The People’s Movement to Stop Haze will launch a campaign next month to raise awareness on what the public can do to combat air pollution in Singapore. WWF Singapore and the Singapore Environment Council will also be involved.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 28 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE: Thick smog, a burning smell… For the past few years, air pollution has plagued Singapore during the haze season. That is typically during the drier months, from June to October. It was in Jun 21, 2013 when the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit a high of 401, and the haze is expected to return.
“This year, it’s felt by many to be a more than dry year,” said Mr Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. “There's a potential of El Nino. And really, if we think back to even two years ago, when there was 400 PSI, that was a dry year, and a lot depends on the wind direction of course. There will be fires, there will be haze. Sometimes, whether it's Singapore, Penang, KL, Southern Thailand, it just depends on the wind direction."
One group is taking action to prepare for this. The People's Movement to Stop Haze, or PM.Haze, is launching a campaign called We Breathe What We Buy.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM
Said the group’s president Tan Yi Han: "Since 1997, I realised that the haze keeps coming back year after year to affect us, and despite the best efforts of different parties such as the Singapore Government, we still haven't been able to eliminate the problem. And so I thought, why not us, rather than just complaining, how about we the people go and try to do something about the haze."
It will hold a series of activities to help the public understand the haze problem. These include nature walks, followed by outdoor forums to explore the issue. The group will also recruit and train volunteers to give talks about the haze in their schools.
"They're all at the stage where they can talk to and convince their friends or talk to their parents and really influence change,” said 24-year-old group member Chen Ting. “So we really want to start from the ground up. It's easier to get people to start good practices when young."
The group came up with these activities after a trip to Indonesia to get to the root of the issue.
Said Mr Tan: "What we saw there was a very shocking image of a huge area, almost completely devoid of greenery, so what we saw were dead trees, there were just a few farmers here and there. The farmers told us that almost every year, fires will spread through the whole area and there won't be enough people to stop the fire."
These fires are often started to clear land for plantations, especially those producing palm oil and paper.
Said Mr Tay: “The expansion of plantations in Indonesia and parts of Malaysia - this is the human factor that is really driving this phenomenon, because in that expansion, you're talking about plantations twice the size of Singapore. These tend to use fire and the amount of carbon released is huge. Some of them are also on peat land and this will make the smoke even more dense. Indonesia is today the world's largest palm oil producer. It continues to be ahead of the curve. So the challenge is can the palm oil industry be made more green?"
PM.Haze feels the public has a role to play.
"We are advocating now that we stop creating this kind of fire-prone areas, by stopping deforestation, or drainage of peat,” said Mr Tan. “A lot of this is unfortunately being done by big companies who have the ability to just clear large areas, and drain the peat from large areas, so here in Singapore, we are advocating that people should support companies that refrain from deforestation, drainage of peat swap and of course, burning.
“Fire-prone areas are areas which have been deforested, where the peat has been drained. And a lot of it has been done by the big companies, and so ironically, whenever we buy a product that contains palm oil or paper, we could be paying for these companies to continue their rampant destruction, which eventually causes the haze. Eventually, what we are saying is that we have been paying money for the haze. So right now why not we put this money and give it to the companies that are doing the right things, which are not causing deforestation or draining the peat."
RAISING CONSUMER CONSCIOUSNESS
Consumers can do this by using less paper and choosing products made from sustainable paper and palm oil. Palm oil is used in half of the packaged products found in supermarkets such as margarine and even shampoo, but it can be difficult to spot.
"While we educate consumers, we also have to help them,” said Mr Edwin Seah, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council. “So for example, one way is to simplify the labelling of palm oil in products. Palm oil comes under close to over 30 different names. So for the layman, it's very difficult to tell. So why don't we move towards a common labelling protocol for palm oil. If it's palm oil, just label it as palm oil and then let us know whether or not that palm oil came from sustainable sources."
One way is to look out for those with the Green Label. It is managed by the Singapore Environment Council, which certifies items - including palm oil products - made using sustainable practices. More than 3,000 products are certified under the scheme which was started in 1992. These include paper, detergent and paint. But the council has not received any food submissions.
"We're ready to do it and I think we have the processes in place,” Mr Seah revealed. “That's why as part of this campaign, what we want to go out to do is to work with the Government, we want to work with our fellow NGOs, as well as manufacturers and retailers, for example supermarkets, to say that if you want to have your food certified, your product certified, we can help you do it."
International non-profit association, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), has a certification scheme as well. While its secretariat is based in Malaysia, the products it certifies are not widely found in Asia. Many companies in the region do not commit to using sustainable palm oil.
WWF Singapore publishes a report to assess firms on their efforts to do so. But it said many Asian companies do not want to be part of the report and do not submit information for assessment. It understands that one reason is that it is more expensive to use sustainable palm oil, so it hopes consumers can make their voices heard, to put pressure on the companies.
The public can visit the campaign website, which will be launched in July, and pledge to support sustainable products. Organisers hope to collect 50,000 pledges within the first six months of the campaign.
"We will then try to come together in roundtables and discuss sustainable palm oil in Singapore,” said WWF Singapore’s director of communications Kim Stengert. “ We encourage all businesses using palm oil to speak to us pro-actively as soon as they can. And we'll also try to see if these companies can come up with voluntary commitments to solve the haze problem."
To address the haze problem, a think-tank says there is a need to engage more stakeholders.
Said Mr Tay: "We have to get the producers and the large buyers, and then the finance companies, and then the large retail companies like supermarkets."
But one supermarket cites challenges in providing products made from sustainably farmed palm oil. NTUC FairPrice said a balance must be struck to address the price difference compared with those from normal sources. It will also need to assess the rate of adoption by major manufacturers.
"Right now, consumer demand would not be effective because there aren't enough products that are labelled, so that you can differentiate between the labelled and unlabeled,” Mr Tay shared. “But to create the conditions, we need to start upstream, where the producers are, the big buyers, and the retailers, but at the end, we'll have to have to depend on greater public awareness and consumer demand."
ENGAGING THE PUBLIC SECTOR
It is hoped that one of the largest consumer groups in Singapore can come on board too.
Mr Seah said: "The public sector as you know represents a significant demand base, we've got 80,000-over civil servants, close to 70 statutory boards. So that represents a very significant consumer base. And if they are willing to go out and say that we will only procure goods that are 100 per cent from sustainable sources, I think that will send a very strong message to your suppliers and manufacturers who want to then do business with the government."
But there is an understanding that the haze is a complex problem. To solve it, different groups need to work together.
Mr Tay said the Singapore Government must set the right tone, which it has, and see that the Indonesian and Malaysian governments particularly, pick this up: “The next set of institutions that really must do much more are the financial institutions. Singapore is a major investor, a trading hub, investment comes from us, listed companies in Singapore facing Singapore exchange routes, run plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, and really these are the macro controls."
It is hoped that through the campaign, consumers can play a bigger role, to bring about change and stop the haze.
LOH FOON FONG, NEVILLE SPYKERMAN, KATHLEEN ANN KILI, ROYCE TAN, CHONG KAH YUAN, LOGEISWARY THEVADASS, V. MIENALOSHYANI, AND JER WEANN ANG
The Star 29 Jun 15;
PETALING JAYA: The hot and dry season has begun and is expected to last until end of August.
The country is smack in the active phase of the south-west monsoon, according to Malay-sian Meteorological Department’s National Weather Centre senior meteorologist Dr Hisham Mohd Anip.
“It is normal to have this kind of weather during this period,” he said when commenting on the hotter and drier weather.
MetMalaysia stations were recording daytime temperatures ranging between 33°C and 35°C.
In its weather bulletin for May, MetMalaysia noted that most areas in Malaysia recorded average higher temperatures than the long-term average for the month.
If it is any relief, the temperatures are not expected to go higher than those recorded between February and March, when they ranged as high as 37°C to 38°C.
Dr Hisham said this was because the sun was located further north of Malaysia compared with being directly above the country between February and March.
He also said that it was normal for most parts of the country to receive less rainfall during this season, except for Sabah and northern states of the peninsula.
Most states could expect to receive 100mm to 150mm rainfall per month, half of that from March to May, he said.
However, for the northern states of the peninsula and the western part of Sabah, the opposite was occurring, with rainfall in the northern states hitting 150mm to 250mm, significantly higher from the 50mm to 150mm seen in March to May.
Sabah has a much lower average for the past four months, with less than 50mm per month, though the western part of the state (where Mount Kinabalu is) has a had normal rainfall of 200mm to 300mm so far this month.
On the El Nino phenomenon, which is expected to cause tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures to rise, he said it did not have much impact currently and was still at weak-to-moderate stages around Sabah and northern parts of Sarawak.
Dr Hisham said as the season progressed, the haze was expected to return.
Although Singapore’s Meteorological Services reported scattered or isolated hotspots with localised plumes and haze in central Sumatra, western Borneo and Vietnam, the Air Pollution Index (API) shows that Malaysia was still free from haze, which usually accompanies the hot and dry weather.
