Best of our wild blogs: 12 Oct 17

Seashore begins at Marina East
wild shores of singapore

19 Oct (Thu): FREE talks on "Plastic Oceans" at St John's Island
wild shores of singapore

What’s in the Lab?
Mei Lin NEO

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Banyan Tree to open first resort in Singapore at Mandai

Channel NewsAsia 11 Nov 17;

SINGAPORE: Banyan Tree Holdings will open its first resort in Singapore with a new eco-friendly development at Mandai.

The luxury resort operator has been appointed to set up the new development, which will be owned by Mandai Park Holdings and operated by Banyan Tree, the Mandai precinct developer announced on Wednesday (Oct 11).

This will be the first time guests can stay in "full-service accommodation" at the "doorstep of Singapore's wildlife parks", Mandai Park Holdings said in a press release.

With an estimated 400 rooms, the resort will provide an "immersive stay close to nature", Mandai Park Holdings said. It added that guests will be able to explore the precinct's five wildlife parks, nature-themed indoor attractions and public green spaces.

Located on a 4.6-hectare plot of land at the eastern end of the Mandai precinct, the resort will provide standard and family rooms as well as elevated cabins or treehouses.

Guests will also be able to go on guided nature walks, native wildlife spotting tours and recycling workshops. It will also adopt environmentally friendly design and construction and operate along sustainable principles.

A 15m-wide strip of land along the edge of the Upper Seletar Reservoir will also be set aside to create a buffer for plants.

The resort hopes to appoint a designer by 2018, with construction to start in 2020 and expected to last for two-and-a-half years. The development will be capped at four storeys - or 21m - high.

The resort is expected to create 400 jobs, Mandai Park Holdings said.

The development is part of the Mandai nature and wildlife precinct's overall aim to "inspire guests to value and conserve biodiversity through memorable experiences," said the group CEO of Mandai Park Holdings Mike Barclay.

The Mandai precinct is undergoing a rejuvenation project, which will see the relocation of Jurong Bird Park and the development of a new Rainforest Park in the same area as the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.
Source: CNA/nc

Banyan Tree to run new eco-friendly resort in Mandai
SIAU MING EN Today Online 12 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — Luxury resort operator Banyan Tree Holdings will be operating an eco-friendly resort that features “elevated” cabins surrounded by tree canopies, as well as other amenities, when a new mega-nature attraction in Mandai opens in 2023.

The company and Mandai Park Holdings, which manages wildlife attractions such as the Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park, jointly announced the news on Wednesday (Oct 11).

This will be the first time visitors to the wildlife parks in Mandai can get to stay in a full-service accommodation. The Singapore Zoo already offers overnight camps.

Mr Mike Barclay, group chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings, said at Wednesday’s press conference that the resort is expected to offer a range of room types, from budget to exclusive options. These include standard and family rooms, cottages in mid-air or “treehouses”. Details are not known yet on how the high-level cabins will be constructed. There will be up to 400 rooms available.

Mr Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree, said that while people generally associated the Banyan Tree with expensive resorts, the upcoming one in Mandai has the potential to offer different price points to remain accessible to Singaporeans and foreign visitors.

While the new resort will be targeted at young families, the parks’ core clientele, Mr Barclay said that the two companies plan to have some “very unusual experiences” that would be finalised when their design partner is selected next year.

Some of the proposed plans are for guests to go on guided nature walks and wildlife spotting tours, or attend recycling workshops and educational movie screenings. These will create “an immersive stay” that is “close to nature” and inspire them to care for biodiversity and develop sustainable behaviour.

Construction work is expected to begin in 2020 and will take about 2.5 years to complete.

This will be Banyan Tree’s first resort in Singapore after setting up 43 in 25 countries in the last 23 years. It operates a spa in Marina Bay Sands here.

By 2023, the area in Mandai will be expanded to include the relocated Bird Park and a new Rainforest Park. The Bird Park and Rainforest Park are scheduled to open by 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Mr Barclay said that Banyan Tree was picked from among eight hotel groups which had competed for the project. It aims to be the “most environmentally progressive resort” in Singapore, where guests could be reminded to be more thoughtful when using resources. They will be notified of their water and electricity usage levels in their rooms and could receive credits on their bill if usage is low.

The resort’s name – which will be determined at a later date – will be associated with the Banyan Tree brand, one of the four brands under the operator. The other brands are Angsana, Cassia and Dhawa.

It will sit on a 4.6ha plot of land — about the size of six football fields — on the eastern end of the Mandai precinct.

Part of the land is now occupied by back-of-house facilities for the existing wildlife parks, such as a sewage treatment plant, animal quarantine facilities and workers’ quarters. These will be de-commissioned and the land cleared for the resort.

