New $25m programme for marine science research and development in Singapore

Singapore’s one and only offshore marine science research facility is now open to all marine scientists here, in a move that will pave the way for more research in this field.
Audrey Tan Straits Times 30 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE - The Republic is blessed with a good location that makes it one of the world's top transshipment hubs, but it is not taking providence for granted.

The Government is starting a new marine science research and development programme, pumping in $25 million over the next five years to spur research into how Singapore can better cope with emerging challenges such as climate change, heavy shipping and urbanisation.

This was announced on Thursday (June 30) morning by the National Research Foundation (NRF), which is collaborating with the National University of Singapore for the programme.

Although they may not look it, the waters around Singapore are home to a surprising amount of marine life. The island state is located at the intersection of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, within the Coral Triangle - an area considered to be the world's richest treasure trove of marine life.

More than 250 species of hard corals - representing more than 30 per cent of hard coral species found around the world - have been recorded in Singapore's waters. In addition, it has 12 of the 23 species of seagrasses in the Indo-Pacific region, about 200 species of sponges and over 100 species of reef fish, according to data from the National Parks Board.

With so much biodiversity, scientific research will enable Singapore to make full and more intense use of its sea space to increase its blue economy while maintaining its sustainability, says marine conservation veteran Chou Loke Ming, who has been studying corals at TMSI for more than 30 years.

"Alongside the launch of the programme, NRF also on Thursday announced that Singapore’s one and only offshore marine research facility on St John’s Island – located south of Singapore – will be opened up to all marine science researchers here." About 16 marine science research proposals are currently being evaluated and successful ones are expected to be awarded in late 2016.

There are four main research thrusts under the programme: the study of marine ecosystems and biodiversity, environment impact and monitoring, coastal ecological engineering and marine technology and platforms.

The latter hopes to examine ways in which humankind can benefit from nature, in the form of the discovery of new organisms for novel research and the discovery of high value materials. The programme could increase the number of research projects in this area, although such work is already ongoing.

Take, for example, the work done by Dr Tan Lik Tong, a lecturer from the natural sciences and science education academic group at the Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) National Institute of Education. He is studying cyanobacteria - marine organisms associated with the harmful algae blooms that have caused mass fish deaths in Singapore.

But his studies have shown that they are also a treasure trove of useful compounds. He told The Straits Times that a number of cyanobacterial compounds have undergone clinical trials for the treatment of human cancers in the United States.

For example, a synthetic molecule based on the chemical structure of a marine cyanobacterial compound known as dolastatin 10 has been developed, and is currently being used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. This refers to a a type of cancer originating from white blood cells.

"These marine cyanobacteria therefore represent great new organisms for novel research and discovery of high value materials," he said.

But beyond the synthesis of useful compounds, marine science is also important to Singapore in other ways. This is especially since the Republic is an island nation surrounded by water.

Prof Ng, a crab expert, told The Straits Times: "We use the water for navigation, for our port, even for desalination of sea water. We reclaim for land needs, we use it for recreation - a host of purposes. We share the seaways with many countries.

"How can we not know more about it? How can we manage it better, more sustainably, if we do not understand it well?"

National lab dives deeper into sea research
National Research Foundation launches new $25m, five-year marine study programme
Audrey Tan Straits Times 1 Jul 16;

Singapore's only offshore marine research facility is now open to all marine scientists here, in a move that will pave the way for more sea research .

Previously, the laboratory, on St John's Island, was used largely by scientists from the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI).

In March, it was designated a National Research Infrastructure. This means that all marine researchers here will have access to it, although it will continue to be operated by NUS.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) announced this yesterday, alongside the launch of a new $25-million, five-year marine research and development programme. It is collaborating with NUS on the programme, which will be helmed by Professor Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and former director of the TMSI.

He told The Straits Times: "We are an island nation after all, and we cannot ignore or be complacent about our marine environment, its inhabitants and ecosystem, and what we do with it and to it."

Science could provide solutions to emerging challenges to the marine environment, such as climate change, urbanisation and heavy shipping.

NUS veteran marine biologist Chou Loke Ming said: "Marine science is a strategic research area... (considering that) maritime trade has contributed to Singapore's economic growth."

The new programme could raise the number of research projects in this area.

Already, a team at the TMSI is studying how marine pests brought in by passing ships can be better controlled and managed.

When invasive marine species such as barnacles and tube worms attach themselves to vessels, they can reduce speeds by more than 10 per cent, owing to drag, and raise fuel consumption of ships.

Sixteen research proposals are being evaluated under the programme, and successful ones are expected to be awarded grants later this year.

Mr George Loh, the NRF's director of programmes, said: "Many of the current marine science research projects are undertaken as and when agencies or companies feel there is a need to be addressed, such as the impact to the corals due to urbanisation works along our coastlines."

But the new programme could spur basic marine research. This is crucial, as there is still much to learn about Singapore's native marine biodiversity, Mr Loh said.

For marine scientists, having access to a facility with direct and immediate access to sea water is critical and many welcomed the move to open up the St John's Island Marine Laboratory.

Dr Tan Lik Tong, a lecturer from the natural sciences and science education academic group at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, said the national lab could also increase collaborations between scientists from different institutions.

The NRF said it will support the upgrading of the marine laboratory at a cost of $9.5 million over three years.

This includes the cost of restructuring labs, increasing aquaria capacity and raising laboratory bench spaces.

New facilities, such as aquaria that allow users to control seawater environment such as temperature and salinity, will also be built over the next one to two years, said Dr Serena Teo, the lab's facility director.

The sea around Singapore is home to a surprising amount of marine life. More than 250 species of hard corals - a third of those found worldwide - have been recorded in Singapore's waters.

In addition, it has 12 of the 23 species of seagrass in the Indo-Pacific region, about 200 species of sponge and over 100 species of reef fish, according to data from the National Parks Board.

