Best of our wild blogs: 9 Mar 17

Migrant Raptors 2016 – the Year in Review
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Tracing Vietnamese ‘sand drain’ to Singapore

Tracing Vietnamese ‘sand drain’ to Singapore – P1: Where do the ships go?

During the first two months of 2017, a number of ships flying foreign flags frequented several coastal areas in Vietnam, leaving with a hefty haul of newly dredged sand.

Two Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists tracked the ships and discovered an ongoing megaproject in Singapore fueled by a vast amount of imported sand and dependant on Vietnam as a prime location to exploit the powerful resource.

This is the first part in a Tuoi Tre investigative series on Vietnam’s ‘sand drain’ to the city-state.

Numerous sand-carrying ships

In January-February, the Tuoi Tre correspondents sighted nearly 40 ships entering Vietnamese waters in Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa and Ha Tinh on the search for sand.

Four separate Vietnamese exporters hold contracts to transport the sand, each of whom admitted to Tuoi Tre that they only know the vessels were bound for Singapore, though none had any idea of the exact destination.

According to sources from Singapore and data gathered from the live ship-tracking map MarineTraffic, Tuoi Tre discovered that the ships were carrying the Vietnamese sand to Tekong Island and an area known as Changi Villa, both located adjacent to Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

In late February, the Tuoi Tre correspondents spotted a bulk carrier named Peterborough, which had been to Phu Quoc Island off the southern Vietnamese province of Kien Giang one week prior, docking near Changi.

The Peterborough was docking near the Yangtze Harmony, another carrier which appeared to be unloading sand dredged from Vietnam onto Tekong Island.

According to the Tuoi Tre investigation, these are not isolated cases and a number of foreign ships have been transporting sand from Vietnam to Singapore since the beginning of 2017.

Among them are five vessels: the RHL Monica, the JS Bandol, the Sheng Wang Hai, the Great Rainbow, and the Jin Sui, originating from Liberia, Malta, Hong Kong, and mainland China.

These ships were hired by Singaporean Hua Kai Engineering to transport sand bought under a contract with a local company on Phu Quoc Island to the city-state before transferring the resource onto smaller barges in an area called Changi Villa Tanjung Pengelih, situated between Tekong Island and Changi Airport.

Meanwhile, in waters off the south-central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa, ten additional foreign ships were also preparing to transport sand to Singapore. Nine of them were hired by Singapore’s Le Tong Resources Co., and one by TNS Resources.

A sand-pumping boat is seen off Khanh Hoa.

Even during the observance of Vietnam’s Lunar New Year in late January, Tuoi Tre still spotted five ships – the Silk Road 03, the Jin Xiang, the Great Link, the Giaovanni Topic, and the Dubai Galactic – carrying sand off the coast of Phu Quoc.

According to data gathered by Tuoi Tre, 40 foreign ships transported a total of 905,000 cubic meters of sand from Vietnam to Singapore from January 1 to February 23 despite a 2009 ban on sand exporting in Vietnam.

In 2013, the Ministry of Construction allowed some businesses to export saline sand from sea and river dredging projects, a decision which seems to have paved the way for the resource to be transported in large volumes to Singapore.

Land reclamation megaproject

According to one Singaporean sand importer, the city-state has been working on a US$6.5 billion land reclamation project meant to expand the area of Tekong Island from 657 hectares to 3,310 hectares for the last decade.

The company also revealed that it has been importing sand from Vietnam and several other countries to serve the Tekong project since 2009.

The pink area indicates the land reclamation.

However, accessing the construction site is not easy and no boat service operates a route to the project.

The Tuoi Tre reporters convinced the captain of a small tourist boat to travel off his normal route, approaching as near Tekong as possible. He agreed for a fee of S$150 ($106).

Thirty minutes into the journey, the reporters spotted three massive vessels docking near the island and a gigantic excavator transferring sand from its cargo to barges waiting below.

One of the ships was the Yangtze Harmony, the same vessel Tuoi Tre spotted near Phu Quoc just days prior.

The reporters observed that the construction site on Tekong Island was surrounded by a concrete dyke with sand being unloaded inside the structure.

The following day the Tuoi Tre reporters had a local driver take them by road to the Singapore General Aviation Park adjacent to Changi Airport.

At the scene, the reporters saw a number of sand dunes, each approximately ten meters high, along the Changi Coast, Tanah Merah Coast, and Aviation Park Streets, and hundreds of trucks loaded with sand traveling to and from the site.

A security guard spotted the reporters, posing as tourists, and barred them from entering the construction site.

Before leaving, Tuoi Tre managed to peek through the fence and saw a number of trucks, bulldozers and excavators busily at work.

Tracing Vietnamese ‘sand drain’ to Singapore – P2: How much does the resource cost?

After discovering where sand dredged from Vietnam’s waters is being transported to in Singapore, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper found that the precious resource is being sold at rock bottom prices, at least according to customs papers.

Like some Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam bans the export of sand, with the exception of saline sand, resulted from river or sea dredging projects.

According to data reviewed by Tuoi Tre, more than ten businesses across Vietnam have obtained a license from the construction ministry to export saline sand since 2016.

These companies are those that have carried out various river or sea dredging works, and have been allowed to sell the dredged sand to recoup expenses.

However, Tuoi Tre has found out that these companies seem to have sold the nonrenewable resource at an average price of only US$1 per cubic meter, and in some cases, as low as $.01 per cubic meter, according to customs declarations.

Most of the dredging projects, whose sand will be exported, are in the central coastal provinces of Khanh Hoa, and Phu Yen. Similar projects also took place in Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Ha Tinh, Quang Nam, Binh Dinh, Thua Thien - Hue, Binh Thuan, and Ninh Thuan.

In the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, only one project on Phu Quoc Island, off Kien Giang Province, was recorded.

Khanh Hoa and Phu Yen each were home to four dredging projects, with one project in Khanh Hoa having exported more than 7.3 million cubic meters of sand to Singapore.

Those projects in Khanh Hoa were carried out by Cai Mep Investment Co, Green Environment Development Co. , Saigon - Hanoi ICMM., JSC, and those in Phu Yen: BKG Co., Bao Chau Co., Saigon - Hanoi ICMM., JSC, Quoc Bao Trading Construction, and Investment Advisory Co.

Dirt cheap prices

According to export contracts in 2008 and 2009, Vietnamese sand was sold from $3 to $6.6 per m3. However, prices started to slip in 2013.
In 2014, BKG and Quoc Bao declared to customs that their sand exports cost $2 per m3 while Phuong Thao Nguyen Co declared $2 per m3.

In January 2015, prices continued to drop by 50 percent. On January 8, Green Environment Development Co. charged Singapore’s TNS Resources $1.21 per m3, and only $1.1 per m3 just four days later.

