders, I would like to urge every member of the public to play his part to cultivate social graciousness, good habits, and a sense of shared responsibility for the cleanliness and safety of our neighbourhoods."

"Deploying more and more cameras really is not sustainable, and it is also not desirable," she added.

- CNA/av

2,800 reports of high-rise littering in 2015
LOUISA TANG Today Online 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) received about 2,800 reports of high-rise littering last year, about 300 more than the previous year, in spite of more surveillance cameras being installed to combat the scourge.

Senior Minister of State (Environment and Water Resources) Amy Khor gave details of the high-rise littering situation in Parliament on Tuesday (March 1), saying two people were nabbed for throwing “killer litter” that resulted in injuries in 2015.

Dr Khor said the number of surveillance cameras deployed to combat high-rise littering has increased by more than four times over the last three years. Close to 3,000 cameras have been rolled out since 2012, with 1,000 of these being put up last year alone.

Last year, the NEA took more than 800 enforcement actions against high-rise litterbugs, 80 times more than in 2011 before surveillance cameras were introduced. Offenders who were brought to court were fined between S$70 and S$5,600.

Dr Khor said that footage from about one-third of the surveillance cameras lead to the identification of litterbugs.

“Very often when we put the camera, it may deter the litterbug from littering when he’s aware it’s trained on him or the unit. In some instances, it’s also because of the understanding of the ground — the camera may be focused on the wrong unit or floor, and we’ll have to redeploy it,” she said.

Dr Khor pointed out that outreach and education efforts to caution residents against high-rise littering, conducted by the ministry, town councils and grassroots organisations, usually improve the situation, but surveillance cameras serve as an additional deterrent to persistent litterbugs.

Increasingly deploying more cameras, however, is “not sustainable and not desirable” given resource restraints, she added.

“We agree that high-rise littering is an antisocial act and poses a threat to public health and safety. At the end of the day, all of us need to play a part to cultivate social graciousness,” said Dr Khor.

New Paper 2 Mar 16;

YES: Everyone has active part to play

YES, community volunteers should be given enforcement powers.

Everyone needs to play an active role in keeping Singapore clean.

By expanding the Community Volunteer (CV) programme, passionate individuals can take greater ownership of our environment, and better complement the National Environment Agency's (NEA) enforcement efforts, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

When the CV programme was launched in 2013, volunteers, made up of civic group members, had the power only to ask offenders to pick up and bin their rubbish.

If they refuse, volunteers can only take down their particulars.

Now, a passionate individual who is not from any civic group can join the programme. They can fine litterbugs on the spot. (See report above.)

As someone in a non-governmental organisation for the past 15 years, first-time MP Louis Ng welcomed the move.

"This empowerment of volunteers is something that will be welcome, especially by the animal welfare groups," said Mr Ng, who founded the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society.

"It's also for the community to play a part rather than for the Government to do everything," he added.


The concept of empowering civilians is not new, said Nee Soon MP Lee Bee Wah as she cited Mumbai and Britain as examples.

As a ground-up initiative, it will help foster social norms, said Ms Lee, who runs a monthly litter-picking programme in her ward.

"I hope it will remind would-be litterbugs that there are eyes around them. There are people who love, who care for the environment watching them all the time," she said.

Ang Mo Kio MP Gan Thiam Poh agreed: "With more eyes and ears on the ground, we are taking a step in the right direction to eradicate littering."

NO: Potential flash points for disputes

NO, leave enforcement powers to the professionals.

Rather than building bridges in the community, we are building walls by endowing community volunteers with enforcement powers, said Hougang MP Png Eng Huat.

Such alleged environmental infringements can also become potential flash points for neighbour disputes, he said.

The Workers' Party MP, who said he does not support the bill, added: "The fundamental questions remain: Is there a shortage of manpower in NEA to warrant such a move to arm volunteers with enforcement powers? Is NEA losing the battle with litterbugs and dengue?"

Mr Masagos later clarified that this move will not help to save resources. Rather, it is to "allow more members of the public to participate and take greater ownership of the environment", he said.

