Best of our wild blogs: 27 Dec 17

Singapore got dolphins and dugongs too!
wild shores of singapore

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2017
Singapore Bird Group

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Climate S.O.S

Besides regulatory measures targeting industrial sector, efforts to change mindsets will be key next year
Audrey Tan Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

Over the past year, Singapore has shown how serious it is about tackling the threat of climate change.

It has ramped up, or announced plans to implement, various regulatory initiatives to help the Republic reduce its carbon emissions.

These measures are significant as they target the heaviest emitters: The industrial sector contributes about 60 per cent of carbon emissions in Singapore.

In March, changes were made to the Energy Conservation Act to force large polluters here to step up their green efforts or face enhanced penalties.

Companies have to adopt, among other things, a structured measurement and reporting system for their greenhouse gas emissions.

This will pave the way for a carbon tax scheme that the Government plans to impose from 2019.

But what is also important is the soft approach to tackling climate change, such as by changing people's attitudes and empowering them to make a difference.

Singapore has designated 2018 as its Year of Climate Action, with educational campaigns and outreach efforts on the cards.

The Environment and Water Resources Ministry is engaging climate groups here on ideas for campaigns.

The initiative is timely, especially against a backdrop of increasingly frequent and more intense weather events around the world, which scientists say are symptomatic of climate change.

Singapore may contribute just 0.11 per cent of global emissions, but it ranks 26th out of 142 countries in terms of emissions per capita.

This means that each person in Singapore produces more carbon emissions than his counterpart in Britain, Switzerland or France,according to 2015 data from the International Energy Agency.

This underscores the need to make people in Singapore aware that their actions can make a difference.

Climate change strategies are two-pronged.

Apart from initiatives aimed at reducing Singapore's greenhouse gas emissions, measures to protect the island-state against the effects of climate change - such as rising sea levels - have also been trickling into public policy.

A Coastal Adaptation Study by the Building and Construction Authority, which is expected to conclude by the second half of next year, will make long-term recommendations on how to better protect Singapore's coastal areas.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has also commissioned a study to determine how much fish can be sustainably reared in the farms off Singapore's northern coast, hit numerous times by algae blooms that are occurring more frequently due to climate change.

This study is expected to conclude by August next year.

Singapore has been building up its policies and knowledge base to help it deal with climate change.

But that is the easy part.

Next year will be a game changer as Singapore seeks to tackle climate change on a different front: changing mindsets.

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74 contractors penalised in 2017 for discharging silty water: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 26 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: A total of 74 civil and building contractors have been penalised so far this year for discharging silty water into the waterways, as well as not providing adequate Earth Control Measures (ECM) at their sites, PUB said on Tuesday (Dec 26).

Silty water is generated when rainwater run-off mixes with exposed earth materials and soil at construction site. Contractors are required to implement measures at their sites to remove silt before the water is discharged into public drains.

"Silt, if not removed from construction discharge, will build up in the waterways," said PUB in its press release. "This will affect waterway's effectiveness in channeling stormwater flow and also the environmental aesthetics."

Huationg Contractor was fined S$13,500 in total for four ECM offences, and Samwoh Corporation had to pay up S$10,500 for three violations.

Two other companies convicted - Peng Chuan Engineering Construction and Stallion Development - carried out works that could lead to the discharge of silty water without obtaining a clearance certificate from PUB. They were made to pay S$7,800 and S$7,000 in fines respectively.

PUB's chief engineer for drainage operations Choy Wai Kwong, said everyone has a part to play in keeping the waterways clean.

"Two-thirds of Singapore is water catchment. Silty discharge into the drains and canals will result in accumulation of sediments and affect drainage capacity," said Mr Choy as quoted in the release.

74 construction firms penalised for water pollution this year
Ng Jun Sen Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

A total of 74 construction contractors were punished for discharging silty water into waterways and for providing inadequate earth control measures this year, national water agency PUB said in a statement yesterday.

While this is below the past three years' average of 100 enforcement actions each year, the agency said these errant practices can harm the environment.

Where there are excavation-type activities, known as earthworks, rain can mix with exposed earth and soil, creating a silty run-off which enters drainage systems and water bodies.

