Best of our wild blogs: 3 May 16

Come for Pesta Ubin 14 May to 12 Jun!
wild shores of singapore

Why did the giant clam cross the road?
Neo Mei Lin

Semakau North with Giant Clam finds
wonderful creation

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Visitors bugged by litter at scenic spots

Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 May 16;

Visitors to three popular beauty spots have recently complained about a spate of littering - and they believe they know who the culprits are.

The trash, usually found in spots near military training grounds, is suspected by hikers to have been left by those who were in the vicinity for military exercises.

Empty food ration packets, mess tins and transparencies bearing map markings have been found around Upper Peirce and Seletar reservoirs, as well as a beach near Pasir Ris.

Ms Debbie Fordyce, a rights activist, has been walking at the reservoirs for more than a decade and picks up litter when she sees it.

On April 10, she collected 64 empty ration packets, 23 clear plastic bags used to hold these rations and other items such as water bottles wrapped in green socks. "The trash filled seven full plastic bags," she said. Two weeks later, when she visited the same clearing, she and her nephew - together with this reporter - collected four bags of litter.

A biker, who wanted to be known only as Mr Koh, said he sees the trash on his route towards Seletar Reservoir every Sunday. The 43-year-old bank manager said: "The trash is usually scattered... and looks to be the work of irresponsible individuals, not an organisation.

"The sight is an eyesore, because the forest is a reserve meant for people who want to get away from the city. We don't need reminders of inconsiderate and uncivil behaviour."

As training grounds are out of bounds to civilians, the trash that the public found may be part of a larger litter problem.

A clean-up operation by the Public Hygiene Council on April 23 at a beach near Pasir Ris yielded at least 100 empty food ration packets.

Council chairman Edward D'Silva said: "Unfortunately, military trash found in public spaces is not something new."

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai urged the public not to quickly point fingers at the Ministry of Defence as the items could also be left behind by the public. He noted that trekkers may "want a realistic experience, and they buy military rations from the army market".

The empty ration packets on the beach, he added, could have been washed ashore by contractors who did not dispose of the trash properly.

"More investigation is needed," he said.

Colonel Andrew Lim, assistant chief of the general staff (training), said the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) "does not condone littering, whether in camps or in the training area". Servicemen are educated and consistently briefed on the need to keep the training areas clean and to dispose of waste appropriately, he said, noting that administrative areas are cleared of waste before units depart the training area.

Col Lim added: "We do our best to keep them litter-free. However, from time to time, we do receive public feedback of SAF litter in training areas.

"When that happens, the SAF will conduct clean-up operations. At the same time, servicemen caught littering will be disciplined accordingly."

Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah, who is also chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Water Resources, said there is "no magical answer" to the littering problem.

Ms Lee, a vocal advocate against littering, said: "We just need to go on emphasising to the public the need to be responsible citizens.

"Hopefully, in time, we win (litterbugs) over... We have set the ball rolling and we just have to keep at it."

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Project to use food waste to boost energy production faces setback

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 2 May 16;

SINGAPORE — A project to use food waste to generate more electricity has hit a snag, with delays caused and sub-contractors left in the lurch by a former partner of national water agency PUB.

The project, announced last June, was to build Singapore’s first co-digestion plant at PUB’s Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant. The plant was to validate the efficacy of co-digestion technology — adding food waste to used water sludge to generate more electricity.

It was to have been completed last September but is now about 60 per cent done, and slated for completion by year end, said the PUB.

The project’s troubles run deeper, however. Two sub-contractors of PUB’s ex-partner, Anaergia Pte Ltd, say they have not been paid over S$1.2 million and are crying foul at Anaergia Pte Ltd’s change of ownership.

The sub-contractors, local small and medium enterprises Structura Construction and Brilliant Engineering, had contracts with Anaergia Pte Ltd worth about S$1.4 million and S$1 million respectively. They have completed 90 per cent of construction work and 70 per cent of mechanical and electrical work, but have only been paid about S$638,000 in total.

Structura director Andrew Lee said his company is owed about S$960,000, while Brilliant’s project director Philip Sheng said his firm is owed about S$300,000.

This is despite the PUB having already paid S$3.3 million to Anaergia Pte Ltd. No outstanding payments are due to Anaergia Pte Ltd, said a PUB spokesman, stressing that the agency does not have any contract with Structura or Brilliant.

