AVA urges people not to feed pigeons amid a sharp rise in feedback about the birds

There was a 34 per cent increase last year in the amount of feedback about pigeons.
Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Drying clothes outside your home is a mundane task for most people, but not for Mdm Margaret Tan, who lives in a ground floor HDB flat in Balam Road.

The 66-year-old retiree simply cannot do that. She has tried, but the clothes she took in were dirtier than before they were washed, with bird droppings on them. Mdm Tan lives in an area which has been affected by pigeon-related problems for years.

Nearby is a big banner that urges residents not to feed pigeons by showing examples of problems they could cause - hygiene issues, attracting pests and the spreading of diseases.

But still, people feed the pigeons, she said. While the problem has improved, it still exists, Mdm Tan said.

“I’ve written in to complain about the issue many times,” she said, but has now given up.

When contacted, Marine Parade Town Council, which oversees the area, said it is aware of the ongoing pigeon issues on the estate and that it has been continuously working with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to address them.

AVA told Channel NewsAsia it has received 16 cases of feedback on pigeon feeding at Balam Road since 2015.

However, these numbers represent a tiny proportion of the island-wide statistics, which show that there is growing concern about pigeons: Last year, the AVA received 5,500 pieces of pigeon-related feedback from across Singapore, a 34 per cent increase from 4,100 in 2016.

The HDB flats at Balam Road were recently given a fresh coat of paint, but when Channel NewsAsia visited the area, pigeon droppings had already dirtied some ledges.

When asked about what is being done to address the root problem of the pigeons making a mess, a spokesperson for the town council said: “As part of our Repairs and Redecoration (R&R), we are exploring mitigating measures such as using wire mesh and aluminium flashings to deter pigeons from roosting at these areas.”

Such repairs and redecoration, which typically include upgrading of bin chutes and washing and painting of external walls, are undertaken by town councils to revitalise an estate.

“We had also received feedback from residents on pigeon feeders in the estate. This availability of food source attracts the birds to congregate in the area. As such, we would like to remind residents to refrain from feeding the pigeons and to maintain the cleanliness of the environment,” the spokesperson added.


AVA has been working with Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) to identify pigeon hotspots at Balam Road, to reduce the population there and maintain hygiene and cleanliness, an AVA spokesperson said.

The authority also works with other agencies to take action against high-rise litterers, who throw food from their homes to feed the pigeons, it said.

Pigeons dirty the environment with droppings, and leftover food from pigeon feeding may attract other pests like rats, which carry diseases and pose a risk to public health, AVA added.

"Feeding encourages pigeons to breed and results in an increase in their population," a spokesperson said, adding that feeders provide a regular source of food which may have led to pigeons congregating in the area.

AVA has been educating the public against pigeon feeding as it is an offence, it said. Anyone caught feeding pigeons can be fined up to S$500 under the Animals and Birds Act.

While AVA continues to work with stakeholders to manage the pigeon population, "members of the public can play their part by not feeding pigeons", AVA said.

Another place which has pigeon problems is Hougang.

After receiving feedback from a reader, Channel NewsAsia visited the area. Pigeons stood atop tree branches and on the roofs of shelters, flying as a flock from one spot to another. Dried bird droppings dotted pathways.

Online seller Joseph Goh said that the problem has been around for several years, and that he complained about about the issue twice, more than a year ago, but he felt nothing had been done.

“The pigeons are a nuisance, and their droppings on the ground can look very unsightly sometimes,” he said. He added that there are feeders who pack food just for the pigeons.

Channel NewsAsia reached out to Aljunied-Hougang Town Council on the matter.


Business development manager at bird control company Mastermark Gloria Ngoi said that pigeons and their droppings are definitely a problem in Singapore.

Ms Ngoi, who has been in the industry for eight years, said: “It may also be a problem when it comes to controlling the number of pigeon feeders. It’s a bit tricky to manage.”

The people who feed the birds may get into a habit, thinking they are doing good for the pigeons, she explained.

As well as the problem of pigeon feeding, the birds are highly adaptable, allowing them to thrive in urban areas, she said.

"With the number of high rise buildings in Singapore, air-conditioning compressor ledges have become a conducive nesting ground for pigeons as it provides sufficient warmth and security away from predators."

She has received distressed calls from home-owners who are unable to open their windows because of the smell of pigeon droppings, which can accumulate to be “quite substantial” over time.

In order to break the pigeon’s nesting habits, one solution is installing bird netting that prevents pigeons from landing on the ledge. Another bird-proofing solution is using bird spikes which are designed not to allow birds to land.

Ms Ngoi said that feeding pigeons with contraceptives can also be an effective strategy to in deal with the issue.


Other than being smelly, bird droppings can pose health risks as well. Infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre Leong Hoe Nam said bird droppings can cause lung, blood or brain infection, pneumonia and fungal infections.

Ms Ngoi agreed that constant exposure to pigeon droppings could cause respiratory problems

They also create other problems. “Their droppings are aesthetically damaging and corrosive. It may eat into paintwork, into concrete, and can eventually eat into metal as well,” Ms Ngoi said.

That said, she finds that more HDB blocks and markets are being bird-proofed over the years. “When town councils go through R&R, they do improve bird control,” she said.


Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who oversees the Municipal Services Office (MSO), brought up pigeon issues during the Committee of Supply debate last month.

In explaining the MSO’s behind-the-scenes work on improving inter-agency processes, she brought up the example of these birds.

Town councils oversee the cleaning of common areas, AVA takes enforcement action against pigeon feeders, while the National Environment Agency takes enforcement action in instances where high-rise littering is involved. Residents’ committees from the People's Association are often roped in to counsel the feeders, she said.

“These agencies work together in order for pigeon-related issues to be resolved holistically. To support their efforts, MSO has helped to formulate end-to-end workflows to clarify roles and responsibilities, and tighten coordination in their handling of such pigeon-related nuisance,” she said.

In the meantime, residents hope that their neighbours will stop encouraging pigeons by feeding them.

Mdm Tan, who has lived at her Balam Road home for almost 50 years, said: "They (residents) come down and feed them bread and rice even though there's a banner asking them not to. Things will get better if they stop."

Source: CNA/ja

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Stepping on the gas to keep Singapore's lights burning

When completed, the monster on Jurong Island will be one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas storage tanks – and a step closer to energy security for Singapore, as the programme Powering the Future finds out.
Desmond Ng and Daniel Heng Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: On June 2004, the unthinkable happened - a good part of Singapore went dark that evening in one of the largest ever blackouts here.

It resulted in some 300,000 homes left in the dark without electricity for two hours, costing businesses as much as S$6 million in losses.

The power outage - caused by a disruption to the natural gas supply from Indonesia - was an important wake-up call for Singapore.

Fast forward to today, and a behemoth is rising on Jurong Island that is the latest in the chain of developments since that fateful day.

Singapore’s fourth Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage tank, when completed this year, will be one of the world’s largest – and a symbol of efforts to ensure the country’s energy supply would never again be so vulnerable.

“Imagine if we experience frequent or prolonged disruption to our import energy supply disruption,” said Mr Soh Sai Bor, the assistant chief executive of the Energy Market Authority’s (EMA) economic regulation department.

“The consequence will be that our lights may not turn on or stay on for long, and our economic activities will grind to a halt.”

More than 90 per cent of Singapore’s electricity is generated by natural gas largely imported from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Since then, the nation has been investing heavily on importing and storing LNG - which is natural gas in its liquid form - to safeguard its future energy needs, as the programme Powering the Future finds out. (Watch it here.)


Why natural gas in the first place? While there are other energy resources such as coal and oil that Singapore can tap, natural gas is far cleaner and more energy efficient by mass, said Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

Natural gas-based power plants emit “40 to 50 per cent less carbon dioxide” compared to coal as a fuel. Hence “it is also called the cleanest burning fossil fuel”, he said.

Currently, some 77 per cent of Singapore’s natural gas supply is delivered in gas form, via pipelines from Malaysia and Indonesia.

But when this gas is condensed into a liquid form or LNG, the volume can be reduced by as much as 600 times. This makes it far more cost-efficient to transport over long distances by ships.

In 2006, Singapore decided that LNG was the way to go, and decided to build its first LNG Terminal on Jurong Island.

Indeed, today, a quarter of the country’s natural gas supply comes in LNG form, from a diversified range of sources - such as Australia, the US and Qatar.

A key strategy to enhance our energy security is to diversify our energy resources.

“With our LNG Terminal, we are able to import LNG from all over the world, compared with piped natural gas where we are just importing from Indonesia and Malaysia," said Mr Soh,

Developed by the Singapore LNG Corporation, the S$1.7 billion LNG Terminal was finally launched in 2013.

It started off with two storage tanks that year, with a third tank the following year to increase its total output. The three tanks can store some 540,000 cubic metres of LNG.

But the fourth tank, currently under construction, will have an impressive capacity of 260,000 cubic metres alone.

Singapore LNG Corporation’s CEO Mr John Ng said: “Having the tank means that we are able to store energy for when demand picks up.”


The nation has grand plans to become a key trading hub for LNG in the region, given that the global demand for energy is set to soar because of population and economic growth.

