Best of our wild blogs: 19 Jan 18

Singapore is Shorebird Central
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

"Seas the Day!" by Joseph Lai
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

24 Jan 2018 – INSIGHT Dialogue: The Flipside of Clean Energy
Green Drinks Singapore

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Longer cool spell a sign of changing weather

Straits Times 19 Jan 18;

The cool spell that enveloped Singapore last week was the longest in at least a decade, according to records of the Meteorological Services Singapore (MSS).

Temperatures fell below 24 deg C for five days, from Wednesday to Sunday, because of a monsoon surge that typically would last two to three days.

Coupled with rain, it led many people to don winter wear.

Such extreme weather could happen more often owing to climate change, the MSS spokesman said.

Projections for 2100, made by MSS' Centre for Climate Research Singapore, show that more rain could be produced from the cold surge usually experienced during the current monsoon season.

"This indicates a possibility of more intense surges with higher risk of extreme weather," said its spokesman said.

Five-day cool spell was Singapore's longest in a decade
Audrey Tan Straits Times 18 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - Last week's cool spell was the longest in the Republic for at least a decade, weather experts said on Thursday (Jan 18).

"In the last 10 years, there was no cold spell of five days or more with minimum temperatures between 21 deg C and 22 deg C," the Meteorological Services Singapore (MSS) told The Straits Times.

"Over this period, most monsoon surges that affect Singapore are of short duration lasting two to three days."

The five days of cool weather, which lasted from Wednesday to Sunday, delighted many locals and was a result of a monsoon surge.

Monsoon surges, which are common from December to March, are sudden increases in wind speed, which bring in cool air from the winter chill in the northern hemisphere.

As this cold air moves south, it warms and gathers moisture, resulting in rain over the equatorial region, including in Singapore.

Last week's surge led to five days of cool but rainy weather, leading some people to break out their winter wear and spurring heart-warming acts of kindness. Restaurant owner Francis Ng, 44, for example, bought blankets to distribute to seniors who sleep on the streets.

Satellite images showed that wind speeds picked up significantly last Wednesday as temperatures in Singapore fell to 22.8 deg C. The surge continued until Sunday, when temperatures in Jurong West and Admiralty dropped to a low of 21.2 deg C - the lowest temperature recorded in Singapore since 2016.

The mean daily temperature range for January is between 24 deg C and 30 deg C, according to the Met Station's long-term climate records dating from 1982.

Such cool spells could become more frequent due to climate change, the MSS spokesman said. Projections for 2100 made by MSS' Centre for Climate Research Singapore show that there could be more rain from cold surges during the north-east monsoon season.

What is a monsoon surge?

"This indicates a possibility of more intense surges with higher risk of extreme weather," the spokesman added.

Experts have warned that more extreme weather is on the cards for Singapore as the world warms. This includes heatwaves, prolonged dry spells and periods of more intense rainfall.

There are already tell-tale signs of this, apparent in MSS' report of the weather and climate in 2017 released last Thursday.

Singapore broke another temperature record last year, with a mean annual temperature of 27.7 deg C. This made 2017 the warmest year on record that was not influenced by El Nino - a weather phenomenon associated with hot and dry weather in this part of the world.

While the mean annual temperature in 2017 was lower than the 28.4 deg C in 2016, and 28.3 deg C in 2015, those two years were influenced by El Nino.

Very warm days were also experienced in Singapore last year despite it not being an El Nino year, with the normally cool months of January and December also seeing warmer than usual temperatures on some days, the MSS said.

Heavy rain from intense thunderstorms caused flash floods and fallen trees. A waterspout - associated with thunderstorm clouds - was also observed off Singapore's southern coast last June. February, usually a dry season, saw twice the amount of rain compared with the long-term average.

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Singapore Airlines among least fuel-efficient airlines flying across the Pacific

Channel NewsAsia 19 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines performs below the industry average for the amount of carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre it emits, according to an analysis of 20 major airlines operating nonstop passenger flights across the pacific.

The Transpacific Airline Fuel Efficiency Ranking by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) - the group that exposed the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2014 - modelled fuel burn for the airlines using flight schedule and detailed operational data in 2016.

Singapore Airlines had an average fuel efficiency of 30 passenger-kilometres per litre of fuel (pax-km/L), below the industry average of 31 pax-km/L.