Both Mandai Park Holdings and Banyan Tree said that the design and development of the resort would be done with “careful consideration to the surroundings”, and based on principles and parameters in the environmental impact assessment report approved by the Government.

A nine-member multi-disciplinary working group, led by Mr Tai Lee Siang, chairman of the World Green Building Council, has been formed to provide expert advice in the areas of design and sustainable operations.

The resort will also be a “low-intensity” development and built sensitively around existing vegetation. For instance, the height of the resort will be capped at four storeys, so that they remain below the tree canopies.

A 15m-wide strip of land along the edge of the Upper Seletar Reservoir will be set aside as a buffer with retained vegetation, while the site will also be designed such that native wildlife may move around and to their habitats.

Within the resort, specific measures will be in place to control lighting and noise emissions. Sustainable designs to reduce and reuse energy, waste and water will also be adopted, such as allowing natural ventilation and daylight, and using renewable energy sources and materials with lower carbon emissions.

Banyan Tree to run resort at upcoming Mandai nature hub
Eco-friendly hotel will be ready by 2023, and cater to visitors to area's five wildlife parks
Audrey Tan Straits Times 12 Oct 17

Visitors to the wildlife parks in Mandai will in future get the chance to stay in the area past nightfall.

By 2023, they can spend the night in an eco-friendly hotel run by Banyan Tree Holdings, a Singapore-based hotel chain known for its luxury resorts around the world.

When opened, it will be the chain's first resort in the Republic.

Banyan Tree and Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) announced plans for the hotel yesterday.

MPH is spearheading plans to turn Mandai into a nature destination with five wildlife parks. The relocated Bird Park from Jurong and Rainforest Park will join the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari currently there.

The hotel will be capped at four storeys and occupy 4.6ha of land on the existing compound. It will have a variety of offerings, from standard and family rooms to elevated cabins and tree houses, to cater to guests with different budgets, MPH group chief executive Mike Barclay said ata briefing.

The hotel can have up to 400 rooms - the maximum number set out in an earlier environmental study, which looked at how the development could be done in a way that would least impact the sensitive habitats and wildlife in the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The hotel will also offer a variety of activities, such as talks on conservation and guided nature walks.

"This stayover experience forms an integral part of our overall vision for the Mandai nature and wildlife precinct - to inspire guests to value and conserve biodiversity through memorable experiences," said Mr Barclay.

Banyan Tree was selected as the hotel operator following a request for proposals, which saw submissions by eight companies. Construction is expected to start in 2020, after design and operation plans for the resort are finalised.

Yesterday, MPH and Banyan Tree said the upcoming hotel will be designed in an eco-friendly way. Flora of conservation value will be protected, and a 15m-wide vegetation buffer will be retained between the hotel and the adjacent Upper Seletar Reservoir.

Dr Guan Chong, head of the marketing programme at the Sin-gapore University of Social Sciences' business school, said the hotel will differentiate itself from others, being located so close to the wildlife parks.

"Currently... tourists who visit the parks have to travel back to the city centre after their visit.

"Being the first to be there, the Banyan Tree resort in Mandai can cater to the needs of park visitors and will face less competition as compared with hotels in the downtown area."

But concerns have been raised by nature enthusiasts about the impact the hotel's presence will have on wildlife there.

Mr Barclay said its design is paramount. "Two children in a swimming pool located at the edge of the resort could result in noise travelling to the reserve. But by placing the pool in the centre of the resort, and using buildings and other noise abatement strategies, this can be reduced," he said.

Nature guide Ivan Kwan hopes the resort will be designed and built in such a way that the abundant bird life will not fly into hotel structures.

Mr Tai Lee Siang, chair of the World Green Building Council and a member of Mandai's Environmental Advisory Panel, said such incidents could be reduced with the use of fewer reflective surfaces.

Mr Kwan said: "Another concern would be how the resort will deal with wildlife that the guests and staff will inevitably encounter.

"The resort will need to have proper guidelines for human-wildlife interactions, and ensure these are followed by the guests."

No conflict of interest in selection: Developer
Audrey Tan Straits Times 12 Oct 17;

Developer Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) said there was no conflict of interest involved in the selection of Banyan Tree Holdings as the operator of an eco-friendly hotel in the upcoming Mandai nature hub.

Mr Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree, is married to Ms Claire Chiang, former chairman of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) - the operating arm of MPH that manages the wildlife parks.

Ms Chiang is currently senior vice-president at Banyan Tree Holdings, and one of 10 directors sitting on the MPH board.

The WRS board was dissolved in October 2015, when MPH was established to oversee WRS and Mandai Park Development - MPH's development arm.

An MPH spokesman said: "Ms Claire Chiang recused herself from the entire Request for Proposal process and any deliberations by the MPH board. She was neither involved in Banyan Tree's proposal submission nor MPH's evaluation and selection process."