But non-constituency MP Daniel Goh disagreed, saying: "There is a real danger that if full powers are granted, we will indeed create a new culture... not a beneficial culture of community ownership of environmental and public health issues, but a new culture of antagonism between fellow citizens."

Associate Professor Goh also questioned the justification behind giving powers to CVs.


Citing the success of the CV programme, he pointed out that in less than two years, 259 volunteers engaged 830 litterbugs.

Only 10 uncooperative ones were reported - proof that "conversations between ordinary people invoking the morality of living in the same community work 99 per cent of the time", he said.

He asked for the community volunteers to keep these conversations going.

"Leave the dirty work of punitive summons to the state officers who are best equipped to do the job," he said.


The Community Volunteer (CV) programme was introduced in 2013.

Under the scheme, volunteers are trained to educate and encourage litterbugs to pick up their litter. If the offender refuses to do so, the volunteer can take down his particulars and pass it on to the National Environment Agency (NEA) for enforcement purposes.

The volunteers came from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Singapore Kindness Movement, Singapore Environment Council and Cat Welfare Society.

With the NEA (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, individuals not affiliated with any NGO can be part of the NEA's expanded CV programme.

These individuals under the CV programme will be given powers similar to NEA enforcement officers once authorised by NEA's chief executive. This includes fining litterbugs on the spot.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli assured the House that there will be a stringent screening criteria.

Uptick in high-rise littering cases reported to NEA
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Mar 16;

No one was killed by killer litter last year, although police arrested two high-rise litterbugs who caused injuries.

Some 2,800 cases of high-rise littering were reported to the National Environment Agency (NEA) last year, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor yesterday.

This is up from the 2,500 cases reported in 2014, and 1,600 cases in 2013.

No one was killed by killer litter last year, although police arrested two high-rise litterbugs who caused injuries, she said.

Dr Khor was responding to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who asked how many cases of high-rise littering had resulted in injuries and deaths.

Several MPs also called for harsher punishment for recalcitrant litterbugs, citing examples of residents who have complained of clothes being burned by cigarette butts, and faeces being thrown from flats.

Dr Khor acknowledged that high-rise litterbugs "are traditionally difficult to apprehend".

To nab the persistent litterbugs, the NEA deploys surveillance cameras at suitable sites, she said.

More than 3,000 cameras have been deployed since August 2012.

Dr Khor said the cameras have led to identification of offenders in one-third of cases. She said this in response to Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC), who asked how successful the surveillance cameras have been.

Last year, the NEA took enforcement action in more than 800 cases, an 80-fold increase compared to 2011, before surveillance cameras were introduced, she said.

Those who were prosecuted in court were fined between $700 and $5,600.

When cases are reported, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources works with town councils and grassroots organisations to caution residents against high-rise littering, said Dr Khor. In most cases, the situation improved after these efforts, she said.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson SMC) asked ifthe ministry would consider revealing the identities of litterbugs, and confiscating the flats of recalcitrant offenders who persist despite being fined many times.

Dr Khor said naming and shaming litterbugs is something the ministry will "monitor and consider".

She also urged Singaporeans to play their part to combat high-rise littering, saying: "I would like to urge every member of the public to play his part to cultivate social graciousness, good habits and a sense of shared responsibility for the cleanliness and safety of our neighbourhoods."

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12,000 motorists booked for leaving engine on while vehicle was stationary

The Environment Minister says the 1,000-fold spike derived over the past three years is largely due to greater enforcement and more complaints from the public.
Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: About 12,000 motorists were booked over the past three years for leaving their engine on while their vehicle was stationary. The number of motorists booked for doing so in 2012 was only 12.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (Mar 1), Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said the 1,000-fold spike is largely due to greater enforcement and more complaints from the public.

He added that there could also be a misconception that engines still needed to be warmed up to get better fuel efficiency or to make the engine last longer.

"Vehicle manufacturers we have consulted say that engines warm up faster to reach the optimal temperature when the vehicle is driven at moderate speeds upon starting," said Mr Masagos.

He added: "That's new technology that we have today, so I hope we move away from the old habits ... to new habits because engines today do not have to (be warmed up before they move)."

