Tembusu tree that killed woman had no visible signs of decay

SIAU MING EN Today Online 18 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — The Tembusu heritage tree that toppled and killed a woman at the Singapore Botanic Gardens earlier this year had decaying roots. However, there were no visible signs that warranted more intensive checks.

The weather conditions in the days before and on the day of the incident could have also contributed to the toppling of the 40m-tall tree, which was more than 270 years old.

These were the views of two arborists who testified at yesterday’s Coroner’s Inquiry into the death of Indian national Radhika Angara, 38.

She was with her French husband Jerome Rouch-Sirech and their one-year-old twins at the Singapore Botanic Gardens near the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage on Feb 11 to attend an outdoor concert when the accident happened. Ms Angara was killed when the tree fell on her while four others, including her husband and children, were injured.

Among the witnesses who testified at the one-day hearing was arborist Derek Yap, a private consultant at Camphora. Mr Yap, who had spent a decade working for the National Parks Board (NParks) previously, said about 70 per cent of the tree trunk at its 2m point — measured from the ground level — was decayed, and this amount of decay would have affected the tree’s structural integrity.

Based on his inspection of the tree after it fell, coupled with information from Google maps in 2014, among other things, he said there were no signs of cracks or cavities on the tree. “The inspector would not have any signs to tell him that the tree had issues that would need additional mitigating measures. My opinion is that the tree failure was unpredictable,” he added.

It was likely that the tree had to bear an increased load from “a localised increase in wind speed” that day which, together with the “asymmetrical canopy” of the tree, caused it to topple, he said.

He also agreed with State Coroner Marvin Bay that there was a possibility that the decay had festered from 1859 — the last time the tree’s roots were cut when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was created.

Arborist Richard Gordon Thomas from ArborCulture noted that several factors could have contributed to the toppling of the tree, including the decayed roots and the rain in the preceding days which had softened the soil and made it harder for the roots to support the tree. “Tree failures, rarely or if ever, happen in an instance,” he said.

Unlike Mr Yap, Mr Thomas said it was not clear that the roots had been cut. However, the roots facing the road were stunted as the conditions under the road were not as conducive for root growth.

On the intensity of checks for the tree, both arborists agreed that signs of decay have to be observed from the visual tree assessments before calling for further checks, such as a resistograph and ultrasound to test for decay. Mr Yap added that as Tembusu trees are sensitive, it would be reflected in their canopies if the tree was having issues.

Several of Ms Angara’s family members were present at the hearing, including Mr Rouch-Sirech (above) and her sister Aarti Angara. Ms Aarti raised several questions, including whether older trees should be subjected to more checks. In response, Mr Yap said that while the maintenance schedule of the trees would be best answered by the NParks, the yearly inspections were adequate if there are no external signs of decay.

On her question if there should have been better risk management at the Gardens as it experiences more human traffic with its status as Unesco World Heritage Site, Mr Thomas said there could be more regular inspection of trees for such areas. But the levels or intensity of inspection does not depend on the age or size of the tree, he added.

Adjourning the inquiry to a closed-door session tomorrow, Mr Bay asked for the inspection schedule for the Tembusu tree — following changes to NParks’ inspection regime in November last year — and more recent images of the tree.

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Government to exhume over 80,000 graves, acquire land to make way for Tengah Air Base expansion

Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 18 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: The Government will be exhuming over 80,000 graves at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery in order to expand Tengah Air Base. It will also acquire land occupied by fish farms and a nursery on Murai Farmway.

The additional land, which measures about 106 ha, is required to accommodate some of the assets and facilities from Paya Lebar Air Base, which is due to be relocated there in 2030 at the earliest, the Ministry of National Development (MND) , National Environment Agency (NEA) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said in a joint statement on Tuesday (Jul 18).

Development works for the expansion are expected to start in 2019, by which time two ornamental fish farms, a food fish farm and nursery on Murai Farmway are expected to move out. Works will be carried out in phases. Compensation will be based on market value for the land on the date it is acquired, said the authorities.

The authorities also said that 45,500 Chinese graves and 35,000 Muslim graves will need to be exhumed. Of these, claims and registration for 45,000 Chinese and 5,000 Muslim graves which have met the minimum burial period of 15 years will begin in September this year, they added. These graves take up 100 ha of land.

Notices of exhumation for the remaining 500 Chinese graves and 30,000 Muslim graves will be issued at a later date, after they have met the 15-year burial period. The exhumed Muslim graves will be reinterred into another part of the cemetery.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the 2013 National Day Rally that the Paya Lebar Air Base will be relocated to free up 800 ha of land that is expected to be used to build homes, offices, factories and parks.

In developing this plan, the Government has “considered all alternatives, taking into account our national defence and security needs, as well as the overall benefits” of moving Paya Lebar Air Base in the longer term, the authorities said.

“Government agencies have, as far as possible, tried to minimise the impact of these works, and affected stakeholders will be given advance notice to make alternative arrangements,” they said.

The agencies also said that SLA gazetted the acquisition of the affected land on Tuesday.

