Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jan 18

Sustainable everyday choices in the Year of Climate action
People's Movement to Stop Haze

Sat 27 Jan 2018 – Microplastics Analysis Workshop by NParks & NUS
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

6 tips on being a responsible traveller
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Celebrating Singapore Shores 2018: Seas the Day
Flying Fish Friends

Singapore is Shorebird Central
wild shores of singapore

Love MacRitchie goes to Earth Fest!
Love our MacRitchie Forest

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Obstructed earth drain worsened flash flood at Tampines Ave 12

SIAU MING EN AND AMANDA LEE Today Online 17 Jan 18;

HDB’s contractor built temporary road without seeking PUB’s approval because ditch had appeared abandoned

SINGAPORE ― A temporary road built by a Housing and Development Board (HDB) contractor obstructed a ditch near Tampines Ave 12, worsening the flash flood there on Jan 8, national water agency PUB said on Wednesday (Jan 17).

The area was one of nine locations in eastern Singapore hit by flash floods on Jan 8.

But PUB launched an investigation because it was unlike the other affected locations, which are relatively low-lying and where drainage improvement works are due to be completed by the first quarter of next year.

PUB said the Tampines Ave 12 flash flood was caused by intense rainfall that morning, which exceeded the capacity of the roadside drain.

The situation was “aggravated” by the storm runoff from an adjacent site, said PUB in a media statement after it wrapped up investigations.

A ditch, or earth drain, near the construction site for an HDB development was supposed to help channel away some of the rain water.

But it was blocked by a temporary construction access road that construction firm Huationg Contractor built across it. This caused the storm runoff to overflow into the drain along Tampines Ave 12.

An earth drain is usually found in areas that are not developed, such as forested areas, to manage the drainage in these places.

The HDB said the construction site was for earthworks to prepare for upcoming developments in the area.

Huationg has explained that it did not seek PUB’s approval to build construction access over the existing earth drain as the drain appeared abandoned. HDB was not aware of it, said a spokesperson.

The HDB’s tender specifications clearly require all contractors to comply with PUB’s Code of Practice on Surface Water Drainage at all times during construction works. Such sites require the contractors to engage a Qualified Erosion Control Professional to design the earth control measures and seek PUB’s approval before the commencement of work, among other things.

“HDB is conducting an investigation and will take action against the contractor accordingly,” the spokesperson said.

Asked if the contractor would be penalised, PUB said further investigations would be needed.

If found guilty under the Sewerage and Drainage Act, offenders may be fined up to S$50,000 for works affecting the public drainage system.

Last December, contractor Sato Kogyo was fined S$14,000 for unauthorised works that contributed to flash floods along Thomson Road on Christmas Eve in 2016. The Japanese firm was one of the 14 contractors and two qualified persons penalised last year for drainage offences and failing to supervise drainage work.

The heavy downpour on Jan 8 was due to the prevailing North-east Monsoon and made worse by an unexpected Sumatra squall — sudden thunderstorm lines – that developed over the Straits of Malacca.

The heaviest rainfall of 118.8mm was recorded at Kim Chuan Road that day, which amounted to roughly half of Singapore’s average monthly rainfall in January.

The flood at Tampines Ave 12 lasted about 25 minutes, from 9.50am to around 10.15am.

PUB director of the catchment and waterways department Yeo Keng Soon said on Wednesday that the agency would try to remove the obstruction by the end of the week, and is working with the HDB and Huationg to improve drainage in the area.

A permanent drainage system will be built together with the future development at the site.

Drains in Singapore are able to cope with the rainfall, but flash floods can occur when there is an extreme storm or heavy rain which exceeds the drains’ capacity, said Mr Yeo.

“While PUB will continue to improve our drainage system, it is not practical to design our drains to accommodate every extreme storm… Doing so would lead to significantly higher costs and will take up a whole lot more land,” he said.

This expanded drain capacity is also not required most of the time, he added.

Obstructed ditch near worksite intensified flash floods at Tampines Avenue 12
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 17 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: Floods at Tampines Avenue 12 last week were aggravated by runoff from a construction site after a ditch near the worksite was blocked by a temporary access road, national water agency PUB said at a media briefing on Wednesday (Jan 17).

A PUB spokesperson shared that stormwater runoff from a construction site and a field next to the flooded area would typically flow into an "earth drain", then discharge directly into Sungei Tampines.