MPH group chief executive Mike Barclay said Banyan Tree has a strong track record in developing and managing resorts that are sensitively located and sustainably operated.

"Through its global portfolio of resorts, it runs many meaningful environmental conservation and community programmes. In this regard, we are deeply aligned," he added.

Audrey Tan

Mandai resort could be novel staycation option and draw tourists who enjoy the tropics
SIAU MING EN Today Online 11 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — Banyan Tree Holdings’ future resort at the Mandai mega-nature attraction will appeal to both local and foreign visitors, and could get tourists to spend an extra day or two in Singapore, said tourism experts.

The 4.6 hectare resort, which will be sited near the zoo and could open in 2023, will have a mix of room types, such as standard and family rooms as well as treehouses, said Mandai Park Holdings and the luxury resort operator on Wednesday (Oct 11).

It will offer a novel staycation option for locals and appeal to young families as well as regular visitors to the zoo, bird park and other attractions under Mandai Park Holdings, said tourism experts.

Tourists from Australia, Europe and the United States who are attracted to tropical destinations such as Singapore could also sign up as guests, said National University of Singapore marketing Professor Jochen Wirtz.

The resort would attract visitors drawn to eco-friendly facilities, said Dr Michael Chiam, senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

“I think generally, these are the groups of people who are quite tired of the run-of-the mill hotels, (such as) the typical concrete-jungle type of hotels,” he said.

Given the Banyan Tree Holdings brand is “quite well-known” in China, the resort can expect travellers from the country, said Dynasty Travel public relations and communications director Alicia Seah. Singapore is already a top Asia-Pacific destination for Chinese tourists, and some analysts believe the future resort could provide a reason for repeat or longer visits to the Republic.

“Singapore tries very hard to create things (where) the average length of stay of the tourists increase… (The resort) could easily add two days (to) their holiday,” said Prof Wirtz.

The resort, which will have up to 400 rooms, will be bigger than Banyan Tree’s usual resorts that typically have a hundred or fewer rooms, he said.

But would it be big enough to meet potential demand? Prof Wirtz said it would depend on prices charged, which can be adjusted to manage demand.

The rooms could be priced similarly to five-star hotels or those at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which offer a mix of room types, said observers. Rooms can cost about S$290 to S$1600 per weekend night at RWS’ hotels, which cater to groups ranging from families and couples on a romantic getaway, to visitors who want to feel closer to nature.

In addition, the appointment of Banyan Tree Holdings to operate the resort could create jobs for Singaporeans, said Ms Shirley Tee, course manager for Nanyang Polytechnic’s Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Church worker Steven Loh, 45, whose family used to visit the zoo about six times a year, said he would consider taking his family to the resort if it is not too expensive.

The father of two girls aged 5 and 10 is planning to stay at a similar resort in Taiwan during an upcoming vacation.

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Singapore Airlines to use more sustainable ingredients for in-flight meals

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: Flag carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) said it will use more sustainable ingredients in its in-flight meals as part of its efforts to promote environmental sustainability and support local farmers.

SIA announced its new From Farm to Plane initiative on Wednesday (Oct 11) on the sidelines of the World Gourmet Forum in Kranji.

Under the new initiative, SIA said it will use more sustainable and "meatless" ingredients in its in-flight meals. More local produce, such as cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, green beans and other leafy vegetables will be sourced from farms from both Singapore and destination countries.

The Airlines said it has been using sustainably sourced food products for its in-flight meals where it can. For example, it uses fish from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for their sustainable practices. It also obtains produce from local farms in countries the airline serves.

SIA’s Divisional Vice President for Customer Experience Betty Wong said the scope of sustainable sourcing so far has been on a smaller scale, depending on the maturity of certain markets.

But the latest initiative could see an expansion in the amount of locally sourced produce for in-flight meals. Ms Wong said the airline will work with its International Culinary Panel, comprising award-winning chefs who create a selection of meals for its Suites Class passengers, as well as catering companies that prepare in-flight meals, such as SATS in Singapore.

“What we do is when we develop meals, we go to our caterers and say these are the ingredients (for the dish),” Ms Wong said.

“(We ask them) do you have local farmers, do you have local produce that can meet the needs of this dish creation? So we are also working with our international culinary panel chef, that when they design meals for us, and the recipes for us, they actually bear that in mind.”

On Wednesday, the ICP chefs were hosted by local farmers in Kranji, where they were shown locally grown vegetables such as Kai Lan and mushroom, and fish such as the golden pomfret and barramundi.

One of the chefs was renowned American chef Alfred Portale.