A $25 million, five-year national programme dedicated to marine science research has been launched by National Research Foundation in collaboration with National University of Singapore. Audrey Tan reports on some marine science research in Singapore and why it is important.

Giving marine pests the slip
Audrey Tan Straits Times 1 Jul 16;

The Asian green mussel, or kupang in Malay, is a delicacy enjoyed in this region, but in places like America they are considered pests.

The original birthplace of these creatures is the Indo-Pacific region, where Singapore is located.

But now they have crossed the Pacific through South America to Florida by "hitchhiking" on the hulls of ships or ballast tanks, which are filled or emptied of seawater to keep a ship stable.

The kupang is a hardy mussel that can withstand a range of temperatures and salinity. It attaches to hard surfaces, forming clumps in places such as on seawater intake pipes and vessels. Such undesirable marine growth on man-made surfaces is known as biofouling.

These clumps reduce vessel speeds by more than 10 per cent owing to drag, and increase fuel consumption of ships when they power up to overcome it.

The Asian green mussel, like other marine pests, can also damage engines and propellers and upset native ecosystems.

Singapore, like many coastal cities with urban harbours, is vulnerable to such invasions, which could hurt its status as the world's top transhipment hub.

Already, another mussel species, Mytilopsis sallei, or the false zebra mussel - an invasive marine pest from the Caribbean - has established itself on Singapore's concrete walls and monsoon drains.

Dr Serena Teo, deputy director for research at the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute, leads a biofouling research team that has been studying, since 2002, the biology of marine pests such as barnacles and tubeworms.

Among other things, they investigate how these creatures respond and adhere to materials, as well as how these biologically active materials may affect the environment.

In the past 10 years, Dr Teo and her team - together with chemists from NUS and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research - have developed new environmentally safe anti-fouling additives and materials, which prevent marine pests from latching on to vessels.

This work has resulted in several patents and findings that are useful for the marine industry.

Said Dr Teo: "It is internationally recognised that fouling in tropics, especially in Asia, is very aggressive. This is not unexpected as tropical Asia has the highest marine biodiversity in the world.''

She added: "With the expertise in our research institutions and local industry, we have an unprecedented opportunity to expedite the development of new anti-fouling technology."

Her ongoing work illustrates the importance of marine science research in Singapore, a field that will get a boost from a $25 million, five-year programme announced yesterday.

This marine science research and development programme, launched by the National Research Foundation with NUS, will include research into emerging environmental challenges such as climate change and urbanisation.

Learning more about an enigmatic creature
Audrey Tan Straits Times 1 Jul 16;

Corals have earned widespread attention for their beauty and important role in the marine ecosystem, but little is known about their cousins, the sea anemones.

Graduate student Nicholas Yap is on a mission to change that with his research.

The 32-year-old is working on setting up a baseline of sea anemones in Singapore, by identifying and documenting the flimsy creatures often seen jiving and jamming to underwater currents.

"They are quite common in Singapore but, more often than not, we don't know what they are," said Mr Yap, the only sea anemone researcher in Singapore.

The National Geographic puts the number of sea anemone species found in the world's oceans at more than 1,000. But in Singapore, only 27 species have been successfully identified, Mr Yap said.

One of the latest discoveries is a warty sea anemone found burrowing in the mudflats of Lim Chu Kang mangroves in 2012. Scientists have nicknamed it Bill because it does not match the identity of any known sea anemones, and so may be new to science.

"They form many symbiotic relationships with algae and different animals, yet we don't know about their role in the ecosystem, and how they contribute to it," said Mr Yap.

Like their coral cousins, sea anemones have algae living in them which, in turn, provide the anemone with nourishment.

Similarly, they also bleach - or expel this algae - when stressed. But how bleached anemones impact the ecosystem is not well understood.

Considering their abundance in marine habitats, understanding how they contribute to the ecosystem is important as it will help with decisions on marine conservation, said Mr Yap.

As veteran marine biologist Chou Loke Ming from the NUS' Tropical Marine Science Institute put it: "Every species has a role in the environment in its interaction with other species and the environment.

"If we don't know where they fit into the ecological puzzle, then we risk throwing them out of the equation we are trying to solve."

The study of these creatures could also have an impact on the medical sector, said Mr Yap. "Anemones have venom-containing stingers which could be extracted to do medical research and may pave the way for the discovery of a new drug."

Similarly, biodiversity research done as part of a new $25 million marine science research and development programme could yield new organisms for novel research and the discovery of valuable materials. The five-year programme was announced yesterday by the National Research Foundaton (NRF) and NUS.

NRF's director of programmes George Loh said: "Singapore is strategically located at the intersection of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, and is within the Coral Triangle. This creates uniquely rich marine biodiversity off Singapore that is not well understood, and presents unprecedented opportunities to study our complex marine ecosystem and its many organisms."


Every species has a role in the environment in its interaction with other species and the environment.

If we don't know where they fit into the ecological puzzle, then we risk throwing them out of the equation we are trying to solve.

VETERAN MARINE BIOLOGIST CHOU LOKE MING, from the NUS' Tropical Marine Science Institute.

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Nation-wide electric car-sharing programme to begin mid-2017

Olivia Siong and Chan Luo Er, Channel NewsAsia 30 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: The Republic is set to launch a nationwide electric car-sharing programme by the middle of 2017, with all HDB towns to benefit from the initiative by 2020.

BlueSG, a subsidiary of French conglomerate Bollore Group, signed an agreement with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Economic Development Board (EDB).

The programme, also named BlueSG, will see 1,000 electric vehicles being deployed progressively in Singapore, with the first batch of 125 electric cars and 250 charging points to be introduced in towns like Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East and Punggol by mid next year.

Under the agreement, BlueSG will operate the programme for 10 years and install 2,000 charging points for electric vehicles island-wide. Up to 20 per cent of these will be available for public use, LTA and EDB said.

