‘Malls, hotels must look into improving efforts to reduce waste’

SIAU MING EN Today Online 24 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — From hotels throwing out leftover food to shopping malls discarding paper and plastic packaging, such large commercial premises alone churned out about 302,000 tonnes of waste last year, taking up 4 per cent of the total waste generated in Singapore.

And even though nine in 10 of such premises have their own recycling programmes, a report card on waste for the sector — the first sector required to submit such data — showed that its weighted average recycling rates remained below 10 per cent.

Since 2014, hotels with more than 200 rooms and malls with net lettable areas of more than 50,000sqft are required to submit waste data and waste reduction plans to the National Environment Agency (NEA), and the agency told TODAY it would review the possibility of extending this to other types of premises.

For the whole of last year, 94 hotels and 167 malls had to submit their waste reports.

In 2014, submissions were made by 90 hotels and 153 malls for the period between July and December.

From the data gathered, on an average day last year, a hotel room generated 3.87kg of waste, of which 0.26kg was recycled and the rest disposed of.

Likewise, malls generated 5.5kg of waste per square foot per year last year and 0.49kg was recycled while the rest was disposed of.

Overall, 87 per cent of hotels and 85 per cent of malls had recycling rates that were below 10 per cent last year.

Hotels recorded a weighted average recycling rate of 6.7 per cent in 2015, a drop from 7.1 per cent in 2014. The rate was 9 per cent for malls in 2015, slightly better than the rate of 8.3 per cent in 2014.

Based on the waste quantities reported in the last two rounds, an NEA spokesperson told TODAY that there has been “no perceptible drop in waste generation”.

Hotels and malls have told the agency of the difficulties in managing waste, such as limited budgets and a lack of knowledge on the types of waste disposed of.

To that end, NEA said that it has been providing advice on how these premises may improve their waste audits to tap potential cost savings through waste reduction.

The spokesperson added: “NEA is monitoring the effectiveness of the scheme and will review the possibility of extending it to other types of premises as part of our 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) efforts.”

Experts who spoke to TODAY suggested that malls should take the lead in getting consumers to reduce waste.

Mr Eugene Tay, executive director of non-profit group Zero Waste SG, said that this may be done by getting their tenants to take part in bring-your-own-bag or use-your-own-food-container initiatives, and he is keen to collaborate with malls on these measures next year.

He also said that these premises need to look into which waste streams are generating more trash in order to tackle the problem.

While such waste audits are useful, he added that NEA could set benchmarks so that these premises know where they stand when compared to the rest.

Consumers should also consider a hotel’s recycling efforts before choosing their accommodation.

Mr Victor Chang, deputy director of the Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre at the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute, said that this could spur the establishment to put more effort into recycling, for instance.

“Otherwise, it is not (among their) business considerations (to manage waste). To them, it’s an expense (unless) they can somehow turn this into an investment, to build an image,” he added.

One way that malls and hotels here are helping to reduce waste is by recycling their used light bulbs, a practice adopted by Ikea furniture store and City Square Mall near Little India.

Ikea goes further by extending this initiative to its customers, allowing them to discard light bulbs in its bins.

Crowne Plaza Hotel at Changi Airport recycles used soap bars and donates them to the underprivileged, while Jem mall in Jurong collects kitchen oil to be recycled into biofuel. It also uses a “digester”, a disposal system that turns food waste into water.

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) uses food digesters as well, and donates excess food to charity body Food Bank Singapore instead of throwing it away.

The casino-resort also distributes unused amenities such as shower gel and shampoo to its employees.

Despite these efforts, MBS said that there are difficulties in executing sustainability programmes on such a “big scale”, given that it has operations in food and beverage, meetings and conventions, entertainment, retail and museum.

Another challenging area is consumer indifference or ignorance. Ikea’s spokesperson observed that recycling bins around the store are sometimes treated as regular trash bins, and it is difficult to ensure that recyclables are not contaminated with non-recyclable waste. The store also has limited space for more recycling bins.

“Recycling, to a degree, takes commitment and discipline from all individuals,” the spokesperson added.

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Singapore set to avert record number of dengue cases

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 23 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — With the number of dengue cases steadily declining, Singapore looks set to avoid the worst-case scenario of a record 30,000 cases predicted by the authorities at the start of the year, when cases spiked alarmingly.

The number of cases this year is at 12,708 as of Wednesday (Nov 23) — worse than the 11,200 of last year, but nowhere near the levels in 2013 when the number of cases reached a record 22,170.

The latest weekly figures for reported cases, provided by the National Environment Agency (NEA), showed that there were 72 cases for the week ending Nov 19. The numbers have been falling progressively, from 107 cases for the week ending Oct 22.

