PUB’s co-digestion plant now processing 3 tonnes of food waste daily

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 15 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — After a delay in completion caused by the woes of its technology provider, a project by national water agency PUB to use food waste to generate more electricity is now processing three tonnes of food waste a day.

The co-digestion plant, which aims to produce more biogas by adding food waste to used water sludge, was completed and commissioned in November last year, PUB told TODAY.

Currently, processing segregated food waste from nine premises including schools, army camps and a food court, the aim is to increase the amount from three to 15 tonnes a day. This will be done by collecting more food waste from the current participating premises and expanding the pilot project to more suitable premises if possible, a spokesperson said.

PUB said the co-digestion plant will operate for at least 12 months for data collection, and to review and refine operations.

Last week, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the facility is designed to treat up to 40 tonnes of food waste and used water sludge. The food waste enables more energy to be produced from the anaerobic digestion process (where microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen) compared with the digestion of used water sludge alone.

If successful, the process could potentially be carried out at the NEA’s future integrated waste management facility and PUB’s Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, which will be co-located, said the ministry and the NEA.

The co-digestion facility’s technology provider is a Canada-headquartered group of companies called Anaergia, which initially took on the project via its subsidiary Anaergia Pte Ltd. But after failing to pay two of its contractors S$1.2 million, Anaergia Pte Ltd was sold in December 2015 and is now called APL Bioengg Pte Ltd. It is no longer part of Anaergia.

The project was then taken on by another Anaergia subsidiary called Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd. According to Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority records, its current directors are Canadian El-Kaissi Hani and Singaporeans Zhang Disong and Pay Thiam Yong Roger, who is also its secretary.

In May last year, TODAY reported that PUB had paid S$3.3 million to Anaergia Pte Ltd upon the completion of project milestones. Asked about the full cost of the project, PUB did not provide an amount but said: “The contract has project milestones and payments to Anaergia are made upon completion of each milestone.”

Anaergia Pte Ltd’s two contractors, Structura Construction and Brilliant Engineering, have not received the money owed to them. Structura, whose contract with Anaergia Pte Ltd was worth about S$1.4 million, is owed about S$960,000. Brilliant’s contract was worth about S$1 million and is owed about S$300,000.

Although both companies have obtained court judgments in their favour, they are unable to take things further. “In December 2016, we tried to do an examination of judgment debtor ... to no avail as (the director) could not be located,” said Structura director Amy Yeo.

According to the State Courts’ website, the winning party in a civil lawsuit may apply for the losing party, called the judgment debtor, to be examined under oath to determine what assets are available to satisfy the judgment debt. The winning party has to serve the debtor the court order to attend the hearing.

Ms Yeo said she has also sought the help of her Member of Parliament Sam Tan, but received a reply from MEWR that it is unable to assist further unless new information is presented on the issue. PUB is “unable to double-pay for work that has already been paid”, according to the letter seen by TODAY. “We are still in business and have small projects running. Money is tight. Operations (are) streamlined significantly but we are managing the best we can,” said Ms Yeo.

Brilliant’s engineering department had to let 10 employees go and transferred five others to its maintenance department, said director Philip Sheng. The company owes its vendors and suppliers over S$400,000.

On top of that, Mr Sheng was diagnosed with an illness last year and recently underwent surgery on his vocal cords.

Asking how PUB could simply change its contractor for the co-digestion plant, he said: “I am very disappointed that (Anaergia Pte Ltd) could do this to us and get away with it.”

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Malaysia: H5N1: Bird flu spreads to 5 villages in Kota Baru; Cases detected in Pasir Mas

SULAIMAN JAAFAR New Straits Times 14 Mar 17;

KOTA BARU: Avian flu H5N1 which was earlier detected in Kampung Pulau Tebu in Tunjong here has spread to five other villages in the district, Veterinary Services Department director general Datuk Dr Kamaruddin Md Isa said today.

He said the disease had also been confirmed in three villages in Pasir Mas.

The villages​ affected in Kota Baru were Kampung Chabang Tiga Sakit, Kampung Gertak Lembu, Kedai Mulong, Kampung Padang Layang and Kampung Kota.

