Best of our wild blogs: 23 Dec 17

Rare tree at Chek Jawa coastal hill discovered: a new record for Pulau Ubin
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Singapore begins first detailed archaeological surveys on Pulau Ubin

Justin Ong Channel NewsAsia 22 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) and ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS) on Friday (Dec 22) announced the start of the first phase of in-depth archaeological surveys on Pulau Ubin.

The surveys started a week ago and are being conducted at two World War Two gun emplacements of Ubin’s Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat (AMTB) battery, which were built north of the island between 1936 and 1939 to defend the Johor Straits.

The gun emplacements now reside at a National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) campsite.

Surveys will take place in three phases over 18 months, said ISEAS associate fellow and archaeologist Lim Chen Sian during a media visit which was attended by Second Minister for National Development and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.

“Previously there were only pedestrian surveys involving mainly visual inspection, as early as 1949,” Mr Lim added. “Now we have the resources ... to figure out what really happened here.

“At this stage it’s really about documenting, mapping out, creating an inventory and blueprint.”

Depending on results of the first phase, more surveys may be carried out at the gun emplacements or at other sites on the western side of Ubin.

The detailed study of the archaeological and historical remains at these sites will involve fieldwork such as identifying, mapping and recording heritage features - along with basic sampling such as surface collections.

Sub-surface probes may also be carried out to analyse areas with a high probability of buried remains.

The surveys will complement and add to ongoing cultural heritage and biodiversity research on the island, and serve as a guide for NParks to strategise conservation efforts, according to the agency’s Ubin director Robert Teo.

“We will explore the possibility of future public access,” he said. “The idea is to preserve (historical sites like these) for future generations to enjoy.”

Source: CNA/kk

First in-depth archaeological study on Pulau Ubin begins
TOH EE MING Today Online 22 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE — Researchers are on their latest quest to uncover another slice of Singapore’s history, with the start of an inaugural series of in-depth archaeological surveys on Pulau Ubin. They will begin by examining World War Two artefacts.

Led by the National Parks Board (NParks) and Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, the first of the surveys kicked off on Friday (Dec 22) at the National Police Cadet Corps Campsite on the 10.2 sq km island.

The former site of the World War Two gun emplacement of the Ubin Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat battery, it is a rare surviving example of war relics found in Singapore.

Estimated to have been constructed between 1936 and 1939, the guns were positioned on Pulau Ubin to defend the Johor Straits from enemy ships and were part of a fortification along Singapore’s northeastern coast, running from Changi to Pulau Tekong.

The 18-month study, which will be split into three phrases, will document the archaeological and historical remains at selected sites on the island.

As part of the Ubin Project — which seeks ideas from the public on how to preserve the island’s rustic charm — the study will complement ongoing cultural heritage and biodiversity research on Pulau Ubin.

The findings will add to existing information about the island’s cultural heritage. Much of its history is still unknown despite the presence of a number of abandoned historical sites dating back to the 1800s.

Under the first phase of the study, fieldwork by the 12-member team will include surveys that identify, map, and record heritage features with basic sampling of surface collections. Subsurface probes may be used to analyse areas where there is a high probability of buried archaeological remains.

Iseas associate fellow Lim Chen Sian said the findings will be pivotal in shedding light on Singapore’s trade, economic and military history, and contribute to archaeological and historic research.

For instance, part of the study will investigate whether the former gun emplacement site was used during the Battle of Singapore or by the Japanese, what happened to it post-war, whether there was evidence of the guns mounted, or the presence of soldiers, he said.

Previously, there were only pedestrian surveys involving mainly visual inspection, from as early as 1949, Mr Lim added. “It’s about creating an inventory at this stage, mapping it out, measuring everything, and making a blueprint.”

Depending on the findings of the first phrase, subsequent archaeological surveys may be conducted at the same areas or at the western part of the island.

Other areas of research include looking at aspects of social history, such as the roles supporting the military – the water coolies, washer women, or people who polished the soldiers’ boots, for instance.

“We know big events happened, but there are little things that tell a story as well... Archaeology doesn’t just give you the big macro picture, but (studying the activities of the soldiers) also evoke some kind of emotion (about what they went through),” said Mr Lim.

The former gun emplacement site is in a restricted area, and NParks’ director for Pulau Ubin Robert Teo said the authorities will explore making it accessible to the public.

