Thirst for bottled water growing in Singapore

Consumers spent $134 million on it in 2015, but health benefits are not proven

Getting clean water in Singapore is as easy as turning on the tap, yet retail outlets are awash with brands of bottled water.

Data from research firm Euro-monitor International showed that the thirst for bottled water is growing here. Consumers spent $134 million on it in 2015 - nearly 24 per cent more than in 2010.

At least 12 brands of bottled water are sold here, and more have recently been added to the shelves, with two brands of alkaline water introduced at Sheng Siong last year.

Alkaline water has higher than usual pH levels and is touted to have health benefits, though these are not proven.

As brands come up with new ways to make their products stand out, the question is: Do their marketing claims hold water? And ultimately, should one be drinking bottled water at all?

Experts said there are differences in the sources and treatment processes, but it is difficult to say if one is better than another.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) regulates the import of bottled water and, based on the source of the water and the way it was treated, classifies brands into five types - natural mineral water, packaged drinking water, mineralised drinking water, distilled water and spring water.

Dr Wuang Shy Chyi, domain lead for water technology at Temasek Polytechnic's School of Applied Science, said each type of water comes with its own set of claims.

For example, due to the natural sources, mineral water can contain trace amounts of elements. Some, like arsenic, can be beneficial in tiny quantities, but others may not be good for the body.

"Some minerals, like fluoride, may also be present in quantities that are not acceptable to certain groups of people," Dr Wuang said. They include infants and young children, who get fluoride in tap water.


A 2012 Harvard School of Public Health study found that children in high-fluoride areas had much lower IQ scores than those in low-fluoride areas.

Dr Wuang added that more awareness of each type of drinking water can help "consumers make informed choices".

Associate Professor Richard Webster from Nanyang Technological University's School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences said water marketed as artisan or untouched by humans is not better.

"It is just a marketing gimmick," he said. "There is no real difference from other bottled water."

The benefits of a new entrant - water with added oxygen - are unproven, he added.

"We get enough oxygen from breathing air, so adding it to water will not make any difference," he said.

Home-grown water treatment specialist Hyflux is working with Changi General Hospital to see if its oxygenated Elo Water can help diabetics achieve better glycaemic control.

For the consumer, however, price appears to be the main criterion in choosing bottled water.

A FairPrice spokesman said sales for the budget range of bottled water has increased.

Similarly, at Sheng Siong, the cheapest bottled water is the most popular.

According to national water agency PUB, tap water can be 1,000 times cheaper than bottled water - a 600ml bottle of drinking water costs between 50 cents and $1, while tap water costs 0.1 cent for the same amount.

Giving his assessment of the tap water here, Dr Webster said: "It is better than what is available in many other countries."

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Commentary: Expansion of dog adoption programme doesn't improve stray dog situation in Singapore

The expansion of the ADORE project was a significant step for animal welfare, but culling is still an inevitable outcome for most stray dogs, argues Save Our Street Dogs' Dr Siew Tuck Wah.
Siew Tuck Wah Channel NewsAsia 16 May 17;

SINGAPORE: Last week, the ADORE (Adoption and Rehoming of Dogs) project was expanded to allow dog handlers from the K-9 units and Military Working Dog Unit to adopt retired sniffer dogs. In many ways, this was a significant step, not only for animal welfare, but for Singapore society.

Under current HDB rules, only certain toy breeds, such as Schnauzers and Shihtzus are allowed in HDB flats. In addition, the dogs have to be below 40cm in height and under 10kg in weight.


The ADORE project, introduced in 2012, allowed medium-sized mixed-breed dogs below 15kg and 50cm to be adopted and housed in HDB flats, under a stringent framework. Now, with this new expansion to include K-9 unit dogs, even larger breeds such as Labradors and English Spaniels will be allowed in HDB flats, for the first time in Singapore’s history.

Singapore has always been caught in an uncomfortable situation with regard to wildlife and stray animals. Although there is increasing awareness over animal-related issues, complaints are also on the rise. This is largely due to rapid urbanisation and deforestation - animals’ hiding places are increasingly being levelled to the ground to make way for housing estates and other developments.

In areas such as Punggol, many residents come face-to-face with stray dogs who lived there long before they did. The result is conflict. Humans are unhappy with dogs roaming near their homes; dogs protect their territories by barking. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) received about 5,000 complaints about stray dogs last year, demanding for them to be removed.

Traditionally, AVA’s default method of solving these conflicts was to catch and cull these stray dogs. 23,229 stray dogs were culled over the last 12 years. Matters have improved in recent years - AVA is now working much more closely with animal welfare groups (AWGs) to rehome impounded dogs and help manage human-dog conflict.

At the same time, AWGs are actively sterilizing stray dogs, so that their population in the wild will not rise.

