Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve probably never heard of

From Cambodia to California, industrial-scale sand mining is causing wildlife to die, local trade to wither and bridges to collapse. And booming urbanisation means the demand for this increasingly valuable resource is unlikely to let up
Vince Beiser The Guardian 27 Feb 17;

Times are good for Fey Wei Dong. A genial, middle-aged businessman based near Shanghai, China, Fey says he is raking in the equivalent of £180,000 a year from trading in the humblest of commodities: sand.

Fey often works in a fishing village on Poyang Lake, China’s biggest freshwater lake and a haven for millions of migratory birds and several endangered species. The village is little more than a tiny collection of ramshackle houses and battered wooden docks. It is dwarfed by a flotilla anchored just offshore, of colossal dredges and barges, hulking metal flatboats with cranes jutting from their decks. Fey comes here regularly to buy boatloads of raw sand dredged from Poyang’s bottom. He ships it 300 miles down the Yangtze River and resells it to builders in booming Shanghai who need it to make concrete.

The demand is voracious. The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand – the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. Shanghai, China’s financial centre, has exploded in the last 20 years. The city has added 7 million new residents since 2000, raising its population to more than 23 million. In the last decade, Shanghai has built more high-rises than there are in all of New York City, as well as countless miles of roads and other infrastructure. “My sand helped build Shanghai Pudong airport,” Fey brags.

Hundreds of dredgers may be on the lake on any given day, some the size of tipped-over apartment buildings. The biggest can haul in as much as 10,000 tonnes of sand an hour. A recent study estimates that 236m cubic metres of sand are taken out of the lake annually. That makes Poyang the biggest sand mine on the planet, far bigger than the three largest sand mines in the US combined. “I couldn’t believe it when we did the calculations,” says David Shankman, a University of Alabama geographer and one of the study’s authors.

All that dredging, researchers believe, is a key reason why the lake’s water level has dropped dramatically in recent years. So much sand has been scooped out, says Shankman – 30 times more than the amount that flows in from tributary rivers – that the lake’s outflow channel has been drastically deepened and widened, nearly doubling the amount of water that flows into the Yangtze. The lower water levels are translating into declines in water quality and supply to surrounding wetlands. It could be ruinous for the area’s inhabitants, both animal and human.

Poyang Lake, which sits in a verdant rural area best known for a waterfall in the nearby hills, is Asia’s largest winter destination for migratory birds. It hosts millions of cranes, geese and storks during the cold months – as well as several endangered and rare species. It is also one of the few remaining habitats for the endangered freshwater porpoise. Studies have found that the sediment stirred up and the noise generated by sand boats interfere with the porpoise’s vision and sonar so drastically they cannot find fish and shrimp to feed on. And there are fewer fish to be found in the first place, say locals.

“The boats are destroying our fishing areas,” says one wrinkled fisherwoman selling plastic bags of crayfish. The dredging destroys fish breeding grounds, muddies the water and tears up her nets. These days, she says, she’s lucky to make £1,200 a year.

“I’ve been fishing here for 30 years, and there are fewer and fewer fish,” says Tan Jung Hwa, another local fisherman. He’s taken to working part-time on the sand boats because he can’t earn enough otherwise.

Lake Poyang may be a unique place, but the damage being done there is not. All around the world, riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, and farmlands and forests torn up to get at the precious sand grains. It’s a worldwide crisis that nobody has heard about.

The main driver of this crisis is our era’s unprecedented urban growth. Cities are expanding at a pace and on a scale far greater than at any time in human history. The number of people living in urban areas has more than quadrupled since 1950, to about 4 billion today. More than half of the world’s people now live in cities – with another 2.5 billion to come in the next three decades, according to the UN.

All these new cities require mind-boggling amounts of sand. Just about every apartment block, skyscraper, office tower and shopping mall that gets built anywhere from Beijing to Lagos is made with concrete, which is essentially just sand and gravel glued together with cement. Every yard of asphalt road that connects those buildings is also made with sand. So is every window in every one of those buildings.

In India, the amount of construction sand used annually has more than tripled since 2000, and is still rising fast. There is so much demand for certain types of construction sand that Dubai, which sits on the edge of an enormous desert, imports sand from Australia.