Good or moderate air quality was recorded throughout the country yesterday.
NParks' Marine Conservation Action Plan
wild shores of singapore
ICCS Workshop for Organisers 2015
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
HSS at the Festival of Biodiversity!
Herpetological Society of Singapore
A visit to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
My Nature Experiences
Marine community in action, distributing 36,000 guidesheets on Singapore's shores
wild shores of singapore
Life History of the Common Hedge Blue
Butterflies of Singapore
Morning Walk At Venus Drive (27 Jun 2015)
Javan Myna taking food meant for goldfish
Bird Ecology Study Group
Pink-necked Green-Pigeons feeding on figs
Bird Ecology Study Group
AsiaOne 27 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE - Marine habitats will be better protected under a new Nature Conservation Masterplan, which sets out the course of Singapore's biodiversity conservation plans for the next five years.
The masterplan is a framework that consolidates the National Parks Board's (NParks) focus of systematically coordinating, strengthening and intensifying efforts in biodiversity conservation by integrating various programmes and projects.
It was announced by Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee at NParks' annual Festival of Biodiversity at VivoCity this morning.
Some of these initiatives have been implemented in the past few months, NParks said in a statement today.
For instance, plans for Nature Parks like Windsor and Chestnut Nature Parks, which act as buffers for Singapore's nature reserves, have been rolled out.
Conservation of marine habitats and biodiversity will be looked into under the Marine Conservation Action Plan.
One key focus of that plan is the establishment of Sisters' Islands Marine Park. To encourage interest in marine life, a dive trail at the park will open to the public by September, NParks said.
There are also plans to restore and enhance marine habitats such as shallow water reefs and intertidal areas at not only Sisters' Islands Marine Park, but also Changi Beach Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.
Festival to celebrate biodiversity in Singapore
Audrey Tan Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Jun 15;
Few would associate wildlife and nature with Singapore, given its many skyscrapers.
But a biodiversity exhibition being held at VivoCity today and tomorrow may change this.
Visitors to the Celebrating SG50: Our Natural Heritage exhibition will find that the Republic is actually home to a surprising number of species of plants and animals.
Among them is the critically endangered Zingiber singapurense, a ginger found only in Singapore's Central Catchment Nature Reserve and nowhere else in the world.
Visitors will also learn more about the tree with "patriotic flowers". The Kopsia singapurensis grows in freshwater swamp forests only in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia, and has flowers that bloom with a red heart surrounded by white petals.
In all, the National Parks Board will showcase 50 plants and animals closely linked to Singapore's heritage at the exhibition as part of the board's annual Festival of Biodiversity.
Other than the ginger and the tree, visitors can learn about the rarer of two native monkeys, the elusive banded leaf monkey. The long-tailed macaque is the other monkey that is native to Singapore.
The two-day Festival of Biodiversity is in its fourth year, and will feature arts-and-craft workshops and booths set up by nature groups such as the Nature Society (Singapore) and Herpetological Society of Singapore.
For the first time, the festival will also include a free concert by musicians from groups such as Greenbeats, which aims to raise environmental awareness through music.
Mr Chen Lishi, 25, said he is keen to visit the exhibition to learn how to identify flora and fauna. Added the engineer: "Being in South-east Asia, we are exposed to a large diversity of flora and fauna. Instead of looking to other countries, we could simply look within Singapore to find many interesting animals and plants."
More protection for marine habitats with new conservation plan
Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee has announced a new Marine Conservation Action Plan at the annual Festival of Biodiversity organised by National Parks Board.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 27 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE: A new Marine Conservation Action Plan to better protect Singapore's marine habitats was launched on Saturday (Jun 27).
The first of its kind, the plan will also see other conservation projects including, restoring and enhancing marine habitats islandwide and setting up a coral nursery at Sisters' Islands Marine Park.
A S$500,000 turtle hatchery, sponsored by HSBC bank, will also be built there to conserve the Green and Hawksbill turtles - the first such sea turtle conservation project.
NParks is also encouraging Singaporeans to play an active part in protecting marine life. In September, it will launch Singapore's first dive trail off Sisters' Islands.
The Marine Conservation Action Plan is part of the larger Nature Conservation Masterplan - a framework which consolidates NParks' conservation efforts on both land and sea.
Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee announced this on Saturday at the launch of this year's Festival of Biodiversity.
"This consolidates what NParks has been doing, and integrates its various programmes and projects into a holistic master plan,” said Mr Lee. “It will chart the direction of our conservation efforts for the next five years, and help to bring us closer to our vision of being a City in a Garden."
An educational resource package for pre-preschoolers was also launched. It includes a picture book which focuses on Singapore's flora and fauna.
"The book contains a lot of animals, as well as flora that I have seen on my walks, and I hope that it will bring authenticity and interest to the children,” said Mr Lee. "I hope that parents will also recognise that all this greening of Singapore should not go to waste because nature is really the best teacher for children."
The public can learn about nature conservation at the festival, which is on at VivoCity this weekend.
New blueprint to conserve Singapore's marine heritage
Audrey Tan Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Jun 15;
Coral reefs and other marine habitats will be better protected under a new plan that also maps out ways of re-populating Singapore's waters with giant clams and sea turtles.
The Marine Conservation Action Plan, helmed by the National Parks Board (NParks), is the first official one to protect and enhance Singapore's marine heritage.
It was launched yesterday by Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee at the NParks' Festival of Biodiversity at VivoCity.
Among its projects is one to increase the population of the Neptune's Cup Sponge in local waters. The sponge was thought to be globally extinct in the early 1900s until it was re-discovered off St John's Island in 2011. Singapore is now the only country with a known living specimen.
NParks is working with Tropical Marine Science Institute researcher Lim Swee Cheng on the project.
He told The Sunday Times that researchers hope to understand "basic but important" questions on the animal's biology and ecology, such as how it feeds and reproduces, its growth rate and role in the ecosystem.
"We have been monitoring one sponge and discovered that it is a fast-growing species, contrary to what many scientists thought; it doubled in size in three years," he said.
Under the plan, NParks will also pilot two dive trails to get more Singaporeans interested in marine life.
Complete with 20 underwater signboards that serve as activity stations and markers, they will open at Sisters' Islands Marine Park in September for approved operators to use for tours.
The action plan follows the Singapore Blue Plan 2009 - which called for a full marine survey and marine nature reserves - proposed by academics and civil society groups.
Coral expert Chou Loke Ming, who helped craft the 2009 document, said: "It was a long journey towards the country's first marine park.
"An officially designated plan is certainly needed as a follow-up to ensure that conservation effort is sustained on a permanent basis."
He added that the Sisters' Islands Marine Park is not large, and that it makes "ecological sense" to have a network of small marine parks to maintain biological connections between them.
The marine action plan is part of a broader Nature Conservation Masterplan, also announced by Mr Lee yesterday.
The latter is a framework which all of NParks' conservation work on land and sea will come under.
Dr Lena Chan, director of the NParks National Biodiversity Centre, said it will mean greater integration between different aspects of conservation work, from scientific research to community outreach and sharing of data.
"The masterplan will pull together all these different aspects to make it a comprehensive, systematic and integrated framework," she said.
Mr Lee added: "The master- plan will chart the direction of our conservation efforts for the next five years."
2 dive trails to open at Sisters' Islands Marine Park in September
Two dive trails - one shallow, one deep - at Sisters' Islands are part of conservation plan
AUDREY TAN Straits Times 29 Jun 15;
For the first time, nature appreciation in Singapore is plumbing new depths.
Two dive trails at Sisters' Islands Marine Park, complete with 20 underwater signboards that provide information on marine biodiversity, are being piloted by the National Parks Board (NParks) in September.
Navigating the dive trails will bring scuba divers up close with Singapore's underwater gems, such as feather stars that sway in the currents, or shy butterfly fish that zoom away when approached.
The trails, part of a broader Marine Conservation Action Plan, were announced by Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee at the Festival of Biodiversity yesterday.
The plan is the latest blueprint, and Singapore's first official one, that lays out efforts to protect and enhance the country's marine heritage and biodiversity.
It follows the Singapore Blue Plan 2009, a masterplan for the marine environment proposed by academics and civil society groups. Although some recommendations have been adopted - such as a recently completed comprehensive marine biodiversity survey - a cohesive marine conservation plan has never been clearly spelt out, until now.
The latest effort will also include species recovery efforts to increase the populations of critically endangered native species such as giant clams and the Neptune's Cup Sponge - thought to be globally extinct since the early 1900s until it was re-discovered off St John's Island in 2011.
The dive trails were developed to "encourage a deeper appreciation for Singapore's marine biodiversity", NParks said.
The two circular trails are at different depths, to allow divers to enjoy different types of marine life.
The Shallow Dive Trail circles around coral reef and sandy habitats 4m to 6m underwater, while the Deep Dive Trail will guide them through coral rubble and rocky and silty habitats 10m to 16m deep.
