Best of our wild blogs: 24 Sep 18

Survey: What kind of coral reefs do you want to see in Singapore?
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Survey: Have you seen any Sea Turtles around in Singapore waters and beaches?
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Why boycott Kopi Luwak?
BES Drongos

Simple colours, cool creatures of the wild
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Singapore Bird Report – August 2018
Singapore Bird Group

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Over 1,600kg of trash collected on Pulau Ubin in annual cleanup

Over 1,600kg of trash collected on Pulau Ubin in annual cleanup
Kok Yufeng The New Paper 24 Sep 18;

Combing through a 50m stretch of Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin on Sept 15, Madam Sabariah Yacob was not expecting her group of three volunteers to fill up five trash bags worth of plastic and styrofoam so quickly.

Taking part in her first cleanup, the 52-year-old housewife was one of the few thousand volunteers who took to the beaches, waterways and coastlines across Singapore that morning to pick up trash and debris while collecting data on the items found.

This was part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), a global event initiated by US non-profit organisation Ocean Conservancy in 1986.

Singapore has been taking part in the ICC since 1992.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min was roped into a cleanup at East Coast Park, organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

The results of that day's cleanups are still being collated, but on Pulau Ubin alone, more than 1,600kg of trash was collected by 234 people.

Madam Sabariah told TNP after the 11/2 hour cleanup at Chek Jawa: "I did not expect it to be so polluted. The beach looks clean, so I was thinking what is there to pick up?"

Volunteer Jo Tan, 41, said the cleanup organised by environmental group Little Green Men was an eye-opener for her and her children.

The teacher had been on several beach cleanups before, but she was shocked by the amount of trash her family of five - including her husband, her daughter, 15, and her sons, nine and six - helped pick up.

The 39-strong cleanup group that Mrs Tan was in collected a total of 34 bags of trash weighing 256kg.

Mrs Tan said: "When you start paying attention and you start picking up the litter, it is crazy...

"We did not manage to pick everything up because we had only an hour and a half, so it was really stunning."

Mr Tan Chia Wu, 27, who has been coordinating ICC Singapore at Pulau Ubin for three years, said the event is important because not every part of Singapore's shoreline is regularly cleared by cleaners and the annual cleanups help relieve the accumulation of trash.

The data collected is collated by Ocean Conservancy, which publishes a yearly report on the profile of marine trash around the world.

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Five-storey-tall tree falls in Hougang carpark, damaging four vehicles; no injuries reported

Derek Wong Straits Times 23 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - A five-storey-tall tree fell at a carpark in Hougang on Friday afternoon (Sept 21) after a storm, damaging four vehicles.

There were no injuries, Aljunied-Hougang Town Council told The Straits Times. It added that the incident took place at around 5pm at the carpark near Block 203 Hougang Street 21.

It also said it is in touch with the owners of the four vehicles which were damaged.

The cars damaged include a BMW and a Volvo.

Clerk Cai Hui Yin, 51, whose workplace is near the carpark, told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao that she heard a loud bang and initially thought a water heater had exploded. She realised the tree had fallen after leaving her office to check on the sound.

Ms Zhang, 55, who runs a transport company, is the owner of a white Peugeot van which was one of the damaged vehicles.

"I bought this van only a year ago and I am very sad about it. But luckily I was not in the car when the tree fell. I dare not imagine the consequences," she told Lianhe Wanbao.

When asked for more details about the fallen tree, the town council told ST: "We are currently awaiting the investigation/assessment report from our horticulture/arborist contractor following the completion of investigations and do not expect we will have any further comments before then."

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Changi Airport boosts its green credentials

It undertook more than 10 projects in 2016 and 2017 to improve energy efficiency
Zhaki Abdullah Straits Times 24 Sep 18;

Changi Airport has accumulated a number of accolades over the years, most recently being named Asia's most connected international airport by industry consultancy OAG.

But behind the scenes, the airport has also been hard at work increasing its environmentally-friendly credentials, undertaking more than 10 projects in 2016 and 2017 to improve its energy efficiency.

These efforts helped Changi Airport achieve level three in the Airport Carbon Accreditation in May.

There are four levels of accreditation under the scheme, the first of which is for airports to measure their carbon footprint.

