Best of our wild blogs: 7 Feb 18

Pasir Ris Mangrove Boardwalk - fun for the family
Celebrating Singapore Shores

The Realities of Marine Trash
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Why DBS's new climate policy seems ironic

Kiersnerr Gerwin Tacadena International Business Times 5 Feb 18;

Singapore-based banking giant DBS' efforts in launching a climate policy seem to be problematic for some market watchers.

In a report on Eco-Business, Market Forces executive director Julien Vincent said the DBS's climate policy changes nothing about its involvement in the coal industry.

"Currently, DBS is involved in banking syndicates for new polluting coal power stations, and their policy would not take the bank out of a single one," Vincent told Eco-Business.

According to a study by Market Forces, DBS has been involved in 12 coal deals amounting to $885 million since 2012. In fact, it is currently co-financing four 1200 MW coal-fired power plants in Vietnam and is serving three planned-coal-fired projects in Indonesia as a financial adviser.

DBS is the first Southeast Asian bank to unveil a climate policy, which indicates its pledge to reduce its own environmental footprint, advocate for sustainable finance, and ensure climate-related financial disclosures.

It committed to stopping financing new coal-fired power stations only in countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which include nations like Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

Vincent argued that DBS's policy seem to indicate that it is still open for financing coal in developing countries.

"But there is a deep cynicism in coming out with language that might look like DBS is acting, but the practical application is that nothing has to change," he said.

He added, "This suggests that DBS thinks it's okay for wealthy countries to enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy while poor countries can keep having their air polluted.

Commenting on the matter at hand, DBS chief sustainability officer Mikkel Larsen cited International Energy Agency data which demonstrates that while the region is taking steps to adopt a low-carbon energy, coal is still seen to take up 40% of Southeast Asia's energy industry.

"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," Larsen explained.

He also made it clear that DBS would stop financing new coal mines and would only support clients with diversification efforts and strategies.

Coal is believed to be the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, making it the main force causing climate change.

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Singapore risks destroying past in race to build: top archaeologist


Singapore faces a race against time to save its past, according to its top archaeologist, who warns relentless development in the land-scarce city-state comes at a heavy price.

Construction work has been near ceaseless in recent years as the financial hub rapidly expands, and archaeologist Lim Chen Sian fears relics that could unlock the secrets of pre-colonial Singapore will be lost forever in the building rush.

"Pre-colonial arrival, there's almost zero (written history) about Singapore," the 42-year-old says, adding that the little that is known has often been pieced together from items found in excavations.

He is determined to counter the prevailing idea that little existed before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in the 19th century and established it as a key trade route for the British Empire.

Lim says artifacts from previous digs indicate that in fact a thriving port settlement existed from the 14th to the mid-17th century that was at times caught in a power struggle between the Javanese Majapahit Empire to the south and the emerging Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya to the north.

There is also evidence of strong trading links with China, dating back more than 700 years, including coins and Imperial porcelain.

"What happened to pre-modern Singapore? That's one thing that only archeology can answer," he insists adding that it is a way for the city to find "lost memories".

But he concedes it is an uphill battle to safeguard such buried treasures in a city-state just half the size of London and is concerned the rush to build a futuristic metropolis could scupper chances to find out more about its pre-colonial past.

Singapore also has no state archaeologist and no law requiring archaeological evaluations before construction, so it often falls to Lim and his small team to fill the gap -- they work on an ad hoc basis with government agencies, developers, and non-governmental groups.

"For a couple of hundred years Singapore was there. Then suddenly it disappeared," he explains, adding that further archaeological work could help uncover why the seemingly successful trading hub faded from history for 150 years before the Europeans arrived.

- Stakes high -

He points to a 2015 dig he lead in the heart of the financial district, near the spot where Raffles first landed in 1819, in which three tonnes of historical objects, including copper coins and Chinese porcelain, were recovered.