In the meantime, Kien Hoang and Binh Minh Vang asked for even more shocking prices: the former sold to Le Tong Resources at $0.8 per m3, and the latter to Ky Tuong Singapore at $0.9 per m3.

These exporters asked for similar rates for contracts signed in 2016 and early 2017, according to documents seen by Tuoi Tre.

Sand bought from Vietnam is seen at an area near Changi Airport.

Despite the throwaway prices, Vietnamese businesses sold a total of 31.6 million cubic meters of saline sand in 2015 alone, accounting for 50 percent of the total sand exports between 2008 and 2016.

Many construction companies have expressed skepticism at the dirt cheap export prices, saying it is impossible to sell the resource for less than a dollar per cubic meter.

One industry insider said he was forced to buy saline sand for $1.2 per m3 to use in a land reclamation project, so it is illogical for the export price to be cheaper than the domestic rate.

The exporters have apparently declared the export price much lower than the real rates when completing customs paperwork, according to Tuoi Tre investigation.

For instance, in May 2015, Vietnam’s Hai Duong KG signed a deal to sell sand dredged on Phu Quoc Island to Cambodia-based JIA DA Investment & Construction for $4.4 per m3, according to the contract obtained by Tuoi Tre.

However, Hai Duong KG only declared an export price of $1 per m3 to customs when they started to send four sand-loaded ships to the customer in October and November 2015.

The customs department had indeed marked those shipments as ‘suspicious’ and ‘needs reviewing,’ however, the exports still eventually cleared checks and were successfully transported to the buyers.

Comment rejected

Among the suspicious customs declarations is that of Duc Long Co., which said it sold two ships of sand to Singapore’s Hua Kai at only $1.3 per m3, even though the contract, obtained by Tuoi Tre, shows the price was $4.6 per m3.

On February 20, Tuoi Tre visited the office of Hua Kai on the fourth floor of an office building on Balestier Street, and was received by a woman who preferred to stay anonymous and a man. The woman's business card says she is the company’s general manager.

Tuoi Tre gave her a copy of the contract her company had closed with Duc Long, with the sand export price was set at $4.6 per m3 and asked her about the low price the exporter declared with customs.

However, the general manager quickly refused to comment, urging Tuoi Tre to “ask Vietnamese authorities.”

She did confirm the contract was authentic, and that Hua Kai had bought two ships of sand from Duc Long before signing a new contract in 2016.
But the woman refused to disclose the buying price in the new deal.

Before showing Tuoi Tre to the door, the woman reiterated that she could not comment anything about the disparity between the contract price and the rate declared with customs.

On February 27, Tuoi Tre asked to have an appointment with Duc Long Co. leaders, but has yet to receive a response.

Tracing Vietnamese ‘sand drain’ to Singapore – P3: National resource overexploited

Many Vietnamese businesses have taken advantage of a rule allowing them to export saline sand to reap profits, leaving the environmental impacts caused by the resource’s overexploitation to be dealt with by local residents.

According to a 2013 law, businesses tasked with conducting dredging projects in local sea areas or rivers are allowed to export saline sand dredged during the project in order to recoup their investment.

Many companies were able to obtain licenses for the dredging projects, even if they never carried out any work. Instead, these companies would ‘sell’ the projects to other companies, who accordingly enjoyed the rights to export the saline sand and rake in big profits.

The sand exporters would then declare unusually low export prices while completing customs procedure to avoid taxes.

Willing to buy dredging projects

In 2014, Hanoi-based Green Environment Development Co. was assigned to implement a dredging project in Cam Ranh City in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa.

However, on October 1 of that year, the company closed a contract to transfer the project to Hai Duong KG, based in the southern province of Kien Giang.

Hai Duong KG would pay the Hanoi company VND31.5 billion (US$1.41 million) to conduct the project and receive 1 million cubic meters of saline sand after the dredging work was completed, which the firm was allowed to export.

Similarly, also in October 2014, the Khanh Hoa administration granted the Saigon-Hanoi ICMM., JSC the permission to export 2.8 million cubic meters of saline sand from a dredging project on the local Tac River.

Saigon-Hanoi Co. also sold 1 million m3 of the sand to Hai Duong KG at VND31,500 per m3, and later signed contracts to export another 1 million m3 to Singapore’s TNS Resources.

In January 2015, Hai Duong KG also purchased another dredging project, accompanied by the right to export 1 million cubic meters of sand, from Hai Viet Co., located in the northern province of Nam Dinh.

The Kien Giang company paid Hai Viet VND21,000 per m3 to obtain the right to export the sand.

A boat pumps sand off Phu Quoc Island

Even though Hai Duong KG has bought saline sand from three different projects at prices ranging from VND21,000 ($0.94) to VND31,500 ($1.41), the company only declared to customs that the resource was exported at much lower prices.

For instance, in October and November 2015, Hai Duong KG exported 109,000 m3 of sand to JIA DA Investment & Construction at only $1 per m3, meaning a VND20,000 loss per m3.

So why are businesses willing to acquire dredging projects only to export the dredged sand at a loss? It appears that this is their way to avoid taxes, particularly the 30 percent export duty.

By declaring the export price at only $1 per m3, Hai Duong KG was forced to pay an export duty of only VND6,690 per m3, significantly lower than the VND26,760 per m3 that would charged under the real contract price of $4 per m3.

Residents suffer it all

In mid-February 2017, Tuoi Tre returned to Dai Lam Commune, Van Ninh District in Khanh Hoa, where a dredging project was being implemented on the local Van Phong bay in August 2015.

The project contractor, Phuc Son Group, was permitted to export 7 million cubic meters of saline sand from the project by June 2017, according to a license granted by the Ministry of Construction.

However, the dredging project was put at a standstill last year due to strong objection from local residents, who catch lobsters in the bay to earn a living.

“The dredging work has affected the bay’s waters and either killed or scared away the lobsters,” Le Minh Thuong, a local, explained.

Another lobster-catcher, Ho Tan Phu, said prior to 2015, he used to earn VND1 million ($45) to VND2 million ($90) a day from hunting for the crustaceans.

“Since the dredging project began, not only myself but all other residents have suffered from the profit losses,” he said.

Elsewhere, in the neighborhood next to Tac River, adjacent to the sea in the coastal city of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa, another dredging project is also taking its toll on local residents.

“I have invested VND40 million [$1,786] on a babylonia areolata farm using the river water, but the dredging activities have polluted the water and killed my snails,” Nguyen Ngoc Tu, a local resident, told Tuoi Tre in mid-February.

The dredging project has also driven a number of lobster cage farms near the river mouth away, another resident revealed.

In the meantime, people in four coastal areas in Phu Yen Province are living under constant fear that the dredging projects will send their houses collapsing into the river due to erosion.

