Best of our wild blogs: 5 Jun 18

10 Jun 2018 (Sun): Balik Chek Jawa with the Chek Jawa Community
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

What to do when you see an animal (in need) in Singapore?
Little Green Men

Pesky plastics, microplastics, and now nanoplastics too!
Mei Lin NEO

Read more!

Farm fire in Lim Chu Kang involving wood waste breaks out on Friday; takes more than 24 hours to put out

Charmaine Ng Straits Times 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - A fire, which took more than 24 hours to extinguish, broke out at a farm in Lim Chu Kang last Friday (June 1).

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it responded to the fire at 21 Neo Tiew Lane 1 at about 10.30am.

The fire involved a large pile of wood waste, measuring approximately two football fields in area and 15m high, said the SCDF spokesman.

"The deep-seated fire, which was contained within the premises, was extinguished by SCDF using six water jets on Saturday evening," the spokesman added.

"SCDF is currently working closely with the affected company to excavate the pile of wood waste to ensure effective damping down of the area."

The Straits Times understands that the fire was located within the farm Malaysian Feedmills.

Smoke from fire at Malaysian Feedmills

Chief executive of Bollywood Veggies, Ms Manda Foo, whose farm is next to Malaysian Feedmills, told ST that she saw "huge plumes of smoke rising up to the sky" on Friday.

"It looked like an industrial fire," added Ms Foo, 32, who is also the executive secretary of the Kranji Countryside Association. "It's a big environmental hazard and it caused haze in the Kranji area."

She added that she has observed regular burning activities "at least once every few weeks" at the farm.

While some farms do conduct some burning for agricultural purposes, Ms Foo added: "If it's visible from another farm, it's out of the ordinary."

Separately, a reader living in Marsiling reported hazy conditions and "a whiff of burnt wood in the air" on Sunday.

An ST reader reported hazy conditions and a smell of burnt wood in her Marsiling neighbourhood on Sunday. PHOTO: ST READER
On Monday, ST reported that slightly hazy conditions were spotted in a few areas in central Singapore.

In response, the National Environment Agency said that this was due to accumulation of particulate matter in light wind conditions, and not an indication that the regional haze was back.

It is unclear whether the hazy conditions, particularly in Marsiling, are linked to the farm fire last week.

The SCDF is investigating the cause of the fire, said the spokesman.

Read more!

It’s All Monkey Business For Andie

AsianScientist 5 Jun 18;

When Dr. Andie Ang was ten years old, she was given a juvenile wild vervet monkey by friends of relatives who were sailors to Africa. Unaware of the differences between wild and domestic animals, Ang raised the monkey, whom she named Ah Boy, bringing him around on her shoulders and feeding him home-cooked food.

Over time, Ah Boy grew bigger and increasingly miserable chained up at home. It was this episode that sparked Ang’s life calling as a primate conservationist and researcher. With the help of a Singapore-based animal conservation group, Ang successfully raised funds to repatriate Ah Boy back to Zambia in 2004.

As a nod to her efforts in primate conservation in the region, Ang was appointed president of the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) in May 2018. Prior to that she was vice president of the non-profit organization.

Ang, who received a PhD degree in anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder in the US, also holds professional appointments as chairperson of the Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group, member of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, and vice president of the Southeast Asian Biodiversity Society, among others.

In this interview, Ang shares with us her vision for the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), her latest research conservation grant from Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and her efforts in helping the critically endangered Raffles’ banded langur through an upcoming volunteer recruitment drive.

1. Congratulations on being appointed president of Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore). What are your plans for your tenure?
We have a new vision for the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), which is, ‘People living in harmony with nature and animals.’ I hope to further advance this vision through programs such as a series of public lectures, forest walks and Roots and Shoots outreach.

2. Where are you based currently?
I am based in Singapore, and I travel around the region—particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand—for the Raffles’ banded langur conservation project.

3. What inspired your interest in primates and the Raffles’ banded langur, in particular?
When I was ten years old, I was given a wild vervet monkey from South Africa as a pet. The juvenile monkey was taken illegally by friends of relatives who were sailors to Africa. Not fully grasping the differences between a wild animal and a domestic pet at the time, I raised my pet monkey—Ah Boy—like I would a pet dog, bringing him around the neighbourhood on my shoulders and feeding him home-cooked food.

Every day, he would climb onto my shoulders to groom my scalp, pulling apart my hair and meticulously carrying out a search, much like how monkeys groom each other and search for parasites and dirt particles in the wild.

As my pet monkey grew bigger, I saw how miserable he was chained up at home, without his rightful freedom to live in the forests among his friends. With the help of Mr. Louis Ng from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), we raised funds and repatriated Ah Boy back to Zambia. Ah Boy is the inspiration for the ACRES logo and also my motivation to learn about monkeys and help them.

4. You recently received a research conservation grant from Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund. Could you share with us more about this grant?
The Raffles’ banded langur (Presbytis femoralis femoralis) is a species of critically endangered leaf-eating monkey in Singapore, with only approximately 50 individuals left in the wild and none in captivity.

The Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF) will support research into and conservation of this species through a grant from 2016 to 2018 for the implementation of the first phase of the Species Action Plan. The second phase, which will run from 2018 to 2020, will also be funded by WRSCF.

5. Please share with us your journey towards becoming a primate conservationist.
I started learning about monkeys during my final year project at the National University of Singapore. I studied the hand-use preference of primates when retrieving food items at the Singapore Zoo, looking at proboscis monkeys, white-handed gibbons and slow lorises. More than 90 percent of humans are right-handed, so what about monkeys?

Humans exhibit individual-level and population-level right-handedness. This means that most human individuals show a preference, whether it is left or right preference (individual-level), with more than 90 percent of humans being right-handed (population-level). However, this is not the case in non-human primates—there is no strong evidence for a preference to left or right in our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees.

