Best of our wild blogs: 1 Jun 16

5 Jun (Sun): Balik Chek Jawa with the Chek Jawa community
wild shores of singapore

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IDA to test solar-powered outdoor Wi-Fi on Sentosa

TOH EE MING Today Online 31 May 16;

SINGAPORE — Sentosa is testing out a more eco-friendly way of providing free Wi-Fi — by tapping the power of the sun.

Currently, most Wireless@SG hot spots are located indoors, as it is more difficult and time-consuming to set up outdoor ones, such as having to dig up trenches to install fibre optic cables and power lines, and get approvals.

Such solar-powered services would be more environmentally friendly and save on costs, said the Infocomm Development Authority’s assistant chief executive Mr Khoong Hock Yun on Tuesday (May 31).

Slated to run till September next year, the new “green” Wireless@SG services will be accessible along Merlion Walk and will be overseen by IDA partners such as Aruba, M1, Sentosa Development Corporation and Skylab.

“If this pilot is successful, we could potentially expand Wireless@SG to reach more outdoor areas in a sustainable manner and bring public Wi-Fi coverage in Singapore to the next level,” said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

Sentosa currently has more than 200 hot spots across various outdoor locations. It is one of the two main outdoor locations in Singapore with Wireless@SG, other than Gardens By The Bay, said the IDA.

Earlier this year, Minister of State (Communications and Information and Education) Janil Puthucheary had said the number of hot spots would be doubled to 20,000 across the island by 2018.

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Malaysia: La Nina -- Get set for 12 months of rainfall

ALIZA SHAH New Straits Times 31 May 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians can expect more rainy days in the next few months as the La Nina phenomenon is expected to hit the country early November.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau said the phenomenon, which would start after October, would go on for up to 12 months.

"The La Nina phenomenon (with 75 per cent probability) is expected to occur after October. It typically extends for up to nine and 12 months.

"However, it is still early to predict its intensity as this can only be confirmed after October," he told the New Straits Times.

Madius said the strong La Nina effect could also shorten the period of the Northeast monsoon and cause the mean temperature to drop by between 0.5 degrees Celcius and 2 degrees Celcius.

"Generally, the La Nina phenomenon will cause the rainfall to be increased over Sabah and the eastern part of Sarawak, especially during the Northeast monsoon.

"During a strong La Nina, the mean temperature for the country can also be decreased between 0.5°C and 2°C and the period of the Northeast monsoon will be shortened," he added.

Madius added Malaysia was experiencing the Southwest Monsoon (SWM) which was expected to last until mid-September 2016 "Malaysia is currently experiencing the Southwest Monsoon (SWM) since the third week of May and is expected to last until mid-September 2016.

"During this season, weather conditions are relatively drier as compared to other seasons," he said.

Malaysia was enveloped in a sweltering heatwave which was first detected from March last year before it intensified last December.

The dry and hot spell which was expected to prolong until September due to the changing of the Southwest monsoon winds, had also resulted in schools in several states to be temporarily closed.

The El Nino phenomenon also caused water reserves in several states to deplete, and led to an increase in the number of peat and bush fires and also the return of the haze.

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Floods, political change hamper Myanmar growth: World Bank

Myanmar's growth rate, once one of the world's most impressive, has dipped following heavy floods and an investment slowdown sparked by uncertainty over its political transition, the World Bank said on Tuesday (May 31).
Channel NewsAsia 31 May 16;

YANGON: Myanmar's growth rate, once one of the world's most impressive, has dipped following heavy floods and an investment slowdown sparked by uncertainty over its political transition, the World Bank said on Tuesday (May 31).

A civilian government led by veteran democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi took power in March after clinching a clear majority in elections late last year, ending five decades of outright military rule.

It was a transformative moment for a nation and its economy, which withered under the former military government.

But the election - and the long transition period between the two governments - has dragged on growth in the past year, the World Bank said, leaving investors wary as they waited for the dust to settle.