- CNA/hs


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Malaysia: Ambitious Chinese Developers Plan Cities Abroad From Ground Up

Country Garden, Shanghai Zendai invest in big projects globally as growth at home stalls
JAKE MAXWELL WATTS and ESTHER FUNG The Wall Street Journal 1 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE—Chinese property developers have become a familiar sight at construction sites in both the world’s wealthiest and least-developed cities, from New York to Nairobi, Kenya.

Now, as growth continues to slow at home, they are becoming ever more ambitious, with plans to build not just skyscrapers and roads but entire cities from scratch. Some of the most ambitious plans are facing skepticism from analysts.

In January, Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co. began a marketing campaign to sell as-yet-unbuilt apartment units in a project in Malaysia called Forest City. Just north of Singapore, the company is reclaiming four new islands on which it plans to construct a $40 billion “eco-city” to house as many as 700,000 people.

In partnership with a company owned by the royal family of Johor, the state in which Forest City will be located, Country Garden has sunk about 2.24 billion Malaysian ringgit ($534 million) into the ocean to build the city foundations. Plans include a surface area that is almost entirely pedestrianized, with road traffic traveling through underground tunnels.

Chinese entertainment and property conglomerate Wanda Group and French retailer Groupe Auchan SA last week signed an agreement to jointly invest in a €3 billion ($3.26 billion) commercial-real-estate project in Paris that will include an indoor theme park and an outdoor theme park, hotels and a conference center.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed Shanghai Zendai Property Ltd. last year began construction on an 84 billion South African rand ($5.3 billion) project called Modderfontein New City, east of Johannesburg.

The project website says it aims to house as many as 100,000 people in the coming 15 years on a 1,600-hectare (3,950-acre) site. Besides housing, the plan includes large-scale urban parks, offices and shopping facilities located within walking distance of homes.

Developers began looking overseas for growth in 2013 following the Chinese government’s measures to cool local property markets and amid rising signs of a supply glut. But in the past most of their foreign projects have consisted of industrial zones and infrastructure that state-backed firms have built in Zambia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Vietnam and Thailand.

In 2015, Chinese groups spent more than $9 billion on development sites around the world, up 50% from $6 billion in 2014 and up more than 100 times from a mere $87 million in 2009, according to data from real-estate services firm JLL.

They started with cities such as London and New York before broadening out to emerging markets and launching joint ventures with local companies, said Sigrid Zialcita, managing director of Asia-Pacific research in Singapore at real-estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. Since then, “it morphed into something bigger,” she said. “This is one trend that is here to stay. If anything it will grow.”

Guangzhou-based Country Garden, which has also invested in Australia, has become more cautious about excesses in China. In November, it withdrew from the purchase of two land plots in Beijing it won at an auction when co-bidding with another developer, saying that the final price exceeded its own budget, according to a report on Bloomberg. Country Garden declined to comment on that.

Country Garden’s largest shareholder is Yang Huiyan, China’s 24th richest person with assets worth more than US$5 billion, according to Forbes. Ms. Yang is the daughter of the company’s founder, Yeung Kwok Keung, who transferred his holdings to her in 2007.

Shanghai Zendai, meanwhile, is a smaller property developer that has been struggling with weaker property sales in recent years, and has suffered falling profits since 2013. It recently issued a profit warning for its 2015 earnings.

But the megaprojects abroad are by no means a sure thing.

Peter Welborn, a partner at Knight Frank, said the Modderfontein project is possibly “where fantasy meets reality,” and is unlikely to be as grand in stature as its developers had originally promoted. Shanghai Zendai said the project has been downsized since originally being announced in 2013 as the “New York of Africa.”

It will now focus on a substantial regeneration of the brownfield site.

“The rate at which new development is delivered is guided by demand,” said Margot Orr, the principal-in-charge at U.K.-based Atkins, the lead design and engineering consultant for the project. The plan “is a flexible framework, so when demands change in the future, adaptions can be made without detracting from the project vision.”

In Malaysia, an economic slowdown has hurt demand for properties in the Johor state, and Country Garden clashed in 2014 with Singapore officials over the environmental impact of dredging. Singapore’s environment ministry said last month it is concerned that reclamation work on some of the Malaysian projects in the Straits of Johor may have commenced without the requisite environmental assessments.

