Best of our wild blogs: 1 Nov 16

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News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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You won't find tiger parts for sale, says Louis Ng

Lydia Lam, MyPaper AsiaOne 31 Oct 16;

Much like most of Singapore's native wildlife, animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) is hard to spot but active, Acres founder and chief executive Louis Ng says.

My Paper speaks to the 38-year-old father of one about the country's native wildlife, the problem of animal smuggling and a possible coalition of animal groups here.

How has your move into politics (as MP for Nee Soon GRC) affected your time with Acres?

(My time) is split into four now. Politics, town council, Acres and my family.

The focus for Acres is to really groom the next generation of leaders. I've run it for 15 years now as CEO.

What does Acres do?

We're most popular now for our 24/7 rescue work.

But more importantly, we also focus on tackling wildlife crime through our wildlife investigation team. They do a lot of undercover work, a lot of inspections or undercover surveys of pet shops. We're out on our roadshows as well.

What is your stand on animals in zoos?

I think there is some use.

We're not against zoos or animals in captivity (for conservation) but we're against certain practices like elephant rides, photography sessions, dolphin contact sessions. But TripAdvisor taking that very strong stand and not selling tickets (to cruel wildlife attractions) now, that's going to be crucial.

There are good zoos and bad zoos.

What about the Singapore Zoo?

After all these years of campaigning, we are more towards a good zoo. We've stopped the elephant rides, the chimp photography, animal shows with circus-style tricks, they've agreed to phase out the keeping of Arctic animals.

How prevalent is the smuggling problem here?

It's statistically on the decline. When Acres started in 2001, you could go to the pet shop and buy star tortoises. And this is a jailable offence.

The first undercover we did for bear bile, we found 73.5 per cent of shops selling. We found tiger penis, tiger bone openly on sale. You will not find that now.

What's coming up in Acres?

We're focusing on two roadshows next year (for awareness): Firstly, animal sentience, showing that animals are like us - they have feelings, friends and families - and a whole roadshow in the second half of the year about our native wildlife.

What about NGOs like Voices for Animals which are worried about rising rental costs?

They will have to raise the funds. Ultimately, a charity has to raise its own dollars and cents. During a forum, somebody said the Government should just fund it. But you know we don't even build our own kidney dialysis centre.

If you want the Government to fund everything, that will never happen, because where will we draw the line?

Have you ever considered a coalition among animal groups in Singapore?

I think they submitted a proposal to the Ministry of National Development more than a year ago, all the animal groups coming together to request (unsuccessfully) for land. Part of the issue was that they requested for too much land.

Are you still working towards a shared space for animal groups?

Yes. It will take some time.

What is the status of the Yishun cat killings?

One guy was convicted. There have been other (suspects) but every lead has been investigated. It's hard to get evidence. If you know that area (has a) camera, (you won't) kill the cat there. We're going to put out more police cameras, not just to tackle cat killing, but it will also have that knock-on effect.

What is your favourite animal?

Housefly. Because they don't give up.

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Bukit Panjang Community Club to be first in Singapore to have solar panels

Lee Li Ying Channel NewsAsia 31 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: Bukit Panjang Community Club (CC) will be the first in Singapore to have solar panels and these will be installed by 2017.

According to the CC, work is underway to install the panels, and they are expected to generate at least 9 per cent of the building's energy consumption and help it save an estimated S$10,000 per year on energy bills.

The move is part of the “Eco CC @ North West” initiative that aims to encourage the community to adopt green practices. Efforts to green the CC started since April this year with the installation of water-saving devices, and features like energy-efficient LED lighting and motion sensors. A green wall will be installed in the upcoming months, it added.

These features are expected to help the CC save up to 90,000 kwh of electricity, or enough energy to power more than 300 three-room flats for a month.

However, there were challenges to implement these green features in the 23-year-old building. For example, the roof was not designed to incorporate solar panels, and in retrofitting the CC, the team involved had to work with limited space.

“Since we do not have the concrete roof space for solar panels, we had to place the solar panels on the metal roof of a different section of the building. This (was more) challenging and we had to look at the accessibility and the maintenance,” said Mr Allen Ang, chairman of the Eco CC Steering Committee. The team is working with consultants to ensure that the panels can be fixed and maintained safely.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, mayor of the North West District, said that having an eco-friendly CC will be useful in encouraging residents to adopt a green lifestyle. “It provides a green learning environment for our residents because the CC is actually a focal point where a lot of residents come together.”

Moving forward, the North West Community Development Council will work to roll out green features in all 19 CCs in the district.