The bank estimated Myanmar's GDP growth during the 2015/16 financial year at seven percent - still in the top tier of the world's fastest growing economies but a significant dip from the previous year's 8.5 percent.

The bank had previously estimated that Myanmar would grow 8.2 percent for the 2015/16 period. Myanmar authorities do not release official economic data.

But it added that the country's overall economic prospects remained strong.

"While Myanmar's economic growth has eased in this past year, it still remains a powerful engine of change and development for the people of Myanmar," said Abdoulaye Seck, the World Bank's country manager.

The World Bank said heavy monsoon rains that caused widespread inundations throughout western and central Myanmar last summer, hit productivity and exports.

Ongoing structural constraints, short-term exchange rate pressures and rising inflation also weighed on growth.

Since the military ceded power to a quasi-civilian reformist government in 2011, Myanmar's economy has charged ahead with most Western sanctions lifted and foreign investors flooding in.

The peaceful transfer of power to a civilian-led elected government has sent hopes for a better future sky high.

But the government faces a daunting task. Myanmar, one of Asia's poorest nations, is hampered by decrepit infrastructure, conflicts in resource-rich borderlands and the continued influence of the military, who still dominate business.

Her hands are also partially tied by Myanmar's complex political system where the military still retains control of the key security ministries and are guaranteed a quarter of parliamentary seats.

- AFP/mn

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Renewable energy surges to record levels around the world

Spending on renewable sources like wind has overtaken coal and natural gas according to this study
Matt McGrath BBC 31 May 16;

New solar, wind and hydropower sources were added in 2015 at the fastest rate the world has yet seen, a study says.

Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, the Renewables Global Status Report found.

For the first time, emerging economies spent more than the rich on renewable power and fuels.

Over 8 million people are now working in renewable energy worldwide.

For a number of years, the global spend on renewables has been increasing and 2015 saw that arrive at a new peak according to the report.

Falling costs key

About 147 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added in 2015, roughly equivalent to Africa's generating capacity from all sources.

China, the US, Japan, UK and India were the countries adding on the largest share of green power, despite the fact that fossil fuel prices have fallen significantly. The costs of renewables have also fallen, say the authors.

"The fact that we had 147GW of capacity, mainly of wind and solar is a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels)," said Christine Lins, who is executive secretary of REN21, an international body made up of energy experts, government representatives and NGOs, who produced the report.

"They are the preference for many countries and more and more utilities and investors and that is a very positive signal."
Investment in renewables reached $286bn worldwide in 2015.

With China accounting for more than one-third of the global total, the developing countries outspent the richer nations on renewables for the first time.

When measured against a country's GDP, the biggest investors were small countries like Mauritania, Honduras, Uruguay and Jamaica.
"It clearly shows that the costs have come down so much that the emerging economies are now really focussing on renewables," said Christine Lins.

"They are the ones with the biggest increases in energy demand, and the fact that we had this turning point really shows the business case - and that is really a remarkable development."

The UK's high position in the global renewables table may come as a surprise to some as there have been a series of substantial cuts to green subsidies over the past year. The UK's solar industry saw tariff support tumble by over 60% last December.

Despite a significant fall off in European investment in renewables, down around 21%, green power is now the leading source of electricity, providing 44% of total EU capacity in 2015.

The authors say that while the Paris Climate Agreement came after this report was compiled, the fact that countries were getting serious about rising temperatures has already been reflected, to some degree, in their investments. As of early 2016, 173 nations had renewable energy targets in place.

It's not just nations that are taking big steps towards a greener future. In the US, some 154 companies employing 11 million people have committed to 100% renewable energy.

Traffic jam

However there are still some areas that are proving resistant to green energy such as transport and heating and cooling. The low price of oil has contributed to the lack of uptake for renewables in these sectors.

Despite these holdups, the authors are in no doubt as to the direction of travel.

"I've been working in this sector for 20 years and the economic case is now fully there," said Christine Lins.

"The renewables industry is not just dependant on a couple of markets but it has turned into a truly global one with markets everywhere and that is really encouraging."

"The best is yet to come," she told BBC News.

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