In Pasir Mas, the areas involved were Kampung Becah Semak, Kampung Tempoyak and Kampung Kedondong.

"The cases in Pasir Mas were not spread from Kampung Pulau Tebu. They happened about the same time," he said.

The Kelantan state government on March 8 had confirmed avian flu cases through samples taken from dead birds in Kampung Pulau Tebu, two days earlier.

State Agriculture, Agro-Biotechnology and Green Technology committee chairman Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi was reported as saying that the state Veterinary Services Department acted immediately by culling 170 birds, including 'kampung' chickens, guinea fowls, geese, ducks, birds, commercial chickens and 100 eggs from the village.

The state government had also set up a task force to eradicate and control the disease in the affected areas.

Kelantan declares 'state disaster' as H5N1 outbreak spreads
SULAIMAN JAAFAR New Straits Times 15 Mar 17;

KOTA BARU: The H5N1 avian flu outbreak in Kelantan has spread to two more districts, Pasir Putih and Bachok besides Kota Baru and Pasir Mas.

State agriculture, agro-based industry and biotechnology committee chairman Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi said the state executive council, which met today, agreed to declare the outbreak as a 'state disaster' under the MKN 20 (National Security Council) Order.

Under the MKN 20 Order, the resources of all relevant departments in the state will used to control the outbreak.

At the moment, only the Veterinary Department is involved in efforts to control the disease.

Abdullah said besides the same three villages in Pasir Mas, 18 villages in the Kota Baru district are now affected by the outbreak.

The new villages involved are Kampung Bukit Merbau in Pasir Putih and Kampung Dusun Durian in Bachok.

"A total of 24,768 birds have been culled up to date," he said.

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Malaysia: Sultan of Johor decrees stiff action on those caught polluting rivers

Halim Said New Straits Times 14 Mar 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar today decreed for the state government to impose stiffer action against those caught polluting rivers.

In a posting on the Official Sultan Ibrahim Facebook account, the ruler said he was concerned and expressed regret over the irresponsible dumping of trash into Sungai Tebrau here.

The ruler conducted a spot check at Sungai Tebrau today, and spent about 45 minutes inspecting the river on an air boat.

Accompanying him on another air boat was Tunku Panglima Johor Tunku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ibrahim.

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Malaysia ranks among best in terms of global food security: Agriculture Minister

MELISSA DARLYNE CHOW New Straits Times 14 Mar 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Global Food Security Index 2016 has revealed that Malaysia is ahead of other Asean nations in terms of food security, placing 35th out of 113 countries worldwide.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that countries which are agriculturally advanced, such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, rank lower than Malaysia in the report.

Ahmad Shabery (BN-Kemaman) said this is because Malaysia is capable of producing its own food and that the food security is assured.

"Malaysia could be seen as one of the better countries due to our food security regime, and also our good agricultural practices.

"I know Singapore is high up (at third place). But we have to commend ourselves.

"When compared to other Asean countries, people say Thailand is good, but in terms of our food security, based on the ranking in the index, Malaysia is one of the best countries.

"We still have room to improve ourselves (however)," he said at the Dewan Rakyat today.

Ahmad Shabery was responding to a supplementary question from Datuk Seri Mohamad Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) on what Malaysia could do to improve its ranking in the index, which is much lower than third-ranking Singapore’s.

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Indonesia: UK Donates $3.6m to Prevent Wildfires in Sumatra

Radesman Saragih Jakarta Globe 14 Mar 17;

Jakarta. The United Kingdom has donated 3 million pounds ($3.6 million) to prevent and mitigate wildfires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The recipients of the aid are Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.

"The UK government deeply cares about Indonesia's efforts to prevent forest fire and haze. Therefore, UK has established partnerships with five provinces to prevent and mitigate these disasters. We also provided 3 million pounds in aid," British Ambassador Moazzam Malik said in Jambi on Monday (13/03).

The ambassador praised Jambi for issuing regulations on forest and peatland fire prevention. Jambi was the first among the five provinces to enact such laws.

"I promise to support the prevention and mitigation of forest and peatland fires. Hopefully, Jambi will become an example for other provinces to issue similar regional laws," Malik said.