The country as a whole has indicated its commitment to fight climate change, having ratified the Paris accord this September. By ratifying the agreement, Singapore formalised its pledge to reduce its emission intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

- CNA/kk

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Ugly scenes: Over 100 tonnes of rubbish left at one cinema in a year

Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 31 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: It was a typical Saturday evening and the cinema at VivoCity was packed with moviegoers. Some were queueing for tickets while others were streaming into the theatre with popcorn and soda in hand.

One of the cinema halls, which has a seating capacity of 600, was about half full. The faint sound of people munching on popcorn and potato chips could be heard as many were enjoying a snack to enhance their movie experience.

At the end of the film, the theatre's lights were switched on to help people find their way to the exit. But the lights revealed something else - piles of rubbish on the floor, left there by careless customers.

The lights were also the signal for cleaning supervisor Teo Thian Nan and two colleagues to swing into action. They had been on standby at the back of the theatre, waiting to move in to clear up the trash before the next screening. To make things more challenging, they had less than half an hour to do so.

While some customers remembered to toss their trash into the six dustbins located near the exit, discarded popcorn boxes and empty drink cups were a common sight. Armed with a large trash bag, the trio got to work. The two cleaners marched up and down each aisle picking up litter left behind by moviegoers while 60-year-old Mr Teo swept up spilled popcorn and potato chip crumbs.

“Sometimes there will be a lot of trash. People could forget to take their rubbish with them and it's troublesome. We are afraid that the cleaning could delay the next batch of moviegoers from entering the theatre,” said Mr Teo, speaking in Mandarin.

But Mr Teo also pointed out that the situation has improved in the past six months: “Many more people are now remembering to clean after themselves," said the employee of cinema chain Golden Village (GV), which operates the VivoCity cinema.


According to GV, the largest cinema operator in Singapore, the amount of trash left behind by moviegoers has increased over the years.

About 109,200kg of trash was collected from its largest outlet at VivoCity in 2014, equivalent to 2,100kg of trash per week. And the number of man-hours spent collecting that rubbish has risen from 9,700 in 2014 to 11,830 in 2015.

Most of it consists of food packaging from restaurants, food leftovers such as popcorn debris and soft drink cups, said Ms Delphina Chua, manager for GV’s Cinema Operations. “The amount of trash left behind by moviegoers is staggering. It also requires quite a number of man-hours to clean up each cinema,” she added.

To address the litter problem, GV launched a campaign called Just Bin It in 2012 to encourage moviegoers to clean up after themselves. In 2015, the cinema went a step further by screening videos just before the movie to remind customers to clean up after themselves. The campaign has been having the desired effect, with GV seeing a 15 per cent drop in rubbish collected across its 11 outlets so far this year.

Over at Shaw Theatres, the cinema does not track the amount of trash generated by moviegoers. But a spokesperson said more cleaners are assigned to bigger cinemas. The operator also has in-cinema visual reminders to get people to bin their trash.

So far, the initiative seems to have shown results. “We refreshed our in-cinema visual reminders early last year and have observed more of our patrons helping to clear up after each screening,” said the spokesperson.

These efforts by the cinemas have not gone unnoticed by some moviegoers. Paul Tay, 31, has seen signs that more people are cleaning up after themselves.

“In the past, it used to be like almost everybody would just leave their litter behind because they took it for granted that the cleaners would clean up for them. But I think with the recent increase in awareness, the situation is improving,” he said.

But Muhd Sufi, 22, disagreed. “People won’t change. I think it’s just a habit that everyone will just leave their litter behind and not clean up after themselves,” he said.


Former chairman of the Public Hygiene Council Liak Teng Lit commended the cinema operators’ efforts to encourage people to clear up their trash. But Mr Liak, who led the Keep Singapore Clean Movement, also pointed out that a minority will still leave a mess behind.

He cited a survey conducted by the National Environment Agency in 2010 which showed that a third of Singaporeans would litter if they think they can get away with it.

“It's not quite our culture here yet that we should leave the place clean and leave it to the next person in a better shape. So I guess the cinema will probably be very similar. If you observe around, we are not getting worse, but I'm not too sure whether we are improving and improving fast enough,” he said.

He added: “I think a lot of people are not conscious. They just forget about it and leave it behind. So I think we need to get a lot more considerate (and) think about the next user.”

Mr Liak also called on more people to speak up when they see others littering.

“Those who do not litter should be brave enough to gently remind those who litter by saying ‘Excuse me, I hope you don't mind’. I notice that if most people are reminded, they will be embarrassed and they will clear up,” he said.

