Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jan 18

Singapore got mangroves, meh?
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Happy New Year from Cyrene Reef!
wild shores of singapore

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Louis Ng's optimism carries him through Acres activism and politics

Yunita Ong The New Paper 2 Jan 18;

Mr Louis Ng recalled being angry and impatient in his early days of activism.

But ask him about the rejection in end-November of his parliamentary petition to make public housing policies more inclusive for single parents and he remains optimistic.

The MP for Nee Soon GRC, 39, told The New Paper: "I don't believe it is a setback. The Ministry of National Development did put up a big statement that it will ensure no child will be without adequate housing whether the parents are married or not."

The petition, which was a rare move here, had asked for unmarried parents and their children to be considered a family nucleus, so they can be eligible for public housing schemes. It was filed on behalf of seven single parents.

Mr Ng's optimism is an undercurrent to his work both as MP and as chief executive of animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).


Since he was elected as an MP in the 2015 General Election with the People's Action Party (PAP), the man who was previously known more as an animal rights champion has gone beyond that in Parliament.

Last month, the ex-smoker spoke against an impending ban on imitation tobacco products because he believes Singapore might be missing out on a chance to benefit from regulations that would allow the controlled use of such products to help smokers quit.

In August, he filed an adjournment motion to ask for extended paid parental leave for those with multiple births or premature babies. Mr Ng's 10-month-old twin daughters, Katie and Poppy, were born premature.

Mr Ng believes strongly in speaking up about society's injustices as an MP - the same as what his activist self would do.

Speaking to TNP at Yishun Park Hawker Centre last month, he said: "People asked why I wanted to jump from activism to politics, but I've always said they're the same thing. I am fortunate to have this chance to speak up."


Mr Ng made a name for himself after starting Acres in 2001 while studying biology at the National University of Singapore.

In 2003, Acres infamously parked a black car, with a pink dolphin soft toy chained to its top, outside the Haw Par Glass Tower building in Clemenceau Avenue. This was to demand pink dolphins that performed at the then-Underwater World Singapore to be set free.

His life changed when Mr K. Shanmugam, who was already Law Minister then, wanted to meet days after speaking at Acres' anniversary dinner in 2008.

Mr Ng recalled: "I was wondering, what did I do?"

Mr Shanmugam urged him to turn his attention to people and not just animals - and to volunteer at Chong Pang in Nee Soon GRC.

Mr Ng also took Mr Shanmugam's advice to veer from a combative approach. One example is the long-standing ban on cat ownership in HDB flats.

A pilot programme allowing residents in Chong Pang to keep cats in their flats began in 2012 after he worked with Mr Shanmugam and took feedback from a public forum on animal welfare policies in 2011, he said. It was extended by another two years in 2015.

Mr Ng said: "I realised that working from within, I could affect policy. It wasn't just about rescuing more animals but about fundamental policy changes."

As an MP, he listens to residents and engages civil society groups to sound out their issues in Parliament. He said his eyes were opened to the struggles of single parents during one of his weekend home visits.

He makes it a point to enter each resident's home and to hear them out.

He said: "I just finished my first round of 143 HDB blocks and that has taken me two years."

As a father to three girls - Ella is the oldest at three - with his wife Amy, 40, who takes care of the kids full-time, Mr Ng felt compelled to act.

He met the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) several times and consulted it about research it had done on the matter.

His work has been valuable to Aware, said its executive director Corinna Lim.

The two had worked together before Mr Ng's entry into politics. After he was elected, they met to discuss issues facing women.

In Parliament, he has asked for data on several Aware-related issues such as the treatment by the authorities of those who have attempted suicide.

She said: "He really does his homework and makes sure he knows the issue inside out. He is patient and takes the role as a representative of the people very, very seriously."

While she said some in the activism scene were surprised about him joining the PAP, she said as MP, he has extended the empathy and sense of injustice he has had for animals towards society's marginalised people.

That said, Mr Ng said Acres has not changed just because he is an MP, and that it would not hesitate to speak up on issues, such as the long conflict between the AVA and Acres about culling monkeys.

Mr Ng said last year the number culled in 2015 was too high.

He has plans for the next Budget speech and has met civil servants on how to improve the system.


Mr Ng said the next step for the single parent issue is to file a parliamentary question on the criteria single parents need to fulfil to be able to get housing.

"If we get the momentum going and get more details, we can actually make a difference."

Whenever he feels dejected, he reminds himself he can do something to change things.

He has started several initiatives in Nee Soon such as Project Hearts, a financial assistance project and mentorship programme for needy children, and Project Hearts to Hands that has organised trips to help neighbouring countries tackling natural disasters and refugee crises.

