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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Malaysia: Raw waste may trigger deadly jellyfish blooms

arnold loh The Star 29 mar 18;

GEORGE TOWN: Raw animal waste pouring into the sea from mainland Valdor will potentially cause destructive jellyfish blooms that create “dead zones” in the sea around Penang, a marine biologist says.

Jellyfish can increase and gather in such large numbers that they crowd out all other sea life, said Datuk Prof Dr Aileen Tan.

“When the animal waste is not treated first, the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium it contains will create a burst of microscopic plankton in the sea.

“This will deplete the oxygen until fish cannot thrive, but jellyfish need very little oxygen,” she said.

Dr Tan added that marine researchers around the world have stressed that when the jellyfish population explodes, their tendency to catch all the fish larvae around them will make it difficult for fish stocks to stay sufficient for human consumption.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) has been conducting studies on the jellyfish population in the state’s coastal waters since October last year.

Researchers comb the sea during neap tides with special netting and trap hundreds of jellyfish each time, including the deadly box jellyfish.

In Valdor near the second Penang bridge, an area measuring about 140ha has 43 pig and 57 chicken farms packed almost wall to wall with each other.

Dr Tan, the director of Cemacs, was appalled by the chemical analysis of the water in a canal flowing from the farms.

“It’s in extremely bad condition. No life can survive in that water. In those concentrations, when it dilutes into the sea, it will upset Penang’s coastal fisheries,” she warned.

The canal flows for only 4km from the edge of the farmland to a tributary of Sungai Jawi. Then, it is 8km to the sea.

It was reported that the ammoniacal nitrogen of the canal water about 2km from the farmland was 254ppm (parts per million) or 94 times higher than the level of a Class Five (severely polluted) river, as classified by the Department of Environment (DOE).

Dr Tan said she would raise the pollution readings with her counterparts in the Fisheries Department and DOE to discuss the impact of the animal waste discharge.

On Monday, The Star reported the woes of residents of a gated community just 100m from the farms.

The farms have been there for about 20 years, but the rapid growth of South Seberang Prai has seen upper middle-class residential projects approved within 5km of them.

State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the state was well aware of the issue.

“We want to develop South Seberang Prai because it is a vital urban-rural migration zone to relieve congestion on the island.

“The farmers have until the end of 2019 to adopt closed farming systems,” he said.

Bukit Tambun assemblyman Datuk Law Choo Kiang, whose constituency includes Valdor, called on government agencies to act.

“If the evidence is clear, then government departments and agencies should act without hesitation,” he said.

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Indonesia: Government to impose excise on plastic in May

The Jakarta Post 27 Mar 18;

The government plans to introduce an excise on plastic in May to reduce the use of the material.

The Finance Ministry’s customs and excise director general, Heru Pambudi, said in Jakarta on Monday that a draft of a government regulation was being discussed by the relevant government agencies.

“An interministerial committee tasked with drafting the regulation is working now,” Heru said, as reported by, adding that the committee was coordinating with House of Representatives Commission XI, which oversees financial affairs.

In addition to the plastic excise, the government also plans to impose duties on several other products, including sweetened beverages and gas emissions.

“But we are now focusing on the excise on plastic. More and more people care about the environment and health issues,” Heru said, adding that the Finance Ministry was targeting Rp 500 billion (US$35 million) in additional revenue from the new excise duties in the state budget.

Although the amount is insignificant compared to the Rp 148 trillion total revenue target from excise duties, Heru said, the policy was expected to reduce the use of plastic, which had caused serious environmental problems.

Previously, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said 80 percent of plastic waste ended up in the ocean, carried through waterways.

Indonesia has been named the biggest marine plastic polluter in the world after China, a country with a much larger population. An estimated 1.3 million tons of plastic waste is accumulated daily across the archipelago.

Last week, workers lifted more than 100 tons of plastic waste from the Jakarta bay. (bbn)

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How clean indoor air is becoming China's latest luxury must-have Cities

Shanghai’s latest upscale hotel boasts filtered air typically 10 times cleaner than that outside and in-room pollution monitors – but in this lucrative new market, not everyone can be trusted
Helen Roxburgh The Guardian 27 Mar 18;

The newly opened luxury Cordis hotel looks much like many other high-end hotels in Shanghai, with its glass-sided swimming pool, vast twin ballrooms and upscale spa. But the first Cordis hotel on mainland China boasts something that is genuinely rare in big Chinese cities: clean indoor air.

Modest occupancy rates in the megacity’s 5,000-plus hotels mean operators have been desperately competing to attract guests with cheap deals and ever more luxurious features. In a city where air pollution as measured by PM2.5s – tiny particles deemed particularly harmful to health – recently increased 9% year-on-year and now regularly exceeds capital Beijing – one luxury hotel has a new wheeze.

All the air that enters the Cordis Hongqiao is passed through two levels of filtration and continuously cleaned, while double-glazed windows remain closed to seal the fresh air inside. Pollution monitors are fitted in all 396 guest rooms and TV screens display PM2.5 levels. Air quality inside the rooms is typically around 10 times better than that outside.

“I think people can sleep easier knowing that the air quality in their room is far superior to any other hotel, and far superior to what it is outside,” says John O’Shea, managing director of Cordis Hongqiao. Guests have so far rated the Shanghai hotel highest for satisfaction out of the Langham Group-owned brand’s 22-hotel portfolio.

While air pollution has long been on the nation’s mind, indoor air is a newer battleground. Even in very polluted cities, indoor air quality can be worse than the air outside. As well as PM2.5-heavy air entering homes and offices through open windows or poor insulation, high levels of formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – gases that can be emitted by poor building materials, furniture, paints and adhesives – are an additional concern.