After this period, the Government will take over all charging points and make them available to the public, the authorities added.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the programme would lay a foundation for the greater use of electric vehicles in Singapore.

"The programme will promote our car-lite and green-car vision," said Mr Khaw, adding that 2,000 parking lots would be set aside for the programme in each HDB town, and the CBD and key industrial areas.

"We have embarked on this electric vehicle trial because we see some potential in more widespread adoption of electric vehicles in Singapore. However, electric vehicles are not truly emissions-free," added Mr Khaw.

"The power they consume produces emissions at the power station, but most electric vehicles are quieter than conventional vehicles, and do not have tail-pipe emissions. This makes for a better living environment, particularly in a dense city like ours."

BlueSG is the first large-scale car-sharing programme of its kind that will allow users the flexibility of picking up a car at the starting point and returning it at their destination, unlike the more conventional model where users have to return the car to its original pick-up location, LTA and EDB said.

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said the BlueSG programme will provide commuters with an additional form of point-to-point mobility, especially for trips where taking public transport or taxis may not be as convenient.

"It will play an important role in our efforts to create a car-lite society, as car-sharing enables more people to have occasional access to the use of a car, without having to own one. At the same time, it enables us to move towards a greener and more sustainable transport system, by laying the foundations of a nationwide EV charging infrastructure to support wider adoption of EVs," said Mr Chew.

LTA and EDB said Bollore Group was selected out of 13 operators that responded to a request for information exercise in December 2014 based on the quality of its proposal and its strong track record.

In partnership with EDB, BlueSG will also undertake new "high-value" economic activities and create about 250 jobs in the first five years of the programme, set up a Global Innovation Centre to undertake research and development work in the areas of mobility and energy management solutions, and establish its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore to oversee its e-mobility, energy management and system integration business for the region, the authorities said.


Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport Sitoh Yih Pin told Channel NewsAsia the one concern he has about BlueSG is its pricing.

"As with many things in life, and particularly in business, the price is very important. The price that BlueSG is going to charge, hopefully, should be attractive and acceptable for the public to use," he said.

Car-sharing Association Singapore's president, Lai Meng, added that BlueSG has to note that unlike cities like Paris, London and New York, Singapore has "very inexpensive" taxi fares.

"One-way car-sharing has to offer a different proposition to make it more attractive for commuters to adopt it," he said.

- CNA/mz

You can share an electric car with strangers by mid-2017
AsiaOne 30 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE - A nationwide electric car-sharing programme is set to become part of Singapore's sharing economy when it launches here in the middle of 2017.

BlueSG is the first large-scale car sharing programme of its kind that will allow users the flexibility of picking up a car at the starting point and returning it at their destination.

This is unlike the more conventional model where users have to return the car to its original pick up location, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Economic Development Board (EDB) said.

Under the programme, 1,000 electric cars will be deployed progressively in Singapore.

The first batch of 125 electric cars and 250 charging points will be rolled out in Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East and Punggol by mid 2017.

BlueSG is a subsidiary of French conglomerate Bollore Group. It signed an agreement with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Economic Development Board (EDB).

According to media reports, BlueSG will operate the programme for 10 years and install 2,000 charging points for electric vehicles throughout the country.

Up to 20 per cent of these will be available for public use.

When the 10 years are up, the Government will make all charging points available to the public.

"The programme will promote our car-lite and green-car vision," said Transport Minister Mr Khaw Boon Wan at the signing ceremony.

He added that 2,000 parking lots would be set aside for the programme in each HDB town, and the CBD and key industrial areas.

MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Melvin Yong tried driving the electric car on Thursday afternoon (June 30).

He wrote on Facebook: "The electric vehicle is compact, easy to drive and very quiet - almost like driving a big-sized buggy on the road. It also does not produce tail-pipe emissions, making it more eco-friendly."

Singapore to launch electric vehicle car-sharing programme in 2017
TOH EE MING Today Online 30 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — Come next year, you might be able to book an electric car through an app on your phone, pick it up at a Housing and Development Board (HDB) block, and return it to a parking lot booked in advance near your destination, where another driver can pick it up.

This is part of Singapore’s first large-scale, nationwide electric car-sharing programme to be launched by the middle of next year, with the first batch of 125 electric vehicles (EV) and 250 charging points to be rolled out in towns such as Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East and Punggol.

The 10-year programme will be developed and operated by BlueSG, a subsidiary of the Bollore Group, which operates the largest fully-electric car sharing programme in the world, with operations in cities such as Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon and Indianapolis.

Pricing details are still being worked out, but the service will operate on a subscription basis, and members could be charged less than S$10 for a 15-minute journey.

Speaking at the signing ceremony on Thursday (June 30) afternoon, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: “Car sharing allows more people to have access to a car without needing to own one … Most electric vehicles are quieter than conventional vehicles, and do not have tail-pipe emissions. This makes for a better living environment, particularly in a dense city like ours,” he said.

There are also plans to conduct fleet-based trials involving e-taxis and e-buses, with details to be released in due course.

Bollore’s proposal beat 12 others, after more than a year of “careful evaluation” by government agencies such as the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Economic Development Board.

By 2020, a total of 1,000 electric cars will be rolled out under the programme, as well as 500 BlueSG stations and 2,000 charging points. These will be located at all HDB towns, the CBD and key industrial areas.

A total of 2,000 parking lots will also be set aside. And up to 20 per cent of the charging points will eventually be made available for public use.

Mr Khaw added: “While car sharing has been widely adopted in Europe, and is growing rapidly in the United States, it is currently a small market in Singapore ... We hope to see car sharing usage rise through collaborations such as (this one).”

He noted that Singapore has a total of 300 shared cars and 10,000 users, a number he hopes to raise “10-fold”.

As part of efforts to support EV use, the Government will also adopt a nationwide public charging standard from August. All new charging stations installed in publicly accessible areas will use the European Type 2 AC charging standard, which can charge a vehicle in one to two hours.

