Best of our wild blogs: 3 May 18

Call for volunteers to join the ICCS Otters team! [apply by 10 May 2018]
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

FREE natural history museum tours!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

A whimsical story from a Nature-lover, Environmentalist, Conservationist
Mei Lin NEO

Punggol Point Intertidal Walk
Offshore Singapore

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Businesses must foster culture of sustainable, green practices: Heng Swee Keat

Deborah Wong Channel NewsAsia 2 May 18;

SINGAPORE: The business community here has a big part to play in ensuring that Singapore remains sustainable and liveable for future generations, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday (May 2).

Speaking at the 5th Singapore Sustainability Symposium, organised by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Mr Heng pointed out that given land and resource constraints, sustainability is not a matter of choice for Singapore, but a matter of survival.

At the same time, he said Singapore, as ASEAN chair this year, will work with members to renew the region’s commitment to global climate action.

To that end, Mr Heng laid out three ways in which Singapore can contribute to sustainable development: Research and innovation, green financing as well as encouraging a community which fosters green business models.

"Sustainable practices need not necessarily equate to higher overhead costs. Studies have shown that sound sustainability standards lower a company's cost of capital, resulting in better operational performance,” said Mr Heng.

“Increasingly, there are investor and consumer expectations of sustainable business practices. These are positive trends for the environment and economy," he added.

Mr Heng, who is also chairman of the Future Economy Council, said the Government is committed to the cause to develop sustainable practices, citing the Singapore Sustainable Blueprint and the carbon tax which was passed in Parliament in March.

“Our carbon pricing will incentivise emissions reduction for all parts of the economy. Furthermore, as more countries impose tighter limits on carbon emissions, companies that adapt early will be more competitive,” he said.

“Our agencies have worked with partners to research and test-bed sustainable technologies, such as in alternative energy and waste management. The public sector is also working on green initiatives.”

The theme of this year’s symposium focuses on how countries can use incentives to encourage sustainable, eco-friendly practices in the face of climate change.

One such way to do this is to show businesses how they can increase profits and output while cutting their energy costs. Ms Lu Qi, a strategy and research partner at Chinese venture capitalist, Tsing Capital, explained that this measure reels business owners in more effectively than an emphasis on green reports.

Meanwhile, Ms Jeanne Stampe the head of Asia and Finance and Commodities at World Wildlife Fund in Singapore, said business leaders should set science-based targets in their corporate reports to ensure that focus remains on environmental impact rather than processes.


On top of developing innovative urban solutions using technology, NTU hopes to show how different stakeholders can collaborate to create more liveable and green cities.

NTU president Professor Subra Suresh said the university is well-placed to contribute to this endeavour, with ongoing projects to test electric and autonomous vehicles.

One example he cited was the launch of Singapore's first fully electric 22-seat shuttle, which will ply between the NTU campus and the neighbouring CleanTech Park from the second-half of the year.

The shuttle is fast-charging and emissions-free, and aims to be as efficient as tram systems.

On the academic front, NTU has also set up new schools and research institutes such as the new NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity. The institute will study how human behaviour interfaces with technologies and whether scientific advances lead to improvement in the human condition.

Source: CNA/gs

Singapore can promote green financing in the region: Heng
FABIAN KOH The New Paper 3 May 18;

Singapore can promote green financing in the region, given its stable finance regulatory environment, and help create a business culture of sustainable practices through its own experiences in the field, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

There must be a collective Asean effort towards smart and sustainable development, to which Singapore can contribute, he said at the opening of the three-day Singapore Sustainability Symposium.

"Sustainability innovations, technologies and practices that we develop here must have the relevance and scalability to be applied in different parts of the world," said Mr Heng.

Singapore has substantial resources that it can dedicate to building knowledge and talent, he noted. For example, the National Research Foundation's urban solutions and sustainability domain is focused on supporting ideas that enhance areas such as transport and liveable spaces.

"What can we offer out of our own failures, breakthroughs and lessons that can benefit our neighbouring countries' sustainability efforts?" asked Mr Heng. "We can accelerate the translation of R&D into commercial use and industry adoption."

Mr Heng added that Singapore is well placed to promote green financing efforts in the region, citing the example of the Association of Banks in Singapore, which introduced guidelines for responsible financing in 2015. These guide banks to assess their clients' environmental, social and governance risks as part of credit evaluation processes.

New Marsiling Park has more facilities for residents
Marsiling Park opens after 22-month makeover
Apr 30, 2018
Mr Heng also said that the business community here can help foster a culture for sustainable practices.

He emphasised the importance of a regional effort to addressing climate change, and said that as Asean chair this year, Singapore would work with the other members on the issue.

Professor Subra Suresh, President of Nanyang Technological University, which organised the symposium, said the next three decades would be "critical" in addressing climate change and avoiding ecological collapse.

