Best of our wild blogs: 16 Dec 16

How are the corals at Cyrene?
wild shores of singapore

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Fresh fish, farmed in Singapore

Local fish farms ensure produce gets to you faster
Kimberly Lim The New Paper 15 Dec 16;

There are many benefits when you switch to local produce.

It will be fresh as the delivery time between local farms and your supermarket is shorter. And there's also the comfort of knowing where your food comes from.

On top of that, buying homegrown produce also means supporting our local economy.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) works with local farms, such as Rong-Yao Fisheries and Tiberias Harvest, to promote and raise consumers' awareness of locally farmed fish.

"Not many people can tell the difference between locally farmed fish and other fish," said Mr Alawn Koh, the business development manager of Rong-Yao Fisheries.

"From January, our fish will be tagged with a label featuring our brand and the Love Homegrown Produce logo from the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority, so that shoppers can easily identify locally farmed fish.

"The fish will be sold at NTUC FairPrice outlets."

Rong-Yao Fisheries is one of four fish farms here awarded the AVA Good Aquaculture Practice for fish farming certification in 2014. The certification ensures that Singapore is aligned with international guidelines for safe and quality food fish production.

Rong-Yao adopts an online fish farm management system that measures almost everything about the fish, such as the number of fish inside each cage, the amount of feed and the type and size of fish feed."

Mr Koh said: "We also use technology to maintain proper records and traceability.

"Singapore relies heavily on imported food. It is important for us to have food resilience and we believe in the vision of AVA's food resilience programme."

The farm grows fish species like pompano, sea bass, hybrid grouper and saline tilapia.

Mr Koh said: "We started in the business of supplying fresh fruit and vegetables to the food service sector in Singapore and later got into aquaculture.

"We were interested to explore the concept of farm to plate."

Tiberias Harvest delivers fish to your doorstep just hours after it is harvested.

Owner Raymond Sng said: "All of our fish are sold directly from the farm to the customer.

"Besides catering to restaurants, we have an online shop ( for home consumers. We want our fish to get to the customer fresh, without loss of quality.

"We are very particular about this."

The family-owned farm operates efficiently with a tiny workforce because of its modular structure, constructed with floating high-density polyethylene cubes.

The modular design, he said, also made it easy to re-configure the structure and increase the farm's capacity as needed. It also means less effort is needed to maintain the farm.

He added: "A large part of our farm's daily energy needs comes from solar power. This reduces repair time and servicing significantly compared to using a conventional generator. It is also environmentally friendly.

"We are thankful to AVA for co-funding our farm structures and solar power system."

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Stricter criteria for Singapore Green Labelling Scheme from next year

SIAU MING EN Today Online 16 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE — An enhanced certification and labelling scheme for environmentally friendly pulp and paper products will have more rigorous criteria from next January, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) said yesterday.

Standards will be benchmarked against environmental practices used in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Pulp and paper firms will also be assessed on the way they prevent the outbreak of fires on their plantations, and how their peatlands are managed.

In a press release issued yesterday, an SEC spokesperson said that the revamped scheme would allow consumers to take a stand in support of the environment and against practices that cause the regional haze problem.

More details of the enhanced green label will be announced next month, and firms may sign up for a workshop organised by the SEC to better understand the enhanced criteria.

Companies that are already certified under the existing Singapore Green Labelling Scheme will be given a transition period to strengthen their business practices and comply with the new criteria.

There are now 15 paper firms certified under this scheme administered by the SEC. Some of the accredited firms told TODAY that they are relatively confident of meeting the new criteria because their paper products already meet international certification standards, such as those from the Forest Stewardship Council and the International Organisation for Standardisation.

However, Mr Terry Ang, managing director of Scanpap (Asia-Pacific), pointed out that there could be more costs for the firm when it conducts tests for new paper-mill products to meet the new standards. “(Still), I think the SEC has ... sort of given a signal to not just suppliers but consumers … (that they) should keep sustainability in mind.” SIAU MING EN

'Enhanced' green label to support anti-haze efforts: SEC
Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE: A certification and labelling scheme for environmentally friendly pulp and paper products will have more rigorous criteria starting next January, said the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) on Thursday (Dec 15).

Standards will be benchmarked against environmental practices used in the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Companies will also be assessed on the way they prevent the outbreak of fire on their plantations as well as how their peatlands are managed.

SEC, which administers the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme (SGLS), said the enhanced certification "will empower consumers to take a stand" against manufacturing practices that contribute to the transboundary haze.