China in particular is on a city-building spree that beggars anything the world has ever seen. Over half a billion Chinese now live in urban areas, triple the total of 60 years ago. That’s roughly equal to the populations of the US, Canada and Mexico combined. China is also home to the world’s biggest urban agglomeration: the Pearl River Delta, across from Hong Kong, bursting with somewhere between 42 and 60 million inhabitants. Even Nanchang, the unglamorous provincial city that is the nearest major urban area to Lake Poyang, is fringed with fast-growing forests of high-rise apartment blocks.

In the past few years, China has used more cement than the US used in the entire 20th century. Last year alone, the nation used enough construction sand to cover the entire state of New York an inch deep.

All that sand has to come from somewhere. In the region around Shanghai, it came until recently from the bed of the Yangtze River. That turned out to be a bad idea. By the late 1990s miners had pulled out so much that bridges were undermined, shipping was snarled, and 1,000ft swaths of riverbank collapsed.

Unnerved by the damage to a waterway that provides water to 400 million people, Chinese authorities banned sand mining on the Yangtze in 2000. That sent the miners swarming to Poyang Lake.

The boats used to dig up the sand are essentially gigantic floating platforms, fitted with two huge conveyor belts studded with buckets that haul up sand from the bottom of the lake. The sand is then transferred to transport ships. In one narrow part of the lake, dozens of dredgers extend from the shore in a line, leaving only a narrow passageway for a tugboat hauling a barge piled up with yellow sand.

“We used to make more money, but now there is too much competition,” complains a crew member aboard one of the dredgers. “There are too many people doing this job.”

Catastrophic damage

Sand mining is causing environmental damage worldwide. In some places locals dig out riverbanks with shovels and haul it away with pickup trucks or donkeys; in others multinational companies dredge it up with machinery. Everywhere, the process impacts its surroundings in ways that range from cosmetic to catastrophic.

In mid-January, just north of Monterey, California, several dozen cheering activists made an odd political statement: they dumped 200 pounds of bagged, store-bought sand onto a beach. They were returning the grains to where they had come from. The sand had originally been mined from that beach – a beach which, according to researchers, is gradually disappearing as a result.

“This is the fastest eroding shoreline in California,” says professor Ed Thornton, a retired coastal engineer with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey who has been studying the impact of the mine for years and who spoke at the demonstration. “We’re losing eight acres a year of pristine shore, some of the most beautiful in the world. It’s because of sand mining.” (A spokesperson for Cemex, the company that operates the mine, says via email that Thornton’s conclusions “are based on what we believe to be erroneous, speculative data and unsound theory”.)

The beach is the only one in the US that is still being mined for construction sand. Cemex, a global construction firm based in Mexico, operates a dredger that sucks up an estimated 270,000 cubic metres of sand every year. For most of the 20th century there were many such sand mines along the California coast, but in the late 1980s the federal government shut them down due to the erosion being suffered by the Golden State’s famous beaches. The Cemex plant is still operating thanks to a legal loophole – it appears to sit above the mean high-tide line, putting it out of federal jurisdiction. But protesters want state authorities to step in.

Environmentalists in many places are similarly calling on their governments to rein in sand mining. In Northern Ireland, activists are trying to stop dredging in Lough Neagh, an important bird sanctuary. In southern England, developers want to dredge sand to expand the port of Dover from a stretch of offshore sandbars and shoals, prompting an outcry from conservationists who fear that would endanger the seals, birds and other marine life for whom the sandbars provide habitat and food.

Different types of sand mining inflict different types of damage. Dredging from river beds destroys the habitat of bottom-dwelling creatures and organisms. The churned-up sediment clouds the water, suffocating fish and blocking the sunlight that sustains underwater vegetation. Kenyan officials shut down all river sand mines in one part of the country a few years ago because of the environmental damage it was causing. India’s supreme court recently warned that “the alarming rate of unrestricted sand mining” is disrupting riparian ecosystems all over the country, with fatal consequences for fish and other aquatic organisms and “disaster” for many bird species.

Sand extraction from rivers has also caused millions of dollars in damage to infrastructure. When stirred, sediment clogs up water supply equipment, and all the earth removed from river banks leaves the foundations of bridges exposed and unsupported. A 1998 study found that each tonne of aggregate mined from a California river caused $3 in infrastructure damage – costs that are borne by taxpayers. In Ghana, sand miners have dug up so much ground that they have exposed the foundations of hillside buildings, putting them at risk of collapse.