Of the 20 airlines analysed, 12 had a fuel efficiency above the industry average. Singapore Airlines' score, which was the same as four of the other airlines, was the fourth-lowest in the analysis.

The Los Angeles-Tokyo route was the most competitive of those analysed, with six airlines completing 6,604 flights between the two cities. On that route Singapore Airlines had the worst fuel efficiency "by a large margin", while United had the best.

Using the Airbus A380 on two-thirds of its flights, it had an average fuel efficiency of 26 pax-km/L, compared to United Airlines' 43 pax-km/L.

The national carrier uses Airbus A350-900, A380-800 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on its flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the ICCT noted in the report released on Tuesday (Jan 16).

The A380, configured with either 379 or 441 seats, was the least fuel-efficient aircraft in its fleet, with an average of 304 passengers per flight. If an additional 50 passengers flew on each A380 flight, then the aircraft’s fuel efficiency metric would increase from 24 to 27 pax-km/L, ICCT said.

The same fleet fuel efficiency metric of 30 pax-km/L could be achieved by loading an additional 1,000kg of freight or 10 passengers to all flights, it added.

Hainan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA) were the most fuel-efficient among the 20 airlines, with both achieving an average fuel-efficiency of 36 pax-km/L.

Their strategies for being more fuel efficient were very different, according to the ICCT white paper. Hainan’s efficiency rating mostly reflected its very "advanced fleet", with most of its travel in the region aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

ANA, in contrast, operated aircraft with higher fuel burn but carried a heavier load on its flights, especially cargo. ANA carried about three times as much cargo in its baggage hold per passenger as Hainan, equaling 48 per cent of the flights' payload.

Australian flag carrier Qantas was the worst airline for fuel efficiency, at 22 pax-km/L. It operated the most fuel-intensive aircraft at very low load factors for both passengers and freight, according to ICCT.

Source: CNA/mz

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Biodiversity conservation should be a core value of China's 'Belt and Road Initiative'

Lindsay Brooke, University of Nottingham 18 Jan 18;

Environment and conservation experts from the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNMC) and the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) are challenging decision-makers, infrastructure planners and conservationists to work together to mitigate the negative impacts of China's "Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI) and look for opportunities for biodiversity conservation.

The correspondence—"Biodiversity conservation needs to be a core value of China's "Belt and Road Initiative"—has been published in the academic journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. It is authored by Dr. Alex Lechner and Dr. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz from the School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at UNMC (both are members of the Mindset Interdisciplinary Centre for Environmental Studies at UNMC) and Dr. Faith Ka Shun Chan from the School of Geographical Sciences, the co-leader ofthe Belt and Road Initiative Research Priorities Area, Institute of Asia Pacific Studies (IAPS) at UNNC.

The article highlights what the authors describe as the potentially disastrous consequences for biodiversity and calls for BRI to put biodiversity conservation at the heart of its core values—not as an after-thought. The authors suggest that BRI could, for instance, implement a network of protected areas and wildlife corridors across Eurasia.

With an estimated cost of over four trillion US dollars, BRI will connect roughly half of the world's population across over 65 countries. Although much has been discussed about its economic and geopolitical implications the research team warns that critical implications for biodiversity need to be considered, especially in Asia.

Biodiversity in the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene denotes the current geological age, which is viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Infrastructure and its impacts, such as disruption of ecological connectivity, are key drivers of biodiversity loss in the Anthropocene.

This article tracks the path BRI will take across a number of the world's terrestrial and marine biodiversity hotspots, wilderness areas and other key conservation areas—such as Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle, often described as the Amazon of the ocean.

Potential threats to biodiversity

The authors list the potential threats to biodiversity. Roads, they say, create habitat loss and fragmentation and encourage invasive species and illegal activities such as poaching and logging.

Increased sea traffic exacerbates the movement of invasive species and pollution.

Poorly planned infrastructure risks locking in undesirable environmental practices for decades to come.

Potential opportunity for biodiversity

There is, the authors say, a potential opportunity for biodiversity. BRI could learn from, support and expand existing national initiatives in the region such as Bhutan For Life or Malaysia's Central Forest Spine, and promote transboundary conservation parks and transboundary conservation activities as an integral element of transboundary infrastructure projects.

The authors want BRI to follow best practice environmental planning to ensure no net loss of biodiversity and achieve a net gain in biodiversity that yield benefits to conservation which would not have otherwise occurred.

