Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jul 16

Free Food Waste Awareness Talks for Companies
Zero Waste Singapore

Singapore Raptor Report – Late Spring Migration, April-June 2016
Singapore Bird Group

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Upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line may link to all terminals at Changi Airport

VALERIE KOH Today Online 21 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE — The authorities are studying the possibility of extending the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) to all terminals at Changi Airport, including the upcoming Terminals 4 and 5, announced Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday (July 21).

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the eastern stretch of the TEL, Mr Khaw said that the move would provide a direct connection from the airport to the city, benefitting travellers and airport workers. Currently, the TEL is on track to open in five phases, between 2019 and 2024.

At the same time, the authorities are considering extending the Cross Island Line (CRL) to Terminal 5 and the new industrial zone around the airport. This will allow a traveller from Kuala Lumpur to hop onto the upcoming High-Speed Rail to Jurong East, and transit to Changi Airport via the CRL, noted Mr Khaw.

He said: “Together, these options enable many commuters who use the MRT network to get from all parts of the island to the airport with no more than one transfer. More details will be announced after the completion of the engineering feasibility studies for the TEL and CRL.”

Current plans for the 43km-long TEL include eight transit stations and one interchange section, connected to the Downtown Line 3 extension (DTL3e) in Sungei Bedok.

The groundbreaking ceremony also marked the start of construction for the 2.2km-long DTL3e and the East Coast Integrated Depot.

The depot will feature state-of-the-art technology, possibly adapted from the London subway system, said Mr Khaw. During a recent study trip to London depots, the Land Transport Authority visited an automatic train inspection facility that used visual, impact and temperature sensors to observe train conditions.

“They have also installed electrical sensors on their track circuits, so that they can monitor both the tracks, as well as the trains that pass through,” said the minister. “The operators then analyse and act on the data collected, to pick up and follow up on symptoms of failure before the failure actually happens. These are useful innovations and we will see what we can adapt for Singapore.”

Giving an update of ridership figures, following the opening of the Downtown Line 2 last December, Mr Khaw said that ridership has tripled from 83,000 in October 2015 to 250,000 in May this year.

LTA exploring extending Thomson-East Coast Line to Changi Airport
Loh Chuan Junn, Channel NewsAsia 21 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is assessing the possibility of extending the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) from Sungei Bedok station to the future Changi Airport Terminal 5 and the existing Changi Airport station.

Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan revealed this at the groundbreaking ceremony of the East Coast stretch of the TEL on Thursday (Jul 20).

"It would provide a direct connection from the airport to the city,” said Mr Khaw. “This would benefit travellers and airport staff."

He added that the authority will also be assessing the feasibility of connecting the Cross Island Line (CRL) to Terminal 5 and the new industrial zone serving the airport. "Together, these options enable many commuters who use the MRT network to get from all parts of the the island to the airport with no more than one transfer," Mr Khaw said.

The TEL will be Singapore’s sixth MRT line and the third-longest MRT line in the country at 43 kilometres when completed. It will also feature a four-in-one East Coast Integrated depot - the first of its kind in the world.

The integrated depot will have depots of the existing East-West Line, Downtown Line and TEL stacked on top of each other, with a bus depot built next to it. The facility will be housed within a 36-hectare site, or an area of approximately 60 football fields, while the main train depot building will span over 1 km.

The entire East Coast stretch of the TEL, which is made up of 10 stations, will also be built on reclaimed land. It will be completed in two stages with the first seven stations - Tanjong Rhu to Bayshore - slated to be ready in 2023.

- CNA/xk

Thomson-East Coast Line could be extended to connect to Changi Airport
Adrian Lim, Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Jul 16;

SINGAPORE - The Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL), currently being constructed, could be extended to connect to the Changi Airport MRT station, as well as the airport's future Terminal 5.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Thursday (July 21) that the Government is assessing the feasibility of extending the 43km MRT line, which is expected to open in stages from 2019 to 2024.

"It would provide a direct connection from the airport to the city. This would benefit travellers and airport staff," said Mr Khaw during a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of works for the East Coast stretch of the TEL.

Mr Khaw also said the Government is studying the feasibility of bringing the proposed Cross-Island Line (CRL) to Terminal 5 and the new industrial zone serving the airport.