It’s not just a theoretical risk. Sand mining caused a bridge to collapse in Taiwan in 2000, and another the following year in Portugal, as a bus was passing over it; 70 people were killed. Another bridge collapse in India in 2016 that killed 26 may have been caused by sand mining, though the local government denies it.

Mining sand from the floodplains near rivers is less damaging but it can alter the water’s course, creating dead-end diversions and pits that have proven fatal to salmon in Washington state. In Australia, flood plains that are home to the world’s biggest collection of rare carnivorous plants are being wiped out by sand mining. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, farmers fear that a recent boom in sand mining is polluting their water and air. In Vietnam, miners have torn up hundreds of acres of forest and farmers’ fields to get at underground sand deposits.

As land quarries and riverbeds become exhausted, sand miners are turning to the seas. The UK, for instance, gets about one fifth of the nation’s sand from the ocean floor. Worldwide, thousands of ships vacuum up millions of tonnes from the seabed each year, tearing up habitats and muddying waters with sand plumes that can affect aquatic life far from the original site.

Closer to shore, in places such as coastal Cambodia, dredging threatens important mangrove forests, seagrass beds and endangered species like Irrawaddy and spinner dolphins, and the royal turtle. On land, sand miners have devoured whole swaths of beach, from Jamaica to Russia.

The most dramatic impact of ocean sand mining is surely felt in Indonesia, where sand miners have completely erased at least two dozen islands since 2005. The stuff of those islands mostly ended up in Singapore, which needs titanic amounts to continue its programme of artificially adding territory by reclaiming land from the sea. The city-state has created an extra 20 square miles in the past 40 years and is still adding more, making it by far the world’s largest sand importer. The demand has denuded beaches and river beds in neighbouring countries to such an extent that Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have all restricted or banned the export of sand to Singapore.

“It’s the same story as over-fishing and over-foresting,” says Pascal Peduzzi, a researcher with the United Nations environment programme who authored a study on sand mining. “It’s another way to look at unsustainable development.” The problem is that the supply of sand that can be mined sustainably is finite – but as the great urbanisation boom is proving, the demand for it is anything but.

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Animal culling a 'very small part' of AVA’s overall work: Desmond Lee

Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: The culling of animals is only a “very small part” of the overall work of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), and it does not track the expenditure it incurs on doing so, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.

Answering a question in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 28), Mr Lee said AVA takes a multi-pronged approach to manage the animal population and mitigate health and safety concerns. It first undertakes a professional assessment of potential threats that animals might pose to public health and safety, he explained, and AVA will have to act if there “significant health and safety concerns.”

“Where feasible, it will work with stakeholders, including the animal welfare groups and organisations like Wildlife Reserves Singapore to relocate and rehome these animals,” said Mr Lee. “Culling is used only as a last resort.”

In response to a clarification from MP Louis Ng, Mr Lee added that AVA’s total budget for animal management operations for 2016 was S$800,000.

Mr Lee said that AVA will continue to conduct relevant studies and research to inform its policies, and facilitate a “science-based approach” to animal management. One example of this, he said, was in Nov 2015, where AVA engaged a team of local and overseas academics to start a three-year stray dog study. “This study will estimate the stray dog population in Singapore, look at the ecological and biological aspects of stray dogs, and determine the efficacy of various population management options like sterilisation.”

Mr Lee added that the community also needs to do their part in helping to reduce “potential animal-human conflicts”. “For example, if everyone practises responsible pet ownership and refrains from feeding strays, the number of stray animals will fall and present a much smaller problem.”

“AVA has been and will continue to work with various animal welfare groups on public education for responsible pet ownership.”

- CNA/lc

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Timing of water price hike more synchronised to political than economic cycle, says WP

The opposition politicians also call for a more in-depth explanation from the Government on water pricing methods, while voicing concern over the impact on costs of living.
Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: The opposition Workers’ Party (WP) on Tuesday (Feb 28) questioned the timing and impact of the 30 per cent water price hike announced as part of Budget 2017 last week.