Divers will also be encouraged to participate in NParks' Citizen Science programme that the Board is trying out at the trails. Each diver will be loaned a dive trail guide, which is waterproof and can be used with the activity station signboards along the trail.
They can note down their observations at each station, by counting the number of fish between two markers, for example, filling in water visibility estimates, or simply jotting down general observations.
Dr Karenne Tun, deputy director of the coastal and marine division of the NParks National Biodiversity Centre, said the data collected will be freely accessible on the marine park's website and updated regularly.
"Citizen science can supplement other scientific surveys and help us collect a variety of long-term data, such as patterns in underwater visibility, for example," she added.
Dr Huang Danwei, a marine biologist from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) biological sciences department, said that while researchers have received plenty of help from volunteers who report marine life sightings, the challenge was in standardising the data.
"This programme could see scientists, NParks and recreational divers working together to enhance marine science research in Singapore," he said.
Only dive operators approved by NParks can conduct the dives, and they must adhere to a code of conduct.
For example, they must ensure that their divers do not take, intentionally disturb or touch marine life, and that they practise good buoyancy control - an important skill so as to avoid kicking, damaging and potentially killing marine life.
For now, NParks said the plan is to limit the dive trail to a maximum of 20 divers, or two standard boat-loads, at any one time to ensure minimal damage and avoid overcrowding. But it is also doing a feasibility study to firm up the numbers.
Ms Debby Ng, founder of marine conservation group Hantu Bloggers, applauded NParks' safeguards, saying that such guidelines could be a role model for industry practices.
"I think the dive trails are a great idea, it is a good way to educate scuba divers on Singapore's marine biodiversity, especially since many of them were certified after diving abroad."
Nature Conservation Masterplan consolidates Singapore’s biodiversity conservation efforts
NParks Press Release 27 Jun 15;
27 June 2015 - Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee announced the Nature Conservation Masterplan (NCMP) this morning, setting out the course of Singapore’s biodiversity conservation plans for the next five years. The NCMP is a framework that consolidates NParks’ focus of systematically coordinating, strengthening and intensifying efforts in biodiversity conservation by integrating various programmes and projects into a holistic masterplan. Implementing the NCMP will help us achieve our City in a Garden vision (Please see media factsheet 1 for more details).
NParks has implemented some of these initiatives over the past few months. The NCMP comprises four plans - Physical, Programmatic, Research and Community Stewardship. In terms of physical planning, plans for Nature Parks like Windsor and Chestnut Nature Parks, which act as buffers for our Nature Reserves, have been rolled out. Community stewardship is being encouraged through a suite of Citizen Science Programmes like the first NParks Garden Bird Count which took place in April this year.
Examples of species recovery efforts include critically endangered species native to Singapore like the Singapore Freshwater Crab; the two Hanguana plant species which had been recently discovered; the Singapore Ginger; the Eye of the Crocodile, one of the most endangered mangrove tree species in the world; the local wild population of the Red Sealing Wax Palm and our native orchids. Conservation of Singapore’s marine habitats and marine biodiversity will be looked into under the NParks Marine Conservation Action Plan (MCAP).
Marine Conservation Action Plan
One key focus of the Marine Conservation Action Plan (MCAP) is the establishment of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. NParks is undertaking species recovery efforts for the giant clams and Neptune Cup Sponge. Additional efforts to conserve the Green and Hawksbill Turtles will also be established at the Marine Park. To encourage public appreciation of Singapore’s diverse marine ecosystem, the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park Dive Trail will be ready for public access by end September 2015. There are also plans for the restoration and enhancement of marine habitats like shallow water reefs and intertidal areas, not only at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, but also Changi Beach Park and Labrador Nature Reserve (Please see media factsheet 2 for more details).
Outreach and Education
NParks has developed Community in Nature (CIN), an initiative to conserve Singapore’s natural heritage. CIN aims to better reach out to the community, encouraging them to bond over and with nature. Furthering outreach and education efforts targeted at various age groups, the NParks preschool educational resource package, and a booklet that chronicles Singapore’s history of biodiversity conservation titled, “Biodiversity — Nature Conservation in the Greening of Singapore”, were also launched at Festival of Biodiversity this morning. The NParks preschool educational resource package was developed in consultation with the Ministry of Education’s preschool branch, and is the first comprehensive set of preschool educational resource materials that focuses on local plants and animals. (Please see media factsheet 3 for more details).
Festival of Biodiversity 2015
The Festival of Biodiversity is an annual celebration of the community's efforts to conserve Singapore's natural heritage. Into its fourth year, the Festival of Biodiversity will be held on 27 and 28 June 2015 at VivoCity, Central Court B. In celebration of SG50 this year, the Festival of Biodiversity is featuring 50 fascinating plants and animals that are closely linked to Singapore’s heritage. Children can also enjoy free art and craft workshops to learn more about Singapore's flora and fauna. The Festival is supported by VivoCity.
Nature Conservation Masterplan (NCMP)
NParks Press Release 27 Jun 15;
The Nature Conservation Masterplan (NCMP) sets out the course of Singapore’s biodiversity conservation plans for the next five years. This framework consolidates NParks’ focus of systematically coordinating, strengthening and intensifying efforts in biodiversity conservation by integrating various programmes and projects into a holistic masterplan. Implementing the NCMP will help us achieve our City in a Garden vision, including the key aims of enriching biodiversity in our urban environment, and engaging and inspiring communities to co-create a greener Singapore.
The NCMP comprises these aspects:
Physical planning for conservation of places
Physical planning involves the safeguarding and strengthening of Singapore's core biodiversity areas*, as well as developing byffer areas* and improving ecological connectivity*.
* (Examples of core biodiversity areas: our Nature Reserves
Examples of buffer areas: the recently announced Nature Parks
Examples of improvement of ecological connectivity: Nature ways and the Park Connector Network)
It will also involve enhancing and managing green areas in Singapore, like Jurong Lake Gardens and the Punggol area. Streetscape greenery, rooftop and vertical greenery, as well as community gardens also enhance ecological connectivity, which is important as it facilitates the movement of biodiversity and exchange of genetic material, leading to healthier populations.
Programmes for conservation activities
Biodiversity conservation programmes will initially focus on three areas: species recovery, habitat protection and enhancement, and the management of human-wildlife interaction.
Species recovery will focus on species that are endemic, native, rare or critically endangered. Species such as the Singapore Freshwater Crab (Johora singaporensis); the Hanguana rubinea and Hanguana triangulata; the Singapore Ginger; the Eye of the Crocodile, one of the most endangered mangrove tree species in the world; the local wild population of the Red Sealing Wax Palm and our orchids are accorded priority because they are critically endangered and native to Singapore.
Habitat protection and enhancement will benefit the conservation of rare native species and increase the native biodiversity of some of our degraded areas. For example, enrichment planting at degraded forest patches in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve has provided a more conducive environment for the Banded Leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis) to thrive.
Management of human-wildlife interaction will focus on increasing the positive aspects and addressing the negative impacts that may arise with species common in urban areas (e.g. long-tailed macaques and wild boars).
Research for better understanding
The research plan includes comprehensive surveys and long term monitoring of biodiversity. Examples include the recently announced Bukit Timah Nature Reserve survey, monitoring of coral spawning, and NParks’ ongoing bird ringing efforts.
Research capabilities will be strengthened through:
(a) The use of technology to collect and analyse data, such as the SGBioAtlas app, databases like BIOME, and data analytic tools like Geographic Information System (GIS); and
(b) The application of numerical modelling to the design of conservation management, e.g. agent-based modelling to coral reef and mangrove conservation management plans.
Community Stewardship for inclusiveness
As part of its national strategy to conserve Singapore’s natural heritage, NParks had developed the Community in Nature (CIN) initiative, which aims to synergise and coordinate all NParks’ nature-related events, activities, and programmes to better reach out to the community, encouraging them to bond over and with nature. Plans for community stewardship to build public interest and involvement in biodiversity conservation will target families, schools, volunteers, conservation groups and the general public.
For families, this involves encouraging families to experience nature and learn more about our biodiversity through programmes like My Family’s Nature Pledge where nature appreciation is promoted as a healthy, social activity for the family to bond over.
For schools, this involves instilling a love for nature in students through incorporating biodiversity aspects into the school curricula, and greening of school premises through programs like Greening Schools for Biodiversity (see page 3 for more info), Community in Nature and Community in Bloom programmes.
For volunteers and conservation groups, this involves bringing together a national network of people who are passionate about conservation, and equipping them with relevant knowledge and resources in their conservation efforts.
For the general public, this involves spreading the message on the importance of conserving our natural heritage, and instilling a love for nature in everyone. An example is the recently announced Citizen Science programmes, and the upcoming NParks Garden Butterfly Count, which opens for registration on 27 June 2015.
Marine Conservation Action Plan – an Action plan of the NCMP
NParks Press Release 27 Jun 15;
The Marine Conservation Action Plan (MCAP) takes reference from the Nature Conservation Master Plan (NCMP), and encapsulates NParks’ efforts at conserving Singapore’s marine biodiversity.