A portion of heritage road along the 1.8km Lim Chu Kang Road will also be affected by the development, and the road will need to be re-aligned, the authorities said.

Heritage roads are characterised by their lush tropical forest ambience, and feature tall mature green walls of natural vegetation along their length. They also form a roof of overarching tree canopies.

"Agencies are studying the exact impact on the road, and possible mitigation strategies, which includes transplanting the trees to the new road," the statement said.


Manager at family-owned Koon Lee Nursery Mac Teo will not only be losing the site that has been home to the business for 30 years, but his home too.

The 41-year-old told Channel NewsAsia that his parents sold their five-room HDB flat when they had to pay an upfront sum when renewing their lease for the land 10 years ago. He now lives in a home built on the 2-ha site with his parents, wife, son and brother.

They are halfway through their 20-year lease, and he had been making improvements to the nursery, like changing the shelving, he said.

SLA officers arrived at his nursery at about 10am with officers from NParks to serve a notice of acquisition. He will have to wait for a nursery land tender to open, in order to move, he said.

"The uncertainty is what is worrying. There is not a lot of information available. Even if we bid for the land, we may not get it," he said.

He added that the 1.5 years given for them to move out is too short, given that he would first need to find a new site, build the nursery, then move the plants and flowers from the nursery. Just moving the items would take months, he said. Shutting down the business is also an option, Mr Teo said.

Still, he felt reassured by officers telling him that they will be flexible with the deadline for moving out. However, he has started making plans to minimise disruption when he does have to eventually leave the premises.

"We have to reduce the number of plants. This can only mean that if I sell, I don't buy so much. It will affect my business. I'll also have to stop making improvements, and creating new storage areas," he said.

Airbase expansion to have minimal impact on future Tengah town: Experts
KELLY NG Today Online 19 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Tengah Air Base’s expansion is unlikely to affect the appeal of the future Tengah town as it will take place away from the housing estate, said property analysts.

Its impact on the new town would be limited, as the area has “one of the lowest civilian population densities” among the planning areas in Singapore, said Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at SLP International.

The expansion’s impact on property prices in the new town would also be minimal, given the land is being clawed back for military purposes, and not the redevelopment of commercial or residential property, said Mr Chris Koh, director of property firm Chris Koh International.

The westward expansion of the airbase — away from residential developments — will mean aircraft noise having minimal impact on the living environment, analysts said.

While those whose relatives’ graves have to make way for the development will be disappointed, the prospect is not entirely unexpected, said International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong. A 15-year burial limit for all graves has been instituted since November 1998.

The exhumation of graves will be the second-largest in scale in the last two decades, after the exhumation of 58,000 Christian graves and 68,000 Muslim graves at the Bidadari Cemetery from 2001 to 2006 to make way for housing.

More recently, 4,153 graves at the Bukit Brown Cemetery were exhumed, beginning October 2013, to make way for a dual four-lane road to link Adam Road, the MacRitchie Viaduct and Thomson Road via the cemetery.

But a possible partial closure of Lim Chu Kang Road may mean a detour for visitors travelling north to farms at Neo Tiew Road and the nature areas around Sungei Buloh, said Mr Ku.

“In future, if you want to go to Neo Tiew from Jurong, you probably have to drive a large round (to get there) ... travelling there will be more difficult now and this could have some impact on the business of restaurants and farms in the area,” he said. Valuation of the acquired plots should take into account recent investments by farmers that may be “wasted” because the land had to be prematurely returned to the Government, he added.

Tengah Air Base expansion: Short notice catches business owners off guard
KELLY NG Today Online 19 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Some owners of the fish farms and nursery affected by the Tengah Air Base’s expansion plans said they needed time to digest the news before deciding what to do, since it came like a bolt from the blue for them.

The occupants of the affected plots at Murai Farmway were served notices of compulsory acquisition on Tuesday, instructing them to “deliver vacant possession of the (respective) properties by Jan 31, 2019”.

Mr Mac Teo, who manages his family’s business Koon Lee Nursery, is concerned about the “uncertainty as to whether (they) can find a place to relocate”. He recently added new shelving and storage fixtures as part of a 10-year improvement plan for the nursery.

“We felt secure because we thought there are 10 more years before our lease expires ... The National Parks Board has not been able to share more information about new land available for tender. It is the uncertainty that is worrying,” the 41-year-old said yesterday.

Mr Teo said he hopes the authorities will be “flexible” in enforcing the acquisition notice, especially since it is a challenge to find new nursery plots.

“We are still considering what we can do, if we get a new place, or if we have to fold the business,” he said, adding that the nursery may have to stop replacing plants that have been sold.

The Teo family had sold their house to lease the plot for the 2ha nursery, and have been living on its premises since 1987. Mr Teo lives there with his wife, son, parents and brother.

His father, Ronnie, told TODAY: “We sold our house to buy this place ... Whatever the authorities want to do, they will, what more can we say?”