However, PUB's investigations revealed that the contractors of the construction site built a temporary access road across the ditch, obstructing its flow completely.

The runoff flowed into the roadside drain on Tampines Avenue 12, which was already overwhelmed by the heavy rainfall on Jan 8.

PUB said the flash floods in the area subsided in 25 minutes.

The agency said it will work with the developer, understood to be the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to improve drainage at the access road, and a permanent drainage system will be built "in tandem" with the upcoming development project, PUB added.


PUB said the contractor, Huationg Contractor, should not have built the access road without first informing the agency, saying they "changed the entire landscape".

It said the key issue was the access road that ended up obstructing the flow of the stormwater runoff.

Any works that may impact the drainage system need to be run by PUB, but it said it did not receive such plans from the contractor.

These are some issues it needs to investigate before taking any prosecutorial action, PUB said. Meanwhile, its immediate focus is to improve drainage in the area.

PUB said it will also ensure that the contractor removes the section of the access road that resulted in the obstruction of the ditch, to restore the original flow.

This involves digging out a part of the road, which should be done by the end of the week.

It said it would also consider reaching out to other contractors to ensure they do not disrupt drainage systems without first consulting the agency.


Responding to queries, HDB confirmed that Huationg did not seek PUB's approval to build the access road over the ditch. That was because it thought the ditch "appeared abandoned".

HDB was not aware that the contractor did not seek PUB's approval to build the access road.

It said its tender specifications require contractors to comply with PUB's code of practice on surface water drainage during works.

Additionally, worksites require contractors to engage a qualified erosion control professional to design the "earth control measures" and seek PUB’s approval before work starts.

Once approved, the professional has to ensure the contractor implements the measures. Such works are also to be supervised by qualified staff.

"HDB is conducting an investigation and will take action against the contractor accordingly," it said. It added that the contractor was carrying out ground preparation before construction for any development begins.

Tampines Avenue 12 was among nine locations in the eastern part of Singapore that experienced flash floods due to intense rainfall last week.

PUB shared that the other eight locations experienced flash floods due to their locations in low lying areas.

Source: CNA/nc

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Port operator PSA inks 21-year solar deal with Sunseap

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 17 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE — Two years after scoring a landmark deal with tech giant Apple to power its facilities here with renewable energy, solar-energy solutions company Sunseap Group has landed a major pact with port operator PSA to cut its carbon footprint.

Under the 21-year deal, Sunseap will build and install a four-megawatt peak (MWp) solar system — the size of four football fields — across five locations in PSA’s Pasir Panjang Terminal.

These include the terminal’s buildings, gates, maintenance base and workers’ dormitories, the two companies announced in a press statement on Wednesday (Jan 17).

The Singapore-based firm will also maintain the system, known as a solar photovoltaic system, and offer a competitive electricity tariff rate. The two firms expect the system to be up and running by end-October this year.

A Sunseap spokesperson declined to disclose the value of the project but said it was one of the largest projects in its portfolio.

The system will help the port operator reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by 1,689 tonnes a year.

The system will generate roughly 4.3 gigawatt hours of energy a year and offset part of Pasir Panjang Terminal’s energy needs, the two firms added. This is comparable to the energy consumed by about 900 households living in four-room Housing and Development Board flats in a year.

PSA’s other green initiatives include electrification of its port equipment such as yard cranes and automated guided vehicles, said Mr Ong Kim Pong, PSA International’s regional chief executive for South-east Asia.

In February last year, the Government announced it would impose a carbon tax on large greenhouse-gas emitters from next year.

It is looking to charge between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emitted. Six greenhouse gases will be covered under the tax: Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.

Under the draft Carbon Pricing Bill, the emitters will buy carbon credits at a fixed price from the National Environment Agency throughout a year. At the end of a year of assessment, the credits will be used to pay the tax levied on their total greenhouse emissions.

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Singapore agrees to review East Johor Straits Pilotage Guideline: Liow

HASHINI KAVISHTRI KANNAN New Straits Times 17 Jan 18;

PUTRAJAYA: Singapore has agreed to review the East Johor Straits Pilotage Guideline (EJS).

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this was in order to relax the maritime traffic restriction of night operation of the vessels in Singapore waters.

He said the matter was agreed at the eighth Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat on Tuesday.