PUB said it paid Anaergia Pte Ltd upon the completion of each project milestone, and was informed by the sub-contractors only at a later date that Anaergia Pte Ltd had not paid them. “As PUB has no contracts with these sub-contractors, PUB then advised them to seek legal advice on the actions they could take to recover payment,” said the spokesperson.

Mr Sheng questioned what the company — which was part of the Canada-headquartered Anaergia group of companies until it was sold to a third party last December — has done with the money paid by PUB.

He said efforts to engage Anaergia Pte Ltd in recent months have hit a dead end, as all its employees have left and have said they had nothing more to do with the company.

“You don’t expect to get stiffed for a project like that,” added Structura director Amy Yeo, referring to PUB’s involvement. Both sub-contractors are seeking legal advice.

PUB said it has been in close contact with Anaergia Inc, which owns the technology to be used for the co-digestion plant. “Anaergia Inc sees the importance of this project, and has therefore resolved to dedicate its Singapore subsidiary, Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd, to complete the project,” said PUB. “PUB and Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd will continue to work closely to complete the project.”

Asked why PUB was continuing to work with Anaergia Inc when its former affiliate had failed to pay the sub-contractors, PUB said the team at Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd it is hoping to work with will not include anyone it previously worked with from Anaergia Pte Ltd.

According to Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) records, however, both companies shared at least one director.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament and clean energy advocate Edwin Khew was a director at Anaergia Pte Ltd until December, and is a director at Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd. He told TODAY he was involved only in marketing and project development, and not the project.

In reply to an email from TODAY, Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd managing director Luca Belli maintained that Brilliant’s and Structura’s contracts are with Anaergia Pte Ltd, which was “sold back in December 2015 to a third party which bears no relation to the Anaergia group of companies”.

Anaergia Pte Ltd is no longer part of the Anaergia group of companies, and is to be renamed as part of its sale conditions, he added. Asked about non-payment for work done by the sub-contractors prior to December, Mr Belli said to contact Anaergia Pte Ltd. TODAY was unable to reach the directors of Anaergia Pte Ltd, as stated in ACRA records, by press time.

Mr Sheng and Ms Yeo also questioned why PUB worked with Anaergia Pte Ltd, a company with only S$100 in paid-up capital. In response, PUB said research projects are to demonstrate the innovativeness and effectiveness of the technology in question. These projects are generally short-term and lower in value, compared with construction and development projects, in which a minimum paid-up capital of up to millions of dollars applies.

“Subjecting these technology providers to requirements similar to construction/development projects may stifle innovation and make it more onerous and difficult for such companies to test their ideas and technologies for acceptance and adoption,” said the PUB spokesperson.

The co-digestion project is co-funded by the TechPioneer scheme, administered by the Economic Development Board on behalf of the Environment and Water Industry Programme Office.

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Malaysia: Poultry farmers travel far in search of water

The Star 3 May 16;

KOTA TINGGI: Kota Tinggi folk are forced to travel as far as 20km to get water to meet their daily needs during the water rationing period in the district.

Poultry farmer Maiswan Musta­jab, 51, said since the rationing exercise began last month, he and his workers had been looking for water to keep his chickens alive and losses at a minimum.

He said since April 19, about 10,000 of his 25,000 chickens had died due to the lack of water and that it was hard to keep them alive as 10,000 gallons of water was needed each day.

“So, we would drive around to look for any possible water sources such as rivers, canals and also wells to keep my chickens alive,” he said, adding that his farm in Kampung Tuan Sheh had been operating since 1993.

Another farmer, Shahnur Nazri, 30, who has about 90,000 chickens, said he even woke up as early as 5.30am to beat others for water at the Teluk Mahkota canal, about 2km from his farm.

“I was only able to retrieve water from the canal for two days (April 19 and 20) as a lot of people went there for the same purpose, which caused the supply to deplete.

“So, now I have to travel about 6km to a pond in Jalan Semangga,” he added.

Shahnur said he also sought help from others to obtain RM4,500 litres of water from SAJ Holdings by paying a RM150 transportation charge per trip.

So far, he has paid four times since the rationing exercise started.

Bus driver Hussin Salleh, 65, said although the water supply taken from the nearby canal and well tasted funny, he could not do much as those were his only options apart from buying mineral water.

