Best of our wild blogs: 17 Sep 17

3,500 volunteers from 80 organisations tackle marine trash as part of the International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Butterfly of the Month - September 2017
Butterflies of Singapore

Flew In Visitors (16 Sep 2017)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Read more!

Animal lovers petition for review of Sungei Tengah shelter designs

Authority says stakeholders consulted during design and construction stages
VALERIE KOH Today Online 16 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE – Likening the authorities’ new housing facility for animals at Sungei Tengah to “concentration camps”, an online petition urging the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to review the design of the facility for animal shelters and pet farms has garnered over 1,400 signatures since Wednesday (Sep 13).

The authority, however, said stakeholders were consulted during the design and construction stages and changes were made after feedback, such as the redesign of the initial individual kennel layout for communal kennels.

Ms Josephine Lim, a regular volunteer with various shelters, started the petition after coming across photographs of the Sungei Tengah facility. Taken during a site visit by Lily Low Shelter, these photographs depicted rows of double-storey buildings, with windows sited close to the ceiling, under construction.

“The new structures look just like concentration camps with small windows built at 1.8m from the ground,” said Ms Lim, a 50-year-old sales director. “How depressing will the shelters be without a well-ventilated environment?”

She added that sheltering animals or breeding animals “in such cramped quarters” was undignified and inhumane.

Last November, the AVA announced that it would be building a new facility for animal shelters and pet farms at Sungei Tengah by the end of this year. The space would be rented out to operators at Loyang and Seletar, whose leases are expiring in the coming months.

At that time, the AVA said that there would be sufficient room for the animals – estimated to be around 6,000 to 7,000 - owned by the nine animal welfare groups, 29 pet farms and several independent shelters there.

Following a site visit to Sungei Tengah last month, Ms Lily Low, who runs a shelter for cats at Pasir Ris, voiced concerns about the poor ventilation on Facebook.

“Ventilation of our new shelter is terrible. I had difficulty breathing. I felt faint,” she said. Her current shelter, which has been home to 160 cats and three dogs rescued from the streets for the past decade, has a wire mesh design, with sunlight streaming in and air circulating freely.

Speaking to TODAY earlier this week, Ms Low, 48, said: “Over at the new facilities, it’s all covered up. The windows are so small. Can you imagine the stench?”

The lack of space around the compound and inside each unit was also an issue for her. By siting the buildings close to each other, a virus outbreak could be difficult to contain, she said.

Furthermore, the 104 sq m space – roughly the size of a five-room flat - offered by the AVA was too small to accommodate all her animals. She said: “They’re making me a hoarder.”

Animal Lovers League co-founder Mohan Div, 52, had similar concerns. The 15-year-old shelter for nearly 500 cats, dogs, tortoises and rabbits will also be moving from Pasir Ris to Sungei Tengah.

“Our building hasn’t been constructed yet. But from what we see, there’s poor ventilation (at the other buildings). Presently, we have open concept farms. The new space given is very small, so there’s a real compromise (of) the animals’ well-being.There’s a claustrophobic feeling,” he said.

For one dog shelter, the move will mean downsizing to a 450 sq m space – one-tenth of their current site at Pasir Ris. But in land scarce Singapore, this is “as good as it gets”, said Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD).

In a Facebook post on Friday (Sep 15), SOSD said: “The Ministry of National Development (MND) is building the premises, with space allocated for animal welfare - and we move in and pay rent. This is much better than the original plan, where animal shelters had to bid for land, and build our own premises - an undertaking which would have cost millions.”

Referring to the petition, SOSD felt that rather than rapping the authorities for poor design, operators should work with them to make the best of limited resources.

“On this point, AVA and MND have reassured us that we are free to conduct renovation works to make the place better after we take over the units. For example, the problem of poor ventilation can be improved, by creating larger windows,” said the group.

Being close to other shelters had its perks, the group noted. For instance, animal welfare initiatives can be more easily implemented and groups will have more synergy.