The Asian economies will be the biggest driver of demand, with China set to be the biggest importer of natural gas by 2018. And Singapore is poised to make the right connections in LNG trade.

With the LNG terminal, traders can import large quantities of LNG, break it up into small pieces and sell it to regional countries, Mr Ng noted. Singapore’s geographical position makes it ideal to supply small-scale LNG to islands in Indonesia and Philippines.

Mr Satvinder Singh, assistant CEO of IE Singapore, pointed out that Singapore is one of the largest commodity hubs in the world and “it’s not unnatural for us to also aspire to be relevant to the energy development in Asia and for the rest of the world”.

It is located among some of the biggest consumers of LNG - Japan, India, Korea and China – and it is a significant global financing hub for commodities and is able to finance sophisticated financing to support such flows, he added.


For consumers, the extra sources of natural gas and a more competitive market for LNG could potentially translate to cost savings and lower electricity bills.

On Thursday (March 28), it was announced that electricity tariffs would increase for the second time this year.

But most commentators expect that in the longer term, there would be a downward pressure on natural gas prices in Singapore, given a predicted increase in LNG supply over the next few years, said Mr Howson.

Japan's leading trading house, Mitsubishi Corp, had projected that the world's LNG market would grow 5 per cent year-on-year from 2017, almost doubling by year 2030 from 2017.

Mr Ng added that LNG could become a more liquid commodity here, as a result of more traders importing it from all over the world.

“When there’s an opportunity for bringing the cargo (LNG) in at a relatively cheap price, the traders can store in our tanks; and when the market is ripe, reload the energy out into the open market,” he said.

That will translate into competitive prices of energy coming into Singapore.

Consumers can also find savings in another way – come April 1, households and businesses in Jurong will have the option of buying electricity from a retailer under the Open Electricity Market initiative.

Since 2001, the EMA has been progressively opening up the electricity market by giving consumers the choice and flexibility to buy electricity from retailers.

This means that consumers will in future no longer be restricted to buying from SP Group at the regulated tariff.

“Consumers if they wish, can also shop around and buy electricity from their preferred retailers based on price plans that best meet their needs,” said Mr Soh.

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Worker injured after thunderstorm causes heavy damage to nursery, farm in Lim Chu Kang

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: One person was taken to hospital after a thunderstorm caused heavy damage to Koon Lee Nursery and Chew's Agriculture in Lim Chu Kang on Friday (Mar 30).

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it responded to a call for ambulance assistance at 2 Murai Farmway at around 4pm.

A 38-year-old worker from the nursery was taken conscious to Ng Teng Fong Hospital.

Channel NewsAsia understands the police and officials from the Building and Construction Authority were at the scene.

Video and photos of the storm's aftermath showed widespread damage to the nursery with collapsed structures and debris strewn across the ground. A fire engine could also be seen at the scene.

Fallen trees were also seen in the area, with 31-year-old passerby Kenny Koh, an operations manager, telling Channel NewsAsia he saw a fallen tree blocking both lanes on Murai Farmway in Lim Chu Kang at around 4.40pm.

A video taken by him showed collapsed structures in the area.

Singapore was hit by heavy rain and strong winds on Friday, with fallen trees leading to bus diversions and traffic jams.

Fallen trees cause bus diversions, jams amid heavy rain, strong winds in western Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Fallen trees caused bus diversions in various parts of western Singapore and led to reports of traffic jams as heavy rain and strong winds hit the country on Friday (Mar 30).

Bus services were diverted due to fallen trees at locations including Bukit Batok Road and Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1, according to notifications from the SMRTConnect app.

Multiple fallen trees were also seen at a cemetery in Lim Chu Kang, with photos showing tombs covered by trees and a tree obstructing the road.

Forty-year-old Kelvin Koh, who works in logistics, told Channel NewsAsia that the area experienced "heavy rain and very strong winds" at about 3.50pm.

Operations manager Kenny Koh, 31, told Channel NewsAsia he saw a fallen tree blocking both lanes on Murai Farmway in Lim Chu Kang at around 4.40pm.

The heavy thunderstorm also caused damage to nearby Koon Lee Nursery and Chew's Agriculture. One worker from the nursery was taken to hospital.

Channel NewsAsia reader Zulkarnian reported traffic congestion at Bukit Batok Road towards Choa Chu Kang Way after a fallen tree obstructed two lanes of the three-lane road.

Video of the incident showed officers directing traffic and an ambulance at the scene.

The Land Transport Authority also warned motorists of obstacles in the area.

In a tweet at about 4.15pm, the authority warned of an obstacle on Old Choa Chu Kang Road towards Jalan Berseri after Choa Chu Kang Road, and added that Old Choa Chu Kang Road was closed after Choa Chu Kang Road.

In another tweet at about 4.30pm, the authority also warned of an obstacle on Bukit Batok Road towards Choa Chu Kang Road, after Pavilion Circle, and told motorists to avoid the right lane.

​​​​​​​According to the National Environment Agency's heavy rain alert, moderate to heavy thundery showers were expected over many areas of Singapore between 3.50pm and 5.10pm on Friday.

It also warned that flash floods may occur in the event of heavy rain.

Repairing thunderstorm damage could take months, says Lim Chu Kang nursery
Cheryl Goh Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Destruction caused by the recent thunderstorm could take months to repair, said Koon Lee Nursery, one of the farms in Lim Chu Kang that were affected.

On Saturday (Mar 31), a day after heavy rain and strong gusts of wind hit the western part of Singapore, Koon Lee manager Mac Teo said recovery work could easily take two months and cost at least S$50,000.

“I estimate that because most of my areas are damaged, we could be cleaning up for two months," said Mr Teo.

"If we had to rebuild everything, it would be in the hundreds of thousands. But I don’t think we’ll be able to do that because we’re required to move in January 2019 for the expansion of the airbase.

"That's about a year away and we don’t want to spend on the repairs and then move out straight away. But we can’t not do repairs ... then we can’t carry on our operations, so it’s a bit of a dilemma for us. It’s a difficult time for us,” he added.

Mr Teo said Friday's storm was "like a scene from a Twister" movie.

“There was a lot of howling. All it took was 30 seconds of very strong wind to cause this."

The Meteorological Service Singapore said the strongest wind gust it recorded on Friday was 133.3km/h at 3.50pm at nearby Tengah.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded at our island-wide network of wind sensors since 2010," it said, adding that strongest-ever recorded wind gust was 144.4km/h in 1984 at the same location.

During Channel NewsAsia's visit to Koon Lee, members of the nursery staff were busy with repair work on tentage that had completely collapsed.

Mr Teo said the worker who was taken to hospital was still undergoing treatment for a head injury and broken finger.

More than half of his team of 20 workers have been redirected to help with recovery, said Mr Teo. The nursery was still accepting walk-in customers at a section that was not affected by the storm, but it was still "difficult" as a large amount of stock remained stuck under the debris, he added.

Chew's Agriculture, which rears chickens for eggs and is located next to Koon Lee on Murai Farmway, was also badly damaged.

The farm declined an interview, saying it was busy with "visits from authorities", but the damage was visible from Koon Lee - rows of chicken houses were completely flattened and there was still poultry trapped underneath the rubble.

Govt to help with cleanup, rebuilding of damaged farms
Cheryl Tee Straits Times 1 Apr 18;

The Government will support the cleanup and rebuilding efforts of Lim Chu Kang farmers whose premises were damaged by a torrential downpour and unusually strong winds on Friday, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon.

Farms hit the hardest by Friday's storm were Chew's Agriculture, Williton Orchids, Koon Lee Nursery and Goh Swee Hoon fish farm.

Dr Koh gave the assurance of help in a Facebook post yesterday after visiting the farms in Murai Farmway, near the Lim Chu Kang Cemetery, along with the chief executives of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the National Parks Board (NParks), as well as members of the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation.

At Chew's, an egg producer, some chicken houses were flattened. Stray chickens were seen picking their away among the debris which was their home less than two days ago.

The chicken farm declined to comment, but a farm employee said the driving rain, which started before 4pm on Friday, came in "like a tsunami". "Many chickens died. Some escaped," he said.

Another worker said: "Suddenly, the tin houses on both sides of the road started shaking. Everyone went inside, nobody dared to go outside. In 15 minutes, the trees started falling down."

Both declined to give their names as they were not authorised to speak to the press.

Damaged buildings and toppled trees were scattered along Murai Farmway when The Sunday Times paid a visit yesterday.

Wind during storm that damaged Lim Chu Kang farms hit 133kmh, the strongest since 2010
Tucked away in a side lane, Sevenseas Fisheries suffered fewer battle scars than its neighbour. But the fish and frog farm will still need at least two weeks before it returns to its former state, said operations manager Bernard Goh.

The family business stopped all operations on Friday when the storm tore through its premises.

"Yesterday, we couldn't operate at all. We are now trying to rush some major repairs so operations can run," said Mr Goh.

The damage included broken water pipes and electric cables, which cut off the farm's water filtration system. The automated system supplies fresh water from a larger reserve pond to the farm's fish and frog ponds. A handheld pump in use in the interim supplies only 20 per cent of the volume of water.