“There’s been a lot of work done on the cultural and natural heritage of Pulau Ubin, such as the biodiversity of wildlife,” said Mr Teo. “This survey will give another layer of information to help us for future management, so this can be preserved and conserved for future generations to enjoy as well.”

There are nine of such gun emplacement sites in Singapore, such as at Changi Outer and Changi Inner (the present Changi Ferry terminal), two at Palau Tekong and one at Sentosa.

NParks is funding the study with S$38,000 in cash, while Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute is contributing S$107,000 worth of manpower, equipment and expertise.

In-depth survey may unearth Ubin's mystery
Archaeological study will explore why there is no evidence of guns at rare WWII battery
Rachel Au-Yong Straits Times 23 Dec 17;

On the northern shores of Pulau Ubin sit two emplacements, meant to hold guns capable of shooting 70 rounds a minute.

The battery, estimated to have been built between 1936 and 1939, was positioned to defend the Strait of Johor from enemy ships.

It was part of an entire fortification system along Singapore's north-eastern coast, from Changi to Pulau Tekong.

There were nine such emplacements in total, but the two on Ubin are rare examples of World War II relics here that have been preserved intact.

However, there is no evidence that actual guns were ever mounted on the emplacements.

Now, researchers want to know why. They hope for answers as they embark on an archaeological survey that will have three phases over 18 months to shed light on Singapore's trade, and economic and military history.

"One school of thought is that (the British) ran out of money," said ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute associate fellow Lim Chen Sian yesterday, in officially launching the survey.

"If guns were mounted here, they would have had gunners manning the fort, and there would be a lot of debris - soldiers would be drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, eating and throwing trash. If we can find that, the entire assemblage of artefacts would suggest this place has been used.

"So far, we haven't come across anything like that," he said, adding that he would like to find out what happened to the post during and after World War II.

The National Parks Board (NParks), an agency under the Ministry of National Development, is contributing $38,000 to the research, while ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute is giving $107,000 in kind.

For the first phase of the study, the team of six researchers, who live on the island, will document and study the battery in detail.

They will also carry out basic sampling, and may use sub-surface probes in areas where there is a high likelihood of buried remains.

This is the first in-depth survey of the 1,020ha island - about 10 times the size of Sengkang town and a 15-minute boat ride from the mainland.

It is famous for its rich biodiversity, but not much is known about its history.

The sites of the gun emplacements at the National Police Cadet Corps campsite in Pulau Ubin. One of the sites is located in the jungle (above), while the other has been fitted with a replica of a gun (left). In reality, no evidence has been found to
The sites of the gun emplacements at the National Police Cadet Corps campsite in Pulau Ubin. One of the sites has been fitted with a replica of a gun (above). PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
As for the next two phases of the study, Dr Lim said it was still early days yet. But he hopes to look into the cultural heritage of Pulau Ubin, already known for its rich biodiversity.

"It would be interesting to study the other people serving the military - who were the ones providing food, who were the ones polishing their boots," he said.

He added that the survey would be of great historical value.

"The United Kingdom's greatest defeat was in Singapore - they lost a lot of people, a whole squadron of ships, so this in itself is historical on an international level."

At the same time, he hoped that the findings will eventually tell a story about life on the island.

"Archaeology can not only give you the big picture but also go down to the little things, like what soldiers eat," he said.

Yesterday, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee visited the site, which is located in the National Police Cadet Corps' Camp Resilience campsite.

It is currently closed to the public, but an NParks spokesman said it could be made open to the public in the future.

Mr Lee later said on Facebook that the survey is part of the Government's efforts to conserve the island's cultural heritage and biodiversity through The Ubin Project, which was started in 2014, and will "guide NParks in the management strategies for Pulau Ubin".

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Powering Singapore's growth through green finance

Simon Tay and Yeo Lian Sim Straits Times 23 Dec 17;

President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Agreement for fear that it gives the world's top polluting countries an edge over his country. Others, like the European Union and China, however, remain committed to combating climate change and are taking the lead. Singapore is joining those who will move ahead.

At the UN Climate Change Conference last month in Germany, Singapore Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli announced that Singapore will designate 2018 as the Year of Climate Action. This underscores a raft of measures implemented over the past two years.

One key step will be a carbon tax imposed from 2019 on large direct emitters of greenhouse gases. The exact amount of tax is not announced but it is expected to steer companies towards greater energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions. This follows moves by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to require all listed companies to report according to its sustainability reporting guidelines on a "comply or explain" basis.