The EV fleet by BlueSG will not affect the current demand for cars as they will not be considered within the COE quota system.

Mr Franck Vitte, head of Asia at Blue Solutions, which is part of the Bollore Group, said the take-up rate was a little “slow” when the service was introduced in Paris.

Now, it has a total fleet size of 4,000 EVs, with more than 120,000 members in the city.

“We want to be close to where people live, play and work, and where there’s a density of population where a lot of people can benefit ... That’s where the success comes very quickly,” he said.

BlueSG will also set up a centre here for its partners to develop, test and implement innovations in areas such as mobility and data analysis. It is expected to create about 250 jobs in Singapore in the first five years of the programme.

Dr Park Byung Joon, a senior lecturer at SIM University, called the flexibility of such a system a “good starting point” towards fulfilling Singapore’s vision of a car-lite society.

“If you look at the Western world, that’s the direction everyone is heading for … operators can start with a small number, but when it’s more successful, they can look at doubling their fleets quickly,” he said.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng noted that Singapore’s flat landscape and small size is conducive for EV technology to take off, especially with more charging stations available.

But while Singaporeans might be “receptive” to car sharing schemes, price remains an obstacle to EV adoption. “If the Government wants to promote EV ownership in the long term, it would also have to provide different price considerations to make it (cheaper) and more attractive to own,” he said.

Communications executive Thrina Tham, 24, who drives the family car once a week, welcomed having an alternative to buying her own car.

“It’s a good alternative if they can find ways to integrate such a system seamlessly with public transport, and make it convenient and accessible …You don’t have to pay for petrol, or the parking fees … It’s definitely something I would consider as an option,” she said.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we said the goal was to get 10,000 electric cars on the road under the programme. This is incorrect. We apologise for the error.

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PUB to explore use of drones for surveillance, water management

Angela Lim Channel NewsAsia 30 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: PUB is exploring the use of drones for surveillance and water management purposes, in addition to testing the use of robot swans to monitor water quality in reservoirs.

Since April this year, Singapore’s national water agency has been conducting trial flights of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – commonly known as drones – to look into the possibility of using them for general surveillance at Marina Reservoir.

The drones will help PUB obtain aerial footage for monitoring purposes and act as a deterrent for illegal activities, the agency said on Thursday (Jun 30).

PUB is also considering deploying the small, unmanned crafts – which would be fitted with multiple advanced sensors and cameras – at underground sewers. The drones would be able to navigate the tunnels without GPS and in complete darkness, while capturing 360-degree images in areas difficult for people to reach.


The PUB also announced earlier that it is testing the use of robot swans to monitor the water quality of reservoirs. Jointly developed by PUB, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute, the New Smart Water Assessment Network (NUSwan) will be able to provide more accurate and timely monitoring of water quality in reservoirs.

The robot swans can also be deployed in flocks for more effective real-time monitoring, and can blend in well with its surroundings, while helping to lower the cost of water sampling, PUB said, adding that three swans have been successfully tested for use.


The drones and robot swans are some of the new water technologies showcased by PUB at this year's Singapore International Water Week.

Other technologies PUB will feature include the Smart Water Grid, an islandwide wireless sensor network that minimises water leaks, and a fully operational Silt Imagery Detection System to ensure the smooth running of Singapore’s waterways.

The event brings industry experts and delegates together in Singapore to pursue business opportunities, showcase the latest water technologies, as well as share industry best practices.

Now in its seventh run, the annual event will focus on present and emerging smart water technologies, including data-driven technologies that support various aspects of water management.

Singapore International Water Week will run from Jul 10 to 14.

- CNA/ww

Drones could be used to monitor reservoir pollution or detect illegal fishing
Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Jul 16;

A drone could, in the future, be used by national water agency PUB to monitor reservoirs.

A trial of the drone started in April this year at the Marina Reservoir and PUB is now exploring if it can be used to help monitor pollution or look out for cases of illegal fishing, for example.

Separately, discussions are ongoing with potential partners to develop a drone to be used in the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System - which can go to depths of 50m.

The system consists of a network of sewers which carry used water by gravity to centralised water reclamation plants.

The drone was among five technologies unveiled at the Marina Barrage yesterday ahead of the Singapore International Water Week taking place from July 10 to 14. The others are a robotic swan that "swims" in the water to monitor water quality, automated meter reading systems to track water consumption, sensors and image analytics.

The technologies are at different stages of implementation, and will help improve water surveillance and save manpower costs, among other benefits.

PUB is getting approvals to use the drone to monitor reservoirs, said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, PUB's chief sustainability officer. He added that the drone could help to quickly detect discharges into the water and trace the source of such discharges.

He said: "When someone discharges something into a canal or river, it will eventually find its way into the reservoir." It is hard to trace the discharge to its source from the ground.

To monitor water quality, PUB has developed a robotic swan together with the National University of Singapore Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute.

Designed to look like a life-sized swan, it can measure parameters such as chlorophyll and turbidity. The pilot to test out the swans in Marina and Pandan reservoirs ended last month, and PUB hopes to roll them out in the next few years.

One technology already in use is the silt imagery detection system. It monitors silty discharge such as clay and sand.

It sends out real-time alerts when it detects irregularities or when CCTV cameras are not working.

The system has been used to monitor 250 construction sites islandwide.

By next year, 800 sites are expected to adopt it, resulting in about 100,000 man-hour savings a year for contractors.

Since 2002, PUB has worked on 467 research and development projects worth $323 million.

The technologies will be showcased at the Smart Water Solutions Pavilion from July 11 to 13 during Singapore International Water Week.

Using smart technologies to improve planning and operations in water management will be a key focus at this year's event, said its managing director Bernard Tan.

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NEA calls for tender for system to monitor radiation levels in environment

Channel NewsAsia 30 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) called for a tender on Thursday (Jun 30) for a system that would allow authorities to monitor radiation levels in the environment.