“Luckily it is not smelly, so I can still use it for washing and bathing because my family and I use the water supply given by SAJ for cooking and drinking,” he added.

Farmer Turino Mat Mustam, 48, complained that SAJ had not been following its every-two-day sche­dule when supplying water to his area and that taps had been dry for six days since the supply truck came.

“This has made our lives more difficult as I had to drive some 6km just to look for water and even bathed at a nearby canal and pond,” he said.

When contacted, State Health and Environment Exco Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the water taken from rivers, canals and wells should be safe for use if it was not contamina­ted by any chemical or poison.

“Even the state government encourages the people to use water supply from canals and wells and to practise rain harvesting, especially during water rationing or dry spells,” he said, adding that the public could always call the Health Department to analyse the water quality if they were unsure.

The water rationing period began on April 18 and is scheduled to go on until May 15. Until then, water supply is cut off for two days before resuming for a day.

Without rain, Penang paddy farmers risk losing S$12.7m
Today Online 3 May 16;

GEORGETOWN — Kedah may be the country’s rice bowl, but paddy farmers in neighbouring Penang are at risk of losing a whopping RM37 million (S$12.7 million) in revenue for the current planting season if the dry spell continues.

With the current weather conditions, the state government is prioritising human consumption and has cut water for irrigation purposes, which has affected farming operations.

According to Penang state agriculture department director Azahar Ibrahim, it costs about RM5,000 to plant each hectare of paddy field. “The total income losses they will face are calculated by deducting the costs from their estimated revenue,” he told Malay Mail Online.

The revenue for each hectare is estimated to be around RM9,000 to RM10,000, he said.

Currently, a total 8,622ha of paddy fields in Seberang Perai and Balik Pulau in the state, with a total 4,765 farmers, do not have enough water for irrigation.

The state had proposed a solution for the affected farmers in northern Seberang Perai to start the dry seeding method on May 10.

According to Kampung Terus farmer Md Pisol Mahamud, the dry seeding method requires less water, but once the paddy has sprouted, the fields still need to be watered by the rain.

“The fields need to be damp and this method takes a longer time for it to sprout as the seeds will depend on rain, so if there is no rain, some of it may not sprout at all,” he said.

He said even those paddy fields with irrigation now face risks if the dry spell continues because the paddy still needed to be watered after it has sprouted.

“Our yield may decrease by 70 per cent because of the weather,” he said.

Each paddy planting season lasts an average 115 days and it needs to be watered intermittently.

“Even for dry seeding, we need rain, and we can’t water it ourselves because this method means it needs water to be spread evenly throughout the field,” he said.

Malaysia, especially its states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak, has been enveloped in a heatwave — affecting up to four million people — resulting in the temporary closure of schools, as well as slowing vegetable production, leading to price hikes.

The drought has forced some states, such as Perlis and Johor, to impose water rationing.

Md Pisol’s paddy fields, located near the Kulim River, still have water supply for irrigation. He had already planted the seeds a few weeks ago.

“We were told that we will get supply as long as they can get water from the river, but if the water runs out, there’s nothing anyone can do but hope for rain,” he said.

When asked what he could do during times like this, he said they will have to look for other part-time jobs to supplement their income.

“It’s not like we will get money from the government,” he said. “What do the politicians know about our hardships? So we have to depend on ourselves.” MALAY MAIL ONLINE

Tunnel among plans to protect dam
The Star 3 May 16;

KERIAN: A 15km tunnel linking Sungai Perak to the Bukit Merah Dam and mini reservoirs there are among plans to ensure that water level at the dam stay sustainable, says Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.

He said the dam, which is one of the oldest in Malaysia, had been affected by peat soil siltation at the bottom of the lake.

To counter this, the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry has allocated RM10mil to clean up the peat soil.

“It will take time. Everyone must take care of the Bukit Merah Dam because it is a century-old piece of history. It is an important water source for the people of Kerian.

“It provides water to 30,000ha of farm land,” he said after visiting the dam yesterday.

The water channel from Sungai Perak to the Bukit Merah reservoir, he said, would take time.

“We need at least RM300mil to build this 15km tunnel, which will ensure that the water in the dam does not drop to critical level in the future,” he added.

Plans are also being discussed to build mini reservoirs and implement the River Bank Filtration (RBF) well project there, which Dr Zambry said could produce at least 25 million litres of water per day in the future.

