Preventing, managing floods together

TAN CHEE MENG The New Paper 4 Sep 17;

Singapore is not insulated from the impact of climate change, with the annual average rainfall rising by 24 per cent between 1980 and 2014.

Severe weather events such as flooding may lead to losses of $28.6 billion in combined assets in Singapore by 2070, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Corroborating this alarming forecast, nearly 70 per cent of business sustainability practitioners across South-east Asia predict that their home country will continue to face extreme weather events over the next decade, taking a significant toll on local economies and infrastructure.

This is according to a study released last month by global pump leader Grundfos and sustainability-focused social enterprise Eco-Business Research, titled "Flood Controls in South-east Asia".

Despite this growing risk, a quarter of industry leaders here believe there is a lack of public concern about the impact climate change and extreme weather events will have on this island nation.

The study shows high confidence among industry leaders here in the Singapore Government's flood management capabilities - they are the most likely in the region to agree that their government possesses effective planning and adequate levels of funding.

Singapore authorities have been leading the way in flood management for years, using a holistic approach to manage storm water to mitigate flash floods.

This is thanks to the Source-Pathway-Receptor approach, where flood protection does not focus solely on drains and canals but also looks at slowing the accumulation of storm water at every stage, both upstream and downstream. This helps to avoid heavy rainfall from overwhelming our drainage infrastructure.

PUB, the national water agency, has also embraced some of the region's most intelligent practices in urban flood management, including installing a network of sensors throughout the country to pro-actively monitor water levels.

This effectiveness could explain why Singapore sustainability leaders seem the least concerned in the region about the impact of extreme weather events and climate change.

For this confidence in our flood control systems to prevail, the Government will need to regularly review the impact of climate change and enhance the flood mitigation solutions accordingly.

Most citizens tend to leave environmental protection and climate change mitigation in the hands of the government. This complacency is misplaced.

With climate change and urbanisation making flood management more challenging than ever, low-lying Singapore continues to be vulnerable to extreme weather events.

Between 2000 and 2015, Singapore witnessed more than $32.4 million worth of economic damage from floods alone.


In order to sustain our economic progress over the next 50 years, we must commit to focusing on climate change, beginning at the consumer level.

The study's respondents urge greater investment in education and outreach programmes to transform the environmental habits of citizens and businesses.

A way this can be done is to re-establish the relationship between local urban communities and natural landscapes.

Ensuring that man-made structures such as canals and water-retention areas look more natural and providing citizens access to them will be a step towards creating this connect.

Given that areas such as rivers and marshes can help reduce the impact of flooding by creating natural storage capacity, we should look at ways to conserve them. Integrating our drains and canals with the natural environment can help to manage rain as it falls, and quickly move storm water to the sea or nearest water body.

Singaporeans need to be educated to take ownership of the rivers and waterways, to work together to protect our flood mitigation measures.

Technology companies and the Government need to pro-actively work together on solutions to plan for flood mitigation.

Plus, education is not the job of the government alone. Industry players can work with local institutions on research and test-bed innovative solutions, to cultivate a mindset among the future generation where sustainability is not only a buzz word - but a way of living and doing business.

Looking ahead, we can build on Singapore's strong efforts in urban flood management by banking on consumers, the industry and the government working together to create more intelligent and sustainable solutions.

The writer is regional business 
director of water utility at Grundfos in the Asia Pacific region.

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War in Pulau Ubin: How Ahmad Kassim lived through the Japanese Occupation

The story of how a long-time Pulau Ubin resident fled from Johor Bahru and survived the war is one of many featured at the National Museum of Singapore’s upcoming big show on the Fall of Singapore.
Mayo Martin Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: These days, long-time Pulau Ubin resident Ahmad Kassim often sees visitors riding bicycles past his bungalow. Sometimes, they would even stop by for cool refreshments at his drinks stall.

But back in the 1940s, it wasn’t the leisurely sight of day-trippers that greeted him and his family. Instead, there would be Japanese soldiers walking about, all decked out in their uniforms, carrying fearsome swords and bayonets.

It was the time of the Japanese Occupation, and as a 10-year-old child, Ahmad recalled seeing them as they headed to and from their headquarters at Chek Jawa.

“It became quite commonplace, and it was normal, just another day for us,” he said, in Malay.