Shifting sands: illegal VN sales to Singapore
VietNamNet Bridge 8 Mar 17;

Quite a few Vietnamese companies are taking advantage of sand dredging privileges authorised by the Government to rake in huge illegal profits, according to an expose by the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

The investigative series, entitled “Tracing Vietnamese sand drain to Singapore”, reported that at the end of 2009, the Vietnamese Government banned sand exports but in 2013 the regulation was loosened, allowing a list of enterprises to export saline sand dredged from the river and sea beds of their own projects to recoup their investments.

The decision created favourable conditions for sand to be shipped in large quantities to the city-state of Singapore.

According to the paper, although the companies asked for dredging permission for sand export, they did not dredge the sand themselves, selling the rights to other companies for handsome profits.

On October 1, 2014, the Ha Noi-based Green Environment Development Company signed a contract to sell one million cubic metres of sand to Hai Duong KG, based in the southern province of Kien Giang, for VND31,500 (US$1.4) per cubic metre. The total contract was worth VND31.5 billion ($1.4 million). The sand was dredged during a project to improve the eco-system in Thuy Trieu Lagoon in Cam Ranh City of central Khanh Hoa Province.

At the same time, the Khanh Hoa administration granted the Sai Gon-Ha Noi Investment Construction and Mining Minerals Joint Stock Company permission to export 2.8 million cubic metres of saline sand from a dredging project on the Tac River.

Sai Gon-Ha Noi Company sold 1 million cubic metres of the sand to Hai Duong KG at VND31,500 per cubic metre, and later signed contracts to export another million to Singapore’s TNS Resources.

In January 2015, Hai Duong KG also purchased another dredging project with the right to export 1 million cubic metres of sand, from Hai Viet Company located in the northern province of Nam Dinh.

The Kien Giang company paid Hai Viet VND21,000 per cubic metre for the right to export the sand.

Even though Hai Duong KG has bought saline sand from three different projects at prices ranging from VND21,000 to VND31,500, the company declared to customs that the resource was exported at much lower prices.

For instance, in October and November 2015, Hai Duong KG exported 109,000 cu.m of sand to JIA DA Investment & Construction at only $1 per cu.m.

By declaring the export price at only $1, Hai Duong KG paid export duty of only VND6,690 (30 cents) per cubic metre, significantly lower than the VND26,760 ($1.2) that would have been charged for the real contract price of $4 per cu.m.

Land reclamation project

According to data obtained by Tuoi Tre, from January 1 to February 23 this year, 40 ships departed from Viet Nam to Singapore carrying 905,000 cubic metres of sand.

Duc Long Company exported the highest amount, weighing more than 600,000 cubic metres in total. Cai Mep Company ranked second with 369,000 cubic metres of sand.

The majority of sand dredging projects for export to Singapore are in the provinces of central Viet Nam, including Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Ha Tinh, Quang Nam, Binh Dinh, Thua Thien-Hue, Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan.

Eight projects are being conducted in Khanh Hoa and Phu Yen provinces by the Green Environment Development Company, Sai Gon-Ha Noi Investment Construction and Mining Minerals Joint Stock Company, and Cai Mep Investment Joint Stock Company.

The sand is transported across the sea to Tekong Island to the northeast of Singapore and Changi Villa, close to Changi Airport.

According to a Singaporean enterprise which imports sand, for the past decade the city-state has been working on a $6.5 billion land reclamation project meant to expand the area of Tekong Island from 657 to 3,310 hectares. This company has imported sand from Viet Nam and several other countries to serve the project since 2009.

Losses for residents

In Van Ninh District of central Khanh Hoa Province, where a dredging project of Van Phong Bay was approved and the Phuc Son Company was allowed to export over 7 million cubic metres of exploited sand, all activities have stopped since 2016 due to strong opposition from local residents.

Hundreds of residents in Dong Nam and Dong Bac hamlets earn their living from lobster breeding in the Dai Lanh sea area. “The dredging activity has turned the water muddy and red. Lobsters died or moved to other places,” said one resident, Le Minh Thuong.

"The sea lobsters have declined by half since the sand has been exploited. Not only myself but all fishermen lost their living," Ho Tan Phu, another local lobster-catcher, told the paper.

In Phu Yen Province, the Tien Chau port sand dredging project has caused severe erosion. The walls of some houses there reportedly cracked, while whole floors sank by nearly one metre.

“They sent six to seven sand dredging barges in several months, only 150m from my house. Being worried that land and houses would collapse into the sea, local residents were fiercely opposed and the operation stopped. I heard that they were about to start again,” said Nguyen Hieu, another area resident.

Binh Thuan cracks down on illegal sand mining

Following the efforts of authorities of Ham Thuan Bac District in Binh Thuan Province, illegal sand mining in Ham Liem Commune has stopped, the Voice of Viet Nam (VOV) reported.

After VOV’s report on illegal sand mining, which caused outrage among residents last year, a supervision team was established by the district’s People’s Committee. The nine supervisors are officers of the district’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, police officers, leaders of the commune’s People’s Committee and the army.

Nguyen Thanh Giang, commander of the Ham Liem Commune’s army, said the supervisors regularly patrolled areas of illegal mineral exploitation in the commune and were often threatened by sand miners covertly driving trucks into the mining area at night.

According to the report, the path leading to the commune centre is now free of sand miners. Sand dredging vehicles have also been moved.
Although sand mining has ended, the supervision team is still patrolling round the clock to ensure it does not resume, Le Thanh Cuong, chairman of Ham Liem Commune’s People’s Committee, said.

Ham Liem Commune is home to a huge amount of high-quality sand right next to Phan Thiet City. The demand for sand in Ham Thuan Bac District and Phan Thiet City is relatively high, posing a high risk of sand mining resuming in the future.

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Selected homes to get water-saving flushing systems

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 9 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — National water agency PUB will be helping lower-income families to save water, by replacing the 9L water closets of about 6,000 households with water-efficient 4L ones for free.

These families would be those living in public housing blocks built between 1986 and 1992, which have yet to undergo the Home Improvement Programme, which includes the replacement of their water closets.

Newer public flats already come with more water-efficient flushing systems.

PUB said that this group of households would “immediately” save 5L of water per full flush, and could potentially save 10 per cent in their monthly water bill.

More details on the replacement project will be made public in due course.

Announcing this plan in Parliament on Wednesday (March 8), Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli also revealed the progress made in cutting domestic water consumption.

Last year, households used 148L of water per capita per day. This figure is lower than the previous reported level of about 151L and just shy of Singapore’s target of 147L by 2020, although still a stretch from the 2030 target of 140L.

Water prices are scheduled to go up by 30 per cent over two rounds on July 1 this year and next year, with help being provided to most households.

