Best of our wild blogs: 20 Aug 17

Happy 10th Birthday, BOS Blog!
Butterflies of Singapore

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Cancelled: Pulau Zombie role-play event on St John's Island

Jean Iau Straits Times 19 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE - Pulau Zombie did not have a chance to go live.

The anticipated role-play event to have been held next month on St John's Island was planned as a 13-hour adventure set amid a zombie apocalypse. It has been cancelled because its organiser Void Deck Games has not received the necessary permits for it.

It had already sold out all its 55 tickets and the organiser will issue full refunds to ticket holders. The wait list for the event had more than 500 names on it.

Co-founder of Void Deck Games, Mr Raihan Harun, told The Straits Times that organisers made the decision to refund ticket holders as they had not received official confirmation from Singapore Land Authority, which manages the island, or a Public Entertainment License. The applications are still under review.

He explained: "We didn't want to risk having to disappoint participants at the last minute. If the result was negative and too close to the day itself it would have been a big blow so we feel it was the more responsible thing to do to cancel the event now."

The 37-year-old added that they had made phone calls to apologise to some of the 55 ticket holders and will reach out to everyone eventually.

There are plans for a sequel event, Pulau Zombie: Bad Blood, to be held in October at Sarimbun Scout Camp but tickets for it have not been released for sale yet.

Mr Harun says: "Void Deck Games will do everything possible to create an island zombie experience. It will be a series of negotiations to make this happen. The October game will be crucial test bed for our ideas.

"We are in this for the long run to create a startling immersive experience entertainment for this region."

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Malaysia: Showing the way to stop the use of straws

The Star 20 Aug 17;

IN a bid to reduce plastic waste, some eateries have stopped serving single-use plastic straws with their drinks.

As an alternative, the Mockingbird Cafe in Kuala Lumpur serves their cold drinks with reusable stainless steel straws.

“Stainless steel straws not only look trendy but it is also a good start to being a bit greener. We have to start somewhere,” says the cafe owner, Elaine Lamb.

Lamb says that her customers would sometimes ask why she uses metal straws.

“Some of them ask about the hygiene of metal straws. I would tell them that we wash them very thoroughly and we soak them overnight,” she says.

“These metal straws are a great conversation starter and it is a good way to raise awareness and educate the public on the bad effects of plastic and plastic straws,” she adds.

Lamb says that she aims for Mockingbird Cafe to be plastic-free. It will soon stop giving away plastic cutlery for takeaways.

“Some people expect plastic cutlery and a plastic container with a plastic bag. They are not informed about the detrimental effects of these plastics,” she says.

Bubbles Dive Resort in Perhentian Island also stopped serving plastic straws at their restaurant on May 31.

“Earlier in March, we started promoting ‘No Straw Please’ at our restaurant by asking all our guests whether they really need a straw,” said Bubbles Dive Resort marketing director Peisee Hwang.

“In our nightly ‘turtle talk’ with our resort guests, we spread awareness of how much single use plastic product was being discarded and ended up in the ocean,” she says.

Hwang says that the staff have witnessed first-hand the amount of plastic that has been washed up ashore, besides dead sea creatures.

“We have seen how coral died of suffocation because it was covered by a big plastic bag,” she says.

Hwang says that the staff have rescued some aquatic creatures suspected of ingesting plastic.

“Our customers have been fully supportive and appreciative of our efforts,” Hwang says.

“A lot of them bought metal and bamboo straws from us so they can carry it with them on their travels.”

Hwang says that Bubbles Dive Resort would order paper straws and stocks bamboo straws from Bali. It plans to source their bamboo straws from the orang asli.

Spare that straw, please
VICTORIA BROWN The Star 20 Aug 17;

DRINK up, folks, but without the straw please.

Malaysians use up about 31 million plastic straws every day, based on conservative estimates, and these would likely end up in landfills.

Each plastic straw takes “hundreds of years” to degrade, says environment and solid waste management specialist Dr Theng Lee Chong, who estimates that one straw is used per person each day in Malaysia.

(Americans use single-use straws at an average rate of 1.6 straws per person each day. This equates to 500 million plastic straws being used every day in the United States alone.)

Last year, Malaysians produced about 38,000 tonnes of waste daily.

Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp Malaysia) deputy chief executive officer (technical) Dr Mohd Pauze Mohamad Taha says that only 0.5% of the waste is incinerated. The rest is landfilled.

“Single-use plastics represent a huge threat to the environment if it not properly managed,” he says.

Dr Mohd Pauze says that single-use plastics are known for their interference in ecosystems. They also contribute to floods as they clogged up pipes and drains.

“This threat is not only related to the sheer volume of them ending up in landfills, but also to the resources needed to produce, transport and (occasionally) recycle them, and the emissions resulting from these processes improperly disposed,” he said.

According to a National Solid Waste Management Department’s 2012 report, plastic makes up 13.2% of Malaysia’s total household waste.

As for plastic straws, it is almost an automatic practice to consume cold drinks out of them. They are given to diners without a second thought.

Mareena Yahya Kerschot, a co-founder of the “Tak Nak Straw” campaign, says this habit was harming the environment.

“You consume your drink in less than five minutes, then you throw the straw away,” she says.

These straws, she says, are among the plastics making its way into the ocean, getting eaten by fish and trapping sea creatures.

“That video of a turtle who had a straw stuck in its nose left a big impact on me,” said Kershot, referring to a YouTube video which showed researchers pulling out a plastic straw from the turtle’s nose.

The video has had 12 million views. And the turtle has inadvertently become the poster child for the anti-straw campaign.

Plastic straws are not biodegradable. Instead, it breaks down into small pieces called microplastics.

