Best of our wild blogs: 6 Aug 17

Singapore Bird Report – July 2017
Singapore Bird Group

Night Walk At Pasir Ris Park (04 Aug 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

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Imagining a sustainable Singapore for the future

Tan Szue Hann For The Straits Times 5 Aug 17;

Think virtual reality layered on real life, buildings that make the most of tech advances
As Singapore enters midlife, it needs to begin to consider its urban future. After half a century of successful urban planning, what will define the new planning parameters, architecture and development over the next one or two decades?

Or even the next 50 years? The development challenge it faces today is to meet the demands of a growing and increasingly urbanised population, while developing resiliency and sustainability, and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

As the population increases and the physical landscape densifies, there will be a growing need to align and interconnect investment in housing and commercial property with investment in transport and other public infrastructure - both physical and digital. The scale of the challenge will see investment flow into infrastructural development projects across Singapore, underpinned by large projects that encompass the upgrading or overhauling of existing public infrastructure, to sustain the growing population, as well as international trade and transport routes.

Air travel infrastructure is being expanded with a soon-to-launch Terminal 4, and a Terminal 5 being planned. In the longer term, the relocation of the port facility from Keppel to Tuas will free up even more land and coast area for a new, extended downtown area, while providing ample harbour for seaward traffic. Meanwhile, highways and roads will be completely rethought to embrace new cycling and active mobility infrastructure, as the population - and the sheer monetary and environmental cost of cars - increasingly demands more sustainable urban transport options. Similarly, the Rail Corridor is set to be redeveloped as a vital green recreational space.

At the heart of this future development must be the aspiration to boost the efficiency and productivity of Singaporeans' working lives and businesses, and so create a sustainable future. This new infrastructure must be designed as the backbone of a new, "smarter" nation - a nation with a vision to be the best in the world on the sustainable, resilient and smart fronts. It is a future that will inevitably have to be fully networked with digital technology embedded and enabled. Only by using these new tools to boost the capacity and efficiency of infrastructure will Singapore be able to overcome the limitations of physical planning in an increasingly densely populated nation and so ensure its continued competitiveness.

Multiple initiatives have been planned, centring on the goal to drive forward sustainable development, productivity and smartness. Retrofitting and greening of existing buildings and infrastructure will continue.

But with the Building and Construction Authority aiming for 80 per cent of buildings to be Green Mark-certified by 2030, the biggest wins will come from the augmentation of physical assets with smart digital intelligence. This development will be critical as Singaporeans embrace - with some, begrudgingly - a digital lifestyle in which virtual realities are increasingly layered upon real life.

The future conversation about the built environment - beyond style, typology or aesthetics - will be more focused on the effective integration of physical assets with the evolving architecture of information technology. The critical questions to answer will be around how to help the nation continue to survive, evolve and thrive, through smart sustainable living. This aspiration will need to be augmented by constant innovation, where technologies can be seamlessly integrated into buildings, to further reduce reliance on energy and fossil fuels.

The need to ensure food resilience - the ability of the food system to withstand shocks or stresses that could lead to disruption or collapse - can also be integrated into the design of buildings, with urban farms now a burgeoning trend - although not quite a replacement for food imports as yet.

Renewable energy will now feature even more significantly in the landscape, with solar farms on the rooftops of buildings already a reality. Sustainable transport modes such as electric cars and autonomous vehicles may not fully replace the traditional motorcar in the near future, but they will certainly start to increasingly present a viable transportation alternative.

The focus on designing assets to perform efficiently and with predictability over their whole life will become even more significant, as life-cycle costing software models gain sophistication and enable consultants and asset owners to understand the longer-term built outcomes, way into operation and maintenance.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) will continue to evolve and provide an even higher level of sophistication and coordinating among disciplines, from construction management through to asset management.

As French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once expounded, one's task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it. For Singapore, it would seem that, through its governance and efforts from both the public and private sectors, it is already pulling out all the stops to prepare for a brave, new, resilient and sustainable future.

The writer is head of urban and infrastructure sustainability at infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong.