The vision, they say, proposed in this paper should be led by Chinese authorities and diplomacy but will require clear buy-in and involvement from other countries' governments and different sectors and stakeholders, including intergovernmental organizations such as UNDP, financiers, developers, and civil society. The research team has already submitted a joint grant to the Chinese Social Science Foundation (CSSF) with partners at University of Beijing to further look at the implications and crossboundary effects on natural environment by BRI.

Explore further: Conservation hindered by geographical mismatches between capacity and need

More information: Alex Mark Lechner et al. Biodiversity conservation should be a core value of China's Belt and Road Initiative, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0452-8

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2017 was the hottest year on record without El Niño boost

Data shows the year was also one of the hottest three ever recorded, with scientists warning that the ‘climate tide is rising fast’
Damian Carrington The Guardian 18 Jan 18;

2017 was the hottest year since global records began that was not given an additional boost by the natural climate cycle El Niño, according to new data. Even without an El Niño, the year was still exceptionally hot, being one of the top three ever recorded.

The three main global temperature records show the global surface temperature in 2017 was 1C above levels seen in pre-industrial times, with scientists certain that humanity’s fossil fuel-burning is to blame.

The data, published on Thursday, means the last three years have been the hottest trio ever seen, with 2017 ranking second or third depending on the small differences between the temperature records. Furthermore, 17 of the 18 hottest years recorded since 1850 have occurred since 2000.

2017 also saw extreme weather events strike across the world, from hurricanes in the US and Caribbean to heatwaves in Australia and devastating floods in Asia. Many of these events have been shown to have been made much more likely by the heat resulting from global warming.

Scientists from across the globe warned that the limit of 1.5C of warming, set as a goal by the international Paris climate change treaty, was being approached very rapidly and that it was more urgent than ever to slash emissions to avoid the worst impacts.

The three global temperature records are compiled by the UK’s Met Office and Nasa and Noaa in the United States. The Met Office said the average temperature in 2017 was 0.99C above that seen from 1850-1900, despite the Pacific Ocean moving into its cooler La Niña phase.

“While climate change deniers continue to bury their heads in the sand, global warming continues unabated,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Pennsylvania State University in the US. “And the impacts of that warming – unprecedented wildfires, superstorms and floods – are now plain for all to see. There has never been greater urgency.”

In December, the US president, Donald Trump, suggested cold weather in the eastern US undermined the evidence of climate change, a statement called “phenomenally dumb“ by climate scientist Dr Sarah Myhre.

Scientists said that the slight drop in global temperature in 2017 was unsurprising and that huge levels of carbon emissions are still being pumped out. “Global temperatures will continue to bob up and down from year to year, but the climate tide beneath them is rising fast,” said Prof David Reay, at the University of Edinburgh in the UK.

“Despite our best efforts so far, global warming continues apace,” said Prof Martin Siegert, at Imperial College London. “This is yet another wake-up call to develop a zero carbon economy before it’s too late.”

Dr Dann Mitchell, at the University of Bristol, said: “We are getting ever closer to the Paris agreement target of 1.5C which we are so desperately trying to avoid.”

Prof Stefan Rahmstorf said there had been a very significant increase in global temperature since the major El Niño seen in 1998: “In just 18 years, our greenhouse gas emissions have pushed up global temperature by a full 0.4C. At this rate the Paris goal of 1.5C will already be crossed in under two decades.”

In Australia, the Climate Council chief executive, Amanda McKenzie, said: “The fingerprints of climate change were seen with extreme weather events across Australia in 2017. This data is yet another warning to the government to urgently slash Australia’s rising greenhouse gas levels in a bid to protect Australians from escalating extreme weather events.”

The temperature data is all compiled using many thousands of measurements from all continents and all oceans. Small differences between them largely result from how temperatures for the fast-warming but data-sparse polar regions are calculated.

The El Niño event in 2015-16 raised the annual average temperature for 2016 by 0.2C, but most scientists agree that both 2016 and 2015 would have been record hot years even without the El Niño. The 2017 global temperature was accurately predicted by the Met Office a year before, adding to confidence that scientists have a good understanding of the climate system.

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U.K.: Supermarkets under pressure to reveal amount of plastic they create

Leading UK retailers say information is too ‘commercially sensitive’ to reveal, following Guardian report they make almost 1m tonnes a year
Matthew Taylor and Sandra Laville The Guardian 18 Jan 18;

Supermarkets are coming under growing pressure from politicians and campaigners to reveal the amount of plastic they create, and pay more towards its safe disposal, following a Guardian investigation.