In response to media queries, the AVA said that a census had been conducted in November last year to ensure that there would be sufficient space at the new facility to house the affected animals, and the allocation of units at the new facility was based on those population numbers.

The authorities tried to adjust the design and layout “as much as possible” given constraints such as land availability. Dog runs and a pavilion will also be built.

“During the engagement sessions, we received requests for lower walls to allow for better ventilation. We have designed the units to facilitate natural ventilation and comply with the building code of practice,” said the AVA.

As for the design of the facility, the AVA said that the floor to ceiling height is 2.5m, and most walls are 1.5m high, with the remaining 1m covered by wire mesh.

Only the fire escape-facing wall on the first floor will be 1.8m high to comply with the fire safety code. The remaining 0.7m for this wall will be covered by wire mesh.

Some stakeholders wanted air-conditioning, while others requested exhaust fans, noted the AVA. Power points have been provided so that fans or other ventilation can be added to each unit.

Stakeholders had also highlighted that the initial individual kennel layout was not suitable. “In response to this feedback, we redesigned the space for communal kennels instead. We also provided a fenced-up kennel in non-commercial units to address concerns about animals jumping out of the kennels,” said the AVA, adding that units kennel partitions will also be allowed for some operators.

In terms of rental fees, animal welfare groups and independent shelters will pay rental based on “cost recovery” while commercial pet establishments will bid for units based on a reserve price.

While the facility was initially slated for completion end this year, the timeline will be pushed back due to additional earthworks and and will only be ready in stages from the end of this year till the middle of next year. Operators will be given short-term lease extensions till then.

Upcoming animal shelter in Sungei Tengah to have flexible layout configuration: AVA
Audrey Tan Straits Times 16 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE - The upcoming government-built animal shelter in Sungei Tengah will have a variety of layout configurations, to cater to the needs of different animal welfare groups that will have to move there when the facility is ready by mid-2018.

The two-storey facility is expected to house some 7,000 animals from the cat and dog shelters in Pasir Ris, Loyang, Seletar and Lim Chu Kang.

The animals have to move as land leases of their present, single-storey shelters are due to expire in the coming months.

Some units in the new facility will have kennel partitions, while others will be developed without partition walls, grilles and gates for the communal kennels, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Saturday (Sept 16).

"Some stakeholders have requested air-conditioning, while others have asked for exhaust fans. Power points have been provided so that fans or other ventilation can be provided within each unit. AVA has tried to make provisions to allow tenants the flexibility to retrofit units to suit their individual needs," said the spokesman.

It has also made provisions for better natural ventilation in the facility.

"We have designed the units to facilitate natural ventilation and comply with the building code of practice. The floor to ceiling is 2.5m in height. Most walls are 1.5m high, with the remaining 1m covered by wire mesh. Only the fire escape-facing wall on the first floor will be 1.8m high to comply with the fire safety code. The remaining 0.7m for this wall will be covered by wire mesh," said the AVA spokesman.

AVA's update on the facility comes after a petition calling on the agency to review the design of the shelter started circulating on social media on Wednesday (Sept 13).

The petition, started by one Josephine Lim, said that based on photographs circulating online, "the shelter looks just like a concentration camp... which does not have any outdoor space for animals to get natural sunlight and is totally boxed in".

However, it is not clear where the photographs she is referring to are from, as the facility is not yet fully built.

Construction of the new shelter has been slightly delayed due to the need for additional earthworks, AVA said, and the facility is now scheduled to be progressively ready from the end of this year to mid-next year.

Animal welfare groups were expected to move to the Sungei Tengah shelter by the end of this year.

But AVA said it has worked with the relevant agencies to provide short-term extensions for tenants whose leases are expiring this year.

Mr Derrick Tan, founder of animal welfare group Voices for Animals (VFA), which has a shelter at Pasir Ris, said it is not clear who Josephine Lim is, and if she had been part of the engagement sessions that animal welfare groups have been having with AVA.

