Best of our wild blogs: 9 May 18

29 May (Tue): Paddling Sungei Khatib Bongsu (Family Edition)
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

24 Jun (Sun): FREE screening of 'Ubin, Sayang' at Pulau Ubin
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

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Green Drinks Singapore

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Addenda to President’s Address: MND, MEWR committed to building better homes and a liveable Singapore

Building better homes for current and future generations of Singaporeans, as well as creating a liveable and sustainable country form key thrusts of both ministries.
Fann Sim and Aqil Haziq Mahmud Channel NewsAsia 8 May 18;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) on Tuesday (May 8) laid down plans to create a liveable and sustainable Singapore.

In his ministry’s addendum to President Halimah Yacob’s address in Parliament on Monday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong reaffirmed plans to build a more inclusive city for Singaporeans of all ages and abilities.

This includes seeing to the housing needs of senior and vulnerable Singaporeans.

For seniors, MND will pilot a new model of assisted living that combines housing and care services, in order to help them live more independently and with dignity. MND will also update the existing Enhancement for Active Seniors programme to provide more accessibility solutions.

For vulnerable Singaporeans living in rental flats, MND will study how to further support their homeownership aspirations.

Mr Wong said that his ministry also plans to build a “smarter, greener, and more liveable city”. Chief among its plans is the linking of up the 24km Rail Corridor to parks, nature areas and trails such as the Coast-to-Coast Trail and 150km Round Island Route by 2021.

By 2030, he said, 90 per cent of Singaporeans will live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and Singapore’s network of green corridors will be expanded from 310km to 400km.

MEWR is also doing its part to build a liveable and sustainable Singapore by integrating and transforming “our blue and green spaces”, it said.

“Through the Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters programme, we will continue to turn concrete drains, canals, and reservoirs into vibrant and beautiful rivers, streams, and lakes,” Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said in his ministry’s addendum.

“Over the next few years, ABC Waters projects at locations such as the Jurong Lake and Sungei Whampoa will be completed.

The ministry will also continue to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, such as enhancing stormwater management systems and diversifying water supply with more desalination and NEWater plants.

“In tandem, we are pursuing better management of our water demand,” Mr Masagos said. “We will also deepen our local research capabilities on climate science and weather through the Centre for Climate Research Singapore.”

When it comes to tackling climate change, using resources efficiently is critical to reducing emissions, limiting pollution and strengthening Singapore’s economic resilience, he said.

“We will strive to become a zero waste nation and extract greater value from waste as a resource, so as to achieve our vision of a circular economy,” he added, highlighting the Government's implementation of a compulsory e-waste management system and mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging waste reduction plans by 2021.

“While the Government will continue to strengthen our regulatory regime to safeguard our environment and public health, creating a liveable and endearing home ultimately depends on everyone taking ownership of our environment,” Mr Masagos said.

Source: CNA/hz

Quality living in a connected city, three ministers pledge
WONG PEI TING Today Online 8 May 18;

SINGAPORE — Through mega aviation and port projects, as well as continued investments in rail and mobility initiatives and new housing developments, the Government will ensure a quality living environment for Singaporeans and keep Singapore one of the most connected cities in Asia.

Some 3,000 flats with shorter waiting times of two to three years — instead of the usual four years — will be launched this year and next, and the first batch of flats in the Tengah "Forest Town" will be launched in the second half of this year, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (May 8) in his addendum to President Halimah Yacob's address at the opening of the second session of the 13th Parliament.

"Home ownership remains the key social pillar of our nation," said Mr Wong. "We are tapering the building of new flat to a more sustainable level, but we will continue to maintain a sufficient supply to meet the housing needs of Singaporeans, from young families, to seniors and singles."

For seniors, Mr Wong said a new model of assisted living that combines housing with care services will be piloted to enable them to live independently and with dignity.

On transport, Transport Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan said the rail network will expand by 130km in the next 12 years. The construction of the Thomson-East Coast Line is underway, with the Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line to follow. This plan is "on track" to bring eight in 10 households within a 10-minute walk from a train station by 2030, Mr Khaw said.

The authorities will introduce a licensing framework for bicycle sharing operators and registration for e-scooters by the end of this year, he added. This will enhance enforcement against indiscriminate parking and reckless riding and instil a more responsible culture among users.

On a larger scale, Singapore will continue to foster its connection to the global economy with Changi Airport's expansion, the next generation Tuas Port, as well as the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail and the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link.

Such developments continue to be important as aviation and maritime sectors continue to be the "lifelines of Singapore's economy", contributing more than 10 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product and 250,000 jobs, said Mr Khaw.

"We cannot take (Singapore's position at the heart of international trade and investment) for granted. Many in the region are working hard to replace us, with shipping and flight routes bypassing Singapore," he said.

The Government will balance economic growth with environmental protection, pledged Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

Singapore will undertake a voluntary national review of the United Nations' sustainable development goals in July this year, he said.

It will implement mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging waste reduction plans by 2021, while supporting the wider use of on-site food waste digesters at commercial premises and hawker centres.

The upcoming Tuas Water Reclamation Plant and integrated waste management facility — touted as the world's first — will cut carbon emissions by more than 200,000 tonnes a year, said Mr Masagos.

Technology will increasingly feature in the environmental services industry — to manage waste collection remotely, through the use of robotics to sort recyclables at materials recovery facilities, and the use of autonomous cleaning to free up workers to perform "higher value work", he said. "We will work together to build on (our pioneers') precious legacy, and leave our children with a smart, green and livable home," he said.