The discovery helped prove Singapore was a thriving trading centre up to 700 years ago, says Lim, who heads the archaeology unit of think tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

His work builds on that of pioneering American archaeologist John Miksic at Fort Canning Hill, who conducted Singapore's first such excavations in the 1980s, where relics from the 14th century were found.

More recent discoveries include World War II artifacts, such as a Monopoly set and milk bottles found on a British defensive position against the Japanese, who conquered Singapore after only a week in 1942.

"They were playing Monopoly while waiting for the Japanese," Lim says.

"And you would think that the British were tough men so they should be drinking beer and whisky. No, they were drinking milk."

Lim's latest expedition in December was with the National Parks Board to Pulau Ubin, a rural island that still has patches of dense jungle.

Armed with a machete he hacked through the undergrowth with his team and found a colonial gun emplacement from the 1930s.

He hopes the discovery will with their heritage and management planning.

Lim says there are signs authorities are realising the importance of preserving Singapore's past.

The National Heritage Board has launched a roadshow to increase public awareness and has said it will carry out surveys on potential archeological areas of importance.

"Thankfully, we are moving forward in terms of addressing necessary intervention prior to development," explains Lim, who started his career digging for Mayan temples and Egyptian settlements.

"Things are slowly changing, we’re getting a little bit more funding," he adds.

Failure to take the country's archaeological past into account in development plans could lead to a "loss of identity and a sense of belonging".

"It's about the forgotten past and rediscovering that Singapore goes beyond skyscrapers, glass and steel and air conditioning," he insists.

"This adds to the value of the country."

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Why Singapore needs Tuas mega port to keep ruling the seas

Twice the size of Ang Mo Kio new town, it's one of the nation's most ambitious projects yet, aimed at securing its maritime future - with implications for jobs, trade and local businesses.
Derrick A Paulo and Daniel Heng Channel NewsAsia 7 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE: In the heart of port operator PSA’s newly expanded Pasir Panjang Terminal, the Republic’s long-term maritime ambitions are being put to the test.

A fleet of 30 driverless vehicles deployed to move cargo containers around the terminal are in the vanguard for the move to the Tuas mega port. Over 1,000 of these battery-powered four-wheelers will be developed for Singapore’s future port.

Towering above these vehicles is the world’s largest fleet of automated yard cranes - numbering nearly 200. At Tuas, that figure will rise to almost 1,000.

These are just two examples of the automation systems that PSA is looking at with Tuas in mind. And the lessons to be learned will be vital.

Mr Nelson Quek, PSA Singapore's head of Tuas planning, told Channel NewsAsia, on Looking Ahead. The two-part special (premiering Feb 7, 8pm) examines how Singapore’s mega infrastructure projects are positioning the nation for the future.


The benefits of automation are tied to the very purpose of constructing the Tuas mega port: To keep Singapore as connected as ever to the world and to stay ahead of the game, at a time when countries in the region are investing heavily in their port capabilities.

The project is set to cost billions of dollars and span more than two decades. And the stakes are high - not least because the maritime sector contributes 7 per cent to the economy and over 170,000 jobs.

The maritime ecosystem here supports many home-grown companies, including small and medium enterprises, in areas from manufacturing to logistics to technology.

And with PSA giving up its city terminals by 2027 and the Pasir Panjang Terminal by 2040, when the Tuas mega port will be completed, the industry’s future will singularly lie in the new port.

For success to come, “the Tuas that we’ll operate must be different from the port that we run now”, said PSA International group chief executive officer Tan Chong Meng, who added: “Tuas, for us, is an opportunity to reset.”


By year's end, PSA’s existing terminals will be able to collectively handle almost 50 million 20-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of cargo annually, a measurement based on the standard ship containers, which are either 20 or 40 feet long.

The Tuas mega port will eclipse this with a capacity of 65 million TEUs - almost double the 33.7 million TEUs that passed through Singapore last year.

By 2040, demand along the Straits of Malacca alone will be in excess of 100 million TEUs, according to Mr Tan.

“So it’s a question of our … scale and our market position – that we desire to maintain the strength of PSA within our neighbourhood,” he said.

