Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jan 18

3 Feb (Sat): Talk by Ben Brown, pioneer of Ecological Mangrove Restoration in Asia
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with Cicada Tree Eco-Place on 4 Feb 2018
Love our MacRitchie Forest

11 Feb (Sun) - Free guided walk at Pasir Ris Mangroves
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Chestnut-winged & crimson-hued stars
Winging It

Orinoco Peacock Bass (Cichla orinocensis) @ Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon)
Monday Morgue

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New business district in Punggol to chart Govt's focus on digital economy, will create 28,000 jobs

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: The opening of a new business and education hub in Punggol from 2023 will create 28,000 jobs in fields such as cybersecurity and data analytics, creating job opportunities “close to home”.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said this at the launch of an exhibition for members of the public to view the Punggol Digital District’s masterplan on Sunday (Jan 21). He said the District will support government efforts to build a Smart Nation, where technologies can be deployed to prepare workers for the digital economy.

The Punggol Digital District, which will incorporate a business park, the Singapore Institute of Technology’s new campus as well as community facilities, will foster innovation and collaboration, said planners who shared more details on the District.

The 50-hectare development was first announced as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Draft Master Plan in 2013, while more details were shared by Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong last year.

JTC’s Assistant CEO David Tan said the district’s planning marks the first time all agencies involved came together at the start to develop an integrated plan.

“All the facilities and infrastructure were planned from the start, and that also optimises the use of land, energy, water and other resources,” Mr Tan said.

“This means we can also make living and working there more sustainable.”


The area, currently a vacant plot of land north of Punggol and west of Coney Island, will also be the first in Singapore developed as an "enterprise" district. JTC, the district’s master developer, said this will allow planners flexibility in land use mix.

“So for example, SIT's land is zoned for education, whereas JTC's business park is zoned as a business park. (But) because of this so-called 'enterprise' district, we can actually mix the uses together,” Mr Tan said.

“So some of the education space can be within JTC's facilities, and some of JTC's business park can be part of SIT's land. So for example, SIT's research labs and learning facilities can be located within JTC's buildings, and similarly, JTC's labs, startup spaces can be located there.”

He said the exchange of spaces will allow companies to collaborate with the university, and foster open innovation and the sharing of ideas.

Speaking at the launch of the masterplan, DPM Teo said that the relocation of the national Cyber Security Agency to the Punggol Digital District is being studied.

"This will help seed a new cluster of cybersecurity and technology firms in Punggol. Our residents can look forward to many exciting jobs close to home and gain new skills in these growth areas,” Mr Teo said.


Mr Tan said construction of the business park buildings will begin this year, and once ready from 2023 onwards, they will be home to companies in sectors that Singapore has identified as growth areas, including cybersecurity and Internet of Things.

Assistant Chief Executive of the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) Angeline Poh said the companies that set up shop in the business park could be those that are not just technology-driven, but those that have technology elements at the heart of its service.

The park will not just house multinational companies (MNCs) from these growth sectors, but also small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, allowing for opportunities for collaboration among them.


DPM Teo said the digital district will provide more learning opportunities with the new centralised campus for the Singapore Institute of Technology. SIT will support skills upgrading and continuing education with its suite of applied courses.

"There will be many opportunities for students and teaching staff from SIT and industry practitioners in the Digital District to interact and exchange ideas, and use the Digital District and Punggol as a test-bed for new technologies,” he said.

"For instance, incorporating video analytics and facial recognition to enhance security, and developing smart energy management systems for buildings and homes to conserve energy. With closer collaboration between academia and industry, we can develop many new products and services for the Digital Economy.”

SIT President Prof Tan Thiam Soon said the university can be a living lab for companies.

As an example, Prof Tan said SIT signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with grid operator SP Group in October last year to build a micro-grid at the Punggol campus.

It will operate independently from the national grid, but excess energy can also be pushed into the main grid to support the district “in times of need”, Prof Tan said. In turn, it also allows SP Group to test the micro-grid in a “real operating environment”.

“(In the same way), I think the whole idea is we open up, and it doesn't even need to be all local companies,” Prof Tan said.