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera suggested that recent Budgets from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) Government trended towards “racking up a surplus in the early part of the Parliamentary term and then incurring deficit spending towards the end of the term close to the General Election (GE)”.

Mr Perera said the timing of various price hikes seemed “more synchronised to the political cycle than to the economic cycle”.

“Is this the right time to raise the electricity tariff? The gas price? Parking fees? Diesel usage costs? And last but not least, to raise the water price?” he asked.

“Hitting the economy with these multiple price hikes within the space of a few months may make good political sense, because people have three years to forget them before the next General Election. But do they make good economic sense?” he said.

“Why introduce all these price hikes now at a time of economic fragility, when they could tip some SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) at the margins over the edge, when they increase the hardships faced by Singaporeans beset by job market insecurities? Why not introduce some of them later when there is an upswing in external demand?”


MP for Aljunied GRC Pritam Singh called for “a deeper explanation from the Government about how it prices water”. “Can the Government also share how much it costs each desalination and NEWater plant to produce water today, especially since some of these plants operate on a private-public partnership basis? How do they compare with plants run directly by the PUB?” he enquired.

He then asked if the falling water levels in Malaysia’s Linggiu Reservoir had an impact on the water price revision, “especially since the Government’s position as late as 2013 confirmed no need to raise water prices”.

Mr Singh said he wondered if the reservoir’s water levels dipping to zero per cent would result in another rise in water prices. “That would also prompt a corollary question as to whether the latest water price revision was set with a view to account for the complete failure of the Linggiu Reservoir,” he added.


NCMPs Dennis Tan and Daniel Goh both expressed fears over the water price hike having an impact on the cost of living.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Tan said: “The companies and industries affected most would be those in F&B. How can the Government ensure the rise in water tariffs will not cause prices to increase in hawker centres, coffeeshops and other products as well?”

Mr Tan added that he was concerned by the volume-based duty of S$0.10 per litre on diesel.

“I can understand the pollution reasons but I question if it’s wise to time it now when the present economic situation is not healthy,” he said. “Can the Government assure the people that transport costs of taxis and buses etc will not increase?”

“Although the Government has announced GST vouchers to give some rebate to some families, most Singaporeans, industries and companies will not fulfil the criteria and not receive anything, or else just a token rebate,” he argued.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Goh described the water price hike as “ominous” as he urged the Government to strengthen safety nets for middle-income households in particular.

“The 30 per cent hike in water price and the carbon tax when implemented will have knock-on effects on the costs of living, as all areas of everyday life are affected by the use of water and electricity,” he said.

“Middle-income households do not have the benefit of the enhanced financial transfers to low-income households to soften the impact of the water price increase … (They) will feel the head-on impact of the increase in costs of living most strongly.”

High-income earners will also be subsidised many times more than middle-income workers when it comes to the Personal Income Tax Rebate of 20 per cent, capped at S$500, said Assoc Prof Goh.

Earlier, Mr Perera said Budget 2017 had “not made a decisive shift towards building local enterprises as an engine of value creation alongside MNCs and GLCs” and this was a "huge missed opportunity” he said. “We also … can and should do more to enable our students to understand how entrepreneurship is both a viable and a socially meaningful calling. Right now, I fear that most aspiring students dream of becoming civil servants or working in an MNC.”

He also said Budget 2017 initiatives did not do enough to foster risk-taking. “It is no coincidence that the countries with the most innovative companies and disruptors are also the countries that have a larger role for social safety nets and risk pooling,” he said. “We must create enough security and confidence for Singaporeans to become the disruptors and not the disrupted.”

“While we do recognise the positive moves in Budget 2017, we question the timing of some of the measures that will raise costs as well as their necessity and justification,” Mr Perera concluded. “We question whether more can be done to support a beleaguered economy.”

“And above all, we question the missed opportunities to make decisive, bold moves in local enterprise development, risk-pooling and education to pivot Singapore towards truly finding its place in the sun in the 21st century.”

- CNA/jo

WP questions need for water price hike
SIAU MING EN Today Online 1 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament yesterday questioned the decision to raise water prices, calling on the Government to thoroughly explain how the impending 30 per cent hike was calculated. They also suggested that the timing was “political” to avoid having to raise prices when elections draw near.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday during the debate on the Budget statement, Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) raised a slew of questions, seeking to “understand the decision-making processes” behind the increases.