In a statement, NEA said the tender calls for interested parties to supply, deliver, install and maintain equipment for the ambient radiation monitoring network (ARMNet). With the system, NEA said it will be able to establish baseline radiation levels, and in time detect any potential increases of radioactive substances in the environment.

The monitoring stations will be placed at different locations across the island, including along coastal lines and waters. NEA said these stations do not pose any safety or environmental concerns, as they are collecting data “passively”.

The monitoring network is expected to be fully operational by 2018, according to NEA. The tender will close on Aug 30, and is expected to be awarded in February next year.

NEA said the gathering of such data through the network is timely, and supports Singapore’s response to any nuclear or radiological incidents that could occur in the region. A national pre-feasibility study conducted in 2010 concluded that nuclear energy would not be an option for Singapore given current technologies. But it also found a need for the island state to strengthen the capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology.

In 2014, more than S$63 million was set aside for the Nuclear Safety Research and Education Programme, to fund research and the development of nuclear safety, science and engineering over five years.

- CNA/mo

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Indonesia: Reclamation may cause annual losses of Rp 178 trillion

Corry Elyda The Jakarta Post 30 Jun 16;

A lawyer has claimed during the hearing of a lawsuit challenging Jakarta gubernatorial permits for the construction of man-made islets F, I and K in Jakarta Bay, that the controversial reclamation and Giant Sea Wall projects have the potential to cause losses amounting to trillions of rupiah every year.

Martin Hadiwinata, a lawyer for the plaintiffs the Coalition to Save Jakarta Bay Movement, said after the hearing at the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) on Wednesday that his team had submitted written documents as proof that the projects brought many disadvantages for residents and the environment.

Martin said the total losses from the projects could amount to Rp 178.1 trillion (US$13.76 billion). The figure was calculated using three components only. “They comprise the loss of fishing grounds, the threat of flooding and the loss of mangroves,” he said.

A research document, entitled “Jakarta Bay Recommendation Paper”, by Denmark-based consultant company DHI Water and Environment at the request of the Environment and Forestry Ministry in 2012, showed that the estimated loss of 586.3 hectares of fishing grounds could cause a total loss of $1.36 billion in livelihoods annually.

Meanwhile, the increased risk of flooding is estimated to cause losses of $9.7 billion and the loss of mangrove habitat, including its role as coastal protection would cause losses of $2.7 billion.

Martin said the total loss excluded the potential reduction in electricity generated at Muara Karang and Muara Tawar power plants, which could reach $26.78 million. “Both power plants fulfill 53 percent of Jakarta’s electricity needs,” he said.

The developer-driven reclamation project, which comprises the construction of 17 artificial islets in Jakarta Bay, has been rejected by many residents and environmentalists, who argue that the projects only benefit private companies and will cause great danger to the environment.

The project came into the national spotlight after a City Council member was allegedly caught red-handed while receiving bribes from property development company Agung Podomoro Land (APL) whose subsidiary holds the permit for building Islet G.

The coalition previously won their lawsuit challenging the permit for Islet G.

The construction of all islets has been suspended by the central government. The government has formed a task force from various ministries, including the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) and the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry to reevaluate the projects.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recently said the project would continue as part of the Giant Sea Wall, or the National Coastal Integrated Capital Development (NCICD), mega project.

Nadia, lawyer for the city administration, said her side had also submitted two documents as evidence.

“We gave the recommendation letters of the BPLHD [Environmental Management Agency] on environmental permits and AMDAL [environmental impact analyses],” she said, declining to elaborate further.

Oswar Muadzin, the assistant to the governor on spatial planning and the environment, made it clear that the city administration had no intention of halting the project.

“We’ll simply repeat the permit issuance process should the court annul the permits,” he said when asked whether the city would stop the project once and for all if the court so ordered.

Oswar argued that the project was for the public good. “Those who are going to live in the islets are members of the public. They are also our citizens,” he said.

Developers bite the bullet in Jakarta reclamation
Agnes Anya The Jakarta Post 1 Jul 16;

Developers of the Jakarta Bay reclamation project are repeatedly biting the bullet as an investigative team has imposed strict penalties on the tangled project, including permanently ceasing development of an islet.

“The joint team concluded that islet G has committed gross violations as it is being built above electricity wires in the sea and among ship lanes. We decided that the development of the islet has to be stopped,” said Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli on Thursday, referring to an islet developed and marketed by PT Muara Wisesa Samudera, a subsidiary of PT Agung Podomoro Land.

Rizal announced the decisions after a meeting with the joint team, which consists of experts from the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Environment and Forestry Ministry and Transportation Ministry, as well as the Jakarta administration.

In the meeting, he added, the team reported irregularities in the Jakarta Bay reclamation project, which has been halted amid a dispute regarding overlapping regulations.

The official classified the irregularities as gross, moderate and minor violations.

Classified as a gross violation, the development of islet G has been deemed a danger to the environment, strategic vital projects and ship traffic, as it is being built above submarine electricity wires and between ship lanes.

Aside from islet G, which had been offered to the market while having commenced construction, the joint team has also penalized islets C, D and N.

Islet C and D belong to PT Kapuk Naga Indah, a subsidiary company of Agung Sedayu, while Islet N is owned by state-owned port operator Pelabuhan Indonesia (Pelindo).

Development of the three islets were considered a moderate violation because they had undergone construction without following their initial design plans, as agreed to in Gubernatorial Regulation No. 121/2012 on the spatial management of reclamation the northern Jakarta coast, Rizal said.

Developers of islets C and D, which have been integrated as one big islet, are required to construct a canal to separate the two islets, as stipulated in the regulation with consideration that the canal functions as flood control, ship lane and sea current path.

“Islets C and D can still be developed but they have to reconstruct the islets as they were built without following the initial reclamation plan,” Rizal said, adding that to carry out the work, the developer might require hundreds of billions
of rupiah.