“Whenever I create the dishes, I try and understand the product change around the world,” Mr Portale said. “I always give the Singapore chefs (at SATS) substitutions. So if I’m doing seafood, and I’m using swordfish (in the original dish), I would recommend that they can do the dish with a snapper or a barramundi. Even the vegetable garnishes are interchangeable.”

The new menus will initially be introduced to Suites customers on selected routes from December, and will progressively be made available to passengers travelling in other classes, the airline said.

Ms Wong said passengers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, and have requested for “meatless” and sustainably sourced produce in their meals.

Announcing its partnership with Singapore Airlines to offer local produce on SIA flights, the Kranji Countryside Association said that the initiative is a "big milestone".

“It is about time that our local farmers are celebrated internationally and what better way than to offer their produce on one of the world’s best airlines," said the association's president Kenny Eng.

"It makes a great statement that farmers are our pride and joy, just like our national carrier is.”

Going forward, Ms Wong said SIA is also exploring how to convert food waste to biodegradable products such as service-ware.

“That will change the entire cycle of the things we use on board the aircraft,” She said.
Source: CNA/cy

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Two more hawker centres to get waste digesters

Pilot to convert food waste into non-potable water successful
Samantha Boh Straits Times 12 Oct 17;

The locally developed machine, managed by Eco-Wiz, mixes the waste with microbes which digest and decompose the waste into water that is then reused by the machine for self-cleaning or to clean the bin centre.

Following a successful pilot at an Ang Mo Kio hawker centre, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be installing food waste digesters at two more hawker centres next year.

The hawker centres are at Block 58 in New Upper Changi Road and Block 16 in Bedok South Road.

The digesters are expected to convert food waste into non-potable water.

The NEA told The Straits Times that the centres were chosen based on the number of stalls they have, the amount of food waste generated, and the space available to install the digesters.

The digester in Ang Mo Kio, which has a one-tonne food waste capacity, occupies a 3m by 5m space.

The hawker centre in New Upper Changi Road has 163 cooked food and market stalls, while the one in Bedok South Road has 164 cooked food and market stalls.

They each generate about one tonne of food waste each day, which the digesters are expected to convert into non-potable water within 24 hours, the NEA said.

NEA said the pilot at the market and food centre at Block 628 in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 has "performed according to expectations".

Since it was launched in January last year, about 530 tonnes of food waste has been treated, or about one tonne each day.

The locally developed machine, managed by Eco-Wiz, mixes the waste with microbes which digest and decompose the waste into water that is then reused by the machine for self-cleaning or to clean the bin centre.

It costs about $100,000.

The machine was launched along with another pilot at Tiong Bahru Market.

While the digester there treated about 210 tonnes of food waste over a year, the treatment system was discontinued as the open grinding of food waste there resulted in smell nuisance, the NEA said.

That machine was managed by VRM Operations (Singapore).

The NEA is testing an alternative approach for Tiong Bahru Market, by sending food waste collected there to national water agency PUB's demonstration facility in Ulu Pandan for co-digestion with used water sludge.

NEA said its assessment of the pilots at Ang Mo Kio and Tiong Bahru shows that it is operationally feasible to segregate food waste on-site at hawker centres.

Mr Eugene Tay, executive director of non-profit environmental group Zero Waste SG, said: "While it is good to recycle food waste with the digesters, efforts should still be focused on reducing food waste at the stalls through proper food storage, cooking methods, portion sizes, and also redistributing unsold food, 'ugly' or blemished food to charities.

"NEA can also explore if residents living nearby could take their food waste to the digesters for recycling," he added.

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LTA to roll out 50 diesel hybrid buses by second half of 2018

Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: A total of 50 diesel hybrid buses will be put in service gradually by the second half of 2018, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

It announced on Wednesday (Oct 11) that it will buy these buses from Volvo East Asia for S$30 million, as part of efforts to build a more environmentally-friendly bus fleet.

Commuters can also expect quieter and smoother rides with the low-emissions buses, LTA added.

A diesel hybrid bus – which runs on a diesel engine as well as a rechargeable battery - was first tested by transport operator SBS Transit and Volvo in 2015.

"These low-emission buses will help us better understand the operational challenges that come with the wider deployment of such buses under our tropical climate and traffic conditions, which will enable us to calibrate our approach in adopting diesel hybrid buses in the future," the authority said.

The fleet of 50 buses will also help engineers and technicians better understand the challenges in maintaining such buses.

LTA said that Volvo East Asia had submitted a high quality proposal with the best value for money. The company currently provides about a third of Singapore's bus fleet.

"To prepare our bus workforce for this change, LTA will work with industry partners to help upgrade and upskill our bus professionals through the Singapore Bus Academy," it added.