“I believe a deeper explanation from the Government about how it prices water and its long-run cost imperatives would enable the public to better understand and rationalise this water price hike, in addition to improving public understanding of this issue,” said Mr Singh, who noted that the water price hikes came on the back of other municipal price increases. These include the increases in HDB car park charges, higher electricity tariffs, and higher service and conservancy charges — all within the last three months.

Last week, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that water prices would go up by 30 per cent in two phases, in July this year and July next year. Noting that water sufficiency is a matter of national survival, he said the authorities have priced water to reflect the higher costs of desalination and NEWater production “because every additional drop of water has to come from these two sources”.

PUB has also said that the total water price is pegged to the long run marginal costs of water supply — on which Mr Singh pressed for more details, asking how PUB calculates the components of these costs and assesses when water prices should be raised.

Turning to the time period used for its projections, Mr Singh also questioned if the authorities are looking at the expiry of the water agreement with Malaysia in 2061, or when Singapore’s water consumption is expected to double, for instance.

He also asked if the record low levels in Linggiu Reservoir — which enables Singapore to reliably draw water from the Johor River to meet half of its water needs — were a factor in deciding to raise prices.

Instead of solely relying on water pricing to promote conservation, Mr Singh suggested that the Government turn to creative pricing strategies, such as lowering taxes for those who use less water.

WP Non-Constituency MPs Leon Perera and Dennis Tan also questioned the timing of the water price hikes, with Mr Perera suggesting that the timing of the recent price hikes “seem more synchronised to the political cycle than to the economic cycle”.

“What is the justification for these price hikes and their timing? Hitting the economy with these multiple price hikes within the space of a few months may make good political sense, because people have three years to forget them before the next General Election,” Mr Perera said.

Even with U-Save rebates to cushion the hikes, Mr Tan said there would be firms, such as those in the food and beverage industries, that will be affected. This could have an adverse “chain effect” that leads to increases in the cost of living.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) urged the Government to “consider a stay on water price increases” for this year amid the uncertain economic situation. Due to “rumour-mongering”, many people have been caught up with the impending price hike that they forgot about the measures introduced to mitigate he price increase, he said.

East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan called the hike a “necessary and small insurance”. While Singapore was subject to the same dry season as neighbouring Malaysian states last year, it did not have to resort to water rationing, said Mr Lee, who was formerly Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry.

“The belated 30 per cent hike, put in context, is a necessary and small insurance compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars we need to set aside for future water plants and infrastructure,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek called on the Government to monitor the effects of the fee hike on individuals and businesses, to see if further tweaks are necessary. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KELLY NG

Budget 2017: Defer water price hike, relook help for middle class, say MPs
Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: The water price increase and helping the middle class cope with the rising cost of living were among the issues brought up by Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday (Feb 28), the first day of Parliament’s debate on the Budget statement.

MPs also pointed out the need to relook the Government’s approach of looking at home type as a measure of determining the distribution of grants and support.


In his speech, MP for Mountbatten Lim Biow Chuan asked the Government to consider a stay on the water price increase for this year. In his Budget statement, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced that water prices would be increased by 30 per cent in two phases over the next two years.

While Mr Lim noted that “there is never a good time” to raise the prices of utilities, it is “definitely not a good time”, given the economic uncertainty.

He pointed out that the price increase appears to have distracted many Singaporeans from “much more important messages”, like how to plan for one’s future, and the fast-changing world.

“Water is critical to our survival and we need to take adequate measures to conserve water, but sadly, the 30 per cent increase in prices seems to have distracted from the main intent of the Budget,” he said. “And due to rumour-mongering, many people seem to have been so caught up and concerned about the increase that they seem to have forgotten or ignored the various other measures the Government has introduced to help mitigate the price increase.”

He added that if it is not possible to defer the price increase, he hopes the Government can ensure that businessmen do not profiteer from it. One way they can do this, he said, is to set up a committee against profiteering, similar to the one that was set up when the GST was raised.

MP for Nee Soon GRC Henry Kwek also spoke about the water price increase and its impact on the cost of living, adding that he has seen the water bills of some hawkers in his constituency.