Amid mounting concern about the devastating environmental impact of plastic pollution around the globe, the Guardian revealed on Wednesday that the UK’s leading supermarkets create almost 1m tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year.

However, the system is shrouded in secrecy. When the Guardian asked leading retailers to reveal the exact amount of waste they are responsible for, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Asda and Lidl all refused, saying the information was “commercially sensitive”.

Mary Creagh, MP, the chair of the environmental audit committee, warned “a plastic tide is engulfing our streets, beaches and oceans” and called on the government to act.

“Government should change the rules to encourage the use of packaging that is easy to recycle and raise charges on plastics that are difficult to recycle, to reduce the amount and type of plastic we use.”

Caroline Lucas, Green party MP and co-leader, said that although the “government talks a good game on plastics” they need to be taking much firmer action.

“For a start that must mean forcing supermarkets to come clean about how much plastic they use – but they should also ask those who use the most to pay more of the cost of dealing with it too.”
Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, said: “Labour supports the calls being made for the government to change the rules so that supermarkets have to let the public know how much plastic they are producing.”

Supermarkets have to declare the amount of plastic they put on the market annually under an EU directive. But the information is kept secret.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it has plans to reform the producer responsibility system to “in order to incentivise producers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products.

“We will be publishing more detail in our upcoming resources and waste strategy.”
The spokesman said it was not possible to release details of how much plastic packaging is produced by each supermarket because that was “commercially sensitive”.

Although several major supermarkets refused to share their figures with the Guardian, two – Aldi and the Co-op – were open about the amount of plastic they put on to the market each year.

Using their data, and other publicly available market share information, environmental consultants Eunomia estimated that the top supermarkets are creating a plastic waste problem of more than 800,000 tonnes each year – well over half of all annual UK household plastic waste of 1.5m tonnes.

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said more transparency would spur positive competition among supermarkets to cut their plastic output, rewarding the companies who make an effort.

“They should include measures such as phasing out non-recyclable and single-use plastics from own brand products, installing free water fountains and re-fill stations for soft drinks, backing deposit return schemes and trialling reusable packaging for home deliveries.”

The Guardian’s revelations about supermarket plastic have added to mounting public concern about the damage that plastic does to the natural world. The Guardian has already revealed the vertiginous growth in plastic production, and the heavy environmental toll it exacts.

Many believe the existing system to make producers pay towards the waste they create in the UK is not tough enough.

The Environment Agency polices the UK packaging compliance system. Under the scheme retailers who dodge their duties to pay towards the recycling of their packaging most often receive civil sanctions. They are rarely prosecuted in the criminal courts.

In the last six years 240 retailers have been sanctioned and agreed to pay a total of almost £5m to charities, including Wrap, the Woodland Trust, Keep Britain Tidy and various local rivers and wildlife trusts.

The sanctions are known as Enforcement Undertakings, and are a voluntary arrangement between the Environment Agency and the offending retailer.

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Best of our wild blogs: 18 Jan 18

Sustainable everyday choices in the Year of Climate action
People's Movement to Stop Haze

Sat 27 Jan 2018 – Microplastics Analysis Workshop by NParks & NUS
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

6 tips on being a responsible traveller
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Celebrating Singapore Shores 2018: Seas the Day
Flying Fish Friends

Singapore is Shorebird Central
wild shores of singapore

Love MacRitchie goes to Earth Fest!
Love our MacRitchie Forest

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Obstructed earth drain worsened flash flood at Tampines Ave 12

SIAU MING EN AND AMANDA LEE Today Online 17 Jan 18;

HDB’s contractor built temporary road without seeking PUB’s approval because ditch had appeared abandoned

SINGAPORE ― A temporary road built by a Housing and Development Board (HDB) contractor obstructed a ditch near Tampines Ave 12, worsening the flash flood there on Jan 8, national water agency PUB said on Wednesday (Jan 17).

The area was one of nine locations in eastern Singapore hit by flash floods on Jan 8.

But PUB launched an investigation because it was unlike the other affected locations, which are relatively low-lying and where drainage improvement works are due to be completed by the first quarter of next year.