AWGs like SOSD also carry out dog adoption drives to encourage the adoption of strays and match them with suitable owners. (Photo: SOSD/FB)
Our work as an AWG is, however, paved with difficulties. HDB’s rule of allowing only small dogs means that stray dogs cannot be rehomed in more than 80 per cent of Singapore’s households.


Although progress has been made with the ADORE project, it does not significantly improve the dire situation. Singapore’s stray dogs are mostly large. The majority are about 55 to 65cm tall and weigh 18 to 25kg. Only 10 per cent of dogs in shelters qualify for the ADORE project.

With more than 1,500 dogs already stuck in shelters with no homes to go to, AWGs are unable to take in any more dogs whose lives are on the line. The result - culling is still the inevitable outcome for the majority of stray dogs.

Repeated calls to increase the size of dogs allowed in HDB flats have been futile. HDB’s worry may be that Singaporeans are not ready to have larger dogs living amongst them. They may be worried that the idea that large dogs are “dangerous” is still widespread among people who do not like dogs.

The truth is, larger dogs bark less, are more gentle and are better with children than smaller dogs. The character of a dog has nothing to do with its size. Large dogs are bigger but they are not dangerous, nor do they cause more problems.

On the contrary, dog-related problems are mostly caused by irresponsible pet owners. Size has nothing to do with it.


HDB’s concerns may be largely unfounded and can easily be overcome. First, the rules on dogs were formulated half a century ago, at a time when flats were smaller and packed denser together. Stricter rules were needed to ensure harmony for families living in close proximity.

Today, HDB flats are larger and better designed. In fact, most condominiums are even smaller than HDB flats – and yet there are no restrictions on the size of dogs allowed.

Second, the socio-economic factors in Singapore have changed. We are now more educated and more affluent. We are starting to take notice of issues such as animal welfare and we are definitely more receptive towards dogs than we were 50 years ago.

The ADORE project goes a step further in ensuring dynamics in a HDB neighbourhood are not upset when a new dog is introduced. For instance, all ADORE dogs are required to undergo obedience training by a panel of accredited dog trainers. In addition, neighbours are interviewed prior to adoption to ensure that they are receptive of a larger dog in their vicinity.

This robust framework has worked very well for medium-sized dogs, and we are confident that it will work too for the larger sniffer dogs from K-9 units and for larger mixed-breed dogs as well.


Increasingly, Singaporeans are calling for a humane method to deal with the stray dog problem, rather than culling them. In a study conducted by The Nielson Company and Save Our Street Dogs in 2015 to examine Singaporeans’ attitudes towards stray dogs in Punggol, 82 per cent of participants agreed that homeless dogs should be rehomed and only 2 per cent wished for dogs to be trapped and culled.

It is heartening to know that Singaporeans care. However, this vision can only be fulfilled, if existing regulations are relaxed to allow larger mixed-breed dogs in HDB flats.

In a world divided by trends like extremism and protectionism, it has become increasingly important to foster a more tolerant, kinder society. If a simple policy change can do that, there is very little reason not to look into it.

The K-9 expansion of ADORE is the first sign of some light at the end of the tunnel and a significant step in moving Singapore forward in the right direction. We are extremely grateful to MND for the initiative, and we look forward to the day when the thousands of stray and shelter dogs in Singapore no longer face persecution, but instead, are able to find loving homes.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah is President of Save our Street Dogs.

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Malaysia: Dugong sanctuary at Pulau Sibu soon

Low Sock Ken The Sun Daily 15 May 17;

KOTA ISKANDAR: The state government is in the process of setting up a Dugong sanctuary at Pulau Sibu, Mersing, said Datuk Ayub Rahmat.

The Johor Health and Environment, Education and Information committee chairman said the sanctuary will provide a safe haven for the dugong and protect its seagrass habitats.

He was replying to a question from Abd. Razak Minhat (BN-Serom) in the state assembly here today.

Ayub said more small islands in Mersing are being gazetted as Taman Laut Malaysia under the Fisheries Act 1985, as measures to protect sealife in the Johor waters.

The population of these marine mammals have been on the decline for some time due to sea water pollution that caused damage to seagras, which is the primary source of food for the marine life.

It was reported that about 40 to 50 dugong remain in the waters off the east coast of the state in Kota Tinggi, Mersing, Pulau Sibu and Pulau Tinggi in Johor.

The sightings of dugong carcasses is not uncommon on the islands off Johor, the latest being the carcass of a dugong that was found washed ashore at Pulau Tinggi in April this year.

He told the assembly that the growth of coral reefs and the fish population in the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park (TLSI), Mersing, is estimated to rise by 30% following the placement of artificial reefs in the area.

He said the increase was noted through observations made in the area last month.

"The artificial reefs were placed in the TLSI waters as a long-term measure to overcome depleting fish sources. It is also an alternative to replacing coral reefs as breeding grounds for fish and to protect marine life," he said.

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