Singapore is already the world’s second-busiest port, with an average of 60 vessels calling daily.

While Shanghai is the busiest owing to a large domestic demand, Singapore is the top trans-shipment hub, handling almost one-seventh of the world’s trans-shipment containers.


Important as this role is, however, the trans-shipment business is also highly competitive, with rivals “from Busan (South Korea) all the way to Europe”, added Mr Tan.

That is why Singapore must earn its business “every day”, said Mr Nicolaj Noes, the Asia-Pacific head of operations for Maersk Line, the global leader in container shipping.

“It’s a little bit like when you decide where to fly to on holiday. Your first choice is … to fly directly,” Mr Noes said.

“(To) go through a trans-shipment hub like Singapore, there has to be a value proposition there … Singapore has to offer a more cost-efficient solution. It has to offer more flexibility; it has to offer wider choices.”

That is where automation will help.

Said Mr Quek: “With automation, the performance can be a lot more predictable and consistent. And that’s very important to customers ... (Shipping lines) also want speed and to turn around their vessels faster.”

He added that the Tuas mega port will have a “superior layout to enable a more efficient trans-shipment operation”, and along with that, faster service.


The new port, with 8.6km of wharves, must also cater for the trend of ever-larger container ships. Maersk’s Triple-E vessels, for example, are 400m long and among the world’s biggest ships.

“One vessel can carry about 111 million pairs of sneakers,” said Mr Noes. Seven vessels can carry enough sneakers for everyone in Europe to get a new pair. “That gives a good idea of the dimension of the vessels.”

The Danish company is working closely with PSA, and on that front, Mr Noes said: “There is the understanding (that) there has to be infrastructure that supports large vessels.”


Beyond striving to remain the world’s top maritime capital (a title it has earned for three consecutive years) and Asia’s best port (29 times and counting), Singapore can create more opportunities for local companies with the Tuas mega port.

Said Mr Tan: “Through innovation, we imagine a future that … would be able to support both Tuas as a port and the Tuas hinterland, so that future manufacturers and commercial, industrial and logistical players will all benefit from the future possibilities.”

That includes start-ups like visual effects firm SideFX Studios, one of the two top finishers at the recent Smart Port Challenge organised by the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA). The firm has harnessed virtual reality to train crane operators and engineers.

SideFX co-founder Ng Teow Koon said: “This is where we’re coming in with the traditional players (in the Tuas area), to build up this space with all these exciting technologies and make use of it to bring it to the next-generation port.”

Software provider Glee Trees, the other top finisher last year, is working to streamline cargo and shipping processes with its artificial intelligence platform Gleematic.

Digitalisation is already opening up growth areas in Singapore’s logistics sector, which employed over 230,000 people in 2015. It has been ranked by the World Bank as Asia’s top logistics hub for a decade now.

Infrastructural investments like the Tuas mega port will further “translate into new capabilities, new opportunities for companies to get in on the game and grow Singapore together”, agreed Supply Chain and Logistics Academy CEO Ian Dyason.

PSA’s Mr Quek thinks that early engagement with stakeholders such as the community, the industry and relevant agencies – in addition to the takeaways from the technology trials – will indeed be “critical to the success of the project”.

Careful planning is also needed, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who cited the Jurong Industrial Estate as an example of the efforts required for such projects to succeed.

“But the very fact that we’ve stayed so competitive as an economy owes a great deal to our connectivity,” he added as he highlighted the port’s role in the import and export of raw materials and cargo “at very competitive rates” for businesses.

Read his interview: 'We are not done building Singapore'


As Singapore now looks ahead to the mega port at the western end of the island, the work there goes on round the clock.

By 2020, the first of the project’s four phases will be completed. The land reclamation for all the future terminals, which has just crossed the 40 per cent mark, will also finish at the same time.

Over in the Pasir Panjang Terminal, container equipment specialist Alan Lee is one of the few who has already had a glimpse of what the future port will be like.