Singapore has coastal and marine habitats distributed along the northern coast, northern offshore islands (Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong) and the southern offshore islands which are home to a rich amount of biodiversity including:
More than 250 species of hard corals (32% of hard coral species found worldwide);
Over 100 species of reef fish;
About 200 species of sponges; and
12 seagrass species
The following are some of the programmes and initiatives that NParks has under the MCAP.
A) Species Recovery
I. Reintroduction of the Giant Clam (Tridacna gigas)
The largest species of bivalve mollusc in the world, these Giant Clams can grow up to 1.2m in size. This species is no longer found in local waters. However, there is historical evidence that Tridacna gigas used to grow in our waters, as realised by the archaeological discovery of the shells in various places in Singapore.
NParks is currently working with Dr Neo Mei Lin from the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) to reintroduce these iconic marine animals back into our local waters. Currently, six individuals have been successfully relocated from the TMSI aquarium to a natural reef area at Small Sister’s Island where they are being closely monitored.
The Giant Clam specimens were first transferred from the tanks in TMSI to buckets and transported by boat to Small Sister’s Island. During the boat trip, the Giant Clams were continually flushed with fresh seawater to ensure that they were kept moist at all times. The specimens were then transferred onto baskets and lowered into the water using a lift bag. Finally, researchers transferred them to a suitable site with a low amount of silt so the clams can be placed stably. Introduction of these clams to other reefs will be carried out if the reefs are assessed to be suitable for their growth.
II. Neptune’s Cup Sponge (Cliona patera)
The Neptune’s Cup Sponge is one of the larger known sponges. It is so-named due to its wineglass shape and can grow up to a metre in height and diameter. The specimen that was first used to describe this species was collected in Singapore waters in 1820. It was thought be extinct since early 1900s until it was rediscovered in Singapore in 2011. Singapore is currently the only country that has a known location with a living specimen of the Neptune’s Cup Sponge.
The Neptune’s Cup sponge has been successfully transplanted to the Marine Park in early 2015. Over the next few months, NParks will be working with Mr Lim Swee Cheng (TMSI) to experiment with a new propagation technique for the sponge. If propagation of this sponge is successful, NParks will work towards slowly increasing the population of the Neptune’s Cup Sponge in our local waters.
III. Coral Gene Bank and Nurseries
A coral nursery will be set up at Sisters’ Islands to collect all 255 species of corals found in Singapore waters. The nursery plays an important role in the conservation of corals, especially in view of rising sea temperatures. Corals undergo bleaching when the temperature of the waters gets too high. This means that they lose a major source of food and are more susceptible to disease. With the creation of a coral nursery, rarer corals that are threatened with coral bleaching can be moved to a controlled environment which would help to ensure their survival.
IV. Turtle Hatchery and Outreach Facility
A turtle hatchery - Singapore’s pioneer sea turtle conservation project will be set up at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. Sponsored by HSBC, the Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles will be the key species covered under the project.
The hatchery will provide a safe refuge for rescued and collected turtle eggs, giving them a chance to hatch safely. This is important as only a few from each clutch of 100+ to 200 eggs make it to adulthood. The hatchery would also provide research opportunities to study local sea turtle populations.
Feasibility studies are currently underway to assess the conditions of the shore on Small Sister’s Island for the creation of a nursery.
Education and outreach programmes will also be put in place to create awareness of our local marine biodiversity. These include visits to the turtle hatchery, involvement in egg collection and transfer to the hatchery and habitat maintenance.
The $500,000 sponsorship from HSBC will support the building of a facility for overnight visits during hatching periods and for outreach programmes that are conducted on the island, over a period of five years. Educational signs and materials will also be developed for the outreach facility. HSBC staff will be involved in habitat maintenance and possibly collection of eggs when they are found and reported by members of the public.
B) Habitat Enhancement
A biodiversity enhancement unit is any designed structure that enriches and enhances existing biodiversity in the marine habitats. Through the installation of such units, NParks also hopes to increase visibility and accessibility of marine biodiversity to the general public. Enhancement units can be as simple as a structure that provides surfaces that are suitable for marine organisms to settle and grow on. Some examples of biodiversity enhancement units are listed in the table below.
Biodiversity Enhancement Unit
Tidal Pool Units
Made of concrete suitable for the marine environment, these units retain seawater at low tide. This creates a habitat similar to natural rock pools, providing an additional hiding place for marine organisms.
To design the units, researchers first had to study the natural rock pool habitats for features that made them suitable habitats for marine organisms. These include the presence of crevices, grooves and pits found in the rocks. The features were inputted into a software programme (CASU) which then created a design that would most closely mimic a natural habitat. Multiple designs can be created based on the different features inputted into the software.
Fish Aggregating Devices
A fish aggregating device is any structure that is used to attract and aggregate fish. Fish aggregating devices can be floating or fixed, depending on the environmental conditions and their purpose. They are widely used as a tool to aid small-scale fisheries to target and catch fish species that otherwise would be difficult. They can also be used to effectively restore and enhance fish biodiversity in target conservation areas.
BioBoss tiles are concrete structures (200x200x32mm) that were also created using the software CASU. These tiles are incorporated into the seawalls, providing microhabitats for marine organisms, and hence increasing biodiversity on these coastal defences.
These tiles were designed in a collaborative project between NParks and NUS.
A floating pontoon that serves as a biodiversity enhancement unit is similar to the usual floating pontoons one sees at Marinas but with modifications to encourage biodiversity. NParks is working with consultants to design these pontoons to maximise biodiversity enhancement potential.
I. Changi Beach Park
Tidal pool units will be placed on a portion of the seawall at Changi Beach Park, Car Park 5 (CBP CP5) and will be ready by the end of the year. A total of 15 tidal pool units, with 3 different designs, will be installed at the area.
Placement of the tidal pool units on CBP CP5 seawall
Figure 1: Placement of the tidal pool units on CBP CP5 seawall.
Natural rock pool at Pulau Biola
Figure 2: Natural rock pool at Pulau Biola
II. Labrador Nature Reserve
Floating pontoons will be installed outside of the inter-tidal areas at Labrador Nature Reserve (LNR), parallel to the shore and aligned with the existing jetty. Construction of these biodiversity enhancement units will begin in mid-2016.
Indicative conceptual enhancement plan for LNR
Figure 3: Indicative conceptual enhancement plan for LNR
III. Sisters’ Islands Marine Park
BioBoss tiles will be placed along the smooth surfaces of the existing rock bunds to attract different marine organisms. Apart from this, other enhancement measures such as floating pontoon, tidal pools and fish aggregating devices will also be installed around Sisters’ Islands.
Installed BioBoss plot configurations
Figure 4: Installed BioBoss plot configurations of (A) ‘Low’, (B) ‘Medium’, and (C) ‘High’ fragmentation levels on the seawalls at Pulau Hantu. (D-F) Close-ups of BioBoss tiles.
Community Stewardship Plans
Sisters' Islands Marine Park Dive Trail
A new pilot dive trails has been developed off Sisters’ Island. Trial dives have been conducted over the past few months to assess the suitability of the routes as well as to test out the user friendliness of the underwater signs. These dive trails vary in level of difficulty and cater to divers of different levels.
The diorama that has been set up at Festival of Biodiversity 2015 offer a glimpse of what the dive trails will feature.
Dive trails will be ready for public access by end September 2015.
Sisters' Islands Marine Park Dive Trail
NParks Press Release 26 Jun 15;
To encourage a deeper appreciation for Singapore’s marine biodiversity, NParks will be opening Singapore’s first dive trail located at Pulau Subar Laut or the Big Sister’s Island, Sisters’ Islands Marine Park in the third quarter of 2015. The creation of the Park was first announced at the Festival of Biodiversity 2014, and since then, NParks has initiated public activities like the monthly guided intertidal walks as well as the soon-to-be-launched dive trail. These low-impact activities will continue while NParks undertakes a feasibility study that will help us plan sustainable activities within the Marine Park while enhancing the existing habitats and the biodiversity they support.
The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park Pilot Dive Trail will be marked with underwater signboards that will serve as both station markers and underwater educational resources. Divers will also be encouraged to contribute towards the upkeep of the dive trails, for example, by helping to sweep off accumulated algae on the station signboards using the attached cleaning brushes.
NParks will be conducting pilot dives with a selected group of leisure divers with varying levels of experience to assess the suitability and functionality of the dive trail and to implement activities that will provide the best dive experience.
Shallow and deep trails
Two separate trails with varying depths have been established at the pilot site. Approximately 100m in length, the shallow trail will take divers around a circuitous loop to a maximum depth of 6m, and the deep trail will reach a maximum depth of 15m. Divers will be guided through 20 stations marked by signs which will bring their attention to the variety of marine biodiversity and reef features present in Singapore’s waters. To encourage participation in our Citizen Science program, some stations will engage divers in simple biodiversity or water quality surveys. The minimum requirement for those who wish to dive at the trails is an Open Water Diver certification.