Jambi Governor Zumi Zola expressed his concerns over the environmental, health and material losses caused by wildfires.

In 2015, the fires devoured more than 130,000 hectares of forests and peatland in the province, where 1,654 hotspots were detected and the losses reached Rp 12 trillion.

Extreme haze made many suffer from respiratory illnesses.

"Jambi bans land burning. We will act firmly against all violators," Zumi said.

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Australia: Thirsty mangroves cause unprecedented dieback

James Cook University Science Daily 14 Mar 17;

A James Cook University scientist has discovered why there was an unprecedented dieback of mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria in early 2016 -- the plants died of thirst.

Dr Norman Duke, leader of JCU's Mangrove Research hub, headed an investigation into the massive mangrove dieback. The findings were published in the Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research.

The scientists used aerial observations and satellite mapping data of the area dating back to 1972, combined with weather and climate records.

Dr Duke said they found three factors came together to produce the unprecedented dieback of 7400 hectares of mangroves, which stretched for 1000 kilometres along the Gulf coast.

"From 2011 the coastline had experienced below-average rainfalls, and the 2015/16 drought was particularly severe. Secondly the temperatures in the area were at record levels and thirdly some mangroves were left high and dry as the sea level dropped about 20cm during a particularly strong El Nino."

Dr Duke says this was enough to produce what scientists regard as the largest recorded incident of its kind, and the worst instance of likely climate-related dieback of mangroves ever reported.

"Essentially, they died of thirst," he said.

Dr Duke said scientists now know that mangroves, like coral reefs, are vulnerable to changes in climate and extreme weather events.

He said the mangroves of Australia's Gulf region have experienced relatively little anthropogenic impact and are considered the least altered mangrove ecosystems in the world.

"So the relative dominance of climate influences in this region is of critical interest to world observers of environmental responses to climate change."

Dr Duke said the area is sparsely populated, with passing fisherman and scientists conducting unrelated work the first to notice the dieback.

"It took 4-5 months to come to the attention of mangrove tidal wetland specialists and managers. Our response to this event further involves training and equipping Indigenous rangers and local community volunteers to build local partnerships for rigorous and repeated shoreline assessments."

"We cannot afford to be caught out like this again!" said Dr Duke. "The Gulf dieback has been a wakeup call for action on shoreline monitoring. We urgently need a national shoreline monitoring program commensurate with our global standing. We have the specialists, we have the resources, and we know there is interest and concern amongst the Australian public."

To progress this further, Australia's top specialists and managers will review the situation at a dedicated workshop during next week's Australian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network annual conference in Hobart, hosted by the University of Tasmania and CSIRO.

"The aim of Australia's specialist network is to apply intelligent, innovative and considered responses, as fully expected by the public, to improve and disseminate informed understandings of the changes taking place in high value natural resources such as Australia's coastal tidal wetland habitats," Dr Duke said.

Journal Reference:

Norman C. Duke, John M. Kovacs, Anthony D. Griffiths, Luke Preece, Duncan J. E. Hill, Penny van Oosterzee, Jock Mackenzie, Hailey S. Morning, Damien Burrows. Large-scale dieback of mangroves in Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 2017; DOI: 10.1071/MF16322

Gulf of Carpentaria's record mangrove dieback is a case study of extremes
Our investigation shows a combination of extreme temperatures, drought and lower sea levels caused the 2015-16 event
Penny van Oosterzee and Norman Duke for the Conversation
The Guardian 13 Mar 17;

One of the worst instances of mangrove forest dieback recorded globally struck Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria in the summer of 2015-16. A combination of extreme temperatures, drought and lowered sea levels likely caused this dieback, according to our investigation published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research.

The dieback, which coincided with the Great Barrier Reef’s worst recorded bleaching event, affected 1,000km of coastline between the Roper river in the Northern Territory and Karumba in Queensland.

The Gulf of Carpentaria is a continuous sweep of wide tidal wetlands fringed by mangroves, meandering estuaries, creeks and beaches. Its size and naturalness makes it globally exceptional.

An apron of broad mudflats and seagrass meadows supports thousands of marine turtles and dugongs. A thriving fishing industry worth at least $30m ultimately depends on mangroves.