PUB said the Tampines Ave 12 flash flood was caused by intense rainfall that morning, which exceeded the capacity of the roadside drain.

The situation was “aggravated” by the storm runoff from an adjacent site, said PUB in a media statement after it wrapped up investigations.

A ditch, or earth drain, near the construction site for an HDB development was supposed to help channel away some of the rain water.

But it was blocked by a temporary construction access road that construction firm Huationg Contractor built across it. This caused the storm runoff to overflow into the drain along Tampines Ave 12.

An earth drain is usually found in areas that are not developed, such as forested areas, to manage the drainage in these places.

The HDB said the construction site was for earthworks to prepare for upcoming developments in the area.

Huationg has explained that it did not seek PUB’s approval to build construction access over the existing earth drain as the drain appeared abandoned. HDB was not aware of it, said a spokesperson.

The HDB’s tender specifications clearly require all contractors to comply with PUB’s Code of Practice on Surface Water Drainage at all times during construction works. Such sites require the contractors to engage a Qualified Erosion Control Professional to design the earth control measures and seek PUB’s approval before the commencement of work, among other things.

“HDB is conducting an investigation and will take action against the contractor accordingly,” the spokesperson said.

Asked if the contractor would be penalised, PUB said further investigations would be needed.

If found guilty under the Sewerage and Drainage Act, offenders may be fined up to S$50,000 for works affecting the public drainage system.

Last December, contractor Sato Kogyo was fined S$14,000 for unauthorised works that contributed to flash floods along Thomson Road on Christmas Eve in 2016. The Japanese firm was one of the 14 contractors and two qualified persons penalised last year for drainage offences and failing to supervise drainage work.

The heavy downpour on Jan 8 was due to the prevailing North-east Monsoon and made worse by an unexpected Sumatra squall — sudden thunderstorm lines – that developed over the Straits of Malacca.

The heaviest rainfall of 118.8mm was recorded at Kim Chuan Road that day, which amounted to roughly half of Singapore’s average monthly rainfall in January.

The flood at Tampines Ave 12 lasted about 25 minutes, from 9.50am to around 10.15am.

PUB director of the catchment and waterways department Yeo Keng Soon said on Wednesday that the agency would try to remove the obstruction by the end of the week, and is working with the HDB and Huationg to improve drainage in the area.

A permanent drainage system will be built together with the future development at the site.

Drains in Singapore are able to cope with the rainfall, but flash floods can occur when there is an extreme storm or heavy rain which exceeds the drains’ capacity, said Mr Yeo.

“While PUB will continue to improve our drainage system, it is not practical to design our drains to accommodate every extreme storm… Doing so would lead to significantly higher costs and will take up a whole lot more land,” he said.

This expanded drain capacity is also not required most of the time, he added.

Obstructed ditch near worksite intensified flash floods at Tampines Avenue 12
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 17 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: Floods at Tampines Avenue 12 last week were aggravated by runoff from a construction site after a ditch near the worksite was blocked by a temporary access road, national water agency PUB said at a media briefing on Wednesday (Jan 17).

A PUB spokesperson shared that stormwater runoff from a construction site and a field next to the flooded area would typically flow into an "earth drain", then discharge directly into Sungei Tampines.

However, PUB's investigations revealed that the contractors of the construction site built a temporary access road across the ditch, obstructing its flow completely.

The runoff flowed into the roadside drain on Tampines Avenue 12, which was already overwhelmed by the heavy rainfall on Jan 8.

PUB said the flash floods in the area subsided in 25 minutes.

The agency said it will work with the developer, understood to be the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to improve drainage at the access road, and a permanent drainage system will be built "in tandem" with the upcoming development project, PUB added.


PUB said the contractor, Huationg Contractor, should not have built the access road without first informing the agency, saying they "changed the entire landscape".

It said the key issue was the access road that ended up obstructing the flow of the stormwater runoff.

Any works that may impact the drainage system need to be run by PUB, but it said it did not receive such plans from the contractor.

These are some issues it needs to investigate before taking any prosecutorial action, PUB said. Meanwhile, its immediate focus is to improve drainage in the area.

PUB said it will also ensure that the contractor removes the section of the access road that resulted in the obstruction of the ditch, to restore the original flow.

This involves digging out a part of the road, which should be done by the end of the week.

It said it would also consider reaching out to other contractors to ensure they do not disrupt drainage systems without first consulting the agency.