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Cities from the sea: the true cost of reclaimed land

Asia is growing. Literally. From Malaysia to Dubai, luxury developments are rising on artificial islands and coastlines. Everybody wins – except the local sea life and the fishermen who depend on it
Wade Shepard The Guardian 2 May 18;

“Before, there were many fish,” says fisherman Mohd-Ishak Bin Abdul Rahman as he pulls a dried up crab from his net. A few years ago he could just walk out into the surf and pick up crustaceans with his bare hands, he tells me. “Now, nothing.”

He blames the palisade of new luxury condominiums that rise on the coastline behind him. Built on 240-acres of land artificially reclaimed from the sea, they are part of the Seri Tanjung Pinang 1 (STP1) project. Started in 2006, it brought a taste of new Asian modernity to what was then a rural area beyond the fringes of George Town, Penang’s only city. It also took away the fish, says Mohd-Ishak.

The 72-year-old is the undisputed chief of Tanjung Tokong, a fishing village of 100 houses built by the community a few decades ago. He is also the leader of a movement of fishermen protesting against development projects they claim are destroying the island’s fisheries, and with them their livelihoods.

Mohd-Ishak says his family has been fishing the area for at least five generations. As we talk, shirtless fishermen watch cautiously from handmade hammocks, half-broken plastic chairs and pieces of junk that washed up on the shore.

The contrast between the village with its shacks built from planks, beams and drift wood and the condos, swimming pools, luxury mall and Irish-themed pub is extreme.

Now the second phase of the STP project is in full swing. Dredgers, barges, bulldozers and diggers operated by a local subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) are busy creating 1,000 more acres of land for luxury development. Slated for completion in 15 years, the STP2 development is expected to have an eventual value of $4.4bn.

Land reclamation is nothing new in Asia – China, Hong Kong and Japan have been at it since the 19th century – but it has recently reached epidemic proportions. Maritime ecosystems are abruptly transformed as natural islands are artificially conjoined with coastlines, natural shorelines are extended and artificial islands are built from scratch.

Cities on China’s coast reclaimed an average of 700 square kilometres of land – that’s about the size of Singapore – from the sea every year from 2006 to 2010 for new houses, industrial zones and ports. The 130 sq km of land that was reclaimed to build the new city of Nanhui was significant enough to reconfigure China’s national map, and the reclaimed land for the Caofeidian economic zone was twice the size of Los Angeles.

Concerned these megaprojects were getting out of control and doing irreparable harm to the environment, Beijing stepped in earlier this year and put an end to land reclamation projects that were not spearheaded by central government.

Meanwhile, many Asian cities are picking up where China left off. Besides the STP projects on Penang, Malaysia has massive reclamation works under way for the 700,000-person Forest City in Johor; the Philippines is reclaiming 1,010 acres from the sea for its New Manila Bay – City of Pearl; Cambodia is building a slew of Chinese-financed properties on reclaimed land; Dubai has turned reclamation into an art form; and Sri Lanka is building a new financial district on the dredged and deposited land of Colombo International Financial City. Around a quarter of modern-day Singapore was open sea when the nation state came into existence in 1955.

Apart from acting as geopolitical flash points – reclamation in the South China Sea is repeatedly bringing the region to the brink of conflict – sourcing the sand is a major problem. Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam have already banned the export of sand, with reports of a multibillion dollar black market run by organised crime syndicates. Some of Indonesia’s Riau Islands have mysteriously disappeared – loaded on to barges and shipped to nearby Singapore, reports suggest.

The verdant, hilly island of Penang has been gripped by a development boom since the historic centre of George Town was declared a Unesco world heritage site in 2008. As tourists poured in from all over the world, so too did prospective property buyers looking to take advantage of the Malaysia My Second Home programme, and floods of east Asian real estate speculators.

“Penang has this obsession with wanting to become like Hong Kong and Singapore,” explains Andrew Ng Yew Han, a local film-maker who has documented Penang’s development.

But while 70% of the island is a forested blank slate for development, much of that is too hilly to build on safely – as proven by a recent landslide that wiped out a high-rise construction project and killed 11 workers.

The state government’s crosshairs soon fell upon the other natural feature hemming in their ambitions: the sea. Taking a trick from the playbooks of their model cities, Hong Kong and Singapore, Penang launched several large-scale reclamation initiatives – many strategically placed in prime locations.

This ability to home in on high-value sections of cities to reclaim land for new development often produces incredible profits. Research from Ocean University of China professor Liu Hongbin found that land reclamation in China can produce a 10- to 100-fold profit.

“If you are confident that you can sell the properties at a high price, which is likely the case at the fringe of large coastal cities or in popular coastal tourism destinations, reclaiming the land from scratch could potentially be more profitable than building on extremely expensive existing land,” explains Matthias Bauer, an urban designer who has worked on reclamation projects in China.

However, there is a lot more at stake with these projects than the money that is invested in them.

