Best of our wild blogs: 21 Apr 18

8th Annual Parrot Count 2018
Singapore Bird Group

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How Singapore hotels benefit from going green, as well as helping the planet

The Lion City roars ahead with innovative energy systems, food waste initiatives and more in response to demand for genuine sustainable travel options
CAROLYN BEASLEY South China Morning Post 21 Apr 18;

Fed up with “greenwashing”, whereby hospitality businesses tout cost-saving or profit-making practices as green initiatives? In Singapore, a nation that prides itself on its clean, green image, 2018 has been declared the Year of Climate Action by the National Environment Agency, but are the Lion City’s hotels really doing their bit? I’m on a mission to find out whether Singapore can do better than just offering to not wash my towels.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, 5 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions is produced by international tourism, with accommodation pumping out 20 per cent of that. Environ­mentally conscious consumers are therefore recommended to choose hotels with third-party eco-certification, but this is seemingly impossible to find in Singapore.

Ethical booking website, for example, does not list any eco-certified hotels for Singapore, and TripAdvisor’s Green Leaders programme, active in 66 markets worldwide, has no participating hotels in the city state. This apathy seems to extend continent wide; according to non-profit organisation Green Hotel World, Asia is the worst performing continent, with only 0.9 per cent of its hotels certified by a third party as “green”.

The lack of certification is puzzling, as there is apparently money to be made: a worldwide study of 7,000 guests com­missioned by AccorHotels in 2016 indicated that two-thirds of visitors would be prepared to pay a little more for a hotel engaging in green practices. The company’s vice-president of communications and corporate social responsibility, Asia-Pacific, Gaynor Reid, says, “Our guests are really demanding eco-friendly hotels, especially our corporate clients, as almost three quarters of them have a responsible purchasing policy.”

Travel metasearch engine Kayak has an “eco-friendly” filter and, according to Jason Yeung, the company’s head of marketing and PR for Asia-Pacific, hotels falling into that category include those that save water and energy through optional, non-daily linen refreshment, serve locally sourced food, offer bikes for transport and make efforts to reduce waste, elec­tricity usage and carbon footprints. “While we cannot guar­antee that all properties classified as ‘eco-friendly’ have all of these specific features,” he says, “they are conscious of eco-friendly practices.”

One of the Singapore hotels listed by Kayak as eco-friendly is Parkroyal on Pickering, voted Asia’s Leading Green Hotel at the World Travel Awards for the past three years. Approaching the hotel, its greenness is awe-inspiring. This towering, vegetation-covered oasis in the heart of the business district was conceived with environmental efficiency in mind. The hotel features skygardens, waterfalls, planter terraces and cascading vertical greenery, with vegetation cover totalling 15,000 square metres, double the hotel’s total land area.

The plants bring a sense of calm to the busy location. The greenery absorbs heat, provides shade and reduces the need for cooling in guest rooms. Director of marketing communi­cations Lee Kin Seng points out the hidden irrigation pipes. “A gravitational water drip system from our rooftop rainwater tank feeds nutrients and water to these plants,” he says. “When there’s no rainwater, the system switches to NEWater, Singapore’s recycled water.”

In the vast, triple-height lobby area, the lighting is mostly natural, facilitated by a shallow building depth, while high-performance glass cuts out solar heat. A few soft, yellow LED lights inside the lobby, powered by rooftop solar panels, provide additional lighting to boost the health of the indoor vertical gardens.

This was the first development in Singapore built using Cobiax technology, a system that reduces concrete usage by using recycled plastic to create hollow areas within reinforced concrete slabs. Every four floors, there is a cantilevered garden terrace jutting out of the building.

The fifth floor is a dedicated wellness space, with a pool, garden lounges and herb garden. The soaring ceiling here allows airflow and helps prevent heat gain to the upper floors. “If this area was not a garden,” Lee says, “just imagine how many rooms I could add here, to make money for the hotel.”

Stepping out of the lift, guests are greeted by an impressive outdoor corridor design, which promotes natural ventilation. Open on one side, apart from the cascading vine, the corridor wafts with the sounds and smells of vibrant Chinatown below. On the enclosed side of the veranda, vertical garden breezeways link to the next garden terrace, four levels below. Opposite a babbling creek, wooden panelled guest room doors, reminiscent of a forest, open into energy efficient rooms.

“We can’t offer huge rainwater showers, I’m afraid,” Lee says, as he opens the door to a room. “And you’ll notice we have no chandeliers.”