"At present the EJS Pilotage Guidelines permit vessels of more than 240 metres in length to transit the Straits only during daylight hours," he told reporters today.

Every year, he said, more than 6,000 vessels transit the Straits to enter Johor Port, Tanjung Langsat Port Terminal and other port facilities within Pasir Gudang Port.

"The current restriction limit the operational efficiency of Johor Port and at the same time creates unnecessary congestion and bunching of vessels in a very limited waterway.

"Therefore, the proposed review will create better navigational efficiency and productivity as well as to improve overall safety of navigation along EJS.

On a separate matter, in relation to the abolishment of toll charges at Malaysia's Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) and toll revision done by Singapore at the Causeway, Liow said Malaysia is also considering reviewing the toll rate at the Second Link.

Liow also shared that the country is hopeful of the latest search efforts on missing flight MH370, which began today.

"We are hopeful of the search efforts undertaken by Ocean Infinity. The next-of-kin have also responded well to the search," he added.

Liow said MH370 Response Team headed by Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman will be monitoring the search carried on daily basis.

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Malaysia: Illegal loggers, collectors of plants and herbs pose danger to forest reserves

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 17 Jan 18;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Protecting forest reserves that have been opened for recreational purposes requires extra enforcement measures to prevent poaching and encroachment by irresponsible visitors.

The opening of these recreational areas has provided opportunities for some members of the public to plunder the riches of the rainforest which include collecting rare plants and hunting wild animals like dear, elephants and tigers.

The enforcement unit of the State Forestry department has its hands full trying to protect the forest from not only illegal loggers but also people who veer off the roads leading to popular recreational forests to collect plants and herbs.

“The reason why recreational forests are open is to support tourism industry. Unfortunately, most visitors fail to read signboards which clearly warn them not to disturb the environment. They should just take pictures and leave only foot prints,” said State Forestry director Datuk Ahmad Fadzil Abdul Majid.

He said lack of civic consciousness was among the reasons why some recreational parks were littered with rubbish which invited unnecessary dangers because it attracted wild animals, especially wild boars and bears.

“Despite adequate garbage disposal bins, some visitors ignore them. It is a shame because these parks are visited by foreigners and some leave unpleasant remarks in the social media. It creates the impression that we are not taking care of these parks,” he said.

Fadzil said with Visit Beautiful Terengganu campaign becoming an event every year, it was important for the public to change their mind set and become more civic conscious about the environment and their responsibility as visitors.

“If a group wants to enter a recreational site deep in the forest, they must get permits from the district forestry office. Without a permit the visitor may get into trouble if they run into a team of enforcement officers.

“If they are caught collecting wild plants they will be in even bigger trouble. They can be charged in court,” he said.

Fadzil said the department had started upgrading some popular spots, including the track leading to the world's biggest Chengal tree at Gunung Mandi Angin in Dungun as well as other popular destinations for recreation and adventure in every district.

Other eco-adventure sites that would be upgraded with more safety features included the waterfalls at Sekayu in Hulu Terengganu, Lata Tembakah in Besut, Lata Belatan in Setiu, Chemerong in Dungun and Lasir in Tasik Kenyir.

"We want to showcase our protected forest as a unique product. Its rich flora and fauna will tell the world that we take great care of our rainforest treasures. We are doing all we can to ensure that this heritage survives rapid development in its surroundings," said Fadzil.

‘Stop all illegal logging’
The Star 18 Jan 18;

GEORGE TOWN: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) is urging the relevant authorities to put a stop to all illegal and unsustainable logging in forest reserves to preserve the vital water catchment areas and their rich biodiversity.

Its president Henry Goh said it was irregular for a large swathe of forest reserve of more than 500ha in Bukit Enggang, Sik, Kedah, to be logged without an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

“The villagers living in the foothills of Bukit Enggang have to ‘dam up the river’ to collect water for their daily use.

“This river is heavily polluted by the logging in the forest located upstream which has rendered the water unusable,” he said in a press statement on Tuesday.

“Many other logging concessions were given in smaller parcels in other districts in Kedah away from public view which are not monitored for proper timber extraction.

“Replanting of logged forests is either not required or the replanting is not done to the prescribed standards,” he said.

It was reported in The Star on Monday that the logging of over 500ha of forest reserve in Bukit Enggang had been carried out without an EIA.