He said: "Singapore can't accept refugees, but I don't think we should just stop there and say we can't help."

He added activism has taught him that change takes time.

"I always tell my new staff - all our successful campaigns took two to three years."

Even something as brutal as the Yishun cat murders yielded a positive take from Mr Ng, who said the upside was that Singaporeans rallied around the cause, some even travelled from Potong Pasir to protect the cats.

Said Mr Ng: "We lose many battles. If you are pessimistic, you will never last."

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Hospitals that seek to heal with nature

Designs incorporating greenery linked to better mental and physical well-being
Felicia Choo Straits Times 2 Jan 18;

Bring up her stay at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and one of the first things that former patient Chong Lih Yin remembers is the verdant grounds.

"I felt so relaxed," said the business administrator, 49, who was hospitalised last month for hives. "You don't see such greenery at other hospitals."

The 590-bed general and acute care hospital, which opened in June 2010, stands out for its access to both greenery and water features.

A waterfall that cascades into a central garden courtyard, rooftop gardens and planter boxes along corridors and outside wards provide patients with green views, and the hospital grounds even open out into Yishun Pond.

The hospital's public areas are also naturally ventilated by louvres on the facade which channel wind throughout the interior while blocking out direct sunlight.

Its biophilic design, which incorporates nature and its representations to improve people's health and well-being, won KTPH the inaugural Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Award last month.

Biophilic design is based on the idea that humans have an inherent need to connect with nature, even in modern settings, and this connection improves their mental and physical well-being.

KTPH, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) and Jurong Community Hospital are the only hospitals here considered to have an extensive biophilic design, said Professor Lam Khee Poh, dean of the National University of Singapore's School of Design and Environment.

While research has linked green buildings to positive effects on people's health, more studies are needed to determine the link between biophilic design and patient recovery in healthcare settings, said Prof Lam. But these studies are limited as few hospitals worldwide have such designs, he added.

An often cited research work in the context of healthcare is a 1984 study of patients who had undergone gall bladder surgery in a Pennsylvania hospital in the United States. It found that those who had a window view of trees stayed for a shorter time in the hospital, had less negative observations about their condition noted by nurses, and took fewer strong doses of painkillers than patients whose windows faced a brick wall.

"The general feedback of people who have been engaged in these kinds of buildings and spaces has been very positive, (but) we need to do that in a much more scientific and systematic way," said Prof Lam.

At NTFGH and Jurong Community Hospital, the idea of creating a healthy and healing environment for patients drove the design process, said Mr Foo Hee Jug, chief executive officer of NTFGH.

Built in June 2015, the hospitals have won several awards for design and environmental sustainability, including the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment Top Ten Awards last year.

The hospitals' fan-shaped wards with windows for each patient increase ventilation, with planters providing a green view. There are also 15 gardens, including one for intensive-care unit patients, and ward towers are orientated to optimise day lighting while reducing glare.

Staff are not left out either - a light well provides natural lighting at a relaxation area for backend staff who work in the basement.

Yet, challenges to adopting biophilic design remain, not least as many healthcare institutions are still largely conceptualised as sterile environments, and there are concerns about increased maintenance cost. An increase in pests like insects and the amount of dead leaves, which can clog up drains, are examples of the problems that some hospitals would rather avoid, said KTPH director of hospital planning Donald Wai.

KTPH sprays neem oil, an organic substance which is not toxic, on the plants so as to deter pests. Mr Wai said: "I feel that the management of each healthcare facility needs to embrace this green philosophy.

"The biophilic environment is not just meant to allow patients to walk about, feel relaxed and to recuperate, but also to make our staff feel that they are in a very calm and relaxing environment."

Prof Lam thinks there is a good chance that biophilic design can have a lasting impact on health.

"To me, it's not so much the cost but what value are you getting out of it. If you invest well, you're going to get the returns many, many times over," he said.

"And if you design it well and integrate it well from the doesn't necessarily mean that it will cost a lot more."

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Malaysia: Floods hit three districts in Johor

mohd farhaan shah The Star 1 Jan 18;

JOHOR BARU: The first day of the New Year brought flash floods to three districts in Johor, forcing 188 people to seek shelter at relief centres here.

Heavy downpour since late Sunday (Dec 31) evening caused floods to hit Labis, Kota Tinggi and Mersing on Monday.

State Health, Environment, Education and Information committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said 173 victims from 46 families in Mersing had been relocated to relief centres in the district.