On Wednesday, Mr Masagos highlighted measures other than “right-pricing” to promote water conservation, and said that he was inspired by people who have gone the extra mile to save water.

Over the next few years, PUB will be fitting smart shower devices in 10,000 new homes under a demonstration project.

This is based on an earlier study it conducted with the National University of Singapore, which found people using less water in the shower when they had devices that provided them with real-time water-usage information.

From October next year, dishwashing machines will also come under the Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme.

And from April 2019, all new and existing premises that are undergoing renovation works must have water fittings classified as having at least two-tick efficiency.

For the non-domestic sector, which consumes most of the water in Singapore, heavy users (those consuming at least 60,000 cubic metres of water a year) will need to send representatives to attend a three-day water-efficiency manager course from 2019.

According to Mr Masagos: “Many of us are familiar with the Singapore Water Story. Perhaps there is a risk of over-familiarity, a certain jadedness from one too many social studies lessons ...

“The Water Story is a living story, and continues to be written by all Singaporeans today, whether in producing it, or in conserving it.”

Minimum standards for water fittings to be raised from April 2019
Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: As part of new initiatives to enhance water efficiency and encourage water conservation in Singapore, PUB will phase out less water efficient fittings, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Mar 8).

From April 2019, the national water agency will mandate the sales, supply and installation of water fittings with at least two ticks in all new and existing premises undergoing renovation. Dishwashers will also be included in the mandatory water efficiency labelling scheme from October next year, added Mr Masagos at his ministry's Committee of Supply debate in Parliament.

To further encourage water efficiency within households, PUB will introduce two new water conservation programmes, the minister said.

One of these will be the replacement of less water efficient nine-litre water closets with more efficient ones. "This can help them save up to 10 per cent in their monthly water bills," he said.

The agency will also be installing smart shower devices for 10,000 new homes as a demonstration project, Mr Masagos revealed. The smart shower device provides real-time information on water consumption during showers, and an earlier small-scale study found that a person could save up to five litres a day using these devices.

"If the positive effects are validated in the demo project, PUB may roll out the devices to more households," he said.

The minister noted that in 2016, households used 148 litres of water per capita per day, down "significantly" from a decade ago, but there is "still some way to go" to reach the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint target of 140 litres by 2030. "If each of us can save 10 litres of water per day, that is almost half a desalination plant."


Mr Masagos also gave an update on the Water Master Plan, a strategic blueprint for Singapore's water resource until 2060, saying there has been "good progress". The plan provides for the development of NEWater and desalination plants to meet up to 85 per cent of Singapore's water demand by 2060, as well as new pipelines for drinking water and used water.

He noted that the country's fifth NEWater plant, located at Changi, officially opened in January this year, and the third desalination plant in Tuas will be completed this year.

The fourth and fifth desalination plants in Marina East and Jurong Island are underway, he added, while phase two of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System - which includes the water reclamation plant and NEWater factory at Tuas - is on track for completion by 2025.

"All these have now become critical so that we have a resilient water supply when the weather does not favour us," he said.

The minister's updates came after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech last month that water prices will increase by 30 per cent in two phases over the next two years, starting from Jul 1 this year. This is the first time in almost 20 years that the Government is revising water prices.

- CNA/kk

Water-efficient toilet bowls, smart shower devices for homes
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Mar 17;

Old flats will get new toilet bowls as part of the national push to save water. In another move, intelligent devices will help people track how much water they use as they shower.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, in announcing both initiatives yesterday, said Singapore could do more to reduce water usage.

"I have been inspired by the many stories of people who have gone the extra mile to conserve water... This is the right spirit. We should do more together," he said during the debate on his ministry's budget.

The first effort involves replacing non water-efficient toilet bowls in Housing Board flats built between 1986 and 1992, occupied by lower- income households.

PUB said details about both projects will be announced later this year.

The existing, single-flush 9-litre toilet bowls in these flats will be replaced with more efficient, dual- flush ones that have a capacity of 4 litres. This is expected to reduce monthly water bills by up to 10 per cent.

Such a replacement is expected to save 5 litres for each full flush, and about 6,000 flats may benefit.

The other project involves installing smart shower devices in 10,000 new homes. These devices tell people how much water they are using as they shower. Both schemes come under national water agency PUB.

PUB also clarified changes to water usage calculations, after Mr Masagos revealed slightly lower per capita water usage.

Last year, PUB excluded water usage in dormitories and common areas when calculating per capita daily water usage, to better reflect water consumption within household residential premises.

Based on this new formula, each person in Singapore used about 149 litres of water a day in 2015, less than the initial reported figure of 151 litres. The figure declined to 148 litres last year.

However, it remains some way off from the 2030 target of 140 litres a day, Mr Masagos said yesterday.

"My ministry and PUB have a suite of measures - in addition to right pricing - to promote greater water savings for households and businesses," he said.

The Government had earlier announced that PUB will raise water prices by 30 per cent over the next two years.

Mr Masagos was responding to queries raised by six MPs, including Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC) and Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), on how lower-income households can cope with increased water prices.

The installation of the smart shower devices follows an earlier study that PUB did with the National University of Singapore, which showed that a person could save up to 5 litres of water a day using such devices.

To further help people save water at home, Mr Masagos said PUB will start to phase out less water-efficient products.

PUB will raise the minimum standards of water fittings to two-tick products, up from one-tick, from April 2019. The tick system awards more ticks to more water-efficient products.

PUB will also extend such labelling requirements to dishwashers from October next year.

In response to questions from Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) on the Republic's plans to cope with unpredictable and intense rainfall, Mr Masagos said PUB will start drainage improvement works at another 27 locations.

Such works have already been conducted at about 300 locations islandwide over the past four years.

The Stamford Detention Tank - an underground concrete tank that can hold up to 15 Olympic-size pools worth of rainwater - will also be ready this year. The Stamford Diversion Canal and Bukit Timah First Diversion Canal will be ready next year.

"These works, when ready, will enhance flood protection for their catchments," said Mr Masagos.

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Enhancements to Energy Conservation Act to include better reporting of greenhouse gas emissions

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Large industrial emitters in Singapore will need to improve how they measure and report greenhouse gas emissions, in order for them to better understand and manage emissions.

These requirements will be set out in the Energy Conservation Act (ECA) which will be enhanced to help companies adopt more energy-efficient processes, announced Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 8).

"To pave the way for a robust carbon tax regime, we need to have a sound measurement, reporting and verification system in place," he said in his ministry's Committee of Supply speech. It was announced during last month's Budget that the Government will introduce a carbon tax on large direct greenhouse gas emitters from 2019.

Providing more details in a statement, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said large industrial facilities will need to submit a monitoring plan and, once approved by NEA, will have to submit an improved emissions report based on the plan.

