Malaysia: Port of Tg Pelepas files RM31.9mil oil spill damage suit

M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR The Star 20 Jul 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Port operator Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas Sdn Bhd (PTP) has filed a suit seeking RM31.86mil plus interest for losses due to an oil spill at PTP’s premises from tanker MV Trident Star in August last year.

MMC Corp Bhd, which owns 70% equity interest in PTP, told Bursa Malaysia that PTP had filed in rem (against a vessel) and personam (against a person) writ on Tuesday against Rising Star Shipping Sdn Bhd - the beneficial owner of the ship - and The Shipowners’ Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association (Luxembourg) Singapore branch (the Club).

The Club is a mutual insurance association which offers protection and indemnity insurance to vessels’ owners, operators and charterers worldwide.

PTP, the claimant, operates and maintains Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor as well as providing port facilities and other related services.

MMC said at about 7am on Aug 24, 2016, at about 7am, Trident Star was berthing at ATT Tanjung Bin Terminal and, in the course of loading a cargo of 2,500 metric tonnes of marine fuel oil, there was an overflow from one of its tanks onto the upper deck of the vessel which subsequently spilled into the sea.

“The oil spill thereafter spread out into the adjacent waters and towards PTP’s premises causing oil pollution damage. As a result, PTP suffered various and substantial losses,” it said.

Besides RM31.86mil being PTP’s losses from the incident, PTP is seeking interest at a rate of 5% per year from the date of the start of the suit until the full and final payment as well as costs and other reliefs.

Rising Star had earlierm on Feb 17, obtained a declaration from the Kuala Lumpur High Court limiting its liability to a maximum of 4.51 million Special Drawing Rights (equivalent to about RM25mil.

“The filing of in rem and in personam writ herein is to therefore secure the interest and right of PTP towards the fund. Any amount in excess of the fund will be claimed against the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund in London,” MMC said.

According to MMC, the proceedings are not expected to have any material impact on the group’s earnings, net assets or gearing for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2017.

Read more!

Scale of pangolin slaughter revealed – millions hunted in central Africa alone

Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked wild mammal and decimated Asian populations have sharply shifted the focus of exploitation to Africa
Damian Carrington The Guardian 20 Jul 17;

The true scale of the slaughter of pangolins in Africa has been revealed by new research showing that millions of the scaly mammals are being hunted and killed.

Pangolins were already known to be the world’s most trafficked wild mammal, with at least a million being traded in the last decade to supply the demand for its meat and scales in Asian markets. Populations of Asian pangolins have been decimated, leaving the creatures highly endangered and sharply shifting the focus of exploitation to Africa’s four species.

Pangolins are secretive, nocturnal and some species live in trees, making them very hard to count and the total size of the populations in Africa is unknown. But the new analysis, based on data collected by hundreds of local researchers at scores of hunting sites and bushmeat markets across central and west Africa, found up to 2.7m are being killed every year, with the most conservative estimate being 400,000 a year.

“The number is definitely shocking,” said Daniel Ingram, at the University of Sussex, UK, and who led the research team. “Pangolins have been hunted out of many areas in Asia and recent analyses show there is a growing international trade between Africa and Asia. If we don’t act now to better understand and protect these charismatic animals, we may lose them.”

Pangolins curl up into a scaly ball when threatened, which defeats natural predators like lions but is no defence against human hunters. The researchers found half the animals had been snared or trapped, despite wire snares being illegal in most of the 14 central African nations analysed in the research.

The analysis, published in the journal Conservation Letters, also found that almost half of the pangolins killed were juveniles, an indicator that the populations are being dangerously overexploited as animals are being caught before they can reproduce. This is particularly harmful as pangolins are slow breeding and produce only a single pup every year or two.

The new estimates of pangolins killed are likely to be minimum numbers as they included only three of Africa’s four pangolins, the giant, white-bellied and black-bellied species. The fourth, the cape pangolin, lives in southern and eastern Africa, outside the study area.

Furthermore, it is illegal to kill giant pangolins in all the countries, meaning not all the illicit trade in the animals will be included in the estimates. The giant pangolins are particularly sought after and the researchers found the price demanded in urban markets has soared almost six times since the 1990s. They also found hunting of the African pangolins in 2014 was 150% higher than in the 1970s.

Richard Thomas, from the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said very little had been known about pangolin populations in central and west Africa. He also pointed the “remarkable regularity” of major pangolin seizures. In June alone, Malaysian authorities seized three big shipments of pangolin scales, each representing many thousands of animals and originating from Africa.

A total ban on the international trade in any pangolin species was passed by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species in September. But Ingram said the enforcement of both international and national laws had to be increased to prevent African pangolins following their Asian cousins on the path to extinction.

The demand in Asia for pangolin meat and scales as delicacies and supposed medicinal uses is a major factor in cross-border trade but a significant proportion of African pangolins are eaten locally. Ingram said that measures are also needed to develop alternative livelihoods for African hunters of pangolin, but he believes there is still enough time left to act: “I am optimistic that something can be done.”

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 20 Jul 17

2017 edition: Diary of Spotted Wood owl family
wild shores of singapore

Read more!