Responding to queries, HDB confirmed that Huationg did not seek PUB's approval to build the access road over the ditch. That was because it thought the ditch "appeared abandoned".

HDB was not aware that the contractor did not seek PUB's approval to build the access road.

It said its tender specifications require contractors to comply with PUB's code of practice on surface water drainage during works.

Additionally, worksites require contractors to engage a qualified erosion control professional to design the "earth control measures" and seek PUB’s approval before work starts.

Once approved, the professional has to ensure the contractor implements the measures. Such works are also to be supervised by qualified staff.

"HDB is conducting an investigation and will take action against the contractor accordingly," it said. It added that the contractor was carrying out ground preparation before construction for any development begins.

Tampines Avenue 12 was among nine locations in the eastern part of Singapore that experienced flash floods due to intense rainfall last week.

PUB shared that the other eight locations experienced flash floods due to their locations in low lying areas.

Source: CNA/nc

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Port operator PSA inks 21-year solar deal with Sunseap

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 17 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE — Two years after scoring a landmark deal with tech giant Apple to power its facilities here with renewable energy, solar-energy solutions company Sunseap Group has landed a major pact with port operator PSA to cut its carbon footprint.

Under the 21-year deal, Sunseap will build and install a four-megawatt peak (MWp) solar system — the size of four football fields — across five locations in PSA’s Pasir Panjang Terminal.

These include the terminal’s buildings, gates, maintenance base and workers’ dormitories, the two companies announced in a press statement on Wednesday (Jan 17).

The Singapore-based firm will also maintain the system, known as a solar photovoltaic system, and offer a competitive electricity tariff rate. The two firms expect the system to be up and running by end-October this year.

A Sunseap spokesperson declined to disclose the value of the project but said it was one of the largest projects in its portfolio.

The system will help the port operator reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by 1,689 tonnes a year.

The system will generate roughly 4.3 gigawatt hours of energy a year and offset part of Pasir Panjang Terminal’s energy needs, the two firms added. This is comparable to the energy consumed by about 900 households living in four-room Housing and Development Board flats in a year.

PSA’s other green initiatives include electrification of its port equipment such as yard cranes and automated guided vehicles, said Mr Ong Kim Pong, PSA International’s regional chief executive for South-east Asia.

In February last year, the Government announced it would impose a carbon tax on large greenhouse-gas emitters from next year.

It is looking to charge between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emitted. Six greenhouse gases will be covered under the tax: Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.

Under the draft Carbon Pricing Bill, the emitters will buy carbon credits at a fixed price from the National Environment Agency throughout a year. At the end of a year of assessment, the credits will be used to pay the tax levied on their total greenhouse emissions.

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Singapore agrees to review East Johor Straits Pilotage Guideline: Liow

HASHINI KAVISHTRI KANNAN New Straits Times 17 Jan 18;

PUTRAJAYA: Singapore has agreed to review the East Johor Straits Pilotage Guideline (EJS).

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this was in order to relax the maritime traffic restriction of night operation of the vessels in Singapore waters.

He said the matter was agreed at the eighth Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat on Tuesday.

"At present the EJS Pilotage Guidelines permit vessels of more than 240 metres in length to transit the Straits only during daylight hours," he told reporters today.

Every year, he said, more than 6,000 vessels transit the Straits to enter Johor Port, Tanjung Langsat Port Terminal and other port facilities within Pasir Gudang Port.

"The current restriction limit the operational efficiency of Johor Port and at the same time creates unnecessary congestion and bunching of vessels in a very limited waterway.

"Therefore, the proposed review will create better navigational efficiency and productivity as well as to improve overall safety of navigation along EJS.

On a separate matter, in relation to the abolishment of toll charges at Malaysia's Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) and toll revision done by Singapore at the Causeway, Liow said Malaysia is also considering reviewing the toll rate at the Second Link.

Liow also shared that the country is hopeful of the latest search efforts on missing flight MH370, which began today.

"We are hopeful of the search efforts undertaken by Ocean Infinity. The next-of-kin have also responded well to the search," he added.

Liow said MH370 Response Team headed by Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman will be monitoring the search carried on daily basis.

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Malaysia: Illegal loggers, collectors of plants and herbs pose danger to forest reserves

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 17 Jan 18;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Protecting forest reserves that have been opened for recreational purposes requires extra enforcement measures to prevent poaching and encroachment by irresponsible visitors.