Although this period is traditionally the low season for mosquitoes, the latest numbers are still lower when compared with the same period in previous years.

Earlier this year, there was an alert from NEA that the number of dengue cases in 2016 may exceed 30,000 “unless immediate action is taken”. Its spokesman said that the Do the Mozzie Wipeout campaign against mosquito-breeding was launched and an inter-agency dengue taskforce was activated to get more public agencies to help monitor breeding sites.

“Since then, we have observed a decline in the case numbers, and these have been fluctuating at fewer than 100 cases per week for the past few weeks,” the spokesperson added. The authorities also roped in a large number of volunteers to lead the fight on the ground.

In February, the People’s Association said that it had gathered more than 5,000 grassroots leaders and volunteers for house visits, targeting areas with a high number of dengue cases.

In April, the NEA said that it would train 5,000 more dengue-prevention volunteers this year, to nearly double the pool of 5,800 such volunteers who educate the public on getting rid of breeding sites.

There was a S$200 fine implemented earlier this year for owners of homes found to have breeding spots, regardless of whether they are situated in a dengue cluster. Member of Parliament Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) said: “I think the fine made people realise that the crackdown on dengue was getting serious. So, together with the campaigns, more started to take responsibility (to keep) their homes free of breeding grounds.”

Incidentally, the Zika scare and the subsequent control measures also played a part in the fight against dengue. In August, Singapore had its first locally transmitted case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, and MPs and infectious diseases experts observed that people had become more vigilant about clearing potential breeding places in their homes because of this.

Professor Tikki Pang, adviser of Asian Dengue Vaccination Advocacy group, said that the intensified vector control by the authorities would have had an impact on controlling dengue as well. The MPs and experts said that it is now possible for the low number of cases to be sustained, but this hinges on people continuing to do their part to prevent mosquito-breeding.

“It is about whether the public can be on high alert continuously, especially now that the Zika scare has worn off,” Prof Pang said.

The visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said it is also possible that the dengue type could change next year. “If it changes to dengue type 3, then we might have an increase in the number of cases.”

In the week ending Nov 19, the number of reported Zika cases had tapered off to just three. As of yesterday, three clusters remain — two of which have no new cases reported in the past two weeks.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, said: “I do feel optimistic. The results have shown that if everyone plays their part, it does make a significant impact. Then, if we have other measures like Wolbachia and dengue vaccines, it could curb the spread. All these measures will have additional impact.”

Last month, Singapore started a Wolbachia trial, where male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria were released in Braddell Heights housing estate (followed by Tampines West and Nee Soon East) as part of a field study to control the mosquito population and the spread of diseases such as dengue.

When female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes mate with the Wolbachia-carrying males, their eggs will not hatch because they are biologically incompatible.

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Man jailed for smuggling live birds into Singapore

Today Online 24 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean man was sentenced to three months’ jail for illegally importing live birds and subjecting them to unnecessary suffering or pain while doing so.

Low Seng Hai, 63, tried to smuggle in two Oriental White-eye (mata puteh) birds and one Zebra Dove at Woodlands Checkpoint, but he was caught by officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) was notified of the case by the ICA on May 27 this year.

The birds were found cramped inside two small pouches with hardly any space for them to move, and were hidden under the front passenger console in a Singapore-registered car.

“The birds were transported in a precarious manner ... and were without any food or water,” the AVA said in a press release yesterday.

Its investigations also confirmed that the birds were imported without a permit.

The birds have been successfully rehomed at the Jurong Bird Park, the AVA said. They were tested as part of the investigations and found to be free from avian flu.

Animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status and may introduce exotic diseases into the country.

Travellers may want to refer to the AVA’s website or download its free mobile app, SG TravelKaki, to get more information on bringing animals into Singapore from overseas.

It is illegal to import any animals or live birds without an AVA permit. If convicted, the offender may be fined S$10,000 and/or jailed up to a year.

3 months' jail for man who smuggled birds into Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 23 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: A 63-year-old Singaporean man was jailed on Wednesday (Nov 23) for illegally importing birds and subjecting them to unnecessary suffering.

He was sentenced to three months' jail for each charge. Both sentences will run concurrently.

Low Seng Hai had smuggled the birds - two Oriental White-eye (Mata Puteh) birds and a Zebra Dove - inside two small pouches under the front passenger centre console of a Singapore-registered car.

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers detected the birds at Woodlands Checkpoint on May 27.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) investigated and confirmed that the birds were imported without a permit. “The birds were transported in a precarious manner (cramped into small pouches with hardly any space for movement), and were without any food or water,” said AVA in a joint news release with ICA.

Tests found the birds free avian influenza and the birds have been rehomed at the Jurong Bird Park, added the news release.