The current project proposals don’t include a direct link between Forest City and Singapore despite the latter being promoted as a source of demand for properties in the new development. Country Garden has managed to sell only about 70% of the units built in another of its projects in Johor, known as Danga Bay. A company representative said Country Garden’s philosophy “is that we will create the market and the customers will arrive.”

Both Country Garden and Shanghai Zendai hope to market their projects to Chinese investors, as well as locals in their host countries, appealing to Chinese looking to move their money out of reach of Beijing authorities.

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Malaysia: Road project will split jumbos, say experts

The Star 2 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Isolated Bornean elephant populations in the east coast Lower Kinabatangan will be further fragmented should a road and a bridge be built there, said a wildlife researcher.

Director of Danau Girang field centre in Lower Kinabatangan Dr Benoit Goosens said the proposed project would split elephant herds in Sukau with those in Lokan and Tangkulap.

Elephants, he said, would not move under a bridge or a major trunk road as evident from the construction of a bridge across the Sungai Segama in the 1980s.

That bridge, he said, effectively iso­lated elephant populations between Batu Putih and Abai.

“Elephants will not go under the bridge due to the noise and vibration caused by passing trucks and cars and it’s dangerous for them when crossing roads,” said Dr Goosens, whose centre works with the Sabah Wildlife Department.

State Tourism, Culture and Envi­ron­­ment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had said on Monday that the Public Works Department was working out an alternative plan for the proposed bridge near Kampung Sukau.

The state Cabinet, he said, had discussed the issue of the proposed bridge following concerns over wildlife conservation in Lot 3 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Conservationists have said that the project would also create repercussions on the movements of elephants in the area where a reforestation programme under Project Relief is being carried out jointly by Nestle and Sime Darby Foundation.

Sime Darby Foundation chief execu­tive Yatela Zainal Abidin had also handed over a letter to Masidi to voice their concerns over the project.

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Malaysia: Concern raised over protection of Malaysia’s wild Tigers

TRAFFIC 1 Mar 16;

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1st March 2016—MYCAT, an alliance of four wildlife conservation groups has sounded the alarm over the loss of wild Malayan Tigers, following a spate of Tiger deaths in the country.

The concern was triggered by recent seizures of two wild Tigers from illegal traders and the rescue of a third from a snare. The wild population suffered a further loss when a Tiger, pregnant with two cubs, was knocked down along a major highway. These incidents occurred over a 26-day period, beginning 20th January this year.

The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) described the losses as the latest cases in a string of Tiger deaths in Malaysia and launched a petition last Friday calling for strengthened prosecution against wildlife crime and to ensure that the country’s laws are being fully utilised as a deterrent against poaching and trafficking, particularly of wild Tigers. The online petition also calls for better protection for Tiger habitats and can be signed online, not just Malaysian citizens at

Malaysia has between 250 and 340 wild Tigers, down from an estimated population of 500 over a decade ago. In 2013, the country saw its biggest Tiger trafficking case when a local man was caught with eight Tiger skins and 22 bags of Tiger bones in his house in northern Peninsular Malaysia. He was convicted and sentenced to just 12 months in prison and MYR200 000 (approximately USD47 620) in fines, despite the law allowing for stiffer penalties. The arrest this February of a man caught while ferrying a Tiger carcass on the back of his motorcycle also points to how emboldened some wildlife criminals have become.

“Time and again Malaysia has seen Tiger traffickers and traders get away with a slap on the wrist, although the law allows for so much more. Why should they get away with lenient sentences, when Tigers get the death penalty?” said Dr Kae Kawanishi, Tiger biologist and MYCAT General Manager.

MYCAT is hoping to amass 100,000 signatures by Global Tiger Day on 29th July 2016.

MYCAT comprises the Malaysian Nature Society, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme and WWF-Malaysia and serves as a joint platform for work to conserve wild Tigers in Malaysia.