As for electric buses, LTA said that it will soon call a tender for 60 such buses, which will serve commuters by 2019.
Source: CNA/kc

50 diesel hybrid buses to be on the road by second half of 2018
ASYRAF KAMIL Today Online 11 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — Fifty diesel hybrid public buses, which are more environmentally-friendly, will hit the roads here from the second half of next year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Wednesday (Oct 11).

And by 2019, 60 electric buses will also starting plying routes. A tender for these will be called soon, the LTA said.

The hybrid buses, costing S$30 million, will be supplied by Volvo East Asia Pte Ltd, whose buses already form one-third of the entire public bus fleet here. Details of the routes these new hybrid buses will ply will be announced later.

Various trials with “green” buses in recent years, culminating in the Government’s commitment in March this year to buy 60 electric buses and 50 diesel hybrid buses.

Results from earlier tests showed fuel savings of up to 40 per cent on an expressway, and “significant” cuts in the emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, such as particulate matter, compared with conventional diesel buses.

“Not only can commuters expect quieter and smoother rides, bus captains can also enjoy a more comfortable working environment,” the LTA said in a news release.

The authority aims to use this rollout of 50 hybrid buses to find out any operational challenges with running low-emission models in Singapore’s tropical climate and traffic conditions. Bus technicians and engineers can also get familiar with the technical challenges of maintaining such buses, it added.

In March this year, Second Transport Minister Ng Chee Meng said the Republic has already been shifting towards a more environmentally-friendly fleet, with models that meet tighter emission standards. “But really, no emission is better than low emissions,” he had added.

A trial of an electric K9 bus has been carried out on Service 17 and Service 119, with “encouraging” initial feedback. It runs up to nine hours daily and is charged overnight. Preliminary results showed up to 30 per cent savings in fuel costs compared with a conventional diesel bus.

Three-quarters of some 300 commuters surveyed by Go-Ahead who had taken the bus indicated that they found the journey better than one on a diesel bus. They cited quiet operations and good air-conditioning as among the top plus points. Bus captains, too, noted that the bus accelerated and decelerated smoothly and noise had been reduced.

The LTA said it put up a Request for Information for electric buses last week to gather more up-to-date information on the latest electric bus and charging technologies.

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5 takeaways from the first public cleanliness satisfaction survey

Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: Turn your nose up at dirty hawker centres but unwilling to do your part to keep the place clean? That may just be the attitude of some Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, according to a survey on how people perceive cleanliness in public places here.

The survey, conducted by academics Dr Mathew Mathews and Professor Paulin Straughan, is the first of its kind, done with funds from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

A total of 2,000 people were polled recently and here are five takeaways from the survey:

1. Public venues after major events are the dirtiest

The survey found that people were the least satisfied with cleanliness at public venues after major events such as concerts, marathons and the National Day Parade.

Only 59 per cent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the state of these public venues after events.

2. Hawker centres and coffeeshops aren't clean enough

Only 69 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the cleanliness of these eating places. Their biggest pet peeve was leftover food on tables.

But, most people also won't clean up after themselves. Only 35 per cent of respondents cleared up their own food utensils at hawker centres. Food courts on the other hand were seen as cleaner, with 87 per cent of respondents indicating that they were satisfied.

3. You're likely to have seen someone littering or spitting on the ground

A large majority (90 per cent) said they have seen someone littering. However, less than half of them reminded a family member not to litter when they noticed them doing so.

A similarly large proportion of respondents, 87 per cent, said they have seen someone spitting on the ground. Many also said they have seen someone not picking up pet poo. About one in four of the respondents also said they have seen someone urinating or defecating in public.

4. No eating signs on public transport have probably been effective

LRT and MRT stations came in the most satisfactory, according to the survey, with 97 per cent of the respondents saying they were happy with the cleanliness levels at these stations. Bus interchanges came in a close second - 94 per cent of respondents were satisfied.

5. Singapore is a clean city

Despite low satisfaction in some areas, the majority of respondents (94 per cent) agreed that Singapore is a clean city, due to the work of efficient cleaners.

If you think the hawker centre is not clean enough, you are not alone
Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: Are you unhappy with the cleanliness at the hawker centre you go to for lunch? If you are, you could be part of 30 per cent of Singapore residents who feel the same way.

According to a public cleanliness satisfaction survey, fewer residents (69 per cent of respondents) were satisfied with hawker centre and coffee shop cleanliness compared to other areas like MRT stations, HDB void decks and commuter paths.

The biggest pet peeve residents had was leftover food on the table, said Dr Mathew Mathews, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, at a media briefing on the survey results held at the Singapore Management University (SMU) on Wednesday (Oct 11).

Visitors to these eateries were generally dissatisfied with cleaning services, with just over half of the 2,000 respondents satisfied with the thoroughness and frequency of cleaning.