Over at Fisco Aquarium, which sells and exports ornamental fish, the elderly owner, who declined to be named, said the notice came “suddenly”. They still “need time to process” the news and consider their next step, he added.

“Why did they inform us when there are only 18 months to the deadline?” asked the man, whose aquarium has been at Murai Farmway since 1988.

“There is too little time left for us to make concrete plans, this has been quite sudden,” said the owner, who is in his 70s.

80,500 Choa Chu Kang graves to make way for Tengah Air Base expansion
KELLY NG Today Online 19 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Three fish farms, one nursery and 80,500 graves in Choa Chu Kang cemetery will have to make way for an expanded Tengah Air Base, as part of plans to relocate the Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030.

On Tuesday (July 18), occupants of the affected farms at Murai Farmway — Koon Lee Nursery, Goh Swee Hoon, Fisco Aquarium, Rigoh Fishery — received their notices of acquisition from Singapore Land Authority officers.

These businesses, which are on 20-year leases originally slated to expire between 2027 and 2030, will have to relocate by Jan 31, 2019. Compensation will be based on market value for the land on the date it is acquired, said the authorities.

Apart from these four plots on 2, 17, 19 and 21 Murai Farmway, on which the three fish farms and nursery sit, Chew’s Agriculture had announced last year that it is selling its farm premises and assets at 20 Murai Farmway to the Government for S$38.7 million. It is moving to a site 6.5km away along Neo Tiew Road, to be purchased from the Government for close to S$4 million.

Williton Orchids at 35 Murai Farmway will also not have its tenancy renewed after it expires in June 2019.

The relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the 2013 National Day Rally. It will free up 800 ha of land in the north-east region — an area bigger than Bishan or Ang Mo Kio — for new homes, offices, factories and parks, and also remove height restrictions on a large area around Paya Lebar, Mr Lee had said, adding that the full changes will take place 20 to 30 years later.

A total of 45,500 Chinese graves and 35,000 Muslim graves will also be affected by the expansion of Tengah Air Base. These will be progressively exhumed as they meet the minimum burial period of 15 years, with the first 5,000 Muslim graves slated for exhumation from the fourth quarter of next year. This will be followed by 45,000 Chinese graves to be exhumed from the fourth quarter of 2019.

Claims and registration for these graves — dated between 1955 and 2000 — will begin this September. Notices for the remaining 500 Chinese graves and 30,000 Muslim graves will be issued at a later date, after they have met the 15-year burial period.

Costs of exhumation and cremation at the Choa Chu Kang crematorium (for Chinese graves) will be borne by the Government, but claimants will bear additional costs for performing additional rituals or placing the remains in private cemeteries.

The exhumed Muslim graves will be reinterred into another part of the cemetery, said the authorities. These graves currently occupy about 100ha of land, while the farm plots gazetted for acquisition take up about 6.3ha.

In response to media queries, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said the expansion of Tengah Air Base will allow the ministry to “build infrastructure and facilities to house aircraft assets, operational flying and support squadrons and other facilities” that will be relocated from Paya Lebar Air Base. There will also be a new runway built in the expanded Tengah Air Base to meet the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s operational requirements.

Part of the 1.8km Lim Chu Kang Road, including a portion of the Heritage Road at its northern segment, will be re-aligned to facilitate the air base’s expansion. “Agencies are studying the exact impact on the road, and possible mitigation strategies, which includes transplanting the trees to the new road,” said the Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and SLA in a joint press release.

Mindef’s military training areas in the vicinity will also be affected, but the actual boundaries of the expanded air base are still being worked out. Apart from Tengah Air Base, the Changi Airbase East will also be expanded to accommodate various assets and facilities to replace Paya Lebar Air Base.

Singapore's biggest and only active public cemetery will shrink by one-third to make way for Tengah Air Base expansion
Rachel Au-Yong and Yuen Sin Straits Times 18 Jul 17;

Singapore's biggest and only active public cemetery - Choa Chu Kang Cemetery - will have its size cut down by a third, from 318ha to 200ha.

Some 80,500 Chinese and Muslim graves will be exhumed progressively to expand Tengah Air Base, which in turn is to accommodate the relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030 onwards.

Those affected can have their relatives' remains cremated at Choa Chu Kang Crematorium. For those whose religions require their dead to be buried, like Islam, the remains can be reinterred elsewhere in the cemetery.

The authorities will pay for the moves, though additional rituals or requirements will have to be borne by the affected relatives.

Due to space constraints, the Government imposed in 1998 a burial period of 15 years for all graves in Choa Chu Kang, after which the remains would be exhumed.

Since December 2004, the National Environment Agency has been exhuming graves at the 70-year-old cemetery in phases.

"While there is sufficient land in the foreseeable future, NEA will continue to work with land use planners to explore options for future generations," it said.

In 2007, it introduced a new interment system for Muslims, where concrete crypts built below ground replaced traditional earth plots.

Modelled after similar graves in Saudi Arabia, the system helps to save space as it allows the bodies interred to be arranged in a more compact way and was reported to help keep the grounds open until at least 2130.