In my study, I found that [non-human primates exhibit no left- or right-handedness], except for slow lorises. Almost all the slow lorises I studied at the zoo show an individual-level preference (either clearly left, or right), but as a group, there was no population-level preference (50:50 in terms of the number of left-handed and right-handed lorises).

I also looked at wild white-handed gibbons in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand to compare my results against those I collected from the zoo gibbons; again, they did not show a preference—they were ambidexterous.

Subsequently, for my Masters project, I researched the local critically endangered Raffles’ banded langurs, because I wanted to learn more about them and contribute to our native wildlife before studying primates in the region.

What makes the Raffles’ banded langur special is that this species was first known to science through Sir Stamford Raffles’ writing in 1822, based on a specimen collected in Singapore.

6. What research did you carry out at the University of Colorado?
For my PhD degree in anthropology, I studied three species of colobine monkeys (leaf-eating primates) from six sites in Vietnam: the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), the black-shanked douc (Pygathrix nigripes) and the Indochinese silvered langur (Trachypithecus germaini).

I selected these three species of leaf-eating monkeys to answer scientific questions on population genetics and diet in endangered species, using molecular tools to complement field observations.
My project depended heavily on collecting fecal samples! From the fecal samples, I extracted genomic DNA from the monkeys, the plants they ate, parasites and gut microbiome. All this information helped us understand whether there was inbreeding in the monkey populations, their plant diet choice, parasite load and gut microbes. In total, we collected 395 fecal samples from the three species.

One of our key findings was that the largest population of critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys exhibited zero mitochondrial genetic variability, the lowest ever reported for any primate species in the wild. The study was also featured in New Scientist.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore funded my projects on the Raffles’ banded langur in Singapore, and also a component of my PhD dissertation project.

7. You’ll be conducting your fifth volunteer recruitment drive on June 10, 2018. What should our readers know about it?
The Raffles’ banded langur is critically endangered in Singapore with a small population size and restricted distribution. In order for conservation actions to be implemented, population estimates and distribution of the Raffles’ banded langur need to be updated through field surveys.

The general public can contribute by participating as a volunteer, going to nature areas to collect observation data on the monkeys. We have been carrying out this citizen science effort since August 2016, recruiting volunteers every six months.

We will hold our fifth volunteer recruitment drive on June 10, 2018, sharing information on what data needs to be collected and how to do so. Results from previous rounds of citizen science surveys will also be presented.

Read more!

Asbestos plague spreads to Pulau Ubin

Audrey Tan Straits Times 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - The asbestos "plague" has spread to Pulau Ubin, with debris containing the potentially toxic mineral cropping up at the island off the Republic's eastern coast.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the island, said on Tuesday (June 5) that "small pieces of debris containing asbestos were found at four isolated locations on the island and have been removed".

It did not elaborate on where exactly the debris was found.

This is the latest development in the spread of asbestos, which has since April been found at a number of places in the Southern Islands. On May 19, NParks said it was surveying Pulau Ubin to determine if asbestos could be found there.

In its statement on Tuesday, however, NParks did not say when the mineral was discovered. But its discovery on Pulau Ubin shows that it is not just the islands south of Singapore that have been affected.

Asbestos containing debris has also been found on Sisters' Islands Marine Park, Pulau Hantu, St John's Island and Kusu Island - islands popular among day-trippers who visit the southern islands for their nature, scenic views of the Singapore Strait, or to worship at the temple or shrine located on Kusu.

NParks said the debris containing asbestos on Big Sister's Island, found washed ashore last month, has since been removed. Works to remove the debris in other areas are ongoing.

The two long-term residents on St John's Island have moved back to the mainland, but it is not immediately clear whether the Pulau Ubin villagers have had to move back either.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once a popular component in construction materials. Due to its links to health problems such as lung cancer, its use in buildings was banned in Singapore in 1989, but many earlier structures still contain the substance.

Structures containing asbestos pose no risk to humans if they are intact. However, when there is damage or disturbance - such as sawing and cutting - fibres may be released into the air and inhaled.

Even though the authorities have said repeatedly that short-term exposure to asbestos is not harmful, the repeated occurrence of the mineral has raised questions on how they came to the southern islands in the first place, and if they could have been dumped illegally by errant contractors.

Investigations are now ongoing to determine the source of the asbestos debris.

The collection and disposal of general and industrial waste from offshore islands is regulated by the National Environment Agency (NEA) under the Environmental Public Health Act and Environmental Public Health (General Waste Collection) Regulations.

NEA told The Straits Times that it requires waste to be collected by licensed general waste collectors for disposal at approved disposal facilities, namely the waste-to-energy incineration plants and Semakau Landfill.

"Owners and occupiers of premises are required to engage general waste collectors to collect their waste for proper disposal. For industrial waste that is toxic in nature, it has to be sent to toxic industrial waste treatment facilities."

It did not say how these requirements are enforced, but its spokesman added that the agency had in the past, taken enforcement actions against offenders for failure to comply with the requirement, although those cases did not involve offshore islands.

Big Sister’s Island and Pulau Ubin cleared of asbestos-laced debris: NParks
Today Online 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE — The authorities have removed debris containing asbestos from Big Sister's Island and Pulau Ubin, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on Tuesday (June 5) as it declared Coney Island and Small Sister's Island to be free of the hazardous material.

In the latest official update on the discovery and removal of asbestos-laced debris from islands surrounding Singapore - first disclosed in April - NParks said some of such debris were found at four isolated areas in the lagoons on Big Sister's Island, which forms one half of Sisters' Island with Small Sister's Island.

Small pieces of debris containing asbestos were also found in "four isolated locations" in Pulau Ubin. The debris have been since been removed from both islands.

NParks gave no further details.

Asbestos is a potentially toxic mineral that could cause lung cancer and other illnesses if its fibres are inhaled over a prolonged period. It was once commonly used in building materials, but has since been banned in Singapore and other developed countries due to concerns about health risks.