The hotel aims to meet the tightest controls on water and energy consumption. Guest rooms contain recycling bins and drinking water comes in glass containers. Designed to allow in daylight and thus save electricity, the floor-to-ceiling windows are not tinted, meaning guests must lower their blinds for total privacy. “We have had a few guests caught out with this,” Lee admits.

The Parkroyal on Pickering is exceptional in its environ­mental commitment, and other hotels in the Lion City are following suit. The Singapore Hotels Association encour­ages establishments to improve their environmental creden­tials with a biennial awards ceremony. The number of hotels receiving the association’s Green Hotel Award increased from 15 in 2009 to 30 in 2017.

Sustainable buildings in Singapore are assessed by the government’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) under the Green Mark scheme. Ninety-eight hotels have so far qualified at one of four sustainability levels. New buildings are required to meet minimum Green Mark standards, and events organised by public-sector agencies are held only in Green Mark-certified venues, creating impetus for hotels to go green. For existing buildings, the government offers grants of up to 50 per cent of the cost of retrofitting new technologies.

Going green can be challenging for hotels located in historic buildings, as was the case with Hotel Fort Canning. This elegant, colonial-era building is situated beside 18-hectare Fort Canning Park, an area that is central to Singapore’s history. Constructed in 1926 as the administra­tion building for the British Far East Command, the facility served many roles until, in 2011, following a major renova­tion, it became Hotel Fort Canning.

Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority protects the building’s facade, and permission was needed for alterations. Standing in the lobby, it is evident that heritage is valued here, with four glass-enclosed archaeological pits embedded in the reception floor, housing 14th- and 19th-century pottery exca­vated from Fort Canning Hill. Despite the heritage challenges, the hotel has been certified by the BCA with Green Mark “Gold Plus” – the second highest level – for its retrofitted energy and water-efficiency systems.

The hotel offers free nature tours and yoga classes in Fort Canning Park and participation in a plant-a-tree programme (and for those who don’t want to get dirty, someone to plant it for you). In 2017, the hotel was country winner in the category of Luxury Eco/Green Hotel at the World Luxury Hotel Awards.

While the number of eco-friendly hotels is rising, so too are the ways in which hotels can be green. In Singapore, 791,000 tonnes of food was thrown away in 2016, wasting this resource and causing disposal issues, according to AccorHotels. The group has pledged to tackle the problem and at its Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen hotel, general manager Ben Patten is waging war on waste.

Patten discovered that more than 80 per cent of food waste in his hotel was coming from diners’ plates. He launched a Clear Your Plate campaign in February, and for each plate left clean at the end of buffet service, committed to donate S$1 (HK$6) to charity The Food Bank Singapore.

Through a computerised system for measuring food waste, kitchen staff recorded the leftover portions. At the end of the first month, Patten says, waste was reduced by more than 10 per cent. “This translated into 1,534 clear plates, which means we made a great donation to Food Bank.”

In March, the hotel group held a competition called Recipe for Clean Plates, to encourage the reuse of leftover food in local households. People were asked to share recipes using leftover ingredients, with finalists receiving a weekend stay at an AccorHotels Singapore property.

Not only affronted by food waste, Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen also has a gripe with disposable plastic. Doing away with plastic water bottles, the hotel offers guests the choice of still or sparkling water in classy borosilicate glass bottles. Takeaway food is served in biodegradable cornstarch containers and straws are made of paper. Even the humble pen has gone plastic-free, with a disadvantaged community in Indonesia producing the property’s eco-pens from recycled materials.

“Hotels need to understand that we are having an impact in the places where we do business,” Patten says. “Our green efforts here certainly contribute to customers returning.”

And the research confirms that it pays for hotels to be genuine in their efforts. The International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management reported in 2015 that consumers became sceptical when they felt a hotel was greenwashing, and fake initiatives can backfire. For example, where a hotel offers a linen-reuse scheme, ostensibly to help the environ­ment, but persists with disposable toiletries and offers no recycling options, the consumer is less likely to trust the programme and participate, or revisit the property.

Taking this on board, AccorHotels aims to plant 10 million trees globally by 2021, funded by savings generated from the optional linen-reuse scheme. Patten is the project’s coordi­nator for Singapore and says that the initiative has also been assisting coffee farmers in Indonesia since 2012. He explains that North Sumatra produces outstanding, certified sustain­able Arabica coffee. “This year, we are very excited to close the loop,” he says. “We can now buy this coffee, which we’ve helped to grow, and which has bettered the lives of Indonesian families.”