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Malaysia, Johor: Traders fume over 'disappointing' Sungai Segget rejuvenation project

Chuah Bee Kim New Straits Times 4 Aug 17;

JOHOR BARU: When will the brickbats turn into bouquets?

Shop operators and urban dwellers are waiting for Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) to deliver its promise of transforming Johor Baru into an iconic landmark through the Sungai Segget rejuvenation project.

The multi-million rehabilitation project was, after all, modelled after the successful Cheonggyecheon project in Seoul, South Korea.

Cheonggyecheon, a 10.9 km-long creek that flows from west to east through downtown Seoul, initially drew public criticism but its opening in 2005 awed both South Koreans and tourists.

The most recent attack against the Sungai Segget project came from Pulai Member of Parliament Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, who highlighted the high consultation fee imposed on the project’s landscaping work in Jalan Wong Ah Fook here.

He said the rate normally charged by the local authorities for landscaping work did not exceed six per cent of a project’s entire development value.

Nur Jazlan reportedly said Irda, which was given the mandate to complete the project, had charged RM20 million in consultation fees for the landscaping work. The entire project is expected to cost RM57 million.

The New Straits Times spoke to local residents and traders, who expressed disappointment with the development so far.

“No need to talk about Cheonggyecheon... if the project can be like the Singapore River, we will be very happy and proud of it,” said a business operator who only wanted to be known as Lim.

Lim was referring to the island republic’s 3.2-km waterway, which is a popular recreation landmark.

“The pavement in front of shops were dug up and now they have covered it up again. Initially, they said river would be teeming with marine life and that there would be river cruises. When I first heard that, I was very hopeful.

“The fact that they have covered up part of the river again is going to deprive marine life of oxygen, even if they can successfully and miraculously rejuvenate the river in the future.

“At the moment, we are not seeing the promise coming to fruition,” said Lim, adding that project needed a “wow factor” if it was to dubbed the “Gem of Johor Baru City”.

Another business operator, K.C. Wong, said he did not mind the covered walkways as they would make it more convenient for customers to walk to his shop.

“How are my customers going to come to my shop if there’s no pavement?

“But, the amount of money spent to break the walkway and then covering it up again makes no sense to me.

“My business was affected when the construction was going on. So, in a way, I’m glad way that the project is completed,” Wong said.

He, however, questioned how boats would be able to traverse the narrow Sungai Segget.

“Were they talking about paper boats?” he quipped.

Irda chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim reportedly said works on the surface had been completed, and it will be handed over to the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) after the testing and commissioning stage is completed.

Ismail had said RM240 million had been spent on the project, which involved the rehabilitation and rejuvenation of the river along with the construction of an 11-storey centralised sewerage treatment plant (CSTP).

Meanwhile, Irda head of projects and programme management Mohd Zam Mustaman said the CSTP is expected to help improve the water quality of Sungai Segget.

He, however, said it could take up to a year before the target of improving the river’s water quality to Class IIB is achieved.

Class IIB means that the water is classified as suitable for body contact and recreational usage.

Sungai Segget is currently considered the second most polluted river in Malaysia and is classified as Class IV.

Mohd Zam said it is hoped the CSTP will improve Sungai Segget's water quality to Class IIB and enable aquatic life to thrive.

Mohd Zam said this would only materialise in six months to one year.

The CSTP, built at a cost of RM120 million, is

part of the Sungai Segget rehabilitation project and began operations in January.

The plant not only processes sewage but also river water from Sungai Segget’s upstream before releasing it downstream.

Mohd Zam also urged the public to play their part by abandoning their habit of throwing rubbish into the river.

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Malaysia: Johor to identify site for modern pig farming

The Star 5 Aug 17;

JOHOR Baru: Johor, through the state Economic Planning Unit, is in the midst of identifying a suitable site for the modern pig farming zone and will relocate all the pig breeders in the state.

State agriculture and agro-based industry, entrepreneurship and cooperative development committee chairman Ismail Mohamed said the move was to facilitate the management of pig farms as well as prevent pollution and other sensitive issues related to the animal from occurring.