About the Shallow Trail
The Shallow Trail is characterised by higher light levels and consequently higher hard coral cover as compared to the Deep Trail. Some corals along the Shallow Dive Trail were salvaged from reefs in Singapore that were threatened or designated for reclamation. They were relocated to the reef at the Shallow Trail and their condition is currently being monitored.
About the Deep Trail
The Deep Trail is characterised by lower light levels as compared to the Shallow Trail. It is located towards the end of the reef slope of the Big Sister’s Island, and reaches a maximum of 15m depth. Visibility — which is affected by the amount of suspended particles and algae in the water — is also lower at the Deep Trail.
Dive windows and regulations
NParks will work with dive operators to facilitate guided dive trips at the Pilot Dive Trails that they can offer to their diving customers. NParks will regulate the diving activities based on suitable dive windows and will maintain a cap on the number of divers allowed during each window to ensure minimal damage to the reefs and avoid overcrowding at the trails. Dive windows will be limited to periods when currents are suitable for diving, which will be determined using hydrodynamic predictions for the site. It is estimated that there will be several days with suitable dive windows in any given month.
To ensure dive safety while safeguarding the reef habitat, only dive operators that meet all necessary criteria and who agree to adhere to regulations will be approved to conduct the guided dives. Regulations that include prohibitions on the removal or collection of any living or non-living components of the reef will be imposed to safeguard the reef habitat and biodiversity within the Marine Park. The cost of the dive trips will be set independently by operators, and may differ based on the types of packages and the services they offer.
The pilot dive trail will be ready for public access by end September 2015. Interested members of the public can sign up for the dive trails by contacting the list of approved operators, which will be finalised and announced on the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park website.
New publications and educational resources
NParks Press Release 27 Jun 15;
New Urban Systems Studies booklet titled “Biodiversity — Nature Conservation in the Greening of Singapore”
“Biodiversity - Nature Conservation in the Greening of Singapore" is an Urban Systems Studies (USS) booklet produced by the Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore (CLC) in collaboration with NParks. It tells the story of biodiversity conservation in Singapore, from its pre-independent days to the present. Research and interviews began in 2011 and the booklet was launched on 27 June at the Festival of Biodiversity 2015.
Previous Urban Systems Studies have been published on subjects ranging from Singapore’s water and transport systems to housing and industrial infrastructure, among others.
With the added emphasis on being practitioner-centric, the book provides insights into the major biodiversity conservation decisions that have been made, capturing key policy and institutional developments over the course of a few decades. It traces the development of NParks’ predecessor institutions – the Nature Reserves Board as well as the Parks and Recreation Department, and their roles in biodiversity conservation in Singapore. The evolution of how biodiversity issues are viewed by government and Singaporeans is also brought out, with biodiversity issues playing more prominent roles in Singapore’s international relations in the recent decade.
Box stories offer readers little-known information about the conservation of Labrador shore, and the development of the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity.
The Labrador Shore story gives a glimpse into the passionate and sustained campaign to prevent the shore from being completely destroyed by reclamation and port development. It features behind-the-scene discussions which ultimately led to the Labrador Nature Reserve and Labrador Park that we know of today.
The Singapore Index story relates some of the circumstances that set the stage for, and discussions that eventually led to the development of the Singapore Index, which has positioned Singapore as a global thought leader in the field of urban biodiversity conservation.
Quotes and Interviews
Key persons involved in Singapore's biodiversity conservation journey were interviewed to capture knowledge and perspectives that would otherwise remain undocumented. The booklet pulls together quotes and perspectives from Mr Kenneth Er, Mr Ng Lang, Mr Poon Hong-Yuen, and Dr Tan Wee Kiat, present and past CEOs of NParks who have been involved in the greening of Singapore over the years. Other experts interviewed include Dr Geh Min of the Nature Society (Singapore), butterfly enthusiast Mr Khew Sin Khoon, and Prof Leo Tan, marine biologist and member of the Nature Reserves Board.
Offering comprehensive information and in-depth industry knowledge, the booklet will be a good resource and key component in training leaders on urban governance.
The booklet can be bought at: www.amazon.com (print and digital editions), and store.vitalsource.com (digital edition only). Print editions are also available at Kinokuniya, MPH and Popular bookstores in Singapore. More information can also be found at: www.clc.gov.sg/Publications/USS2013.htm.
About the Singapore Urban Systems Studies Booklet Series
The Singapore Urban Systems Studies (USS) Booklet Series draws on original Urban Systems Studies research by the Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore (CLC) into Singapore's development over the last half-century. The series is organised around domains such as water, transport, housing, planning, industry and the environment. Developed in close collaboration with relevant government agencies and drawing on exclusive interviews with pioneer leaders, these practitioner-centric booklets present a succinct overview and key principles of Singapore’s development model. These booklets are meant as course materials for CLC’s training courses.
Pre-school Educational Resource Package - a City in a Garden and its Biodiversity
Supported by the Garden City Fund's Plant-A-Tree Programme (Education and Conservation) fund, the National Parks Board (NParks) will be giving pre-schools a complimentary set of ‘A Pre-school Educational Resource Package on Singapore, a City in a Garden, and its Biodiversity’ in July 2015.
This is the first time that a comprehensive package of resource materials focusing on Singapore’s local flora and fauna have been designed and produced specially for children aged between 5 to 6 years old.
Reaching out to almost 80,000 pre-schoolers in 1,600 pre-schools, this programme provides every kindergarten and childcare in Singapore with a treasure chest of educational resources crafted in line with the latest kindergarten curriculum.
This programme also aims to:
Raise awareness of our City in a Garden amongst pre-school children; and
Encourage pre-school educators to use local examples of plants and animals, when teaching their students about the rich biodiversity that surrounds them on our island, by making resources readily available for them
List of Educational Resources
Every pre-school will receive two sets of the pre-school educational resource package. Each package consists of the following resources:
'An adventure in our City in a Garden' Picture Book
(Available in both big and small book formats)
Synopsis: What fascinating plants and animals live together with us in our City in a Garden? Join Kaysee and Sunny on an exciting nature adventure as they explore the park connector in their neighbourhood. With eye-catching illustrations and fun rhymes, learn about Singapore’s colourful flora and fauna, and love them a little more!
An adventure in our City in a Garden Picture Book
'Peeky the Pangolin Explores Singapore' DVD
1. Peeky the Pangolin explores Singapore’s Trees
Follow Peeky the Pangolin on a wild adventure as he explores some of the wonderful trees and wildlife that make up our City in a Garden. On his trip, he looks at the different parts of a tree and why they're important. Along the way, Peeky also finds native trees such as the Tembusu and Casuarina, and explains about the different ways that they can help people and animals.
2. Peeky the Pangolin explores Singapore’s Wildlife
Being a Singaporean animal, Peeky the Pangolin is keen to meet some of his other native friends. Join him as he embarks upon an adventure to explore Singapore’s wildlife. He discovers many birds, mammals, animals and reptiles living on our island and soon realizes what important roles they play in keeping our home clean and green.
3. Peeky the Pangolin explores Singapore, a City in a Garden
Being a native animal, Peeky the Pangolin is eager to explore his island home. On his journey, Peeky visits different parks, gardens, park connectors and nature reserves. He discovers many beautiful trees and plants, and meets other native animals. By the end of his exciting trip, Peeky agrees that Singapore is a wonderful City in a Garden that we must all appreciate and look after.
Peeky the Pangolin explores Singapore
Posters (Native Animals, Numbers, Flowers and Fruits)
Posters are useful educational tools for pre-school education. The four posters featuring native animals, numbers, flowers and fruits not only add colours to the walls of the classroom but also extend the children’s learning. These posters complement the picture book and can be used as a pre-reading and post-reading activity.
Picture Word Cards
Engage young children with 30 hand-painted picture word cards of flora and fauna that can be found in Singapore. The back of each card contains key information on the plant or animal, including fun facts that will capture the interest of the children.
Picture word cards
Snap Card Game
Observe, React, Snap! Match two cards with the same animal or plant. Be the first one to shout out “Snap!” to win the cards.
Snap Card game
Implementation of the Programme:
All pre-schools in Singapore will be receiving the resources, at no cost to them
Pre-schools can expect the sets to be delivered to them in July 2015
Workshops on how to use the set of educational resources will be conducted for teachers and children on the following dates:
- Festival of Biodiversity on 27 to 28 June 2015
Children can look forward to art & craft workshops featuring the pre-school educational resources such as storytelling, demonstration of the use of picture word cards and posters and interactive Snap Card Game session.
- Teachers’ workshop on 30 June 2015
- ECDA conference on 26 September 2015
Workshop will be conducted for teachers on how to implement these resources in class. Teachers who have been using the prototypes will be invited to do short sharing about how they have used these educational resources in their class. Students’ work and photos of students’ using the resources will be displayed.
Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE: Landscaping company Hawaii Landscape was fined S$4,000 by PUB on Thursday (Jun 25) for placing objects in a public drain along Thomson Road.