Guests will be able to see – and drink – the benefits of the savings made through linen reuse.

Another way to improve a hotel’s sustainability is to consi­der the source of the food it serves. At Grand Hyatt Singapore, the director of culinary operations for Southeast Asia, Lucas Glanville, explains his passion for sustainable food. “We produce between 3,000 and 5,000 meals per day, so it’s incredibly important that we provide accountable ingredients,” he says.

The hotel started its sustain­ability journey with seafood, becoming one of the first in the world to receive Chain of Custody Certification from the Marine Stewardship Council, meaning that the entire supply chain, from fisherman to restaurant, must be sustainable. Glanville says the hotel eschews a two-tiered menu system, wherein some seafood is sustainable and some is not. “It’s our problem to work out how to supply sustainable food, even if it comes at an increased cost,” he says. “We can reduce our margins or offer great value alternatives such as plant-based foods.”

Glanville says the hotel has removed all shark fin, bluefin tuna and soft-shell crab from its menus. Certain preparations of soft-shell crab require cutting away the eye and mouth area while the creature is alive. “I don’t think that’s right, so we removed that product until a more humane way is found,” he says.

An organic farm on the other side of the Malaysian border, in the nearby Cameron Highlands, supplies cool-climate vegetables, lowering the carbon footprint. Some food even comes from the roof of the Hyatt’s ballroom, which has been transformed into a garden.

As we stroll through this sanctuary, Glanville points to thriving basil, mint, laksa leaf and curry plants. Unruly tufts of lemongrass infuse the air with a refreshing scent and bunches of green bananas soften the high-rise view. While production here is not on a commercial scale, he explains, the hotel’s chefs treasure this connection to fresh produce.

A digester has been installed in the Grand Hyatt’s base­ment to process food waste into organic fertiliser. Through 300 metres of piping, each food preparation area in the hotel is connected to the machine. An enzyme is added to the food pulp, along with heat and recycled cardboard, and after 24 hours in the digester, the fertiliser is ready for the hotel’s gardens or to be sold. The digester prevents 400 tonnes of food waste going to landfill every year, saving the hotel about S$100,000 (HK$600,000) on removal costs, and 55,000 rubbish bags per year. The hotel has also become the first in the world to invest in a trigeneration plant, which produces 30 per cent of its electricity and reduces carbon emissions by nearly 1,200 tonnes per year.

Hotels continue to be large consumers of resour­ces, but the industry has the power to reduce carbon footprints. For their part, tourists can choose greener stays and expose greenwashing when they encounter it.

“People usually embrace green initiatives,” Glanville says. “There’s a limited supply of resources on our planet. Hotels are big consumers and we are all responsible for our actions.”

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Side-loader recycling trucks reduce manpower needed during collection

Loh Chuan Junn Channel NewsAsia 21 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: Trucks with side-mounted lifting mechanisms will be collecting recyclables from Housing & Development Board (HDB) estates in the Ang Mo Kio-Toa Payoh and Jurong districts for one year, under a trial programme that will reduce the manpower needed for the collection process.

Currently, recyclables within HDB estates are collected using rear-end-loader trucks. These trucks are manned by one driver and two workers whose task is to push the blue recycling bins into truck for emptying.

The new side-loader trucks, however, will only require one worker- the driver, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced on Saturday (April 21).

“The use of side-loader trucks is an opportunity to upskill workers in the environmental services (ES) industry and improve the productivity of recyclables collection through the adoption of technology,” said NEA chief executive officer Ronnie Tay.

“It is also an example of what job redesign can look like in the ES industry, to adapt to the changing circumstances and the needs of the environment,” Mr Tay added.

The trial commenced in the Ang Mo Kio–Toa Payoh sector on Friday, and will be implemented in the Jurong area on May 2.

Recyclables from 223 HDB blocks will be involved in the trials - 90 blocks in the Ang Mo Kio-Toa Payoh sector and 133 blocks in the Jurong sector, NEA said.

Along with the introduction of the side-loader trucks are new blue recycling bins, which are about three times the capacity of the current 660-litre receptacles.

The bigger and taller bins will prevent recyclables from overflowing and reduce pilfering, thereby enhancing the overall cleanliness and tidiness of the area around the recycling bins, said NEA.