At the same time, only a minority (35 per cent) cleared their own food utensils at hawker centres most of the time or all the time.

"If everybody starts clearing it up, then that will not be an issue and we will be more satisfied with cleanliness at hawker centres. It's really a reality check, that we aspire for some things but maybe we are not really part of the solution," said Dr Mathews.

Air-conditioned food courts fared better, with 87 per cent of respondents satisfied with cleanliness there.

Dr Mathews conducted the survey with SMU sociology professor Paulin Straughan with funds from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Respondents, who were hand-delivered questionnaires that were later collected, were satisfied overall with the cleanliness of public places in Singapore.

Transport spaces like roads, bus stops and MRT stations got the biggest nod, with 93 per cent of those surveyed indicating satisfaction, while public spaces after events like concerts, marathons and the National Day Parade came in last with 59 per cent of those surveyed satisfied.
Source: CNA/nc

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Malaysia: New Sarawak department for parks and wildlife

geryl ogilvy The Star 11 Oct 17;

KUCHING: Sarawak is in the midst of setting up a National Parks and Wildlife Department to better manage the state’s protected areas.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the new department would also focus on promoting tourism and improving revenues to finance the state’s national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

The state is currently working on several aspects, including the restructuring of roles of relevant departments such as the Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation, before the new department starts operations, which could be early next year.

“The new department will result in a more coordinated and focused manpower to meet the challenges of managing our protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries and natural resources more effectively and efficiently,” he told reporters after opening a regional forum on strengthening, diversifying and financing for protected areas here yesterday.

Managing these areas was costly and under the 11th Malaysia Plan, Sarawak had allocated RM43mil for the development of its national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

However, this figure did not include the RM10mil annual operational expenditure, he said.

“About 4.6 million tourist arrivals were recorded for Sarawak last year. Out of this, 12.4% visited national parks and nature reserves, generating direct revenue of about RM5.7mil.

“A rebranding and better promotion of Sarawak’s national parks, strategic marketing and opening of new parks is needed to draw in more visitors which will consequently improve revenue for these protected areas,” he said.

Awang Tengah said the state placed high priority on conservation of its protected areas and wildlife as seen in the gazetting of 37 national parks, 14 nature reserves and five wildlife sanctuaries covering a total area of over 944,000ha to date.

Sarawak is also contributing significantly to the Heart of Borneo project implemented in collaboration with Indonesia and Brunei.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Stefan Priesner, said the agency was working to facilitate the increase in financing of protected areas in Malaysia and the region.

“Malaysia is a country renowned for its rich and diverse biodiversity and ecosystems.

“Indeed, national parks and the wildlife are the backbone of a tourism industry that accounted for US$19.5bil (RM82.4bil) receipts in 2016.

“Nature-based tourism is a rapidly growing sector. UNDP strongly supports the country’s efforts to pursue sustainable development in protected areas.

“UNDP’s Protected Areas Financing project is to establish an effective and robust management system,” he added.

The three-day forum that ends tomorrow attracted over 150 policymakers and experts from UN agencies, ministries of planning, finance and environment as well as development partners and civil society from across the globe.

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Malaysia to issue more green sukuk for infra projects

AZURA ABAS New Straits Times 11 Oct 17;

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will issue more green sukuk to finance environmental-friendly infrastructure projects, and subsequently bolster its position as the key driver in the green Islamic financial market.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili said with a conducive funding ecosystem, the government is confident it can achieve its renewable energy generation target of 7,200 megawatts (MW) by 2020. The solar energy will contribute 2,080MW to it.

"We are capable to raise the nation's energy output via solar through various initiatives- the Feed-in Tariff (FiT), large scale solar (LSS) programme and Net Energy Metering.

"These initiatives can fulfill the country's commitment to reduce its green house gas emission as stipulated under the Paris Agreement made in 2016," he said today.

Ongkili said this before the exchange of documents on green sukuk funding for two large-scale solar projects under LSS programme introduced in 2015.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi witnessed the exchange of such documents between Tadau Energy Sdn Bhd and Quantum Solar Park Semenanjung Sdn Bhd and their investors.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak made a brief appearance before the ceremony started and took a group photo with the companies’ representatives.

Green sukuk are Shariah-compliant investments in renewable energy and other environmental assets. The proceeds are used to finance construction, refinance construction debt, or finance the payment of a government-granted green subsidy.

In July this year, Malaysia, through Tadau Energy, issued the world’s first green sukuk – RM250 million Sustainable Responsible Investment (SRI) sukuk – to finance the construction of an LSS project in Kudat, Sabah.

Quantum Solar, meanwhile, announced the world’s largest green SRI sukuk issuance of RM1 billion recently.