In March this year, PUB officers found a PVC pipe, submersible pump and plywood in a public drain at the company's location.
The company was then charged under the Sewerage and Drainage Act for placing objects in the public drain without approval for these works. This offence carries a maximum fine of S$20,000.
PUB said that public drains are supposed to convey rainwater quickly during storms and should be kept free-flowing at all times. The placement of any objects in or across public drains, without prior approval, is not allowed as this will interfere with rainwater flow and result in flash floods during severe storms, it added.
PUB said it will not hesitate to take action against interference with the public drainage system. The public can call PUB's 24-hour call centre at 1800-284 6600 should they witness such acts.
SAMANTHA BOH Straits Times 26 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE - There are drier and warmer months ahead for the republic due to the prevailing El Nino weather phenomenon, which the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said would also increase the risk of transboundary haze.
"We may see an escalation of hotspot activities, particularly in the fire prone provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan," the MSS said in a media release on Friday.
It said sporadic hotspots from forest and plantation fires, with localised smoke plumes, had been observed in Sumatra in recent days, but the impact of the smoke haze on the republic would depend on factors such as the proximity and extent of the fires, the strength and direction of the prevailing winds, and the incidence and amount of rain.
The meteorological service said most models from major global climate centres show a high likelihood of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures continuing to warm over the coming months to reach strong El Nino levels.
Drier and warmer weather conditions are already being experienced here, indicating the start of the traditional dry season in the southern Asean region.
The total rainfall for June was 38 per cent below the long-term average, with average daily maximum and minimum temperatures between 31.9 and 26.5 degree Celsius - about 0.6 and 1.7 degree Celsius above the long-term average respectively.
Singapore expects lower than usual rainfall for the next few months, with the total monthly rainfall for July predicted to be 15 to 45 per cent below average.
In anticipation of drier weather - and thus the possibility of haze - the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force is coordinating the action plans of various agencies.
The National Environment Agency's (NEA) haze forecasts and advisories will take into account the Ministry of Health's health advisories and Ministry of Manpower's workplace guidelines.
The public can access NEA's advisories at the NEA website (www.nea.gov.sg), the haze microsite (www.haze.gov.sg), or follow NEA on NEA Facebook (www.facebook.com/NEASingapore) and NEA Twitter (@NEAsg).
Drier, warmer weather in Singapore for the next four months
Authorities urge the public to conserve water as reservoir stock levels will likely be affected by the reduced rainfall.
Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE: Due to moderate El Nino conditions which are likely to further develop during this monsoon season, the Republic can expect drier and warmer weather for the next four months, announced the National Environment Agency on Friday (Jun 26).
The average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for June (as of Jun 25) are 31.9°C and 26.5°C, about 0.6°C and 1.7°C above the long-term average respectively. In 2009, the last time moderate El Nino conditions were seen, the average daily temperature was 28.5°C.
The risk of transboundary haze is also predicted to be higher - the Meteorological Service Singapore has said that sporadic hotspot activities with smoke plumes were recently seen in Sumatra. This could affect Singapore, but would depend on factors like wind direction and rainfall. Rainfall is expected to be from 15 per cent to 45 per cent below average.
As such, the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force (HTF) is co-ordinating the agencies’ respective action plans in preparation for haze. NEA’s haze forecasts and advisories will take into account the Ministry of Health's health advisories and Ministry of Manpower's workplace guidelines.
The total rainfall recorded for June was 38 per cent below the long-term average. Authorities are urging the public to conserve water as reservoir stock levels will likely be affected.
Weather forecast: Hot, dry, possibly hazy
JOY FANG Today Online 26 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE — Amid predictions by experts in some countries that El Nino in the coming months could wreak as much havoc as it did in 1997, the weatherman today (June 26) forecasts that Singapore, along with the region, would be drier and warmer than usual until September or early October.
The lower rainfall this month looks set to continue into July, with total rainfall expected to be 15 to 45 per cent lower than the long term average for the month, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said today.
This is “partly due to the prevailing moderate El Nino conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which are likely to further develop in the months ahead”, it added.
El Nino, which comes along every two to seven years, is the abnormal warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, which can potentially wreak havoc with weather conditions. In the case of South-east Asia, it can lead to prolonged drier and warmer weather.
In 1997, when the El Nino effect was the strongest on record, Singapore experienced one of the lowest annual rainfalls. The Southwest Monsoon season — June to September — that year saw a “sharp” 53 per cent drop in rain.
MSS had said last month, in response to TODAY’s queries, that with several Pacific Rim countries declaring that El Nino is here, there is a 60 to 70 per cent chance of Singapore experiencing weak El Nino conditions in the coming weeks.
It noted in its press release today that most models from the major global climate centres project “a high likelihood that the tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures would continue to warm over the coming months and possibly reach strong El Nino levels”.
But the MSS said the relationship between the strength of the El Nino and the impact on rainfall is not straightforward as there are other factors affecting local and regional rainfall patterns.
Still, national water agency PUB urged the community and businesses to conserve water in preparation for drier months ahead, noting that reservoir stock levels could be affected.
The drier and warmer weather in the region, exacerbated by the prevailing El Nino conditions, may also result in an escalation of hotspot activities, warned the MSS, adding that sporadic hotspot activities with localised smoke plumes have been observed in Sumatra in recent days.
The Inter-Agency Haze Task Force is coordinating the agencies’ respective action plans in preparation for haze and MSS will continue to monitor the regional weather and haze situation, it said.
The effects of El Nino can already be felt this month with MSS recording fewer rain days. The total rainfall up until Thursday, was 38 per cent below the long-term average.
The average daily maximum and minimum temperatures during the same period were also higher — 31.9°C and 26.5°C, about 0.6°C and 1.7°C above the long-term average, respectively.
On Tuesday, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology warned that the El Nino developing across the Pacific has strengthened further, highlighting patterns shown by the data that are similar to the record 1997 to 1998 event, reported Bloomberg.
The Bureau, however, hastened to add that it is not possible at this stage to determine how intense it will be, and that an El Nino’s strength does not always correspond to its impact.
While India experienced a wetter-than-normal June, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology predicts a “large-scale reduction” during the first half of July, which has sparked fears that this might disrupt and stunt growth of rice, cotton and soybeans, Bloomberg reported.
“If the prediction of weak rains proves correct, there’s going to be an adverse impact on the economy as a whole, more so on agriculture,” said Professor Shashanka Bhide, director of the Madras Institute of Development Studies.
The last occurrence of El Nino in 2009 had brought the worst drought in four decades to India, cutting rice output and driving up sugar prices.
For Singapore, total rainfall over the June to September period in 2009 was about 20 per cent below the long-term average, and the average daily temperature for the same period was 1.1°C higher than the long-term average of 27.4°C.
Singapore to get drier and hotter
The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE - Singapore will be experiencing a drier and warmer than usual Southwest Monsoon season from June to early October this year, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said in its forecast.
This is partly due to the prevailing moderate El Niño conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which are likely to further develop in the months ahead.
With fewer rain days experienced this month, the total rainfall for June recorded at the Changi climate station so far is 38 per cent below the long-term average.
Lower rainfall is expected to persist over the next few months, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said. For July 2015, the total monthly rainfall is forecast to be 15-45 per cent below average.
To prepare for the drier months ahead, the Public Utilities Board has urged the community and businesses to conserve water.
Warmer days and nights have also been common recently. The average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for June so far are 31.9°C and 26.5°C, about 0.6°C and 1.7°C above the long-term average respectively .
Major global climate centres project a high likelihood that the tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures will continue to warm over the coming months and possibly reach strong El Niño levels.
During the the strongest El Niño on record in 1997, Singapore experienced a sharp 53 per cent reduction in June-September rainfall. During the moderate El Niño in 2009, Singapore's rainfall total was about 20 per cent below the long-term average. The average daily temperature for the same period in 2009 was 1.1°C higher than the long-term average of 27.4°C.
NEA said however, that the relationship between the strength of the El Niño and the impact on rainfall is not straightforward as there are other factors affecting local and regional rainfall patterns.
With drier and warmer weather expected over the southern ASEAN region in the coming months, there could be more fires, particularly in the fire prone provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan. This would increase the risk of transboundary haze in the region.
The impact of the smoke haze on Singapore is dependent on factors such as the proximity and extent of the fires, the strength and direction of the prevailing winds, and the incidence and amount of rain, NEA said.
Recently, sporadic hotspot activities with localised smoke plumes have been seen in Sumatra. In addition, drier and warmer weather conditions have prevailed over Singapore and the surrounding region, indicating the start of the traditional dry season in the southern ASEAN region.
The project was driven by two men, Mr Dennis Quek and Mr Wilson Ang, who wanted to make sure Pulau Ubin's charms were not closed off to those who are wheelchair-bound.