Level two requires that airports take steps to reduce their carbon output, while level three is for those that have also brought other service providers on board.

In Changi's case, ground handling firms such as Sats and Dnata, as well as its restaurants, are participating in green efforts.

The highest level - three plus - is for airports that have become carbon neutral, referring to the reduction or offsetting of their emissions to zero. This feat has been achieved by about 30 airports so far.

The accreditation programme was set up by Airports Council International to encourage airports to reduce their carbon emissions.

According to the International Air Transport Association, total carbon emission of the global aviation industry last year was about 859 million tonnes, or 2 per cent of all carbon emissions worldwide.

Among the efforts undertaken by Changi Airport was the overhauling of air-conditioning chillers in Terminals 1 and 2 to become more energy efficient in 2016.

This helped save some 5.56 million kilowatt hours (kWh) - the amount of electricity used by more than 14,000 four-room flats in a month - reducing carbon emissions by 2,355 tonnes that year.

Last year, floodlights at the aircraft parking bays of Terminals 1, 2 and 4 were replaced with more energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) alternatives, saving 1.52 million kWh.

Changi Airport's eco-friendly initiatives

In place of the more polluting diesel tractors, 80 electric-powered baggage tractors - which can be charged at 26 charging points across the airport - were introduced last year with the opening of Terminal 4.

Changi Airport Group business development director Gerald Ng said the moves are in line with the airport's commitment to "carry out our business activities in an environmentally responsible manner".

"We are continuously looking to improve our energy and water consumption, along with reducing waste generation and carbon emissions," he said.

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National Junior College's new agriculture research facility aims to give students opportunities in thriving sector

National Junior College is set to debut a first-of-its-kind urban agriculture research facility. The school’s partnership with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore and biotech company Life3 will help students develop new and healthier crop varieties. Tan Si Hui has more on how schools are helping students gain a foothold in thriving industries.
Tan Si Hui Channel NewsAsia 24 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE: Starting next year, students in Singapore could be developing new and healthier crop varieties in a first-of-its-kind urban agriculture research facility.

The facility - the only one to be located in a junior college - is set to break ground in National Junior College (NJC) this month.

This comes after the school inked a partnership with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and local biotechnology company Life3 to set up an R&D facility for agri-tech solutions in food production.

NJC, which already has an innovation and research programme, hopes to expose its students to opportunities in agri-tech, which it said is imperative in land-scarce Singapore.

The aim is for students to modernise farming practices to improve sustainability and cultivate high-nutrition plants.

“You need that expertise from a group that has been there and done that,” said vice-principal Harman Johll. “We need an industrial partner to come into play, to allow our students to see what it takes to get, to actualise, or to enable that.


“If they do come up with something, hopefully they can patent it.”

Life3 will provide resources including technical expertise.

“Working with students is a pivotal role because we want to encourage a new generation of talent in this space ... We do not have a food-resilient system and security,” said founder Ricky Lin.

“We are going to use Internet of Things to wire up this whole farming environment. This will help to optimise space in a very efficient way. We are looking at growing some of the crops at 200 times their usual output, with very little water utilisation, as compared to usual farming methods.”

He added that having AVA as a partner allows for wider transfer of knowledge and expertise in the agri-tech field.

Both NJC and Life3 hope to engage students from other schools in the five-year project.

Other schools are also working to give students a foothold in thriving industries.

All secondary schools run Applied Learning Programmes (ALPs) to let students apply their knowledge in real-world settings, and these will be rolled out to all primary schools by 2023.

Among mainstream secondary schools, more than half offer ALPs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). These are supported by STEM Inc, a unit under Science Centre Singapore that works with teachers to develop programmes.

Changkat Changi Secondary runs an ALP called SOAR (student-centred opportunities for aerospace industry) that gives students a hands-on experience in the aviation sector, which contributes about 6 per cent of Singapore’s GDP.

Through a partnership with SIA Engineering, students get to learn about plane maintenance, repair and operations.

Students are also taught the principles of flight and coding, and the school says there are plans to weave topics like food science and tourism into lessons to give an insight into aspects of the industry like airport management.

Thirteen-year-old Ghiyas Ibrahim’s dream is to become a pilot, so he chose to apply to Changkat Changi Secondary after completing his Primary School Leaving Examination last year.