This causes an accumulation of sediment in the waterways, which reduces drainage capacity.

Currently, there are about 1,000 construction sites involved in earthworks.

Of the 74 companies cited, the agency highlighted four that were penalised this year. Two were repeat offenders - Huationg Contractor, which was fined $13,500 for four offences, and Samwoh, which was fined $10,500 for three offences.

Huationg had twice failed to provide and maintain earth control measures to the code required by PUB when carrying out earthworks, netting $3,500 in fines.

It was charged in court last month and fined $10,000 for a further two offences of not meeting the water quality requirement for the treated run-off and failing to comply with the conditions of PUB's clearance certificate.

Meanwhile, Samwoh was penalised twice for failing to meet the water quality requirement for run-off. It was fined $2,500 for an earlier infraction, and $8,000 in court last month for another instance, as well as for not complying with a PUB notice to review its earth control measures.

Two other companies, Peng Chuan Engineering Construction and Stallion Development, were found to have carried out works without a clearance certificate from PUB.

This could lead to silty water being discharged into the drainage systems, said PUB.

Peng Chuan was fined $7,800, and Stallion $7,000.

"All contractors are required to plan for and implement (earth control measures) at their sites," said the agency, adding that it conducts regular checks at these sites for any breach of earth control measures (ECM).

Depending on the stage of construction work and size of earthworks, these checks can range from fortnightly to once every two months.

PUB's chief engineer of drainage operations Choy Wai Kwong said: "To protect our source of water supply, all of us should play our part in keeping our waterways clean.

"It is important to adopt a co-ownership approach, where PUB works closely with the construction industry to build industry competencies and maintain high ECM standards."

Singapore Contractors Asso-ciation president Kenneth Loo said his organisation has worked with the agency to produce and continually update an ECM guidebook. This is to share the best environmental practices and requirements with the industry, he added.

"Our role as contractors is vital in keeping Singapore's waterways clean and beautiful," said Mr Loo.

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Running out of sand: in numbers

Loes Witschge Aljazeera 26 Dec 17;

Sand and gravel are the most-extracted materials in the world.

The UN believes that sand and gravel, or aggregates, account for up to 85 percent of all mining activity around the world, measured in weight.

"It's almost become like air, the air we breathe, we don't think too much about it, but you can't live without it," says Kiran Pereira, the founder of, in the documentary Sand Wars.

While sand might seem like an abundant resource, it is being mined at a pace much faster than its natural renewal rate.

A 2014 report by the UN estimates that globally, more than 40 billion tonnes of sand and gravel are extracted every year.

Worldwide, the legal sand extraction industry is worth $70bn, roughly the equivalent of the GDP of Kenya.

What is sand used for?

Sand has numerous applications that cut through our daily life. It's used for glass and is the source of strategic minerals including silicon dioxide, which is found in wine, cleaning products, toothpaste and many more everyday products.

Sand is also required for manufacturing the microchips inside our computers and smartphones.

But the sector swallowing up the most sand is the construction industry.

More than half of the world's population now lives in cities. By 2030, the UN expects 60 percent of people to live in urban settlements.

Building and expanding cities requires concrete and asphalt, both made with sand. A lot of it.

The rise and rise of Singapore

Singapore is just one example of a metropolis with a sand addiction.

Between 1990 and 2017, the city state's population nearly doubled, from three million to 5.6 million.

Meanwhile, the city's land area has grown through extensive land reclamation, from 581.5sq km in 1960 to 719.7sq km in 2016 - a 24 percent increase.

Reclaiming one square kilometre of land from the sea costs up to 37.5 million cubic metres of sand.

In 2016 alone, Singapore imported 35 million metric tonnes of sand.

In July 2017, Cambodia banned all sales of sand to Singapore, citing environmental grounds. Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam had already put restrictions on sand exports to Singapore. But these restrictions have given rise to a flourishing smuggling trade.

So-called "sand mafias" have proliferated elsewhere, too. According to the Times of India, illegal sand mining is worth $2.3bn a year in Tamil Nadu alone.