The enhanced Green Label was announced in April at the third Sustainable World Resources dialogue. Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli had lauded the initiative, saying that when it is fully developed, "this standard will be the most holistic certification standard for pulp and paper in the world".

Green labels that certify environmentally sustainable products have been in the spotlight due to the haze engulfing the region periodically, and both SEC and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) have called for consumers to boycott products made by companies which use irresponsible methods of clearing land.

SEC chairman Isabella Loh said the enhanced SGLS will provide consumers with "a more reliable green label" when choosing environmentally sustainable paper products.

Aside from allowing consumers to register their opposition to environmentally unfriendly practices that cause haze, Ms Loh said the enhanced green label will "help profile responsible businesses that are doing the right thing".

CASE's executive director, Seah Seng Choon, said consumers have a "vital role" to play in changing the business practices that contribute to the haze.

"If everyone in Singapore purchased products produced in a sustainable manner, it will send a clear signal to paper companies across the region," he said.


Ms Loh said SEC encourages all paper product companies to apply for the enhanced labelling scheme.

Companies will be given time to strengthen their business practices to ensure they comply with the certification criteria, according to SEC.

"It's not meant to be difficult for companies to comply, it's meant to make the certifications more robust and complete,” explained SEC's head of eco-certifications, Chong Khai Sin. “As with all other certification schemes, what it has in place is documentation and processes which have to be collated and proven for the certification, so it's not meant to be more difficult, it's just meant to be more auditable.”

Companies will have to put in place environmentally friendly and sustainable business practices including effective measures for fire control in order to qualify for the green label under the new criteria. More details of the certification will be announced at its launch in January 2017, SEC added.

Mr Chong also said that since Sep 1 this year, the Government can only procure Green Label printing paper, so that is one of the drivers for companies to be interested to remain on the Green Label.

“The yearly haze affects the health of the consumers as well as the economy,” he said. “And the enhanced Green Label for pulp and paper products gives them the power to take a stand against companies that cause the haze, as well as unsustainable practices that result in haze.”

To help companies understand the enhanced SGLS criteria, SEC will also conduct a workshop for paper manufacturing companies on Jan 10.

- CNA/mz

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Singapore's S$134m bottled water addiction

How did bottled water grow into a multimillion-dollar industry in a country with perfectly safe drinking water from the tap?
Linette Lim Channel NewsAsia 16 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE: In a country where tap water quality far exceeds minimum WHO (World Health Organization) and US Environmental Protection Agency standards, it may come as surprise to some that bottled water is a booming, multimillion-dollar business.

Consumers splashed out about S$134 million on still bottled water in 2015, up 24 per cent from five years ago, based on data from research firm Euromonitor International.

While some of these bottled water products are derived from mineral-rich springs, a significant number - including market leaders like F&N’s Ice Mountain and Coca-Cola’s Dasani - are sourced from public water supplies. These two brands made up more than half of the bottled water sales volume in Singapore last year, according to Euromonitor data.

When contacted, F&N confirmed that Ice Mountain sold in Singapore “is sourced and packed in Malaysia from tap water”, while Coca-Cola said that Dasani produced for the Singapore market comes from “the local water supply at (its) facility in Malaysia”. Both companies also said they have multiple purification processes in place, which distinguishes their “pure drinking water” from tap water.

A situation where people are willing to pay as much as a thousand times more for bottled water when clean, drinkable tap water is readily available at a nominal charge has left some environmental advocates and experts scratching their heads.

Some, like Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP)’s Assistant Professor Leong Ching say people may not be sufficiently aware of the tap water origins of some bottled water products. Others, like Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Ng Wun Jern and National University of Singapore (NUS)’s Professor Ong Choon Ham believe that people consume bottled water primarily out of convenience.


A 600ml bottle of drinking water usually retails for about S$0.50 to S$1. According to PUB, the same amount of tap water only costs 0.1 cent, making it 500 to 1,000 times cheaper than bottled water. This price differential, while significant, is not sufficient to motivate consumers to move more to tap water, said Professor Ng, who is the Executive Director of the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute at NTU.

The relatively low retail cost of bottled water also appears to be a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to carry a bottle around to be refilled, said Professor Ong, Director of the NUS Environmental Research Institute. “It’s hard to convince people that they don’t need to be spending the money they spend on bottled water, because (at) S$1 a bottle, that’s cheap to many.”