Wheels have not been fitted on the new bins, in order to prevent the unauthorised shifting of the receptacles, the agency added.

The side-loader truck collection system has previously been successfully deployed in countries such as Italy, Spain and Australia.

In this system, the driver of the truck need only activate the vehicle’s lifting mechanism to collect automatically lift the compatible recycling bin and offload the recyclables into the truck’s storage compartment.

An on-board weighing system tracks the weight of recyclables collected.

The side-loader truck collection system is part of initiatives under the environmental services Industry Transformation Map launched in December last year.

Source: CNA/aj

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Students called on to reduce carbon footprint to fight climate change

Straits Times 20 Apr 18;

Schools and young people are being pushed to reduce their carbon footprint this year as part of the Year of Climate Action in Singapore.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, called on students to recycle waste and reduce consumption on Youth for the Environment Day on Friday (April 20), held at ITE College Central.

"Climate change affects Singapore very badly," he said. "In about 80 years from now, scientists have predicted that in Singapore, the sea levels will rise by at least one metre."

Among things students could do were switching off electrical appliances when not in use and buying only the items they needed.

During the event, Mr Masagos and a panel of five secondary school students discussed how young Singaporeans could take action to fight climate change. All five were leaders of the environmental clubs in their respective schools.

The students voiced concerns that while teenagers knew about the impact of climate change, many were reluctant to do much about it as it would affect their daily lives.

For instance, recycling waste at home would mean they had to separate food waste from other types of waste like paper - which some considered a hassle.

They also discussed their schools' environmental initiatives. For example, Dunman High School's Gan Rui Yi mentioned that students there collected discarded orange peel to turn into detergent, while Lim Yang Zhi from River Valley High School spoke on a schoolwide bingo event to get students involved in environmentally-friendly efforts like using their own containers for takeout food and setting the air-conditioner temperature to 25 degree Celsius , held this week to commemorate Earth Day.

Yang Zhi, also the president of his school's Eco-Sustainability Leadership Academy, said that an area he felt could be improved in his school was electricity usage.

"In our tutorial rooms, we lower the temperature of the air-conditioner because it's too hot. But after we do that, we wear our jackets," he said.

Some 239 student leaders from 77 participating primary and secondary schools participated.

Separately, the National Environment Agency also launched the Climate Action Challenge, in which schools are encouraged to send creative photos or video submissions demonstrating how climate action can be part of their students' daily lives in terms of practising the 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle - and using electricity efficiently.

Schools also received a guide to conducting climate action-related activities.

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Singapore to set up first seed bank

Amelia Teng Straits Times 21 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - Singapore will have its first seed bank next year, storing seeds of up to 25,000 plant species, in an effort to protect local and regional plant diversity.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens Seed Bank will be set up by the National Parks Board (NParks) in House 4, the largest of the five colonial-style houses within the former Raffles College.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who announced the initiative on Saturday (April 21), said that seed banking is a form of insurance for plant biodiversity.

"It ensures that seeds will be available in future for research and restoration projects," he said, adding that it will enable the Botanic Gardens to support species reintroduction efforts throughout the region.

He was speaking at the opening of the inaugural Singapore Garden Festival Orchid Show at the Botanic Gardens, where more than 100 varieties of award-winning and heritage orchids are on display.

The seed bank will house a seed biology lab, rooms for seed processing and storage freezers. It will also have galleries for visitors to learn about seed banking and conservation work.

Work is expected to start later this year and be completed by mid-2019. It will have the capacity to store seeds from up to 25,000 species, nearly triple the 9,000 living plant species in the Gardens.

The orchid collection of Mr Russell Tan (left, with the Dendrobium Cherry Song "Bing Wei") includes the Dendrobium Caesar (above) and a peloric form of a Dendrobium hybrid (far left).
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Rare orchids in bloom at new Singapore Garden Festival show
This is also half the total number of seed plant species in Southeast Asia.

The seed bank hopes to obtain 100 seed collections every year.

HSBC has donated $103,000 to kickstart the development of the facility.

The nine-day orchid show is the first part of the Singapore Garden Festival, which has expanded its format to include a main show at Gardens by the Bay in July, and a horticulture show next year.

More than 700 of the region's best orchid plants were submitted by breeders for the show, and 38 trophies were given out on Saturday.

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AVA finds turtles in home of man who was caught with hidden tortoise at checkpoint

Lydia Lam Straits Times 20 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has found more illegal wildlife in the home of a man who was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint with a leopard tortoise in his vehicle.

