Best of our wild blogs: 28 Mar 16

Alseodaphne nigrescens in MacRitchie Forest: Extinct No More
Flying Fish Friends

Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis) @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Monday Morgue

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More can be done to tap water’s potential as an urban asset

KHOO TENG CHYE Today Online 28 Mar 16;

Singapore’s commitment to greenery since independence has made our city more liveable even as our population and economy grow. Roadside greenery, the backbone of our City in a Garden vision, forms a pervasive green matrix with parks, nature areas, community gardens and high-rise greenery.

Today, greenery is what most distinguishes us from other densely populated cities. What about water?

While there is ample support from the Government, industry and citizens for planting trees and shrubs, I believe that integrating a blue layer into Singapore’s green matrix can boost its liveability to a new level.

Many people are surprised by Singapore’s Blue Map of 17 reservoirs and about 8,000km of waterways. In comparison, Singapore’s iconic roadside greenery lines the road network of just 3,500km. And there are going to be more projects at waterbodies and waterways. PUB, the national water agency, announced last week that 20 more projects under the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme are slated to be completed over the next five years.

With such an extensive water network and 2.4m of annual rainfall across the island, Singapore ought to be a Venice! But no thanks to civil engineers like me, most blue areas became ugly concrete drains, canals and stormwater collection ponds to serve water supply and flood-control needs, which were critical in Singapore’s early years.

From the 1960s, PUB focused on critical challenges such as droughts, floods and pollution. PUB improved water security by diversifying our sources via the Four National Taps: Local catchment water, imported water, NEWater and desalinated water. The Singapore River and other waterways were cleaned up.


In the 1980s, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) developed a vision to re-naturalise our engineered waterways, to bring about even more greenery throughout the island. The idea came from Mr Lim Hng Kiang, then a Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of National Development (MND).

I helped him set up a Waterbodies Design Panel, chaired by Dr Liu Thai Ker and involving the Ministry of the Environment, the URA, the Housing and Development Board and others.

The panel created some outstanding projects. Amid the high-rise public housing of Pasir Ris town, Sungei Api Api became a scenic river lined with lush mangroves, instead of a typical monsoon canal. In another town, Bukit Panjang, what might have been a bare stormwater pond became an attractive wooded lake. Based on this approach, URA then drew up a Parks and Water Bodies Plan.

But years later, when I had the good fortune to head PUB, I discovered to my horror that implementation had petered out. Inspired by the success of NParks’ Park Connector Network, we then started the ABC Waters Programme in 2006.

We developed the ABC Waters Master Plan based on Singapore’s Blue Map. This plan identified some 100 potential projects for implementation by 2030. Fortunately, the Government agreed it was a worthwhile programme to support.

We are now 10 years into the ABC Waters programme. PUB has completed some 30 projects so far, including iconic projects at Kallang River (Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park), Lorong Halus Wetland and Alexandra Canal.

With these projects, people can now get much closer to water and appreciate the beauty and nature that comes with it.

Unlike monsoon drains, the re-naturalised river at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park allows children to get their feet wet during dry weather, catch fish and see all sorts of wildlife, such as egrets and otters. The ABC Waters sites also serve as outdoor classrooms to learn about the importance of protecting our water resources and how the design features cleanse the rainwater runoff before going into drains. Water sports such as sailing and kayaking are also enjoying a revival in Marina Bay and other reservoirs. More water stewards have come forward to adopt these sites to do their part for the water cause.

In 2010, PUB launched the ABC Waters certification scheme to give recognition to private developers and other agencies who incorporated ABC Waters concepts in their developments. Design guidelines and engineering procedures were published to establish technical standards, and pilots were carried out to demonstrate the effectiveness of the design features in cleansing the rainwater runoff. PUB also worked with professional institutions, universities and polytechnics to train students and professionals in the field.

Still, some building and planning professionals remain content with conventional drains, canals, stormwater ponds and other water infrastructure. As a result, great opportunities to develop a more beautiful, biodiverse and vibrant city are missed.


Can the ABC Waters design concept be extended to all water infrastructure? Can all HDB towns and residential areas be designed adopting the ABC Waters principles? This is our ultimate goal: To make ABC Waters pervasive across the island.

There have been successful trial runs. Thousands of families have enjoyed the scenic Punggol Waterway linking two reservoirs at their doorsteps. HDB is also creating an ABC Waters precinct, Waterway Ridges, in Punggol town.