NEA said that under the current ECA, registered companies have to report their energy use and their annual greenhouse gas emissions. But they are not required to submit their data based on an approved monitoring plan, nor do they have to adopt certain methodologies in their computations of such data.

NEA said there is room for improvement in the monitoring and reporting system, to ensure it aligns with international standards. It added that the enhancements will ensure a more robust and rigorous measurement and reporting standard for greenhouse gas emissions accounting.

As part of the enhancements, large industrial facilities will also have to adopt specified methodologies that are in line with internationally recognised protocols such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


Mr Masagos added that companies looking to expand their facilities will have to factor energy efficiency into their designs from the start. They will also have to measure and report the performance of their key energy-consuming systems.

NEA said industrial equipment has a long lifespan, so it is important to introduce such measures before the facilities are built.

For existing facilities, Mr Masagos said companies will be required to implement a structured energy management system. NEA said studies have shown that having such systems in place can reap energy savings of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent in the first few years. These companies will also be required to conduct energy efficiency assessments periodically to identify what more can be done to improve efficiency.

Mr Masagos said data from NEA shows that a large number of industrial equipment are inefficient. To address this, he said Minimum Energy Performance Standards would be introduced, starting with motors, and gradually extended to include other systems and equipment.

“These practices are in line with that of leading jurisdictions and will help companies to adopt more efficient equipment, conserve energy and enjoy life cycle cost savings,” he said.

Enhancements to the ECA will come into effect from 2018. As part of the Paris climate change agreement, Singapore pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. It also committed to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

Mr Masagos said data shows that Singapore-based companies achieved an annual energy efficiency improvement rate of 0.6 per cent in 2015, a 0.2 per cent improvement compared to 2014. But he said this is still low.

“To meet our 2030 pledge, we need to work towards the 1 to 2 per cent improvement rates achieved by leading countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.” he said.


Based on feedback that the Government needs to improve on its current schemes to help companies improve upon their energy efficiency, Mr Masagos said NEA will consolidate its existing incentive schemes into a single fund.

He said the new Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F) will be redesigned to better support companies to identify and undertake energy efficiency retrofitting. He said small- and medium-sized enterprises will especially benefit, through the co-funding of up to 30 per cent of their investments in more efficient technologies.

- CNA/mo

Read more!

New emissions scheme, tighter standards to curb air pollution: Masagos

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Rebates or surcharges under the new Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) will be determined by its worst-performing pollutant, to encourage buyers to choose car and taxi models with lower emissions. Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said this in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 8) as part of his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.

The new scheme was first announced during the Budget this year, as a replacement to the Carbon Emissions-Based Scheme (CEVS) for all new cars, taxis and newly imported cars. The CEVS, introduced in 2013, and revised in 2015, was aimed at encouraging owners to move towards vehicles with low carbon dioxide emissions. The new scheme will expand on this, to include four other pollutants - hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM).

Providing more details, the National Environment Agency said rebates and surcharges for cars will range between S$10,000 and S$20,000, while those for taxis will range between S$10,000 and S$30,000, depending on the vehicle’s worst-performing pollutant.

It said similar to the CEVS, rebates and surcharges for taxis under the new scheme will be 50 per cent higher to encourage taxi companies to adopt fleets with lower emission models. That is because taxis clock a higher mileage than cars.

It will affect all cars and taxis registered from Jan 1, 2018, to Dec 31, 2019. NEA said the scheme will be reviewed regularly and take into account purchasing decisions by motorists, technological advances and Singapore’s overall efforts to mitigate climate change and air pollution.

Meanwhile, NEA said the existing CEVS will be extended by six months to the end of this year, to give vehicle dealers time to prepare for the new scheme, and import cleaner models.


New emission standards for petrol vehicles and motorcycles plying the roads will also be introduced, said Mr Masagos. He said such standards are already in place in places like Europe and Japan, and can be “easily met” by vehicles that are properly maintained.

NEA said new petrol vehicles and motorcycles will have to meet lower limits of carbon monoxide from Apr 1, 2018. Meanwhile, hydrocarbon limits will be introduced for all petrol vehicles and motorcycles plying the roads from next year.

NEA said hydrocarbon is a precursor to ozone, and both carbon monoxide and ozone are known to cause nausea and affect respiratory functions. The revised standards are expected to reduce CO emissions by 55 per cent, and hydrocarbon emissions by half.


Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the extension of the Early Turnover Scheme in his Budget speech in February. Since it was introduced in 2013, the Scheme has resulted in more than 27,000 older diesel vehicles being replaced with less pollutive ones.

Mr Heng said the scheme will be extended until Jul 31, 2019, to encourage owners of the older and more pollutive Euro II and III commercial vehicles to replace them for the cleaner Euro VI ones.

Providing more details, Mr Masagos said the scheme will be enhanced by increasing the Certificate of Entitlement bonus for light goods vehicles from the current 13 per cent to 35 per cent.

Mr Masagos said industry feedback and other findings have shown that light goods vehicles are a major contributor of diesel pollution due to their high numbers plying the roads. “We hope that through this, more diesel commercial vehicles and buses will switch to Euro VI models or cleaner electric hybrids or petrol alternatives,” he said.

- CNA/mo

More electric, hybrid buses to ply Singapore’s roads
Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: As part of Singapore’s push towards a more environmentally friendly transport system, more electric and hybrid buses will ply the roads soon, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said on Wednesday (Mar 8).

Speaking in Parliament during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate, Mr Ng said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will call tenders to purchase 50 hybrid buses and 60 electric buses this year.

Three bus services will be fully served by electric buses, he added.

A diesel-hybrid bus was first trialled by SBS Transit and Volvo in 2015. Bus operator Go-Ahead Singapore, Shenzhen-based automaker BYD and local distributor S Dreams are currently testing a fully electric bus.

Initial feedback from commuters on the electric buses has been encouraging, Mr Ng said. “While more costly, commuters enjoyed the quieter ride and the bus has been fairly reliable,” he said.

However, a problem with pure-electric technology is that it is not fully proven yet for tropical climates, in part because vehicles consume a lot of energy for air-conditioning, Mr Ng said.

“The electric car sharing and electric taxi trials that LTA launched recently will also help us better understand the application of this technology in our climate,” he said.

LTA said the expansion of the trial will help it better understand the operational challenges that come with the wider deployment of such buses under local tropical weather and traffic conditions.

“We will draw from our experiences in these trials to calibrate our approach to adopting alternative energy buses,” it said.

- CNA/cy

MOT relooking plans on bicycle-sharing: Ng Chee Meng
Channel NewAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Transport will assess the bids tendered for the bicycle-sharing service to serve the Jurong Lake District "carefully", and to see if it will extend it to other towns, amid the emergence of dockless bicycle-sharing systems here.