Poyang Lake: China's disappearing sands

Not all kinds of sand are suitable for use in construction. Desert sand is considered too fine. As a result, sand is taken from beaches and dredged up from rivers and the seabed on an industrial scale, adversely affecting ecological systems.

Poyang Lake, in China's Jiangxi province, is thought to be the world's biggest sand mine. An estimated 236 million cubic metres of sand is taken out of the lake every year.

NASA reported that sand mining affected the lake's ecological integrity by "contributing to less predictable seasonal water fluctuations and to a series of recent low water events," according to ecologist James Burnham.

Dredging sand from the seabed is destroying local flora and fauna. Mining of ocean and beach sands is contributing to the erosion of beaches. In Indonesia, two dozen islands are believed to have disappeared due to sand mining.

"Negative effects on the environment are unequivocal and are occurring around the world," the UN noted in its 2014 report.

Meanwhile, policymakers have been slow to respond to the depletion of sand. "The current level of political concern clearly does not match the urgency of the situation," the UN stated.

The world is only slowly waking up to the fact that another finite resource is slipping through our fingers.

Find out more about the disappearance of sand in Sand Wars.

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Govt support a big boost for animal welfare groups

Audrey Tan Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

AVA's recent moves signal greater priority on animal welfare amid shift in public opinion of animal rights
From building shelters to introducing sterilisation as a way of controlling the stray dog population, animal welfare groups here say they have noticed the Government is doing more to protect animals.

They point to a variety of schemes the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) introduced in the last few years that signal advances in the protection of the Republic's animal inhabitants.

Just last week, the AVA, which is in charge of animal management issues, announced that it will launch the first nationwide sterilisation programme for stray dogs in the second half of next year.

Seen as a more humane way of managing the stray dog population, animal welfare groups have long urged the AVA to adopt sterilisation, instead of culling street dogs.

The introduction of such a programme shows the Government's willingness to listen to voices on the ground, incorporate best practices from abroad and change policy when needed, said Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"This bodes well for the future of animal welfare in Singapore," he added.

In November last year, the AVA also made a groundbreaking move in announcing that it will build a facility in Sungei Tengah.

The facility will house the 40 animal welfare groups and pet farms in Loyang and Seletar which will need to move out when the leases for their current premises expire.

These groups will not have to cough up money to bid for new land and build facilities of their own.

Instead, they will just pay monthly rental for space to house their animals at the facility, which will be ready in phases from now to the middle of next year.

Animal welfare groups say that in the past, while the authorities took action against animal abusers, the work of safeguarding the welfare of animals was largely left to them.

But recent moves, which include the commissioning of a scientific study on stray dogs and separately, greater enforcement against animal abusers, show that animal welfare has been accorded greater priority by the authorities.

Public opinion of protecting animal rights has also shifted, said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser, who noted that animal groups are also becoming more vocal.

He said: "In short, society is deemed to be ready to embrace animal rights."

Mr Derrick Tan, president of dog rescue group Voices for Animals, credits the AVA's new approach to Ms Jessica Kwok, group director of the authority's Animal Management Group.

The group is in charge of several initiatives, including the stray dog sterilisation scheme.

He said: "I must say that since Ms Kwok took charge of the Animal Management Group in April last year, AVA has really made a huge difference to the animal welfare groups and, most importantly, to all the animals, especially stray dogs."

AVA has also taken a more consultative approach in working with the animal welfare groups as highlighted in how the plans for the animal shelter were drawn up.

For instance, after consulting the groups, AVA said the facility will have a variety of layout configurations to cater to different animal welfare groups.

And the role played by the AVA does not stop there. More animal abusers have also been dealt with.

Between January and October last year, it received 260 reports of alleged cases of animal cruelty. It took enforcement action in 4 per cent of them. Over the same period this year, AVA had 270 reports and took enforcement action in 5 per cent of the cases.

Animal welfare groups have welcomed what they see as greater government efforts to ensure the well-being of animals. While the groups play an important role in protecting animals here, the Government's show of commitment sends a signal that animal abuse will not be tolerated.

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Malaysia: EIA report for high-speed rail open for public viewing

The Sun Daily 26 Dec 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) is open for public viewing and feedback from today until Jan 25, 2018, according to MyHSR Corp Sdn Bhd.