He said among the affected villages were Taman Nakhoda, Air Papan, Kampung Tanjung Genting, Tenglu Besar, Kampung Kelantan near Endau and Air Tawar.

"About 51 people from 14 families in Kampung Orang Asli Segamat Kecil in Labis have been asked to return home after flood waters receded," he said.

Ayub said authorities were monitoring the weather as well as the flood situation in both Mersing and Kota Tinggi.

Meanwhile, Mersing Works Department on its Facebook page, said that part of Jalan Jemaluang-Mersing (FT003 section 130-129 in front of SMK Anjung Batu) was flooded and can only be used by heavy vehicles.

The department urged other vehicle users to use alternative routes such as Jalan Jemaluang/Kota Tinggi-Jalan Sri Pantai-Jalan Sekakap to Mersing town.

For more information, kindly contact JKR Mersing via its hotline at 07-7994040.

Wet start to New Year for several Johor districts hit by flash floods
Halim Said New Straits Times 1 Jan 18:

JOHOR BARU: It proved to be a wet start for the new year for residents of several areas in Johor, with a number of districts hit by flash floods today.

A continous downpour since noon led to floods in several low-lying areas in Kota Tinggi, Mersing and Segamat.

The worst-hit area was Mersing, where 173 people from 46 families had to be evacuated to five temporary flood relief centres when flood waters rose in the afternoon.

The affected areas in Mersing were Taman Nakhoda, Air Papan, Kampung Tanjung Genting, Kampung Tenglu Besar, Kampung Kelantan, Semanyir, Endau and Kampung Air Tawar.

All evacuees were brought to the respective relief centres as early as 1.45pm with the help of various agencies including the Civil Defence Force, Fire and Rescue Department, People's Volunteer Corp (Rela) and police.

Most of the flood victims were housed at SK Air Papan, which now houses 50 people from 15 families.

The situation was less severe in Kota Tinggi, as only one area in Bukit Raja was hit by flash floods. Ten people from three families had to seek shelter at the SK Teluk Ramunia relief centre.

Meanwhile, in Segamat, 51 people sought refuge on higher ground when waters rose in Kampung Segamat Kechil. However, the residents were able to return to their houses around 4pm when floodwaters receded.

Flash floods hit Mersing, Kuantan, river levels rising in Terengganu
Bernama New Straits Times 1 Jan 18;

JOHOR BARU: Two hundred and three people from 56 families in Mersing have been evacuated to five Temporary Evacuation Centres (PPS) when floods hit the district today.

Chairman of the Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee, Datuk Ayub Rahmat said as of 9 pm, the evacuees comprised residents in Taman Nakhoda, Air Papan, Kampung Tanjung Genting, Kampung Tenglu Besar, Kampung Kelantan and Kampung Air Tawar.

"A total of 10 people from four families were evacuated to the PPS at Taman Nakhoda Community Hall which was opened at 1.45 pm, 50 people from 15 families to Sekolah Kebangsaan Air Papan, which was opened at 4.15 pm, while 34 people from 10 families to Sekolah Kebangsaan Tenglu, which was opened at 4.30 pm.

“40 people from six families were moved to Kampung Benaung Multipurpose Hall, which was opened at 4.45 pm, while 39 people from 11 families were sent to the Endau District Farmers’ Association building which was opened at 5.20 pm, “ he said in a statement to Bernama.

Ayub said those evacuated inlcudes 15 people from six families in Kampung Bukit Raja, Kota Tinggi, were evacuated to Sekolah Kebangsaan Telok Ramunia, which was opened at 9 am following flash floods.

He said the flood situation was being monitored by agencies like the Kota Tinggi Civil Defence Force, Royal Malaysia Police, the Village Development and Security Committee, and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage.

Meanwhile, the Mersing Public Works Department (JKR), through its Facebook, announced that Jalan Jemaluang-Mersing (FT003 Section 130-129 in front of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Anjung Batu) is flooded and opened only to heavy vehicles.

It said light vehicles would have to use the alternative route of Jalan Jemaluang/Kota Tinggi-Jalan Sri Pantai-Jalan Sekakap to Mersing town.

Members of the public can contact Mersing JKR at its hotline number 07-7994040 for further information.

In Kuantan, Hidir Reduan reports that the number of evacuees from a flash flood here increased to 34 victims from 14 families as at 9pm tonight.

The evacuees are 19 people from six families from Kampung Sri Damai, and 15 people from eight families from Kampung Pandan 2.

Pahang Civil Defence Force director Colonel Zainal Yusof said that currently there are two relief centres opened to shelter the victims.