“I saw the bill for an entire coffee shop with six stalls. On average, each stall is using about 50 cubic metres of water a month, which costs around S$100,” he said. “With the new water tariff, each stall will see an increase of around S$30 a month.”

From this, Mr Kwek noted that it is unclear if the water price increase will lead to a significant increase in the cost of living. Nevertheless, he called on the Government to continue monitoring the situation to see if any further tweaks are necessary.

The issue was also brought up by Workers’ Party MPs, with Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera commenting that the timing of the water price increase was “more synchronised to the political cycle than the economic cycle”.


MPs also raised concerns about middle-income Singaporeans and retirees who may not benefit from the support measures outlined in the Budget.

“Our current approach uses size and the value of housing type as the primary factor for qualification,” MP for East Coast GRC Jessica Tan said. “The criterion is also not based on ownership but the type of housing you live in.”

“While logical, this may no longer be as valid or accurate, as there are some living in HDB flats who may be more well-off than someone living in a private property.”

Mr Lim pointed out that there are professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) living in condominiums and five-room flats, as well as retirees who live in private homes which they bought after saving for many years.

He explained that these retirees have to rely on their savings or their children to provide for them, while the income of PMETs is unlikely to rise due to wage freezes in many companies. Yet, this group may not benefit from many of the support measures in the Budget, he added.

“They feel they have been left out in this Budget,” he said. “They feel penalised simply because they were trying their best to live their aspirations in the past."

“I urge the Government to consider ways in which we can allow the retirees and middle-income Singaporeans to share and enjoy the growth of the country and move forward as a nation,” he said. “We should find more equitable ways to share and redistribute the country’s wealth, rather than relying on home type as a proxy for measurement of wealth.”

Ms Tan made a similar point. While she stressed that she is not asking to increase the number of people receiving help, she said there is a need for the Government to relook the distribution of subsidies to ensure that “those who do need help are able to receive it”.

MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Darryl David made a similar suggestion in relation to the increased CPF Housing Grant. It was announced in Budget 2017 that first-timer couples looking to buy a resale flat will now get higher grants, which are pegged at S$50,000 for those who buy four-room or smaller flats, and S$40,000 for couples who buy five-room or larger flats.

Mr David said he appreciated the rationale that the Government would not want to provide too much in subsidies for those who buy bigger flats, as they are likely to be from a higher income group. But he said it cannot ignore that some higher-income consumers may choose to purchase a more expensive four-room flat due to its location, age and other factors.

“Conversely, some consumers with a lower income might have to purchase a five-room flat, as opposed to a more expensive four-room flat in other locations due to their family requirements,” he added.

Instead, he suggested that the Government provide a percentage grant based on the purchase price of the flat. “This amount would be subject to an absolute ceiling amount, and whichever amount is higher would then be given to the qualifying purchaser as the housing grant,” he said.

Mr David also expressed his hope that the Government could review its existing assistance schemes from time to time so that it can remain responsive to people’s needs. To that end, he suggested that the Government consider setting aside an escrow fund held by a statutory board or ministry, and allow them to implement a one-off support scheme whenever the need arises.

“This would give the Government an additional channel to remain responsive to rising cost and potential hardship that Singaporeans might face,” he added.

- CNA/lc

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Sembawang Hot Spring area to become a park

Linette Lai, Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Feb 17;

There were mixed reactions from visitors to Sembawang Hot Spring when told that the area will be turned into a park as soon as next year.

Some people who have been visiting it for years were cold to the prospect and expressed dismay, while others were warm to the idea of redeveloping the area, which sits in a military camp.

Earlier this month, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on government procurement website GeBiz that it was looking for "multi-disciplinary consultancy services" for the development of a park, which includes the hot spring, along Gambas Avenue.

The new park will occupy around 1ha, Ms Kartini Omar, group director of parks development and Jurong Lake Gardens at NParks, told The Straits Times. "Development of the park will start by end-2017, and is expected to be completed by end-2018."

Apart from design and implementation, the consulting team "will also be required to provide a comprehensive report on the hydrogeological study of the site", she said.

Retired contractor Lim Yok Toh, 76, was one of those who prefer it as it is - tranquil, quiet, rustic and surrounded by nature.

Mr Lim, who visits about once a week, said: "Once you build a park, people will come and bring their children along and then it will be noisy. I prefer it like this - where you can see the trees and hear the birds chirping."