He, however, did not elaborate on the violations in the development of islet N, which is set to be a new port.

Asked whether the decisions will be stipulated in a particular legal form, Rizal said the government would consider its options once it finished the investigation, which is expected to be completed in the next three months.

The team still has tasks to complete, including evaluating the development plans of 13 other islets that have yet to be built, Rizal added.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta administration will not enforce the decisions on the existing projects, unless the decisions are stipulated in a regulation issued by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who holds the authority to impose the penalties, said Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

“I see the decisions as recommendations,” Ahok said, adding that Muara Wisesa may sue the government, as well as the administration, as it held permits to build islet G.

The reclamation project hit headlines after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested APL president director Ariesman Widjaja and Jakarta councillor Muhammad Sanusi in a bribery case related to the project in the Jakarta Bay in April.

Ariesman is allegedly to have bribed Sanusi, a politician from the Gerindra Party, with Rp 1 billion (US$76,000) to influence the drafting of bylaws related to the reclamation project.

The city administration plans to require developers to pay a 15 percent additional fee in the bylaws while developers have reportedly attempted to approach councillors to lower the fee.

Besides the arrest, the KPK has also banned Ahok’s expert staff Sunny Tanuwidjaja and Agung Sedayu chairman Sugianto “Aguan” Kusuma from traveling overseas in relation to the bribery case.

Meanwhile, the head of the spatial planning and environment bureau of the Jakarta administration, Vera Revina Sari, admitted on Thursday that the additional fee was decided without a legal basis.

Speaking in Ariesman’s hearing at the Jakarta Corruption Court, Vera said the additional fees, which had been received by the administration, had been approved by the governor.

“Most of [the fees] were used to build low-cost apartments,” Vera said responding to a question from KPK prosecutor Ali Fikri.

Vera said among the reclamation developers that had paid the fee was Muara Wisesa, a subsidiary of APL, and that the fee had been used to build a low-cost apartment in Daan Mogot, West Jakarta.

Government cancels G Island reclamation project
Antara 30 Jun 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government officially cancels the G island reclamation project in the Jakarta bay saying development of the project was a serious offense.

The reclamation project would endanger the environment , sea traffic and vital projects, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Natural Resources Rizal Ramli said here on Thursday.

"The Joint Committee of Ministers agree that the G island reclamation project is a serious offense," Rizal said at a meeting on the controversial project of reclamation of the northern beach of Jakarta.

Rizal said the project is categorized as a serious offense as the state electricity company PT PLN has electrical cables to be buried under the island project.

"The island would also hamper fishing vessels. Before the island was made fishing boats could easily pass and land in Muara Angke. Now with the island fishing vessels have to make a detour costing them more fuel," he said.

He said based on analysis of the Joint Committee the island of G has been arbitrarily built as it would damage the environment and destroy the marine biota.

"Therefore, we decide to permanently cancel the G island reclamation project," he said.

It was also decided that the C, D and N island projects were moderate offense that the developers are required only to make some repair and dismantling .

The C and D islands , which already almost become one are required to be set separate to form a canal of at least 100 meter wide with a depth of at least 8 meters to allow vessels to pass by .

The N island , which is part of the Kalibaru port project of state-owned port operator Pelindo II was considered to be technical offense against the environment.

"The developer agreed to mend the damage that the project is allowed to continue," Rizal said.

Marine and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said all members of the joint committee have worked on their respective skills that the decisions are considered the best they could make.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has found irregularities in the implementation of the Jakarta bay reclamation projects.

A number of government officials including members of the Jakarta city council have been named suspects and arrested on charge of graft.


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Vietnam: Taiwan stell firm owns up to fish kill disaster, commits to $500 million compensation

Thanh Nien News 30 Jun 16;

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp. (FHS) has apologized for causing an environment disaster in central Vietnam and promised to pay US$500 million in compensation, the Vietnamese government said Thursday afternoon.

FHS, a subsidiary of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics, has been in hot water over the past two months after hundred of tons of fish washed ashore in April in four central Vietnamese provinces Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. The steel mill is in its final stage of construction in Ha Tinh's Vung Ang Industrial Zone.

More than 100 scientists, including foreign experts, joined an investigation into the mass fish deaths, Minister Mai Tien Dung, Chairman of the Office of the Government, said at a long-awaited press conference in Hanoi Thursday afternoon.

They found out that industrial waste containing phenol, cyanide and iron hydroxides in the water killed the fish. The source of the waste was traced back to FHS, according to Minister Dung.

FHS on June 28 took responsibility for the "serious environmental incident," after multiple meetings between Vietnam's environment ministry and related agencies and FHS as well as Formosa Plastics, Dung said.

The company committed to apologize to the Vietnamese people and government for the disaster and pay VND11.5 trillion (US$500 million) in compensating local people's economic losses, supporting them to find news jobs and treating polluted sea environment, he said.

It also promised to repair its waste treatment system and cooperate with responsible government agencies to monitor sea environment.

FHS would suffer legal punishments if it repeated violations of Vietnam's environment protection regulations, Dung said.

In a letter made public hours before the press conference, Chuan Yuan-Cheng, chairman of FHS, said that the investigation had found that subcontractors' faults during the trial phase of operation had killed the fish.

"We respect the government's investigation results and are cooperating with the authorities to handle and mitigate the consequences," he said in the letter written in Vietnamese.

Taiwan's steel firm Formosa promises to deal with fish kill disaster in central Vietnam
Thanh Nien News 30 Jun 16;

The steel plant of Taiwanese firm Formosa in Ha Tinh Province. Photo: Khanh Hoan/Thanh NienThe steel plant of Taiwanese firm Formosa in Ha Tinh Province. Photo: Khanh Hoan/Thanh Nien

Hung Nghiep Formosa, a Taiwanese steel firm in Ha Tinh Province, has pledged to work with the government to handle a recent mass fish deaths scandal that has left fishing villages in central Vietnam reeling.