The storm also ripped the roof off its frog enclosure.

Wire mesh has been laid on top as a stopgap measure to ward off direct sunlight. Roof repairs for the enclosure will be done this week.

But Mr Goh worries if bad weather in the week ahead will spawn a nightmarish rerun of Friday's events. "We are scared it will rain again. The weather forecast says it will rain this whole week in the afternoon," he said.

Along with AVA and NParks, the Singapore Land Authority and the Building and Construction Authority will also step in to help, said Dr Koh in his post.

A 38-year-old worker at a plant nursery was taken to hospital on Friday with minor injuries.

Wind gust in Friday's storm strongest in eight years
Wind speed hit 133.3kmh in Tengah; experts say more intense storms here may signal extreme weather events
Rahimah Rashith Straits Times 1 Apr 18;

The strongest wind gust in eight years was recorded during Friday's thunderstorm which battered several farms in Lim Chu Kang.

Wind speed hit a high of 133.3kmh at nearby Tengah at 3.50pm, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) yesterday.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded on our islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010," it added. The highest-recorded wind gust is 144.4kmh, also in Tengah, on April 25, 1984.

The force of the winds on Friday caused some zinc panels to cut into tree branches. Several chicken barns at egg farm Chew's Agriculture were flattened.

These gusty winds over north-west Singapore, including Choa Chu Kang, were due to "strong downdrafts from thunderstorm clouds which reached heights of around 16km", said MSS.

The typical height of such clouds is 10 to 12km.

Experts said that Friday's storm was nothing out of the ordinary, although more intense storms in Singapore can be a harbinger of extreme weather events to come.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) geography department said the storm was localised in nature and did not affect other parts of Singapore as much.

"Such thunderstorms are relatively normal occurrences in Singapore at this time of year."

Professor Benjamin Horton, associate chair of Asian School of the Environment (ASE) at Nanyang Technological University, said the heavy rain and cool weather were not surprising as they are part of the north-east monsoon season.

The storm occurred at the end of this monsoon season, which ushers in the beginning of spring with consistently warm temperatures, he added.

The rain across Singapore on Friday, which fell between 2.10pm and 5pm, was heaviest over western Singapore around Jurong and Choa Chu Kang, said the MSS.

It was caused by the convergence of winds over the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, coupled with favourable atmospheric conditions - namely, moisture and temperature - that led to thunderstorm clouds forming islandwide, it said.

Prof Horton said: "The strongest wind gust was 133.3kmh, but this extreme wind speed was felt only over a very short period of time - less than 20 seconds - and was followed by a lull. In contrast, tropical cyclones have hurricane-force winds that can be felt for days."

While no single event can prove climate change, a series of erratic weather patterns like frequent flash floods and more intense storms in Singapore can signal a bigger change, say experts.

Prof Chow said the storm was "one single event" and "to show climate change influence, we need to see a signal from a multitude of events". However, there is evidence of more extreme weather events in Singapore in recent years, which could likely be due to climate change, he added.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, highlighted the broader issue of climate change after he visited the affected farms in Murai Farmway yesterday.

"The farmers shared with me that they now see the unpredictable and damaging effects of more extreme weather patterns on their livelihood due to climate change, and are determined to leverage better technology to mitigate against disruptions," he said.

Ms Jennifer Walker, graduate student of ASE, noted that 2016 is the warmest year on record globally and in Singapore, which had an annual mean temperature of 28.4 deg C.

"As the temperatures warm, oceans are giving off more water vapour. In theory, extra water vapour in the atmosphere should pump heat into big storms, adding buoyancy that causes them to grow in size and power and produce the wind gust we saw on March 30," she said.

Wind gusts over 80kmh can cause damage
The strongest wind gust recorded during Friday's storm was 133.3kmh.

It was the strongest wind gust recorded by the islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010.

Generally, wind gusts exceeding 80kmh can cause damage such as toppled trees.

Wind speeds exceeding 100kmh can damage individual buildings and roofs. They can also disrupt or restrict road, rail, water and air traffic.

They can also move securely anchored objects with a larger surface area, such as tents and scaffolding, as well as movable objects such as garden furniture.

Rahimah Rashith

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India: Mumbai beach goes from dump to turtle hatchery in two years

Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings spotted after cleanup of Versova beach by Afroz Shah and volunteers
Michael Safi The Guardian 30 Mar 18;

Hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species have been spotted for the first time in decades on a Mumbai beach that was rejuvenated in the past two years by a massive volunteer cleanup operation.

At least 80 Olive Ridley turtles have made their way into the Arabian Sea from nests on the southern end of Versova beach in the past week, protected from wild dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who slept overnight in the sand to watch over them.

Versova has undergone what the United Nations has called the “world’s largest beach cleanup project” over the past two years, transformed from a shin-deep dump yard for plastics and rubbish to a virtually pristine piece of coastline.

The man who leads the ongoing cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz Shah, said he started anticipating the turtle hatchings two months ago when farmers on the southern end of the two-mile (3km) beach reported seeing turtles in the sand.

“The moment we got that news I knew something big was going to happen,” he told the Guardian. Last Thursday, some of his volunteers called to say they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nests.

He called the forest department and then went down to the beach with about 25 others, guarding the area while the tiny creatures hobbled across the sand, “making sure not one hatchling suffered a death”, he said.

The Olive Ridley species, thought to be named for the olive-green hue of its upper shell, is the smallest and most abundant sea turtle in the ocean, but is still classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Mothers of the species lay eggs in an enormous mass-nesting process known as arribada. Last month on the coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, a record 428,083 Olive Ridley turtles nested simultaneously at the Rushikulya rookery.

Though they nest elsewhere in Mumbai, none had been sighted on Versova beach in decades, due to the acute pollution problem there, Shah said. “I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean.”

Sumedha Korgaonkar, who is completing a PhD on Olive Ridley turtles with the Wildlife Institute of India, said it was possible small numbers of the turtles had been nesting on the beach in past years. “We can’t say for sure since regular patrolling for turtles nests is not done in Mumbai,” she said.

“Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles. Many beaches which are major nesting sites are cleaned prior and during the nesting season by villagers, which increases the chances of getting nests [there].”

For more than two years, Shah has been leading volunteers in manually picking up rubbish from Versova beach and teaching sustainable waste practices to villagers and people living in slums along the coastline and the creeks leading into it.

About 55,000 people live along the beach and the waterways that feed it in the crowded megacity. Shah said he taught them by example, offering to clean communal toilets and pick up rubbish himself before he ever sought their help.

“For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined,” he said. “Then two men approached me and said, very politely, ‘Please sir, can we wear your gloves?’ Both of them just came and joined me. That’s when I knew it was going to be a success.”

He said the team had cleaned 13m kg of debris from the beach in the past two years and are still going, though their campaign was briefly abandoned in November because of “administrative lethargy” and harassment of volunteers.

India has some of the most polluted waterways and beaches in the world due to rapid, unplanned urbanisation, overpopulation and neglectful attitudes, including to public littering.

“There has been a loss of a sense of belonging,” Shah said. “You can have laws, policies, regulations in place, but if the community doesn’t have a sense of belonging, you can see what happens.”

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US on track to meet climate targets despite Trump: UN chief

AFP Yahoo News 30 Mar 18;

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United States is on track to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement despite President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw from the accord, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday.

Guterres said emissions-cutting plans put in motion by American businesses, regional governments and cities meant that the goals set by the former US administration which signed the deal in 2016 were within reach.

"We have seen in the cities, and we have seen in many states, a very strong commitment to the Paris agreement, to the extent that some indicators are moving even better than in the recent past," Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

"There are expectations that, independently of the position of the administration, the US might be able to meet the commitments made in Paris as a country."

Under the deal, the administration of former president Barack Obama pledged to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Nearly 200 countries and parties have signed the landmark agreement after intense negotiations in Paris, where all nations made voluntary carbon-cutting pledges running to 2030.

The agreement is aimed at limiting global warming to within two degrees Celsius, but Guterres warned that more action was needed by 2020 to reach that goal.

Trump faced condemnation when he announced in June 2017 that the United States was pulling out, painting the accord as a "bad deal" for the US economy.

Under the agreement, the United States can formally give notice that it plans to withdraw in 2019, three years after the accord came into force, and the withdrawal would become effective in 2020.

Describing climate change as "the most systemic threat to humankind," Guterres said recent data on extreme weather events showed that "2017 was filled with climate chaos."

"2018 has already brought more of the same," he said.

"Food security, health, stability itself all hang in the balance."

Guterres is planning to host a major summit next year to take stock of progress in implementing the climate deal, but it remains unlikely that Trump would attend.

Though Guterres said the US is on track to meet Paris climate agreement targets, the Trump administration still has the ability to change current regulations.

The New York Times reported Thursday, citing an Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman, that the White House was expected to push a plan to loosen standards on emissions and vehicle fuel economy standards -- undercutting the previous administration's bid to fight climate change.

