Best of our wild blogs: 28 Apr 18

May 2018 sampling events for NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

The Return of the Indian Pond Heron to Bidadari?
Singapore Bird Group

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Zero-waste shopping? Packaging-free grocery store opening in Singapore

Consumers planning to visit this new grocery store at Jalan Kuras will have to bring their own jars and bags, or pick up one of the store’s recycled containers to fill them with items they want.
Tang See Kit Channel NewsAsia 28 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: It was about a year ago when Ms Florence Tay came across a video on Facebook showing a zero-waste provision store in Europe.

Decked out with self-service dispensers containing food items, the store provided no plastic bags or other forms of packaging and required customers to bring their own containers.

“I thought it was a great idea that took a step further when it comes to minimising the use of unnecessary packaging, especially plastic”, said the Singaporean who makes the effort to bring her own reusable container, cutlery and water tumbler whenever she goes out.

“I liked it so much that when I saw the message ‘Share the video if you like one in your neighbourhood’ at the end of the video, I did and even bookmarked it.”

Fast forward a year later, a grocery store with a similar do-it-yourself (DIY) and packaging-free concept will be opening its doors in the quiet neighbourhood of Sembawang Hills Estate.

And one of its owners is none other than Ms Tay.


Called UnPackt, the store is currently preparing for its soft launch on May 5 and its concept of having no food packaging may likely make it the first of its kind in Singapore.

Like the video that inspired Ms Tay, customers keen to do their grocery shopping at UnPackt will be encouraged to bring their own reusable packaging.

Before going about their shopping, customers will need to weigh their containers, jars or bottles on a weighing scale provided so that the weight can be noted down and later excluded from their bills. After filling up each container with the food item they like, customers will need to weigh their containers again at the counter before making payment.

Though cleaned recycled containers and shopping bags – most of them donated by members of the public – will be available for free, this means that it’s best for consumers to do some planning before heading down to UnPackt.

This “mindful planning” of one’s shopping list will help to curb impulse purchases and reduce waste, said Ms Tay.

“We are quite the opposite of supermarket shopping," she said.

"We encourage you to come with a shopping list so that you only buy what you really need. But if you do forget or see something else that you need, pick up one of our recycled containers and we hope that you will continue to use these containers or even bring them back.”

Ms Tay, a marketing manager turned entrepreneur, and her co-founder Jeff Lam have thus far invested about S$100,000 to get things started, with the bulk of the money going into rental and renovation works to refurbish the 1,200-sqft shophouse space.

As a start, the grocery store will focus on selling food items, with a majority being healthier options such as rice with lower glycaemic index, organic pasta and superfood powders.

These will be kept in large dispensers or gravity bins to minimise individual packaging. It will also be stocking locally-made cleaning supplies, such as cold-pressed soap bars and an eco-enzyme detergent made by local social enterprise ecosenses and non-governmental organisation MINDS.

Ms Tay said the bigger focus on food items from the get-go boils down to how it is hard to find food, especially organic ones, with zero packaging in Singapore.

With the absence of individual packaging, the owners of UnPackt think they could reduce retail prices by about 5 per cent and hope that would “lower the entry barrier” for people to take the first step in changing their consumption habits.

“The price that consumers pay usually involves the costs of buying packaging materials and the manpower costs at the packaging facilities of manufacturers,” said Mr Lam.

“Because we buy in bulk, there is no packaging costs that we need to transfer to our customers. Our research indicate that bulk purchases are usually 5 per cent lower than packaged items so we will price ours accordingly.”

Added Ms Tay: “People tend to have the idea that going green requires additional costs but we want to prove that wrong by making our prices affordable.”

Eventually, the duo aims to expand the store offerings to consumer items, such as eco-friendly body wash, shampoos and other plastic-free alternatives like stainless steel straws, making it a “one-stop shop” for sustainable living.


Other plans on the pipeline include rolling out a recycling scheme where members of the public can donate their cleaned containers and bottles.

Once its operationally stable, the social enterprise also intends to hire full-time employees, with a preference for single mums and senior citizens. For this, UnPackt is already in touch with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to find suitable candidates.

When that happens, the empty room at the back of the grocery store will be converted into a children’s playroom for single-mum employees to bring their kids to work.