"The facility is a shelter for the animals to stay temporarily, while we find them their forever home. It is not a permanent place we want the animals to stay in forever. And whatever space we get, we can make good use of it to allow the animals to be comfortable. AVA has been very flexible with the layout that different groups want," said Mr Tan.

VFA has been allocated three units for its 150 dogs, Mr Tan told The Straits Times.

Of this, he had negotiated with AVA to have two of the three units built without any partitions, allowing the dogs to roam free as they do in the current shelter. The third unit is kept for less socialised dogs, he said.

Animal welfare group Voices for Animals' proposed changes to configuration of units in upcoming government-built animal shelter in Sungei Tengah. PHOTO: VOICES FOR ANIMALS

AVA agreed to make changes according to VFA's requirements. PHOTO: VOICES FOR ANIMALS
"AVA has been very flexible, and we need to be fair to them," he said.

Taking on board the suggestions at the design phase would help animal welfare groups, which are often already cash-strapped, save costs, Mr Tan added.

His views were echoed by a number of other animal welfare groups, including dog rescue group SOSD Singapore.

The group said in a Facebook post on Friday (Sept 15): "Can the situation be better? Yes - if we were in New Zealand or Australia, where there is ample land. In land-scarce Singapore, this is as good as it gets, for now. The National Development Ministry (MND) is building the premises, with space allocated for animal welfare - and we move in and pay rent; This is much better than the original plan, where animal shelters had to bid for land, and build our own premises - an undertaking which would have cost millions."

MND is the parent ministry which AVA falls under.

The new two-storey facility will also provide different services, such as pest control, waste disposal, cleaning services, which can be shared, AVA said.

"The facility is custom-built for housing animals and meets AVA's animal welfare standards. There will also be common facilities, such as dog runs and a pavilion for events. The facility's Managing Agent will carry out routine pest control and provide security services," said AVA.

Read more!

Hotel turns food waste into fertiliser

Sue-Ann Tan Straits Times 17 Sep 17;

Diners at Grand Hyatt Singapore's restaurants have been unknowingly helping the hotel maintain its in-house herb garden every time they have a meal there.

Since mid-2016, the hotel in Scotts Road has been using a food waste management system. Instead of getting thrown away, food waste goes into a machine known as the Biomax Thermophilic Digester.

Food waste such as vegetables, poultry, bones, egg shells, fruit peel - and even tissue paper - from nine in-house restaurants and kitchens are converted into pathogen-free organic fertilisers used in the hotel's rooftop herb garden.

The machine was highlighted as part of a professional sharing session yesterday by Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) and Green Infiniti, the Singapore distributor of Biomax products such as the food waste digester.

About 90 guests attended the session, including Dr Amy Khor, adviser to WMRAS and Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources and Health.

Said Mr Edwin Pang, executive director of WMRAS: "Only 14 per cent of food waste is recycled, so WMRAS supports efforts to convert food waste into either compost or water for discharge.

"This makes our living environment more sustainable because even if we incinerate food waste, it will produce ash for the Semakau landfill, which will run out of space by 2035 to 2040."

The amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased by about 40 per cent over the past decade, according to the National Environment Agency.

Recycling food waste has helped Grand Hyatt Singapore to save on food waste haulage fees, operational and manpower expenses, and the cost of trash bags and bins - all of which come up to about $100,000 a year.

Over 24 hours, the hotel can recycle 500kg of food waste.

Mr Chester Chiew, assistant business development manager of slaughterhouse Sinmah Poultry, said he is considering implementing a food waste recycling system.

"We produce a lot of waste because of the chicken parts we throw away, so this waste management technology will generate lots of savings for us.

"Industries with large amounts of animal waste should definitely consider this technology," he said.

Sue-Ann Tan

Hotel recycles 500kg of food waste into fertiliser within 24 hours using food-waste digester
Sue-Ann Tan Straits Times 16 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE - Grand Hyatt, a hotel near Orchard Road, has saved $100,000 a year, just by managing its waste.