But the 82-year-old’s experiences growing up was far from what could be considered normal.

In 1942, his family had to flee from their home in a rubber plantation in Johor Bahru after his father was stabbed by invading soldiers – over a Rolex watch.

“One day, the Japanese came, three to four lorries of them, and they took everything in our house. They even demanded for a Rolex timepiece, which we obviously did not have,” he said.

Unsatisfied with the family’s explanation, the soldiers stabbed Ahmad’s father with a bayonet.

Luckily, the wound was not serious. But the family of nine knew it was time to go. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, they took a 12-hour journey from the town of Masai, crossing rivers and going through forests, before taking a sampan to Pulau Ubin.

Ahmad’s fascinating story will be one of many featured at the National Museum of Singapore’s upcoming exhibition titled Witness To War: Remembering 1942.

The show, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, will run for six months beginning Sep 23.

It will feature some rare wartime artefacts as well as stories of survivors, including the children of war hero Lim Bo Seng.


But while many tales revolved around those who lived on the mainland, the war didn’t spare those in the outlying islands, too, such as Pulau Ubin.

For Ahmad, who was too young to fully grasp the situation, it had meant a life of eating tapioca and dried fish, and working under the Japanese.

For eight hours a day, he would be planting grass at certain areas, for which he received a kilo of rice and a handful of “banana money”. His father, who harboured resentment at the Japanese, would be forced to cut down wood, that would be turned into charcoal.

Life was tougher for the Chinese residents on the island; they were forced to do hard labour – cutting down trees to build the wooden jetty where the current concrete one now stands.

One of Ahmad’s distinct memories during that time was seeing five or six Japanese war planes on the island. “They were always there and I never knew how they came to be there,” he said.

While he never left the island during the entire Japanese Occupation – he even described the ambiance as relatively peaceful – he would hear of horrific events that took place on the mainland, such as the Sook Ching Massacre at Changi Beach.

He recalled how one man had miraculously survived by feigning death right before the shooting, and managed to run away to Pulau Ubin.


Because they were far away from the city centre, residents on the island were not aware of any official announcement that the war had ended in 1945.

Instead, it was a slow realisation, after noticing that the Japanese troops simply weren’t around anymore. There was also talk of how the soldiers had matter-of-factly just thrown their weapons into the sea.

With the war over, Ahmad and his family decided to stay put – in fact, the house where he and his wife still live in was the same one his father had built during the war, give and take a few renovations.

Today, his children live elsewhere but they continue to visit the elderly couple. Ahmad himself, who at one point was a police volunteer in the island during the 1950s, has since become one of Pulau Ubin’s most respected elderly residents who would regale students or Outward Bound Singapore groups with stories about life on the island.

Long-time Pulau Ubin resident Ahmad Kassim sells drinks to visitors passing by. (Photo: Mayo Martin)
And while he feels that the younger generation would have a hard time understanding what he went through during the war, Ahmad says he’s more than willing share his tales.

“There are still youths who are interested to hear my story,” he said.
Source: CNA/mm

Pulau Ubin ‘is the place that saved us’: WWII survivor Ahmad Kassim
The 82-year-old still lives in the house that his father built, more than 70 years on
WONG CASANDRA Today Online 9 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE — Ahmad Kassim was only seven when Japanese troops invaded his home near Masai, Johor, shortly after noon. His eldest brother, who was then 20, understood the severity of the situation and got the family to flee.

Twelve hours later, Ahmad and his family arrived at Noordin Beach on Pulau Ubin with just the clothes on their back. Ahmad has lived on the island since and plans to live out the rest of his life there because for him, the island “is the place that saved us”.

Ahmad is one of the 16 seniors whose first-hand accounts and stories are featured in the upcoming Witness to War: Remembering 1942 exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.

Now 82, Ahmad recalled the day he saw several lorries carrying Japanese soldiers approach their house — which was the only one — on a rubber plantation where his father worked as a labourer.

(Photo: National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board)

The youngest in a family of four brothers and three sisters, Ahmad said it was only when he saw the troops taking away “everything, including chickens and everyday supplies”, that he noted that something was amiss.

Then, Ahmad said in Malay: “The soldiers asked my father if he had a Rolex watch. He said, ‘I am a lowly-paid worker, how can I afford a Rolex watch?’”