He said details will be announced after engineering feasibility studies are completed for the TEL and CRL.

"Together, these options (would) enable many commuters who use the MRT network to get from all parts of the island to the airport with no more than one transfer," he said.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) also unveiled the finalised station names for the TEL following a public poll last October. It said that about 38,000 votes were received during the polling exercise.

The East Coast stretch of the TEL is planned to have nine stations along a 13km segment that will run through the eastern parts of the island, such as Tanjong Rhu, Siglap, Upper East Coast and Bedok South.

It connects to the Thomson stretch, a 22-station, 30km segment.

Thursday's groundbreaking, held at the Marine Parade project site, also marked the start of work for two other projects: the East Coast Integrated Depot and the Downtown Line 3 extension to Sungei Bedok.

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Malaysia: Johor to identify flood prone areas statewide

NELSON BENJAMIN The Star 21 Jul 16;

JOHOR BARU: The state government is carrying out a comprehensive study involving at least 65 critical flood prone areas statewide.

State Health and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ayob Rahmat said that most of the critical areas were in Segamat, Batu Pahat, Kluang and Kota Tinggi.

“Our earlier records show that we have 165 flood prone areas.

“These flood prone areas are those with people both in towns and rural areas.

“But some of these areas already have flood mitigation projects to prevent flooding,” he said, adding that the study would take at least six months to be completed.

He was speaking to reporters after launching a workshop involving 200 participants from government agencies, non-governmental agencies and youth groups on a flood action plan study.

“This is the first time the government is carrying out a comprehensive study. In the past it was just done at the district levels,” he said.

On how the government planned to tackle the issue once the study was done, Ayob said that it would depend on the state’s financial status and also urgency of the project.

“We are also doing this study as Johor has been hit by two major floods, which displaced thousands of people in 2006 and 2011,” he said, adding that the government wanted to list the areas that continue to be flooded despite many efforts to mitigate this.

On funding for flood mitigation and maintenance of drains and waterways, he said that it was from both the federal and state government.

“We allocate about RM30mil to RM35mil annually while under the 11th Malaysia Plan, we have requested for RM5bil from the Federal Government,” he said, adding that among them was for flood mitigation, dams and to mitigate soil erosion along beaches.

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Indonesia: Residents ignore safeguards meant to protect whale sharks

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 29 Jul 16;

As tourists flock to Botubarani village, Bone Bolango regency, the waters of which are home to whale sharks, visitors have chosen to ignore rules made by the local administration to protect the animals.

The Gorontalo provincial marine and fishery agency and a number of other relevant institutions at one time closed the tourist attraction because of environmental considerations and set rules to protect the rare species.

Among the regulations were ones that banned visitors from touching and feeding the animals and limited the number of boats entering the whale shark zone to only five at a time.

The attraction was reopened in April after the administration decided on the zoning of the site and came up with a series of tight regulations on how to interact with the whale sharks.

From the reopening until the beginning of July as Muslims celebrated Idul Fitri, more than 9,000 domestic and foreign tourists were reported to have visited the site.

In practice, however, the regulations survived only for a month. No limitations are enforced any more on the number of boats entering the 10,000-square-meter whale shark zone as was ordered by the rules. Visitors as well can now freely touch and feed the animals with shrimp heads that they buy from locals.

Last weekend, for example, some 10 boats carrying between three and six visitors each were seen sailing into the whale shark zone at the same time. A snorkeler was even seen trying to ride on a whale shark.

Used plastic bags that were used to pack whale shark food or snacks can now be seen floating on the waters in the tourist site, which can be reached in only 15 minutes from downtown Gorontalo city.

Ridwan Abdul, 50, a local fisherman who rented his boat to visitors, said that the regulations have disadvantaged locals. “The limitation on the number of boats made our income plunge to only Rp 50,000 [US$3.8] to Rp 100,000 per day from a previous Rp 300,000 to Rp 400,000,” said the father of three who has stopped fishing for the last three months.

Casandra Tania, a marine species officer with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), said that feeding whale sharks from boats could change the natural behavior of the animals, which are known for being tame.