Not only are the fishermen of Tanjung Tokong banned from entering what was once an extremely productive fishing ground but there are now fewer fish in the waters near their village. Mohd-Ishak claims his catches have halved since development began.

Walking with him down the beach, another fisherman calls me over to his small house. His name is Haron Din, and his torso and legs are covered in the traditional tattoos that many fishermen in south-east Asia once wore.

At his feet lie piles of torn up old nets. He pulls out a dried up crab and explains it was dead long before it got tangled in his net. “The mud from the project suffocates them,” he says.

Holding a shiny new white net next to one of the 40 or so damaged ones littering the beach, Din complains that mud from the nearby reclamation area is killing the local marine life and doing irreparable damage to their fishing equipment.

The fishermen must travel further out to sea to find fish, which drastically increases both the cost of petrol and the dangers of the job. Unable to make a living in their sheltered bay, they now have to cross a busy shipping lane and contend with higher waves. There have already been a few deaths, Mohd-Ishak says.

Mageswari Sangaralingam, a research officer for Friends of the Earth Malaysia, says the thousands of sq km of land reclaimed across coastal Asia has meant the annihilation of mangroves, wetlands and reefs – destroying the habitats and breeding grounds for fish, sea turtles, crustaceans, plants and other marine life. In addition, the new cities, transport hubs and industrial zones built on the new land inevitably create added pollution and waste, he says.

“The multimillion-ringgit fisheries sector here on which thousands depend is being traded off for development,” says Sangaralingam. “Fish are being wiped out, and the fishermen will soon be too as they lose fishing grounds.”

“You have this development and yet people are losing their jobs,” adds film-maker Han. “You have reclamation which promised development, but you have fishermen who are losing their livelihoods, looking for second jobs … You build so many buildings here but in the end it doesn’t belong to us, it will be bought up by other people and foreigners.”

I visit Straits Quay – the high-end shopping mall surrounded by luxury condos overlooking the fishing village. On three trips here I’ve never seen anyone actually shopping in its luxury boutiques. The hallways are bare wind tunnels and even the giant atrium that acts as an opulent entranceway to the mall appears desolate, echoing the caws of resident crows and little else. If it wasn’t for a few stragglers slipping in and out to pick up groceries at the small supermarket – and the yacht owners drinking on the patio of the Irish-themed pub – the place could be called a ghost mall.

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Indonesia: Raja Ampat launches environmental education module

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 3 May 18;

To commemorate National Education Day, which falls every May 2, Raja Ampat regency in West Papua launched on Wednesday an environmental education module for sixth-grade students at its world-renowned marine tourist area.

The module was developed by Raja Ampat regency's Education and Culture Agency, Tourism Agency and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency, as well as The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Indonesia.

The module touches on the relationship between marine tourism and climate change and is the latest document launched for Raja Ampat's students, following the opening of two modules on the same topic for fourth-grade and fifth-grade students in 2016.

"With the presence of this module, I hope students will love and honor more of the blessings from God. We must protect our natural resources for future generations," said Raja Ampat Regent Abdul Faris Umlati in a statement issued by TNC Indonesia on Wednesday.

Raja Ampat is home to 553 coral reef species, equal to 75 percent of the world's coral reef species, and more than 1,000 coral fish species. Apart from its sea resources, Raja Ampat has terrestrial forests that serve as habitats for numerous birds found nowhere else in the world.

"TNC is aware that education is key to building future generations that care for the environment. We hope that one child who cares about the environment at present will contribute to a thousand people in the future," said TNC Indonesia country director Rizal Algamar. (ahw)

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Indonesia: Pertamina sanctioned over Balikpapan oil spill

The Jakarta Post 2 May 18;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has imposed administrative sanctions on state oil and gas company Pertamina over an oil spill incident that caused pollution and damage to the ecosystem of Balikpapan Bay in East Kalimantan.

The ministry’s law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, said three steps needed to be fulfilled by Pertamina.

“I signed the administrative sanctions for Pertamina last week. As one of the three steps, we asked Pertamina to make improvements to its exploration safety management,” he said as quoted by in Jakarta on Monday. Among the requirements is the submission of data on areas where Pertamina's operations face similar oil spill risks.

The ministry also asked Pertamina to carry out an environmental audit to identify the problems it faced and to determine ways to solve them.

Pertamina must also take responsibility for areas affected by the oil spill. Rasio said the ministry had obtained detailed data on the polluted areas.

“We have ordered Pertamina to rehabilitate locations still contaminated with oil, such as beaches."

In addition to administrative sanctions, Pertamina will have to pay compensation for losses caused by the oil spill. The ministry said, however, that it had yet to determine an exact amount for the losses and environmental damage caused by the incident.

“Regarding the compensation figure in the civil law suit we will file against Pertamina, our team in the field is still conducting calculations,” Rasio said. He said the losses would include damages to the ecosystem, such as to mangrove forests and beaches. (ebf)

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