Dissatisfied with his father’s response, the soldiers wounded him with a bayonet in front of his shocked children.

Luckily, he was not grievously hurt, and the family fled the area. Trekking through forests and crossing rivers in sampans, the family of nine landed at Noordin Beach on Pulau Ubin twelve hours later.


For the first few years, the family lived in a Chinese neighbour’s house before moving to a bungalow that his father, with the help of other villagers on the island, built.

Back then during the Japanese Occupation, soldiers were commonly seen walking along the main road outside the family’s bungalow at Tanjong Chek Jawa, as they made their way to and from their quarters, with bayonets and swords in hand.

Despite their looming presence, “not all Japanese were bad”, and they appeared to have doted on children, said Ahmad. The different ethnic groups on the island — the Javanese and Malay communities — were also treated well, with the exception of the Chinese population whom “the Japanese hated” and bullied into hard labour.

When Ahmad was 10, he worked for the Japanese, taking on simple odd jobs like planting grass on an airfield.

Ahmad remembered there were “five to six warplanes” resting on that particular airfield, but mysteriously, “I had never seen them take off or land,” he said.

For eight hours of work, he earned five banana notes and one kilogramme of rice, which was resold to the Chinese to buy tapioca — a staple diet that also consisted of dried fish.

While life on Pulau Ubin was tough, Ahmad, who stayed on the island throughout the Japanese Occupation, described it as generally peaceful and free of bloodshed.


Because they were not living in the city centre, Ahmad and his family only realised the war was over in 1945 when they stopped seeing troops patrolling on the island.

People living near the shore, however, witnessed the soldiers throwing their weapons into the “deepest part of the sea” before disappearing.


Till this day, the weathered and tanned father of three — who by his own admission is the “oldest” on the island — still lives with his wife, in her 70s, in the same bungalow his father built.

While some parts were expanded and updated, the place remains largely the same. These days, Ahmad ekes a living selling refreshments to passersby and tourists. He gets by with earnings of about S$20 per day on weekdays, and a “comfortable amount” on weekends.

His leisurely existence is also punctuated with inquisitive students, such as those from Outward Bound Singapore, who often pepper him with questions about life on the island during the Japanese Occupation.

For Ahmad, the war gave him a life and home on Pulau Ubin.

“I got married on the island; people were dancing during my wedding here and all my children were born here.

“My children (who have relocated to the main island) have also asked me, ‘What is there in Pulau Ubin? There is nothing here.’ But for me, this is the house that my father built and this is where I want to remain for the rest of my life. There isn’t anywhere else for me. This is the place that saved us,” said Ahmad.

The Witness to War: Remembering 1942 exhibition will run from Sept 23 to March 25 at the National Museum of Singapore.

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Indonesia: 'We'd rather die than lose': villagers fight for a land rights revolution

A small community on the island of Sumatra is at the heart of a battle for traditional territories that could finally resolve the muddled and exploitative system of laws governing land ownership in Indonesia
Vincent Bevins The Guardian 4 Sep 17;

It is cold and late on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Huddled around a map, a group of elders are planning their battle strategy. In a milestone victory last year, they were promised rights to the land their village has controlled for generations, but today they have had bad news. The local inspector wants to slice off a piece of the forest where they harvest benzoin – a substance like frankincense – and give it to a large pulp company. They see this as a betrayal.

The elders debate in a mix of languages – Batak and bahasa Indonesia – while sipping tea and planning how they will resume the fight the next day. For years now, almost every day has involved this kind of planning.

“We continue the battle. It’s the only option,” says Arnold Lumban Batu, as the group confers with two members of a local community rights organisation. “Honestly, many of us would rather die than lose.”

Members of the small Pandumaan-Sipituhuta indigenous community are at the centre of a historic struggle that just might transform the rules of capitalism in Indonesia, affecting tens of millions of people. Along with a handful of other communities, they have cited indigenous rights provisions in the constitution, and lobbied to secure President Joko Widodo’s support, in the hope that they will be granted legal control over traditional lands.

Other Indonesians in this vast country of rainforests and more than 13,000 islands are watching closely, lest the campaign should provide a model they can emulate. Many land experts, human rights activists and environmentalists believe the approach adopted by the Pandumaan-Sipituhuta community may be Indonesia’s best chance to sort out a muddled and exploitative system of laws that has been in place since a violent, US-backed dictatorship essentially took all the land to distribute to its cronies. But success is far from guaranteed. Political support in Jakarta, the capital, might be fickle, and there are numerous logistical hurdles.