The man had been stopped by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers just after midnight last Friday (April 13).

Officers found a leopard tortoise hidden in an eyewear case in his glove compartment.

That same day, AVA conducted follow-up checks at the man's home and found a tortoise and three turtles, which are not approved pets. The animals found were an African spurred tortoise, a Mekong snail-eating turtle, a razor-backed musk turtle and a snake-necked turtle.

The animals were seized and placed in the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, AVA said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

AVA added that the leopard tortoise found in the car, as well as some of the reptiles found in the man's home, are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

Keeping wild animals is an offence in Singapore.

If found guilty, offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and have the animals forfeited.

If the species of the wildlife is protected under Cites, offenders found in possession of, or found selling illegally imported animals, can be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $500,000.

ICA had also found contraband cigarettes, e-cigarettes and related accessories in the man's car.

He was given a compound fine of $300 by Singapore Customs for the offence of failure to declare cigarettes and referred to AVA and the Health Sciences Authority for further investigations.

ICA officers uncover leopard tortoise, contraband cigarettes, e-cigarettes in car at Woodlands
Charmaine Ng Straits Times 19 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - A leopard tortoise was discovered hidden in an eyewear case tucked in the glove compartment of a car entering Singapore last Friday (April 13).

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers uncovered the reptile at Woodlands Checkpoint at around midnight inside the Singapore-registered car, said ICA in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Duty-unpaid cigarettes as well as e-cigarettes and related accessories were also uncovered from other parts of the car, added ICA.

The driver was compounded $300 by Singapore Customs for failing to declare the cigarettes, ICA said.

He was also referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the Health Sciences Authority for further investigations.

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Indonesia: Footing Bill for Environmental Damage from Pertamina Oil Spill

Tempo 20 Apr 18;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Greenomics Indonesia, a social institution which focuses on environmental economics, had put a number on the amount of losses which resulted from the crude oil spill from a Pertamina pipeline which passes along the bottom of Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan, on Saturday three weeks ago.

A Director-General of Law Enforcement of the Environment and Forestry Ministry Royas Rasio Ridho Sani is known was angry because Greenomics had come up with the figure prematurely. He was concerned that this would make things more difficult for the Environment Ministry, which was in the process of calculating the damage to the environment which had resulted from the Pertamina oil spill. "If our demands are lower than the figure from Greenomics, there will be an uproar," said Roy in his office at the Environment Ministry in Jakarta. On the other hand, if the figure reached by the Ministry is higher, Roy is concerned that the difference could be exploited to reduce the credibility of their calculation.

In their release on Wednesday last week, Greenomics stated that the Pertamina oil spill in the waters of Balikpapan Bay was equivalent to an area 20,000 times larger than Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. The minimum amount of ecological damage was said to be US$8.27 billion, or about Rp110.428 trillion at a US dollar exchange rate of Rp13,700. Their calculation used a benefit transfer approach which referred to the monetary value of several of the main components of the maritime and mangrove ecosystem. "This calculation used an international standard of methodology to quickly provide an initial estimate," said Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia.

Vanda¡'s estimate came two weeks after government investigators and experts of the Environment and Forestry Ministry had begun to scour Balikpapan Bay and vicinity. The investigators took seawater and sediment samples from 18 points over a span of two weeks. Seawater samples were taken from 15 locations and sediment samples were taken from three locations. In addition to taking samples, investigators and experts examined conditions on land in the city of Balikpapan and at the North Penajam Paser Regency, two areas which are separated by Balikpapan Bay. Investigators required water and sediment samples in order to measure the level of pollution and environmental damage.

The impact of the spill was also assessed by the Environment Ministry starting on Saturday three weeks ago. The area was scanned just an hour after a coal cargo ship sailing under the flag of Panama, the MV EverJudger, caught fire in Balikpapan Bay. "At that time the closest team was in Samarinda," said Roy. In order to search a larger area, the Environment Ministry wanted to use a large fixed-wing drone to capture images of the sea from the atmosphere. "Unfortunately, we were not authorized to fly because it was in a civil aviation area." The bay is indeed close to flight routes around Sepinggan Airport, Balikpapan.

How much will Pertamina have to pay due to this disaster? Pertamina Company Secretary Adiatma Sardjito said that the company is still focusing on cleaning up the oil spill. Pertamina, according to him, has not yet calculated the potential losses resulting from the oil spill and other burdens. "We are still focusing on social and environmental recovery," said Adiatma, on Friday last week.