However, Mr Teo and his team of cleaners would like more people to clean up without having to be reminded: "We still hope such behaviour can be more automatic and people can do us a favour by not leaving their trash behind. It will save us a lot of time.”

- CNA/jq

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Malaysia: No evidence to link industries with foul odour

SARBAN SINGH The Star 1 Nov 16;

SEREMBAN: The Department of Environ­ment (DOE) has narrowed its probe into the contamination of Sg Buah to a lorry spilling its cargo of palm oil-related products at 45.9km mark of the Elite Highway following an accident on Oct 22.

State director Norhazni Mat Sari said the DOE was trying to establish those involved in the accident and would summon them to record their statements.

“After conducting thorough checks, we found no evidence to link any of the 59 industries operating in Nilai as claimed by some quarters earlier.

“We have sent soil and river water samples from the accident site to the Chemistry Department for analysis,” she told reporters after a dialogue with representatives from the industries at her office.

Norhazni said under Section 38 of the Environmental Quality Act, the DOE was empowered to summon any party for questioning when probing such matters.

She said industries were duty bound under the law to notify the DOE whenever such accidents happened, adding that in the Oct 22 case, the DOE was not notified.

“We found out about the accident two days later when investigating what caused the river water to emit a strange odour,” she said.

The water authorities in Selangor had to shut down the Sg Semenyih water treatment plant on Oct 28, upon detecting a strong odour in raw water sourced from Sg Buah.

It also built three bunds at the confluence of Sg Buah and Sg Semenyih to prevent water from flowing to the treatment plant.

Since then, the Selangor authorities had also used powder activated carbon to neutra­lise the odour at the stretch which runs in the state.

To a claim by the Selangor government that the section of Sg Buah was contaminated by a chemical known as 4-bromodiphenyl ether – a compound typically used as a flame retar­dant – Norhazni said this could only be confirmed after samples sent to the Chemistry Department had been analysed.

Asked on the purpose of the meeting, Norhazni said this was to get their commitment that the industries in Nilai would not discharge hazardous chemicals into Sg Buah – an important source of raw water.

She said during the dialogue, the DOE instructed all industries licensed to discharge treated effluents into Sg Buah to conduct daily tests to ensure their activities did not pollute the river.

“We will send them notices today on the need for a guided self-regulation.

“My officers will drop in at any time at their premises to inspect these records,” she added.

Norhazni said at present, these industries were required to keep records of effluents discharged into Sg Buah weekly or monthly, depending on the type of treated effluent released.

“Of the 59, 14 industries are licensed to do so,” she said.

All 59 factories in Nilai, comply with Negri Sembilan's environmental standards: State DoE
ZAIDI ISHAM ISMAIL New Straits Times 31 Oct 16;

SEREMBAN: All 59 factories in the Nilai Industrial Park, Nilai College Heights and Arab Malaysia Industrial Park comply with all of the environmental regulations and standards set by the state's Department of Environment.

Its director Norhazni Mat Sari reiterated that pending a report by the Chemistry Department, there is no evidence to show that the factories are behind the pollution in Sungai Semenyih in Selangor.

"We have already collected samples from Sungai Buah and pending a report by the Chemistry Department, there is no proof to indicate that the factories in Nilai are the source of the odour pollution in Sungai Semenyih.

"Nevertheless, we at the Negri Sembilan DoE will continue to beef up our efforts to make sure that industries comply with our rules and regulations and not pollute the environment by throwing effluent and other waste into the river," Norhazni told reporters here yesterday.

Norhazni was commenting on the odour pollution in Sungai Buah in Negri Sembilan which is one of the river tributaries which flows into Sungai Semenyih.

Selangor state government has accused Nilai Industrial Park as the source of the odour pollution which has caused numerous water cuts in the past month at the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant affecting over 1.8 million water consumers across the districts of Kuala Langat, Hulu Langat, Petaling and Sepang.

"I would also like to stress that there is no illegal factories operating along the banks of Sungai Buah which is 8.5km away from Sungai Semenyih and land is mostly agriculture land.

Norhazni said the department has also instructed the factories which comprise mainly of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) to carry out daily tests called Guided Self Regulation as well online environment reporting to ensure that effluence does not contain pollutants and are safe in accordance with the National Water Quality Standard.

"Our officers also make daily visits at the industrial premises in the vicinity of Nilai and we are also working closely with the competent person appointed by each factory to make sure that their industrial effluence comply with the department’s safe water parameters."