Chen Yuan-Cheng, the company’s board chairman, said in a letter to his staff on Thursday that the investigation led by Vietnam’s environment ministry found that subcontractors' faults during the trial phase of operation had killed the fish.
“We respect the government’s investigation results and are cooperating with the authorities to handle and mitigate the consequences,” he said in the letter written in Vietnamese.

He said the plant will resume operation, with a priority for environment protection.

The plant’s scheduled opening on June 25 was delayed. No new date has been announced.

Vietnam’s government is expected to issue an official announcement on the cause of the disaster late Thursday afternoon.

Formosa's letter was made public only hours before this press conference, which will be watched closely by Vietnamese across the country who have been waiting for an answer.

Formosa has been in hot water over the past weeks after hundreds of tons of fish washed ashore in April in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces in Vietnam's central region.

A sewage pipe that runs straight into the sea from its plant in Ha Tinh has been suspected of causing the disaster.

The fish kill, believed to be the worst environmental crisis in modern Vietnam, has taken away the livelihood of many fishing villages along the central coast.

Vietnam says Taiwanese steel mill to pay $500mn for pollution
AFP Yahoo News 30 Jun 16;

A Taiwanese steel mill has agreed to pay $500 million compensation for discharging pollution that decimated Vietnam's fishing industry in several central provinces this year, officials said Thursday.

Tonnes of dead fish, including rare species that live far offshore, began washing up along Vietnam's central coastline in April and activists have been demanding answers ever since.

After weeks of investigation, Vietnamese officials laid the blame on Formosa, a Taiwanese conglomerate that is building a multi-billion-dollar steel plant in the area where the fish died.

"Violation and mistakes" in building the Formosa plant caused the pollution and "abnormal mass fish deaths", according to Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the government's office.

The plant is still under construction.

Dung said Formosa, which has a history of environmental scandals spanning the globe, has agreed to pay $500 million in compensation for the incident, which hammered the local seafood industry and sparked public outcry.

Vietnamese authorities have come under pressure to show that foreign investors are not ushered in without controls.

"I reaffirm we will not trade the environment just to attract foreign investment," Dang Huy Dong, deputy minister of planning and investment, told reporters.

Formosa is no stranger to controversy in Vietnam, where anti-China riots at its Ha Tinh steel plant killed three in 2014 and a scaffolding collapse killed 14 last year.

The company's scandals also stretch from Texas to Taipei, where the conglomerate has paid millions of dollars in fines over environmental mishaps.

Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group, which is a major shareholder of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, said it could not immediately confirm the $500-million payment but would issue a statement on the matter later Thursday.

But a representative of their Vietnamese operations, Tran Nguyen Thanh, apologised for the "environmental incident" and said the firm was ready to pay an unspecified amount of compensation "in terms of the economy, for the people... and dealing with the pollution".

Lawmakers in Taipei warned this month that a firm link between Formosa and Vietnam's fish deaths could damage Taiwan's efforts to bolster economic ties across Southeast Asia as the island looks to ease its economic reliance on China.

Frustration over Vietnam's perceived reluctance to blame Formosa led to rallies across the country, with police stepping in to arrest scores of demonstrators.

Formosa drew ire in April when a public relations officer in Vietnam said the country had to choose between protecting marine life or foreign investment.

The employee was later fired and apologised for his remarks.

Vietnam blames toxic waste water from steel plant for mass fish deaths
Taiwanese firm Formosa Plastics that owns the plant says it will pay $500m towards clean up and compensation
Associated Press The Guardian 1 Jul 16;

Vietnam’s government has said toxic discharges from a Taiwanese-owned steel plant were responsible for massive fish deaths that have decimated tourism and fishing in four provinces and highlighted the risks of rapid growth in foreign investment.

An estimated 70 tonnes of dead fish washed ashore along more than 200 km (125 miles) of Vietnam’s central coastline in early April, sparking rare protests across the country after the Taiwanese company denied any wrongdoing.

A government minister, Mai Tien Dung, told reporters on Thursday that Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp, a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group, admitted it had caused the environmental disaster and has pledged $500m to clean up the environment and compensate affected people, including helping fishermen to find new jobs.

Dung said waste water containing toxins such as cyanide and carbolic acids was released into the sea during a test run of the plant.

Formosa’s $10.6bn steel complex, which includes a steel plant, a power plant and a deep sea port, is one of the largest foreign investments in Vietnam. The country’s authoritarian government, hoping to boost economic growth and reduce poverty, has overseen an influx of foreign investment deals amounting to at least $70bn in the past decade.

But ordinary Vietnamese have become increasingly aware of and concerned by the environmental and human costs of such rapid development.

A Vietnamese fishing industry group said it was a positive that the government was holding Formosa to account, but said much more needs to be done to restore the health of the environment in the four affected provinces Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue.

“There are no fish or shrimp for fishermen to catch, seafood farming is impossible and the tourism industry has also been affected,” said Nguyen Tu Cuong of the Vietnam Fishery Association. He said most fishermen can’t easily switch to another occupation as the only skill they know is fishing.

Since April, there have been anti-Formosa protests in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Tinh province, though they were swiftly broken up by authorities and many protesters were briefly detained.

Phan Thanh An, a fisherman from Quang Tri province, said that for 15 days after the dead fish began washing ashore, “I did not catch any live fish, only fish bones.”

“I have never seen such massive amounts of dead fish like that before,” he said.

An, who has been fishing since he was 13, said he hasn’t taken his fishing boat out for two months but may try next week.

The chairman of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, Chen Yuan-Cheng, apologized in a video shown at the news conference on Thursday.

“Our company takes full responsibility and sincerely apologizes to the Vietnamese people ... for causing the environmental disaster which seriously affected the livelihood, production and jobs of the people and the sea environment,” he said.