“I thought that if I chose this school, it will probably help me to become a pilot,” said Ghiyas.

Another school that offers a STEM ALP – focused on fragrances – is Bartley Secondary.

Lessons are carried out in a purpose-built perfumery lab, where students conduct experiments such as extracting essential oils.

The school has partnered global fragrance company Takasago so students can visit the facilities and interact with researchers.

Junior perfumer Amber Lee said the company hopes to increase awareness of the perfumery industry in Singapore among students.

“This will open up more opportunities for them to join us in this industry in the future.”

Bartley Secondary student Aaliyah Elena said she hopes to join the industry after a recent job shadowing experience.

“One of the compounders told me that there is this course on fragrance in Singapore Polytechnic, so it has inspired me to pursue this as a job as well," she said.

Source: CNA/ec(cy)

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France reverses car tyre sea sanctuary -- an environmental flop

Ten thousand tyres are set to be lifted out of the sea by the divers and boat crew over the next few weeks, with the remaining 12,500 extracted in the second quarter of 2019

What seemed a like a crazy idea turned out to be just that: a 1980s experiment that saw 25,000 car tyres dumped into the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean to create a sanctuary for sealife off the French coast is being cleaned up after it was found to be polluting.

Since the start of last week, divers and a specially equipped boat with lifting gear have been fishing out hundreds of the old loops of rubber about 500 metres (1,600 feet) from an exclusive coastline between the towns of Cannes and Antibes.

The original vision, backed by local French authorities at the time and fishermen, was that the tyres would become populated by coral and other sea creatures in a conservation area where fishing was off limits.

In France, the idea of a "tyre reef" was tried only here, but a local academic working on the clean-up operation said authorities in other countries, particularly the United States, had tried the same failed idea.

"We hoped (back in the 1980s) that we could restore aquatic life there, but it didn't work," the deputy mayor of Antibes, Eric Duplay told AFP. "It turns out that the tyre reef was not a prolific place for biomass."

Denis Genovese, the head of an association of local fishermen, confirmed that most Mediterranean lifeforms had shunned the idea of living inside mad-made products manufactured out of rubber, resins, oil and other chemicals.

- Leaking toxic chemicals -

Sedentary creatures such as the local scorpion fish didn't use them, Genovese said, while "grouper fish, conger eels and sea bream swim around them, but no species really got used to it".

Worse, a study in 2005 by researchers at the University of Nice showed that the tyres were leaking toxic chemicals into the environment, including heavy metals, which are a threat to human life.

Authorities were also worried that the tyres could degrade further, nearly 40 years after they sank to the seabed, and break up into smaller pieces which would be a risk for nearby seagrass meadows.

In 2015, a first mission to remove 2,500 tyres was undertaken to show that they could be extracted safely, with the work underway at the moment a second and more important phase of the clean-up operation.

Around 10,000 are set to be lifted by the divers and boat crew over the next few weeks, with the remaining 12,500 extracted in the second quarter of 2019.

- Regeneration hopes -

AFP hopped aboard the vessel last week to watch the progress in action as dozens of a tyres were hauled from the sea, with the luxury holiday villas of the French Riviera visible on the coastline behind.

The Saudi royal family own a huge villa on a small stretch of beach opposite the site, which was the focus of a scandal in 2015 when King Salman tried to privatise the sand for his holiday and caused an uproar among locals.

The fine white sand is a problem for the clean-up team of divers, which struggle with low visibility as they find the tyres and thread them on to wire cables which are then lifted to the surface.

"In the morning, it's easy, the water's clear," crew member Morgan Postic on board the Ocea vessel said. "But as we stir it all up down at the bottom, you can't see anything and it gets much more complicated."

The tyres will be sent to the nearby city of Nice and then to recycling centres where they will be broken up into granules that can be used in construction projects.

"After that we'll leave the seabed to restore itself naturally and we'll continue to monitor with censors," said marine scientist Patrice Francour from the University of Nice, who is working on the issue.

Francour said the clean-up would end France's one and only experiment with a "tyre reef", but that other countries still had to deal with the legacy of the failed idea, notably the United States.

A million euros has been provided by the French state to finance the French clean-up, while French tyre company Michelin has contributed 200,000 euros (235,000 dollars).

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