“Indoor pollution is a very serious problem and health threat, not just in China but worldwide,” says Sieren Ernst, founder of environmental consultancy Ethics & Environment. “Most people spend 90% of their time indoors, and the exposures that we are getting from that time remain largely unexamined.”

Public awareness in China is on the rise, though. In 2013, market research provider Euromonitor says there were 3.1m air purifiers in China, in a market worth 6.9bn renminbi (£774m). By the end of this year, sales are expected to more than double in size to 7.5m air purifiers, in a market worth nearly 16.5bn renminbi.

A growing number of employers and building managers are installing air filters in offices, while relocation companies are offering indoor air-quality assessments to top-tier expats, and Starbucks built its enormous new Shanghai Reserve Roastery to Leed Platinum standards, including air quality monitoring.

China’s only home-grown, international green building standard, Reset, is primarily focused on indoor air quality. Launched by the China-based architect Raefer Wallis, a Reset-certified space must have been within healthy limits for PM2.5 (12µg/m3), carbon dioxide (600 ppm), VOCs (400µg/m3) and other pollutants for three consecutive months, and is reassessed annually.

Meanwhile, as part of its 13th Five-Year Plan, Beijing mandated at least half of new urban buildings must be green-certified by 2020. As public interest and regulatory arguments for improving indoor air gather strength, Chinese businesses and institutions are rushing to be ahead of the curve.

“We worked with a couple of schools [on indoor air quality] in Shanghai and Beijing in 2013 and 2014,” says Tom Watson, director of engineering at environmental consulting company PureLiving, which now works with around a third of Fortune 100 companies to clean up their office air. “As soon as they made the changes it became their market differentiator, then all the other schools had to follow suit, and that’s what we’re seeing replicated now in the commercial market.

“At first this will be a point of market difference, then a necessity.”

In the city’s new Taikoo Hui complex, the air inside consultancy JLL’s 22nd-floor office is largely unaffected by the hazy skyline outside. Last year, the office was recognised as the healthiest in the Asia-Pacific region and the third healthiest in the world, meeting stringent standards from the International Well Building Institute, and introducing a customised app for staff to check real-time indoor air quality.

“To be honest, our first response was that this is too tough in a first-tier city in China,” admits Xuchao Wu, head of energy and sustainability services, JLL Greater China. “The Well standards are set in such a way that you have to commit to meeting 15 µg/m3 [PM2.5] in the ambient air; it might not be that much of a challenge in UK or US cities, but in China it’s particularly challenging. Especially when, say, it hits 200 outside and you need to get a 95% reduction in PM levels.”

Top-quality filtration systems like JLL’s use a tight mesh that removes dust and particulates far too small to be seen by the naked eye. Ceiling filtration units ensure clean air is spread evenly, and the best units offer automation to adjust their filtration rate depending on outdoor pollution. Systems also need to allow an adequate fresh air supply, otherwise PM2.5 falls but carbon dioxide increases. Developers such as Tishman Speyer are working within Reset standards to install high-end clean air filters across their whole China portfolio.

The World Health Organisation estimates indoor and outdoor air pollution causes around 6.5 million premature deaths every year, while a comprehensive global 2017 study concluded China and India accounted for about half of all premature deaths from pollution in 2015. Data analysis by the German Institute of Global and Area Studies found that working in an office with high-level filtration systems can raise an employee’s life expectancy, estimating that staff in Tishman’s China offices gained an average of 6.3 days a year on people working in unfiltered workplaces.

Subtler impacts of pollution are still being investigated. A landmark 2017 study from Harvard’s Centre for Health and the Global Environment found occupants of high-performing green buildings had higher cognitive function, fewer symptoms of sickness and better sleep quality. Good indoor air can also help with staff retention: a Reset survey concluded that 56% of surveyed staff in China use poor workplace health as a primary reason to change jobs.

With a plethora of apps and affordable monitors available, greater knowledge of air quality could affect Chinese consumer behaviour too.

“In the future you can imagine the scenario where you want to go out for a coffee or a meal, but before you choose the restaurant or coffee shop you look up which one has the best indoor air quality,” says Watson.

As well as top-quality filters, guaranteeing good indoor air requires reliable monitors which are maintained to prevent them “drifting”. The Reset certification also grades monitors: grade A monitors are far more accurate and professionally calibrated, whereas mass-produced grade C monitors are, in Wallis’ words, a “Russian-roulette” and can collect wildly inaccurate readings.

The rapid expansion of the clean air market also leaves it open to abuse, with unreliable marketing and questionable purifiers promising additional tricks such as the ability to repel mosquitos. According to the Xinhua news outlet, a quarter of consumer air purifiers tested by a government inspection agency failed quality checks, and new state standards are reportedly in the pipeline.

“We were in a shopping mall earlier this week where they had monitors installed and the data was amazing,” says Wallis. “But the monitor was right next to the filtered air supply. So what the monitor was reading was 30µg/m3 of PM2.5; what the people were breathing was 300µg/m3.”

For Shanghai’s Cordis hotel, the Reset certification is a hard-earned point of differentiation on its many luxury competitors. O’Shea is hopeful the clean air will ultimately boost room prices by around 10%.

“I think back to the days when everyone used to charge for the internet,” he says. “Now the internet’s like hot water – if you don’t have high speed, fast, easy-access internet for free, then it’s over. The indoor air quality is going to be like that too – if you can’t guarantee your customers much better air quality than the competitors, it’s going to be a fait accompli. It’s already getting that kind of importance.”

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