Such a move would represent a win for automakers, potentially paving the way to lower the bar for standards globally.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Mar 18

1 Apr: Registration opens for Sisters Islands Intertidal walks in May 2018
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Birding at Simei-Changi Business Park
Singapore Bird Group

Tree Top Treats & Sketchy Nights
Winging It

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No 'observable increase' in roadkill since Mandai development works began, says developer

Channel NewsAsia 29 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: There has been no "observable increase" in roadkill of wildlife animals since work began on the Mandai Project, said Philip Yim, senior vice-president of the Mandai Park Development, on Thursday (Mar 29).

He was responding to Channel NewsAsia's queries on the animals that have been killed by vehicles since the Mandai development works started.

Mr Yim confirmed that two incidents - involving a pangolin and a leopard cat - happened along Mandai Lake Road in September 2017 and February 2018, respectively. A sambar deer was also killed last month on Mandai Road, about 450m outside of the boundaries of the Mandai Project.

Mr Yim said that several measures have been implemented to prevent such incidents from happening since 2016, even before the development works started.

For instance, speed limits for most parts of Mandai Lake Road have been reduced to between 20 and 40kmh, while road humps and speed regulating strips have been put in place.

"In addition, there are wildlife crossing signs placed at multiple locations along the road and at car park entrances to remind drivers to slow down and pay attention to wildlife crossings," said Mr Yim.

"To raise awareness of the need for drivers to slow down for wildlife, we have also reached out to major transport companies (including taxis and private hire companies) and travel agents that operate tour buses."

He said that Mandai Park Holdings (MPH), the company that is driving the rejuvenation of the precinct, has been working with Animal Concerns Research and Education Society to rescue and rehabilitate animals that were involved in accidents as well.

It has also been consulting its environmental advisory panel, experts and stakeholders from the nature community to ensure that the project is being developed "sensitively and in careful consideration" of the neighbouring nature reserve and local wildlife in the area.

"The development is also guided by the recommendations of the Environmental Impact Assessment and we have been reviewing our monitoring data and progressively enhancing our measures in response to these learnings," said Mr Yim.

"We will continue to work with these partners to seek their inputs and identify new and innovative solutions to help reduce wildlife road incidents."


Mr Yim also shared that the construction of the eco-link bridge, which will link two parts of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and provide safe passage for wildlife in Mandai, has started and is underway.

It is slated for completion in 2019.

In the meantime, he said that MPH has begun adding "aerial crossing aids on Mandai Lake Road to facilitate connectivity for tree-dwelling animals" across the road.

"All incidents of roadkill are of concern to us, and we continually review the effectiveness of our speed reduction and wildlife protection measures, to strengthen them," Mr Yim said.

"We have a dedicated team that monitors and responds to wildlife road incidents within and around the project area. The public can report wildlife incidents along the road through our wildlife response hotline at 9088 5068."

Announced in January 2017, the Mandai Project is aimed at rejuvenating the Mandai area and includes a development of a new Rainforest Park in the same area as the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

The parks are located in close proximity to wildlife in Mandai.

Once developed, Mandai's eco-tourism hub is expected to attract more than 10 million visitors each year, as well as generate a significant number of jobs in conservation research, tourism and hospitality.

Source: CNA/ng

Make Mandai Road vehicle-light to reduce roadkill
Straits Times Forum 29 Mar 18;

The reports on the incidents of roadkill involving the critically endangered leopard cat and Sunda pangolin, as well as the rare sambar deer are deeply troubling (Animals affected by Mandai park works: Wildlife groups; March 24).

The animal deaths took place close to where the new Rainforest Park and relocated Bird Parkare being constructed.

Any road mortality involving our native wildlife, especially an endangered species, is one too many.

Developer Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) in 2016 had stated that mitigation measures at the construction and operation phases of the new development would reduce its impact on wildlife and that it was committed to being a responsible steward of nature.

MPH should keep its word.

This large new development sits next to our fragile Central Catchment Nature Reserve, where rare native species of our flora and fauna are found.

Hence, we would like to see smaller-scale developments and more effective mitigation measures.

We applaud the traffic-calming measures implemented, and that underground culverts are being retained along Mandai Lake Road for the safe passage of ground-dwelling wildlife.

But to effectively prevent more roadkill incidents involving endangered species, Mandai Lake Road should be made vehicle-light at the very least.

At best, the bigger Mandai Road should be diverted away from the wildlife-sensitive areas of theCentral Catchment Nature Reserve and moved north.

The new road could be designed to be Singapore's first wildlife-friendly road, while the current road becomes a park or is reforested.

Vilma D'Rozario (Ms)
Cicada Tree Eco-Place

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Malaysia: Too late to plant green seed among world's forgotten palm oil farmers?

Michael Taylor Reuters 29 Mar 18;

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When palm oil farmer Isnin Kasno eventually retires, his three children will turn their backs on the family’s small plantation in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor.

Like many ageing oil palm growers in Southeast Asia, the 58-year-old struggles to make ends meet from his 2 hectares (5 acres), and his adult children have little appetite for the physically demanding work and dwindling financial rewards.

“It makes me very sad,” said Kasno, who planted his land in 1983 after working in Singapore’s construction industry. “Soon, when I no longer have the energy to help with the harvesting, my only option will be to lease my farm.”

There are more than 2 million smallholders tending 5.6 million hectares of land in Malaysia and Indonesia - the two countries that dominate the world’s supply of the vegetable oil used widely in food, household products and biodiesel.

This army of farmers produces about 40 percent of palm oil from those two countries.

Over the last decade, growing pressure from green groups and consumers has pushed big companies that produce, trade or buy palm oil to tackle labor abuses on plantations and commit to ending deforestation that is contributing to climate change.

But smallholders like Kasno have been left behind, say industry officials.

Only 78,000 smallholders are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body of consumer organizations, environmental groups and plantation firms that aims to make the industry greener and more ethical.

Some 35 years ago, Kasno and three workers spent 12 months clearing a plot of lush forest land near the city of Johor Bahru using chainsaws and burning.

The farmer planted oil palm on the carbon-rich peatland and then registered the land in his name for a nominal fee.

Kasno, who also does a part-time job to support his family, pays two Indonesians a monthly wage of 150 ringgit ($39) each to help harvest his plantation.

The father of three has heard of, but knows little about RSPO certification, a sustainability scheme that promotes best practice and is backed by major European buyers of palm oil.

The challenge for international companies now - faced with a scarcity of land to expand and the need to secure future supplies - is to work with small growers like Kasno, even though many farmers find it hard to follow sustainability rules.


Smallholders across the region often live in poverty and have only a basic education level, industry officials said.

Averaging from 2 to 7 hectares of land each, they struggle to make large profits because they do not use the latest farming methods, cannot buy the best fertilisers and pesticides cheaply, and their yields are usually lower than the industry average.

Unlike major palm growers, independent farmers also face logistical problems getting their fresh palm fruit to mills for processing, and are inefficient because they cannot afford modern farming equipment.

During low output months when seasonal monsoon rains are at their heaviest, their income can plummet, forcing them to cut down on labor costs or spending on fertilisers. This harms harvests and quality further.

Fluctuating global palm prices also hurt farmers - many of whom cannot access credit or insurance that would help them when extreme weather damages their crops.

Growing oil palm promised big profits 25 years ago but has turned out to be a “false dream” for many smallholders, said Marianne Martinet of The Forest Trust, a non-profit that works with large plantations, consumers and smallholders.

“The common challenge now is low productivity and yields ... also the financial ability to manage a business.”

Smallholders outside Johor Bahru said they need lower or subsidized fertilizer prices, training in the best farming practices, more help to increase yields and financial support from governments - especially when palm oil prices drop.

The children of smallholders in Malaysia, who complain about a lack of entertainment and the difficulty of finding a partner in rural areas, often seek better-paid work in urban areas. Halting that trend is crucial, farmers and dealers said.

“The priorities of smallholders, in most cases, (are) to put food on the table,” said Carl Bek-Nielsen, chief executive director of United Plantations, which has palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

“More resources need to be channeled to help smallholders, simply because they make up such a huge part of the (palm) cake. It’s a huge, huge task, but you have to start somewhere.”


Established back in 2004, the RSPO’s focus has been mostly on making large and medium-sized palm oil companies more sustainable, trying to achieve the maximum with limited funds.

But in 2012, it certified a first batch of smallholders, and three years later, set up a working group to look at how best to help them. In July last year, a roadmap was completed to open up the RSPO to more small growers, aimed at improving their livelihoods, sustainability and yields.

Eventually, with more funding and training, the goal is to make it easier for smallholders to get RSPO certification and access international markets. RSPO-certified palm oil is preferred by many European buyers, and is sold at a premium.

The RSPO launched a two-year pilot project late last year, partly funded by UN Environment, which will train smallholders in Sabah, Malaysia and Central Kalimantan in Indonesia.

“This is not only about economics but access to education, better healthcare,” said Julia Majail, RSPO associate director.

The RSPO project is similar to schemes backed by big palm buyers like Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble (P&G), which partner with sustainability advisors like The Forest Trust, Wild Asia and Proforest.

Such schemes train pockets of smallholders to adopt modern farming techniques and ensure workplace safety, as well as to avoid planting on peatland or burning during land clearance.