In Pandumaan, villagers proudly remember the night they raided a site where the Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) company planned to begin cutting down forest, stealing all its equipment. They tell of the trauma when police descended on the community and arrested many of them. Their neighbours in the Aek Lung community planted “guerrilla crops” on traditional land technically controlled by TPL, entering just after the company had harvested its eucalyptus trees. They have received death threats, and accuse the company of burning down their huts, poisoning crops and calling in the military police, who beat them.

“I’m always there, always present and very visible in every protest and direct action that we can take,” says Rusmedia Lumban Gaol, 68, sporting a red sarong and a Barcelona football top as she sits on the floor of her house. “Because with an older women up front, those tough men in the police or hired by Toba are less likely to get out of hand. They’re afraid to hurt me, especially in public. They do have some shame.”

Indonesia’s 260 million people speak more than 300 languages and belong to a wide array of nationalities, all held together by a young democracy within colonial-era borders. President Sukarno, the father of the Indonesian nation, had been attempting some kind of land reform to resolve overlapping European and traditional ownership systems after the Dutch left in 1949.

But his government began to fall apart in 1965, when US-backed generals responded to an alleged coup attempt within the military by taking power and overseeing the systematic execution of up to 1 million civilians for being communist or accused of communist affiliation. The conservative government that formed afterwards, led by General Suharto, ruled the country until 1998. His government’s crimes, including vast corruption, have never been officially condemned, and many perpetrators remain in power.

When Widodo was elected president in 2014 he was seen as a political outsider, similar to Barack Obama, and pledged his support to indigenous rights groups. But, like Obama, he has faced constant attacks from the right, and has buckled on issues dear to his more progressive supporters. To move forward on land transfers, he will need to score some difficult political victories.

“The problem in Indonesia is that you have overlapping claims to the same land, and you have concessions that tend to have been granted to generals and friends of political elites,” says John McCarthy, a professor at Australian National University who studies land rights in Indonesia.

“I would like to think we are on the road to real changes, but the challenges are immense. One important question is, would Indonesia’s investors ever let this happen? It’s like healthcare reform in the United States – no matter how good an idea it may be, you have to look at the coalitions of political support that stand to lose if things change.”

Even if the Widodo government can summon the political power to create a new, effective model for land transfers back to local communities, the detail will be all-important. Experts agree communities should have the option of leasing out their land for commercial purposes for the sake of the country’s economy, which relies on exports of materials coal, palm oil and wood.

“Do I like farming for benzoin? Well, it’s what we do, that’s for sure, and we’re proud of it,” says Sartono Lumban Gaol, as he sits outside the forest one morning with villagers preparing for a few days’ hard work. “But I’m not sure it’s what I’d choose to do if I had lots of other options.”

Not all neighbouring communities have chosen to fight. Many have simply taken a deal. But local organisation KSPPM and others argue that, without knowledge of their full rights, many do so at a huge disadvantage.

TPL denies all accusations that it has broken any laws, saying that if the government chooses to change the legal environment in which it operates, it will be more than happy to adjust its practices.

“We are always working with the government, and we’re sure that any changes that come can result in a win-win-win situation – for the private sector, for the government, and the community,” says Mulia Nauli, a member of the TPL board of directors, in a phone interview from their new plant in northern Sumatra. “We hope to operate in a way that always helps develop the region around us.”

But the issue is much larger than the goodwill of one company. Across Indonesia, nine communities have changed the law governing 13,000 hectares (32,110 acres) of land. Activists want to hold the president to his promise of 600,000 hectares, and then push for a total transformation of 70m hectares.

According to the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (Aman), an indigenous rights group, there are 70 million Indonesians – almost one-third of the population – who could be considered “indigenous” and theoretically in line for new land rights. Others dispute this figure, claiming it is significantly lower.

“Our territory is where our identity mainly comes from,” says Rukka Sombolinggi, secretary general of Aman, speaking in her Jakarta office. “These territories have never been recognised by the state, meaning crimes are committed against us and against the constitution which have been considered ‘legal.’”