This was announced by the Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng during the ministry's Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday (Mar 8), as he pointed out how mobile technology is reshaping the bicycle-sharing arena.

He said the ministry had studied schemes in cities like London, Paris and New York a few years back, and these are traditional ones with docking stations. It saw the potential, but some Government subsidy would be needed, so time was taken to work out how to fund this. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) eventually put out the tender last year, he added.

However, he acknowledged Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng's observation on the emergence of dockless bicycle-sharing systems provided by companies such as Ofo and Obike. According to media reports, Chinese company Ofo launched 1,000 bikes in areas such as Punggol, West Coast and the city area last month, while Singapore-based Obike has a few thousand bicycles around the island.

"These dockless systems allow users to hire and return a shared bicycle at any location. There are obvious advantages: Lower infrastructure costs, more convenience. The downside, however, is indiscriminate parking," Mr Ng said.

"It is still not clear yet whether these new systems or the traditional ones will work better for Singapore."

- CNA/kk

National bike sharing plan could come to a halt
Danson Cheong, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Mar 17;

The brakes could be applied on a planned national bicycle sharing scheme, in light of the recent emergence of private firms that offer similar services.

Second Transport Minister Ng Chee Meng yesterday said the Government is assessing whether to go ahead with the scheme. He told the House the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is carefully studying bids for the bike share tender, which was called last year.

"We will also assess whether to proceed with our plans and whether to extend them to other towns like Ang Mo Kio, given that ofo and Obike are already rolling out their services independently of LTA's tender," he said.

In the first two months of the year, ofo and Obike have made thousands of bikes available for rent around the island. Both companies have said they plan to expand rapidly.

Their systems do not require users to return the machines at fixed stations - a standard feature of bike-share schemes worldwide. Instead, users unlock the bikes with their mobile phones and can return them at any bicycle parking area.

The eventual fleet size of both players is projected to dwarf that of the LTA, which is slated to launch by the end of this year with a fleet of about 2,330 bicycles in Jurong Lake District, Marina Bay, Tampines and Pasir Ris. The national scheme is expected to follow the traditional bike-share model, where users have to rent and return bikes at more than 210 specialised docking stations.

The emergence of Obike and ofo prompted Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) to ask what impact the private companies will have on the national bike sharing scheme.

Replying during the debate on the Transport Ministry's budget, Mr Ng said the schemes offered by the private players offer advantages, such as lower infrastructure costs and more convenience. However, they also carry the potential downside of indiscriminate parking. "It is still not clear yet whether these new systems or the traditional ones will work better for Singapore," he said.

During the debate, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also outlined plans for Singapore to go car-lite by 2030, and to make walking, cycling and taking public transport "easier and more enjoyable for everyone". He announced that Tampines would be the second model walking and cycling town after Ang Mo Kio.

Trunk cycling routes connecting Tampines to neighbouring towns, and to workplaces such as Changi Business Park and Singapore Expo, will be built, he said. He added that road crossings will be improved, footpaths widened, and areas around bus stops redesigned to boost safety.

"We are determined to make cycling and the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs) pleasant and safe," said Mr Khaw.

This issue of safety, particularly that of pedestrians on footpaths, was flagged by three MPs - Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) and Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan.

Mr Tan said footpaths should "always be sufficiently wide" to allow for safe shared use between cyclists and pedestrians. In response, Mr Ng said the LTA will widen narrow footpaths with high foot traffic, from current widths of 1.5m or less to at least 1.8m. He added that the LTA would bolster its enforcement efforts against errant cyclists and PMD users, using CCTVs and body cameras.

"We need the cooperation of all users in order to make shared spaces safe. We need to develop a culture of gracious sharing, through education efforts," he said.

Higher emission standards for petrol vehicles, motorbikes from next April
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Petrol vehicles and motorcycles in Singapore will have to meet higher exhaust emission standards from April next year, announced Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in Parliament on Wednesday (March 8).

The move, alongside other vehicle-related announcements made earlier by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech, is to help Singapore achieve its air quality targets for 2020.

Petrol vehicles that are properly maintained will be able to “easily” meet the revised standards, Mr Masagos assured at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate. The new standards are meant to curb excessive emissions that are due to vehicle defects or poor maintenance.

Emission standards for diesel vehicles were already tightened in January 2014, and the new standards for petrol vehicles will be similar to those that are in place in Europe and Japan, said Mr Masagos.

Vehicles are the second-largest contributor of greenhouse gases here, after industry.

Currently, the exhaust emission standards for petrol vehicles and motorcycles only specify limits for carbon monoxide emissions. From April 1, 2018, carbon monoxide limits will be lowered for newer petrol vehicles (registered from Jan 1, 2001, and from April 1, 2014) and motorcycles (registered from Oct 1, 2014).

New hydrocarbon limits will be introduced for all petrol vehicles and most motorcycles.

The revised standards are expected to reduce carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions from the affected vehicles by more than 50 per cent.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said hydrocarbons are a precursor to ozone, and carbon monoxide and ozone are known to cause nausea and affect respiratory function.

A new high idle test and lambda measurement will be introduced for newer petrol vehicles (registered from April 1, 2014, and excluding motorcycles) to detect defective components such as sensors and catalysts that could result in higher emissions.

The high idle test requires engine speed to be at least 2,000 revolutions per minute during inspection, while the lambda test measures the quantity of intake air divided by the theoretical air requirement of the engine.

Earlier vehicle-related changes announced by Mr Heng were: The restructuring of diesel taxes, replacement of the current Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme with the Vehicle

Emissions Scheme to account for four other pollutants besides carbon dioxide; and extension of the Early Turnover Scheme.

The Early Turnover Scheme will be extended for two years from August, for Euro II and III diesel commercial vehicles that turn over to Euro VI and equivalent models.

While Singapore has achieved carbon monoxide levels below World Health Organisation guidelines, it has to do more for ozone, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter.

During the debate, Members of Parliament including Dr Chia Shi-lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC ) and Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh expressed concerns about air quality and pollution.

Associate Professor Goh, in particular, highlighted bus commuters’ exposure to ultra-fine particles. Researchers from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology found a “two-way bus journey five days a week could lead to a commuter inhaling about 3.5 times more tiny pollutant particles than at ambient level”, he said.

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources has also trained its sights on the industry sector, the country’s largest energy consumer (more than 50 per cent of the total) and contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (more than 60 per cent).

The Energy Conservation Act will be enhanced this year. Larger industrial facilities will be required to submit a monitoring plan for the NEA’s approval, and an enhanced greenhouse gas emissions report. Robust emissions data will be a cornerstone of a carbon pricing regime, which the Government intends to implement as a carbon tax from 2019.