The authorities announced the discovery of traces of asbestos on St John's Island and Kusu Island in late April and early May respectively. In the middle of May, two islands of Pulau Hantu were also discovered to contain asbestos.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced on April 23 that it was sealing off the recreational areas on St John's Island until the middle of next year following the discovery of debris containing asbestos.

In an update on May 4, the SLA said that it would conduct surveys for asbestos on other publicly accessible islands around Singapore, but declared Lazarus Island, Pulau Seringat and Kias Island to be free of the hazardous material thus far.

In their May 4 statement, the SLA added that it would be closing off the affected areas on Kusu Island - a lagoon and parts of the beach - until October this year for workers to remove the asbestos.

Popular sites like the Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong) temple, wishing well, tortoise sanctuary, a temporary hawker centre and the jetty will remain open to the public as asbestos was not discovered there.

The daily ferry services to the island, about 5.6km south of Singapore, are unaffected as well, SLA added.

It did not disclose how much asbestos was discovered on Kusu Island, beyond saying the hazardous material was discovered in "pieces of debris".

On May 19, the SLA said it discovered asbestos on two islands of Pulau Hantu – Pulau Hantu Besar and Pulau Hantu Kechil.

As a precautionary measure, the authority closed off both islands and removal works will only be completed in early 2019.

Debris containing asbestos found on Pulau Ubin, hazardous material removed: NParks
Channel NewsAsia 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Small pieces of debris containing asbestos were found on Pulau Ubin, said the National Parks Board (NParks) on Tuesday (Jun 5), adding that the material has since been removed.

Asbestos has been found since April on some of Singapore’s southern islands, including Big Sister's Island, St John’s Island and Kusu Island.

The discovery on Pulau Ubin meant asbestos has also appeared on an island in the northern part of Singapore. The pieces of debris were found at “four isolated locations”, said NParks in a media release.

It also announced that debris containing asbestos has been removed from isolated areas in the lagoons on Big Sister’s Island, and declared Coney Island free from the hazardous mineral after completing surveys on the area.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was commonly used as a construction material in the past. The use of asbestos in building materials has been banned in Singapore since 1989 due to its links to health risks such as lung cancer.

When asbestos was found on Big Sister's Island in May, monthly guided walks there were suspended.

In April, the Singapore Land Authority cordoned off more than half of St John's Island as a precautionary measure, after samples taken from a campsite, lagoon and holiday bungalow area tested positive for asbestos.

Authorities have yet to determine the source of the debris containing asbestos.

Source: CNA/na/(gs)

Read more!

Sustainable development innovations showcased at Ecosperity conference

Noel Low Straits Times 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Mushroom roots could one day form the structure of your house.

The agriculture waste can be converted into a low-cost building material that is "stronger than concrete", Indonesia-based company Mycotech demonstrated at the Temasek Ecosperity Conference, held on Tuesday (June 5).

It was one of many innovations showcased at the one one-day conference, held at Suntec Convention Centre in conjunction with the United Nations World Environment Day.

Co-founder Mr Ronaldiaz Hartantyo told The Straits Times that the company is collaborating with ETH Zurich's laboratory in Singapore to bring the innovation here.

The conference brought together 600 delegates from 23 countries to discuss sustainable development.

Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing told the conference that there are physical dimensions to sustainability, such as water, energy, urban design and food, and also non-physical ones, including healthcare, social integration and education.

He added that Singapore can "master our destiny" if it manages its resources well.

A report launched at last year's conference said that there are US$5 trillion worth of economic opportunities in the area of sustainable development in Asia alone.

This year's conference aims to unlock more of these opportunities through the sharing of ideas.

Mr Fraser Thompson, director of consultancy firm Alphabeta which was commissioned to write the conference reports, told The Straits Times that the stereotype of Asian businesses being unreceptive to change has been proven wrong. He said: "Businesses care, but there is a lack of scale for the innovations to take off."

The Ecosperity Conversations Report observed that fundamental change is needed to ensure sustainability across many industries.

Temasek Holdings Chairman Mr Lim Boon Heng said that "taking a business-as usual approach will not work."

Food was one of the key focuses cited. Mr Lim said that we need to relook at how food is produced and consumed, as "a third of the food produced worldwide doesn't even reach our plates".

Mr Chan added that we must harness technology to optimise food production and find "new ways to grow high quality, premium food".

The conference also turned to youths to share their ideas. Almost 1,000 young people shared ideas at a global innovation workshop.

Projects funded by Temasek Foundation Ecosperity were also on display. They included a 'smart dustbin' which is equipped with image recognition technology to track the types of food thrown away and provide data for businesses to adjust their purchasing decisions in order to cut waste. The foundation has pumped $17 million into funding 18 projects.

Read more!

Singapore Polytechnic, waste management recycling association to work together on innovative solutions for waste industry

Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and the Waste Management & Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) will be working together to bring technological solutions to the waste industry, in a move that will help support the nation's zero waste goal.
Gwyneth Teo Channel NewsAsia 4 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and the Waste Management & Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) will be working together to bring technological solutions to the waste industry, in a move that will help support the nation's zero waste goal.

The two organisations also agreed to work together to support workplace safety and health in the environmental services industry.

The collaboration will allow innovations being developed at SP to be tailored to the uses and needs of Singapore's waste industry and the wider economy as a whole.

At the signing of the memorandum of understanding on Monday (Jun 4), Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources, noted that Singapore's only landfill will be completely filled in less than 20 years.

"For Singapore to achieve our visions of becoming a zero waste nation, we will have to adopt a circular economy model, where we minimise the waste generated and maximise the value and resources that we can extract from key waste streams," said Dr Khor.

For instance, the Advanced Materials Technology Centre (AMTC) in SP has developed solutions in solid waste recycling and resource recovery.