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Indonesia: Sinar Mas says it is 'victimized' in recent forest fires

Khoirul Amin, 1 Mar 16;

Diversified conglomerate Sinar Mas has claimed it was a victim in the recent forest fires that affected not only the nation, but also neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysia.

Sinar Mas managing director G. Sulistiyanto said on Tuesday that rival companies had put the blame on his firm as they were worried its soon-to-be launched pulp and tissue mills would make market competition stiffer.

“How could we burn an industrial forest that we built ourselves?” he said during a meeting with Industry Minister Saleh Husin at the PT OKI Pulp and Paper Mills industrial complex in Ogan Komering Ilir regency, South Sumatra.

OKI is Sinar Mas' largest pulp business arm and is set to start operating what it claims will be one of the largest pulp mills in Asia in October this year.

The pulp mill will produce 2 million tons of pulp annually, with some 80 percent expected to be exported.

The company also targets to start the construction of a tissue plant, with the capacity to produce 500,000 tons of tissues a year.

The two plants will occupy 1,700 hectares land, with total investment of US$3 billion. The two plants are forecast to have a combined export value of $1.5 billion.

A number of Singaporean retailers previously withdrew their paper and tissue products from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), another subsidiary of Sinar Mas Group, because of the company’s alleged involvement in Indonesia's recent forest fires. (bbn)

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Indonesia: Farmers to get insurance for harvest failure

The Jakarta Post 2 Mar 16;

The Gorontalo Agriculture Agency has launched an insurance program that will give farmers protection should there be harvest failures due to pest attacks, natural disasters and climate-related factors. The agency’s head, Muljady Mario, said to participate in the program, farmers should pay a premium of Rp 36,000 (US$2.70) per hectare to farmers’ groups in every planting season. State-owned insurance company Jasindo is involved in the program.

“The premium is actually Rp 180,000, but we subsidize 80 percent,” Muljady said.

He said that for the first step, they would give insurance for 20,000 hectares of land of the total targeted 32,000 hectares.

“We’ve been organizing discussions with farmers’ groups to promote the program, and we hope they are interested in joining,” Muljady said

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Vietnam hit by worst drought in 90 years

Scientists blame the ongoing 2015-2016 El Nino weather phenomenon, one of the most powerful on record, for the current drought.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Mar 16;

HANOI: Vietnam is suffering its worst drought in nearly a century with salinisation hitting farmers especially hard in the crucial southern Mekong delta, experts said Monday (Mar 1).

"The water level of the Mekong River has gone down to its lowest level since 1926, leading to the worst drought and salinisation there," Nguyen Van Tinh, deputy head of the hydraulics department under the Ministry of Agriculture, told AFP.

The low-lying and heavily cultivated Mekong region is home to more than 20 million people and is the country's rice basket. Intensive cultivation and rising sea levels already make it one of the world's most ecologically sensitive regions.

Scientists blame the ongoing 2015-2016 El Nino weather phenomenon, one of the most powerful on record, for the current drought. Water shortages have also hampered agriculture in nearby Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

Le Anh Tuan, a professor of climate change at the University of Can Tho in the heart of the Mekong region, said as much as 40-50 percent of the 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of arable land in the delta had been hit by salinisation.

"We do not have any specific measures to mitigate the situation," Tuan told AFP, adding that residents had been urged to save water for domestic rather than agricultural use.

Vietnam's communist rulers have announced US$3.8 million of financial assistance for affected areas.

The nation is the world's second largest exporter of rice and coffee, two crops that are particularly vulnerable to drought. Severe cold and drought hit Vietnam's lucrative coffee industry in 2013 and 2014.

Vietnam's rice yields have nearly quadrupled since the 1970s, official figures show, thanks to high-yield strains and the construction of a network of dykes that today allow farmers to grow up to three crops per year.

- AFP/yt

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Turtles' vulnerable start to life on Philippine coast

Hundreds of tiny turtle hatchlings emerge above a Philippine beach at night and immediately look to the sea, hoping to beat huge odds and start a remarkable trans-oceanic journey lasting decades.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Mar 16;

Morong (Philippines) - Hundreds of tiny turtle hatchlings emerge above a Philippine beach at night and immediately look to the sea, hoping to beat huge odds and start a remarkable trans-oceanic journey lasting decades.