"For affected villagers from Kampung Sri Damai, they were placed at the Sri Damai public hall, while affected residents from Kampung Pandan 2 were sheltered at the village's community centre.

"The evacuation were conducted by the Civil Defence Force with the cooperation of the police, the state Fire and Rescue Department and the Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK)," he said tonight.

Zainal said that the Civil Defence Force does not discount the possibility of more evacuations as midnight approaches due to the uncertain weather.

He cautioned that heavy downpour at several locations in the district would heighten risk of flash floods at low-lying areas.

Meanwhile the water level in Sungai Dungun at Kampung Pasir Raja has exceeded the danger level, while Sungai Kemaman at Jambatan Air Putih in Kemaman, has exceeded the warning level, according to the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) portal

At Sungai Dungun, the measurement was 37.75 metres at 6.45 pm (danger level is .37.50m), and at Sungai Kemaman, it was 13.29m, which exceeded the warning level (13.25m).

Several other rivers also showed rising water level. They are Sungai Besut in Kampung La, Sungai Nerus in Kampung Langkap, Setiu, Sungai Tebak at Tebak Bridge, Kemaman and Sungai Berang in Kampung Menerong.

The water in the affected rivers has exceeded the alert level, though still below the warning level.

However, in Sungai Dungun at Kuala Jengai, the water was still below the alert level.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department today issued a warning that heavy rain and strong winds were expected to hit Dungun and Kemaman in Terengganu, Kuantan (Pahang) and Kota Tinggi, Johor until tomorrow. — BERNAMA

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Malaysia: Sabah mulls breeding endangered wild cattle

muguntan vanar The Star 1 Jan 18

KOTA KINABALU: A state government’s plan to breed the critically endangered Bornean banteng or wild cattle in oil palm plantations is feasible in reversing its possible extinction, said a conservationist.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens, who has been promoting an action plan, said it was a good idea to put a few banteng in the plantations for breeding purposes.

“If it is to put a few banteng in the oil palm plantations to breed them, why not? An estate may be willing to collaborate and provide space.

“There will be a need for shade and some forest,” he said.

“I believe all these issues could be discussed,” he said, adding that the banteng was critically endangered and could face the fate of Sumatran Rhinos, which had been declared extinct in the wild in Sabah with only two in captivity left.

With only about 400 banteng left in the wild, Dr Goosens said such a move would increase its population, which was in danger of facing habitat loss and being poached for meat.

Last week, Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustien Tuuga had said it was looking for a partnership with oil palm plantations to breed banteng through captive breeding and the application of advanced reproductive technology, and reintroduce these animals in the future.

Captive breeding, said Dr Goosens, was currently not necessary for other wildlife like the Bornean pygmy elephant, the proboscis monkey, the sun bear and the clouded leopard, adding that the situation was also not critical for the orang utan.

“However, a centre for the captive breeding of pangolins may be necessary.

“Banteng is fine because it’s a cattle and it’s easy to breed and feed,” he said.

“We must focus on protecting the forest, stopping deforestation, restoring the forest, keeping connectivity and stopping poaching and trade, and we should be fine for most species,” added Dr Goossens.

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Indonesia: Jakarta produced 780 tons of waste on New Year's Eve

Antara 1 Jan 18;

Jakarta produced 780 tons of waste on New Year's Eve
Jakartans celebrating the 2018 New Year`s Eve at National Monument (Monas) (ANTARA FOTO/Wahyu Putro A)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Jakartans celebrating the 2018 New Year`s Eve on Sunday evening produced a total of 780 tons of trash, an increase from 700 tons as compared to the 2017 New Year`s Eve.

"There is a slight increase as compared to that recorded last year, as this year, the Sudirman-Thamrin avenues were open, and the Ancol area was also open," Isnawa Adji, head of the Environmental Affairs office of the Jakarta administration, noted here, Monday.

Most of the trash comprised plastic bottles and bags as well as styrofoam, he remarked.

Some 10 thousand plastic bags were distributed to street vendors and those celebrating the New Year`s Eve to prevent littering.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan is keen that Jakartans play an active role in maintaining cleanliness in the capital city, he stated.

Jakartans flocked to the National Monument (Monas) area in Central Jakarta, Ancol area, and Lake Sunter area in North Jakarta, the Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park in East Jakarta, the Hotel Indonesia Circle in Central Jakarta, and Babakan Dam in South Jakarta for the New Year`s Eve celebrations.

Governor Baswedan was present in the Monas area and Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno was in Ancol when the clock struck midnight.

Reported by Dyah Dwi A
Editor: Monalisa

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