Importing animals or live birds without an AVA permit is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

- CNA/xk

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Malaysia: Johor to totally disallow river sand mining activities

The Star 24 Nov 16;

JOHOR BARU: All sand mining activities along major waterways and rivers in the state will be stopped to protect water resources after rainfall dropped by more than half this year compared with previous years.

Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said a ban had been imposed since this year and those with existing permits would not be able to continue after it expires in December.

“We want river sand mining activities to be stopped to protect our waterways especially Sg Muar and Sg Johor which supply water to thousands of people,” he said, adding that more than a dozen sand mining companies were affected by the ban.

Hasni said the state had already gazetted at least 14 out of the 17 dams statewide.

“The last three dams to be gazetted soon are Sembrong, Bekok and Kahang and the next step is to gazette the water catchment areas,” he said.

This would require discussions with many parties and agencies as it involves a huge area around the dams, said Hasni.

“Once an area is gazetted as a protected zone, people cannot encroach into the area or carry out any farming or other activities there,” he added.

Hasni said a lot of effort was being put in place to protect the rivers after the drop in rainfall compared with the usual amount recorded in previous years.

The state will buy patrol boats for the water regulatory body Bakaj to operate along rivers and waterways to check on polluters.

“We will also need to purchase smaller boats to check on tributaries too,” he said, adding that those who pollute the rivers should be taken to court.

“Johor is rapidly developing and we need to ensure we have continuous supply of water to attract investors,” he said when opening a water awareness programme for schoolchildren organised by Syarikat Air Johor.

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Malaysia: Banking on birding in the name of conservation

FERNANDO FONG New Straits Times 23 Nov 16;

JELEBU: The untapped potential of Kenaboi Forest Reserve as a birding diversity hotspot has led to an expedition by bird watchers and photographers.

Touted as the first of its kind in the country, the expedition was organised by the Negri Sembilan Tourism Board and Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (ECOMY).

Despite being extensively logged before it was gazetted as a forest reserve some twenty years ago, today the forest reserve is found to be abundantly rich in bird species.

ECOMY chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian said a recent two-day expedition listed 115 species of birds including the helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil).

The helmeted hornbill has recently been uplisted from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

“The current forested landscape must be retained as it is and enriched by the planting of forest fruit trees so that birds and wildlife can thrive.

“The untapped potential for bird conservation can also be unlocked by setting up an information centre, while active birding zones should also be identified,” he told the New Straits Times.

The expedition was also a collaborative venture between birdwatchers and photographers coming together to promote interest in birdwatching and birds conservation.

Andrew, a seasoned naturalist and bird guide, noted that the two groups play a vital role in helping to ensure healthy populations of birds for the future.

The former are primarily interested in watching, studying, and learning about birds, while the latter are passionate to get beautiful photographs of the birds, often investing a great deal of money in high-powered telephoto lenses and countless hours in time.

“It’s an uneasy grouping as both have different methodologies and agenda.

“But in an expedition setting, it’s the best formula as we had witnessed.

“They worked well as a team, recognising call notes of birds far away while keeping an eye on the camera,” he said.

Meanwhile, Negri Sembilan Tourism Board event manager Shamaruddin Saidin said plans are afoot to offer two days one night tour package for birding enthusiasts.

“We will find travel agents to sell the packages, which will also focus on conserving our birds and their habitats.

“The location is not too far from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which is a plus point,” he said.

He added that Kenaboi has other attractions which will appeal to outdoor lovers such as the beautiful Lata Kijang waterfall, lush and dense green bamboo groves, and exotic tropical fruits such as dokong and miniature-size durian kampung.

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Malaysia: Angling for the apex predator

NIK NAIZI HUSIN The Star 24 Nov 16;

ROMPIN: Anglers were happy to see the billfish thriving in its habitat off the coast of Rompin during the recent Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge.

Some 200 anglers from all over the world took part in the annual catch-and-release concept competition.

It is considered the largest fishing competition in Malaysia while also conserving the billfish population.

The competition was more focused on promoting fishing as a sport and also a tourism attraction.

Based on the number and range of participants, the competition had undoubtedly benefited fishing boat operators, fishing tackle shops and also local small and medium scale traders.

According to state Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Johari Hussain, the number of participants had grown from strength to strength as there were only four boats and 12 participants in 2004.

“The number of both participants and boats keeps on growing. This year, a total of 50 boats were hired and a few more were used for other needs during the competition.

“In conjunction with Visit Pahang Year 2017, the competition to be held next year is expected to receive a few hundred more participants as it will be held on a grand scale with more attractive prizes,” he said.

The participants came from 17 countries including the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, China, Japan, Germany, India, Brunei, New Zealand, the United States, Belgium, Canada, Britain, Norway, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

Tourism and Culture Ministry Pahang office director Idros Yahya said Rompin is a fishing haven for anglers and local fishermen.