But people like Mr Gui Kim Toon, 74, who see the benefits of development, disagree.

"It would be nice if we had some shelter to protect us from the sun and rain," said Mr Gui, who visits it two to three times a week. "It can also get very messy now - sometimes people wash their clothes here and hang them up to dry."

Regular visitors even padlock their buckets - or in one case, a metal bathtub - to the chain link fence enclosing the spring.

Ms Lee Bee Wah, who is MP for the area, said that the comments she has heard so far are positive.

"Of course, there are people who want to keep the area as it is. I think we can strike a balance between the two - build facilities that help people enjoy the hot springs, like toilets and water basins."

In April last year, Mr Ong Ye Kung - who was then Senior Minister of State for Defence - said that the Defence Ministry will return the land that the hot spring is on to the state.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee has saidthat the area must retain its rustic character if it is developed.

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Malaysia: Johor prince spearheads effort to recycle waste water to boost state's water reserves

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 28 Feb 17;

JOHOR BARU: Johor will become the first state in the country to recycle waste water for use in the industrial sector under an initiative spearheaded by Tunku Temenggong Johor Tunku Idris Sultan Ibrahim.

The Johor prince said the initiative was urgently needed because of the estimated 1,173 million litres per day (MLD) of waste water produced by Johor, which could be recycled to boost the overall water reserves in the state.

Tunku Idris said the country's first facility to process waste water will be built in Pasir Gudang, which will be turned into an eco-friendly industrial town.

"Since most of the domestic water supply is discharged into our drains and rivers instead of consumer as drinking water, I have worked with world class technology partners over the last 12 months to draw up plans for recycled water for the use of our industries in Johor and it is called Bluewater.

"Like NEWater in Singapore, the water will be tested to meet World Health Organisation standards and UN-water (United Nations-Water) guidelines," Tunku Idris told a press conference here.

Tunku Idris is honorary chairman of Jauhar Green Sdn Bhd, a company in green technology initiatives, which is instrumental in developing

The announcement for the waste water recycling facility in Pasir Gudang will be made by the end of next month.

The facility is expected to be built within the next three years, and involves a collaboration with the state government subsidiary Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Sdn Bhd.

"This initiative to recycle waste water for industries is the first of its kind in the country.

"If we do not start now, then when? We cannot risk having another water shortage," he said referring to cases of low water levels recorded in a few dams in Johor in the past two years.

Johor to open water recycling plant in Pasir Gudang in March
MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 2 Mar 17;

JOHOR BARU: Johor will soon have its own water recycling technology to provide clean water in the state.

Jauhar Green honorary chairman Tunku Temenggong of Johor Tunku Idris Iskandar Ibni Sultan Ibrahim said people should not take clean water for granted.

The supply of water is uncertain as it is dependent on the weather while it is also costly to maintain the state’s water supply, from pipelines to reservoirs, he added.

He also said that the 332 litres of potable water used or lost per capita per day, less than 2% was consumed as drinking water while the rest were used in bathrooms and for household appliances like washing machines.

“When this 326 litres is discharged into the drains, it is termed as wastewater.

“Imagine the amount used and discharged daily by 3.6 million Johoreans.

“That is 1,173 million litres per day, about the same amount we sell to Singapore daily,” he said during a press conference at the Istana Johor Department in Istana Besar here.

Tunku Idris pointed out that Johor has 5.6 million people and big industrial users which use lots of water.

He said recycling water was common in Australia and California in the United States.

In Singapore, the Public Utilities Board launched Newater in 2003.

He added that Newater was primarily used for industries in Singapore and it met 30% of the island republic’s water needs.

Tunku Idris said Johor had to start water recycling to protect its national parks and rainforest from encroachment.

“As development, industrialisation and urbanisation shrink our water catchments, our land and rivers will be able to absorb less of Johor’s rainfall, thereby reducing our water resources,” he said, adding that there was a solution to this.

He said he was working closely with world class technology partners over the last 12 months to draw up plans for recycled water for the use of industries in Johor, and it is called Bluewater.

Like Newater in Singapore, the water will be tested to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards and UN guidelines, he said, adding that the results were given to the state government.

The Bluewater plant in Pasir Gudang is expected to be launched later this month.

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