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Indonesia: Tiger roams Jambi village, haunts villagers

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 20 Apr 18;

Residents of Lubuk Tabun village in Kerinci, Jambi, are in grip of fear amid reports of a tiger roaming their farms.

“The tiger has devoured five villagers’ dogs,” Udin Awaludin, a Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency official said on Friday.

The agency and the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS), the tiger’s habitat, have set up a team to monitor the tiger’s movement. It concluded that it was unnecessary to catch the tiger.

“Our team will use a bamboo canon to scare the tiger away,” Udin said.

The tiger has reportedly fled to the production forest in Kerinci, but the team has been standing by to ensure it does not return.

Human-wildlife conflict is common in Indonesia due to deforestation and human encroachment on the nation’s national parks. (ahw)

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Best of our wild blogs: 20 Apr 18

Living seagrass meadows of Changi
wild shores of singapore

6 May (Sun): R.U.M. mangroves and coastal cleanup
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

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Green the colour of money where property is concerned?

Rachel Au-Yong Straits Times 20 Apr 18;

Live near a park or trees blooming with flowers? Your HDB flat might fetch up to 3 per cent more, a study has found.

Reviewing the resale prices of 15,962 HDB flats sold from April 2013 to April 2014, it found, on average, $11,200 of a flat's price could be attributed to green spaces within 1.6km. This was after taking into account other aspects about the flat, including its size, proximity to good schools and age.

The study, released yesterday, did not cite any specific examples.

Mr Richard Belcher from the Future Cities Laboratory at Singapore-ETH Centre, and National University of Singapore biological scientist Ryan Chrisholm estimated the presence of green spaces could account for $179 million in value of all homes sold during that period.

This positive effect came almost entirely from managed vegetation such as public parks and trees surrounding the estate.

"These results vindicate Singapore's policy of providing extensive green spaces for residents' recreation, and could encourage the provision of more green spaces in tropical cities worldwide," said Assistant Professor Chisholm.

But the effect was varied for apartments near natural vegetation, such as forests, mangroves or marshes. Buyers seemed to value such properties only when there was relatively little managed vegetation nearby, the researchers said.

HDB resale prices fell 0.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, an acceleration from the price decline of 0.2 per cent seen in the previous three months.

The lower value placed on the proximity of such "high conservation value forests" suggests the Garden City should educate citizens on the benefits of living close to natural ecosystems, said Mr Belcher. This includes lower surface and air temperatures, thanks to the forest's shade which, in turn, reduces the need for air-conditioning.

But property analysts downplay the "green premium", saying that while it could add a little value, all things being equal, it would be so small as to be negligible.

Said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim: "The condition of the flat is probably a more important factor. If parks and trees also enhance the living environment, then perhaps you can get a better price but it will not be significant."

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said a study tracking resale prices over several years would be more useful.

The researchers also recommended that new public towns be located away from areas identified for conservation, and should continue to provide high quantities of managed vegetation.

HDB works with other agencies to integrate parks and waterways with the living environment, and implements "greening solutions" such as on rooftops and vertical facades to reduce heat emissions from building surfaces.

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Indonesia: Giant plastic 'berg blocks Indonesian river

David Shukman BBC 19 Apr 18;

Like other developing countries, Indonesia is wrestling with an acute plastic waste problem
A crisis of plastic waste in Indonesia has become so acute that the army has been called in to help.

Rivers and canals are clogged with dense masses of bottles, bags and other plastic packaging.

Officials say they are engaged in a "battle" against waste that accumulates as quickly as they clear it.

The commander of a military unit in the city of Bandung described it as "our biggest enemy".

Like many rapidly developing countries, Indonesia has become notorious for struggling to cope with mountains of rubbish.

A population boom has combined with an explosive spread of plastic containers and wrapping replacing natural biodegradable packaging such as banana leaves.

The result is that local authorities trying to provide rubbish collection have been unable to keep up with the dramatic expansion of waste generated.

And a longstanding culture of throwing rubbish into ditches and streams has meant that any attempt to clean up needs a massive shift in public opinion.

'Shocking sight'

In Bandung, Indonesia's third largest city, we witnessed the shocking sight of a concentration of plastic waste so thick that it looked like an iceberg and blocked a major tributary.