Ms Tay, who is a single mum herself, said this is due to her own experience of finding it difficult to juggle both work and family.

“It’s really hard for single mums, especially those with lower education levels, to find a job. With childcare centres costing about S$600 to S$700 a month, it is just so much tougher for them,” she said.

But before that, the two founders are concentrating on promoting the store’s zero-waste concept.

Mr Lam admitted that he had doubts initially when Ms Tay first approached him with the idea, but his interest in curbing food waste soon helped him to come round.

The bachelor who is living alone said even with conscious purchasing efforts, he still finds it difficult to do grocery shopping for one. He reckons that a store like UnPackt will help singles like him.

But the 37-year-old still thinks there could be slower business on weekdays when the grocery store opens, and expects potential customers to have “plenty of questions” given that the concept of having no food packaging in a grocery store goes against what Singaporean consumers are used to.

“We have all been brought up in an environment where everything is convenient. Our food comes with packaging and that’s associated with being clean,” said Mr Lam.

“There may be people who won’t be able to accept food that doesn’t come in packaging so I think we will have to do a lot of explaining to do for that,” he added.

Ms Tay is more hopeful.

Citing a survey that she had put out while preparing for the launch of UnPackt, more than 1,000 respondents indicated that they are willing to support a zero waste grocery store. She has also received emails from schools that would like to arrange excursion trips to UnPackt for their students.

However, the owners have had to battle with one dilemma. While they have taken steps to be more eco-conscious and avoid disposables, both Ms Tay and Mr Lam said they still have a long way to go before they can call themselves as "zero wasters".

“This was something that Jeff and I debated several times. Can we call ourselves owners of a zero waste store if we ourselves haven’t fully achieved a zero waste lifestyle?” said Ms Tay.

While most of the furniture in the store are second-hand items and recycled materials, there are things that are brand new, such as the self-service gravity bins used to store food items.

With zero-waste organic products being hard to find in Singapore, the duo also had to source for these overseas, which inevitably creates packaging and food miles.

“That’s something that we had to overcome but we’ll like people to know that we are not zero wasters yet. We are working towards that and hopefully, everyone can join us.

“Perhaps becoming more eco-conscious can start from something simple. A slight change in lifestyle can be cultivated into habits. If everyone does that, the effect will accumulate and grow,” said Ms Tay.

Source: CNA/sk(ms)

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Malaysia: Elephant in rest area along highway terrifies travellers

MOHD JAMILUL ANBIA MD DENIN New Straits Times 27 Apr 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Travellers who stopped at the R&R near Puncak Titiwangsa, Gerik, were terrified when an elephant appeared at the rest and relax area before destroying fences in the compound.

Wildlife and National Park Department (Perhilitan) director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said his officers in Gerik received information about the elephant from the police.

“Five Perhilitan officers rushed to the R&R along East - West Highway upon receiving the information. When the team arrived, the elephant had, however, re-entered the nearby forest.

“No unwanted incident happened, and the elephant only destroyed the fences at the R&R,” he said when contacted today.

According to the photos taken by the R&R workers, it was a male elephant with a foot size around 38.1cm.

Photo of the 3m tall elephant appearing and destroying fences at the R&R has gone viral on the social media.

Kadir added that following the incident, Perhilitan would monitor the area as a preventive measure to avoid untoward incidents.

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Indonesia: Significant Progress in Forest Fire Prevention - Carbon Conservation

Suksmajati Kumara Jakarta Globe 27 Apr 18;

Jakarta. In 2015, Sumatra and West Kalimantan were hit by the worst forest and peatland fires in history, which have blanketed much of Southeast Asia in toxic haze. The air-pollution crisis brought Indonesia into the local and international media spotlight.

To prevent forest fires and the damage they do to the environment, livelihood and health of many, APRIL, a major producer of fiber, pulp and paper, and the Indonesian government came up with the Fire Free Village Program (FFVP). It was introduced in Riau province on Sumatra's east coast in 2015.

The program aims to address the underlying causes of fires, such as slash-and-burn farming, by means of education and raising awareness of the devastating impacts they have on communities in Indonesia and neighboring countries.