Smoke from slash-and-burn agriculture is blamed for the polluting haze that brings health risks across Southeast Asia most years.

Besides helping farmers achieve RSPO certification, the hope is that other smallholders will notice the gains made by participating growers, and change their methods too.

“If we want to drive more production with the same land - improve productivity (and) minimize deforestation - the way to go about it is to work with the smallholders,” said Girish Deshpande, a global business planner at P&G.


But some say achieving RSPO certification is too costly and complicated for most smallholders, citing the remoteness of plantations, the number of middlemen in the supply chain and the scale of monitoring required.

“I’m now beginning to question whether certification is the route for smallholders,” said Simon Lord, chief sustainability officer at Sime Darby Plantation and former chair of the RSPO smallholders’ working group.

“It’s just sheer logistics. The number of audit hours to do that just blows it out of the water, in terms of expense.”

Lord, who has more than 30 years of industry experience, said smallholders should form collectives, while government-run schemes offer them an easier “entry level” into sustainability.

The RSPO is reviewing how to simplify its certification process and standards for smallholders, said Majail, a process likely to be finalised by November.

Back in rural Johor, Malaysian navy veteran Farid Harith, 48, spotted a trend of smallholders leaving their land back in 2004, and now manages 70 plantations for owners who have moved to the cities or are too elderly to manage their crops.

“A lot of young people go to study at university and then pursue corporate careers,” said Harith, who employs some 17 Indonesian workers to help him.

“It is a great loss, because I see the opportunities there are to make money in the palm plantations,” he added. “We need to change the mindset.”

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5 New Cities That Are Set To Shake Up The Future (For Better Or Worse)

Wade Shepard Forbes 29 Mar 18;

Entire new cities are being built across Asia and Africa as emerging markets step onto the global stage and challenge our paradigms of how the world works. Over 40 countries are currently building hundreds of new cities — places with names like Cyberjaya, Naypyidaw, Nanhui, Gracefield Island, Dompak, and Tbilisi Sea New City — which are attempts at redefining what entire nations are and the role that they play in the global economy of the future.

I will start this list with one of the most controversial new city building projects to break ground in recent years — or, as the case is, make ground. With $100 billion of funding behind it — roughly the total annual GDP of Morocco — Forest City is designed to be the Malaysia’s answer to Singapore.

Built as a partnership between the Chinese developer Country Garden and Esplanade Danga, which is 99.9% owned by the Sultan of Johor, Forest City was designed to attract masses of Singaporean residents and Chinese real estate investors looking to offshore their assets.

Forest City is nothing if not ambitious. It is idealized as a “city of the future” -- an eco-city four times the size of Central Park in New York where the buildings will be covered in plants and there will be no cars. Accommodation is currently being built for 700,000 people, as residential high-rises, office towers, shopping malls, and hotels are rising up from land that was reclaimed from the sea.

That’s right, Forest City is being built on four artificial islands which protrude from the tip of peninsular Malaysia and flank the northwestern corner of Singapore, which sits hardly two kilometers away.

According to an article by Nicole Kobie on Wired, Forest City will have “homes so smart they'll keep your orchid perfectly watered without human intervention, that a window broken by local children kicking around a football will be fixed before you return home.”

Due for completion in 2035, Forest City is envisioned to be a new economic engine that could compete with Singapore and create 220,000 jobs.

However, this is an endeavor that has been much maligned in the international and regional media. Criticisms revolve around the contradiction of an “eco-city” that is built on 162 million cubic meters of shipped in sand that has severely disrupted the surrounding maritime environment, to it being a political firing rod between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore, to a simple analysis of economic fundamentals: as in, who is actually going to buy and live in all of these new homes?

There are also some other elements of the project that come off as a little obtuse. Such as the fact that if 700,000 people really were to be packed into Forest City's 14 square kilometers it would make it the most densely populated place on the planet, as Kobie pointed out in her story for Wired.

Xiong’an New Area, China

China’s state-level new areas are pretty much guaranteed to succeed. That’s what recent history tells us, anyway. The state-level designation means that a new development area has the full support of Beijing — meaning billions of dollars of investment and the political power to move companies and institutions in -- by guile and fiat. Pudong (Shanghai), Binhai (Tianjin), Liangjiang (Chongqing), Nanshan (Guangzhou), and Tianfu (Chengdu) are all state-level new areas and, not coincidentally, are some of the biggest economic engines that China has today.

So when a new state-level new area is announced it not only garners a massive amount of attention but a massive amount of investors who are gung-ho to get in early and have few qualms about throwing down large sums of money. This is especially true when the new state-level new area is located near a city like Beijing and is touted as being a core part of a major massive development initiative to link multiple big cities together into a mega-region of unheard of proportions called Jing-Jin-Ji.

Xiong’an is the newest State-level new area in China, and early reports began positing that it could become “China’s third economic engine.” Created from scratch last April, the new development zone which sits 100 kilometers from Beijing sparked such a flurry of economic activity that investors proverbially broke the place. Regulators had to step in and temporarily pull the plug on local property sales as the prices spiked from $1,450 to $2,500 per square meter in a matter of days and a quarter of the 20 top stocks on the Shanghai exchange had to suspend trading for two days after eclipsing their daily limits.

Initially, Xiong’an is expected to cover an expanse of 100 square kilometers and then incrementally grow to become a 2,000 square kilometer colossus — which is significantly larger than Greater London.

It’s location was chosen to form a near perfect equilateral triangle with Beijing and Tianjin, but it’s location is far enough away from both to inhibit commuting, which will apply pressure for the place to become a true new city by requiring it to develop all aspects of a well-balanced urban environment. As Steven McCord from JLL mentioned on his blog:

Nor is Xiong’an envisioned as a “bedroom community” commuter suburb. Instead, it will be an entirely new city. At an equivalent distance from Beijing as the city of Tianjin, daily commutes are not practical, even with high-speed rail. The project has more in common with “new capitals”, cities purpose-built by edict around the world such as Canberra in Australia, Brasilia in Brazil, and Putrajaya in Malaysia.

However, the Xiong’an strategy takes this idea and turns it inside-out: the new city’s purpose is to be everything that Beijing doesn’t want to be, and allow Beijing to strengthen its core purpose of being the national administrative centre.

Xiong’an is meant to become a new hub for China’s trademark economic “experimentation,” where more free-market policies and systems are tried out in an almost laboratory-like setting that can be easily controlled and adapted. The place is meant to become a hub for research, education, and high-tech R&D, and we can expect to see a large amount of such institutions — such as firms from the Zhongguancun tech zone and science and engineering units from established universities — being shipped in.

Nurkent, Kazakhstan

Far out on the Eurasian steppes, one tick from the Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility — the farthest point on earth from an ocean — is a bi-national development zone that is set to shake up how we view the economic potential of the inland realms of Eurasia.

Straddling the border between China and Kazakhstan is a place called Khorgos. On the Chinese side there is the $3.25 billion new city of Horgos that is being built for 200,000 people and on the Kazakhstan side is the Khorgos East Gate special economic zone, which contains the 49% Chinese owned Khorgos Gateway dry port. Connecting the two sides is the International Center for Boundary Cooperation, which is a one of a kind bi-national duty free zone.

While multifaceted urban development is booming on the Chinese side of this development area, the Kazakh side remains rather, let's say, transport-oriented. At this point, it’s basically just a train station. But this is all set to change, and Nurkent is what’s intended to put the wheels of this transition in motion.

Nurkent is a purpose-built new city that links together the various transportation and industrial projects of the Khorgos area. As of now, it is basically just a work camp of 1,200 people — the employees of the dry port and nearby customs offices and train station and their families — but it is set to grow into a full-fledged 100,000 person commercial and cultural center by 2035. This is an endeavor that is coming straight down from Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev himself, it is said, and it is a key part of his $9 billion Nurly Zhol initiative to diversify Kazakhstan’s economy via the transportation sector. $34 million has already been allocated for the new city and, if what Nazarbeyev did with Astana is any indication, expect big changes to come to Nurkent in the near future.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Mar 18

Marvellous March at the Marine Park
Sisters' Island Marine Park

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5 companies and schools receive Singapore's highest award for water conservation

Fabian Koh Straits Times 28 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's highest award for water conservation has been given to three companies and two schools this year.

The Watermark Award was handed to Singapore Refining Company Private Limited, United Microelectronics Corporation (Singapore branch), Carlton City Hotel Singapore, Qifa Primary School and Chung Cheng High School (Main).

The winners received the award from Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in a ceremony at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Wednesday (March 28).

The award, first introduced by the national water agency PUB in 2007, gives recognition to efforts in raising awareness on water conservation and introducing initiatives to use water efficiently.

In Carlton City Hotel Singapore in Tanjong Pagar, staff are not the only ones asked to conserve water. Message cards are placed in the 386 rooms to encourage guests to reuse their linens and towels, hence saving the amount of water used for laundry services.

Other initiatives include reusing condensation from air handling units for cooling towers and using a remote monitoring system to detect possible water wastage.

With these measures, the 29-storey hotel saw a drop of about 4,233 cubic m in water consumption between 2014 and 2016. That is equivalent to over 1½ Olympic-sized swimming pools .