The result, is a ‘use-and-throw’ bottled water habit. This is “is a price that society pays for being highly mobile and always on-the-move”, said Mr Melvin Leong, associate director of Energy and Environment at Frost and Sullivan, adding that the need for convenient and immediate access to water is a universal one, regardless of a country’s tap water quality.

In addition, this S$1 price, according to Singapore Management University’s Seshan Ramaswami, is not usually referenced against what tap water would cost, but what a soft drink or iced tea would cost in a hawker centre or food court, and “bottled water (in these instances) is often the cheapest, and healthiest of all drinks”.

The Associate Professor of Marketing Education also noted that apart from factors like convenience and price, bottled water also appeals to short- or long-term foreign residents, who “just do not have knowledge of, or faith in the potability of tap water anywhere else, including Singapore”.

Meanwhile, Euromonitor analyst Andrea Lianto said that in spite of awareness of the potability of tap water here, some consumers have become more concerned about health issues surrounding tap water consumption, such as “the hygiene of the water ducts and pipes”.

When these concerns were relayed to PUB, it told Channel NewsAsia that Singapore has “a comprehensive and rigorous maintenance, servicing and monitoring programme which covers the entire water system, from reservoirs to waterworks, through the distribution network, to the end consumer’s tap”. This ensures that the tap water is “clean and wholesome”, it said.

PUB also added that the pipes used in Singapore’s potable water supply “are primarily cement-lined ductile iron and steel water mains” that comply with international standards.


In 2009, Professor Koh, who was the former chairman of the Governing Council of the Asia Pacific Water Forum, and Assistant Professor Leong, who is the deputy director of LKYSPP’s Institute of Water Policy, tried to start a campaign “to persuade Singaporeans to drink tap water instead of bottled water”.

Their arguments - published in PUB's Pure magazine in 2009 - ranged from common sense reasoning - “tests (…) have shown that expensive bottled water is no better than tap water” - to appeals based on environmental grounds, highlighting the plastic and energy required to manufacture and transport bottled water.

For example, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used each year to make bottles for the water industry in the US alone. This is enough to power 100,000 cars for a year.

But seven years on, such science-backed appeals have failed to stem the rise of retail and institutional sales of bottled water in Singapore.

One possible reason, they said in a joint email response to Channel NewsAsia, has to do with the profit motive of those in the business of promoting bottled water consumption, such as restaurants. Although PUB has said that it “encourage(s) food outlets and restaurants to make tap water available for customers”, and that members of the public should feel free to ask for tap water, a considerable number of restaurants here still do not serve it.

With little incentive on the part of businesses to curb lucrative bottled water sales, and consumers remaining either unaware or unmoved, water researchers and environmental advocates say more can be done to dispel myths about tap water and bottled water, and to make it easier for the public to choose tap water.


Providing more drinking water fountains

One practical solution, according to Professor Ong and Professor Ramaswami, is to install more drinking water fountains. This will help consumers overcome the “yuck factor” of having to fill water bottles from taps in toilets.

“Encouraging public toilet operators to provide drinking water fountains outside the toilet would help a lot. Even if the water in the toilet taps and water fountain taps were from the same source, the simple physical separation and design as a water fountain rather than a toilet sink tap would help convey the perception that the water was safe to drink,” said Prof Ramaswami.

Imposing clear bottled water labelling requirements

Bottled water sold in Singapore - whether locally packaged or imported - is subject to AVA’s routine surveillance and sampling to ensure that food safety standards are met. But a check with AVA revealed that bottled water manufacturers are not obliged to clearly label the water’s source. More detailed labelling, said Professor Koh and Assistant Professor Leong, “may make a difference” to changing consumer behaviour.

At present, bottled water must only be labelled with the product name - usually, “drinking water” or “distilled water”, the name of the country of origin, the name and address of the Singapore importer or the Singapore manufacturer, and the net quantity, said AVA.

Dispelling myths about tap water and bottled water

Professor Ng acknowledged that there are some people who dislike the taste of tap water. In these instances, he said “more intensive programme to educate the public on the “safeness” of water and why it tastes the way it does and how such tastes can be modified in the home by the consumer - if necessary - can help move consumers to tap water".

Meanwhile, Professor Ramaswami suggested running an online campaign, “comparing bottled water to tap water, with lab certification results to show that tap water is as safe”. He also said that “answering public concerns about pipes, tanks, and other ways in which potable water could be tainted before reaching households” in an online campaign or television programme would also help.