RBF is a type of filtration by purifying water taken from pumps adjacent to a riverbank.

On land encroachment in the dam’s water catchment areas, Dr Zambry said the problem was not the only issue causing the water in the dam to drop to critical levels.

“Don’t just pinpoint one problem. We know the crisis has affected many, especially the farmers, but the peat soil siltation and dry weather also contributed to the issue,” he added.

It was reported yesterday that encroachment into more than 200ha of forest reserves was believed to be one of the factors affecting the water catchment area at the Bukit Merah Dam.

The forest reserves act as a buffer zone around the Bukit Merah reservoir.

Bagan Serai MP Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali said the land intrusion, especially at Kampung Selamat and the Pondok Tanjung forest reserve, had been happening over the past few years.

The land was cleared illegally for agricultural purposes.

The Bukit Merah Dam supplies water to over 22,000ha of padi field in the Kerian district and is a source of drinking water for over 200,000 people, including the industrial areas in Kamunting and Taiping.

According to Dr Noor Azmi, who is also Bagan Serai Agriculture Development chairman, measures to stop the dam’s water level from dropping, including cloud-seeding and upgrading the Bukit Merah reservoir, would be in vain if the encroachment issue was not addressed.

Yesterday, the level at the dam increased to 6.3m from 6.06m on April 25.

Hot spell causes water levels to drop at six dams in Kedah
The Star 3 May 16;

ALOR SETAR: Water levels at six dams in Kedah have dipped due to the heatwave caused by the El Nino phenomenon, according to the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada).

It said, however, water levels at three of the dams were still sufficient and at safe levels.

Mada deputy general manager (technical) Datuk Hor Tek Lip said the water levels at the Pedu Dam recorded a reading of 55.47%, Ahning Dam (71.69%) and the Muda Dam (30.40%).

"The water levels have dropped but it is still adequate to accommodate the irrigation system for the first 2016 paddy cultivation season despite the El Nino phenomenon," he said when contacted by Bernama.

The water level at the Beris Dam was at critical level, recording a reading of 26.43% compared with 38.99% on April 17.

The water levels of two dams in Langkawi, namely the Padang Saga Dam and Malut Dam, recorded a reading of 39.41% and 50.58%, respectively. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Fire-fighting course to prepare folk to respond fast in an emergency

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 3 May 16;

MUAR: In view of the current dry and hot weather which increases the possibility of forest fires, the Mukim Ayer Hitam community were given a two-day fire fighting course in the event they are the first responders during an emergency.

Mukim Ayer Hitam village head Mohd Afezan Yahya said the forest in the area is prone to fires so the community has to be prepared to be the first responders when it happens.

During the dry season, tropical peat swamp forests are especially vulnerable to destruction by fire because the soil is extremely flammable when dry.

“We do not want a repeat of the destructive fires that claimed a large part of the forest in 2014.

“The training provided gave us the knowledge and taught us techniques to deal with the fires that could happen anytime, anywhere,” he said.

Apart from putting out fires, the course also educated the community on preventive measures and the dangers of open burning or land clearing, which could lead to forest fires.

The course was part of Coca-Cola’s Water For Life programme in partnership with Yayasan Kemanusiaan Muslim Aid Malaysia, Forest Research Institute Malaysia and the Johor Forestry Department.

In conjunction with the International Day of Forests that fell on the day of the fire-fighting course, the participants also planted 500 trees such as the hardy and resistant peat swamp trees ‘kelat paya’ and ‘bintangor’ as part of the programme’s rehabilitation effort.

State Forest Department director Mohd Ridza Awang said that Johor is unique because it has all three types of Malaysian rainforests – dryland, mangrove and peat swamp with the 3,797ha Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve being the only peat swamp forest in the state.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Malaysia Public Affairs and Communications director Kadri Taib said that the goal of the project was to create water reserves in the area by rehabilitating degraded parts of the peat swamp forest to a level where it will hold more water.

He hoped that the efforts would eventually lead to the increase of biodiversity, as peat swamp forests are an important part of the eco-system.

“And because of the degradation in this area, water replenishment is an important part of its conservation that Coca-Cola is hoping to achieve,” he added.

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Malaysia: Uphill struggle to preserve country's forest cover -- Minister Wan Junaidi

AZURA ABAS New Straits Times 3 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has urged all parties to reconsider any plans to develop permanent reserved forest areas.