This includes projects such as the total conversion of incinerated ashes to foam glass, a 'green' chemical formulation for electronic waste recycling that yields higher amounts of precious metals in a short amount of time, and a process that recovers more than 90 per cent of material cost from recycling solar panels.

"Industry partners can leverage in the technology development strength of our technology centres and design-thinking infused approach to solving problems," said Mr Lim Peng Hun, Deputy Principal of Singapore Polytechnic.

In addition to these solutions, SP and WMRAS will also be starting a Chemical Management and Workplace Safety Programme to support worker safety and health.

Under this programme, small-and-medium enterprises and professionals will undergo a two-day workshop, during which they will learn how to reduce occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities from potential exposure to hazardous chemicals.

The programme is expected to benefit 100 companies every year. The first workshop will take place later this year.

During the workshop, attendees will also receive training in new knowledge and skills in achieving a pollution-free and zero waste environment.

Source: CNA/ng(aj)

Singapore Poly, waste management agency team up for zero waste goal
NOEL LOW The New Paper 5 Jun 18;

Researchers from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) have come up with a way of fully recycling incineration ash, a development that could lead to landfills becoming a thing of the past.

When combined with glass powder and other materials, a tonne of incineration ash can yield up to $11,500 worth of foam glass, a material used for thermal insulation highly sought after in the construction industry.

Developments like this have prompted a collaboration between SP and the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore, which hopes to capitalise on SP's research expertise to achieve Singapore's zero waste vision through technological developments.

A memorandum of understanding which was signed yesterday will also see the launch of a Chemical and Workplace Safety Programme - a two-day workshop for chemical and waste management companies - later this year.

The foam glass initiative was among several showcased by SP to launch the tie-up.

Electronic waste is one of the areas the collaboration hopes to target. The Republic is one of the top three electronic waste producers in South-east Asia, yet only 6 per cent of some 60,000 tonnes of e-waste produced here each year are recycled.

SP has also found ways to improve the recycling of e-waste and solar panels so that valuable materials can be recovered rather than incinerated.

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said at the ceremony that by 2025, it is projected "some 30,000 workers will benefit from higher value-added jobs in the cleaning and waste management industry".

Read more!

Green practices gaining ground with companies in Singapore

With 2018 being Year of Climate Action, enough momentum has been generated over the years resulting in surge of initiatives
ELYSSA TAN Business Times 5 Jun 18;

PHASING out disposable plastics? Check. Installation of LED lighting? Check. Rainwater collection system? Check. Solar panels? Check. Setting up an edible rooftop garden? Yes, check that too.

These are just some of the many sustainability initiatives implemented by organisations in Singapore amid an apparent wave of going green.

With 2018 being earmarked as the Republic's Year of Climate Action, it remains unsurprising that there has been a surge in green initiatives.

In fact, most organisations have been actively promoting and championing their sustainability efforts recently but are these initiatives only due to 2018 being the Year of Climate Action?

To sum it up, the simple answer appears to be no. Yes, 2018 has seen a lot of publicity pertaining to the environment and sustainability but to attribute that to the Year of Climate Action is erroneous.

This sustainability initiative did not happen overnight; rather, it has gained traction over the past five to 10 years.

"At the start, we saw only a handful of companies consider sustainability, primarily from the lens of corporate social responsibility," said Fang Eu-Lin, PwC Singapore's sustainability and climate change leader. "The key shift was observed a few years ago when companies recognised the concept of 'materiality' and enhanced focus towards issues where they had the greatest impact and which were important to their stakeholders."

Truth be told, various organisations have long embarked on their sustainability journey.

Some such as Citi Singapore had even started their global green efforts "more than 10 years ago" and StarHub even acknowledged that it "started its green journey even before the government announced this year as the Year of Climate Action".

Local real estate developer CapitaLand also had in place an "in-house guide developed since 2007 to ensure environmental considerations are factored in at all stages of a project".

According to Ms Fang, there are many factors driving environmental stewardship across corporations.

"These range from operational efficiencies to alignment with national and global priorities," she remarked. "There is increasing evidence of cost savings and product innovation through adoption of green practices and many companies have started to realise this. Various policy actions such as the Paris Agreement, Task force on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), SGX sustainability reporting requirements and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are agendas that businesses want to align with and these are helping to drive the green movement."

In fact, organisations have even stood up for their actions, emphasising their social responsibility in undertaking these efforts.

This was echoed by J D Kasamoto, general manager, service and environment division of Ricoh Asia Pacific. "We firmly believe that companies with the ability to tackle climate change should do so, and this can be achieved by offering specific, practical solutions to the many problems we face."

But here comes the burgeoning question - are these commitments genuine or are they lip service?

A quick glance at some of the actions undertaken by various organisations in Singapore shows that most also adopt a bottom-up approach in their solutions, highlighting their attempts to reach out to a wider spectrum of society.

One way of doing so is by ramping up ground-up efforts in the community, which includes efforts such as participating in school projects, phasing out the use of plastic water bottles and harvesting fruits and vegetables to donate to the less fortunate.

Other efforts beyond the community sphere exist as well, such as the installation of solar panels, rainwater collection system and installation of the more environmentally-friendly LED lighting.

Cost saving appears to be a source of motivation for organisations to go green.

According to Tan Seng Chai, group chief people officer of CapitaLand Group and chairman of the company's sustainability steering committee, considerable savings have been made. "We have managed to reduce energy and water intensity (per m²) by 23.4 per cent and 24.1 per cent respectively for our operational properties and reduced our carbon emission intensity by 29.4 per cent, compared to the base year of 2008. This amounted to utilities cost avoidance in excess of S$140 million for CapitaLand since 2009."

"Our energy-saving initiatives have helped the bank reduce electricity consumption by some 9.6 GWh and achieve cost savings of S$3.8 million in 2017, compared to 2016," added Mikkel Larsen, DBS's chief sustainability officer.