In private housing estates, why not turn conventional drains into something different with the ABC Waters concept? PUB is piloting this in Windsor Park, one of the first projects of its kind under MND’s Estate Upgrading Programme. It introduced features such as vegetated swales and bio-retention swales to filter out sediments naturally and improve the quality of rainwater runoff entering the drain. These designs were modified so they are sited on top of the drains to adapt to the existing terrain of the site, so you see landscaping instead of concrete drains. Can all residential areas be designed with such principles? Similarly, all roads can be designed with bioswales instead of concrete drains. We have experimented with it, and PUB is exploring with the Land Transport Authority to do more.

It is with these challenges in mind when PUB said last week that it is looking at more ways to encourage wider adoption of the ABC Waters concept and its design features within development sites. Already, there are 54 ABC Waters certified projects, and more can be done. There are plans to guide private and public developers in the design of their new developments such that they integrate seamlessly with their adjacent waterways.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong coined the phrase “a City of Gardens and Water” when he launched the ABC Waters Exhibition in 2007; he thought more should be done in this area. To realise the exciting potential of ABC Waters, we should make it a core part of our vision for the future. Much has been achieved already. The challenge now is to take it to a new level, creating a much more liveable and sustainable City of Gardens and Water for all to enjoy.

About the Author:

Khoo Teng Chye is CLC’s executive director. He was chief executive of PUB, Singapore’s national water agency and CEO/chief planner of Urban Redevelopment Authority, among other positions in the private and public sectors.

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Connaught Drive part of a new civic district tree trail

KELLY NG Today Online 27 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — The Republic now has an “Avenue of Heritage Trees” — trees that have been silent witnesses to several milestones in Singapore’s growth as a city-state, including the declaration of independence and the first National Day Parade in 1966.

Connaught Drive in the civic district was christened as such after 22 of its rain trees were on Sunday (March 27) earmarked as heritage trees — the largest number recognised under the National Parks Board (NParks) Heritage Tree Scheme in a single avenue.

That is half of the total number of rain trees lining the road, which flanks the Esplanade Park. And the Avenue of Heritage Trees will soon form part of a new three-kilometre Civic District Tree Trail.

From May 1, guided walks will be held monthly along the trail, which starts at the Istana and goes past various landmarks such as the National Museum, St Andrew’s Cathedral and Waterboat House, before concluding at the Raffles Landing.

The trail is also being designed to showcase its natural history, including the trees along Connaught Drive, which are up to 150 years old. A trail guide will be available on NParks’ website.

Last year, five Angsana trees were transplanted to the Esplanade Park to recreate a spot frequented by couples between the 1960s and 1980s, better known by its Hokkien name “Gor Zhang Chiu Kar” (or “under the shade of five trees”).

The original trees were removed when they were hit by the Angsana Wilt, a disease that destroyed many mature Angsana trees in Singapore in the early 1990s.

Said Senior Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee as he launched the Avenue of Heritage Trees: “As we continue to plant new trees, we must also cherish and protect the trees that have been maturing gracefully since Singapore’s early days.

“These trees are a familiar sight for us, and have been providing shade, shelter and a green respite for many generations of Singaporeans.”

The Heritage Tree Scheme confers recognition based on each tree’s age, social, cultural or historical significance, girth and health.

Since its launch in August 2001, 257 trees around Singapore have been placed on the honour roll after they had been assessed by a panel comprising NParks staff and landscape experts.

At more than 180 years old, the iconic Tembusu in the Singapore Botanic Gardens is the oldest heritage tree endorsed to date.

The trees are inspected yearly by professional arborists for their health. Lightning conductors are also installed on those assessed to have a higher lightning risk.

Members of the public can nominate trees they deem significant to be considered as heritage trees.

Avenue of Heritage Trees unveiled as part of new Civic District Tree Trail
The 22 Rain Trees along Connaught Drive will be part of the upcoming Civic District Tree Trail to open on May 1.

Channel NewsAsia 27 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: An avenue of Heritage Trees, which will be part of an upcoming Civic District Tree Trail, was unveiled on Sunday (Mar 27) along Connaught Drive.

The avenue of 22 Rain Trees was launched by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee. This is the largest number of trees in a single avenue to be endorsed under the Heritage Tree Scheme, the National Parks Board (NParks) said in a press release.

The new Civic District Tree Trail will be opened to the public from May 1.

Among the highlights are Rain Trees with epiphytes at the front gate of the Istana, the Angsana in front of School of the Arts Singapore, the Heritage Ficus next to the National Museum, the Sagas within the St Andrew’s Cathedral compound, the Tamarind Tree at the entrance to the Merlion Park and a grove of Frangipani “Singapore White” trees at Raffles Landing.

A free guided tour of the two-hour trail will be available every month, NParks said.

“Even as we continue to plant new trees, we must also cherish and protect the trees that have been maturing gracefully since Singapore’s early days. These trees are a familiar sight for us, and have been providing shade, shelter, and a green respite for many generations of Singaporeans,” Mr Lee said.