Sombolinggi complains that the president has fallen short of the promises he made during his campaign.

Widodo’s office declined to comment on the process but Sandrayati Moniaga, head of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission, spoke optimistically.

“The reality is that the constitution recognises the rights of these people, and courts have upheld that right,” Moniaga says. “And Jokowi [Widodo] realised early that this is a problem that needs to be solved.”

Like other experts, however, she points to a number of obstacles to overcome – corruption, a possible pushback in parliament, and hard work on bureaucratic and regulatory challenges – before things will really change.

“What is required is will. Political will here in Jakarta, and will out there on the ground.”

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In Nicaragua, a fight to save endangered tapirs

Blanca MOREL AFP Yahoo News 4 Sep 17;

Ticuantepe (Nicaragua) (AFP) - Thirteen tapirs lounge in the bushes of Ticuantepe Zoo, in eastern Nicaragua, their bellies plump with leaves and fruit -- blissfully unaware of the peril faced by their kind.

The largest land mammals in Central America, the brown, pig-like animals with sloping snouts came into the world in captivity, in an enclosure a short distance from the country's Masaya Volcano, under a scheme to save their endangered species.

Each day they put away nine kilograms (20 pounds) of leaves, fruit and horse feed, and are regularly weighed and monitored by cameras.

"Here, they're well fed," said Eduardo Sacasa, a wildlife expert who runs the reproductive program. In some cases, too much so: one of the males, a three-year-old called Pamka, was put on a diet because "he is too fat."

Human encroachment and climate change have decimated the woodland habitat of the Baird's tapir, one of five species left in the world, and, along with human and feline predators, have helped wipe out 16 other tapir species.

Pamka and his fellow herbivores are among no more than 800 of the species left in Nicaragua.

- Release into the wild -

The Baird's tapir, considered at risk of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is the "most threatened" quadruped in Nicaragua, Sacasa said. It faces "flat-out deforestation, encroaching farmland, illegal sales and poaching, because people eat them," he said.

In Ticuantepe Zoo, efforts are deployed to have them reproduce. But that's no easy task. Gestation is long -- 14 months -- and females produce only one offspring at a time.

Three of the females are pregnant, including Rosita, a 12-year-old tapir, and Pueblana, nine years old.

Soon, others being held at the zoo will be released into the wild -- but only if there are guarantees they won't be killed, Sacasa said. Three years ago, a couple of tapirs were about to be freed but their release was cancelled at the last moment when it was judged their safety wasn't secure.

Tilba, a two-year-old male, is one of the animals designated to be taken by army helicopter to a hard-to-access reserve on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. His young age makes him a good candidate to adapt to the wild.

Once in his new habitat, he will be joined by a female chosen by the conservation team as his potential mate.

Sacasa, who began studying tapir behavior two decades ago with an American expert from Michigan University, Christopher Jordan, explained how they keep close tabs on the animals even after they are set free, tracking them through satellite-linked collars and some 150 cameras dotted through the jungle.

His ambition is to eventually develop the conservation program and present "alternative ways to save the tapir" to the government.

- Shrinking habitat -

Across all of Central America, there are an estimated 3,000 Baird's tapirs left, according to environmental preservation organizations.

That number could be cut by 80 percent in coming years if conservation measures aren't put in place, the IUCN warns in a report. Already, their population has more than halved over the past three generations.

The animals, who use their snout to forage, weigh between 200 and 300 kilograms (440 and 660 pounds) and have a life expectancy of between 15 and 40 years.

Largely sedentary and mostly nocturnal, they usually stay within a nine-kilometer (six-mile) radius within their habitat. Altering their immediate environment therefore directly puts their survival on the line -- a big concern, given that 70 percent of Central America's woodland has disappeared in 40 years, according to the IUCN.

In Nicaragua, the tapirs that lived on the western, Pacific coast have largely disappeared, a geographer who advises the government on environmental issues, Jaime Incer, told AFP.

That trend looked certain to worsen as each year the country loses between 50,000 and 60,000 hectares (125,000 to 150,000 acres) of forest, he said.

Sacasa said that the tapir is one of 28 mammals threatened by damage to Nicaragua's ecosystem. Others included the anteater, jaguar, puma, howler monkey and the white-headed capuchin monkey.