Goh Chiew Tong, Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE: With the belief that no part of the Republic should be inaccessible to any Singaporean, community project Wheels@Ubin brought a total of 100 wheelchair users to Pulau Ubin on Friday morning (Jun 26).
In conjunction with SG50, the project hopes to accelerate Singapore's transformation to an all-inclusive nation, said the organisers.
The wheelchair users, who were joined by volunteers and caregivers, are from Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA), Hand-Cycling Association of Singapore (HAS) and Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD).
At 7.45am on Friday, the participants arrived at Changi Sailing Club in taxis offered by SMRT. Sea transportation to Pulau Ubin was provided by the Republic of Singapore Navy’s 191 Squadron, via the use of its Fast Craft Utility (FCU). A total of 30 Navy personnel also volunteered for this initiative.
One of those visiting Pulau Ubin for the first time is Mdm Goh (pictured above). The 58-year-old said: "I'm very excited, but very nervous. I don't know what to expect because I've never seen it before."
Also seen at the embarkation point was Jason Chee, the navy serviceman who lost three limbs in an accident.
MAKING UBIN ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
Wheels@Ubin was founded by Mr Dennis Quek and Mr Wilson Ang, who were initially inspired by a popular discussion in the 2014 Budget about preserving and enhancing Pulau Ubin’s rustic character and natural environment, while providing access for the general public.
Both men then took a trip to the island, only to realise that its charm was inaccessible to wheelchair users.
"We started on this project more than a year ago. We thought it would be good if we attempt to bring some wheelchair users over," said Mr Quek.
Co-founder Mr Ang added: "It's about the accessibility, we try not to focus on the disability but rather focus on how to make Singapore more accessible."
Mr Quek added that the whole project was not without challenges, one of which was the sea transport for wheelchair users. "It took us four months with the navy to come up with a plan, and then we went to the SG50 celebration fund for money. We then roped in SMRT because if we can get them across water, the next question is: 'How are we going to get them to Changi?'"
"The good thing was that many people put up their hands and volunteered willingly. Everyone we spoke to were very supportive," he added.
Colonel Thng Chee Meng, Commanding Officer of 191 Squadron, also spoke to Channel NewsAsia about the difficulties the Singapore navy faced in the planning process. One of which was to find a place where safe transport the wheelchair users can board the crafts safely.
"We had to first identify the landing site, and the terrain cannot be too steep or too muddy. This craft can be beached at any place but we wanted to make sure that the wheelchair users are looked after, safe and comfortable," he said.
"We even had to look at the tide, to see which timing is most favourable. The tide cannot be changing too fast or too high."
PARTICIPANT ON FIRST UBIN TOUR: 'AWESOME'
At Pulau Ubin, the participants went on either the cycling or walking route. The cycling route was for wheelchair users who could hand cycle.
Students from Republic Polytechnic were also at the event to perform Dikir Barat, which involves the use of hand movements, music and song to form a story.
"It is our first time performing somewhere far from school, so it's cool and very meaningful," said one of the performers, 18-year-old Firzanah.
The participants were also treated to complimentary drinks and ice cream on the island.
"It's a great project. For the wheelchair users to get over to Ubin is really not easy. This is a great chance for them see this small kampong and island of Singapore. It's so meaningful," said Mr Lim, 62, one of the shopowners at Pulau Ubin.
Other activities include silk-screen painting and balloon art. For Ilham, 9 (pictured below), who was at Pulau Ubin for the first time, the experience was "awesome".
"I liked the silkscreen painting," he said with a soft smile.
His mother, 41-year-old Mdm Yani said that this is a great experience for her son, as he has never went beyond the shores of Singapore due to his disability.
"Right now we can see that Singapore is becoming more wheelchair-friendly, for example the roads and MRT stations. Such programmes can raise awareness about wheelchair users and be more understanding towards them," she added.
Another mother, Mdm Rosida Omar, 37, was also at the event with her son, 10-year-old Danial (pictured below). She describes Danial, who is diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, as an "outdoor rather than indoor boy".
"They should have more of such activities, where wheelchair users are able to explore more of Singapore."
100 people in wheelchairs visit Pulau Ubin
Wheelchair users tour island as part of SG50 event
HISYAM NASSER New Paper 27 Jun 15;
Yesterday, 10-year-old Muhd Danial Sohaimi went to Pulau Ubin for the first time in his life.
The Primary 4 pupil at Canberra Primary School was one of 100 wheelchair users invited to Pulau Ubin as part of an SG50 event, Wheels @ Ubin.
Organised by Mr Dennis Quek, director at Republic Polytechnic's Centre of Innovation for Supply Chain Management, the event was to raise awareness about the inaccessibility of certain places in Singapore, such as nature reserves, to people with disabilities.
It is supported by the SG50 Celebration Fund.
Danial, who suffers from a genetic disorder known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, told The New Paper that he enjoyed his day out.
He said: "I really love the sea and it is my favourite thing here."
Participants were picked up from their homes in SMRT taxis.
They were ferried to Pulau Ubin from Changi Sailing Club on five fast craft utility boats (FCUs) provided by the Republic of Singapore Navy.
Bum boats, which are normally used for travel to Pulau Ubin, could not be used as they pose a safety hazard for wheelchair users because of space constraints.
At Pulau Ubin, most of the participants, who are beneficiaries of the Asian Women's Welfare Association and the Society for the Physically Disabled, went on a tour around the island with the help of volunteers.
Another 22 participants from the Hand-cycling Association of Singapore toured the bicycle routes on their handcycles.
For most of the participants, it was the first time they had been to Pulau Ubin.
It was also Danial's first visit to a park or nature reserve since he started using a wheelchair two years ago.
Danial's mother, Madam Rosidah Omar, said she was thankful her son got to take part in the event, especially since areas like Pulau Ubin are usually not accessible to people using wheelchairs.
Her son lost the ability to walk when he was eight due to the debilitating muscle wasting condition that affects one in 3,500 boys worldwide.
Said the 37-year-old childcare teacher: "I am really happy that my son is able to experience this. My two older brothers had (the same condition) and they both passed away at 14 and 16 years old.
"There is no cure for this and it will only get worse as Danial grows older."
Participants were also treated to cultural performances, such as Malay dikir barat and Chinese wushu, by students from Republic Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Mr Quek said: "Having just come back from Sweden, I noticed that (the) majority of their nature trails are made accessible to (those) who are wheelchair bound."
"(We wanted) to show how much (wheelchair users) require in terms of accessibility."
Volunteer Alex Lim, 48, a senior executive, said: "It is truly fulfilling to help people experience new things and to help kids like Danial enjoy life as much as they can."
PHI Group, Inc. Nasdaq GlobalNewswire 25 Jun 15;
NEW YORK and SINGAPORE, June 25, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PHI Group, Inc. (OTCMarkets:PHIL), a U.S. public company engaged in energy and natural resources, today provided an update on the previously announced definitive contract with Vietnam-based KHM JSC to supply up to 125 million metric tons of reclamation sand from Vietnam to Singapore and Asian markets.
PHI Group is in the process of selecting and coordinating with international and domestic dredging, loading and shipping companies that are capable of handling large volume requirements by using specially designed methodologies.
In addition, PHI Group will assist KHM JSC to set up an onsite laboratory to pretest all the products to make sure they meet the required specifications according to international industrial standards for usage in specific government projects. According to the agreement, PHI Group will also utilize its international networks, including its subsidiaries and affiliates, to help facilitate and strengthen KHM's access to international trade channels in order to market and sell KHM's products, including reclamation sand, construction sand and granite especially in the Singapore and Southeast Asian markets.
PHI Group is working with its Singaporean partner Primearth Resources Asia Pte. Ltd.to coordinate further administrative details. Shipments are expected to begin in 45 to 60 days or as soon as practical.
Jalani Haniffa, PHI Group Vice President of Southeast Asia Operations, commented: "We are pleased to have made good progress with respect to logistic and other arrangements and look forward to our first shipment for this contract in the very near future."
- See more at: http://globenewswire.com/news-release/2015/06/25/747536/10139771/en/PHI-Group-Updates-on-Sand-Business-With-Vietnam-and-Singapore.html#sthash.S3Ff4tVu.dpuf
A total of 3,333 pieces of solar panels were installed at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks, and these can harness enough energy to meet about 7 per cent of the plant's daily energy needs.
Nadia Jansen Hassan Channel NewsAsia 25 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE: The Choa Chu Kang Waterworks (CCKWW) is the first water treatment plant here to tap on solar power for its energy needs.
A total of 3,333 pieces of solar panels were installed at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks, and these can harness enough energy to meet about 7 per cent of the plant's daily energy needs for areas such as lighting and air conditioning, it was revealed during a media briefing on Thursday (Jun 25).
The panels are also expected to generate 1.1 gigawatt hours (GWh) every year - the equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of about 247 Housing and Development Board households. They work by converting sunlight into a renewable energy source, which can be used to power the plant.