The opening of these recreational areas has provided opportunities for some members of the public to plunder the riches of the rainforest which include collecting rare plants and hunting wild animals like dear, elephants and tigers.

The enforcement unit of the State Forestry department has its hands full trying to protect the forest from not only illegal loggers but also people who veer off the roads leading to popular recreational forests to collect plants and herbs.

“The reason why recreational forests are open is to support tourism industry. Unfortunately, most visitors fail to read signboards which clearly warn them not to disturb the environment. They should just take pictures and leave only foot prints,” said State Forestry director Datuk Ahmad Fadzil Abdul Majid.

He said lack of civic consciousness was among the reasons why some recreational parks were littered with rubbish which invited unnecessary dangers because it attracted wild animals, especially wild boars and bears.

“Despite adequate garbage disposal bins, some visitors ignore them. It is a shame because these parks are visited by foreigners and some leave unpleasant remarks in the social media. It creates the impression that we are not taking care of these parks,” he said.

Fadzil said with Visit Beautiful Terengganu campaign becoming an event every year, it was important for the public to change their mind set and become more civic conscious about the environment and their responsibility as visitors.

“If a group wants to enter a recreational site deep in the forest, they must get permits from the district forestry office. Without a permit the visitor may get into trouble if they run into a team of enforcement officers.

“If they are caught collecting wild plants they will be in even bigger trouble. They can be charged in court,” he said.

Fadzil said the department had started upgrading some popular spots, including the track leading to the world's biggest Chengal tree at Gunung Mandi Angin in Dungun as well as other popular destinations for recreation and adventure in every district.

Other eco-adventure sites that would be upgraded with more safety features included the waterfalls at Sekayu in Hulu Terengganu, Lata Tembakah in Besut, Lata Belatan in Setiu, Chemerong in Dungun and Lasir in Tasik Kenyir.

"We want to showcase our protected forest as a unique product. Its rich flora and fauna will tell the world that we take great care of our rainforest treasures. We are doing all we can to ensure that this heritage survives rapid development in its surroundings," said Fadzil.

‘Stop all illegal logging’
The Star 18 Jan 18;

GEORGE TOWN: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) is urging the relevant authorities to put a stop to all illegal and unsustainable logging in forest reserves to preserve the vital water catchment areas and their rich biodiversity.

Its president Henry Goh said it was irregular for a large swathe of forest reserve of more than 500ha in Bukit Enggang, Sik, Kedah, to be logged without an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

“The villagers living in the foothills of Bukit Enggang have to ‘dam up the river’ to collect water for their daily use.

“This river is heavily polluted by the logging in the forest located upstream which has rendered the water unusable,” he said in a press statement on Tuesday.

“Many other logging concessions were given in smaller parcels in other districts in Kedah away from public view which are not monitored for proper timber extraction.

“Replanting of logged forests is either not required or the replanting is not done to the prescribed standards,” he said.

It was reported in The Star on Monday that the logging of over 500ha of forest reserve in Bukit Enggang had been carried out without an EIA.

The logging activity had caused muddy run-offs into rivers in the surrounding area.

Separate checks by both villagers and an environmental group with the state Department of Environment (DoE) confirmed that no EIA had been issued for the logging.

MACC starts probe into logging in Sik
r. sekaran The Star 19 Jan 18

ALOR SETAR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has begun investigation into the logging at the Bukit Enggang forest reserve in Sik which was carried out without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki said its office in Kedah had been directed to investigate the matter.

“After seeing the press reports, we have begun the investigation,” Azam told The Star yesterday.

Asked if the probe would involve allegations of logging in other forest reserves, Azam said it would look into Bukit Enggang first.

“While our investigation will focus on any corruption or malpractice involved in the tender process, the absence of the EIA report on the logging will also be probed,” he said.

On Monday, The Star reported that sources had confirmed that the logging of over 500ha of forest reserve was carried out without an EIA.

The logging caused muddy run-offs in the surrounding area and contaminated the drinking water of villagers.

A stop-work order on the logging was issued by the Department of Environment’s (DoE) Environmental Quality director-general on Jan 5.

Bukit Enggang’s Save the Community’s Water committee chairman Mohd Sobri Ramlee said MACC officers from Sungai Petani had met him for details.

“I have given them all the details which we have compiled on the issue, including the water contamination and EIA report,” he said.

State Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Badrol Hisham Hashim said the DoE should also look into other areas whether there had been an EIA, such as the logging in the Ulu Muda forest reserve.

“The state, including the mentri besar, is concerned about the issue and both the DoE and the Forestry Department could help us see if standard operating procedures have been adhered to,” he said.

Questioning how the logging could have been carried out without an EIA, Sahabat Alam Malaysia honorary secretary Meenakshi Raman said it was a blatant case of non-compliance.

Malaysian Nature Society’s Kedah secretary FK Phang welcomed the MACC’s investigation, describing it as long overdue.

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Malaysia: Origins still a jumbo question

The Star 18 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A scientific study is shedding new light on how Borneo got its elephants.

The mysterious origin of the Bornean pygmy elephant – a subspecies of the Asian elephant which only exists in a small region – has long been debated.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, scientists are more inclined to believe the elephants might have arrived in Borneo during the time of the last land bridge between the Sunda Islands in South-East Asia.

The research team was led by Lounes Chikhi from Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia (IGC, Portugal) and French National Centre for Scientific Research, Paul Sabatier University (France), Benoit Goossens, from Danau Girang Field Centre (Malaysia), Cardiff University (Wales) and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

But others concluded that Bornean elephants are very different from other Asian elephants and suggested a very ancient separation, perhaps about 300,000 years ago.

However, no elephant fossils have been discovered in Borneo, although fossils from other large mammals such as orang utan have been found, the scientist noted.

To shed light on the mysterious origin, Chikhi and Goossens’ team used genetic data analysis and computational modelling to study the demographic history of these animals.

“It is very difficult to track ancient demographic history of animals, even more when there are no fossil records to guide the work.

“What we did was to create computational models for different scenarios that might have happened. Then, we compared the results from these models with the existing genetic data, and used statistical techniques to identify the scenario that best explains the current genetic diversity of the elephant population in Borneo,” said Chikhi.

According to researcher Reeta Sharma, the most likely scenario is natural colonisation of Borneo around 11,400 to 18,300 years ago as human introduction seems improbable.

This period corresponds to a time when the sea level was very low and elephants could migrate from the Sunda Islands, a south-eastern Asia archipelago to which Borneo belongs, said Sharma, a researcher at the IGC and first co-author of the paper.

With fewer than 2,000 elephants left in the wild, Goossens said the study would be useful for the development of a long-term conservation strategy, as part of the 10-year State Action Plan for the Bornean elephant.

The key to Borneo pygmy elephants' survival
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 19 Jan 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A BETTER understanding of the origins of the Borneo pygmy elephants in Sabah is vital for their survival.

Danau Girang Field Centre researcher Benoit Goossens said understanding the pygmy elephants’ origins and past demography would be useful for the development of a long-term conservation strategy.

He said the centre, together with the Sabah Wildlife Department and other partners, was drafting a 10-year action plan to protect the elephants.

He said there were fewer than 2,000 pygmy elephants living in an increasingly fragmented environment. With regular news of poisoned or dead Bornean elephants, the future is grim for the endangered species.

A recent study by a joint research team, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that the elephants may have arrived on Borneo island at a time of the last land bridge between the Sunda Islands in Southeast Asia.

The research team was led by Lounes Chikhi from Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC, Portugal) and CNRS, Université Paul Sabatier (France), Cardiff University (Wales), Sabah Wildlife Department and Goossens.

“Until recently, there are two opposing theories on the origin of Bornean elephants: they could have been introduced by humans, maybe 300 years ago, or they could have diverged from Asian elephants a long time ago.

“There are records that in the 17th century, neighbouring sultans offered elephants as gifts to the Bornean sultans. On the other hand, about 15 years ago, a genetic study showed that the Bornean elephant’s DNA was very different from that of Asian elephants,” said Chikhi.

The team used genetic data analysis and computational modelling to study the demographic history of these animals.

“It is very difficult to track ancient demographic history of animals, even more when there are no fossil records to guide our work. What we did was to create computational models for different scenarios.

“Then we compared the results from these models with existing genetic data, and used statistical techniques to identify the scenario that best explained the current genetic diversity of the elephant population in Borneo.”

The results suggested that the most likely scenario to have occurred was a natural colonisation of Borneo around 11,400 to 18,300 years ago.

The period corresponded to a time when the sea levels were very low and elephants could migrate between the Sunda Islands.

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