This month, following the completion of the program's third year, a record number of FFVP participants will receive "No Burn Village Rewards" — special funding granted to villages dedicated to implementing fire-free cultivation. From the funding, the beneficiaries will be able to finance their community infrastructure projects and further improve their forest fire prevention and response programs.

Carbon Conservation, a multi-stakeholder group made up of forestry and agriculture companies, has been commissioned to assess and review the FFVP. The Singapore-based group was established in Australia in 2007. It specializes in conservation, sustainability and environmental finance.

According to Carbon Conservation's most recent report, 15 of the 18 villages participating in the FFVP in 2017 deserved the full reward. APRIL's strategic fire and protection manager, Craig Tribolet, said this demonstrates increased community acceptance of the importance of fire prevention, and willingness to be involved in the cause.

"The rewards are an important indicator that communities are experiencing the full value of the program. It shows that the education and capability building elements of the program that encourage communities to take ownership and become fire resilient are working," he said, adding that the government's support played a crucial role in the implementation of FFVP's fire-free policies.

"It's also important to acknowledge the support of the government, whose increased focus on fire prevention and law enforcement has helped generate behavior change at village level," he said.

In 2015, the project involved 27 villages, which were selected in a fire risk assessment process. In 2017, nine new villages were brought aboard, making the FFVP currently cover an area of 622,112 hectares. Each of the participating villages is located in Riau.

In other areas, where the fire risk is lower, APRIL is carrying out an education-based Fire Aware Communities program, which now engages 50 villages.

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Indonesia: Floods, landslides, tornado batter Java this week

Gisela Swaragita, Arya Dipa and Ganug Nugroho The Jakarta Post 27 Apr 18;

Extreme weather incidents are marking the ongoing shift from the rainy season to the dry season in Java, as various parts of the island have been hit with heavy rain and twisters, causing floods, landslides and lots of damage.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has issued warnings on the potential for heavy rain and predicts the bad weather to last until Saturday.

Twisters lashed several areas in Central Java’s Wonogiri regency this week, collapsing 40 houses and damaging at least 60 others.

Besides damaging houses, the tornado also knocked down big trees in Jatirejo village of the same regency. Falling trees had hit houses, hawker shops and electricity poles, Wonogiri Disaster Mitigation Agency head Bambang Haryanto said on Thursday.

Despite the losses, Bambang said there had not been any evacuation of residents.

He said the agency’s volunteers were helping residents clean up and repair damaged houses.

“We have asked the volunteers to stay alert, because the weather remains unpredictable,” Bambang said.

A tornado also hit neighboring Klaten regency last Wednesday, uprooting trees that damaged dozens of houses in four districts.

The intense vortex, which hit around 7 p.m., also caused blackouts as electricity wiring was damaged.

“People fled from their houses, because they feared they might collapse. The strong wind swirled, bringing down trees and blowing off roof tiles,” said Irmawan Andriyanto, head of Barepan village, which sustained the most severe damage in Klaten.

The incidents claimed no human lives but caused what is estimated to be hundreds of millions of rupiah in losses.

A tornado also caused panic among people in the nearby city of Yogyakarta, where internet users uploaded photos of the swirling wind seen from several vantage points of the city on Tuesday.

The city itself was spared by the tornado, although it was drenched in heavy rain and lashed with strong winds.

Cianjur regency of West Java was hit with a landslide and flooding on Wednesday due to three hours of intense rain in the afternoon. Several areas of Kertajadi village and Cidamar village of Cidaun district in the regency were inundated.

Meanwhile, a landslide blocked a major road in Wangunjaya village of Naringgul district that day. Soil falling off a 70-meter cliff piled up on some 100 meters of the road connecting Naringgul and Ciwidey district in West Java’s Bandung regency.

The Cianjur Disaster Mitigation Agency said overflow from the Cidamar and Cidaun, the main rivers in the area, had flooded 30 hectares of rice fields and damaged seven houses.

“According to the latest information, 160 houses are impacted by the floods,” West Java Disaster Mitigation Agency mitigation operations manager Budi Budiman Wahyu said.

The bursting of the Cidaun river dam is said to be the cause of the flooding, but an assessment of the disaster is ongoing.