It took about a year to complete the construction, which wrapped up in May, 2015. This is part of the Public Utilities Board's (PUB) push towards using more clean and renewable energy, and the agency picked this site to be the pilot project because it is one of the largest waterworks in Singapore, with the capacity to meet up to 20 per cent of the country's water demand.
"It's fed into the same electricity network as the grid energy. What happens is that when the solar panels are producing electricity, this electricity will be consumed first, then the balance will then be produced by the grid energy," said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, Chief Sustainability Officer at PUB.
Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said using solar power wherever possible is important for Singapore, despite its compact size.
He said: "The key bottleneck for energy for solar energy in Singapore is land. We don't have enough land. And therefore solar energy can never replace our ultimate dependence on fossil fuels. But to the maximum extent possible, solar energy is green, solar energy is renewable and right now, solar energy is competitive."
PUB is kicking off another solar project in Tengeh Reservoir next year. It will be installing floating solar panels there, and running environmental studies concurrently, to see if they impact the reservoir's water quality, biodiversity and evaporation.
Solar panels will also be set up in three other PUB facilities, in the Changi Water Reclamation Plant, Bedok Waterworks and Waterhub in Toh Guan, by the end of 2017.
PUB studies environmental impact of floating solar panels
HOLLY MATTHEWS Today Online 25 Jun 15;
SINGAPORE — Studies are underway to assess the environmental impact of installing floating solar panels at Tengeh reservoir, as the Republic continues to look for ways to optimise land-use for solar power generation.
The Tengeh project was announced last year, and a tender for the contract to build the panels will be launched in September. The environmental study will measure the effect of water-based solar photovoltaic (PV) cells on the reservoir’s water quality, biodiversity and evaporation, by examining these indicators before and after the panels are installed. It is being conducted in collaboration with the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and DHI Water & Environment, and will end in 2017, a year after the panels are installed.
These updates were shared by PUB during a visit to Choa Chu Kang Waterworks (CCKWW), the first water treatment plant here to be installed with solar panels. During the visit, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said it is important to optimise the use of land in Singapore, but it would not be possible to cover the nation’s reservoirs, which make up about 5 per cent of Singapore’s land area.
“The appearance of water is still far more beautiful than that of a photovoltaic cell … But where we can, and where it makes economics and operational sense, we will do so,” he said.
CCKWW is the first of four announced PUB facilities to be fitted with PV cells and was chosen as the pilot project because of its large roof area. About 3,300 solar panels now provide an average of 7 per cent of the Waterworks’ daily energy needs since it began operations on May 21.
The panels are estimated to generate 1.1 gigawatt hours per year — the equivalent of the annual electricity of 247 Housing and Development Board (HDB) households. On the cards are PV cells at Changi Water Reclamation plant, Bedok Waterworks and Waterhub. PUB aims to have all new plants and selected existing plants outfitted with solar panels by 2020.
Currently, about 70 per cent of CCKWW is covered with solar panels, said PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen. “Because of this huge area we have, we are able to supply a lot of energy,” he said.
With the global prices of PV cells falling, Dr Balakrishnan said it makes sense to fit solar panels on as many buildings and PUB facilities as possible. “Solar energy is green, renewable, and right now, solar energy is competitive with grid energy.”
The Government is moving to tap solar power on a larger scale. Earlier this month, it called its first tender for PV panels to be installed across multiple public-sector premises — which will include 900 HDB blocks — to collectively produce about 40 megawatts (peak) of power.
PUB powers up with solar energy
Samantha Boh Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Jun 15;
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on a tour of Choa Chu Kang Waterworks yesterday. With him was Mr Albert Lim, managing director of SolarGy, which installed the solar panels.
NATIONAL water agency PUB's Choa Chu Kang water treatment facility is now partly run by solar energy from more than 3,300 solar panels, which will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by some 500 tonnes every year.
The energy will be used to power a portion of the plant's lighting, air-conditioning and water treatment operations, amounting to 7 per cent of its average daily energy consumption.
Spanning about 6,700 sq m, the panels can generate the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of about 250 Housing Board households.
The installation of the solar panels was done under a 20-year power purchase agreement, under which the $2.3 million cost of installation was borne by the supplier, RCS Engineering, and sub- contractor SolarGy. PUB had to pay only for the solar energy subsequently generated.
During a tour of the Choa Chu Kang Waterworks yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said with the fall in prices of solar panels, solar energy is now in fact cheaper to use than energy from the grid, which is supplied here mainly from natural gas.
"The beauty about the current project is that there has been no capital cost to PUB up front and we literally save money from Day 1," he said. He said PUB will roll out solar photovoltaic (PV) cells at its facilities on land and water in the next few years.
The goal is to cut the amount of imported energy for the production of water by half, using PV systems and bio-gas converted from used water. Its only other solar project now is at Marina Barrage, which supplements daytime electricity for offices there, and the Sustainable Singapore Gallery.
PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen said considerations to be made before a building is singled out for the installation of a solar PV system include whether there is enough space, whether the roof structure is strong enough and whether the building is new enough so that it will not be rebuilt in the next 20 years.
The next facilities to have PV systems will be its Changi Water Reclamation Plant, the Bedok Waterworks treatment plant and Waterhub, a PUB training centre.
PUB's efforts are part of a government push to harness solar power. At the end of the first quarter of this year, total installed capacity of solar PVs was 33.8 megawatt-peak (MWp), up from 18.7 MWp a year ago, according to Energy Market Authority data.
TAN CHEE WEE Today Online 25 Jun 15;
After more than 22,000km of connecting flights and another two days across the infamous Drake Passage — the vast body of water between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica — I was suddenly surrounded by cheers of “land ahoy”.
Along with 81 other expedition participants, I was greeted by a tabular iceberg on the sea horizon. Broken off the west Antarctica ice shelves, the iceberg was the size of more than 20 football fields. Its size was so astounding, it took my breath away on the start of my journey to discover the Antarctic — the last pristine place on Earth.
Having heard so much about its beauty and wildlife and inspired by the works of Mr Robert Swan, the first man who walked to North and South Poles, I jumped at the opportunity to join him and participants from 26 countries in the 2041 International Antarctic Expedition (IAE). The name of the expedition is in itself a reminder that in 2041, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty could potentially be modified or amended. Thus, these expeditions are part of a movement aimed at working towards the continuing protection of the Antarctic Treaty so that this last great wilderness is never exploited.
Witnessing the effects of climate change first-hand was a poignant moment for me. The inconvenient truth was plain to see: The massive iceberg that greeted us was floating unrestricted and melting in the Antarctic sea, and as some media reports have indicated, in the worst case scenario, Antarctica’s melt could push sea levels up 3m worldwide in a century or two, disrupting ecosystems and environments.
A few other defining moments stood out. First was the polar plunge. With my heart pounding and blood pumping with adrenaline, I dived into the icy Antarctic waters. It was painfully fun but I am glad I got that box ticked. The second was gazing from my sleeping bag, at the Milky Way which was spectacularly beautiful. The last and best moment was my conversation with Mr Swan, where we talked about how privileged we were that our work and motivations are aligned to great causes.
As a manager in climate change and sustainability services at EY, I advise clients on corporate sustainability practices and related issues. Yet, the message on the fundamental importance of arresting climate change has never been so clear to me till now.
Reflecting on our urban lifestyles in Singapore, often shielded in air-conditioned offices or homes, a chilling thought that our shoreline may not last beyond another generation hit me hard.
And to bring about true change in our attitudes and behaviour will require individuals, businesses and regulators to all play their part.
RISING CORPORATE INTEREST IN SUSTAINABILITY
Last September, the European Union joined Australia, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, Brazil and others in requiring large companies and groups to disclose non-financial and diversity information on policies, risks and outcomes regarding environmental and social matters.
Investors have joined in the fold as well. Many institutional investors are factoring in environment, social and governance information, particularly their related risks, when making investment decisions.
The Singapore Exchange has begun consultation with listed companies on “comply or explain” sustainability reporting. This growing interest on sustainability reporting has implications for businesses as the concept takes root in boardrooms and the minds of consumers.
Based on a report published by EY in association with Global Reporting Initiative, sustainability reporting could be reaching a “tipping point”. The drivers and benefits of sustainability reporting are increasing in prominence, and standards, regulations and transparency are making sustainability practices more mainstream.
Beyond just regulatory obligations, public concerns and customer expectations over greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water management, and other societal issues are also driving corporate interest in sustainability. Amid resource constraints, whether due to climate change, decreasing supplies, geopolitics, price increases or sustainability concerns, firms are seeking to manage their operations and business more efficiently.
The business case for environmental sustainability is clear. Research by Harvard Business School has shown that high sustainability firms dramatically outperform in terms of stock market performance and accounting measures in the long term.
While the business case for change may not always be altruistic in nature, the fact that investors are increasingly favouring businesses that embrace sustainability practices serves as a wake-up call for many.
As the saying goes: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”. The question we need to constantly ask ourselves is: How far can and will we go to be responsible guardians?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tan Chee Wee is manager, climate change and sustainability services at EY in Singapore. T he views expressed here are his own.