A United Nations-backed network of investors has also released new voluntary climate-related indicators that are aligned with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The task force was set up by the G-20's Financial Stability Board to provide guidelines that will help in the assessment and pricing of climate-related risk and opportunities.

Climate change has become an issue for both environmentalists and businesses.

Financial institutions here are doing their bit. Besides the guidelines on responsible financing introduced by the Association of Banks in Singapore in 2015, Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong also announced last month that the government will push for deeper environmental, social and governance (ESG) integration within financial institutions.

ESG is a term used by investors and capital markets to evaluate corporate behaviour and to determine the future financial performance of companies based on their performance in areas such as environmental sustainability.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore is also including sustainability as an aspect of its supervision of banks.

Collectively, these are strong signals of the shift towards sustainable development. Even as some companies are concerned with the additional costs, time and paperwork associated with sustainable reporting, business opportunities also abound.

Take green finance, for example. The idea of green finance - channelling capital to sustainable industries, companies and projects - is already gaining significant momentum in the West and among major Asian economies.

China emphasised green finance in its 13th five-year plan (2016-2020) as playing an important role in the country's new model of development and growth.

During the recent 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that the country must seek a model of sustainable development characterised by higher production, better living standards and healthy ecosystems. Already, five provinces have been identified as pilot zones to promote green finance.

Japan is also making headlines with its move towards greener investments. Its Government Pension Investment Fund - one of the world's largest and most influential pension funds - announced in July that it would raise its allocation of environmentally and socially responsible investments from 3 to 10 per cent.

Closer to home, Asean presents various opportunities. A study by DBS and the UN Environment Inquiry highlighted that US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) in green investment is needed between 2016 and 2030 across infrastructure, renewable energy, energy efficiency and food, agriculture and land use.

Green finance offers a means to ensure that these projects are not only economically viable in the long term, but also remain well integrated and accepted among the local communities.

Currently, Singapore lacks a strong and established green finance market. Some remain suspicious about "green washing", when companies or investment funds only appear to be environmentally beneficial.

Instruments that provide information regarding the long-term environmental impacts of green projects are still underdeveloped or in their infancy.

Other players across banks, insurance companies and institutional investors have recognised the untapped opportunities and ventured into green finance, resulting in multiple shades of green.

Local banks today are more explicit in integrating minimum ESG standards in their financing processes. Forums on sustainable investments have emerged, including those led by asset management firms seeking to generate interest and demand. Most insurers, however, still have some way to go.

Such diversity is to be expected at this early stage. There are differing levels of will and capacity, as financial institutions react to different factors. Overly rigid definitions and rules that limit adoption and innovation should be avoided. Instead, having a "band of green" definition can be positive for more institutions to explore green finance's potential and develop leading-edge green products and services.


To combat climate change and develop Singapore as a green finance hub, a collaborative effort among governments, financial institutions and businesses is essential. Key initial steps are needed to jump-start a green finance market and investments.

First, defining the value of green is critical. Such information is important so that financial institutions and corporations start to recognise the value of green and measure its impact on business and investment. This should be aligned with global standards and practices. Wilmar International, for example, became the first palm oil company to link the interest rate of its bank loan to its sustainability performance.

Greater clarity over what is green will start to emerge as larger companies and small and medium-sized enterprises start to disclose their ESG performance.

The availability of material data supports and adds to the value of green. It also addresses the problem of green washing by making sure that investors are more discerning about the quality of projects or financial instruments they are investing.

Moreover, institutional investors, especially large, influential or government-linked investors must be incentivised to increase their portfolio of green investments or establish "green pockets".

Having a green mandate creates strong demand for green opportunities, creating a ripple effect throughout the value chain in terms of new product creation, as well as skills development.

The world seeks a shift towards sustainability in response to concerns over climate change, and so must Singapore, more so now than ever before. This is not only for the country's future, but also to support the growing needs of the South-east Asia region that it serves.

As one of the world's financial hubs, Singapore can and should make green finance its next step.

Simon Tay is chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Yeo Lian Sim is special adviser on diversity at the SGX and vice-chairman of the TCFD. Both authors are also co-chairmen of the Collaborative Initiative for Green Finance in Singapore, which led to the launch of the report "Singapore as a Green Finance Hub for Asean and Asia" at the G-20 Green Finance Conference in Singapore.