A 23-year veteran, Mr Lee had to move up and down the yard cranes previously. Now that the cranes are fully automated and no longer require an operator each, 18 to 25 workers in the control centre handle 186 cranes at a time.

“It has been very good for me – improving myself, enhancing my skills,” he said. “For future ports like Tuas and also the world that’s advancing, it’s relevant for me to upgrade … so that I can keep up the good work.”

Thus the foundations for the Tuas mega port are being laid, not only with concrete on reclaimed land - but also with skills, technology and automation.

Catch the 2-part special Looking Ahead, which explores mega infrastructure projects that are positioning Singapore for the future - such as Changi Airport Terminal 5 and Tuas mega port (Feb 7, 8pm SG/HK) and Jurong Lake District and the integrated waste management facility (Feb 14, 8pm SG/HK).

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Indonesian President Widodo pledges haze-free 2018

Chandni Vatvani Channel NewsAsia 6 Feb 18;

JAKARTA: President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (Feb 6) told officials that he had given his word for 2018 to be a haze-free year to the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia.

“In 2015, every time I met the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, the complaint that would always be conveyed to me was about haze,” he said, according to a press statement from the Presidential Secretariat.

“The last time we met in India, the two prime ministers shook my hand (and said) 2018 hopefully will be like 2016 and 2017. I've told them that I guarantee (there will be no haze), so remember. I have told them, I guarantee, but if there is haze, where are we going to put our faces."

Indonesia is gearing up to host the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang this August and September, and the president called on officials to take strict sanctions against personnel who allow a compromise on haze-fighting efforts.

He also called on officials to continue intensive efforts in the prevention of land and forest fires, keeping the year haze-free and ensuring the Asian Games this year can proceed smoothly without any disruption.

“At that moment, do not let there be any smoke, or land and forest fires which will subsequently interfere with our image or even flights,” the president stated. “I repeat the rules of the game once again, if there are forest fires in your territories and it is not being handled properly, remove (the official in charge)!”

According to the statement, after reflecting upon his experience in the last two years, Widodo believes such rules are highly effective in mobilising personnel on the field. Its results can be seen in the decreasing number of hotspots in the past two years, he said, from 21,929 in 2015 to 3,915 and 2,567 in 2016 and 2017.

The president acknowledged the progress that had been made in handling land and forest fires by the government and its staff in recent times, and also called on officers to possess what he called "field intelligence".

Widodo made the comments while he led the National Coordination Meeting on Forest and Land Fire Control for 2018. The event was held at the State Palace and attended by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, several regional heads, as well as police and military officials.

Source: CNA/mz

Jokowi: I promised KL and Singapore there'd be fewer fires this year
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 7 Feb 18;

President Joko Widodo reminded all Indonesian officials of the need to continue to prevent forest and plantation fires, adding that the leaders of Malaysia and Singapore had praised him for the progress made so far.

The Indonesian leader also said he had issued a guarantee of fewer forest fires for this year.

Mr Joko, speaking yesterday at a national coordination meeting on forest and plantation fire mitigation at the Merdeka Palace, said: "In 2015, every time I met with the Singapore and Malaysian prime ministers, they complained to me about the haze."

Mr Joko said the situation had improved vastly since then, with the number of hot spots falling significantly.

He added that 2015 saw a total of 21,929 hot spots throughout the year, but the number dropped to 3,915 in 2016 and to 2,567 last year.

Mr Joko said he had promised the Malaysian and Singapore leaders that the number could be reduced further this year.

"I have given them my guarantee," he said. He also reminded those attending the meeting that he had issued a warning after the 2015 fires, when he said he would sack the provincial police chief or territorial military chief in charge of an area where forest fires were not handled well.

Harsher law enforcement when dealing with errant corporations and individuals - and better fire prevention measures by the government and private sector in recent years - have led to a fall in the number of hot spots, according to Indonesia's disaster management agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. Favourable weather conditions have also helped.