Instead of throwing food waste into the bin, the hotel staff transfer them into a machine known as the Biomax Thermophilic Digester.

This technology recycles food waste such as vegetable, poultry, bones, egg shell, tissue paper and fruit peel from nine in-house restaurants and kitchens.

The food waste is then converted into pathogen-free organic fertilisers which are used for the hotel's landscaping purposes.

In a 24-hour cycle, the hotel can recycle 500kg of food waste.

This technology was highlighted as part of a professional sharing session on Saturday (Sept 16) by Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) and the Singapore agent of Biomax, Green Infiniti.

About 90 guests attended the session, including Dr Amy Khor, advisor to WMRAS and Senior Minister of State of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and Ministry of Health.

Participants discussed how food waste could be better recycled as well as how new technology such as the Biomax Digester could competently process different compositions of food waste.

"Only 14 per cent of food waste is recycled so WMRAS supports efforts to convert food waste to either compost or water for discharge. This is to make our living environment more sustainable because even if we incinerate food waste, it will produce ash for the Semakau landfill which will run out of space by 2035 to 2040," said Mr Edwin Pang, executive director of WMRAS

Food waste recycling systems were tested out at Grand Hyatt and Meridian Primary School.

Biomax also worked with other schools such as Sengkang Secondary and Punggol Secondary School.

The recycling helps Grand Hyatt to save on food waste haulage fees, operational and manpower expenses and cost of trash bags and bins.

The initiative also helps to indirectly reduce the hotel's carbon footprint as none of the food waste goes to the incineration plants.

At Meridian Primary, selected students known as "green champions" lead the others in recycling.

They set the example of emptying food waste into buckets in the canteen and separating it from inorganic materials like plastic.

After the machine converts the canteen food waste into fertiliser, the students are also involved in using the fertiliser to grow plants such as chilli and beans.

Read more!

Outward Bound Singapore turns 50; Tender for new OBS Coney Island campus opens

Felicia Choo Straits Times 16 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE - A tender for consultancy services for the new Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) campus and sea operations centre on Coney Island opened two days ago (Sept 14), and will close on Oct 9.

The tender for shortlisted vendors is for the study and design of development works including architecture, landscape design, as well as mechanics and engineering.

It was announced in April last year (2016) that the campus will be where a five-day expedition-based camp will held from 2020. The camp will be made compulsory for all Secondary 3 students.

OBS' executive director Nicholas Conceicao said that the evaluation will be quite "thorough" in assessing a good design concept and will look at "which consultancy firm will give us the best value for money".

On Saturday (Sept 16), more than 500 OBS alumni gathered on Pulau Ubin for the first OBS Homecoming event. Held in conjunction with OBS' 50th Anniversary, they tried out outdoor adventure activities like the jetty jump, triyaking, abseiling and flying fox.

Since OBS started in 1967, more than 500,000 Singaporeans have tried their hand at overcoming different outdoor challenges.

Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat, who helped to unearth a OBS time capsule from 1997 at the event, went for the 21-day programme as an officer cadet in 1980.

"OBS not only teaches young people to push past their limits, to challenge themselves to be the best that they can be; OBS teaches them to do so together, as one," he said.

"Even though I may not remember the technical steps of each challenge, I will never forget the cheers of my teammates when I needed encouragement, or the real sense of triumph we all felt when one teammate pushed past his limits."

Mr Heng added that OBS is also considering new equipment, such as outrigger kayaks and whaler pulling boats, to provide new experiences for participants.

Going back to Pulau Ubin for the first time since their last OBS experience triggered fond memories for some participants like Madam Tong Chong Chiu, 67.

Then a primary school teacher, attending the 21-day programme more than 40 years ago (in 1974) helped her to overcome her fear of heights. She recalled jumping between platforms secured to trees, despite worrying that she might get injured a week before her wedding.