Citi Singapore also reported significant cost savings through their initiatives. According to the bank, they reduced 725,570kwh of energy usage in 2017 compared to 2016, which translated to cost savings of S$150,000 in 2017.

Agreeing with this sentiment, PwC's Ms Fang further commented: "Contrary to conventional thinking, going green does not necessarily mean there will be an added cost burden. Adoption of green practices can result in cost savings and risk reduction."

KPMG's Singapore head of sustainability advisory & assurance, Ian Hong, also commented: "Both climate adaptation and climate mitigation responses require resource investments, and the benefits may be seen only in the medium or long term."

Going green also benefits businesses in the long run with its economic benefits. "It is increasingly accepted that embracing environmental sustainability and green practices would have economic benefits - from winning support from like-minded investors and customers and hence increasing profitability; meeting regulatory requirements to opportunities to tap into new markets and innovation," said Koh Ching Ching, head, group corporate communications, OCBC Bank.

This trend also appears to be here to stay.

Noting that "going green" is a business imperative, Mr Hong said: "Trust is built only when organisations are consistent in what they say and do. With heightened public attention on responsible business practices, organisations need to be accountable for their climate response or risk being called out. Once an organisation's credibility is destroyed, it loses its licence to operate."

"Good business and sustainability are not mutually exclusive," commented Judy Hsu, regional CEO, Asean and South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank. "In fact, balancing sustainable development and sustainable finance is the new normal. It is about backing businesses that take care of our natural resources and build local communities."

This was further substantiated by Ms Fang, who said: "There is strong indication that most of these practices will not end without creating an actual impact ... over time these activities may become the norm, rather than being an exception."

Read more!

Singapore's Tuas Mega-Port: Plain sailing ahead?

The Lion City hopes a new multibillion-dollar facility will help keep it the world’s largest transshipment hub. But there’s a rising tide of pretenders to its crown
JACQUELINE WOO South China Morning Post 4 Jun 18;

Work is slowly winding down at the container terminals in Singapore’s bustling commercial centre.

Giant cranes at the iconic Tanjong Pagar Terminal – long seen as a barometer for the city state’s economic health – are no longer used to service hulking container ships. Instead, they are ready to be dismantled, their parts to be sold as scrap metal.

This is just one step in Singapore’s great port migration to its new, multibillion-dollar home far west of the island: the upcoming Tuas mega-port, primed as the crown jewel of its maritime industry.

The new port is shaping up nicely, as Singapore holds on to its position as the world’s largest transshipment hub. Reclamation works for the first phase of development are on schedule, with more than 70 per cent of the 221 caissons – 28-metre high watertight concrete structures used to build the wharf – installed as of the end of April, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). The remaining caissons will be completed by early next year.

In April, the MPA awarded a S$1.46 billion (HK$8.8 billion) contract to a global consortium for the second phase of development at the port, which includes work to dredge the Tuas basin, set up wharf structures and reclaim 387 hectares of land, more than three times the area of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

The Tuas mega-port, when completed in 2040, will be able to handle up to 65 million standard-sized containers, up from some 40 million today. It will house all of Singapore’s container activities, running on emerging technologies, automation and data analytics.

This means the city state will be bookended by the port in the west and the airport in the east, buttressed by yet another mega infrastructure plan in the form of Changi Airport Terminal 5, Singapore’s largest airport terminal yet.


Like many other ports around the world, the Port of Singapore began life from the heart of the city, which in the past served as a focal point for trade and cargo.

The lease for Singapore’s three city terminals – Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani – expires in 2027, and the land that will be freed up will be redeveloped as part of the Greater Southern Waterfront project, a sprawling 1,000 hectare area with mixed land uses.

Since 2016, Singapore’s port operator PSA has begun to relocate operations from the city terminals to the newer Pasir Panjang Terminal, which will host most port activities until Tuas is operational, starting from 2021. The lease for Pasir Panjang will run out in 2040.

A PSA Corporate spokesman said Tanjong Pagar, Singapore’s oldest terminal, is being used for ancillary services, while container operations continue at Keppel and Brani.

The move to Tuas is strategic.

Industry watcher Tan Hua Joo, executive consultant at Alphaliner, said the new port would help Singapore cope with the anticipated growth in container volumes.

“There is insufficient land at Pasir Panjang to accommodate additional future growth as well as the eventual relocation of cargo from the city terminals when their leases expire,” he said.

He added that the move to Tuas would allow Singapore to retain its position as the leading container transshipment hub in Southeast Asia.

The Tuas port is designed to accommodate mega-vessels that can hold 24,000 standard-sized containers or more, with its long linear berths and deep-water capabilities.

The port is also to run on the latest port technologies and systems. A fleet of 30 automated guided vehicles have already been deployed at the Pasir Panjang Terminal in a trial, along with automated yard cranes and quay cranes.

All of this comes at a time when competition between ports continues to intensify, each vying to anchor big shipping alliances, while digitalisation is driving change in big waves in the maritime industry with big data and automation.

An MPA spokesman said the new port reflects the government’s approach of planning for the long term, while remaining responsive to new developments and opportunities. Tuas was a good location because of its “sheltered deep waters, and proximity to both major domestic industrial areas and international shipping routes”. “Consolidation of the container port activities at Tuas will achieve greater economies of scale. The new port at Tuas will also be able to provide additional capacity to meet the needs of the industry,” he said.

Amid concerns that port activity will be tucked away and out of sight at the western end of the island – and overlooked by the public – the MPA has said the maritime industry will remain a pillar of the economy.

Singapore did well to cement its dominant position as the port of call in the region last year, having anchored major names in global shipping such as France’s CMA CGM. Japan’s newly-minted Ocean Network Express has also parked its global headquarters in the island.

Container throughput rose 8.9 per cent to 33.7 million containers in 2017, while the maritime industry employed more than 170,000 people and contributed 7 per cent to the economy.