The wholly owned special-purpose vehicle of Quantum Solar intends to raise money to fund a portfolio of three large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plants in Gurun, Kedah, Jasin in Melaka, and Merchang, Terengganu.

The projects are expected to create up to 3,000 jobs, generate electricity for up to 93,000 households and reduce carbon emissions by 210,000 tonnes annually.

Malaysia was reported to have an ideal ecosystem to facilitate the growth of green sukuk as sukuk investor base was larger than the conventional investor base.

Banks in the country had also begun to shift its focus on projects linked to green environment and environmental sustainability.

More developers are reported to embark on projects that can conserve the energy by using solar energy, allowing for a stronger traction for the green sukuk in the future.

Malaysia leads the way in Islamic finance
mazwin nik anis The Star 12 Oct 17;

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia wants to strengthen its leading position in Islamic finance by raising more green sukuk to fund environmentally-friendly infrastructure developments.

Energy, Green Techonology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said Malaysia’s efforts in socially responsible investments (SRI) has received support from the World Bank, which shares its best practices with government agencies and financial institutions.

“Green sukuk is an innovative method to provide financing for sustainable development and we hope to raise more of such sukuk to support future projects that are friendly to the environment,” he said.

He was speaking at a document exchange ceremony for green sukuk financing involving two large-scale solar projects by Tadau Energy Sdn Bhd and Quantum Solar Park Semenanjung Sdn Bhd.

Malaysia made history when RM250mil was raised for Tadau Energy in July, making it the world’s first green SRI sukuk.

Another milestone was when RM1bil was issued for Quantum Solar Park, which is the biggest green sukuk to date.

The exchange of documents was witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dropped by earlier for a group photograph with representatives from the two companies and the financial institutions.

Dr Ongkili said Malaysia was able to boost solar energy’s contribution towards power generation due to initiatives under the feed-in tariff mechanism, large-scale solar projects and net energy metering.

These initiatives are expected to help fulfill the country’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emission in line with the Paris Agreement, he added.

Tadau Energy managing director Susanna Lim said the company is undertaking a large-scale solar project of 50mw in Kudat, Sabah, of which 2mw is already in operation, with the remaining 48mw expected to go live by year-end.

“We have a few more projects in the pipeline and will make an announcement once things have firmed up,” she said.

Its chairman Tan Sri Chua Ma Yu said the company was fortunate to be the first in the world to issue a green sukuk as a result of the collaboration between the World Bank, Bank Negara and Securities Commission.

“We are committed to contributing to Malaysia’s efforts to reduce its dependence on power generated using fossil fuels,” he said.

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Indonesia: Landless Farmers Can Now Utilize Degraded Forests

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 11 Oct 17;

Jakarta. Landless local farmers and natural disasters victims who live in the operations areas of state-owned forestry firm Perhutani have been permitted to utilize degraded forests by a decree issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, officials confirmed on Tuesday (10/10).

A social forestry scheme, or IPHPS, under the ministerial decree allows landless farmers organized in associations to gain profit from the forests degraded by Perhutani.

The so-called degraded forests are lands that have been either logged or destroyed by natural disasters like fires.

The IPHPS implementation started in July. Until Sept. 13, the ministry issued seven permits — covering in total 4,969 hectares — to 2,518 households in Bekasi and Bandung (West Java), Pemalang (Central Java) and Probolinggo (East Java).

According to Hadi Daryanto, the ministry's director general for social forestry and environmental partnerships, three state-owned companies will absorb the production from the degraded forests. Plantation firm PTPN will take tobacco and sugar cane produce, the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) will take rice and corn, while state-run fishery company Perum Perindo will absorb the production from shrimp farms.

Several private companies will also be involved.

"Off-takers will be tied up in an agreement with the permit holders," Hadi said, adding that the government's target is to expand the permits coverage to at least 450,000 hectares.

The ministry's senior adviser, San Afri Awang, said the decree will relieve the economic problems faced by local communities.

"In eastern Indonesia, there is no problem. In Java, on the contrary, many communities near forests are still poor," he said.

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Vietnam: Accelerated erosion threatens homes, income of 700 families

VietNamNet Bridge 11 Oct 17;

Water intrusion in the central coastal province of Thua Thien-Hue has threatened 700 families, with local authorities struggling to find a solution.

The intrusion began some 10 years ago in the province’s Vinh Hai Commune in Phu Loc District, but was aggravated in the past month after strong waves from typhoon Doksuri hit the coast. The sea intrusion progressed at a rate of about 15 metres a year, affecting 700 households whose homes are near the water’s edge, said Nguyen Huu, the commune’s acting chairman.

Nguyen Ngoc Dung, a commune official, said after last month’s typhoon, the erosion had reached 2km inshore in some areas along a 3km stretch of coast and is expected to advance to the commune’s entire 4km length of coast.