The logging activity had caused muddy run-offs into rivers in the surrounding area.

Separate checks by both villagers and an environmental group with the state Department of Environment (DoE) confirmed that no EIA had been issued for the logging.

MACC starts probe into logging in Sik
r. sekaran The Star 19 Jan 18

ALOR SETAR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has begun investigation into the logging at the Bukit Enggang forest reserve in Sik which was carried out without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki said its office in Kedah had been directed to investigate the matter.

“After seeing the press reports, we have begun the investigation,” Azam told The Star yesterday.

Asked if the probe would involve allegations of logging in other forest reserves, Azam said it would look into Bukit Enggang first.

“While our investigation will focus on any corruption or malpractice involved in the tender process, the absence of the EIA report on the logging will also be probed,” he said.

On Monday, The Star reported that sources had confirmed that the logging of over 500ha of forest reserve was carried out without an EIA.

The logging caused muddy run-offs in the surrounding area and contaminated the drinking water of villagers.

A stop-work order on the logging was issued by the Department of Environment’s (DoE) Environmental Quality director-general on Jan 5.

Bukit Enggang’s Save the Community’s Water committee chairman Mohd Sobri Ramlee said MACC officers from Sungai Petani had met him for details.

“I have given them all the details which we have compiled on the issue, including the water contamination and EIA report,” he said.

State Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim said the DoE should also look into other areas whether there had been an EIA, such as the logging in the Ulu Muda forest reserve.

“The state, including the mentri besar, is concerned about the issue and both the DoE and the Forestry Department could help us see if standard operating procedures have been adhered to,” he said.

Questioning how the logging could have been carried out without an EIA, Sahabat Alam Malaysia honorary secretary Meenakshi Raman said it was a blatant case of non-compliance.

Malaysian Nature Society’s Kedah secretary FK Phang welcomed the MACC’s investigation, describing it as long overdue.

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Malaysia: Origins still a jumbo question

The Star 18 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A scientific study is shedding new light on how Borneo got its elephants.

The mysterious origin of the Bornean pygmy elephant – a subspecies of the Asian elephant which only exists in a small region – has long been debated.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, scientists are more inclined to believe the elephants might have arrived in Borneo during the time of the last land bridge between the Sunda Islands in South-East Asia.

The research team was led by Lounes Chikhi from Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia (IGC, Portugal) and French National Centre for Scientific Research, Paul Sabatier University (France), Benoit Goossens, from Danau Girang Field Centre (Malaysia), Cardiff University (Wales) and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

But others concluded that Bornean elephants are very different from other Asian elephants and suggested a very ancient separation, perhaps about 300,000 years ago.

However, no elephant fossils have been discovered in Borneo, although fossils from other large mammals such as orang utan have been found, the scientist noted.

To shed light on the mysterious origin, Chikhi and Goossens’ team used genetic data analysis and computational modelling to study the demographic history of these animals.

“It is very difficult to track ancient demographic history of animals, even more when there are no fossil records to guide the work.

“What we did was to create computational models for different scenarios that might have happened. Then, we compared the results from these models with the existing genetic data, and used statistical techniques to identify the scenario that best explains the current genetic diversity of the elephant population in Borneo,” said Chikhi.

According to researcher Reeta Sharma, the most likely scenario is natural colonisation of Borneo around 11,400 to 18,300 years ago as human introduction seems improbable.

This period corresponds to a time when the sea level was very low and elephants could migrate from the Sunda Islands, a south-eastern Asia archipelago to which Borneo belongs, said Sharma, a researcher at the IGC and first co-author of the paper.

With fewer than 2,000 elephants left in the wild, Goossens said the study would be useful for the development of a long-term conservation strategy, as part of the 10-year State Action Plan for the Bornean elephant.

The key to Borneo pygmy elephants' survival
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 19 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A BETTER understanding of the origins of the Borneo pygmy elephants in Sabah is vital for their survival.

Danau Girang Field Centre researcher Benoit Goossens said understanding the pygmy elephants’ origins and past demography would be useful for the development of a long-term conservation strategy.

He said the centre, together with the Sabah Wildlife Department and other partners, was drafting a 10-year action plan to protect the elephants.

He said there were fewer than 2,000 pygmy elephants living in an increasingly fragmented environment. With regular news of poisoned or dead Bornean elephants, the future is grim for the endangered species.