The latest round of exhumations will take place in several phases. About 45,000 Chinese graves and 5,000 Muslim ones older than 17 years will be exhumed first, with the earliest beginning in the last quarter of next year.

Newer graves - with some buried as recently as three years ago - will be exhumed later, after they meet the minimum 15-year burial period.

Yesterday, retiree Norani Masuni, 59, whose sister's grave at the N1-3 plot will be eventually exhumed after the burial period, said:"We feel sad, but what can we do? A decision has been made."

She said it is likely that her sister's remains, which were buried six years ago, would be buried with other family members. "It has happened to us before at other graves, so we are prepared for this."

Choa Chu Kang GRC MP Yee Chia Hsing, whose Nanyang ward is affected by the expansion, said he believes that while the changes may be disruptive, most will take it in their stride as they are aware of the land constraints in Singapore.

"That is why those who can accept it will have their loved ones cremated, while those who bury their relatives know full well it cannot be for forever," he said.

Farmers affected by Tengah Air Base expansion worried about their future
Yuen Sin Straits Times 18 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE - For the past 30 years, Mr Mac Teo has lived and grown up on the site of his family's nursery at Lim Chu Kang.

"It's not just a business, but a home to me," said Mr Teo, 41, a project manager at Koon Lee Nursery, which takes up a two-hectare plot of land along Murai Farmway.

On Tuesday morning, he was told by government officers that the family business has to move - in 18 months.

The authorities have acquired its land, along with that of three fish farms, for the expansion of Tengah Air Base. The sites will be handed over by Jan 2019. The four farms will be compensated based on market value for the land at the point of acquisition.

Another two farms - which produce vegetables and eggs - will not have their lease renewed once they expire.

Three of the farms that The Straits Times spoke to expressed surprise and worries about the development.

Mr Bernard Goh, a supervisor at Seven Seas Fisheries at 17 Murai Farmway, said they were taken aback by the news. The farm, which supplies produce like snakehead fish and frogs to wet markets, had about 10 years more on its lease.

"When the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority came for a inspection a few months ago, they even made recommendations for us to increase our productivity by upgrading the water filter and re-designing the ponds. We had already started some works, but there's no use doing that now since we have to move," said Mr Goh, 31.

He also added that the company might have to wind up operations on the farm and focus on its seafood distribution business if they can't find a suitable alternative.

"It's difficult to find a suitable plot of land with the right water quality. Many of the wet market stallholders depend on us for supplies and there are not many local farms around. If we stop farming, they may also be affected."

The Singapore Land Authority, AVA and NParks said they will work closely with the affected owners and assist them in the process. New farm plots for food fish farming will be available in October (2017), while the AVA and NParks will release details on tenders for spaces for ornamental fish farms and nursery land tenders when they are available.

But some of the farmers wonder if they will have enough time to move and start anew at a new site. They have to stop operations by January 2019.

Said Mr Teo: "If we manage to bid for a piece of land tomorrow, we will have enough time to move and set up our business elsewhere. But I'm not confident that we will be able to get a new piece of land in time."

He said that 18 months is too short a time frame to find an alternative site, because of the effort and labour needed to relocate and set everything up from scratch again. His family had invested over $1 million in the business, including land costs and other facilities. It has 10 years left on the lease.

An owner of an affected fish farm in his 60s, who declined to be named, said that he was shocked at the news that he has to move out of his plot in 18 months.

"We were not mentally prepared for this," said the owner. His 1.2 ha tropical fish farm, which exports fish to Europe, has been around for close to 30 years. It has over 10 years left on its lease.

"We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into this. Even if you tell us to move, where can we go to?"

He said that the farmers will be meeting with the authorities in the coming weeks to discuss the issue. "We only just got the news, so it's very uncertain and we are still not sure what we can do."

Choa Chu Kang GRC MP Yee Chia Hsing, whose Nanyang ward is affected by the changes, said he has asked the authorities to compensate the farms fairly.

"Hopefully, the valuation will take into the account the money they have invested into the facilities and land. I have been assured they will try," he said.

additional reporting by Rachel Au-Yong

A different Paya Lebar, with air base gone
Sean Lim Straits Times 18 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE - The look of Paya Lebar may be very different in time to come.

The relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030 will free up 800ha of land - bigger than Bishan or Ang Mo Kio. Current height restrictions in the eastern swathe of Singapore to ensure navigational safety for aircraft will be relaxed, meaning that current low-rise buildings may be redeveloped.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced this plan during his National Day Rally speech in 2013. He said that the land will be used to "build new homes, new offices, new factories, new parks, new living environments and new communities".

But shifting out the air base may not directly lead to a boom in property prices in the area, according to property experts.

On Tuesday (July 18), the Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and Singapore Land Authority announced that Tengah Air Base will be expanded to free up Paya Lebar Air Base for future developments.

Tengah Air Base to be expanded; more than 80,000 graves exhumed, 4 farms to be acquired

On whether this heralds a property price boom in Paya Lebar, SLP International executive director Nicholas Mak said that there are many factors to be considered, such as the timing of the move and the market conditions at the point in time .