Even so, that doesn’t mean everything will be plain sailing for the Lion City. Alphaliner’s Tan said it would have to watch out for regional competitors, such as the Malaysian ports of Klang and Tanjung Pelepas, while Ocean Shipping Consultants director Jason Chiang noted that Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand had also invested heavily in modern deep-water facilities, which has resulted in larger vessels calling directly at these ports. “This means cargo can skip being transshipped at a port in the Strait of Malacca altogether and go straight to Vietnam, for example, which is cheaper,” Chiang said, adding that while Tuas was a “necessary move”, other factors like competition and slower economic growth would always be a “wild card”.

Read more!

Asia lagging behind in socially responsible investments: Report

Grace Leong Straits Times 4 Jun 18;

Asian investors are lagging behind their global counterparts in the adoption of socially responsible investment practices, even as this trend is on the rise in the region.

A report set to be released today by Singapore-based Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) at its sixth conference found that less than 1 per cent of funds in Asia leverage ESG investing, which incorporates environmental, social and governance factors into companies' decision-making.

This compared with 50 per cent globally in 2016, the report said.

"ESG looks at how you operate a business. Are you contributing to environmental harm or good? Do you source from sweat shops or adopt fair trade practices? Do your suppliers provide equitable working conditions?

"Governance looks at whether there are adequate measurements of risk, and how top management is overseen by the board," AVPN chief executive Naina Subberwal Batra told The Straits Times ahead of the four-day conference touted as the largest gathering of social investors in Asia.

Other talking points at the conference include the need for early-stage funding for social enterprises here. Another report, The Continuum Of Capital In Asia, notes that funding from US$5,000 (S$6,690) to US$2 million is in short supply in South-east Asia. Critical issues relating to climate action, education and wealth disparity are also set to be addressed, with Asia having one of the largest wage gaps globally.

ESG investing has seen a surge worldwide, with US$23 trillion of ESG assets under management being deployed as of 2016. This came in the wake of major global disasters involving multinational corporations, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, among others.

These incidents, coupled with growing environmentalism and social media, accelerated the move towards more responsible business practices. But the take-up rate has been slow in Asia except for Japan - a forerunner due to its actions following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

AVPN knowledge centre managing director Kevin Teo cited a lack of regulation and ESG compliance adoption here.

"ESG compliance is often demanded from the bottom by millennials, women and employees, but it is regulations and adoption by organisations that change the landscape," he said.

Other factors include a lack of awareness and expertise to interpret ESG standards as well as a tendency to prioritise short-term returns. Also, Asian private investors tend to view investment and philanthropy as separate.

Ms Naina said: "They see financial returns as separate from philanthropy. But millennials are actively making social change through business." With some 35 per cent of Asia's wealth expected to be in the hands of millennials in the next five to seven years, that will allow them to advance ESG investing.

With Asia's share of the world's ultra-wealthy population growing nearly 10 per cent in 10 years, Asia now has more billionaires than the United States, and is set to have the world's largest concentration of wealth in four years.

"In the next two, three years, Asia may overtake the US in ESG investing because of the greater number of green bonds, financial instruments and opportunities for investment. There is also a lot of awareness-building done to encourage listed companies to maintain ESG compliance in financial reporting," Ms Naina added.

Read more!

Indonesia: BPBD of South Sumatra disperses salt to prevent forest fires

Tessa Antara 4 Jun 18;

Palembang, S Sumatra, (ANTARA News) - South Sumatra`s Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) is conducting weather modification by dispersing one ton of salt over the clouds every day to prevent forest and field fires ahead of the 2018 Asian Games.

Head of BPBD of South Sumatra Iriansyah stated here on Monday that since mid-May, they had continued to disperse one ton of salt on an average.

Salt is dispersed over the clouds in the sky to create potential rain clouds that are more effective, he stated.

Furthermore, this step is part of the precautionary measures against forest and garden fires.

Iriansyah could not specify the exact quantity of salt used for conducting cloud seeding, though it is about a ton per operation.

Dispersing salt is at times conducted twice a day, so that the amount cannot be calculated in detail.

Iriansyah highlighted the importance of using salt to conduct cloud seeding to produce rain, so that the forest and land become wet, and fires at hotspots could quickly be put out.

Indeed, the agency is currently maximizing efforts to prevent forest, garden, and land fires since in August, South Sumatra will receive thousands of guests, who will attend an international sporting event.

Moreover, Governor of South Sumatra Alex Noerdin has stated that there was no smoke haze as what had occurred in 2015, so the fire must be prevented early on.

However, these efforts are inseparable from the participation of all parties, including communities around the fire-prone areas, he added.

Editor: Otniel Tamindael

Read more!

Indonesia: Papua pledges zero plastic waste by 2020

Nethy Dharma Somba The Jakarta Post 4 Jun 18;

Ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, Papua province declared the area would be free of plastic waste by 2020, which coincides with the province's hosting the 20th National Games (PON XX).

“We hope everyone will support this program in their daily lives,” Papua Governor Soedarmo said at Monday's event marking Word Environment Day.

The province is readying Jayapura municipality and the regencies of Jayapura, Biak, Jayawijaya, Mimika and Merauke for hosting PON XX.

Soedarmo said he would send letters to regional leaders to support the waste elimination program, which included public awareness campaigns on the importance of recycling plastic waste. The program also encouraged people to reduce the use of plastics.

Papua Environment Agency head Martha Mandosir said she would propose that a special unit be set up within the agency to deal with plastic waste, which were often found in gutters and the rivers of Papua. (evi)

Read more!

'Carbon bubble' could spark global financial crisis, study warns

Advances in clean energy expected to cause a sudden drop in demand for fossil fuels, leaving companies with trillions in stranded assets
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 4 Jun 18;

Plunging prices for renewable energy and rapidly increasing investment in low-carbon technologies could leave fossil fuel companies with trillions in stranded assets and spark a global financial crisis, a new study has found.