Oil slicks spotted at East Coast Park beach

Tan Tam Mei and Lim Yaohui Straits Times 19 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE- The usually scenic sea view of East Coast Park was stained with slicks of black oil along the shore and waters on Wednesday (July 19) evening.

When The Straits Times arrived at the stretch of affected shoreline near Carpark F2, there was a greasy smell in the air. Black patches of oil were also seen along the beach and were estimated to affect a stretch of about 300m.

Contractors from the National Environment Agency (NEA) were also spotted near the affected beach area.
Mr Daniel Tong, 43, assistant operations director of De-Prospero, which runs restaurant Central Thainearby, said he first noticed the smell of "raw oil" at around 5.30pm.

"I was walking past when I saw the oil spill that was around the break of the waves," he said.

He added that business at the restaurant, which has an alfresco dining area and is located about 50m from the affected stretch, was slightly affected as patrons were bothered by the smell.

"Hopefully this can be taken care of soon because it's not good for the environment," said Mr Tong.

ST has reached out to NEA and the Marine Port Authority for comment.

Updated 19 Jul 2017 evening:

In a statement on Wednesday night, NEA said that its officers found a section of the shoreline of East Coast Beach "to be affected by an oil patch".

"Clean-up operations at the affected 400m stretch of East Coast Beach will commence tomorrow morning at first light," said a spokesman.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was alerted to the incident at 5.42pm on Wednesday. At that time, it was informed that "oil was sighted along the beach east of Bedok Jetty", said a spokesman.

"MPA has deployed patrol boats with oil dispersants along the area. There has been no sightings of oil found at sea. We are currently investigating the situation," he added.

Mr Daniel Tong, 43, assistant operations director of De-Prospero, which runs restaurant Central Thai nearby, said he first noticed the smell of "raw oil" at around 5.30pm.

"I was walking past when I saw the 'oil spill' that was around the break of the waves," he said.

He added that business at the restaurant, which has an alfresco dining area and is located about 50m from the affected stretch, was slightly affected as patrons were bothered by the smell.

"Hopefully this can be taken care of soon because it's not good for the environment," said Mr Tong.

Meanwhile, people are advised to exercise caution when visiting the beach, and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are ongoing, said the NEA spokesman, adding that the agency is also "closely monitoring the quality of the seawater".

Oil slick tars stretch of East Coast Park
A 400m-long portion of beach area affected, clean-up operations will start at first light today
Tan Tam Mei Straits Times 20 Jul 17;

Black patches of oil washed up on a stretch of East Coast Park yesterday, leaving parts of both the shoreline and waters covered with the substance.

When The Straits Times arrived at the stretch of affected shoreline near Carpark F2, there was a greasy smell in the air.

Contractors from the National Environment Agency (NEA) were spotted near the affected beach area - which NEA said was about 400m long.

Mr Daniel Tong, 43, assistant operations director of De-Prospero, which runs the Central Thai restaurant nearby, said he first noticed the smell of "raw oil" at around 5.30pm yesterday. "I was walking past when I saw the oil around the break of the waves," he said.

He added that business at the restaurant, which has an alfresco dining area and is located about 50m from the affected stretch, was slightly affected as patrons were bothered by the smell.

"Hopefully this can be taken care of soon because it's not good for the environment," said Mr Tong.

Business adviser Guo Yanhuai, in his 50s, was jogging along the track at East Coast Park when he, too, noticed the smell. He discovered the black patches of oil when he headed towards the beach to investigate.

NEA said that clean-up operations will start today "at first light".

"Members of the public are advised to exercise caution when visiting this section of the beach and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are on-going. NEA is also closely monitoring the quality of the seawater," said the NEA spokesman.

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said it was alerted at 5.42pm to the incident. It said in a statement: "MPA has deployed patrol boats with oil dispersants along the area. There has been no sighting of oil found at sea. We are investigating the situation."

•Additional reporting by Lim Yao Hui

Clean-up operations at East Coast Park begin after beach was tarred by oil slick
Felicia Choo Straits Times 20 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE - Clean-up operations have started at East Coast Park, where a 400m section of the beach was covered with an oil slick on Wednesday (July 19).

When The Straits Times visited the affected area at around 8am on Thursday (July 20), workers were seen shovelling the sand covered by oil into wheelbarrows and transferring them into bags.

A spokesman for the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday that "members of the public are advised to exercise caution when visiting this section of the beach and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are ongoing".

It added that it was closely monitoring the quality of the seawater.

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said it was alerted at 5.42pm on Wednesday to the incident. It said in a statement: "MPA has deployed patrol boats with oil dispersants along the area. There has been no sighting of oil found at sea. We are investigating the situation."

The Straits Times has contacted NEA and MPA for updates on the situation.

In January, an oil spill affected beaches here when two vessels collided near Pasir Gudang Port in Johor. Beaches at Changi, Punggol and Pasir Ris, as well as Pulau Ubin and Coney Island were all affected. More than 200 personnel were involved in the cleanup.