"I think it's very good for young people. It's a way to get them together, to build confidence and camaraderie," she said.

Another ex-participant Monica Heng, 64, said that students today are lucky because everyone gets a chance to go for OBS.

"During school days, there were limited slots and normally the school would award these slots to the best students (academically), so we never get to go," said the housewife.

Read more!

Malaysia: Residents reminded to take necessary precautions for monsoon weather

zazali musa The Star 16 Sep 17;

JOHOR BARU: All agencies and departments in Johor are well prepared for floods which normally hit the state at the end of the year.

Johor health, environment, information and education committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said there were regular meetings on preparations made in anticipation of the floods.

He said the meetings involved various groups including the state Civil Defence Department, Fire and Rescue Department, local authorities, district officers and non-governmental organisations.

Ayub said it was important to reach out to the people, especially those living in flood-prone areas, and ensure they were ready to face the floods.

He said residents living in flood-prone areas should not take things for granted as floods were yearly occurrences in several parts of Johor during monsoon season.

“However, the flood patterns might change from year to year, depending on the amount of rainfall and how long it rains,” Ayub said.

He said continuous heavy rain for hours or days would normally raise the water levels at rivers and pose a risk to those living along the riverbanks.

Among the factors that contributed to the floods were changes in weather including global warming and the rising water levels at oceans worldwide because of melting ice, he said.

Johor was badly hit by floods early this year as eight out of 10 districts in the state were affected.

Some 8,204 people from 2,428 families were placed in 70 flood relief centres statewide.

Ayub advised residents to refrain from dumping rubbish in waterways including drains and rivers to prevent flash floods.

“Look at the drains around you.

“You can see all sorts or rubbish dumped indiscriminately by people.

“But when flash floods occur in their areas, they blame the authorities,” he said.

He said ongoing property development projects, especially in urban and suburban areas, that did not take into account the capacity of their drainage system also contributed to flash floods.

“Developers must ensure their drainage system is able to handle large volume of rainwater and they must be more responsible to ensure the area is not prone to flash floods,” added Ayub.

Read more!

Indonesia: Central Java enters drought emergency: governor

Antara 16 Sep 17;

Pekalongan, C Java, Sept 15 (Antara) - Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo stated that his region had been categorized in the drought disaster zone during this years dry season.

"Almost 22 districts are now experiencing drought," said Ganjar, after opening the exhibition Creativity and Innovation of Central Java, which is being held in the city of Pekalongan, Friday.

He noted that since June 2017, to overcome the problem of water shortage for the community, the provincial government had conducted coordination meetings with several related elements to discuss the drought.

At the coordination meeting, it has been decided in the short term to prepare the distribution of water by channeling it through the Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), the company and the local government, he revealed.

"Therefore, we have asked the public to report to the local government when the region is hit by drought," he said.

As for areas where it is difficult to do clean water distribution, Ganjar stressed that it would be done by digging deep wells and pumps piping engineering.

He hoped that the regional head would participate, whether the village head or sub-district head monitor, so that the drought can be reported immediately.

"Currently, many companies, both state-owned and local enterprises, and private companies are coming forward to help the Central Java Provincial Government through corporate social responsibility in overcoming drought in some areas," he remarked.


Drought hits villages in Pasuruan, East Java
The Jakarta Post 16 Sep 17;

Dozens of villages in Pasuruan regency, East Java, continue to suffer from severe drought, a local disaster mitigation official announced on Friday.

Pasuruan Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Bakti Jati Permana said drought has affected at least three districts in the regency.

BPBD Pasuruan is currently conducting various mitigation efforts, including providing clean water to the affected villages.

“Since last month, residents have been supplied with clean water, with a delivery of five or six times a week,” Bakti said as quoted by Antara.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has recorded as of last Sunday more than 2,726 villages across Java, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) and East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) struggling with drought, putting around 3.9 million residents in a dire need of clean water.

On Tuesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo gathered his Cabinet ministers to discuss drought tackling measures and to ensure that the mitigation efforts were in place.

Jokowi said that ensuring a clean water supply and maintaining the operation of irrigation channels in drought-affected regions were the main priority in the short term. (mos/ebf)

Read more!

Indonesia: Jakartans finding it harder to breathe; capital ranks as world's third most polluted city

Straits Times 16 Sep 17;

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - Anyone who wants to live a healthy life may have to consider moving out of Jakarta, as the city continues to climb up the rankings for the world's worst air quality.

Based on a real-time air quality index uploaded to the Airvisual application at midday on Friday (Sept 15), Jakarta ranked third as the most polluted city in the world, after Beijing and Dhaka, among 70 cities measured across the globe.

In mid-August, the application showed that Jakarta was at the top of the list, followed by Ankara, Turkey and Lahore, Pakistan.

Residents in the Indonesian capital may have experienced the worsening air quality due to hazy air and the sharp smell of exhaust fumes from vehicles.

Filani Olyvia, 25, a resident of Mampang Prapatan, in South Jakarta, said she was worried about her health because she rides an ojek (motorcycle taxi) to work every day.

"I'm afraid of catching respiratory diseases, because every day I have to deal with pollution from motorcycles and cars. In Mampang, where traffic congestion is really bad, I can spend a lot of time on the street," she said.

Currently, Filani said she has two motorcyclist friends who suffer from respiratory problems. So, she said, she always uses a health mask while riding an ojek.

Greenpeace Indonesia revealed that air pollution in Greater Jakarta, with its high exposure to a carcinogenic pollutant called PM 2.5, was three times higher than the maximum "safe" level recommended by the World Health Organisation of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

According to research conducted by Greenpeace from January to June, the air in Greater Jakarta was considered "unhealthy" and hazardous for residents, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly.

"In general, there has been a significant increase in premature deaths resulting from strokes, heart disease, respiratory infections (or what the local authorities call ISPA) in children, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases," said Bondan Andriyanu, Greenpeace campaign spokesman for climate and energy.

Using the risk analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Project conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Greenpeace found that the great increase of people who suffered from pollution-related diseases occurred in areas that were highly exposed to the pollutant.

For example, in Cibubur, East Jakarta, the area with the worst air pollution with PM 2.5 levels reaching 106 micrograms per cubic meter, children have 105 per cent more chance of suffering from ISPA, while the risk of stroke sky rocketed by 150 per cent.

Greenpeace's findings are supported by data from the Jakarta Health Agency that shows that respiratory diseases rank first among the 10 most common diseases suffered by Jakartans.

Jakarta Smart City has also uploaded data showing that thousands of Jakartans, especially those who live near busy streets such as in Cilandak, Setiabudi, Pancoran and Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta, suffer from respiratory problems.

In 2016, the number of children in Jakarta who suffered pneumonia, which can be triggered by air pollution, was 41,053, almost double the previous year's total of 24,193 affected children.

The secretary-general of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI), Moh. Adib Khumaidi, said pneumonia could be triggered by exposure to PM 2.5.

In general, poor air quality could cause respiratory problems, he said.

Despite the increased number of cases of respiratory illnesses in the city, the Jakarta Health Agency said it had not conducted research on the impacts of air pollution on residents' health.

However, Dicky Alsadik, head of environmental health at the Jakarta Health Agency, said air pollution could cause respiratory problems as the toxins might disturb the function of the body's organs and negatively affect one's immunity.

To protect themselves against emissions of PM2.5, residents have been advised by Greenpeace to wear N95 surgical masks, instead of regular disposable masks.

"We also urge the government to establish a proper, publicly-accessible air quality monitoring system for residents," he said.

Technical unit head of the environment laboratory at the Jakarta Environment Agency, Diah Ratna Ambarwati, said that next year the agency would procure equipment to analyse PM 2.5, as it currently only has devices to monitor PM 10.

Read more!