The disasters on Java Island had been sparked by the flow of wet air from the Indian Ocean, which had increased the potential of heavy rain with thunder and strong winds, BMKG deputy head of meteorology Mulyono R. Prabowo said.

The same conditions were predicted to affect many other areas of the archipelagic country.

Mulyono warned about the potential for high waves of up to 4 meters in almost all Indonesian waters.

However, the extreme weather would end soon, probably in early May, when the dry season is predicted to start, the BMKG said.

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Dutch rewilding experiment sparks backlash as thousands of animals starve

A scheme to rewild marshland east of Amsterdam has been savaged by an official report and sparked public protest after deer, horses and cattle died over the winter
Patrick Barkham The Guardian 27 Apr 18;

It is known as the Dutch Serengeti, a bold project to rewild a vast tract of land east of Amsterdam. But a unique nature reserve where red deer, horses and cattle roam free on low-lying marsh reclaimed from the sea has been savaged by an official report after thousands of animals starved.

In a blow to the rewilding vision of renowned ecologists, a special committee has criticised the authorities for allowing populations of large herbivores to rise unchecked at Oostvaardersplassen, causing trees to die and wild bird populations to decline.

It follows growing anger in the Netherlands over the slaughter of more than half Oostvaardersplassen’s red deer, Konik horses and Heck cattle because they were starving. After a run of mild winters, the three species numbered 5,230 on the fenced 5,000-hectare reserve. Following a harsher winter, the population is now just 1,850. Around 90% of the dead animals were shot by the Dutch state forestry organisation, which manages the reserve, before they could die of starvation.

For two months, protesters have tossed bales of hay over fences to feed surviving animals as the Dutch Olympic gold medal-winning equestrian Anky van Grunsven joined celebrity illusionist Hans Klok in condemning the “animal abuse” on the reserve. Ecologists and rangers received death threats from the rising clamour on social media. Protesters compared “OVP” to Auschwitz.

Oostvaardersplassen was only created in 1968 when an inland sea was drained for two new cities. An industrial zone turned into a marshy haven as it lay undeveloped during the 1970s. Dutch ecologist Frans Vera devised the innovative use of wild-living cattle and horses to mimic the grazing of extinct herbivores such as aurochs, and Oostvaardersplassen became an internationally renowned rewilding reserve, celebrated in a 2013 Dutch film called The New Wilderness.

But in a drastic “reset”, a special committee convened by the provincial government this week called for a halt to the rewilding principle of allowing “natural processes” to determine herbivore populations. Instead, large herbivore numbers should be capped at 1,500 to stop winter fatalities, the committee said, with new forest and marsh areas created for additional “shelter” for the animals.

“This experiment has absolutely failed,” said Patrick van Veen, an animal biologist whose petition to stop animal cruelty at Oostvaardersplassen has been signed by 125,000 people. “You’d expect 20 or 30% to die of natural causes including starvation each year but the population grows in summertime and there is no control mechanism – normally you’d have predators such as wolves but it’s too small an area to have predators.”

As the report was delivered, a small group of women stood outside the provincial government building wearing purple ribbons. A watching policeman joked with them that they were “the hooligans”.

For protesters, Oostvaardersplassen is a secretive experiment devised by distrusted elites – public access is restricted to much of the reserve because the wild Heck cattle are considered dangerous. Jamie Wiebes said OVP made her “ashamed” to be Dutch.

Alongside a band of 50 people, she’s risked €400 fines – and high-speed trains – to lug bales of hay across a railway line and feed the animals over the fence. The group said they delivered 410 bales on one night. “It’s not only the hunger, it’s neglect,” said Wiebes. “The horses have open wounds, their hooves are broken, their teeth are broken, they have white mites on their backs. If you put up a fence, you have to take care of what’s behind the fence – you do in zoos, and even in prisons you have to provide child molesters with food and water. You cannot do a ‘project’ with animals. They are living things.”

From public lookouts, and from trains that skirt its southern border, Oostvaardersplassen in late April looks a bleak and denuded landscape: dead trees collapsed across tightly grazed grass and visibly thin horses and deer. Rangers now move animal carcasses – deliberately left to provide food for everything from beetles to ravens – away from the railway line because of public distress.