Qifa Primary School's Chinese Drums Troupe performing at the Watermark Awards 2018 ceremony

Mr Augustine Cheong, the hotel's executive assistant manager, said that most of the hotel guests are supportive of water conservation.

"Most of our feedback comes in the form of guests' actions. They place the card on their beds to tell our staff not to change the linen and towels. But on our part, we still change them once every two days for hygiene purposes."

For Qifa Primary School in West Coast, its cohort of over 1,300 students were given handmade bookmarks bearing water conservation messages so that they could share them with families and neighbours.

Last year, its Primary 5 pupils took part in a "Water is Precious" project. One task involved them tracking their household water bills for three months, and spreading awareness of water conservation at home.

One of the challenges faced, according to the school's principal May Tan, was that most of the parents themselves were not tracking the bills, since a majority of them had their payments deducted automatically through Giro.

"We found a lack of awareness. A lot of the parents don't check the bills, and when you don't keep track, then you won't know how much water you're using."

But Madam Tan was encouraged by the involvement of the students. "They really subscribed to the message. That's the thing with children. When they believe in it, then they will be more enthusiastic about it."

PUB chief executive Ng Joo Hee said it is important to know that water is a scarce resource and should be used wisely, especially "amid the threat of climate change".

"As we celebrate the achievements of the winning organisations, we hope that they will inspire other organisations to explore further ways to bring about greater water efficiency and water savings in their operations."

PUB had launched a guidebook - Best Practice Guide for Water Efficiency - Buildings - earlier this year.

It is the first best practice guide to be launched. Others which will be launched later this year include guides for the wafer fabrication and semiconductor sector, and the refineries, petrochemicals and chemicals sector.

"We believe the Best Practices guides will serve as useful resources for the industries to strive for higher water efficiency," said Mr Ng.

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Researchers create anti-bacterial surface coating inspired by dragonflies

Channel NewsAsia 28 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: The wings of dragonflies and cicadas inspired a group of researchers from A*STAR's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) to invent an anti-bacterial nano-coating that could be used to disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, tables and lift buttons.

In a news release on Wednesday (Mar 28), A*STAR said that studies have shown that the wings of these insects are covered in tiny structures called nanopillars, making them look like a bed of nails. When bacteria come into contact with these surfaces, their cell membranes get ripped apart immediately and they are killed.

Inspired by these studies, a group of IBN scientists grew nanopillars of zinc oxide, a compound known for its anti-bacterial and non-toxic properties. The zinc oxide nanopillars can kill a broad range of germs like E. coli and S. aureus that are commonly transmitted from surface contact, according to A*STAR.

Their new research was recently published in the journal Small.

This technology will prove particularly useful in creating bacteria-free surfaces in places like hospitals and clinics, where sterilisation is important to help control the spread of infections, the agency said.

A*STAR noted that 80 per cent of common infections are spread by hands, and said that while disinfecting commonly touched surfaces helps to reduce the spread of harmful germs in this way, it requires manual and repeated disinfection because germs grow rapidly.

Current disinfectants may also contain chemicals like triclosan which may lead to bacterial resistance and environmental contamination if used extensively, it stated in the media release.

“There is an urgent need for a better way to disinfect surfaces without causing bacterial resistance or harm to the environment. This will help us to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases from contact with surfaces," IBN executive director Jackie Ying said.

Tests on ceramic, glass, titanium and zinc surfaces showed that the coating effectively killed up to 99.9 per cent of germs found on the surfaces.

"As the bacteria are killed mechanically rather than chemically, the use of the nano coating would not contribute to environmental pollution. Also, the bacteria will not be able to develop resistance as they are completely destroyed when their cell walls are pierced by the nanopillars upon contact," A*STAR said in the media release.

In addition, the nano-coating worked best when it was applied on zinc surfaces, according to the agency. On zinc surfaces, the zinc oxide nanopillars in the coating could kill even nearby bacteria that were not in direct contact with the surface.

The researchers studied the effect of placing a piece of zinc that had been coated with zinc oxide nanopillars into water containing E. coli. All the bacteria were killed, suggesting that this material could potentially be used for water purification, it added.

The research team behind the invention is led by Dr Yugen Zhang. Dr Zhang said that the researchers hope to use the technology to create bacteria-free surfaces in a "safe, inexpensive and effective manner", especially in places where germs tend to accumulate.

IBN has received a grant from the National Research Foundation to develop this coating technology, in collaboration with Tan Tock Seng Hospital, for commercial application over the next five years, according to the media release.

Source: CNA/mz(hm)

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Why Hong Kong has the toughest coral in the world, and how agnès b is on a mission to help save it

The French scientific vessel Tara, brainchild of agnès b owner Agnès Troublé, is on a two-year mission to explore Pacific corals. It called in on Hong Kong where it discovered that Hong Kong coral is surprisingly resilient
Stuart Heaver South China Morning Post 28 Mar 18;

The large schooner berthed at Central Pier 9 earlier this month had travelled some 32,400 nautical miles before arriving in Hong Kong.

The French research vessel Tara set sail from Lorient, northern France, in May 2016 and is on an epic two-year oceanographic mission to explore the coral reefs of the Pacific. On its 10-day port call in Hong Kong the 16-person team, known as “Taranauts”, hosted hundreds of visitors, but they were here primarily to study coral.

“Hong Kong is an interesting place to sample coral because of the economic development and its impact on ocean biodiversity; we look at the impact of the pollution,” says scientist Sarah Romac from Roscoff, France, speaking in the vessel’s wet laboratory.

The biggest surprise, the team found, was local coral’s resilience.

Sarah Romac, a scientist on board the ocean research vessel Tara. Photo: Jonathan Wong
The Tara Pacific 2016-18 expedition is not a French government, European Union or official university initiative. Backers of the foundation that runs the project are associated more with the catwalk than the laboratory.

The Tara project is the brainchild of Parisian fashion designer Agnès Troublé owner of the label agnès b and her son Etienne Bourgois, who bought the 36-metre aluminium sailing vessel in 2003. She started her fashion and design empire in a Paris shop in 1975. Today it has 2,100 employees and more than 332 stores and outlets around the world, including 25 in Hong Kong.

Cynics might expect a marine scientific project initiated by a well-known fashion house to be more focused on stylish crew uniforms than high-level scientific investigation, but as one of Hong Kong’s leading coral scientists is keen to point out, that is definitely not the case with Tara.

David Baker, assistant professor at University of Hong Kong’s Swire Institute of Marine Science, insists that the Tara expeditions are all about “absolutely essential hard science”. Four members of his laboratory team assisted the Taranauts in a coral sampling mission in local waters.

By all accounts, the Tara Expedition Foundation has never been just an exercise in corporate social responsibility or a wealthy family’s vanity project.

In the boat’s crowded saloon, the executive director of the foundation, Romain Troublé (a nephew of Agnès) illustrates the group’s scientific credentials. He slaps a copy of the journal Science, dated May 22, 2015, on the table with a cover headline that reads “A world of plankton”.

The edition reports the findings of the Tara’s previous Oceans Expedition (2009-13), which involved the collection of plankton samples from 600 locations around the world. The project enabled the creation of catalogues of species and genes on a scale never before undertaken.

By continuing the investigation of the biggest database compiled on the planktonic ecosystem, researchers from France’s leading scientific laboratories, including the French National Centre for Scientific Research, achieved a new milestone by analysing the expression of more than 100 million genes belonging to complex organisms, from microscopic algae to small planktonic animals.

“After we had our plankton research published in Science, our scientific credibility was established,” says Troublé.

They are now partnered with 27 of the world’s best-known research institutes, including Nasa and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Ten partner laboratories send up to seven scientists to us for about one month at a time,” he says, and goes on to outline the importance of the current expedition.

“We are trying to establish how coral actually works, by sampling at 35 different reefs with three locations on each reef.”

The Taranauts, he adds, have already visited 25 locations between Panama and Japan.

In all the trip will equate to 20,000 samples and 3,500 dives. It is on a scale never attempted before, over the Pacific Ocean, which is home to about 40 per cent of the world’s coral.

Coral health is important, because these fragile ecosystems are widely regarded as the nurseries of the seas and oases of marine life. Although they cover less than 0.2 per cent of the ocean floor, they represent 30 per cent of all marine diversity. Tara scientists believe even a minor increase in sea surface temperature of about 0.5 per cent is likely to produce cataclysmic levels of coral bleaching.

The boat is essentially a floating data gathering platform, granting ecologists, marine biologists, plankton experts and oceanographers from the world’s leading institutes access to big data from a wide geographical spread. It also conducts its own investigations.

On-board experts, including Romac, a plankton molecular ecologist from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, collaborate to establish an extensive genomic, genetic, viral and bacterial on-site analysis of coral biodiversity.

“What we are seeing is that although climate change is a stress factor, the impact is heterogeneous even between sites on the same reef. Local stresses such as sewage, sedimentation and overfishing also make an impact,” says Troublé.