A recent study by a joint research team, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that the elephants may have arrived on Borneo island at a time of the last land bridge between the Sunda Islands in Southeast Asia.

The research team was led by Lounes Chikhi from Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC, Portugal) and CNRS, Université Paul Sabatier (France), Cardiff University (Wales), Sabah Wildlife Department and Goossens.

“Until recently, there are two opposing theories on the origin of Bornean elephants: they could have been introduced by humans, maybe 300 years ago, or they could have diverged from Asian elephants a long time ago.

“There are records that in the 17th century, neighbouring sultans offered elephants as gifts to the Bornean sultans. On the other hand, about 15 years ago, a genetic study showed that the Bornean elephant’s DNA was very different from that of Asian elephants,” said Chikhi.

The team used genetic data analysis and computational modelling to study the demographic history of these animals.

“It is very difficult to track ancient demographic history of animals, even more when there are no fossil records to guide our work. What we did was to create computational models for different scenarios.

“Then we compared the results from these models with existing genetic data, and used statistical techniques to identify the scenario that best explained the current genetic diversity of the elephant population in Borneo.”

The results suggested that the most likely scenario to have occurred was a natural colonisation of Borneo around 11,400 to 18,300 years ago.

The period corresponded to a time when the sea levels were very low and elephants could migrate between the Sunda Islands.

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Indonesia: Mass bird smuggling attempt thwarted in W. Nusa Tenggara

Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 17 Jan 18;

Personnel from the West Nusa Tenggara Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the West Lombok Police have foiled an attempt to smuggle hundreds of wild and protected birds from the province to Bali and Java.

The joint team detained a truck carrying 1,711 passerine birds, some of which were endangered and protected, at Lembar Port in West Lombok on Tuesday, official spokesman Ivan Juhandara said.

“We stopped the truck as it was attempting to cross to Bali via Lembar Port. When we checked, it [the truck] was not equipped with proper permits and documents,” he said on Wednesday.

Based on the agency’s data, the birds comprised seven species, and were mostly chirping birds. They included 1,200 streaked weavers, 250 local yellow kecials, 15 black-napped orioles, 30 yellow-vented bulbuls, 15 black drongos, 200 brown honeyeaters, known locally as kecial kombo, and one brahminy kite, known locally as elang bondol.

“Of the seven species, two, the kecial kombo and elang bondol, are protected,” he said adding that BKSDA would later release the birds at Gunung Tunak Nature Park in Central Lombok.

The birds were put into cardboard boxes with holes for air.

The truck driver and a driver’s assistant were taken to the police station for questioning. If found guilty of smuggling protected animals, they could face charges under the 1990 Law on natural resources and ecosystem conservation with a maximum five-year prison sentence and Rp 100 million in fines.

Ivan said it was the second bird smuggling attempt foiled this year. The agency previously detained a truck carrying 2,000 birds to Bali and Java. (rin)

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Indonesia: Wild elephant gives birth in wildlife reserve in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 17 Jan 18;

A female wild elephant has given birth to a calf in the Balai Raja Wildlife Reserve in Pinggir district, Bengkalis regency in Riau province, giving fresh hope for the endangered species’ declining population.

The Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) estimated that the 40-year-old female elephant, named Seruni, gave birth to her calf sometime last week. Personnel of nonprofit conservation group Rimba Satwa Foundation (RSF) first found small elephant footprints four days ago.

“After we tracked them, we discovered they were the footprints of Seruni’s calf. Last week, observations showed that she was still pregnant,” agency spokesperson Dian Indriati said on Wednesday.

The birth of the calf was a breath of fresh air as the species is endangered. Balai Raja Wildlife Reserve is one of the natural habitats of Sumatran elephants in Riau.

RSF coordinator Zulhusni Syukri also welcomed the birth of the calf, saying “It was such great news for elephant conservation efforts.”

Seruni was lost in Dumai city several months ago, he said. The group’s members had been conducting patrols to monitor elephant herds and prevent them from getting into conflicts with humans.

Dian said Seruni was among around 35 wild elephants living in Balai Raja Wildlife Reserve.

There is no up-to-date data on the elephant population in Riau yet, Dian added. However, according to Riau BKSDA’s observations and calculations together with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in 2009 there were around 330 to 340 elephants living in the nine elephant population areas in the province. (rin)

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