“Prior to this, we identified a suitable area but recently we learned that the area would be used as a water catchment area so we have to find a new and suitable location.

“To date, we have 47 licensed breeders with a total of 266,940 pigs and the state government intends to combine all these breeders under a consortium and move them to a special location.”

He said this after opening the Pig Farming Industry Consultative Programme 2017 here.

Ismail said the cost of implementation would only be known after the establishment of the consortium.

He said currently there were 10 pig farming areas under the close watch of the Veterinary Services Department following complaints from the public, including those in Kluang and Batu Pahat.

He said the department had ordered those concerned to improve conditions at the farms.

“We will make sure these breeders follow guidelines and are able to keep the environment clean for the well-being of the people in the surrounding areas.

“Legal action will be taken if they breach the Rearing of Pigs Enactment of Johor 1975 and the Licensing Regulations 1977, where they will be liable to a fine of up to RM5,000 or imprisonment for up to three years, or both upon conviction,” he said.

Ismail said the modern pig farming zone (enclosed farming) would have a zero-sewage system and a buffer zone of at least 200 metres from residential areas, schools, places of worship and other public facilities, as well as practice good animal husbandry practices.

Most of the pork produced in Johor are for the state’s own consumption and exported to Singapore, priced at RM10 to RM18 per kilogramme. — Bernama

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Malaysia: Syndicate uses ‘mother ship’ and disguised fishing boats to slip through dragnet

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 5 Aug 17;

KOTA TINGGI: The syndicate behind the frequent encroachment into local waters by Vietnamese fishermen has managed to stay one step ahead of enforcement agencies, avoiding detection and arrest.

It is believed there are hundreds of fishing vessels illegally entering Malaysian waters from Tok Bali in Kelantan to Desaru in Johor.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Tanjung Sedili district maritime director Kapt Amran Daud said the unusual thing about this syndicate was their use of a “mother ship”.

The Star reported yesterday that these “sea raiders” encroached into the waters off Sedili, primarily targeting sea cucumbers, which fetch them a good sum in the China market. Even locally, sea cucumbers fetch more than RM1,000 a kilo.

They use pukat harimau (trawler nets), which scoop up huge amounts of an area’s fish stock and cause massive ecological damage, especially to the sea bed and corals.

Kapt Amran said it would take at least two months for boats to travel from Vietnam to Johor, where the “mother ship” plays a vital role.

“It supplies these boats with diesel and food as well as clean water. It also stores their catch,” he added.

The MMEA did not rule out the possibility that locals could be part of the syndicate, as they seem to know Malaysian waters well.

Kapt Amran said the Vietnamese used what looked like local boats, with fake registration numbers.

“They also fly the Malaysian flag to fool local enforcement agencies,” he added.

He said that in the past two-and-a-half years, MMEA Tanjung Sedili detained 144 Vietnamese fishermen for encroaching into Malaysian waters and illegal fishing activities.

He said that between 2015 and April, his team detained 11 Vietnamese fishing boats, adding that there could be hundreds of other boats in local waters.

“One vessel can catch at least 30 tonnes of our marine resources, and will normally move in a group of five to 12 boats and scatter once detected,”he said.

MMEA and other agencies such as the navy, marine police and Fisheries Department are working to thwart the syndicate.

Kapt Amran said the agency was also using locals fishermen as informants to track down the Vietnamese trawlers, including the “mother ship”.

Illicit fishermen damage local economy and ecology
The Star 5 Aug 17;

JOHOR BARU: Vietnamese trawlers in eastern Johor waters have had an adverse impact on the marine ecosystem and livelihood of local fishermen in Sedili.

Sedili Fishermen’s Association chairman Abd Majid Abd Rahman said fish from Sedili used to be very cheap, with people coming all the way from Pahang to buy directly from the fishermen.

“People are now calling fish from Sedili ikan emas (golden fish) because it is expensive and there is hardly any fish in the area,” he said.

The price of fish had risen by 50% on average, with some types going up by even more.