“I think some of the companies from overseas, if they need a place to test, we will be saying, come and test. Use our students, use our professors, we will be the place for you to test this new technology.”


Planning agencies said a key feature of the district will be the incorporation of artificial intelligence and Internet-of-Things in the facilities within the district. For example, they said all the systems within the district will be centrally and remotely monitored, analysed and controlled at its integrated facilities management location.

It will also have an automated waste collection centre, a district cooling system that supplies chilled water to the various buildings for their air-conditioning, as well as a large underground car-park.

Another interesting feature being explored is a centralised logistics hub. Mr Tan said this will be the first stop for all goods delivered to the district.

“From here, they will be taken to the various tenants’ properties either by automated guided vehicles or drones,” he said.

The District will have amenities such as a hawker centre, childcare centres and a community club. It will be connected to residential estates in the area.

"The Digital District will also fit in well with the natural environment that our residents love. Our residents can enjoy the green surroundings, and a new park, Campus Heart. A new pedestrian street along the Campus Boulevard will link various parts of the Digital District to the waterfront area,” DPM Teo said.

The existing Punggol Road will be retained and transformed into a 1.3km heritage trail that will connect Punggol District with Punggol Waterway and an upcoming residential district at Punggol Point.

(Additional reporting by Rachel Phua.)

Source: CNA/rw

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Singapore banks big funders of region's coal projects: Study

Green groups voice concern, as global banks shun pollution source
David Fogarty Straits Times 21 Jan 18;

Singapore's three top banks DBS, OCBC and UOB are significant funders of coal projects in the region, an analysis of their investments shows, putting them at odds with a growing number of global banks shunning financing of polluting coal-fired power stations and mines.

Coal is a major source of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for heating up the planet.

All three banks have adopted sustainable financing guidelines and told The Sunday Times they carefully consider each investment with regard to environmental impact versus the need to bring electricity to millions of people.

Yet Market Forces, the Australian financial green group that conducted the study, says coal lending is at odds with the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the rapid growth of affordable renewable energy.

Market Forces says DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank have financed 21 coal project deals since 2012 worth US$2.29 billion, over half of which were for coal-fired power stations, mainly in Indonesia and Vietnam.

Market Forces analysed data from IJGlobal, a leading online energy and infrastructure finance data service, relating to the deals.

OCBC was the top lender, participating in coal deals worth US$1.14 billion since 2012. This included US$195 million for the 2,000MW Tanjung Jati B coal-fired power plant in Indonesia last year.

What the banks say
In response to questions from The Straits Times, a DBS spokesman said: "According to the International Energy Agency, while South-east Asia is taking steps towards adopting low-carbon energy, by 2040, coal will still account for 40 per cent of the generation mix.

"Many of our neighbouring developing countries are dependent on coal as part of their energy mix to deliver economic growth, and the financial system has a responsibility to ensure that the transition to renewables happens in a sustainable manner."

OCBC Bank chief risk officer Vincent Choo said: "The financing of energy sector projects, where environmental impact is mitigated in compliance with national and local laws and regulation, enables local communities to gain access to electricity and opens up employment opportunities.

"We believe that sustainability is a journey. We continue to strengthen our responsible financing practices over time and seek to positively influence our customers' behaviours by engaging them in adopting appropriate sustainable practices."

A UOB spokesman said the bank was committed to supporting sustainable development and mitigating environmental, social and governance risks in its lending.

The spokesman said it was bank policy to conduct enhanced due diligence for companies in potentially high-impact industries, including the energy sector, for which the bank advocates using appropriate technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, to mitigate potential environmental impacts.

"Across our network, we also finance and support renewable energy projects, in areas such as solar power and hydropower, that comply with local environmental requirements," the spokesman added.

DBS was involved in deals worth US$885 million, five of which also involved OCBC. This included a US$160 million loan to a consortium to buy Australia's Port of Newcastle, a major coal shipment hub, and a US$140 million loan to partially fund building of a 1,900MW power plant in Central Java.

UOB participated in deals worth US$262 million. Its largest loan totalled US$92 million for the 2014 refinancing of the Newcastle Coal export terminal expansion.