“The Avenue of Heritage Trees gives us the opportunity to appreciate and to learn more about these important living heritage landmarks. Many of them are probably older than modern Singapore and have been silent witnesses of Singapore’s transformation.”

Some of the trees in the avenue are estimated to have been planted in the mid-1880s, making them more than 130 years old, NParks said.

- CNA/cy

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Barramundi Asia aims to reel in fish lovers as it expands

Jeremy Koh Straits Times 21 Mar 16;

Local fish farm Barramundi Asia is expecting business to skyrocket within the next three years. The firm believes annual sales of the barramundi it farms could surge to 6 million kg a year by 2019 from about 500,000kg of fish last year.

The firm did not export the fish to the United States last year but intends to export 20,000 kg a month there by the end of this year.

It has entered into a partnership with seafood exporter Sano Seafood and began shipping to the United States last month.

The total production capacity of its two fish farms in Singapore is 6 million kg a year.

When asked about this opportunity for growth, chief executive Joep Staarman said that Barramundi's output last year was very small compared to global seafood demand. As a result, there was significant room for expansion.

The total global demand a year for barramundi is 160 million kg, and growing by a little over 10 per cent a year, said Mr Staarman, who was previously the managing director for Asia-Pacific at Marine Harvest.

Mr Andrew Kwan, group managing director of Commonwealth Capital, which is a majority owner of Barramundi Asia, said that a significant long-term driver of demand for farmed barramundi is that the supply of wild fish from the ocean is depleting.

Mr Staarman said increasing consumer health consciousness has also driven more consumers towards fish, which is regarded as a healthier choice than red meat. One of the firm's competitive advantages is that its fish are grown in the sea, and taste better than barramundi bred in freshwater, he said. The barramundi - known by different names across Asia - can live in saltwater and freshwater. When freshwater barramundi is cooked, it may retain a muddy smell from the pond, he said.

To manage manpower costs, the company uses automatic feeding systems and it has purchased a fish scaling machine.

Barramundi Asia has a 7.5ha European Union-certified farm off Pulau Semakau. The second farm site, located just off Raffles Lighthouse, is 12ha in size. The business is exploring areas outside Singapore where it can expand further.

Mr Steve Aw, assistant vice-president for marketing at the restaurant chain TungLok Group, said that TungLok orders barramundi only from this firm. "The meat itself is very sweet and fresh; after grilling, the skin is crispy. Customers like it a lot, it doesn't have a fishy smell like some other fish," he said.

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Malaysia: Dead fishes wash ashore at Bachok, Pasir Puteh

Fish Galore In Bachok, Pasir Puteh
Bernama 27 Mar 16;

BACHOK, March 27 (Bernama) -- Fish has been on the dining table of coastal villagers in Bachok and Pasir Puteh daily since Thursday.

And they did not have to buy the fish, but just collect them at the beaches.

Wave after wave had brought ashore dead fish, possibly due to the rise in sea temperature brought on by the El Nino phenomenon.

Villager Abdul Rahim Che Seman, 50, said the villagers rushed to collect the fish, mainly 'gelama', which were still fresh.

"We believe the fish could not withstand the rise in sea temperature because of the El Nino phenomenon," he told reporters at the Melawi beach here.

He said some of the villagers, having collected more fish than their families can consume, sold the gelama fish for RM10 per kg, below the market price of RM15.


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Malaysia: RM4m allocated to build tube wells in states badly affected by heatwave

T.N.ALAGESH New Straits Times 27 Mar 16;

KUANTAN: The Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry has set aside RM4 million to build tube wells in six states that were badly affected by the heatwave.

Its deputy minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said the wells, which would serve as an alternative for farmers to water their crops during the dry season, would draw underground water to be chanelled into the affected areas.

“The ministry has made the necessary preparations to face the dry spell and will provide assistance to those in the agricultural sector.

“The hot season can potentially affect the farming sector and so far it has not disrupted our supplies,” he told reporters after visiting traders at the Pasar Tani Mega here today.

Among the states badly affected by the dry spell are Perlis, Kedah, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan, Malacca and Johor.

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Malaysia: 3,000 tonnes a month: Why are Malaysians wasting so much food?


Supermarkets in France have been banned from throwing away or spoiling unsold food, by law and are now required to donate unwanted food to charities and food banks. Could Malaysia similarly benefit from legislation to control food waste in the country?

IT is shocking. Every day, Malaysia disposes of 3,000 tonnes of preventable food waste, the largest contributor of solid waste and largest source of harmful greenhouse gases in the country.

The amount makes up between 31 and 45 per cent of an average of 36,000 tonnes of garbage generated annually, says the National Solid Waste Management Department.