For example, fishermen said, ikan kembung (mackerel) used to cost about RM6 per kg but now cost RM10 to RM12.

“The Vietnamese take everything and leave nothing for the locals. If this continues, we will have to find other means to survive.”

Local fishermen said their catch had shrunk by almost 50% since the foreign fishing vessels arrived.

They said the situation was now worsening with the monsoon as locals do not go out to sea but the Vietnamese, whose vessels are larger, were undeterred by the weather.

In addition, the illegal fishing vessels also posed a danger to people and property.

Mohd Yusof Abdullah, 61, said he lost thousands of ringgit after his fish traps were damaged by the Vietnamese.

Another fisherman, Azrin Othman, 25, said the Vietnamese fishermen did not think twice about putting local fishermen in danger.

“Once, they even dragged a local fisherman’s boat when it was caught in their net,” he said.

Another fisherman, Ali, 62, said he once saw the “mother ship” – used by the smaller fishing vessels as a supply and storage centre – at sea not far from Sedili jetty.

“It was about a month ago. I was on my way back after a fishing trip late one evening when I saw bright lights nearby.

“I saw many Vietnamese boats hovering around a big vessel that looked like a floating city,” he said.

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Indonesian military officer orders that forest burners be shot

REUTERS 5 Aug 17;

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A military official in the Indonesian province of Jambi said on Saturday he has ordered that anyone who deliberately sets fire to forest areas be shot, as authorities struggle to contain fires that cause choking smoke in the region.

Five Indonesian provinces have declared emergencies because of forest fires, according to Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency (BNPB), with the number of hotspots steadily increasing in many areas over the past week.

The BNPB is working with many government branches, including the military, to contain the fires. Indonesian media have reported that authorities in the neighboring province of South Sumatra, also on the island of Sumatra, had issued the same order.

"This is to stress a point to the people, who have been warned many, many times," said Colonel Refrizal, commander of the forest fire task force in Jambi. "(This is) to show our firmness and seriousness."

The order would be carried out "responsibly", said Refrizal, who goes by one name.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Twitter the Jambi task force was working to extinguish a fire covering an area of 10 hectares (25 acres).

Firefighters try to extinguish a bush fire in Ogan Ilir regency, South Sumatra, Indonesia August 4, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken August 4, 2017. Antara Foto/Nova Wahyudi/ via REUTERS
Nugroho also said authorities had found one area in Jambi that had been "intentionally" burned by its owner.

The number of hotspots had increased to 239 by July 30, from 173 hotspots three days earlier, according to the BNPB. The hotspots were seen mostly on Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo island, with some also on Sumatra and Java island.

The agency had previously warned that the threat of forest fires would escalate, with the dry season expected to peak in September.

Indonesia is regularly hit by forest fires, which can result in choking smoke blowing across to neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

The sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago suffered some of its worst forest fires in 2015, hitting Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The World Bank, citing government data, said 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land in Indonesia burned between June and October 2015, causing $16 billion of estimated economic damage.

Draining and conversion of peatland, often driven by palm oil plantations, contributed to the intensity of haze from the fires, the World Bank said.

Reporting by Agustinus Da Costa and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Paul Tait

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Extreme heat warnings issued in Europe as temperatures pass 40C

Authorities in 11 countries warn residents and tourists to take precautions amid region’s most intense heatwave – nicknamed Lucifer – since 2003
Jon Henley The Guardian 4 Aug 17;

Eleven southern and central European countries have issued extreme heat warnings amid a brutal heatwave nicknamed Lucifer, with residents and tourists urged to take precautions and scientists warning worse could be still to come.

Authorities in countries including Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia are on red alert, the European forecasters’ network Meteoalarm said, and swaths of southern Spain and France are on amber.

As temperatures in many places hit or exceeded 40C (104F) in the region’s most sustained heatwave since 2003, emergency services are being put on standby and people have been asked to “remain vigilant”, stay indoors, avoid long journeys, drink enough fluids and listen for emergency advice from health officials.