Reducing the carbon footprint in bottled water production
Another approach is to accept that bottled water is a fixture in our modern consumerist society, and to find ways to reduce its environmental impact. Frost and Sullivan’s Mr Leong said that existing technologies already allow for the “efficient production of plastic bottles that require less materials”, and even edible ‘bottles’, like the Ooho.

According to Coca-Cola, it has been working on various fronts, including reducing the weight - and hence plastic content - of its Dasani bottles, recycling water used in the production process, and supporting plastic bottle recycling initiatives.

Changing corporate, institutional and personal behaviour

Lastly, experts say the Government can take the lead by imposing a tax on plastic, or changing procurement practices to stop the serving of bottled water in public sector entities and in schools.

“The chairman of PUB, Tan Gee Paw, has a good pre-commitment strategy. We have seen him at public talks. When he is served bottled water, he just doesn’t drink it. No fuss, no big statements, it’s just a choice,” said Professor Koh and Assistant Professor Leong.

“All Government ministers can do this. As the culture evolves, we in Singapore serve water in a jug and a glass because our water is good enough to drink straight from the tap.”

- CNA/ll

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Indonesia: Sea Border Unaffected by Singapore's Reclamation - Minister

Tempo 15 Dec 16;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said that Singapore's reclamation project would not affect the sea border agreement between Indonesia and Singapore, which is based on the United Nations' 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"We confirm that Singapore's reclamation project will not affect the delimitation in the Singapore Strait," Budi said during a plenary meeting with the House of Representatives at the Senayan Parliamentary Complex in Jakarta on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

Earlier, the House of Representatives passed a draft bill on sea border agreement between the two countries. As many as 10 factions expressed their agreement to pass the law.

Budi explained that the Indonesian sea border is started from the Indonesian sea border line, while that of Singapore is started from the original Singapore coast.

"For Singapore, the sea border starts from the original coast line, which is not affected by Singapore reclamation projects," Budi added.

Budi revealed that the agreement offers legal protection for economic activities in the region, "including for shipping and port management based on the national legislation," Budi pointed out.

Asril Hamzah Tanjung, deputy chairman of House's Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs, added that the agreement was aimed at protecting Indonesia's interest in the Singapore Strait. Asril added that the agreement would provide a basis for law enforcers to investigate cross-border crimes.


Indonesia ratifies sea border agreement with Singapore
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 16;

JAKARTA: The Indonesian parliament on Thursday (Dec 15) ratified a sea border treaty with Singapore demarcating maritime boundaries in the eastern stretch of the Singapore Strait.

Deputy speaker for the House of Representatives Fahri Hamzah, who led the plenary session, officiated the decision which had the approval of majority of the lawmakers.

"We endorse the government of Indonesia to further establish cooperation to secure our economic as well as maritime benefits," said Hanafi Rais, deputy chairman from the National Mandate Party.

Mr Rais, who is also the deputy chairman of Commission I, which oversees defence and foreign affairs, added that the next step is for both countries to exchange the ratified documents.

Singapore and Indonesia signed the sea border treaty in 2014 when former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Singapore.

The agreement defines the boundary spanning a 9.45-kilometre stretch between Changi and Batam. It is the third maritime border treaty between the two countries along the Singapore Strait.

Singapore welcomed the news of the ratification, a spokesman from the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a media statement on Thursday night.

The MFA spokesman added: "The Treaty underscores our excellent working relationship and bilateral ties, and demonstrates the ability of both countries to work together in areas of mutual interest. Singapore is prepared to exchange the instruments of ratification once Indonesia is ready to do so.”

In 1973, both countries agreed on the maritime boundary along the central part of the waterways. In 2009, an agreement on boundaries in the western section was reached.

- CNA/ec/am

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Malaysia: For healthy living by 2030, environmental preservation essential, say local professors

ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 15 Dec 16;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Malaysians at large have been urged to practice a lifestyle that ensures the sustenance of a lasting, natural environment for mankind’s survival.

Making the call, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Nor Aieni Mokhtar said that this was in line with the United Nations objectives to ensure the continued healthy living of mankind by the year 2030.

“We have to begin practising the use of science and technology to preserve the environment, including marine life, through the optimal use of natural resources, biodiversity, energy and water.

“Action must come from the grassroots to the country’s administrators. Scientists are doing their part through research and development to preserve the environment and spur the economy,” she said at the launch of the ‘13th UMT International Annual Symposium on Sustainability, Science and Management 2016’ at the Primula Beach Hotel.