“These microplastics keep accumulating in the oceans, and it affects the food chain and overall ecosystem. And it is highly harmful to the sea animals,” Dr Theng said.

“Many so called ‘biodegradable’ or ‘degradable’ plastics in the markets are actually not fully degraded, but only visually breakdown into smaller pieces of microplastics,” he said.

The UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which works in education and training, said in a report last year that there will be more plastic waste than fish by 2050.

Most plastic straws are made from polypropylene (PP).

Even though PP plastic can be recycled, it is hardly done due to its size.

“The straw is very small and hard to pick up or segregate for recycling purposes,” said Dr Theng.

“If a recycler finds a big bundle of plastic straws, he would definitely pick it for recycling. But if he has to pick it up piece by piece from the waste stream, he would rather spend time and focus on other larger plastic products,” he says.

Should people even use straws?

“We are grown adults. Do we really need a straw? Even my kids don’t need straws,” Tak Nak Straw co-founder Claire Sancelot says.

She says that the need for hygiene should not be an excuse to use straws.

“Some people say that a straw is needed because the restaurants don’t clean the glasses well. If you’re worried about hygiene, what about the plate and the cutlery?” she asks.

She points out that most people don’t use straws at home, “so why do we use straws when we are out?” Another co-founder of Tak Nak Straw, Carolyn Lau, says the campaign is just one of many ways to develop a consciousness of what we consume and how we consume it.

“What I find with people nowadays is that we take these conveniences for granted,” she says.

Tak Nak Straw wants Malaysians to start saying no to single-use plastic straws.

If you prefer to still use straws, buy a reusable one.

“You can buy a stainless steel straw. You can carry it in your bag. It’s washable and unbreakable,” she says.

Lau says that she is also looking to work with the orang asli community to make bamboo straws.

“We want to get all that information that is out there to Malaysians so that they can make informed choices.”

“We will get there, one straw at a time,” Lau says.

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Thailand: Experts warn of serious danger to Bangkok if efforts not made to check shoreline erosion

PRATCH RUJIVANAROM The Nation 20 Aug 17;

SUBSIDENCE CAUSED by human activities in Bangkok Metropolitan areas is the most important factor causing shoreline erosion in the Bay of Bangkok, followed by rising sea levels, a recent study has shown.

However, experts advise against constructing hard structures to prevent erosion, which could instead intensify the problem, and instead focus on mangrove reforestation to address the problem.

Looking through a thin layer of mangrove forest along the coastline of Samut Prakan’s Phra Samut Chedi district, observers can see a small temple situated on a bizarre seaside. The temple is Wat Khun Samutchin, a relic of an old community that has sunk into the sea, a clear sign of the danger that shoreline erosion poses to Metropolitan Bangkok.

Thanawat Charupongsakul, director of Thailand Global Warming Academy, outlined the challenges of coastal erosion on a field trip last Thursday to Wat Khun Samutchin in one of the worst-hit areas of coastal erosion. The inner Gulf of Thailand, especially the 120 kilometres of the northernmost shoreline of Samut Prakan, Bangkok, Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram, is particularly vulnerable to erosion and sinking into the sea, he said.

Thanawat added that the shoreline erosion rate of the area was as high as 30 metres per year. If no action is taken, 150,000 rai (24,000 hectares) of land could consumed by the sea over the next 50 years. With such rapid changes underway, this is a problem that everyone, especially residents of Bangkok, should consider, Thanawat said.

“From my study, subsidence contributes to 68 per cent of the current problem of shoreline erosion, along with 16 per cent due to the sea level rising, 6.8 per cent from a lack of sedimentation, and 2.4 per cent from river delta dredging,” he said.

“These factors are all the result of human activities, especially the subsidence, which is mainly a result of urbanisation of the Bangkok Metropolitan area.”

Surajit Chirawate, a former Samut Songkhram senator, said that if people were serious about preventing Bangkok from sinking into the sea, they needed to move away from using hard structures such as concrete sea walls, jetties and breakwaters. Not only would such structures fail to solve the problem, they would actually intensify the impact of coastal erosion on nearby areas, he said.

“We have a problem. Authorities do not understand nature and construct hard structures to protect the coastline, which has already proven ineffective in places such as Rayong’s Seangchan Beach and Songkhla’s Samila Beach.”

Hard structures make waves stronger, which then dig out the sediment from beneath the structure and intensify erosion, he said. However, there are alternatives including soft structural barriers such as bamboo fences that break the wave force and trap sediment behind the fence line.

“The entire coastline of Samut Songkhram uses bamboo fence as a wave breaker and we found that it is a cheap and effective way,” he said. “We found that the sediment built up rapidly behind the fence, and then we grew mangrove forests to hold together the land we reclaimed.”

Such solutions were cheaper than hard structures, he added.

“The budget for a bamboo fence is only about Bt8 million per kilometre, and we could significantly reduce the cost to Bt2 million per kilometre if authorities let local people build their own defensive bamboo fences. We just need to repair the fences every three years,” Surajit said.

According to the coastal erosion database compiled by the Thailand Coastal Spatial Database System of Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, Samut Prakan’s Phra Samut Chedi district has suffered the most erosion over the past 10 years, with up to 390 metres wide of shoreline lost since 2005.

In contrast, Tambon Klong Khon of Samut Songkhram reclaimed up to 270 metres wide from the sea since 2005.

Preserving a healthy mangrove forest also helps protect the coast from erosion, which can be demonstrated by Google satellite imagery. Images show a lush mangrove forest in Tambon Klong Khon, while in contrast the coast of Phra Samut Chedi district has been left with only a thin line of mangrove forest, where there is any at all.

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