A sudden drop in demand for fossil fuels before 2035 is likely, according to the study, given the current global investments and economic advantages in a low-carbon transition.

The existence of a “carbon bubble” – assets in fossil fuels that are currently overvalued because, in the medium and long-term, the world will have to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions – has long been proposed by academics, activists and investors. The new study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that a sharp slump in the value of fossil fuels would cause this bubble to burst, and posits that such a slump is likely before 2035 based on current patterns of energy use.

Crucially, the findings suggest that a rapid decline in fossil fuel demand is no longer dependent on stronger policies and actions from governments around the world. Instead, the authors’ detailed simulations found the demand drop would take place even if major nations undertake no new climate policies, or reverse some previous commitments.

That is because advances in technologies for energy efficiency and renewable power, and the accompanying drop in their price, have made low-carbon energy much more economically and technically attractive.

Dr Jean-François Mercure, the lead author, from Radboud and Cambridge universities, told the Guardian: “This is happening already – we have observed the data and made projections from there. With more policies from governments, this would happen faster. But without strong [climate] policies, it is already happening. To some degree at least you can’t stop it. But if people stop putting funds now in fossil fuels, they may at least limit their losses.”

By moving to a lower-carbon footing, companies and investors could take advantage of the transition that is occurring, rather than trying to fight the growing trend. Mercure said fossil fuel companies were likely to fight among each other for the remaining market, rather than have a strong impact on renewable energy businesses.

Prof Jorge Viñuales, co-author, said: “Contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuel assets may happen even without new climate policies. Individual nations cannot avoid the situation by ignoring the Paris agreement or burying their heads in coal and tar sands.”

However, Mercure also warned that the transition was happening too slowly to stave off the worst effects of climate change. Although the trajectory towards a low-carbon economy would continue, to keep within 2C above pre-industrial levels – the limit set under the Paris agreement – would require much stronger government action and new policies.

That could also help investors by pointing the way to deflation of the carbon bubble before they make new investments in fossil fuel assets.

The paper supports the view of some policy and investment experts that economics and technology are now driving action on climate change, where before impetus was all from policymakers. Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told the Guardian, a year after Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the US from the Paris agreement: “There is a big difference between the economics of climate change and the politics of climate change. Is Trump going to stop that advance [by businesses towards low-carbon technologies]? I don’t think so.”

Frédéric Samama, of Europe’s biggest asset manager Amundi, also believes investors have reached a “tipping point”, in relation to taking action on greenhouse gases through their portfolio management. He told Bloomberg last month that “until recently, the question” of climate change was “not on their radar screen”.

Separately, an analysis in Nature Energy forecast that global energy demand would be about 40% lower than today by 2050, despite rises in population and income, and a growing global economy. The authors found that such a scenario would allow the world to stay within 1.5C of warming, the aspirational goal set under the Paris agreement.

Read more!

50 nations 'curbing plastic pollution'

Roger Harrabin BBC 5 Jun 18;

Fifty nations are now taking action to reduce plastic pollution, according to the biggest report so far from the UN.

It reveals that the Galapagos will ban single-use plastics, Sri Lanka will ban styrofoam and China is insisting on biodegradable bags.

But the authors warn that far more needs to be done to reduce the vast flow of plastic into rivers and oceans.

What’s more, they say, good policies to curb plastic waste in many nations have failed because of poor enforcement.

Action against plastic waste has many drivers across the world. In the UK it has been stimulated by media coverage.

In many developing countries, plastic bags are causing floods by blocking drains, or they’re being eaten by cattle.

The report says policies to combat plastic waste have had mixed results. In Cameroon, plastic bags are banned and households are paid for every kilo of plastic waste they collect, but still plastic bags are being smuggled in.

In several countries, rules on plastic exist but are poorly enforced.

The report presents an A-Z of 35 potential bio substitutes for plastic. It runs from Abaca hemp (from the inedible banana Musa textilis) to Zein (from a maize protein).

The list includes rabbit fur, sea grass and foam made with fungus. It mentions QMilch, a firm that create casein textile fibres from waste milk.

It also highlights Piñatex, a plastic alternative made from pineapple leaves.

Some policy-makers, though, are wary about hyping the potential of bio alternatives.

Early optimism by some environmentalists about biofuels backfired when rainforests were felled to grow palm oil to fuel cars.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: "The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable – with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution. Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

The report says levies and bans – where properly planned and enforced – have been among the most effective strategies to curb plastic waste.

But the authors also cite a fundamental need for broader cooperation from business, including obliging plastic producers to take responsibility and offering incentives to stimulate more recycling.

National actions include:

Botswana – retailers charged but no enforcement and controls "failed".
Eritrea – ban on plastic bags and dramatic decrease in drain blockage
Gambia – ban on plastic bags, but "reappearance after political impasse"
Morocco – bags banned – 421 tonnes of them seized in one year, virtually replaced by fabric
Bangladesh – ban on bags but lack of enforcement
China – was using three billion bags a year pre-2008. Now there is a ban on thin bags, use decreased 60-80% in supermarkets but not in markets.
Vietnam – bags are taxed but still widely used. Government considering increasing tax five times
Ireland – tax led to 90% fall in consumption
Kenya – cows ingested an average of 2.5 bags in their lifetimes. Now there's a total ban, and fines and a four-year jail term for making, importing or using them

UN says world choking on plastic as environmental crisis grows
AFP Yahoo News 5 Jun 18;

Up to five trillion grocery bags are used each year and like most plastic garbage barely any is recycled, the UN said Tuesday as it warned the world was choking on trash.

In a report for International Environment Day, the UN warned at current levels the earth could be awash with 12 billion tonnes of plastic trash by the middle of the century.