A plan by the government to have a Chinese company carve a massive canal right across the country, to rival the lucrative waterway in Panama, has further stirred ecologists' concerns.

That project, which calls for works along 278 kilometers (173 miles), would affect 17 vulnerable species including the tapir, according to an environmental impact report carried out by the company, HKND.

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Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 17 Sep 2017
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More sensors to be installed in pipes to reduce water loss

Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: More than 320 sensors have already been installed in Singapore's potable water supply pipelines to detect water leaking from them, national water agency PUB said.

To further reduce the amount of water lost through leakage, the installation of sensors will be extended to include the NEWater pipeline network over the next three years, the agency added.

The sensors are able to measure the flow rate and the pressure of the water, as well as detect the noise made when water escapes through cracks in the pipes.

Data collected from the wireless sensors are sent to the PUB's command centre, which monitors the condition of the pipes.

Currently, Singapore's unaccounted water rate is at 5 per cent. This refers to water that has been produced but is “lost” before it reaches users. In comparison, London has an unaccounted water rate of 20 per cent.

However, Singapore is aiming to cut its losses to that of cities like Tokyo, which has a rate of 3.2 per cent.

PUB’s Director of Water Supply (Network) Michael Toh said: "We think that we can perhaps lower it to levels that the Japanese have, because I think that's something for us to emulate. We are very water-stressed; we need to make sure that we conserve every drop, so we need to do more."

The sensors also complement the water agency's pipeline renewal project. Since 2016, 20km of old pipelines have been replaced with more robust iron and steel pipes.

Over the next two years, an additional 75km of pipes will be replaced in areas that have been prioritised, such as Hougang, Clementi and Serangoon Gardens.

By 2019, PUB aims to more than double the rate of renewal to 50km of pipelines per year.
Source: CNA/jp

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Woodleigh Glen in Bidadari clinches HDB Design Award

Aqil Haziq Mahmud Channel NewsAsia 3 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: Birdwatching terraces, butterfly gardens and breezy spaces.

These are just some of the features at Woodleigh Glen, a public housing project that won the Innovative Design Award at this year’s Housing Development Board (HDB) Design Awards.

The Bidadari-based project, comprising 1,000 units across nine blocks, was launched for sale last year and is expected to be completed in 2021. More than 80 per cent of its 688 flats offered for sale have been snapped up.

Woodleigh Glen was planned and designed entirely by HDB’s in-house team of planners, architects and engineers. “We are always looking out for new ways to see how we can push the frontier of urban design and planning,” said HDB Building and Research Institute group director Johnny Wong.

“From Woodleigh Glen, you can see that we continue to harness tech innovations to improve our designs and to give smart, livable and sustainable housing for our residents.”

In a first for public housing projects, the team used environmental modelling software to conduct wind-driven rain simulation studies that help determine ideal locations for rain screens along common corridors. This prevents the rain screens from blocking natural light and surrounding views.

In addition, the team conducted solar irradiance studies to design the slope of Woodleigh Glen’s solar panel-ready roofs, optimising the amount of solar energy that can be harvested. The sloped angle of the roofs allows rainwater to clean the solar panels.

HDB had announced on Sep 1 that all public housing blocks from May this year will be designed with "solar-ready" roofs that enable solar panels to be easily mounted and maintained.

Technology was also used to decide how the flats should be placed and designed. This ensures blocks are arranged for optimal shade from the sun, while void decks at some locations are built higher by half a storey to allow wind-cooling of community spaces at lower levels.

To encourage residents to interact, Woodleigh Glen boasts three levels of green community spaces and a 200m-long sky terrace on the 10th storey. The green spaces comprise community farms, urban verandas and butterfly gardens, while the sky terrace contains sheltered pavilions for birdwatching in the direction of Bidadari Hill Park. These spaces make up make up almost three-quarters of the site.

The innovation continues indoors. The flats at Woodleigh Glen are designed with flexible layouts to allow families to customise the layout of their homes. This is done by pushing structural beams and columns to the edges of each unit, freeing the master suite or living room for future personalisation.

These versatile units were piloted at Skyville@Dawson, which also won an HDB Design Award last year. The design awards recognise HDB’s industry partners for creating quality homes for Singaporeans.

HDB Design Awards jury panellist Yip Yuen Hong, who was also Singapore’s Designer of the Year in 2013, said the Woodleigh Glen project “responded sensitively to nature, to scale and to the environmental elements”.

