Best of our wild blogs: 5 Jul 17

16 Jul (Sun): R.U.M. at Ubin Day
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with Cicada Tree Eco-Place on 11 Jul 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Celebrating Youth Day at the Pasir Ris Mangroves!
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Oriental Pied Hornbills Nest Moving?
Singapore Bird Group

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Eight Singapore farms taken to task for repeatedly misusing land

Unauthorised activities include conversion of space and subletting for non-farming uses
Audrey Tan Straits Times 5 Jul 17;

Amid the Government's push for farms in land-scarce Singapore to be more productive, eight farms have been penalised in the last four years for repeatedly misusing land for purposes other than agriculture, figures from the authorities show.

The misuses concern the carrying out of various unauthorised activities on farmland, such as subletting space for non-farming activities, or the conversion of space into non-farming uses without approval.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) told The Straits Times: "Enforcement actions such as warning letters and composition fines were taken against these farms. When the lease/tenancy of the six farms expired in end-2014, AVA terminated their farm licences; and SLA did not renew their lease/tenancy."

On top of the six which did not have their leases renewed when they expired, two fish farms - one in Lim Chu Kang and the other in Pasir Ris - had their leases terminated for unauthorised earthworks. ST understands that this means the farmers had brought in large amounts of soil onto the farmland.

The lease for one of the two fish farms, at 40, Lim Chu Kang Lane 5, was terminated in July 2015. During a visit to the site in May, ST saw an SLA signboard hanging on the gates, stating that the land is now state property.

The lease for the Pasir Ris fish farm was terminated in 2013.


Farmers are custodians of the land, and if the land is being abused and not used for production, it is good that the authorities are weeding them out. If not, they may give legitimate farmers a bad name.

AVA said the licences of both farms were also terminated.

An AVA spokesman said its officers conduct regular inspections to ensure compliance with its regulatory and licensing conditions. Those who do not comply may receive warning letters or be fined.

Farmland must predominantly be used for agricultural production, she said, adding: "For new farmland, farmers are allowed to develop visitor amenities, such as cafes and farm education centres, if they are kept within 10 per cent of the land area, subject to planning approval.

"Farms must also rectify any non-compliances. If the farms are recalcitrant offenders and the non-compliances are severe, AVA may suspend their licences. The leases of such farms may also not be renewed."

Currently, less than 1 per cent of land here is marked for farm use.

The local agriculture sector also produces less than 10 per cent of total food supply, but is still considered vital for food security, serving as a buffer in case of food supply shocks.

As of May, there were 358 licensed farms here, of which 212 were food farms. Despite its importance though, farmland in Singapore is still shrinking.

Come end-2019, the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang and Kranji will run out and the land will be used by the military.

AVA has since tendered out 36 new plots of farmland in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah spanning 60ha of land - the equivalent of 60 football fields - but the new plots will not offset the loss in farmland in end-2019.

The Government hopes to step up Singapore's food security within the constraints of limited land by encouraging the use of high-technology farming in the new plots to boost productivity and yield.

AVA had said earlier that experienced farmers with good track records and who are willing to adopt high-tech farming methods will stand a good chance of winning the bids.

Ms Chelsea Wan, 33, from the Jurong Frog Farm in the Lim Chu Kang area, said it was encouraging that the authorities were taking action against errant farmers.

She said: "Farmers are custodians of the land, and if the land is being abused and not used for production, it is good that the authorities are weeding them out.

"If not, they may give legitimate farmers a bad name."

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Turning industrial waste into green solutions

Rupali Karekar Straits Times 5 Jul 17;

For years, Environmental Solutions has been in the business of upgrading tonnes of industrial waste into precious and base metals, and harvesting energy from wood waste. Co-founders and directors Sivakumar Avadiar, 43, and Quek Leng Chuang, 50, call it 'reverse mining'. In the third instalment of our four-part series on green solutions, Rupali Karekar talks to the chemical engineers about their efforts to reduce the carbon footprint and plans to bring green electricity to Singapore.


Mr Quek: While working for a waste-management firm back in the 1990s, we had a seed of an idea which germinated into Environmental Solutions a year later. The company initially operated from Siva's kitchen table with just our own computers and no Internet.

At the time, Singapore had many other waste-management companies but they could not handle "difficult" wastes like printed circuit boards and agrochemicals.