It is those stresses that brought Tara to Hong Kong’s coastline, which is routinely subject to all three.
While unspoilt coral reefs in exotic locations make for stunning underwater videos, these scientists are equally interested in coral communities located in the murky waters of highly developed Hong Kong. Here, local coral communities appear to have developed an unusual resilience to both climate change and intensive urban development. Local scientists are keen to collaborate with the Taranauts to investigate how Hong Kong’s special corals manage to survive, when they are subject to such persistent abuse.

“Hong Kong’s corals may be the strongest on Earth, as they have survived more than a century of coastal development,” Baker says. His team at the Swire institute are keen to compare local coral data with other data sets and work with the Taranauts to try and understand what makes Hong Kong corals so special.

“Scientists in Hong Kong can compare familiar local reefs with our data gathered over many different sites, and that is of great interest to them,” Troublé says.

After leaving Pier 9, Tara spent two days sampling at Ngo Mei Chau (Crescent island), about two nautical miles north east of Plover Cove, and at Sham Wan (Turtle Bay), in the south of Lamma Island. At both sites the Taranauts were joined by four members of the Baker’s team: Shelby McIlroy, Jane Wong, Vriko Yu and Till Röthig, who all dived at the sites.

“We targeted the coral Porites lobata [also known by the common name lobe coral, which is a species of stony coral],” Röthig says.

“Additionally, plankton and sediment samples were taken. We saw a lot of different corals, maybe 20 to 30 species, but only targeted the Porites for Tara’s comparative sampling effort.”
Röthig explains how, once underwater, his team first take photographs of the coral colonies, then use a hammer and chisel to break off tissue from the colonies.

Those small samples are stored in sterile ziplock bags before being transported to the Tara on completion of the dive. Once on board, the samples are split seven ways and preserved by flash-freezing in liquid nitrogen, or with chemicals such as formaldehyde, for further processing at the respective destination institute.

“In the end we get a picture of population, structure, symbiotic association with algae, bacteria, viruses, health or stress state,” he says, adding that the high tolerance of Hong Kong’s corals makes them fascinating.

“It’s a small but important piece of this gigantic scientific puzzle which Tara is trying to solve,” he says.

Romac says the on board team will report back once the detailed analysis is complete. “We will compile a health report on Hong Kong’s corals in collaboration with our partners at Swims [the Swire institute],” she says, before the vessel’s departure for the western shores of Taiwan.

Diving for coral samples in the chilly waters of Crescent island on a misty morning is far removed from the urbane world of European haute couture, but the unlikely connection means Tara crew adopt a subtly untypical style in their scientific research.

“We want to interest the public in the state of their marine ecosystems,” says Romac.

She believes the inclusion in the Taranauts team of journalists producing high quality newsletters and online videos, plus an artist interpreting the ocean from a completely different perspective, is an integral part of the project. The Tara makes a determined effort to engage with those outside the rarefied confines of the ocean research community and demonstrate that great science, such as great design, can profoundly inspire people.

“This is not just a scientific adventure, it’s a human adventure too,” she says.

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Southeast Asia closes island beaches to recover from climate change and tourism

Rina Chandran Reuters 27 Mar 18;

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More popular Southeast Asian islands will be off limits to visitors this year as officials seek to protect eco-systems crumbling from warming seas and unchecked sprawl, despite the risk to tourism revenues and tens of thousands of jobs.

Thailand will shut Maya Bay, which famously featured in “The Beach”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, for four months a year, from June. In the Philippines, officials plan to close Boracay island for six months at the end of April.

“Islands have very fragile eco-systems that simply cannot handle so many people, pollution from boats and beachfront hotels,” said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine expert in Bangkok.

“Coral reefs have been degraded by warmer seas and overcrowding. Sometimes, a complete closure is the only way for nature to heal,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

More than three-quarters of Thailand’s coral reefs have been damaged by rising sea temperatures and unchecked tourism, said Thon, who last week recommended limiting visitors to its 22 marine parks to 6 million a year to enable their recovery.

Currently, they number about 5.5 million, he said.

Thailand closed dozens of dive sites to tourists in 2011, after unusually warm seas caused severe damage to coral reefs in the Andaman Sea, one of the world’s top diving regions. It also shut some islands in 2016.

The country’s sandy beaches helped draw record numbers of tourists last year, with revenues contributing about 12 percent of the economy. The government expects 38 million visitors this year.

Southeast Asia is expected to bear the brunt of rising damage to coral reefs, depriving fishermen of incomes and leaving nations exposed to incoming storms and damage from surging seas, recent research showed.

In the Philippines, which is among the most vulnerable to climate change, about 2 million people visited Boracay last year, celebrated for its white-sand beaches.

On a visit last month, President Rodrigo Duterte called the island a “cesspool” because of sewage dumped directly into the sea, and warned of a looming environmental disaster with buildings constructed too close to the shore.

Government agencies have recommended closing the island for six months to fix the problems.

Tour operators say more than 36,000 jobs are at stake.

“We support the government in adopting responsible and sustainable tourism practices ... but not in shutting down the whole island,” the Philippine Travel Agencies Association said.

But Thailand’s Thon warned against short-term fixes.

“Tourism is important, but we need to preserve these spaces for our future generations, for future livelihoods,” he said.

Southeast Asia's idyllic islands buckle under tourism strain
John Geddie, Amy Sawitta Lefevre Reuters 6 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE/BANGKOK (Reuters) - The six-month closure of the Philippine tourism island of Boracay for a revamp after the country’s president branded it a “cesspool” reflects the growing pressures on beach resorts across Southeast Asia as visitor numbers surge.

Tourism experts say the region’s infrastructure is buckling under record visitor numbers, especially as more Chinese holiday abroad, and expect more drastic measures to come.

Airports have become chaotic, hotels are being thrown up hastily with little regard for safety and sanitation, tropical beaches are strewn with garbage and coral reefs are dying.

Thailand already has plans to shut its famous Maya Bay in the Phi Phi islands for four months this summer, while an environmental group is calling for urgent government action to tackle a “crisis” on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali.

“Many out-of-control destinations across Asia will need clean-ups,” said Brian King, associate dean of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. “These may come from government, or industry or from NGO-driven community action. The danger is that little happens until the crisis point is reached.”

He added: “Boracay is not the first and won’t be the last closure.”

Airlines have already started to cut back flights to Boracay, which had 2 million visitors last year, with the largest foreign contingents coming from China and South Korea, ahead of its closure on April 26. [nL4N1RI1ZZ]

The Philippines, which had record visitor numbers last year after three years of double-digit growth, estimates the Boracay closure could reduce full-year GDP by 0.1 percent. [nL4N1RI1ZZ]

It is also planning to inspect the beach resort of Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro, and is already looking at the resorts of El Nido and Coron, in Palawan province, where an influx of tourism and rapid development has put infrastructure under strain.

But rival tourist hotspots around the region are not all rubbing their hands at the prospect of the extra revenue from the redirected tourist traffic.

Kanokkittika Kritwutikon, the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Phuket office, said the island was at “stretching point”, particularly its airport, which has undergone a number of upgrades in recent years to try to cope with overcapacity.

“Our policy is to try to spread tourism around” from Phuket to “secondary destinations that are less well-known,” said Kanokkittika. “Apart from guests arriving by plane to Phuket we also have boats coming in, including cruises, so you can imagine how many tourists come through Phuket.”

The shutdown of Maya Bay in an attempt to salvage the area’s coral reefs - which have been damaged by crowds of tourists and warmer temperatures - follows the closure of 10 popular Thai diving sites in 2016 after a National Parks survey found bleaching on up to 80 percent of some reefs.

Pattaya, south of Bangkok, serves as another cautionary tale.

An influx of western tourists from as far back as the 1960s, when American soldiers came on leave from the Vietnam war, and a construction boom in the 1990s transformed it from a picturesque fishing village to a town known for its seedy nightlife and high crime rate.

Thailand’s tourism ministry expects 37.55 million tourists this year, up from a record 35 million in 2017, of which 9.8 million were from China.

Benjamin Cassim, a tourism lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic School of Business in Singapore, said the closures of Boracay and Maya Beach could become “test cases” and will be closely monitored by other countries with popular beach resorts.

A non-profit group in Indonesia has been calling on the government to tackle what it calls an “environmental crisis” in Bali, the country’s most popular tourist island, which saw more than 5.5 million visitors last year.

Indonesian authorities have long faced criticism for allowing unplanned developments that have swallowed up rice fields with golf courses and villas on Bali. Its beaches are regularly strewn with plastic washed up from the ocean during certain months of the year.

Nonetheless, President Joko Widodo has been trying to promote creation of 10 “new Balis” in other parts of the scenic Indonesian archipelago.

“Environmental conditions in Bali are now increasingly degraded,” said I Made Juli Untung Pratama of WALHI, the Indonesian Forum for Environment.

“The culprit is the construction of massive tourism accommodation, without a proper regard to Bali’s environment. The massive development of tourism accommodation has caused the environmental crisis in Bali.”

Shutdowns such as the one on Boracay are not a new phenomenon. Back in 2004, Malaysian authorities shut all hotels on the island of Sipadan, known for having some of the best scuba diving in the world, to help protect its eco-system and subsequently restricted tourist numbers to the island.