But a tour of the full 5,000 hectares with Han Olff, professor of ecology at the University of Groningen , reveals a different picture. Half the area is marshland into which the grazing animals don’t go, creating a sanctuary for rare birds from bearded tits to sea eagles.

“Some people say the ecosystem is dying. Some people, like me, say the ecosystem is just coming alive,” said Olff, pointing out that the dead trees are a source of food for hundreds of beetle species and shelter for small mammals.

Olff admitted the committee’s report had been “a bit of a setback for what’s called rewilding – trusting natural processes, putting in large grazers, letting go of the traditional management of cultural landscapes”. But he rejected the idea that this version of rewilding was abusive towards the grazing animals whose populations are regulated by the natural availability of grass.

“A small group of people have made a tremendous noise, especially horse owners,” he said. “They withhold a free life from their horses and justify that by feeding them too much food. Here the horses can choose its own mates, form social groups and sometimes die because in the herd they are the weakest link.”

Ecologists hope that if more of the reserve is opened up to the public, visitors will better understand that the challenging sights – dead carcasses, dead trees and thinner-than-livestock animals – “are part of the cycle of life, to use a Disney term,” said Olff. “People say it’s a desert, it’s been overgrazed but they don’t see the landscape variability, so we need to much better allow access to the grazing and marsh areas to tell the story of this young, developing ecosystem.”

According to Olff, the biodiversity of Oostvaardersplassen is still burgeoning. Bird declines are not because of “overgrazing” by the large herbivores but due to a loss of reedbed because it’s grazed by geese. And while bird species such as reed warbler have disappeared from the heavily grazed areas, they are still present in the marshes, and new species – lapwing, avocet, shellduck – have arrived because the grass is tightly grazed. The trees that have died are species that can’t adapt to grazing but those that can, such as blackthorn, are very slowly replacing them.

“There isn’t another Oostvaardersplassen in western Europe. People tend to focus on what you lose and ignore what you gain. It’s just changing, it’s not better or worse, it’s just something different. Traditional conservation managers make a plan saying ‘This is what we want to keep – period’. This dynamic way of managing nature is new, it’s different but it’s not an experiment.”

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EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides

The world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields within six months, to protect both wild and honeybees that are vital to crop pollination
Damian Carrington The Guardian 27 Apr 18;

The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

But in February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors (Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, welcomed Friday’s vote: “The commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from Efsa. Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.”

The ban on the three main neonicotinoids has widespread public support, with almost 5 million people signing a petition from campaign group Avaaz. “Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees,” said Antonia Staats at Avaaz. “Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can’t live with these chemicals and we can’t live without bees.”

Martin Dermine, at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said: “Authorising neonicotinoids a quarter of a century ago was a mistake and led to an environmental disaster. Today’s vote is historic.”

However, the pesticide manufacturers and some farming groups have accused the EU of being overly cautious and suggested crop yields could fall, a claim rejected by others. “European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” said Graeme Taylor, at the European Crop Protection Association. “Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but in time decision makers will see the clear impact of removing a vital tool for farmers.”

The UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the ban was regrettable and not justified by the evidence. Guy Smith, NFU deputy president, said: “The pest problems that neonicotinoids helped farmers tackle have not gone away. There is a real risk that these restrictions will do nothing measurable to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.”

A spokesman for the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs welcomed the ban, but added: “We recognise the impact a ban will have on farmers and will continue to work with them to explore alternative approaches.” In November, UK environment secretary to a full outdoor ban.

Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to individual bees, such as damaging memory and reducing queen numbers.

But this evidence has strengthened recently to show damage to colonies of bees. Other research has also revealed that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, prompting warnings of “ecological armageddon”.

Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, said the EU ban was logical given the weight of evidence but that disease and lack of flowery habitats were also harming bees. “Also, if these neonicotinoids are simply replaced by other similar compounds, then we will simply be going round in circles. What is needed is a move towards truly sustainable farming,” he said.

Some experts are worried that the exemption for greenhouses means neonicotinoids will be washed out into water courses, where they can severely harm aquatic life.

Prof Jeroen van der Sluijs, at the University of Bergen, Norway, said neonicotinoids will also continue to be used in flea treatments for pets and in stables and animal transport vehicles, which account for about a third of all uses: “Environmental pollution will continue.”