The feeding, she said, prevents the animals from wandering farther afield to get food naturally and in a variety that later could also influence their growth. Feeding the sharks from a boat as a tourist attraction made the animals assume that when there was a boat present it must have food. “Imagine what happens next when the whale sharks approach a hunter’s boat,” she said.

The practice, she added, also caused the sharks to be wounded because of the boat propellers that hit them as they compete for the food. This also could endanger the people on board the boats. “Whale sharks are known for being tame, but once they feel uncomfortable they can just flick their tails and this is dangerous,” she said.

Observations conducted by the WWF and Whale Shark Indonesia (WSID) this year revealed that there were 17 juvenile whale sharks that were each three to seven meters long in Botubarani.

The whale shark site in Gorontalo is considered unique because it is not far from the downtown area and is situated only a few meters from the beach. This is different from the other whale shark tourist attractions in the country.

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A toxic algae bloom is taking over Florida’s waters — here's why it's dangerous

Ernst B. Peebles, The Conversation Yahoo News 19 Jul 16;

Reported cases of algal blooms, when algae grow rapidly from an influx of nutrients in waterways, have been rising at an exponential rate in recent decades.

Industrialized countries have the highest incidence with North America, Europe and eastern Asia being hotbeds for new cases due to runoff from industry and cities as well as these areas' intensive use of manufactured fertilizers.

These events often cause a noticeable change in the color and smell of natural water bodies and may be accompanied by highly visible fish kills or even respiratory distress in humans who inhale tiny, aerosol particles created by wind and waves.

A highly visible new case recently developed in Florida, where a particularly intense bloom of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) formed in Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in the state. As is often the case with today’s larger, more intense blooms, the event was visible to satellites orbiting in space. This year’s Lake Okeechobee bloom was first noticed on Landsat 8 images during early May 2016 and persisted through at least midsummer.

While blooms of this nature are not uncommon in Lake Okeechobee, this one received more attention because of its intensity and size – it covered 33 square miles. Also, the bloom was exported to the coast when water managers released water from Lake Okeechobee in response to several months of heavy rainfall and concerns that rising water levels in the lake, which is contained by a dike, would cause flooding.

Upon reaching the coast through two man-made diversions that short-circuit the lake’s natural, southerly flow to the Everglades, the bloom persisted instead of dispersing, causing economic damage to local tourism, fishing and boating businesses. Florida’s governor subsequently declared a state of emergency in three of the hardest-hit counties on the Atlantic coast and in one county on the Gulf coast.

Apart from the economic damages, Floridians are also bothered by the environmental degradation these events cause. What are the environmental and health dangers from this sort of large-scale algal bloom?

Bloom types and basic bloom mechanics

Blue-green algae are one of three types of single-celled algae that frequently cause harmful blooms in coastal waters. In Florida and elsewhere, the blue-greens tend to bloom in fresh water and at the upper ends of estuaries, near where freshwater runoff first starts to mix with coastal seawater. The other two algal types, diatoms and dinoflagellates, tend to bloom at more seaward locations (especially the dinoflagellates).

While the fundamental causes of coastal algal blooms are well understood, there is considerable uncertainty about the details. A large part of the debate involves determining which cocktail of nutrients – whether it’s nitrate, ammonia, orthophosphate or organic nutrients such as urea – promotes one particular bloom type over another.

One of the well-understood fundamentals about algal blooms is that land use has a strong bearing on the types of nutrients that are delivered downstream to bloom-prone water bodies.

Urban development introduces new nutrients from sewage, manufactured fertilizer and rain-borne emissions from burned fuel to downstream parts of local drainage basins. Agriculture, especially row crops, can introduce manufactured fertilizer in large amounts to drainage basins. Intensive animal feed lots may also introduce excessive nutrients; hog farms in North Carolina and duck farms on Long Island are two well-known examples of intensive animal production leading to harmful algal blooms and lowered water quality. In Florida’s case, intensive feed lots are not common, but the other two land-use types are.

Also well-understood is that water stagnation encourages blooms by giving the algae enough time to remain in calm surface waters where the light needed for photosynthesis is most abundant. In Florida and elsewhere, water is withdrawn from rivers and streams for various municipal, agricultural and industrial purposes, and these withdrawals tend to increase the incidence of stagnation. On the other hand, there are coastal areas both inside and outside of Florida that are relatively immune to stagnation and algal-bloom formation because tidal flushing is strong there.