Bigger-scale trials on electric, hybrid buses to be held in next few years
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Following “encouraging” feedback from earlier tests, the Government will rev up its trials on electric and hybrid buses, and three bus services will be served wholly by electric buses, Second Transport Minister Ng Chee Meng announced in Parliament on Wednesday (March 8).

Bigger-scale trials will be mounted in the next few years, and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will call tenders to procure 60 electric buses and 50 hybrid ones this year, he added.

These trials will allow a deeper understanding of the operational challenges that a wider deployment of such buses may bring, under local weather and traffic conditions, the LTA said in a press statement.

While carrying a higher price tag, these buses are less pollutive and make for a more comfortable ride for bus captains and commuters.

The outcomes of the trials will be used to calibrate the approach towards adopting buses that run on alternative energy sources, the LTA added.

Mr Ng said that the Republic has already been shifting towards a more environmentally-friendly fleet, with models that meet tighter emission standards. “But no emission is better than low emissions,” he noted.

As part of a continuing trial involving Go-Ahead Singapore, China-based automaker BYD and its local distributor S Dreams, an electric K9 bus had been trialled on Service 17 and is being tested on Service 119 now, with “encouraging” initial feedback. In 2015, SBS Transit and Volvo also conducted a diesel-hybrid bus trial.

Meanwhile, the Republic is pressing on with other efforts on the electric vehicle front. Last September, HDT Singapore Taxis made its foray with the country’s first fully electric fleet of cabs. It will roll out 100 electric cabs progressively by the middle of this year in an eight-year trial.

By 2020, 1,000 shared electric vehicles will also fan out across all Housing and Development Board towns, as part of a car-sharing initiative announced last June.

BlueSG, a subsidiary of the Bollore Group, which runs the world’s largest fully electric car-sharing programme, will develop and operate the 10-year programme. The first stable of 125 electric vehicles and 250 charging points will be rolled out by the second half of this year.

Meanwhile, the installation of the common fleet management system across the Republic’s bus network will be completed by this month. It gives operators live updates on the location of each bus and arrival times, among other things, raising the efficiency of operations.

As for self-driving vehicles, trials began at one-north in 2015 and four organisations are testing the vehicles there now. Efforts are also under way to develop self-driving buses.

Other efforts include agreements inked in January between the Transport Ministry and PSA Corporation, and automotive firms Scania and Toyota Tsusho, to develop and test solutions for autonomous truck platooning. This involves a manned truck leading a convoy of driverless ones that will transport containers from one port terminal to another.

The authorities also announced last October that they were exploring how to develop self-driving multipurpose utility vehicles that could be designed for purposes such as road sweeping.

Along with truck platooning, this is expected to cut the need for manpower and free road space during peak hours by deploying these autonomous systems at night, for instance.

Diesel vehicles may be on the way out
Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Mar 17;

Motor industry players and experts reckon the days of diesel vehicles are numbered here.

They were reacting to news of a new Vehicular Emissions Scheme announced by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

The scheme will be far stricter than the current Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme.

Besides carbon dioxide emission, it will include four other pollutants, namely hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor and taxi group Prime, said: "This new scheme will have a great impact on car prices. And it will kick out diesel cars."

Dr Park Byung Joon, a transport expert at UniSIM, said: "We're doing what several other countries are doing - we don't want diesel to be around any more."

He noted that diesel engines are "fundamentally dirtier", and vehicle manufacturers have had to "do a lot" to make them acceptable.

In the wake of the Volkswagen emission cheating scandal in late 2015, several countries started re-examining their stand on diesel.

But even before this, studies had already shown that cases of respiratory problems such as childhood asthma had been creeping up in some places, including Germany, where the share of diesel cars was as high as 60 per cent.

This share is forecast to plunge to below 40 per cent this year in the wake of the VW scandal.

Cities such as Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have also vowed to ban diesel vehicles altogether from 2025.

Mr Allan Loi, a research associate at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, said the new scheme "should be able to encourage the adoption of cleaner cars".

He added that diesel cars - as well as diesel taxis - will "slowly be phased out".

Under the new scheme, most if not all diesel cars today will attract a tax surcharge of at least $10,000.

Diesel taxis face a penalty of up to $30,000.

Observers said this was why cab operators had started switching to petrol-electric hybrids.

About the new VES

The new Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) will cover four additional pollutants: hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Vehicles will fall into one of five bands - two surcharge bands, two rebate bands and a neutral band - based on their emissions and worst-performing pollutant.

Rebates and surcharges are either $10,000 or $20,000 for cars, and $15,000 or $30,000 for taxis.

Read more!

New condo developments to have recycling chutes

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 9 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Amid calls by Members of Parliament to give recycling a badly needed boost, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said the Government will mandate the provision of recycling chutes at some private residential developments.

Future condominium buildings taller than four storeys will be required to install dual chutes for refuse and recyclables. This will apply to all new non-landed residential development applications submitted from April next year, she said during the debate over the ministry’s budget on Wednesday (March 8).

Households in apartments with dual chute systems recycle up to three times more than those without such facilities, said Dr Khor. Since 2014, all new Build-To-Order flats have had recycling chutes adjacent to centralised refuse chutes at every level. The Government is ready to increase adoption of the system, as part of efforts to meet the domestic recycling target of 30 per cent by 2030. The rate has stagnated at 20 per cent in recent years.

The three waste streams of greatest concern are electronic waste, packaging waste and food waste, said Dr Khor. The Government is consulting industry stakeholders on an enhanced national e-waste management system, which should cover both collection and disposal of e-waste, she said.

It is exploring regulations for businesses on packaging waste, such as the submission of reduction plans, over the next two to four years.

As for food waste, source-segregated waste from nine sites including schools and army camps have been trucked to a demonstration facility at Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant since the end of last year. About three tonnes are collected daily and the aim is to increase it to 15 tonnes a day, to recover energy from food waste more efficiently.

MPs Louis Ng (Nee Soon) and Cheng Li Hui (Tampines) called for better waste collection in housing estates. Dr Khor said future condominium developments with at least 500 dwelling units will use a pneumatic waste conveyance system – an automated system that transports waste by air suction through a network of pipes to a centralised collection station. This will also apply to all new non-landed residential development applications submitted from April next year.

The pneumatic waste conveyance system was piloted at Yuhua estate and will be installed in new HDB areas such as Tampines North and Bidadari. It is also in place at over 100 condominium developments such as Sky Habitat in Bishan.

On public cleanliness, Dr Khor said the National Environment Agency issued more than 31,000 tickets to litterbugs last year, nearly 18 per cent more than 2015. Over the past five years, less than 6 per cent of litterbugs who have undergone Corrective Work Orders have been caught littering again.