But some say these extreme actions often come too late, and a more sustainable solution is needed across the region.

“Proactive environmental protection is a far more effective approach than reactive environmental protection,” said Matt Gebbie, an analyst from Horwath HTL Indonesia, a tourism consultancy.

“You can’t revive coral reefs and eroded beaches and degraded forests in six months,” Gebbie said. “Proactive protection is essential for the long term sustainability of resort destinations.”

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Indonesia: Lost habitats push Sumatran tiger out of forests

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 28 Mar 18;

The shrinking habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger has pushed the black-striped carnivore out of its living areas, leading to increased human-tiger conflicts, an activist has said.

The habitat centers of the Sumatran tiger on the island shrank to 23 pockets in 2016 from the previous 29 recorded in 2010, tiger conservation project manager at the Indonesian office of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Yoan Dinata said.

“The tiger population now faces bigger threats such as the declining area for them to live in and massive poaching,” he said in Jambi on Wednesday.

There are four Sumatran tiger habitats in Jambi, they are Kerinci Seblat, Bukit Tigapuluh, Berbak-Sembilang and Harapan Forest.

Their habitats have been disrupted and narrowed due to the massive expansion of palm oil plantations in Sumatra, pushing them to roam outside their habitats.

The latest human-tiger conflict made headlines following the brutal killing of a tiger in North Sumatra earlier this month after residents attacked the big cat believing that it was a siluman (shapeshifter). Residents in a village in Riau province also declared they were hunting a tiger after it had killed two residents this month.

An official estimate from the Environment and Forestry Ministry suggests that the Sumatran tiger population currently stands at no more than 600. Yoan urged all stakeholders to work hand-in-hand to protect the critically endangered animal and maintain its existence in the wild. (rin)

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The plastics crisis is more urgent than you know. Recycling bottles won’t fix it

John Vidal The Guardian 28 Mar 18;

West Wales, last weekend. The old foam mattress lying waterlogged on an otherwise clean beach might have been at sea for months before it was washed up on the tide. A large bit of it had broken off, and the rest was crumbling. It was a clear threat to wildlife, so we heaved what was left of it above the wave line and promised to come back to dispose of it properly when it was dry.

But how do you safely dispose of an old mattress made of billions of tiny plastic particles leaking formaldehyde and other potentially dangerous chemicals? Do you burn it? Bury it? Do you expect the company who made it to come to collect it? Answers to environment secretary Michael Gove, who today pledged to stem the tide of plastic debris by announcing a consultation on a plastic-bottle return scheme for England, which aims to get people to recycle more.

Gove’s initiative is welcome, but minimal, and will have zero impact on the vast and growing scale of the plastic problem. The scheme is aimed at people fed up with litter, and to Blue Planet viewers who are shocked by images of birds swallowing plastic straws and turtles being choked by plastic bags. It is no more use than a heavy smoker forgoing a single cigarette.

Since we started engineering polymers to make plastic on a mass scale in the 1950s, this byproduct of the petrochemical industry, which uses about 6% of all the oil we extract a year, has spread to myriad manufacturing processes. Plastic is now ubiquitous, insidious and impossible to avoid. It makes up our clothes, containers, bottles, electronics, food trays, cups and paints. Our cars depend on it, so do our computers, roofs and drain pipes. It’s the global packaging material of choice. We sleep on it, wear it, watch it, and are in direct bodily contact with it in one form or other all day and night.

It may have profound societal benefits, but this most successful of all manmade materials sticks around for centuries. When exposed to sunlight, oxygen or the action of waves, it doesn’t biodegrade but simply fragments into smaller and smaller bits, until microscopic or nano-sized particles enter the food chain, the air, the soil and the water we drink.

The BBC’s hugely popular Blue Planet series and a stream of scientific studies have made us aware of how the oceans are being polluted, but we still have little understanding of how human health is impacted by the many synthetic chemicals and additives that are used to give plastic its qualities. In the past few years, minute microplastics and fibres, measuring the width of a human hair or far less, have been found in an extraordinary range of products, such as honey and sugar, shellfish, bottled and tap water, beer, processed foods, table salt and soft drinks.

In one study, 95% of all adults tested in the US had known carcinogenic chemical bisphenol A in their urine. In another, 83% of samples of tap water tested in seven countries were found to contain plastic microfibres. A study published last week revealed plastics contamination in more than 90% of bottled-water samples, which were from 11 different brands. And earlier this year the River Tame in Manchester was found to have 517,000 particles of plastic per cubic metre of sediment – that’s nearly double the highest concentration ever measured across the world.

The more researchers look, the more they find in the human body. The same scientists who raised the alarm on air pollution from the deadly particles emitted by diesel vehicles are now finding plastic microparticles raining down on cities, and blown into the air from cars and construction sites, washing lines and food packaging. Indoor plastic pollution may be even worse than outdoors, with a single wash of sports kit or manmade textiles found to release thousands of microfibres into the air.

At a recent UK workshop convened by the marine group Common Seas, 30 scientists, doctors and others compared notes, and agreed unanimously that plastic is now in what we eat, drink and breathe, and constitutes a significant and growing threat to human health.

If we can breathe in these micro- and nano-sized particles and fibres, the scientists conjecture, they are likely to get into the human bloodstream, lung tissue and breast milk, or become lodged in the gut and respiratory systems. Some microparticles may pass through the body without causing harm, others may lodge there dangerously. Many are suspected to be carcinogenic or to have hormone-disrupting properties.

The consensus is that there are great gaps in what we know about how microplastics affect human health, and that we need more robust science. We don’t know the risk when we drink contaminated bottled or tap water every day. We don’t know how much we are ingesting or breathing, or what effect exposure to hazardous plastic particles may have over years. We don’t know the concentrations that are safe for adults, let alone infants. There is mounting concern that under-studied microplastic particles threaten health by presenting a potentially major source of toxic chemicals to the human body.

Although we have known for years that some of the additives used to make plastics flexible, transparent or durable are chemically dangerous, few have been tested on humans. Some countries have banned some chemicals – but there is no consistency, and the chemical companies have found it easy to avoid regulation, finding substitutes that are potentially just as dangerous.

It is not enough to single out plastic bottles, coffee cups, or the microbeads found in cosmetics. We urgently need the government to form a comprehensive plastic action plan. Banning all plastic bags and single-use packaging would be a good start, but we need to go way beyond that. Plastic production has to be reduced, just as alternatives should be encouraged. Regulators must think about phasing out whole groups of chemicals of concern, rather than slowly restricting individual chemicals one at a time, and consumers must be helped to understand what they are being exposed to, and to navigate the complexity of what can be recycled, composted or burned.

In the 1950s the world made about 2m tonnes of plastic a year. Now that figure is 330m tonnes a year – and it is set to treble again by 2050. It’s not enough to return a few plastic bottles, or even to pick up an old mattress on a beach.

• John Vidal is a former environment editor of the Guardian

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UK plans plastic bottle charge to tackle pollution

AFP Yahoo News 28 Mar 18;

London (AFP) - Britain on Wednesday announced plans for consumers to pay a deposit on plastic bottles as part of a broader push to tackle pollution.

The government will introduce a charge on plastic, glass and metal single use drinks containers sold in England, the environment ministry said.

The move is aimed at cutting the amount of waste produced in Britain -- including an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles annually.

"It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled," said environment minister Michael Gove.

"We want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans," he added.

The deposit scheme to be introduced in Britain will be opened for consultation to determine how it will work.

The environment ministry pointed to similar schemes in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, where a charge of up to 22 pence (25 euro cents) is refunded once the empty bottle is deposited.

The measure follows the 2015 introduction of a 5 pence charge for carrier bags in most shops, which the government has said cut the number of plastic bags by 9 billion.

Britain is also due to put plastics pollution on the agenda at next month's Commonwealth summit, attended by more than 50 leaders, the prime minister's spokesman said.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Mar 18

Pesta Ubin 2018 Workshop
wild shores of singapore

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Temperatures in Singapore dip to 23.3 degrees Celsius amid widespread rain

Channel NewsAsia 27 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: The weather was chillier than usual on Tuesday night (Mar 27) as temperatures dipped amid widespread rain.

Temperatures in Clementi fell to 23.7 degrees Celsius at around 10pm and was 23.3 degrees Celsius at Pulau Ubin, according to the Meteorological Service’s website. The temperatures in other parts of Singapore ranged between 24 and 25.4 degrees Celsius.

It was raining in most areas, although the Met Service said the rain is expected to clear later in the night. Thunderstorms are expected on Wednesday afternoon, it said.

Temperatures for the next four days are expected to range between 24 and 33 degrees Celsius, with thunderstorms in the afternoon on most days, it added.

In its latest weather outlook, the Met Service said the prevailing northeast monsoon is expected to persist in the second half of March. Thunderstorms due to daytime heating of land areas are expected on five to seven days, although these are expected to last around an hour or less in the afternoon, and extend into the evening on one or two days.

In January, Singapore experienced its longest cool spell in the last 10 years, with daily minimum temperatures dipping to as low as 21.2 degrees Celsius.

Source: CNA/cy(aj)

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