“The project is skillfully conceived, respecting the topography and making inventive use of the terrain to situate the different components of blocks, parking and community spaces,” he added.
Source: CNA/hz

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Malaysia: Careless people damaging our corals

New Straits Times 3 Sep 17;

HARD coral species at dive sites in Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil are in danger of being completely destroyed by divers and snorkellers who ignore warnings by marine parks not to step on them.

The ignorance of most amateur divers and snorkellers is evident at some of the dive sites closer to the islands, where staghorn and Acropora hard coral species have been damaged, some pulverised after being stepped on by divers posing for pictures.

Warnings by dive instructors, who depend on the corals to attract visitors and promote tourism in Pulau Perhentian, have also been also ignored, especially by discovery divers or first-time divers who took a crash course on diving.

At reefs in shallow waters, snorkellers cared less about conservation by stepping on the hard corals with their flippers in their excitement to stay buoyant.

Dive instructors and guides were lost for words when follow-up dives revealed the damage done to the hard corals at dive sites and snorkelling points.

“It is not enough that some of the coral species are being killed naturally by the rough sea (during monsoon), devoured by the crown-of-thorns starfish and bleached by the increase in sea temperatures.

“Human recklessness only made matters worse,” said a dive instructor in Pulau Perhentian Kecil, who wanted to remain anonymous.

He said the chain reaction from the damage on the coral reefs was obvious at most of the 12 popular dive sites as other marine life, especially fish and crustaceans, which formed a symbiotic relationship with the corals, was no longer abundant.

“We have no problem with seasoned divers who appreciate the beauty of the underwater environment. But, amateur divers and snorkellers lack the awareness of the importance of the corals in the marine ecosystem.”

He said dive instructors would brief divers on safety before each trip to dive sites and the latter would be warned not to step on corals because they would not be permitted for the open-water course if caught damaging the environment.

“Some are first-time day trippers who just want to have fun. If they read the notices by the marine parks, they will not touch the corals,” he said, while acknowledging that the beauty of the reefs became its own undoing.

He added that the coral reefs were also threatened by the disposal of empty drink cans, rubbish and other non-degradable waste by visitors.

Dr James Tan, a senior lecturer from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu’s School of Marine and Environmental Sciences, said the threats to coral reefs came either from natural causes or from human activities.

“Natural threats include waves from monsoon, runoff from the mainland through rivers, predators like parrot fish and crown-of-thorns starfish, which is still the significant cause of the destruction of corals, and disease.

“The second and more serious threats are from destructive fishing methods, like fish bombing and trawling, pollution from factory, untreated sewage, oil from boating activities, diving and snorkelling activities.

“It is also threatened by climate change related to the increase of carbon dioxide that causes the increase in ocean acidification and the abnormal increase of seawater temperature, which caused mass bleaching in 1997, 2010, and 2016,” he said.

Tan said there was no data that showed the extent of damage to corals at marine parks in Malaysia, but after the mass coral bleaching in 2010, researchers discovered that between five and 10 per cent of the coral reefs in the marine parks had died.

“We are in an era called the Anthropocene.

“Humans are driving many of the threats to the ecosystem. But, we cannot say that the main threats that led to degradation were from humans because natural forces are also contributing to the damage,” he added.

Tan said the authorities and dive operators could help protect these coral sites by strengthening enforcement.

“Patrols must be more frequent, and an increase in the prosecution of illegal fishing or use of illegal fishing gear can be a deterrent. Stakeholders, such as resort operators, dive centres and non-governmental organisations should be empowered to manage the reef.

“Dive operators must educate their staff and customers. They must monitor the reefs and report back to the authorities if they find any illegal activity. They must have a sense of ownership because their businesses depend on having a healthy marine ecosystem,” he added.

Tan said branching hard coral, such as the Acropora species, were more vulnerable to physical damage and its recovery could take a long time, while some might not recover at all.

He added that imposing a carrying capacity would be a good idea, but suggested that the authorities look at the zoning and usage management practised by operators in the Australian Great Barrier Reef.

“Instead of a total closure of the marine parks, maybe some areas can be opened for water activities, some as scientific zones and some totally closed to human activity.

“This provides a way for the authorities to better manage their resources and patrolling efforts.”

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