Soldiers deployed on a barge used nets to try to extract bags, Styrofoam food boxes and bottles, a seemingly futile task because all the time more plastic flowed their way from further upstream.

The senior official in charge, Dr Anang Sudarna, who heads the West Java Environmental Protection Agency, told me that the problem was "impossible to sort out without the highest authority".

That's why he took the drastic step of appealing to the Indonesian president to send in the army, and the move has made some difference, according to Dr Sudarna.

"The result is a little bit improved…but I am angry, I am sad, I am trying to think how best to solve this... the most difficult thing is the people's attitude and the political will."

Frontal assault

For Sergeant Sugito, commanding an army unit, the assignment was new and unusual and "not as easy as flipping your hand".

"My current enemy is not a combat enemy, what I am fighting very hard now is rubbish, it is our biggest enemy."

But he also said that plastic should be recognised as valuable - "for example, plastic cartons and drinking bottles can be separated from the other rubbish and sold", he said.

Encouraging people to see plastic as a resource is a key step towards finding a solution to the crisis.

To encourage recycling, the authorities in the Bandung area are supporting initiatives in "eco-villages" where residents can bring old plastic items and earn small amounts of money in exchange.

The plastics are then divided by type. In one project we visited, two women patiently cut apart bottles and small water cups because separating the different kinds of polymers earns higher prices.

Officials are optimistic that word will spread that plastic has value - and raise awareness of the plastic waste problem - but they also admit privately that many residents are either uninterested or cannot see the point.

Meanwhile, on Bandung's only landfill site - which receives only a fraction of the waste the city produces - an unofficial form of recycling is under way.

Next generation

On a hillside buried in rubbish, amid an overwhelming stench in the tropical heat, 500 so-called "scavengers" search each new load of rubbish for plastic products.

When I asked one man, scrambling from the path of an excavator, what he was looking for, he reached into a bag and held up a plastic bottle.

The work is punishing but generates income which supports entire families living on the dump, and it also demonstrates that there is a market for recycled plastic and more could be done to serve it.

For one activist working to change attitudes, Mohamad Bijaksana Junerosano of Greeneration, the solution has to involve law enforcement, education and social awareness.

Investment was needed to teach children about waste and recycling, he said, but that had to be done in combination with improvements in public attitudes.

"If we educate the student, when they go outside the school and the ecosystem is still broken and people are littering everywhere, they are confused so it needs both sides, education and also law enforcement by society."

Monumental scale

A Dutch environmental scientist, Prof Ad Ragas of Radboud University, with long experience of Indonesia's plastic problem, told me he has detected an important shift in the authorities.

Two years ago, when he organised a workshop on plastic pollution in Bandung, "government officials didn't seem to care about it, they didn't see it as a really big problem".

By contrast, at another workshop held last month, "it's changed dramatically".

Social media, rapidly conveying images of choked waterways, had made a difference to people, he said.

"They immediately see that 'this is what my river look likes now and I'm doing that because I'm throwing all this plastic away' so they get feedback much quicker than they used to."

But the challenge is not only monumental in scale; it is also constant.

The soldiers we filmed had planned to load the plastic onto trucks but because the vehicles never arrived they decided on a different course of action: to use a digger to push the waste downstream.

I asked the sergeant what would happen to it. It was up to another unit to collect, he said. It became someone else's problem.

Near the coast, just outside the capital Jakarta, we came across a canal that was totally blocked with plastic. Local residents complained that whenever they tried to clear it, more arrived from upstream, as in Bandung.

Most apocalyptic of all was the scene at a fishing village on the coast itself. The mud of the shoreline was completely hidden by a thick layer of plastic waste stretching over hundreds of metres.

On a walkway crossing over the sea of plastic was a small girl playing with a balloon. By the time Indonesia's plastic nightmare is sorted, she may well have grown up.

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Best of our wild blogs: 19 Apr 18

St John’s Island Trail and Marine Park Centre closed until further notice
Sisters' Island Marine Park

Cyrene surprised in the morning
wild shores of singapore

6 May (Sun): Mangrove cleanup at Pulau Ubin
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Do your part to clean up marine trash? Remember YOUR SAFETY first!
Mei Lin NEO

Fri 27 Apr 2018: 7.00pm, Lepak SG presents a panel on “Treasures of our shores”
Otterman speaks

Show love for our forests on International Day of Forests
People's Movement to Stop Haze

Pathways to sustainability for small holders
People's Movement to Stop Haze

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