It said in a statement today that the report will be displayed for public viewing in the headquarters of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and the Department of Environment (DOE) headquarters in Putrajaya.

It will also be made available at state DOE offices in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor as well as at other local authorities’ offices along the HSR alignment.

“We welcome the public to provide feedback on the findings of the EIA report. The report will then be updated to incorporate feedback gathered from the viewing and will be presented and considered for approval by the DOE,” said MyHSR Corp CEO Datuk Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal.

“We have outlined the necessary measures to address and minimise the potential impacts throughout all phases of the project, which covers pre-construction, during construction and operations,” he added.

The EIA report assesses the environmental impact of the new railway project in terms air quality, noise and vibration, waste, water quality, coastal hydraulics, terrestrial and marine ecology, hydrology, geology, traffic, risk hazard assessment, public health and safety, economic evaluation and visual.

EIA on HSR project for viewing
New Straits Times 23 Dec 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (KL-SG HSR) is ready for public viewing from today until Jan 25.

MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd (MyHSR Corp) said the report would be displayed at various locations, including the Land Public Transport Commission headquarters, Department of Environment (DOE) headquarters and DOE state offices in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor, as well as other local authorities’ offices along the KL-SG HSR alignment.

“The public are encouraged to submit feedback and comments based on their review of the EIA report to the DOE headquarters before Feb 9,” it said yesterday.

Ahead of the public viewing, the EIA report was submitted to the DOE for review on Dec 13.

The EIA study covers various assessments, including air quality, noise and vibration, waste, water quality, coastal hydraulic, terrestrial and marine ecology, hydrology, geology, traffic, risk hazard assessment, public health and safety, economic evaluation, and visual aspects.

The EIA report is prepared in accordance with the relevant legislation, guidelines and procedures established by the DOE for environmental impact studies of any new railway project.

MyHSR Corp chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal said the company had outlined the necessary measures to address and minimise the potential impact throughout all phases of the project, covering pre-construction, construction and operation.

“We welcome feedback on the findings of the EIA report.

“The report will then be updated to incorporate the feedback gathered, and presented and considered for approval by the DOE,” he said.

During the public viewing period, copies of the report will also be on sale for RM4,000 each at the Minconsult Sdn Bhd’s office.

The public can also view the report on DOE’s website at and MyHSR Corp’s website at

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Malaysia: Heavy rains result in floods in 28 settlements in northern Sarawak

stephen then The Star 26 Dec 17;

MIRI: High tide and heavy rains caused rivers to overflow resulting in 28 settlements in Niah and Beluru districts in northern Sarawak being flooded - a few of them up to 1.8m of water.

Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department in its latest flood update at 530pm on Tuesday (Dec 26) said the two districts are the worst-hit in the state.

At least four of those settlements are under 1.5-1.8m of water.

Rumah Mentali , Rumah Sunok and Rumah Nyalak are located in Niah district about 100km south of Miri city.

The rest of the 24 settlements are also flooded with lower water levels.

Bomba Sarawak said evacuations will be carried out in the worst-hit areas as and when the affected residents are ready to move out.

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Indonesian Wildfire Hotspots Reduced by 33 Percent

Tempo 26 Dec 17;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Ministry of Environment and Forestry reported that Indonesia’s wildfire hotspot has been reduced up to zero according to the NOAA satellite observation on Sunday, December 24.

According to the satellite imagery, throughout January 1 – December 24 there have been 2,579 hotspots in total, which is far less than the previous year of 3,859 hotspots. This means that Indonesia’s wildfire hotspots were reduced by 1,280 or 33.17 percent.

The wildfire hotspots were previously spread across four regions in East Java, Central Sulawesi, and Southeast Sulawesi.

The Ministry’s Director of forest and land fire control Raffles B Pandjaitan said the ministry’s prevention and wildfire handling program (karhutla) has also contributed to the hotspot reduction.

Raffles explained that an early warning system together with an early detection, and an early suppression are essential in conducting attempts to avoid wildfires before it spreads to a level which is uncontrollable.


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