At least two people have died from the heat, one in Romania and one in Poland, and many more taken to hospital suffering from sunstroke and other heat-related conditions. Italy said its hospitalisation rate was 15% above normal and asked people in affected regions only to travel if their journey was essential. Polish officials warned of possible infrastructure failures.

A spokeswoman for Abta, the UK travel trade organisation, reinforced the advice for holidaymakers, saying they should take sensible precautions, keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, and follow any advice issued by health authorities in specific destinations.

The heatwave, now in its fourth day and expected to last until next Wednesday, follows an earlier spell of extreme temperatures last month that fuelled a spate of major wildfires, exacerbated droughts in Italy and Spain, and damaged crops.

The highest temperature on Thursday was 42C in Cordoba, Spain, and Catania, Italy. Split in Croatia also hit 42.3C on Wednesday. The spell is forecast to peak at the weekend with temperatures of 46C or higher in Italy and parts of the Balkans.

Authorities in Italy, which is suffering its worst drought in 60 years, have placed 26 cities on the maximum extreme heat alert, including Venice and Rome. Many of Rome’s fountains have been turned off, and last week the city only narrowly averted drastic water rationing.

In Florence, the Uffizi art gallery was temporarily closed on Friday when the air-conditioning system broke down. In Hungary, keepers at Budapest zoo cooled down two overheating polar bears with huge ice blocks.

Temperatures along parts of Croatia’s Adriatic coast, including Dubrovnik, were expected to hit 42C during the day. In the Serbian capital of Belgrade there were reports of people fainting from heat exhaustion.

Highs in Spain, including in popular holiday resorts on the Costa del Sol and on the island of Majorca, are set to reach 43C this weekend, with extreme conditions also forecast in Seville, Malaga and Granada. Ibiza and Mallorca could hit 42C, Spain’s Aemet meteorological service warned.

While Europe’s record high is 48C, set in Athens in 1977, current temperatures are in many places as much as 10-15C higher than normal for the time of year and likely to result in more fatalities, experts have said.

Europe’s record-breaking 2003 heatwave resulted in more than 20,000 heat-related deaths, mainly of old and vulnerable people, including 15,000 in France, where temporary mortuaries were set up in refrigerated lorries.

Such spells of extreme heat in southern Europe could be a foretaste of things to come. French researchers last month predicted summer conditions in some of the continent’s popular tourist destinations could become significantly tougher.

Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists said if a similar “mega-heatwave” to that of 2003 were to occur at the end of the century, when average temperatures are widely expected to be noticeably higher after decades of global warming, temperatures could pass 50C.

The researchers noted that climate models suggest “human influence is expected to significantly increase the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves in Europe” and said their modelling suggested that by 2100, peak summer temperatures could rise by between 6C and 13C against historical records.

The village of Conqueyrac in the Gard department of France hit 44.1C on two occasions in the summer of 2003, the highest temperature ever recorded in the country, meaning “the record maximum value could easily exceed 50C by the end of the 21st century”, the scientists concluded.

The current extreme temperatures, coupled with strong winds, have fanned wildfires that have already caused more than 60 deaths this summer in Portugal and caused widespread damage in southern France, Greece and Italy.

About 300 firefighters and military personnel were fighting 75 wildfires on Friday in Albania, with firefighters also busy in Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Croatia, Greece and the French island of Corsica.

In Italy, fires killed a 79-year-old woman in the central Abruzzo region and forced the closure of the main Via Aurelia coastal motorway that runs northwards from Rome to the Italian Riviera.

The country’s winemakers have started harvesting their grapes weeks earlier than usual due to the heat. The founder of the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini, said no harvest in living memory had begun before 15 August.

The heatwave is likely to cost Italy’s agricultural sector billions of euros, with as many as 11 regions facing critical water shortages. Olive yields in some areas are forecast to be down 50% and some milk production has fallen by up to 30%.

Bosnian officials said the heatwave and drought had nearly halved agricultural output, which represents 10% of the country’s economic output, and Serbia said its corn production could be cut a third.

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