He said: "It really depends on when the relocation will be and the market conditions at that point in time. For instance, a recession might mean fewer people would be purchasing houses and hence property prices will not shift much."

Mr Mak said that if the land is being redeveloped for residential purposes, it might lead to an increase in supply of houses, and this would "put a cap on property prices".

Even if there is any price increase, it will only "rise at a moderate pace".

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said that the freeing up of Paya Lebar Air Base is significant as current height restrictions will be relaxed.

He said that there will be "greater room for development of a higher density neighbourhood" in the area. Existing flats in the area, for example, will have the potential to be redeveloped and built higher.

Mr Ku said that it is too early to speculate how the landscape of Paya Lebar will change, as there are other existing towns that have yet to reach its full potential, citing Jurong West as an example.

The lack of basic utilities in the land currently occupied by Paya Lebar Air Base, such as sewage, gas and telecommunications, is something that will take years to address, Mr Ku said.

After all, he said, the land has been used as an air base for decades, and the capacity for those utilities is lower.

"After the land has been returned to the authorities, it will take many years for basic infrastructure to be laid out first, before redevelopment can take place," Mr Ku said.

Tengah Air Base expansion: 6 things to know about Tengah area, its forest and animal 'towns'
Lydia Lam Straits Times 18 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE - Tengah Air Base will be expanded, with several private land plots acquired, graves exhumed and a road realigned, the Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said in a statement on Tuesday (July 18).

The expansion is to accommodate some of the assets and facilities from Paya Lebar Air Base, which is being relocated - freeing up 800ha of land in the north-east, and to ensure operational readiness of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

Here are six things you may want to know about the Tengah area.


A total of 106ha of land - about a quarter the size of Clementi town - will be acquired by the Government to expand Tengah Air Base.
The expansion of the Tengah military airbase of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), located in the western water catchment, will see the acquisition of several private land plots and the exhuming of more than 80,000 graves in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

The existing Lim Chu Kang Road, including a portion of a Heritage Road at its northern segment, will also need to be realigned.


The five planned housing districts in Tengah, each with a unique character. PHOTO: HOUSING & DEVELOPMENT BOARD
The first flats at the new town in the west, the first to be developed since Punggol about 20 years ago, are set to be launched in 2018.

The area today is largely forest and scrubland, but will eventually have 42,000 new homes: 30,000 units of public housing and 12,000 units of private housing.

Plans to develop Tengah, a 700ha site bounded by the Kranji and Pan-Island expressways, Brickland Road and Bukit Batok Road, were mooted as early as 1991 in a concept plan for Singapore in the future.

The town will include a 100m-wide, 5km-long forest corridor linking it to the surrounding green network between the western and central catchment areas.

All about Tengah Town


SPCA in January last year moved to bigger premises in Sungei Tengah. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Sungei Tengah, which is already home to the headquarters of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), will welcome more animal welfare groups soon.

New facilities at Sungei Tengah will be built for around 40 animal welfare groups and pet farms which are in Loyang and Seletar, but which will need to move out of their premises when their leases expire by the end of this year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in November last year.

The 29 farms, nine groups and several independent shelters will move from their current homes, bringing with them 6,000 to 7,000 animals, to make way for redevelopment, said AVA.

Each farm and group will be allotted a space inside a 3ha compound, the size of which will depend on the number of animals. Construction will start next year.

Each unit will be able to house around 20 dogs and will include facilities like food storage and bathing areas.

The rental rate for groups and shelters will be around $13 per sq m per month. Pet farm rentals will be based on tender bids for the units.


Several farms are based in Tengah, including fish and vegetable farms. Two ornamental fish farms, a food fish farm and a nursery will be affected by the expansion, and SLA on Tuesday gazetted the acquisition of the affected land.

The farms and nursery can continue operating at their current sites until January 2019.

Compensation will be based on the market value of the acquired land on the date of acquisition, according to the Land Acquisition Act.


Going green is a central theme of the new Tengah HDB town, which will have a car-free Town Centre.

All roads in Tengah will have dedicated walking and cycling paths on both sides of the road.

It will also be home to a large 20ha central park, about the size of Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, with ponds and canals.

Residents will also be able to take part in community gardening and urban farming in their neighbourhoods with new spaces dubbed "community farmways".

Tengah flythrough video


A site in Tengah has been gazetted for the depot for the Jurong Region Line, a new MRT line expected to be ready in 2025, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said in June.

The line will connect areas such as the Jurong Innovation District and the Jurong Lake District.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019, and site preparation works for the depot are ongoing.

SOURCES: HDB, The Straits Times archives

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Singapore needs to ‘continually shore up its water system’

LOUISA TANG Today Online 19 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — As the first of two phases of water price hikes took effect this month, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli yesterday reiterated the need to price water correctly, and to invest in R&D and infrastructure.

And as part of ongoing efforts to shore up Singapore’s water security, national water agency PUB also announced that it has tied up with Japanese firm Kurita Water Industries to set up a new S$2.5 million water research centre here, which is aimed at improving the efficiency of the desalination process and NEWater production.