We knew we could. So we started providing transboundary solutions on waste management - the legal international transport of industrial waste - for multinational companies across South-east Asia.

We collaborated with firms in Europe which had the technological know-how, took care of logistics, got all required permits from the local authorities of different countries, and exported the materials on behalf of our clients. That was in 1999. We have come a long way since.


Mr Sivakumar: We had a fairly successful run as a transboundary company and developed a firm foundation in our field.

But we found out that much of the waste we transported contained precious and base metals, and were actually being purchased at a substantial price by the European firms.

So we decided to diversify from merely managing transboundary waste to processing the recyclable industrial waste streams ourselves.

Soon we were storing and recycling waste. We moved out of our home office into a bigger space in Chinatown. Later, we rented a few other places before buying our own factory space in Tuas and here we are today.

Mr Quek: The business now has two fronts. In procuring waste materials, we are a waste-management company, but when it comes to selling base and precious metals, we are a commodity trader. We also provide hedging services for our precious-metal clients. Hedging is an essential and necessary aspect of any successful physical commodity-trading business.


Mr Sivakumar: Our business is analogous to mining. Where mining begins with ore, we begin with industrial waste containing base and precious metals. We buy much of the waste materials - things like catalytic converters in automobiles, spent industrial catalysts and other metal-bearing sludges.

We upgrade this waste through a combination of mechanical and thermal processes, concentrating the targeted metals within - like copper, lead and, sometimes, gold and silver. The process is similar to concentrating sugar solution into a syrup by heating.

This upgrades the unit value of the original waste materials, and this upgraded material is then sold into the commodity market, through which we generate revenue.

Mr Quek: We also harvest heat energy from discarded wood, such as pallets, crates and boxes. Waste wood - which would otherwise go to landfills - is the main source of energy for our kilns and ovens. This is our way of expressing our belief in sustainability.

Harvesting spent resources in this manner is the real sustainable alternative to mining. Our vision for our business is a world of infinite resource life cycles. We are already recovering pure previous metals, and we have set in motion plans to commence full recovery of some targeted base metals.


Mr Sivakumar: Singapore is a relatively small marketplace for our business. If we want to make a significant impact on the region, we need to import valuable waste materials - which we see as resources - into our Tuas plant for recovery. Current regulations do not allow us to do so.

Mr Quek: Having been in the field for so long, we know that thousands of tonnes of materials travel from Asia to Europe for recovery. Even Australia sends materials to Europe, so why not stop in Singapore instead? Only some high-value materials such as automobile catalysts are not regulated, so we import them. We are one of the biggest players in Asia for this material.


Mr Sivakumar: ES Power is our power/energy division, which commenced operations last year. It is a unique brand of carbon-neutral electric power.

Through ES Power, we offer our customers zero carbon footprint from electricity consumption. We are the first electricity retailers to offer this proposition.

Mr Quek: Our power company will purchase carbon credits from the international carbon market in bulk and allocate them to customers in Singapore that buy power from us, thus reducing their carbon consumption to zero.

The man in the street might not know what carbon-neutral electricity means now, but he will know soon enough when a carbon tax is introduced in Singapore in the coming years. Carbon is the global currency for sustainability in future, and we are offering our customers a chance to be part of the carbon economy, which will soon be a reality.


Mr Sivakumar: Most people want to go green but don't know how to do it. At the most, they will throw their recyclables into a certain bin.

In Singapore, there is something called the Grid Emission Factor that is used to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a power plant vis-a-vis a unit of electric power generated.

Here, this amount is 0.43 tonne of carbon dioxide a megawatt hour of electricity produced.

Mr Quek: Let us say I am a factory which is emitting X amount of carbon dioxide. After modifications in operational and business processes to reduce the carbon footprint, I will reduce my footprint to a Y amount. The difference (X minus Y) can be sold in the international carbon market (in the form of credits). Mr Sivakumar: The monetisation of these credits is an incentive for firms to maintain emission-reduction programmes.

More people will then get on board and this will eventually help the global environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Mr Quek: Our social mission is to offer electricity at reduced special prices to social enterprises such as special needs schools or social welfare groups.

These are listed on our corporate website; what we call our "micro philanthropy" platform. This platform allows the public to make contributions, something akin to crowdfunding. Only this time, the funds will be used to offset part of the bills of these social organisations

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