Selangor dismisses road accident factor in Sungai Buah pollution
ALLISON LAI The Star 3 Nov 16;

SHAH ALAM: Selangor has refuted the possibility that spillage from road accidents caused the pollution in Sungai Buah in Negri Sembilan last week.

Selangor state exco for tourism, environment, green technology and consumer affairs Elizabeth Wong (PKR-Bukit Lanjan), in her debate speech for the state 2017 budget, revealed that the two road accidents said to have caused it took place about a kilometre away from the river's point of pollution.

"The accidents happened at KM46.2 northbound towards Shah Alam and KM46.4 on Elite Highway towards Kuala Lumpur at the exit to the North-South Expressway respectively.

"The ground zero of the pollution is at KM45.9 of the Elite Highway, on a slope near a columbarium in Nilai.

"We received the initial report last week that the spillage was identified as glycerine – an odourless, non-toxic liquid.

"So it is very unlikely for the accidents to be the cause of pollution," she said here Thursday, in reply to an additional question by Sulaiman Abd Razak (BN-Permatang)

On Oct 26, Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan said that a technical report on Hulu Sungai Buah in Negri Sembilan showed no signs of pollution, which caused the closure of the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant.

He said the report by the Environment Department, Drainage and Irrigation Department, Forestry Department, State Water Regulatory Authority and Nilai Municipal Council showed no elements of pollution in the areas involved, except for an overturned lorry tanker as a possible cause.

Sulaiman then questioned why the police report lodged by the Selangor Water Management Authority (Luas) did not allege sabotage as the cause and only identified the spillage at the site.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (PKR-Bukit Antarabangsa) then said it was the police's responsibility to conduct a comprehensive investigation whenever a report was lodged.

"It is up to the police to find out if the incident was caused by industrial factory, illegal activities or sabotage.

"The report is only to inform the police that Sungai Buah was polluted and police will investigate from all angles," he said.

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Malaysia: Scientist says red seaweed in Tanjung Gelam not harmful to humans, just don't touch it

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 31 Oct 16;

KUALA NERUS: The ‘red tide’ phenomenon that resulted in heaps of red coloured seaweed being washed ashore in Tanjung Gelam here is not a cause for worry.

Giving the assurance, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu’s Marine Science Studies Centre lecturer Associate Prof Dr Siti Aisyah Abdullah said the seaweed is not harmful to humans.

“However, I must caution them not to touch it for fear it may cause skin irritation owing to the presence of some form of toxins,” said the scientist.

Aisyah said the stormy monsoon weather, with its strong currents, may have caused what was termed as a 'red tide' phenomenon which usually was not harmful to marine life.

On the foul odour, she said it was due to the plant's decaying process after it had been uprooted from the waters.

“Anyhow, the university is conducting a detailed analysis on the matter to obtain further details. We are also looking to find out if the red coloured seaweed is of the gracillaria type which had previously got dumped on the same beach in 2003,” said Dr Aisyah.

She said the red tides were not typically associated with tidal movement of water, hence the preference among scientists to use the term algal bloom for large concentrations of aquatic microorganisms.

It is learnt that the red tide is usually caused by a few species of dinoflagellates that bloom into a red or brown colour.

News reports said that red tides were events in which estuarine, marine or fresh water phytoplankton algae accumulate rapidly in the water column, resulting in colouration of the water surface or seaweed.

It is usually found in coastal areas and kills many marine life.

The phytoplankton are single-celled protists, plant-like organisms that can form dense, visible patches on the water, the reports said.

The reports added dinoflagellates, contain photosynthetic pigments that vary in colour from green to brown to red. When the algae are present in high concentrations, the water appears to be discoloured or murky, varying in colour from purple to almost pink, normally being red or green.

Some 'red tides' are associated with the production of natural toxins, depletion of dissolved oxygen or other harmful effects.

The most conspicuous effects of these kinds of red tides, the reports said, were those associated with wildlife mortalities of marine and coastal species of fish, birds, marine mammals, and other organisms.

The red coloured seaweed along a 500m stretch had attracted large numbers of curious onlookers since last Friday.

Local resident Maizon Embong, 63, said it was the first such occurance since she had been living there the past ten years.

“At first, I thought it was the dumping of garbage. But upon closer inspection, I realised it was seaweed.

“I first spotted the red coloured seaweed at noon last Friday following a heavy stench from the beach about 50m from the rear of my house,” she said, adding the seaweed kept piling up each day.

Schoolboy Ahmad Ikram Shariman Ahmad Salinan, 11, said he initially though the foul odour to be that of dead fish or cockles.

“It was only after many residents had gathered at the beach that I learnt that it was from the red coloured seaweed,” he said.

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