The EU decision could have global ramifications, according to Prof Nigel Raine, at the University of Guelph in Canada: “Policy makers in other jurisdictions will be paying close attention to these decisions. We rely on both farmers and pollinators for the food we eat. Pesticide regulation is a balancing act between unintended consequences of their use for non-target organisms, including pollinators, and giving farmers the tools they need to control crop pests.”

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Better forecast, better preparedness – investing in improved weather services

ADELINE CHOY World Bank ReliefWeb 27 Apr 18;

Sun or rain? Most of us rely on the daily weather forecast to know what to wear or whether to bring an umbrella. However, for millions of people living in flood prone areas, timely and accurate forecasts, as well as early warning, can impact more than just clothing choices –they can help minimize flooding impacts.

Floods are the most frequent and damaging among natural hazards. Between 1980 and 2016, floods led to economic damages exceeding US$1.6 trillion, and more than 225,000 people losing their lives. Compounded by rapid urbanization and climate change, these losses will likely increase, especially in fast-growing countries.

There is a Chinese saying, ‘a single tree does not make a forest, a single string cannot make music’. By combining water, weather and climate studies, hydromet services help to understand, predict, and warn people of impending hazards. For example, early warnings of floods provide longer lead times for evacuation to safer locations, and protect important assets. Weather information and predictions can also help make better investment decisions; for example, how to use water resources more efficiently to manage implications of wet and dry seasons across different sectors.

This potential for smart technology to minimize risk of flooding was highlighted at the InterMet Asia Conference in Singapore, supported by the Urban Floods Community of Practice. Bringing together the public and private sector, the conference presented participants with an array of state-of-the-art tools, forecasting systems and ‘smart’ solutions to tackle flooding, including the following:

Cloud computing systems, for better weather forecasting at lower costs. Cloud computing can help private or public weather service providers avoid the high costs related to purchasing and maintaining the high-performance computing infrastructure needed to run numerical weather forecast models. Cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud enable forecasting to be performed with multiple models and computers, combining various data sources, which can result in more accurate predictions and better preparation for the next flood.

Internet of Things (IoT), for more accurate flood predictions and planning. New technologies and applications such as low-cost sensors, mobile phones to an IoT network, allow the collection of large amounts of complex and real-time data that can inform the assessment and monitoring of flood risks. Within an IoT network, data can be pooled and mapped in one cloud location, to provide a “big picture” outlook on a given emergency. Moreover, flood sensors, mobile phones, barometric pressure monitors, and dam alert systems, can over time inform better long-term flood preparedness.

Impact-based flood forecasting and early warning. Advising about the scope and likely impact of a given hazard, impact-based forecasting and early warning can help bridge the gap between producers of information and users of information.

Improved data visualization using Virtual Reality (VR) platform. Visualization can help bridge data and human intuition, by allowing for an immersive experience which can help make large amounts of information easily understandable. This can in turn enable better decision-making.

How can countries harness these tools and solutions to strengthen resilience against floods and how can we foster closer public, private and academic partnerships? Singapore might offer some valuable insights. The island is a global hydrohub, with an ecosystem of 180 water companies and more than 20 water research centres spanning the entire water value chain. Faced with growing threats of weather and climate extremes induced by climate change, Singapore is investing heavily in national meteorological services and advancing research in the weather and climate of Singapore and Southeast Asia. The recent opening of the WMO Regional Office in Singapore signals the importance of the island nation as a regional hub for Global Weather Enterprise in the region.

The World Bank Group and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) Hydromet Program supported both events. GFDRR, together with the regional teams, is helping to strengthen institutions, observation networks and forecasting, and service delivery. Introducing new technologies and, more importantly, sharing of knowledge is a critical part of this continuous work to improve weather services and enhance disaster resilience of communities.

The Urban Floods Community of Practice (UFCOP) is a global initiative led by the World Bank to share operational and technical experience and solutions for advancing an integrated approach to urban flood risk management. The initiative is jointly led by the World Bank Social, Urban, Rural and Resiliency and Water Global Practices, with support from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the WB Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) and other development partners.

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