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Indonesia: Nine die as bad weather hits South Sulawesi

Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post 23 Dec 17;

Bad weather has hit Makassar and other cities across South Sulawesi in the past week. Nine people have reportedly died as heavy rains swept through the area in the last two days.

Makassar resident Muhammad Fadli, 7, died of electric shock during flooding on Thursday. Nur Anna, 46, died after a concrete fence at a warehouse, the foundations of which were swept away during heavy rain, collapsed on her. Daeng Leo, a resident of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) housing complex in Tello Baru, died after he fell and was dragged away by flooding in front of his house on Thursday. His body was found on Friday.

The remaining six people are Jeneponto residents. They died when a vehicle they were traveling in skidded on a wet road in Takalar and crashed into a swamp early on Friday.

It was suspected the driver of the vehicle, which was carrying seven people, drove at a high speed and lost control as it passed along a road that was slippery because of the rain. Three people died at the scene while three others died on their way to the hospital. Another passenger survived the incident and is being treated at a hospital in Jeneponto.

Following the high-intensity rain, floods inundated several areas across Makassar from Thursday to Friday. Around 3,000 residents have been evacuated as floodwater with a depth of between 60 centimeters to more than 2 meters inundated their houses. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Environment Ministry Wins Lawsuit against Corporation Causing Forest Fire

NetralNews 22 Dec 17;

JAKARTA, NNC - The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) again showed its firmness to the corporation causing forest and land fire (Karhutla) by winning a civil suit against PT Ricky Kurniawan Kertapersada (PT RKK) in Jambi.

"This is the form of commitment and consistency of Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya against the perpetrators of environmental and forestry crimes, including those done by the corporation," said Director General of Law Enforcement at Environment Ministry Rasio Ridho Sani in Jakarta, Friday (12/22/2017).

He said through the civil suit filed at the Jambi District Court on December 14, 2016, the Environment Minister sued PT RKK for the forest and land fire incident caused by the company's activities.

The lawsuit was initially rejected by the Jambi District Court on June 12, 2017, but the Environment Minister submitted an appeal to the High Court (PT) of Jambi.

Until finally on December 21, 2017, the court declared PT RKK guilty and had to pay material compensation and the cost of ecological restoration amounting to IDR191,804,261,700.

Rasio Ridho Sani who is familiarly called Roy said that law enforcement for corporations involved in forest and land fires, by administrative, criminal, and civil means is a real commitment of the government to indict the perpetrators of environmental and forest crimes.

He hoped the decision of PT Jambi can provide a deterrent effect for the perpetrators of destruction of the environment and forest areas, especially forest and land burners. He is also optimistic that all parties can work together to preserve nature, and realize a smoke-free Indonesia.

For information, PT RKK is an oil palm plantation operating in Puding Village, Kumpeh Sub-district, Muaro Jambi Regency, Jambi Province. The company is known to have burned land in PT RKK plantation area amounting to 591 hectares (ha) in 2015.

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Vietnam: Rare doucs in Son Tra need preserving

VietNamNet Bridge 22 Dec 17;

Scientists have called on re-programming the development of the Son Tra peninsula to protect doucs, a rare primate.

Green Viet, a biodiversity conservation center, said there are more than 1,300 doucs in Son Tra. However, Tran Viet Phuong, head of the Da Nang Forest Rangers’ Unit, said the figure is ‘unconvincing’.

“The previous research found that there were 300-700 doucs, while Green Viet’s survey found 1,300. The number of doucs cannot increase so rapidly,” Phuong said.

He said the Da Nang Forest Rangers’ Unit would make a proposal to carry out further research on biodiversity in Son Tra peninsula, under which scientists would survey the number of red shanked doucs and their characteristics and habits.

Replying to doubts about the number of doucs in Son Tra, Tran Huu Vy, director of Green Viet, said there was no basis to say if the number of doucs in Son Tra had decreased or increased.

He said the surveys in the past were carried out in just some areas of the peninsula and they each had different figures.

Vy affirmed that Green Viet’s figure is more reliable as its scientists surveyed nearly all areas in Son Tra.

According to Vy, the survey method applied by Green Viet is an advanced, accurate method applied by many primate research organizations.

The research team carried out a survey in many areas at the same time over a total length of 139 kilometers at 150 points on Son Tra peninsula. Scientists found 1,335 doucs, belonging to 237 groups.