The parent company, Formosa Plastics Group, is one of the world’s biggest producers of poly vinyl chloride and has a patchy environmental record. Its US subsidiaries agreed to pay millions of dollars in fines and remediation costs in 2009 after a long-running battle over air, water, and hazardous waste violations at two petrochemical plants in Texas and Louisiana.

Chen said the company was working to fix shortcomings at the steel plant’s waste water treatment facility that were behind the disaster.

Separately, state media reported that the Vietnam Environment Administration had ordered inspections of a Chinese paper factory in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang because of concerns its waste water treatment system was discharging toxins that could pollute the Mekong River and kill fish.

Deputy minister of planning and investment Dang Huy Dong said that the government wants to attract foreign investment that is technologically advanced and friendly to the environment, and will not lure investment at any price.

“We will not trade the environment for foreign direct investment,” he said.

The Formosa steel plant was the scene of deadly riots in May 2014 when China’s placement of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam sparked clashes between thousands of Vietnamese and Chinese workers.

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West Hawaii survey reveals extent of coral reef damage

Erica Marie-Louise Barry Hawaii News 30 Jun 16;

A newly-released survey of coral bleaching off West Hawaii found wide swaths of coral colonies have died off, and researchers say the findings underscore a need to act quickly to address climate change and save coral reefs.

The survey, conducted in 2015 by the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii in partnership with other organizations, focused on reefs off North Kona and South Kohala.

The study took place after a major bleaching incident that caused significant damage to the reefs.

The results were shocking -- with a mortality rate of 32 to 90 percent in bleached coral colonies.

Dr. Eric Conklin, the conservancy’s director of marine science, said rising water temperatures spell “bad news for coral reefs.”

Higher temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When waters become too warm, corals expel the algae living in their tissues, turning them completely white. This significantly raises coral mortality rates.

The conservancy is working to identify actions that communities who rely on reefs can take to protect reefs from damage.

Given limited resources, it is important “to understand which reefs have the best chance of surviving into the future,” said Charles Wiggins, the conservancy’s Hawaii Island marine director.

Human threats, such as overfishing, sedimentation and nutrient pollution, all contribute to coral mortality rates.

According to Conklin, we need to “manage the threats that we can, like reducing fishing pressure on fish that protect reef health by keeping them clean of harmful algae.”

The study's authors say the next step is to present the survey results to government and community partners so that they can incorporate coral resilience into their management actions.

The conservancy hopes to repeat the survey in 2016 to see where and how the reefs have recovered, and continue to find solutions in order to keep coral reefs healthy and thriving for generations to come.

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Ozone layer hole appears to be healing, scientists say

Research by US and UK scientists shows the size of the hole has shrunk, and the layer will eventally recover, albeit slowly
Oliver Milman The Guardian 30 Jun 16;

The vast hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica appears to be healing, scientists say, putting the world on track to eventually remedy one of the biggest environmental concerns of the 1980s and 90s.

Research by US and UK scientists shows that the size of the ozone void has shrunk, on average, by around 4m sq km since 2000. The measurements were taken from the month of September in each year, when the ozone hole starts to open up each year.

The study, published in Science, states that the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemicals means that the ozone layer is “expected to recover in response, albeit very slowly.” CFCs, once commonly found in aerosols and refrigeration, can linger in the atmosphere for more than 50 years, meaning that the ozone hole will not be considered healed until 2050 or 2060.

The Montreal protocol, a 1987 international treaty ratified by all UN members, successfully spurred nations to eradicate the use of CFCs in products.

The agreement followed fears that ozone depletion could cause serious health and environmental harm through the ultraviolet light that would reach the surface of the Earth through the ozone barrier. The UN estimates that2m cases of skin cancer a year have been avoided through the phase-out of CFCs.

The ozone hole opened up over the Antarctic due to the vast amounts of cloud that forms over the coldest continent on Earth. This cloud helps the CFC chemicals linger, causing the ozone layer to be eaten away. The void is at its greatest during the southern hemisphere’s spring.

Volcanic activity can also spur greater ozone depletion, as scientists discovered last year when, to their alarm, the largest ever ozone hole opened up in October, measuring more than 20m sq km.

This is thought to be a blip, however, caused by volcanic activity in Chile. When scientists looked at data from September, compared to the same month over the past decade, they found a consistent shrinkage, with the opening up of the ozone hole occurring later each year.

“When volcanoes team up with man-made chlorine, it’s a toxic mix and Antarctica is particularly vulnerable,” said study co-author Susan Solomon, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“But when we looked at September we saw it was getting smaller. It was pretty cool to see it closing. The chemicals will slowly decay over time.”

The extreme cold of Antarctica is thought to create a “feedback” effect that amplifies ozone depletion, by creating clouds that cause more ozone to be eaten up. The extra ultraviolet light is believed to have caused changes to plankton, but the sparse wildlife in Antarctica, such as penguins, have not been severely affected by the ozone hole.

“If you had to have an ozone hole anywhere in the world, it would be Antarctica because it’s not teeming with life,” said Solomon. “It was the canary in the coalmine that showed us that if we didn’t back off with these chemicals, we’d have a crisis.

“Britain, for example, has around 5% less ozone than it did 30 years ago but it would’ve been twice as bad as that if we didn’t phase out CFCs. There would be problems with skin cancer, eye damage and damage to crops. We made a decision to avert a problem and we ought to congratulate ourselves on that.”

Solomon said she was hopeful the successful eradication of harmful CFCs would be followed by strong international action to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

“Obviously the economics of global warming are different because the fossil fuel industry is worth a lot more in dollars than the companies making these chemicals,” she said.

“But there are important parallels. It was amazing to see how quickly innovation solved the problem with CFCs so we got rid of them yet still have hair spray and air conditioning. We’re starting to see the same thing with global warming. We should look at the ozone problem and realize that nations can get together and come up with solutions.”

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