The olive ridleys, each shorter than a credit card, are among five species of sea turtles in the Philippines that are in danger of extinction, mostly because they are prized as a protein-rich food.

"Not too long ago, all marine turtle eggs here ended up in the pot," said Manolo Ibias, 63, a part-time fisherman and farmer who in his youth stole ridley eggs buried along the coast to eat as omelettes.

As a late convert to conservation, Ibias has for the past 17 years led Pawikan Conservation Centre, a community-based effort to protect turtles in Morong, a town about 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Manila, which is the olive ridleys' largest known egg-laying site in the country.

Globally, all seven known marine turtle species are declining or near extinction, mostly because of human actions, according to the Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

These include accidental capture by giant nets of industrial-scale fishing trawlers, as well as coastal development that rob the migratory reptiles of nesting sites.

And while the sea turtle trade is banned under an international convention, their meat and eggs remain a source of food and income for many people, such as those in the mostly poor fishing villages near Morong.

They are also harvested around the world for medicine, religious ceremonies and as articles of fashion.


In the Philippines, government-led conservation efforts began in the early 1980s, said Angelita Viloria, from the government's threatened species management unit.

Viloria said these efforts, focused mainly on educating communities but with little funding, were aimed at protecting about 100 major nesting sites, including at Morong.

A law was also passed in 2001 punishing the trafficking of turtles and other endangered species with stiff jail terms and fines.

"Our goal is to reach a stable population, when they will no longer be endangered," she said.

However turtle numbers are likely still in decline, according to Romeo Trono, who previously ran the government's sea turtle conservation programme and is a respected global expert on the animal.

While some local communities have been educated, Chinese traders have emerged as the greatest threat, bringing boats close to Philippine islands and filling them with turtles bought from local poachers, Trono said.

In China, turtles have for centuries been prized for their medicinal value and as a food, and rising incomes in the world's most populous nation have fuelled demand.

Eleven Chinese fishermen wee arrested for poaching more than 500 marine turtles last year and are on trial on the western Philippine island of Palawan.

But Viloria conceded Chinese-orchestrated poaching remains a major problem in the Philippines, a nation of more than 7,000 islands with a small and poorly funded coast guard.

"Our waters are too vast. We cannot effectively conduct patrols," Viloria said.


Morong's Pawikan centre, named after the Filipino term for the animal, is promoted as a showcase for the national efforts to protect the species.

But it also illustrates the many challenges.

For five months starting each October, about 200 turtles lay an astounding 19,000 rubbery, ping pong ball-sized turtle eggs -- mostly olive ridley -- at Morong.

To protect them from poachers, the centre's 17 volunteers, mostly local fishermen and farmers, dig the eggs up and bury them at a guarded artificial hatchery nearby.

They also take turns patrolling the seven-kilometre (four-mile) stretch of South China Sea coastline in an all-terrain buggy in a bid to stop residents of nearby villages from stealing them.

Natural predation from birds and fish, as well as human activity, mean just one percent of hatchlings typically survive into adulthood, according to conservation groups.

At Morong, the odds are even worse.

Relocating the eggs initially to the artificial hatchery cuts their survival chances because they are taken away from their natural habitat, according to Ibias.

And with no national government financial support, the centre relies almost entirely on tourists for funding -- which has some potentially deadly consequences.

As a survival instinct to avoid predators, the hatchlings always emerge from their shells at night and aim to get straight to the water.

However, to cater for the tourists, the hatchlings are prevented from immediately running from the sand to the ocean, sometimes being made to wait hours in a big bucket until tourists turn up in the morning.

For 50 pesos (about $1), visitors can pick one up, take a photo with it, then release it into the ocean. But preventing the hatchlings from immediately crawling to the water exhausts them, Trono explained.

He warned low nesting numbers at Morong indicated the species may disappear locally soon.

Ibias also warned conservation efforts could eventually fail, with impoverished villagers often feeling they have no choice but to eat turtle eggs.

He said: "Until we alleviate the problem (of poverty), getting rid of the poachers will remain next to impossible."


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