The PUB has also signed two agreements with Saudi Arabia and Australia to promote research and collaboration on water technologies.

The centre’s launch and the two agreements were announced yesterday by Mr Masagos at the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) Spotlight 2017 event, held at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa.

More than 200 global water professionals and those involved in the management of water attended the event, which takes place ahead of the biennial SIWW next year.

In his speech, Mr Masagos noted that the Republic cannot take good water quality for granted.

To maintain the water standards that Singapore now enjoys, the PUB tests various types of water for over 300 different quality parameters, far beyond any international drinking water regulation requirements.

The Republic has also deployed about 300 pressure and water quality sensors around the island, which constantly monitor the 5,400km-long water supply network.

“All these treatments, sensors and testing are not without cost, but the confidence it inspires in the public and the assurance it gives to the regulators are quite literally priceless,” Mr Masagos added.

The upcoming R&D centre run by Kurita will, in turn, support the development of novel technologies in desalination and water reuse, which are key to Singapore’s four “national taps”.

About half of the Republic’s water is imported from Malaysia, and the rest comes from local catchment areas, NEWater and desalination.

PUB chief technology officer Harry Seah said: “One of the solutions Kurita is developing is a new chemical that helps membranes (which filter impurities) operate in a more efficient way.”

“If it (the new method) works, we’ll operate at lower pressure, which means lower energy, which translates into lower costs,” he added.

The PUB’s agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation will support R&D in areas such as desalination, energy reduction and leak detection.

Its agreement with Western Australia’s Water Corporation will boost collaboration in the fields of urban water supply, waste water management and innovation. The partnership will also explore climate-change adaptation.

Referring to the water price hikes, Mr Masagos also cited the importance of “pricing water right” to “continually shore up our water system”.

The 30-per-cent water price hike, to be phased in over two years, was announced during the Budget in February.

“Some of you ... in the audience would have received your first utility bill with the new charges. I will not ask you how you feel about your water bill — after all, a price increase in anything is never welcome,” he added.

PUB inks agreements to deepen innovation in water technologies
Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 18 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's national water authority PUB signed agreements with two international water companies that are aimed at increasing bilateral technology and capability exchanges and further increase Singapore's aspirations to be a global hydro hub.

This was announced by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli at the Singapore International Water Week Spotlight on Tuesday (Jul 18).

One is a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to facilitate knowledge exchanges in areas such as desalination technology and energy reduction with Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation, while another MoU with Western Australia’s Water Corporation will focus mainly on collaboration in the field of urban water supply and wastewater management.

"We want to be a key node to bring the global water industry together to co-create innovative water solutions and build capabilities to solve urban water challenges," Mr Masagos said.


Mr Masagos also announced at the event that Japanese water company Kurita Water Industries will be opening its first research and development (R&D) centre outside of Japan in Singapore in January 2018.


"This R&D centre will strengthen Singapore's position as a global hydro hub and support the development of novel technologies in desalination and water reuse," he said.

To be located at Clean Tech Park and supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and PUB, it will focus on developing technologies in desalination and water reuse.

It will also explore collaboration with Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) in the areas of membrane technology, water treatment chemicals and water recycling. Kurita and NEWRI have another joint R&D project at PUB's R&D facility in Tuas.

Tatsushi Kuramae, executive officer of Kurita, said: "Singapore was a natural choice due to the concentration of universities, research institutes and corporate research and development facilities."

The centre will allow Kurita to leverage Singapore as a platform to tap into regional markets, he added.

Ng Joo Hee, PUB chief executive, said: “Climate change, pollution, population growth and urbanisation, and rising cost of operations compel water utility leaders to work ever closer together to co-create mutually beneficial solutions.”

The partnerships will further strengthen Singapore’s links to the global water industry, he added.

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Malaysia: Sabah government submits proposal for conservation of shark, ray species

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 18 Jul 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has submitted a proposal for four shark species and two ray species to be protected under federal fishery regulations.

The four shark species are the great hammerhead shark, the smooth hammerhead shark, the winghead shark and the oceanic whitetip shark, while the protected ray species are the oceanic manta and reef manta rays.

According to Sabah Shark Protection Advocacy (SSPA), the move to protect these species under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999 is a major step forward in marine conservation.

"We are keen to continue our support for federal and state agencies to ensure these species are listed within this year," said SSPA president Aderick Chong.

The six species are currently listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), according to SSPA, a non-governmental organisation.

Chong said that the SSPA hopes the scalloped hammerhead and silky shark along with three species of thresher sharks and nine species of devil rays - which are listed on Appendix II of CITES - will be afforded similar protection.

He said that they were being caught by fishermen on a daily basis.

"These species always feature high on the wish list of divers, particularly scalloped hammerheads and devil rays.

"Many divers are attracted to Sabah as they hope to encounter one of these incredible animals," said Chong.