Mangroves and saltmarsh plants are uniquely adapted to extreme and fickle coastal shoreline ecosystems. They normally cope with salt and daily inundation, having evolved specialised physiological and morphological traits, such as salt excretion and unique breathing roots.

But in early 2016, local tour operators and consultants doing bird surveys alerted authorities to mangroves dying en masse along entire shorelines. They reported skeletonised mangroves over several hundred kilometres, with the trees appearing to have died simultaneously. They sent photos and even tracked down satellite images to confirm their concerns. The NT government supported the first investigative surveys in June 2016.

In the end, the emails from citizen scientists nailed the timing: “looks like it started maybe December 2015”; the severity: “I’ve seen dieback before, but not like this”; and the cause: “guessing it may be the consequence of the four-year drought”.

Our investigation used satellite imagery dating back to 1972 to confirm that the dieback was an unparalleled event. Further aerial helicopter surveys and mapping during 2016, after the dieback, validated the severity of the event extending across the entire gulf. Mangrove dieback has been recorded in Australia in the past but over decades, not months.

We still don’t fully understand what caused the dieback. But we can rule out the usual suspects of chemical or oil spills, or severe storm events. It was also significant that losses occurred simultaneously across a 1,000km front.

There were also a number of tell-tale patterns in the dieback. The worst-impacted locations had more or less complete loss of shoreline-fringing mangroves. This mirrored a general loss of mangroves fringing tidal saltpans and saltmarshes along this semi-arid coast.

Mangroves were unaffected where they kept their feet wet along estuaries and rivers. This, as well as the timing and severity of the event, points to a connection with extreme weather and climate patterns, and particularly the month-long drop of 20cm in local sea levels.

Extreme weather the likely culprit
We believe the dieback is best explained by drought, hot water, hot air and the temporary drop in sea level. Each of these was correlated with the strong 2015-16 El Niño. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

First, the dieback happened at the end of an unusually long period of severe drought conditions, which prevailed for much of 2015 following four years of below-average rainfall. This caused severe moisture stress in mangroves growing alongside saltmarsh and saltpans.

Second, the dieback coincided with hot sea temperatures that also caused coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef. While mangroves are known to be relatively heat-tolerant, they have their limits.

The air temperatures recorded at the time of the mangrove dieback, particularly from February to September 2015, were also exceptionally high.

Third, the sea level dropped by up to 20cm at the time of the dieback when the mangroves were both heat- and moisture-stressed. Sea levels commonly drop in the western Pacific (and rise in the eastern Pacific) during strong El Niño years: and the 2015-16 El Niño was the third-strongest recorded.

The mangroves appear to have died of thirst. Mangroves may be hardy plants, but when sea levels drop, reducing inundation, coupled with already heat- and drought-stressed weather conditions, then the plants will die – much like your neglected pot plants.

We don’t yet know what role human-caused climate change played in these particular weather events or El Niño. But the unprecedented extent of the dieback, the confluence of extreme climate events and the coincidence with the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef mean the role of climate change will be of critical interest in the global response to mangrove decline.

What future for mangroves?
The future for mangroves around the world is mixed. Thanks to climate change, droughts are expected to become hotter and more frequent. If the gulf’s mangroves experience further dieback in the future, this will have serious implications for Australia’s northern fisheries including the prawn fishery, mudcrab and fin fish fisheries. All species are closely associated with healthy mangroves.

We don’t know whether the mangroves will recover or not. But there is now a further risk of shoreline erosion and retreat, particularly if the region is struck by a cyclone – and this may have already begun with recent cyclonic weather and flooding in the gulf. The movement of mangrove sediments will lead to massive releases of carbon uniquely buried among their roots.

Aerial view of severe mangrove dieback near Karumba in Queensland, October 2016.
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Aerial view of severe mangrove dieback near Karumba in Queensland, October 2016. Photograph: Norman Duke/James Cook University
Mangroves are among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics and semi-tropics and much of this carbon could enter the atmosphere.

Now we urgently need to understand how mangroves died at large and smaller scales (such as river catchments), so we can develop strategies to help them adapt to future change.

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