Its minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the move was necessary to ensure the country's forest cover remains beyond 50 per cent, especially in Peninsular Malaysia.

"For any permanent forest that has been degazetted or cleared for development, these areas must be replaced immediately in line with Section 12 of the National Forest Act 1964," he said in a statement today.

Wan Junaidi said that if necessary, by using the National Land Council platform, the ministry would call on state authorities to review land development projects that would involve permanent forest reserve.

He said permanent forest reserves in Kuala Lumpur has shrunk from 106.10ha to 68.27ha due to road and infrastructure developments.

There are four permanent forest reserves in KL namely Bukit Lagong with 2.10ha of forest cover, Bukit Nanas (9.37ha), Sungai Puteh (14.51ha) and Sg, Besi (42.29ha).

The permanent forest reserves, he said, were crucial as water catchment areas especially as with country facing the El-Nino phenomena.

In this respect, he said, it was sensible to stop any land development in permanent forest reserve areas immediately to support the nation's biodiversity conservation efforts.

Review forest clearing for projects, state govts told
MAZWIN NIK ANIS The Star 4 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The recent reckless clearing of forest reserves in the name of development has prompted the federal authorities to consider asking state governments to review such projects.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, through the National Land Council, will seek the states’ co-operation to protect the country’s green lungs and for those projects to be re-considered for the sake of the environment.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the Federal Government did not encourage permanent forest reserves to be de-gazetted for development although the states have the authority to do so under Section 11 of the National Forestry Act 1984.

“While they can allow these lands to be developed, the states must be responsible and committed to gazetting new areas as permanent forest reserves, just as fast as they approve the projects,” he said yesterday.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the next council meeting would discuss the suggestion that his ministry enforce a regulation whereby, before an existing area can be cleared for development, a replacement area must already be in place.

He said Malaysia was committed to several international treaties and agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agree-ment to maintain a forest area of no less than 50% of the country’s size, and reminded the states to play their part in maintaining green areas.

The minister pointed out that permanent forest areas in Kuala Lumpur had depleted from 106.10ha when these areas were gazetted to only 68.27ha today.

There are four permanent forest reserve areas in Kuala Lumpur – Bukit Lagong (2.1ha), Bukit Nanas (9.37ha), Sungai Puteh (14.51ha) and Sungai Besi (42.29ha).

Bukit Lagong’s area remains unchanged since it was gazetted in 1962, but the forest area in Bukit Nanas, which was gazetted in 1906 with an area of 17ha, has since been reduced in size to 9.37ha due to road and infrastructure projects.

The Sungai Puteh permanent forest area, gazetted in 1933 with an area of 40ha, is now left with 14.51ha while the Sungai Besi permanent forest area has seen a loss of 4.71ha since it was gazetted in 1932.

Last week, several groups protested against the de-gazetting of forests to make way for the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Expressway (SUKE) project and Damansara-Shah Alam Highway (DASH).

The forests that will be affected are the Bukit Cherakah and Sungai Buloh reserves for DASH ,while the Sungai Puteh reserve may be de-gazetted for SUKE.

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Malaysia: Environmental pollution a big problem for Terengganu's islands

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 3 May 16;

PULAU REDANG: Environmental pollution poses a big hazard to the idyllic islands of Terengganu, threatening the lucrative tourism industry.

Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the authorities would not hesitate to act against errant resort operators or tourists who dispose of garbage or sewage into the pristine waters of the South China Sea.

“There are also reports of open burning being conducted by irresponsible people who do not realise the impact on the environment, especially on the smaller islands.

“The current hot and dry spell can trigger bush or forest fires, too.

“We need to constantly educate them to be responsible and have a caring attitude, especially with Visit Terengganu 2017 approaching,” he said after a tour of the islands.

Among the islands most affected are Pulau Redang, Pulau Lang Tengah, Pulau Kapas, Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil.

Razif also expressed concern over oil spills around Pulau Redang, where he had directed the Kuala Terengganu City Council to act.

He reminded chalet and resort operators to refrain from discharging sewage into the sea as it would pollute the beaches and threaten marine life, especially corals.

“Not to mention the stench that will drive away tourists.

Hygiene can also be affected,” he said, urging the authorities to constantly carry out spot checks.

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