He said the results of the survey show that efforts to protect doucs in Son Tra have brought results. This also means that Vietnam still has opportunities to preserve the primate.

“The locality’s development plan should be adjusted. Son Tra must not turn into an accommodation and resort center,” he said.

Vu Ngoc Thanh from the Hanoi University of Natural Sciences said there was no need to carry out a survey again to find the exact number of doucs.

“It doesn’t matter how many red shanked doucs there are in Son Tra. What we need to focus now on is preserving the precious primate if their habitat is affected by resort projects,” Thanh said.

“Some analysts say villas and resorts in the areas 200 meters above sea water would not affect biodiversity and the doucs. However, this is precisely the area with the richest biodiversity. This is also the area where doucs look for food,” Thanh said.

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Diverting aid to fund waste collection will save lives and clean the ocean, says charity

UK government should make tenfold increase in the amount of aid spent on dealing with plastic waste, says Tearfund
Sandra Laville The Guardian 21 Dec 17;

The British government should divert hundreds of millions of pounds from its aid budget to help developing countries clear up their waste and reduce marine plastic pollution, a charity has said.

The development charity Tearfund is in talks with senior government figures, and hopes to persuade ministers to increase the spending on waste and rubbish collection in the developing world from a few million pounds to hundreds of millions a year.

Environment secretary Michael Gove has spoken recently of how he has been left haunted by the scale of marine plastic pollution exposed on Blue Planet 2 and is urging more of the UK’s development budget to be spent helping countries tackle plastic waste.

Tearfund argues the impact of increasing spending will be huge, tackling a public health crisis in developing countries created by waste mountains and contributing to reducing plastic pollution of the oceans.

The British government contributes less than 0.3% of its £13bn aid budget – less than £39m – to rubbish and waste management in developing countries.

Tearfund is pressing for donor nations across the world to increase spending to 3%, which would amount to around £390m a year for the UK, but which the charity says would have a major impact on reducing marine litter.

Joanne Green from Tearfund said many developing countries were trying to tackle plastic waste but did not have systems in place to deal with the scale of the problem. The charity helps support community groups in Brazil and Nigeria who are trying to tackle a growing plastic waste mountain that affects their health and life expectancy.

“In Africa 12 countries have attempted to implement plastic bag bans, for example, and so far only Rwanda has really managed it successfully. It shows there is a desire there and a realisation of the problem, because waste in developing countries is going through the roof. It is expected to double in the next 15-20 years primarily because of increased consumption, and as developing countries adopt western-style disposable economies:

“But they don’t have the waste management systems in place to deal with it. This is a major cause of marine litter.”

A recent study revealed that 90% of marine plastic pollution comes from 10 rivers which are all in developing countries; two in Africa and eight in Asia. The report found that the more waste in an area is not disposed of properly, the more plastic ultimately ends up in the river and eventually the sea.

More than 8m tonnes of plastic enters the oceans each year and plastic fibres have been found in drinking water around the world.

Much of the increased plastic waste is from bottled water products. The Guardian revealed that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, the vast majority bottled water, and consumption will increase to more than half a trillion by 2012.

“The waste creates huge health issues in developing countries because a lot of it is burnt,” said Green. She said 270,000 people a year die from respiratory diseases related to burnt waste. Other health problems were caused by waste plastic clogging up drains and rivers, causing life-threatening diseases.

Green said increased spending on supporting developing countries to clear and recycle their waste plastic, would improve local health and reduce marine pollution. “At the moment very little aid is spent globally on waste, and it is a problem which is growing hugely as a middle class develops in many countries,” she said. “The development community has not caught up with this and donor countries have not caught up with this; it is a public health crisis.”

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, has been in meetings with NGOs, as part of efforts to stem the flow of marine litter.

Gove is expected to back a plastic bottle deposit scheme in the new year as part of a plan to improve recycling rates.

A spokeswoman for the Department for International Development, which manages 74% of the aid budget said: “The environment secretary and international development secretary are working together to see what more we can do in this area.

“Their departments have a strong record of work on the environment and development – and tackling marine pollution is a good example of where we can apply the government’s joint strengths.

“The issue will be on the agenda for next year’s Commonwealth Summit being held here in the UK, and that will provide a further opportunity to show global leadership in tackling this critical issue.”

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