Once blooms have formed, they can have two types of effects, indirect and direct. The most prominent indirect effect is low dissolved oxygen in the water, or hypoxia. During a bloom, the algae produce dissolved oxygen while they photosynthesize during the day, but then consume dissolved oxygen at night in the dark as they respire.

Although the balance between these two opposing processes (photosynthesis vs. respiration) can be either positive or negative, the trend toward hypoxia becomes stronger as the algae from the bloom start to die off and decompose. First, the sick and dying cells stop producing as much oxygen through photosynthesis, and then the total amount of respiration surges once nonphotosynthetic bacteria start to break down the newly abundant, dead algae cells for food.

Hypoxia can lasts minutes to months, but is nearly permanent in some bodies of water.

Harms to many organisms

Why should we be concerned about hypoxia? Basically, the answer is that hypoxia determines which animals can survive in a given body of water.

Hypoxia and anoxia (the complete absence of dissolved oxygen) kill aquatic organisms of all sizes, but the less-mobile bottom animals are usually the first to go. In some cases, hypoxia/anoxia spreads throughout much of the water body, resulting in fish kills. Even if fish kills do not occur, the likely loss of bottom animals eliminates a critically important food supply for the fish community.

Many aquatic animals, especially larger predators such as fish, obtain their energy from food webs that include bottom animals; even fish and other aquatic animals that do not eat bottom animals directly may be affected. A study of European fisheries revealed that this food-web effect translated into a dramatically changed composition of the fish community over a period of decades. As algal blooms became more common, highly valued fish that were once abundant in the harvest became scarce.

Toxicity, however, is the most direct effect of algal blooms. Some types of bloom are never toxic, but still cause harmful hypoxia, and others are toxic in some cases but not others.

Blooms of algal types such as the red tide organism (Karenia brevis, a dinoflagellate) always appear to be toxic once the blooms exceed a threshold density of cells. Karenia’s toxic product, brevitoxin, mostly kills fish, although other marine life, including dolphins and manatees, have also been killed by red tide. Nutrients released from the decomposing fish are believed to prolong the blooms.

The toxins from various types of algal blooms can become dangerously concentrated within shellfish, especially filter-feeding clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. While the detection of blooms often leads to the closure of shellfish beds by authorities, human deaths have occurred in areas where such regulation does not exist, and also in areas where new blooms are believed to be forming for the first time, catching people off-guard.

One study identified 2,124 cases of saxitoxin poisoning in the Philippines, with 120 deaths between 1983 and 2002. These cases were attributed to Pyrodinium bahamense, the same dinoflagellate that blooms intensively in Tampa Bay, apparently without becoming very toxic (yet).

Researchers are starting to suspect that asthma and other human respiratory ailments are more related to algal blooms than previously believed. Also, there is concern that with continued environmental change, blooms that are presently mildly toxic could become far more toxic in the future.

Possible remedies

Given these economic, environmental, and human-health impacts at the coast, what can be done? In Florida, managers release freshwater from the interior to the coast for flood control and water supply. But ecosystem health at the coast must also be managed.

In accordance with the U.S. Clean Water Act, the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program, which sets pollution limits in bodies of water, is being implemented to lessen the nutrient runoff that fuels algal blooms. The TMDL program provides a geographic accounting of pollutant sources, including excessive nutrient runoff. Yet new blooms keep forming.

In addition to TMDLs, further development and implementation of best management practices for agricultural and urban land use needs to continue with the goal of curbing excessive nutrient runoff, particularly during rainy periods.

Detailed computer models of water circulation should be used more routinely in the course of water management to predict where coastal algal blooms are likely to form. Finally, natural wetland buffers should be used to intercept nutrients before they reach the coast (provided this does not cause a different set of problems in the interior), and the construction of engineered treatment wetlands should be considered.

In the Lake Okeechobee case, restoration of flow to the Everglades may go a long way toward solving Florida’s current problems at the coast.

Ernst B. Peebles, Associate Professor of Biological Oceanography, University of South Florida. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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