Key initiatives for each ministry:

Ministry of Transport

Rail network to grow by another 130km by 2030
Rail reliability target of 1,000,000 mean km between failures by 2020; to be achieved by accelerating asset renewal and intensifying maintenance of older lines through extended engineering hours
Licensing framework for bicycle sharing operators and registration of e-scooters to be introduced by the end of 2018
Ministry of National Development

First batch of HDB flats in the new Tengah 'Forest Town', designed to be surrounded by greenery and nature, to launch in the second half of the year
90 per cent of Singaporeans to live within a 10-minute walk of a park by 2030 as network of green corridors will be expanded from 310km to 400km
New assisted living model that integrates social services with housing to be piloted for seniors
Adoption of more productive construction methods to double from the current 20 per cent of all new projects to 40 per cent by 2020
Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

Undertake a voluntary national review of UN's sustainable development goals in July
Implement mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging waste reduction plans by 2021
Support wider use of on-site food waste digesters at commercial premises and hawker centres
Build 13 more modern hawker centres by 2027

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Indonesian study into health risks of microplastics

David Shukman BBC 9 May 18;

Indonesian scientists have launched the largest ever study into whether tiny plastic particles can affect human health.

They are investigating the presence of plastic in seafood while also tracking the diets of 2,000 people.

There is no evidence yet that ingesting small pieces of plastic is harmful but potential impacts cannot be ruled out.

Plastic pollution has become so severe in Indonesia that the army has been called in to help.

While public attention is focused on larger items like bags and bottles choking rivers and canals, there is emerging scientific concern over the long-term implications of smaller and less visible pieces known as microplastics.

The project is being undertaken in Semarang, an industrial port city of 1.7 million people, on the north coast of the Indonesian island of Java.

Led by food technologist Inneke Hantoro, the aim is understand how much plastic is contained in seafood, how much of it people eat and whether a safe level of consumption can be devised.

Her initiative is a response to US plastics researcher Jenna Jambeck and colleagues concluding that Indonesia was the world's second largest contributor of plastic waste to the oceans after China.

Ms Hantoro, of Soegijapranata Catholic University, says the lack of evidence about microplastics causing harm is not a reason to delay investigating the risks.

She told BBC News: "With the uncertain conditions right now, where the toxicological data is still limited, we cannot let the situation run as usual because we know consumers are starting to be aware of the presence of plastics – it will make them worry, so we need to do something."

She concedes that until more data is available, it will not be possible to set a definitive safety standard for plastic consumption so she’s hoping to come up with "interim guidance".

"We could propose a food safety standard to remove seafood that contains a very high level of microplastics from the market – people don’t want to buy something that contains plastic," she added.

The first stage of the work involved gathering 450 samples of six different types of seafood from local waters and also from further afield, and screening them for microplastics.

I joined her on a visit to fish farms on the coast near Semarang. To reach them we had to travel by boat through mangrove swamps that were blighted by plastic – huge loads of it hung from the branches and lay tangled in the roots.

The research has found that every species tested contained some plastic particles, including fragments and fibres – tilapia were the worst with 85% seen with plastic.

The majority of mullet, shrimp, and milk fish tested also had plastic particles. Cockles had the lowest reading with 52% containing plastic.

These findings are broadly in line with similar research conducted in the UK and elsewhere, and they confirm that plastic contamination of seafood is a global problem.

But the next phase of the work in Semarang breaks new ground with an unprecedented campaign to follow the diets of 2,000 volunteers over a period of 2-4 weeks.

As a coastal city, Semarang is known to have a relatively high consumption of seafood and a key task is to find out how people prepare it and whether they take any steps that might minimise their intake of plastic.

Milk fish, for example, can be eaten whole, including their intestines, which may be where microplastics might accumulate.

One of the co-authors of the study is a Dutch environmental scientist, Prof Ad Ragas, of Radboud University.

He plays down any fears of immediate health hazards from microplastics but says the problem does need to be understood.

"Keep in mind that it’s not as if everybody is dying from the plastics problem," he told BBC News.

"We know it's there but we don't know yet whether fish are dying or people are dying because of the microplastics, so there’s no reason or proof to be pessimistic there.

"But we don’t know for sure, so that’s the uncertainty we have to live with."

This comes as the city authorities in Semarang have organised a major clean-up - the main streets and rivers look largely clear of plastic waste.

But because the city only has one official landfill site, at least 200 illegal ones have sprung up in poorer districts and in the outskirts of Semarang.

We saw one sprawling dump on the coast, where thousands of bags of rubbish lay heaped and torn, with plastic waste blown by the wind into the ocean, all of it destined to break down into smaller fragments.

In an effort to minimise the amount of plastic reaching the environment, one major food packaging factory in the city has launched an initiative to contain waste and raise awareness.

PT Miramas, which uses plastic for sachets, bottles and other containers, is sponsoring classes in EcoBricks, a scheme that transforms plastic waste into blocks that can be used as furniture or building materials.

Harjanto Halim, director of the company, told me that at the moment he could see no alternatives to using plastic so he wanted to teach people how to make use of it and prevent it leaking into the environment.

As we spoke, dozens of people were learning how to prod old plastic bags into drinks bottles. The filled bottles are then being glued together in batches to form large "bricks" which can be stacked on top of each other.

"You cannot make a magical thing happen in a blink of an eye,” said Mr Halim, acknowledging that this project alone will not change attitudes."The people of Indonesia still consider throwing trash into the street or river is normal… but if I am able to get support from the government and schools I think we can make a difference."

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