He also said SSPA wants to work with the Government to identify other species that might benefit from such protection and help with the enforcement of laws that regulate activities related to sharks and rays.

Based on information from the Fisheries Department, there are 48 shark and 65 ray species in Sabah compared with 70 shark and 85 ray species in Peninsula Malaysia.

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Malaysia: Infectious diseases making comeback

The Star 19 Jul 17;

PETALING JAYA: Every year, more people die of tuberculosis (TB) than from dengue and HIV-related complications.

There were 1,945 TB deaths from 25,739 cases last year, a 14.7% increase over 1,696 deaths from 24,220 cases in 2015, according to the Health Ministry.

In comparison, there were 237 dengue fever deaths from 101,357 cases last year and 336 deaths from 120,836 cases in 2015.

Malaysian health authorities are now concerned because infectious diseases such as TB, leptospirosis and rabies, which the country managed to successfully curb in the past, are making a comeback, said former Institute of Respiratory Medicine director Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Muttalif.

TB is responsible for the most deaths among all infectious diseases reported in Malaysia, he added.

Malaysia managed to bring down TB cases from more than 30,000 in 1960 to fewer than 6,000 cases in the mid-1980s but Dr Abdul Razak said the cases gradually increased again from the mid-1990s.

It was initially fuelled by the increasing number of HIV cases (from weakened immune systems) and a little by migrant workers in the late 1990s, he said.

Dr Abdul Razak said one factor contributing to the high numbers currently was the delay in diagnosis and treatment, resulting in the disease spreading.

One reason for the late diagnosis could be traced to patients seeing doctors for coughs in clinics. Without laboratory facilities, some doctors did not get a chest X-ray done to detect it early, he added.

Other groups could pick up TB because of risk factors such as those with diabetes and HIV, as well as prisoners, drug users and migrants.

Dr Abdul Razak said Malaysia was detecting more cases also because more people were being screened.

Meanwhile, leptospirosis, commonly known as rat urine disease, remains a concern in Malaysia, as the number of cases has steadily increased from 2,268 in 2011 to 8,291 in 2015, although the figure dropped last year to 5,284.

Statistics show that in 2011, 55 people died of the disease, 78 in 2015, and 52 last year.

Universiti Putra Malaysia professor of veterinary bacteriology Datuk Dr Abdul Rani Bahaman said it was not easy to diagnose leptospirosis as there were more than 40 serovars, or strains, of Leptospira bacteria and more are expected to be discovered.

Leptospirosis could easily be misdiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of malaria, influenza and dengue. They include headache, diarrhoea, body ache, muscle pain and jaundice, which can cause it to be mistaken for these viral diseases, Dr Abdul Rani said.

However, those returning from jungle trips or recreational areas with high fever should be screened for leptospirosis and treated with antibiotics as a treatment or preventive measure before the infection becomes critical, he added.

Encouragingly, statistics showed that leprosy – which spreads through inhaled droplets of moisture – is on the decline. There were 206 new cases last year, compared to 210 in 2015. In 2012, there were 325 new cases.

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Malaysia announces new animal welfare law with more bite

NOORSILA ABD MAJID New Straits Times 18 Jul 17;

PUTRAJAYA: Animal abusers beware. Those who are found guilty under the new Animal Welfare Act 2015 (Act 772) can be fined a maximum of RM100,000 or three years' imprisonment. Or both.

The new Act was announced by Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek this afternoon.

"We have officially implemented the new Animal Welfare Act (Act 772) effective July 1," he said during a special announcement ceremony at his ministry.

Also present were the Veterinary Services Department (DVS) director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam, actress Sariyanti and animal activists from various associations, including Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals (SPCA).

Aimed at fostering a more responsible pet ownership among Malaysians, the Animal Welfare Act 2015 requires all pet owners to be fully responsible for the well-being of the animals under their care, which includes proper lodging, healthcare and diet.

"Under this Act, those who are found guilty of abusing the animals - either by kicking or pouring hot water on them, will be fined a minimum of RM20,000 and court action," warned Ahmad Shabery.

"The strong message that we are trying to send across to people is 'Do not abuse the animals' because we are a civilised society," he said.

Ahmad Shabery also announced the appointment of the Animal Welfare Board, made up of his senior ministry officials, the DVS, the Fisheries Department, the Wildlife Department, vets, local councils, academicians from local veterinary faculties, Health Ministry, Education Ministry and animal activists.

The nine-member board is spearheaded by Dr Quaza.

With the new Animal Welfare Act, all animal-related business, including boarding services, must be properly licensed.

According to Dr Quaza, more than 400 enforcement officers have been appointed, comprising veterinary officers and related government officers, who will be given an authority card as the animal welfare officers.

"The NGOs can also join us as pet rescuers on voluntary basis," Dr Quaza said. "We will act a day after receiving any reports on animal abuse cases.

"The new act will be implemented widely in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan. Sabah and Sarawak, which have their own state laws, have agreed to include 90 percent the Animal Welfare Act into their state enactment."