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Indonesia: President encourages security officers to prevent land fires

Antara 6 Feb 18;

President Joko Widodo (right) shook hands with a number of regional heads after delivering directions at the National Coordination Meeting on Forest and Land Fire Control at the State Palace, Jakarta, Tuesday (6/2/2018). (ANTARA PHOTO/Puspa Perwitasari) ()

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Joko Widodo has encouraged security officers in areas prone to land fires to prevent the disaster.

"I will dismiss officers from the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) or Police if I find land fires in their regions," the president stated here on Tuesday.

President Widodo had issued directives to ministries and security institutions during a Coordination Meeting of Land Fires Control 2018 held at the State Palace in Jakarta.

The president noted that TNI Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and Police Commander General Tito Karnavian had agreed on a commitment to prevent land fires.

President Widodo reiterated that the regional police and TNI leaders will be removed from their position in case fires are found in their areas.

"The effort aims to encourage the land fires mitigation task force," the president noted.

President Widodo also lauded the TNI and Police officers for taking precautionary measures against fires in the past two years.

The number of hotspots has decreased significantly, from 21,929 in 2015 to 3,915 hotspots in 2016 and 2,567 hotspots in 2017.

The president expects security officers and local administrations as well as the task force to maintain the achievement and step up efforts in the coming years.

He has urged the task force to also involve the local communities and plantation companies to prevent land fires.

"We can undertake effective efforts by involving companies, local communities, and non-governmental organizations as well as police and TNI officers," the president noted.

The president remarked that leaders of neighboring countries had also lauded the efforts undertaken by Indonesia.

"Earlier, when I met the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, they always complained about the smoke caused by land fires. However, during the 2016-2017 period, they lauded the efforts to reduce land fires," Widodo noted.

The president also revealed that he had made assurance to the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia to prevent land fires that had caused haze.

Reported by Joko Susilo
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Thai construction tycoon accused of poaching leopard

AFP Yahoo News 6 Feb 18;

Bangkok (AFP) - A Thai construction tycoon has been arrested for poaching in a protected wildlife sanctuary, police said Tuesday, as photos of hunting equipment and animal carcasses including a black leopard circulated on social media.

Premchai Karnasuta, president of Italian-Thai Development, a Bangkok-based company that helped build Thailand's Suvarnabhumi airport and the capital's elevated Skytrain, was arrested along with three other suspects.

Park rangers seized three rifles, 143 bullets and other hunting equipment as the group were detained in the Thungyai Naresuan national park in tourist-friendly Kanchanaburi province on Sunday.

Photos released by park authorities show Premchai sitting in front of a tent surrounded by police, as well as animal skins, carcasses and a large hunting rifle with a scope.

"They were charged with illegal hunting, (and) illegal possession of carcasses of protected animals," the national parks department said in a statement Tuesday.

Thailand's Wildlife Friends Foundation (WFFT) applauded the rangers and identified the slain animals as a black leopard, a Kalij pheasant and a red muntjac or barking deer -- protected species under Thai conservation law.

The wildlife sanctuary in western Thailand hosts wild elephants, tigers and many endangered species, according to WFFT.

Sasin Chalermlarp, chairman of conservation group the Seub Nakkasathien Foundation, urged the government "not to fear the suspect's business status and proceed under the law until the case is finalised to set a precedent".

Italian-Thai Development did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Major Wutthipong Yenchit, police superintendent in the area where the arrests were made, said the four were granted bail on Tuesday.

Listed on Thailand's Stock Exchange, the company known as Ital-Thai has been involved in several mass transit projects and operations in numerous countries abroad.

Park authorities have charged Premchai, dubbed a "master builder of Thailand" in a 2011 Forbes profile, with seven counts under the Protection and Conservation of Wildlife Law.

Thanya Netithammakun, director-general of Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, told reporters on Tuesday that "according to the official report, Premchai was among the suspects".

Authorities did not witness the shooting of any animals, he said.

Poaching in Thailand's protected parks is relatively rare compared to neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia.

But the country is a key transit link in a global wildlife trafficking trade that funnels ivory and other illegal animal parts from Africa through to Asia.

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