Idros said previously, boats hired for participants had to come from Johor, Malacca and Port Klang because there were insufficient vehicles available for rent locally.

“Now, there are 50 speedboats available for rent while the boat operators and angling shops keep mushrooming as there is high demand from anglers, mainly from Singapore.

“They have fun catching and releasing the billfish because it is not suitable to be eaten. At the same time they can also catch other fish such as kerapu, kembong and jenahak.

“For the government, the billfish competition has created community-based tourism. Other tourism and food operators can also thrive with the increased demand,” Idros said.

Muadzam Shah assemblyman Datuk Maznah Mazlan, who also took part in the competition, said that more artificial reefs should be placed in the area to attract more fish species which are the billfish’s food.

The sea off Rompin, where the competition was held, is a natural migration route for the billfish species (Istiophorus platypterus) on their way from the northern hemisphere to Australia.

The active migration period of the billfish, such as marlin and sailfish, is from March to September.

One of the reasons for their presence in the area is the abundance of anchovies and other small fish which they can feed on.

The reefs at Rompin, namely Karang (Reef) DO (District Office), Karang Cha, Karang Batu Mati, Karang Buru, Karang Luas, Batu Berhala, Karang Rompin, Batu Saga and Tukun Tayar provide some of the best resting places for the billfish before they move on.

During the competition, team Rompin Ocean 1, comprising Daryl Jes Ch’ing (Malaysia), Tan Chow Wee and Jason Tan (both Singaporeans), emerged as the champion and received RM20,000, trophies and fishing equipment.

First runner-up was team Penn Battle (Charles Lee Khoon, Ray Ong Swee (both Singaporeans) and Gerard Lee Ee (United States). They received RM14,000, trophies and equipment.

Third place went to team Sail Slayer, comprising members Chris Dann (British), Peter Sidaros (US) and Scott Beamner (Canada).

They bagged RM10,000, trophies and other fishing equipment as prizes.

Rompin MP Datuk Hasan Arifin launched the competition while Mohd Johari presented the prizes.

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Swift action, massive education push needed to avoid plunge over “unsustainability precipice,” top UN official says

Speaking at event on sustainable development, General Assembly President flags causes for concern, reasons for hope
FAO 23 Nov 16;

23 November 2016, Rome - Warning that humanity's current pathway will cause it to plunge over the "precipice of unsustainability" if unaltered, a top UN official today called for an energetic push in the next decade to implement the Paris Climate Treaty and advance the new global sustainable development agenda.

Although the Paris Treaty aims to limit global warning to a 1.5 to 2 degree rise in global temperatures, "we are still at the moment heading for a 3-4 degree rise and it's not clear that civilization as we know it can continue to function at those levels," UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson of Fiji told government representatives gathered at FAO today for an event on the new, internationally-agreed 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

In addition to climate change, other pressing issues the Agenda aims to tackle include population growth, poverty and inequality, environmental degradation, and natural disasters, which are driving conflict, migration, and hunger and malnutrition.

Implementing the 2030 Agenda over the next decade to rise to these challenges "presents humanity with its greatest test," Thomson said, urging a massive effort to educate young people on why its success is critical for their future.

"My generation will not change and will continue on the path to the precipice. But young people — who have most skin in the game, because they will be adult when 2030 comes around — do have the ability to change and to force their parents to change their consumption patterns," Thomson said.

"The choices they make will determine whether we succeed or fail," he added, calling on governments to ensure that the SDGs are incorporated into curriculums and "taught in every school on this planet."

A global masterplan that can work

The good news, Thomson said, is that the SDGs, the Paris Treaty, and other international agreements achieved over the past 15 months — the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendai Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction, and the New Urban Agenda — "provide a different path for humanity, which though it won't take us back to the past, at least bends away from the precipice."

"These agreements provide us with the universal masterplan we need for peace and prosperity," he argued, adding: "The stakes are as high as they possibly can be: Humanity's place on this planet depends on its success."

All states now have a responsibility to mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals and these agreements into their national planning and programming — and work together to find innovative ways to come up with the $5-7 trillion in public and private financing achieving them will require — according to the UN General Assembly President.

Thomson praised recent advances in doing just that, citing the "inspiring" high level of commitments by leaders at the just-concluded Marrakesh Climate Summit to build on recent momentum to address climate change and implement of the 2030 Agenda.

Pulling together as one

Also speaking today were FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, World Food Program (WFP) Executive-Director Ertharin Cousin, and Perin St. Ange, Associate Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

They stressed the strong partnership that exists between the Rome-based UN food agencies to support countries in achieving the 2030 Development Agenda.

"Working together is fundamental to ensuring that no one is left behind," said Graziano da Silva.

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