Nor Aieni added that scientists have innovated job opportunities for the younger generation through new creations and inventions towards developing the nation. “Such efforts have resulted in inspiring the lesser fortunate to seek sustenance via ecological, economic and social means,” she said.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Sulaiman Yassin said that one’s well-being and happiness were a useful measure of human progress and sustainable livelihood.

“Likewise, the prudent and wise use of resources is necessary for a nation’s continued economic well-being.

“This focuses on equitable and fair-sharing of the benefits of economic growth, promotion of a green development and measuring useful indicators for social, cultural, economic, political and sustainable outcomes,” he said.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Prof Dr Mohamed Mahmood El-Sayed Nasef said that the development of electrochemical based renewable energy devices like polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells and electrolysers, batteries and super capacitors provide more efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly systems.

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Indonesia: Tropical Forest Conservation Act Kalimantan Approves $3.3m Grants to 14 Local NGOs

Sheany Jakarta Globe 15 Dec 16;

Jakarta. Tropical Forest Conservation Act Kalimantan, known as TFCA Kalimantan, a cooperation program between the Indonesian government and the United States government, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and Yayasan World Wide Fund for Nature – Indonesia, approved grants worth $3.3 million in total to local Indonesian NGOs, the US Embassy said in a statement on Wednesday (14/12).

The TCFA Kalimantan has picked 14 qualified NGOs, including Yayasan Inisiasi Alam Rehabilitasi Indonesia (YIARI) and Yayasan Titian Lestari, to receive grants to fund conservation activities for tropical forests, natural resources protection and livelihoods improvement in East, West and Central Kalimantan.

“The United States is proud to work with Indonesia and our partners to conserve some of the world’s most diverse tropical rain forest through a debt-for-nature swap. Protecting the forest helps conserve the world’s rich biodiversity, and preserves the ability of forests to sustain livelihoods for local residents,” acting Deputy Chief of Mission Mark Clark said in the statement.

Areas of focus include community development, conflict resolution in forest management and ecotourism.

The grants will also support conservation efforts of near-extinct animals in Kalimantan, including rhinoceros, Irrawaddy dolphins and orangutans.

Since 2009, Indonesia has worked with the United States to support its forest conservation efforts.

Under three TFCA deals, Indonesia’s debt payments are reduced in exchange for activities that conserve tropical forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan. The TFCA Kalimantan is administered by the Kehati Foundation.

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Thai fishing fleets shift to distant waters to avoid crackdown: Greenpeace

Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 16;

BANGKOK: Thai fishing fleets have shifted to remote and ecologically vulnerable waters off the east African coast to evade a regional crackdown on illegal fishing and human trafficking, environmental watchdog Greenpeace said on Thursday (Dec 15).

Thailand is the world's fourth-largest seafood exporter but its multi-billion dollar industry is largely unregulated and rife with rights abuses.

"Without a a much-needed monitoring system in such distant high seas, there is no control over what happens there," said Anchalee Pipattanawattanakul, from Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The kingdom came under heavy international pressure to clean up the scandal-hit sector after the European Union threatened to ban all Thai seafood products last year.

But despite government efforts to rein in illegal practises and clamp down on human traffickers, violations remain rampant onboard vessels that have moved to faraway and poorly policed waters, according to a new report by Greenpeace.

According to the watchdog, up to 76 Thai-flagged vessels shifted their operations to the Saya de Malha Bank, an area off the coast of Africa, after crackdowns last year in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea - common fishing grounds for Thai ships that long ago depleted stocks off their own coastline.

The bio-diverse and environmentally fragile bank, which lies more than 7,000km away from Thailand, has become a "haven for rogue Thai fishing operations over the last 18 months", the report said.

Many of the ships transport their catches back to Thailand through refrigerated reefer vessels, allowing captains to keep their crews at sea - and out of the purview of authorities - for extended periods of time.

This practise, known as transshipment, has given unscrupulous fishing operators a free hand to continue to exploit their labour and degrade the environment, the watchdog said.

"These Thai fleets remain as ruthless as ever," Pipattanawattanakul said, calling on Thailand to consider banning transshipment altogether.

Thailand's fishing department, which did not respond to requests for comment, has won some cautious plaudits over the past year for rolling out new regulations and moving to register ships and workers.

The US upgraded Thailand in its annual human trafficking report in July, citing significant efforts to eliminate forced labour in the seafood industry.

But it stressed that corruption continues to undermine reforms and that trafficking and other labour abuses in the fishing sector remain a "significant concern".

- AFP/ec

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