And since the adoption of surveillance cameras for high-rise littering in August 2012, the NEA has taken more than 3,300 enforcement actions against culprits. “These cameras create an effective deterrent effect, as only 1 per cent of high-rise litterbugs care caught offending again,” said Dr Khor.

Upgraded waste system for new private apartments
Samantha Boh, Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Mar 17;

A pneumatic waste conveyance system will be mandatory in new private developments with at least 500 units

Plans are under way to encourage private apartment dwellers to recycle more and make it easier for cleaners to collect their trash.

All new private apartment blocks with more than four storeys must soon have two waste chutes - one for recyclables and the other for trash that will be incinerated.

Developments with at least 500 housing units must also have a pneumatic waste conveyance system (PWCS), which will transport waste from rubbish chutes to a central collection area via an underground network of vacuum-type pipes.

These measures, which will kick in for developers that apply to build new apartments from April next year, were announced by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor.

MPs Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC) and Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) spoke about Singapore's poor domestic recycling rate, and Dr Khor said yesterday the dual chutes will encourage recycling by making it more convenient.

Studies have found that households in apartments with such chutes recycle up to three times more than those in apartments which do not have such facilities.

Such systems have already sprung up in public housing. As of April last year, they were in 72 new Build-To-Order projects comprising close to 426 blocks, and will hopefully take Singapore closer to its goal of recycling 70 per cent of the waste it generates by 2030.

At present, only about 61 per cent is recycled, a figure boosted by the non-domestic sector which recycled 76 per cent of waste last year.

The domestic recycling rate stands at a mere 21 per cent. Dr Khor said such initiatives will have to go hand in hand with education.

On waste collection, Dr Khor agreed with Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Ms Cheng that current methods are "manpower intensive and unsustainable".

She said the PWCS is a more efficient, manpower-light method that will reduce pest nuisance, odours and exposed waste. It has been installed in more than 100 condominiums and the Yuhua estate, and will be in place in new Housing Board estates Tampines North and Bidadari.

The authorities will also study the feasibility of implementing it at a district level, to reap greater economies of scale.

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Malaysia: 'Logging in Ulu Muda reserve should be halted'

The Star 9 Mar 17;

GEORGE TOWN: The Federal Government should order an immediate stop to logging activities in Kedah’s Ulu Muda Forest Reserve, said the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP).

Its chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said the activities threaten the water supply to more than four million people in three northern states.

He called for the reserve to be gazetted as a water catchment area.

Also, he called on the Government to “compensate Kedah in lieu of the forest premium”, in a statement yesterday.

Jaseni said the federal and state governments must conserve the water catchment area in the interests of Kedah, Perlis and Penang.

“The capacity of Muda Dam, built to store water for strategic releases into Sungai Muda during dry seasons, has dropped and was at 27.3% capacity as of Tuesday.

“The Ulu Muda Forest Reserve is the catchment area for the dam and the logging in the area could be one of the main reasons affecting the dam’s capacity,” he said.

It was also the catchment area for Sungai Muda which provides raw water for processing in South Kedah and Penang, according to him.

Jaseni said the quality and volume were affected, with the river murkier now, which makes it more costly to treat the water.

The logging activities have disrupted the forest’s ability to absorb and retain rainwater, he said.

He said the river was also the source for Ahning Dam which supplies raw water to Perlis.

Also, more than 80% of Penang’s raw water was taken from Sungai Muda daily, he added.

“If anything goes wrong in Ulu Muda, it will jeopardise the wellbeing of all the people, businesses and agricultural activities in the northern states,” he said.

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Indonesia: Agency allocates US$7.5 million to restore Riau`s peatlands

Antara 9 Mar 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Indonesias Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) has allocated Rp100 billion (US$7.5 million) to restore Riaus peatlands in 2017, BRG Chief Nazir Foead said here on Wednesday.

"In 2017, BRG has targeted the humidification of 700 thousand hectares of peatlands in Riau," Nazir stated.

He pointed out that the humidification would include peatlands in Dumai, Pelalawan district, and Meranti Islands.

"The target for humidification in 2017 is quite vast, because some peatlands that could not be humidified in 2016 would be covered under the 2017 restoration program," Nazir noted.

The agency has targeted to restore a total of 2.49 million hectares of peatlands across the country.

Peatlands in Riau province covers almost half of the total area in the country. Thus, the agencys achievement to restore peatlands in the region would be seen as a national benchmark, he remarked.

"For the first phase in 2017, BRG would focus on humidification and replanting of the damaged areas," he pointed out.

The agency would install bulkhead in peatlands areas to hold back rain water and retain its moistness during dry season.

"If we could keep it moist, the risk of forest fire could be reduced, and the land could be used to cultivate food crops such as sago," he remarked.(*)

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Scandinavian banks fund Borneo rainforest abuses - campaigners

Matthew Ponsford Reuters 7 Mar 17;

LONDON, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scandinavian banks are funding industrial developments responsible for deforestation and violence in the rainforests of Borneo, despite commitments to respect the rights of indigenous forest-dwellers, a campaign group said on Tuesday.

Seven financial institutions have backed mining projects and palm oil plantations that caused rapid rainforest destruction and a human rights "crisis" on the Southeast Asian island, Swedwatch said in a report.

Frida Arounsavath, a researcher for Swedwatch, said banks were failing to ensure that companies they funded acquired meaningful consent from indigenous people before clearing forests where they live.

"These companies have breached indigenous people's rights to be consulted and their rights to keep their traditional forests," Arounsavath told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"These forests are at the centre of indigenous people's rights, of their identities, and of their ability to survive as peoples and as cultures."

Indigenous people have faced threats and intimidation, destruction of agricultural land and violent confrontations as a result of deforestation, the report said.

Swedish banks Nordea and Handelsbanken, and insurance company Lansforsakringar welcomed the report by Swedwatch, which monitors the impact of Swedish companies on the environment and human rights.

Stockholm-based Skandia said it would take the findings into account in vetting investments.

But a spokesman for Nordea said the report did not give the "full picture" of the banks' responses.

Borneo - which is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei - has lost 19 million hectares of forest over the last four decades, according to a December report by the Center for International Forestry Research.

Just half the island is now covered by forests compared with 76 percent in 1973, it said.

Arounsavath said the most shocking finding was the contradiction between the banks' strong policies on protecting indigenous rights and a lack of systems to check they were implemented.

Many banks have allowed investees and local governments to 'self-report' on rights issues raised by developments, she added.

In many cases, firms list land for development as "unoccupied" or "state-owned" and ignore the ancestral claims of indigenous people, despite commitments to obtaining their 'free, prior and informed consent', the report said.

Arounsavath called on banks to make urgent improvements by raising awareness of indigenous rights at investor conferences and expanding resources for monitoring policies. (Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Emma Batha.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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