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Indonesia: LIPI warns of dangers of long-term use of chemical fertilizers

Antara 18 Jul 17;

Bogor, W Java (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) has warned of the dangers of using synthetic inorganic chemical fertilizers for a long time, which can destroy farm land.

"What worries us today is that Indonesian farmers only rely on synthetic inorganic chemical fertilizers, which are very dangerous in the long run," LIPI biological researcher Sarjiya Antonius said, on the sidelines of ASEAN international conference on "Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) held here, on Monday.

If the use of chemical fertilizers goes unattended, it will destroy farm land in the next 25 years, he said.

The use of synthetic inorganic chemical fertilizers by Indonesian farmers was one of the case studies discussed at a conference which brought together researchers, experts, and industrialists from 16 countries.

Antonious stated that LIPI has a program to educate farmers on how to apply PGPR technology from its biological laboratory to farmers in the field and from industries to regional governments.

"For instance, LIPI is developing biological organic fertilizer (POH) without exclusive license, so that the public and industry, as users, can benefit from it," he noted.

One of the companies which has benefited from PGPR technology is pineapple plantation company Great Giant Pineapple. Before applying the PGPR, the company saw its pineapple production falling every year.

The companys production, which initially reached 100 tons, has shrunk to the lowest level, he revealed.

"After applying the PGPR technology, the company has seen its production continue to increase to 80 tons. Hopefully, the production will return to 100 tons in two to three years time," he concluded. (*)

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Philippines: Marine turtles poaching alarms DENR exec

Jonathan L. Mayuga Business Mirror 18 Jul 17;

An official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday expressed alarm over the resurgence of illegal wildlife trade in the country.

“It’s annoying and embarrassing,” said DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim, referring to the recent confiscation of dead marine turtles by authorities in Palawan.

The Philippines, she noted, will be hosting an international meeting for the protection and conservation of migratory wild animals next year.

“Recently, we received numerous reports about marine turtle poaching. The Philippines is a migratory pathway of marine turtles and we have many nesting sites here,” she lamented.

Hawksbill turtles are in demand by jewelers for their scale. Green turtles are hunted for meat, while olive ridleys [also known as Pacific ridley sea turtle], which are abundant in West Philippine Sea, are also hunted for their meat, shell and internal organs.

“I will report this [illegal wildlife trade] to [Environment] Secretary [Roy A.] Cimatu. There is recent resurgence of marine turtles poaching…and other wildlife,” she said.

Lim noted the confiscation on July 6 in Dumaran town of 70 dead hawksbill turtles by elements of the Philippine National Police while patrolling the coastal waters of Palawan, the country’s so-called last ecological frontier.

Police said the confiscated hawksbill turtles came from Barangay Maytegued, Taytay, Palawan. The suspects, Rico Gonzales Jr., who owns and operate the boat transporting the confiscated marine turtles, and a certain Kim Aristotiles, his companion, were on their way to Balabac Island, where a supposed trade was supposed to happen.

Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered according to the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, prohibits wildlife trade, especially wildlife that are in the brink of extinction.

Lim said the confiscation of the dead marine turtles recently only means unscrupulous traders are back in business, buying and selling marine turtles and their by-products within the country’s territory.

Lim expressed concern that unscrupulous traders are taking advantage of poor law enforcement in open seas in connivance with locals who are familiar with the areas where targeted species can be caught without being detected by authorities.

“They [wildlife traffickers] can only do that with the help of locals who earn a living by catching wildlife,” Lim said.

Last year former Enviroment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez created the National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force dedicated to combatting large-scale environmental crimes. With Lopez’s rejection by the Commission on Appointments, the Task Force’s designated head, former Undersecretary Arturo T. Valdez, also stepped down.

Cimatu has yet to name a replacement for Valdez.

Lim is confident that Cimatu, being a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, will know what to do to fight illegal wildlife trade.

The BMB official is scheduled to meet Cimatu to give an update of the bureau’s ongoing programs for the protection and conservation of the country’s rich biodiversity.

“I hope we can touch other wildlife issues, including our recent confiscation [of turtles] in Palawan,” she said.

Wildlife trafficking is a serious issue, especially because it has become a way of life to many Filipinos, said Lim.

Lim said the BMB is compiling information on illegal wildlife trade in the country.

Rep. Josephine Y. Ramirez Sato of the Lone District of Occidental Mindoro last week called the attention of Cimatu on the issue of marine turtle poaching, citing the recovery of dead marine turtles in Palawan.

Sato said Occidental Mindoro, which belongs to the same region as Palawan, is also vulnerable to marine turtle poaching. She urged the DENR chief to take a more proactive response to illegal wildlife trade.

Lim said the Philippines remains strongly committed to the global effort to protect marine wildlife, particularly marine turtles.

Five of the seven known marine turtle species are found in almost all Philippine seas. These are green, hawksbill, olive ridley, loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Most marine turtles are in the list of threatened species of the IUCN.

The Philippines is a party to several international treaties aimed at protecting and conserving marine wildlife, such as marine turtles, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna and Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or the Bonn Convention, an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Program, which provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.

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