Last November, district authorities built a one-kilometre dyke in the most affected area, using rock and steel net. However, strong waves created by Doksuri swallowed the dyke and swept some 3km of coast into the ocean.

According to Dung, local authorities were aware of the growing threat, and instructed that 100,000 trees be planted on the coast to combat erosion, but residents said many trees along the coast were also swept away.

Resident Phan Van Vui said the water had now reached 30m from his house. “I settled down here 15 years ago when the water edge was more than 1km from home, but now it nearly touches my house," he said.

Landslide threat

Le Cu, another local, said that with the fast disappearance of the sandy coast, his family and many others in the neighbourhood are now facing the threat of sudden landslides. According to Dung, landslides have already taken some 250ha of soil used for agricultural cultivation and aquaculture.

Salty intrusion also affected crops and forced local fishermen to seek safer haven for their fishing boats.

While commune authorities have been using poles to reinforce the coast as a temporary measure, district authorities have suggested the construction of a dyke along the 4km stretch of coast.

District chairman Nguyen Van Manh said “only a thorough dyke system can work, as the intrusion is growing too fast.” He suggested asking the central government for funding.

Phan Thanh Hung, director of the province’s Department of Irrigation, said he had encouraged residents to use bags of rock to prevent landslides. As a long-term solution, his agency is setting up a project, which will be launched early next year if the department gets enough capital.

Floods, landslides kill 37 in Vietnam, scores missing
AFP Yahoo News 12 Oct 17;

Hanoi (AFP) - At least 37 people were killed and another 40 are missing as floods and landslides ravaged northern and central Vietnam, disaster officials said Thursday.

Heavy rains lashed swathes of the country this week, with northern Hoa Binh province the hardest hit with 11 dead and 21 missing.

"We are mobilising all forces to search for the missing," a disaster official in the province told AFP by phone.

At least 37 people were killed across six provinces, Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said, as authorities scrambled to find dozens of people still missing.

A journalist from Vietnam News Agency was swept away as an overflowing river cut through a bridge in northern Yen Bai province Wednesday. Authorities were still looking for him Thursday.

Images on state media showed people wading through waist-deep waters and tracts of forests wiped out by landslides in several regions.

At least 18 people were buried in an overnight landslide in Hoa Binh province, with 15 people still missing Thursday, according to state media.

A terrified resident described severe flooding in other parts of the province, where a state of emergency was declared.

"The flash flood was terrible. Water poured down from the hill, like a surge three metres (10 feet) high. Traffic has been blocked because of the floods," Phan Ba Dien told state-controlled VNExpress news site.

Eight people were reported dead in both Nghe An and Thanh Hoa provinces, the disaster agency said, while hundreds of soldiers and militia were deployed for rescue efforts.

At least 400 millimetres (16 inches) of rain has pounded northern and central Vietnam since Sunday, the disaster agency said.

Vietnam has been hard hit by severe weather this year.

In September typhoon Doksuri slammed into central Vietnam, killing 11 people and destroying thousands of properties.

Nearly 170 people are dead or missing from natural disasters this year, which have caused $36 million of damage, according to official figures.

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Scientists trace path of inland plastic pollution from rivers to ocean

Cutting plastic pollution in the 10 listed rivers could reduce plastic pollution in the ocean by as much as 45 percent.
Brooks Hays UPI Yahoo News 11 Oct 17;

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The problem of plastic pollution in the ocean is much talked about. But where does all that garbage come from? How do plastics from inland cities make their way into the ocean?

In setting out to answer those questions, a team of researchers decided to identify 10 rivers around the world where plastic waste mismanagement is most severe. The scientists detailed the 10 biggest plastic polluters in a new paper published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The myth of giant floating patches of garbage has sometimes overshadowed the reality of plastic pollution in the ocean. There are garbage patches, but much of the debris consists of tiny plastic particles suspended in the ocean. Until now, scientists didn't have a detailed understanding of how high concentrations of micro plastics move from inland rivers downstream into the ocean.

The new study promises to fill in the knowledge gap and retrace the microplastic concentration patterns.

Scientists in Germany surveyed dozens of studies on plastic pollution, including data collected from 79 sampling sites along 57 rivers. They discovered a strong link between poor plastic waste management practices and high concentrations of plastics in local waterways.

The analysis of Christian Schmidt -- researcher at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig -- and his colleagues showed just 10 rivers are responsible for 88 to 95 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean. Eight of the 10 rivers are in Asia.

Cutting plastic pollution in the ten listed rivers could reduce plastic pollution in the ocean by as much as 45 percent. Because collecting microplastic particles from the ocean is nearly impossible, researcher say the only ways to curb microplastic pollution is the stop it at its source and intercept it along its route to the ocean.

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