"Our oceans have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and transforming some marine areas into a plastic soup," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, in the report released in New Delhi.

"In cities around the world, plastic waste clogs drains, causing foods and breeding disease. Consumed by livestock, it also finds its way into the food chain."

Most of this plastic garbage clogging waterways and landfill is single-use items like straws, bags and cutlery.

The report said the five trillion plastic bags consumed each year equalled nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute.

"If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour."

Some 79 percent of the plastic ever made has ended up dumped, with hardly any reused or destroyed despite recycling and other initiatives to curb use, the report said.

Just nine percent of the nine billion tonnes of plastic the world has ever produced has been recycled. Only a little more -- 12 percent -- has been incinerated.

This leaves only landfill, oceans and waterways as the resting place for the world's plastic trash, where it takes thousands of years to decompose.

Plastic clogging sewers -- a major problem in Delhi and slums across the developing world -- can spread disease or wind up in the stomachs of animals, the UN said.

In India, plastic has been found inside dead cows while a whale in Thailand died after consuming waste bags.

Garbage floating at sea costs fishing, shipping and tourism industries in Asia-Pacific $1.3 billion a year, the report says.

The UN said more than 60 countries had introduced bans and levies on single-use plastic items like bags.

But better waste management, financial incentives to change consumers' buying habits and research into alternative materials were needed to make any real change, it added.

"To meet the rising tide of plastics, we urgently need strong government leadership and intervention," the report said.

Read more!

Thailand falling behind in global battle with plastic waste

Dead whale brings packaging overuse and government inaction into focus
GEORGE STYLLIS Nikkei Asian Review 5 Jun 18;

BANGKOK -- "Beating plastic pollution" has been set as the theme for World Environment Day on June 5, but Thailand is falling behind Asian and European countries in the fight against plastic waste.

The issue has been brought into focus after a dead whale was found last month to have swallowed 80 plastic bags.

The whale, found in Songkhla province, served as a reminder of Thailand's problem with plastic, and the abject failures of the government and retail industry to bring the nation's environmental consciousness in line with the rest of the world.

Thailand is the world's sixth biggest contributor of ocean waste, while China is the largest. Thailand generates 1.03 million tons of plastic waste per year, with over 3% of that finding its way into the ocean, Tara Buakamsri, Thailand country director for Greenpeace, told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Of the country's total waste, plastic accounts for 12%, higher than China's at 11%. A survey by the government in 2017 found that on average Thais each use eight plastic bags per day, which equates to around 198 billion per year.

"Most people, especially the middle class people, know how to segregate waste, how to reuse and how to recycle, but because of how many products they use in their daily life, they just throw a lot away," Tara said.

At a large food and beverage expo in Bangkok last week, plastic packaging was ubiquitous. Several food producers interviewed said they were willing to use environmentally friendly products, but the low cost and convenience of plastic made them reluctant to change.

"It comes down to what you see as more important. In Thailand we tend to consider price first, whereas in Europe and Japan companies prioritize the environment," said a representative of a prominent family business who wished to remain anonymous.

He said the onus was on consumers to start recycling. But activists said there needs to be greater awareness first.

Thailand has some 400 recycling facilities around the country and it rewards rubbish collectors for sorting out recyclables. But in doing so, personal responsibility is taken away from consumers, who leave the problem to others to, literally, sort out.

Yai Yanee, owner of snack company Siam Delicious, said she is paid by a company that comes to her factory and sorts out her trash. She amasses about 200kg of waste every week, for which the company pays her 3,000 baht ($94).

"I don't have time to sort the rubbish myself," she said.

Geoff Baker, founder of nongovernmental organization Grin Green International, blames plastic bag producers and retailers for exploiting consumers' ignorance. He pointed to cashiers at convenience stores who dish out bags for small and single-item purchases without thought.

CP All Group, owner of the 7-Eleven franchise in Thailand, responded in a statement that it vigorously upholds policies in line with international environmental standards, and implements a "say no to plastic bags" campaign.

"It has been on the national agenda to raise awareness of the importance of using our resources efficiently and reduce the number of plastic bags, and lessen the impact we make on the environment," according to the statement.

Still, with the country's mini marts and convenience stores poised for aggressive growth around the country this year -- CP All Group is set to operate 11,000 stores by the end of the year -- changing people's attitude to plastic will be vital.

Malaysian tourist Louisa Lausin, who was at the food expo, said Asian consumers see shrink-wrapped fruit and vegetables as a mark of freshness. She said that before her government imposed a ban on plastic bags in certain Malaysian cities, she had not bothered with recyling.

Other Asian governments have been similarly spurred into action. China recently reported a 66% drop in plastic bag use since a crackdown on free distribution began about 10 years ago. China has also banned imports of plastic waste.

Malaysia, Indonesia and India have all pledged to ramp up efforts to cut plastic bag use, either through bans, taxes or committing more money to clean up polluted waters.

The European Commission, which has the potential to pressure Thailand into raising its environmental standards, announced it was proposing new EU-wide rules to target single-use plastics. In the past, Thailand has capitulated to EC rules over its fishing industry, so the European body could force change on the government.

Since 2015, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has appealed to Thais to cut down on plastic bag use and to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Waste management is also part of his 20-year national strategy.

To some extent, those efforts have gained traction as recycling has increased, said Greenpeace's Tara. Some cafes and shops in Bangkok also now offer refilling services for shampoo, detergent and other products.

But critics said that the government is just paying lip service, pointing to a China Daily report that claimed Thailand imported plastic waste from the U.K. this year for the first time. This is a seemingly regressive step given Thailand's recycling infrastructure is barely capable of processing its own plastic, let alone any other country's.

Following the death of the whale after experts tried for five days to save it, Jatuporn Buruspat, head of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, was quoted by Reuters as saying his ministry planned to raise public awareness of the plastic problem on World Oceans Day on June 8.

Read more!