The national coordinator for the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry-Japan Environment Ministry collaboration project, Dr Theng Lee Chong, says households contribute the largest portion of food waste, followed by night and wet markets, food courts and restaurants, hotels, and the food and beverage (F&B) industry.

He believes that a stringent, rather than the carrot-and-stick approach will reduce the amount of disposed food scraps.

“Regulations should be introduced, particularly in the F&B industry. In Japan, the F&B industry is subject to the Food Recycling Law. Even though the law focuses on food waste rather than food wastage, it still helps reduce food wastage indirectly, as the F&B industry needs to comply with a regulated food reduction and recycling rate.”

Dr Theng says awareness of the importance of food waste management in Malaysia is low, but adds that he has seen an improvement in recent years.
“Some hotels have started to think of alternatives to throwing away edible food. The first food bank I developed with the Petaling Jaya City Council tries hard to get hotels’ participation. Some restaurant operators advise customers to order less food, as well as provide containers so that customers can bring home leftovers,” says Dr Theng, who is also Association of Environmental Consultants and Companies of Malaysia deputy chairman.

He says some hypermarkets sell partly damaged vegetables and fruits at a lower price instead of dumping them into landfills.

Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) director-general Datuk Dr Sharif Haron says while legislation is effective in controlling food waste, Mardi continues to advocate the voluntary approach through awareness, persuasion and education, appealing to stakeholders in the F&B industry.

“We need to educate the public on how much value we put in food, and we are persuading large hypermarkets and supermarkets to donate soon-to-expire food to the needy and charities instead of disposing the items, which will end up in landfills.

“If the result remains poor after the campaign, we will need to go down the enforcement route. Laws will be implemented if necessary.”

Mardi and the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry are the coordinators of the MYsavefood programme, which promotes the reduction of food loss and food waste.

The programme is an awareness campaign by the MYsavefood network, which is part of global initiative SAVE FOOD by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

To date, more than 350 organisations and more than 50 countries have joined the SAVE FOOD initiative.

“Food loss and food waste have adverse effects on food security, the environment, natural resources, the cost of living and waste management. The response we are getting has been very positive,” says Sharif.

He says there is no difficulty in persuading stakeholders to be part of the network as many realise the importance of the initiative, but adds that he foresees challenges in securing commitment from all members to reduce food waste, as “the attitude and urgency is still very low”.

“The network needs to constantly update information that it gets from local and international sources on ways to reduce food loss and food waste. There are traditional or common perceptions and practices that need to be changed, such as ‘it’s better to serve more food than just enough’ and ‘if we think the food is not enough, usually, it is enough’.”

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Cheah Swee Hee agrees with Sharif.

“As a business organisation, we can control daily hotel food wastage by producing less food, but it is different for catered functions and events. Sometimes, organisers anticipate a bigger crowd than the amount that turns up and they order excess food, which ends up being wasted. In these cases, we have no choice but to dispose of the extra food.

“We don’t allow the removal of excess food from the premises as we need to ensure the health and safety of our customers. The food may be in good condition when served on the premises, but it may be contaminated when it’s being transported because of wrong handling or storage.”

Cheah, who is also Asean Hotel and Restaurant Association president, says MAH has signed a memorandum with the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation and is working with the Food Aid Foundation in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme to see how food can be recycled and food wastage prevented in the hotel and catering industry.

Instead of imposing a ban or legislation, GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd, which manages the Giant, Cold Storage, Market Place by Jasons and Mercato supermarkets, believes that the government can provide incentives to organisations to give away surplus food to charities.

“We don’t believe in wasting food and support any effort for food surplus to be placed in the hands of the hungry, as well as contribute to reducing damage to the environment by recycling organic waste,” says GCH Retail corporate affairs director Roseta Mohd Jaafar.

“Like other food retailers, we have small amounts of food that are no longer fit to be sold, but are suitable to be eaten. We have found a partner with which we work to give away surplus food to charitable organisations. We are in the final stages of announcing our CSR programme to reduce food wastage.”

The limited practice of turning food waste into compost or animal feed is also to blame for the large volume of food in landfills.

Sogo (KL) Department Store Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Andrew Lim Tatt Keong says authorities should get more F&B stakeholders involved in composting food waste and appoint a coordinating agency to transport the compost, to recycle it for use as crop fertiliser.

“Sogo KL sends food waste to Penang to be composted. In Penang, our main store, Gama, is actively composting. Penang has between 60 and 70 compost machines in schools, government agencies, departmental stores and factories, and there is a logistics company ready to transport the compost and recycle it for use as fertiliser. This system is lacking in Kuala Lumpur, as each company has its own way of dealing with things and there’s no standard procedure.”

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