DBS has also been named as part of a loan syndicate funding the construction of four 1,200MW coal-fired power plants in Vietnam, the report says, and is a financial adviser for a number of large power plants planned for Indonesia.

Singapore has declared 2018 the year of climate action and was an important player in the reaching of a deal for the 2015 Paris climate agreement, in which nearly 200 nations agreed to limit global warming to less than 2 deg C.

To achieve this, nations need to rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions by shifting to cleaner sources of energy for industry, power generation and transport.

Green groups, including Greenpeace, say major investment plans in South-east Asia to build dozens of coal-fired power stations could send global carbon dioxide emissions soaring, risking the Paris "below 2 deg C" goal and increasing local air pollution.

Says the Market Forces report: "Banks justify coal investments by rightly pointing out that communities need energy.

"However, with a rapidly improving economic outlook for wind and solar, including renewable energy already being cheaper than coal in many countries, investments in coal power serve little more than the companies seeking to build their old, dirty technology."

Other banks have cut back on coal investments. HSBC last year announced that it would no longer finance coal mines or new coal power plants in rich nations. Australia's four big banks have also sharply curbed lending to coal projects since 2015.

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'Picky' waste collector incident raises questions about whether Singapore's push to promote recycling is working

Audrey Tan Straits Times 21 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - When Punggol resident Eloise Huang sent her husband to the blue recycling bin at the foot of her block with a big bag of recyclables, she had assumed that all of it - paper, plastic, glass and metal - would escape the landfill.

Yet, according to a recent Facebook post by Ms Huang, the collector who came to pick it up removed all paper and cardboard from the bag before dumping the rest of the contents into the green bins meant for trash.

"Save your plastics, metals elsewhere for recycling, since they will end up in the normal bin," she wrote.

SembWaste, which collects recyclables in the area, and the National Environment Agency said they are looking into the case.

"At no point would we condone staff wilfully discarding materials meant to be recycled," said SembWaste.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said its officers conduct random site inspections of collection from the blue bins and sorting activities at materials recovery facilities.

"In this case, if the allegation is substantiated after our investigations, a financial penalty will be imposed on the public waste collector and demerit points awarded... which is taken into consideration during evaluation of future public waste collection tenders," said an NEA spokesman.

The incident of the picky collector is not the only case of recycling efforts mishandled by public waste collectors, and has raised questions from environmental groups about the effectiveness of recent programmes meant to encourage recycling.

In 2015, waste company Veolia was found to have mixed items to be recycled with rubbish for incineration during collection, even though NEA requires recyclables and waste to be collected separately and in separate trucks.

Recyclables from households and premises such as schools, army camps, petrol kiosks, places of worship and shophouses are collected by public waste collectors under the National Recycling Programme, as well as the informal recycling sector, such as rag-and-bone men.

In 2016, only 21 per cent of waste produced by households was recycled. The hope is to bump this up to 30 per cent by 2030.

Singapore's domestic recycling sector has remained lacklustre, despite national efforts to encourage people to recycle more.

For example, every HDB block has been provided with a blue recycling bin since 2014 - up from one bin for every five blocks. The Government also announced in 2014 that all new public housing projects will be fitted with recycling chutes with throw points on each floor.

But it is not clear if these efforts have borne fruit.

Asked to give the tonnage of recyclables collected under the National Recycling Programme in 2016, NEA would say only that it "does not have a breakdown of the quantity of recyclables". Instead, it uses surveys to track the proportion of residents who recycle and how they do so.

For example, in a 2015/2016 survey involving face-to-face interviews with 5,700 residents, the proportion of residents who recycle was more than 70 per cent, up from 15 per cent in 2001, said NEA. "Out of those who recycle, more than 80 per cent indicated that they made use of the blue bins to recycle," its spokesman said.

Ms Pamela Low, from the environmental group Singapore Youth for Climate Action, noted that both Taiwan and Hong Kong measure their recycling rate by tracking the tonnage of recyclables collected.

"We should measure our recycling rate using international standards of measurement," said Ms Low. "Also, if NEA surveys show that we have a 70 per cent recycling participation rate... why then are we only targeting a 30 per cent household recycling rate by 2030? We can be more ambitious in our target household recycling rate."

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