NEA cleaning up oil spill at East Coast Park beach
Channel NewsAsia 20 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Clean-up operations at East Coast Park began on Thursday (Jul 20) after an oil slick was found at a 400m section of the beach, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

NEA officers found the oil patch on Wednesday and started the clean-up on Thursday at first light.

A spokesman advised members of the public to exercise caution when visiting this stretch of the beach and to avoid the affected sections while cleaning operations are ongoing.

NEA is also closely monitoring the quality of the seawater, it said.

East Coast Park beach reopened after oil spill clean-up
Channel NewsAsia 20 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: An oil slick at East Coast Beach has been cleaned up, and the affected section of the beach is once again open to the public, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Thursday (Jul 20) evening.

Reader Chris Ngu tweeted pictures of the slick to Channel NewsAsia, saying he had been at the beach at about 5.30pm on Wednesday evening.

Authorities were notified of the oil slick on Wednesday evening, and NEA officers started the clean-up at first light on Thursday.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was alerted to the incident at 5.40pm on Wednesday and that it immediately sent four patrol boats with oil dispersants to the area.

An NEA spokesman earlier advised members of the public to exercise caution when visiting the beach and to avoid the affected stretches where clean-up operations were ongoing.

NEA was closely monitoring the quality of the sea water, he added.

MPA said it is investigating the situation and that there have been no sightings of oil at sea.

Oil slick at East Coast Park: Affected section of beach re-opened after cleanup operation
Felicia Choo Straits Times 20 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE - The section of East Coast Beach, which had been tarred by an oil slick since Wednesday, has been re-opened to the public.

In an update on its website and Facebook page on Thursday (July 20), the National Environment Agency (NEA) said cleaning operations at the affected stretch of East Coast Beach, near Car Park F2 and the Bougainvillea Garden, has been completed.

It said test results have shown that the seawater quality is normal, and added that it is monitoring the situation closely.

The post was uploaded at 5pm.

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said it was alerted at 5.42pm on Wednesday to the incident.

It said in a statement: "MPA has deployed patrol boats with oil dispersants along the area. There has been no sighting of oil found at sea. We are investigating the situation."

Clean-up operations started on Thursday morning at the beach, where a 400m section of the shoreline was affected by the oil patch.

When The Straits Times visited the affected area at around 8am on Thursday, workers were seen shovelling the sand covered by oil into wheelbarrows and transferring them into bags.

The affected stretch of East Coast Beach near Car Park F2 and the Bougainvillea Garden was temporarily closed to beach-goers to facilitate the clean-up of the affected area by NEA's contractors.

In January, an oil spill affected beaches here when two vessels collided near Pasir Gudang Port in Johor. Beaches at Changi, Punggol and Pasir Ris, as well as Pulau Ubin and Coney Island were all affected. More than 200 personnel were involved in the clean-up.

Read more!

Century-old heritage road in way of Tengah air base expansion

But portions of Lim Chu Kang road could yet survive if ways are found to retain them
Toh Wen Li Straits Times 20 Jul 17;

Parts of a century-old road may have to be sacrificed to make way for the Tengah Air Base expansion.

However, portions of the Lim Chu Kang heritage road could yet survive, with The Straits Times understanding that the authorities are looking at how they can be retained.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said that Lim Chu Kang Road will be realigned to make way for a bigger air base.

It told The Straits Times yesterday that construction of the new road is expected to begin by next year. When the 9km road is completed, the existing Lim Chu Kang Road will be closed and traffic will be diverted to the new one.

Lim Chu Kang Road is home to one of Singapore's five heritage roads, stretching 1.8km from the Sungei Gedong Road junction to the junction of Ama Keng Road.

It will be the first heritage road to have trees removed or transplanted as a result of urban developments. These roads were gazetted in 2006 and are characterised by their tall, mature walls of vegetation and overarching tree canopies.

Lim Chu Kang Road at the junction of Sungei Gedong Road and Ama Keng Road

The Lim Chu Kang heritage road, now lined with some 330 trees, was built in the 1800s to serve the gambier, pepper and rubber plantations in the north-western countryside. As the population in the area grew, it served as a link between the villages and the city-bound roads of Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Timah.

Today, the heritage road's green buffer, spanning 10m on both sides, is dominated by Broad-leafed Mahogany (Swietenia macophylla), a common roadside tree, and self-sown exotic tree species such as the Albizia and African Tulip.

A spokesman for MND and National Parks Board (NParks) said mitigation strategies could include transplanting affected trees to the new road where possible.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society (Singapore), said of the realignment: "At face value, we are looking at aesthetic loss, and some limited localised biodiversity impact if we do lose habitat."

But "anywhere where wildlife can make a home has value".

The fast-growing Albizia, for instance, is often a home for woodpeckers, parrots and eagles.

Dr Lum said a survey should be done to assess what sorts of wildlife are in the area - and if these include endangered species such as pangolins and leopard cats, both found in nearby Jalan Bahar.

The imminent realignment of Lim Chu Kang Road is part of an ongoing trade-off between nature and development in Singapore.

In March, The Straits Times reported that 10,000 to 13,000 trees could be removed over the next 15 years to make way for transport and housing projects.

NParks stressed that all the affected trees would be replaced at least one-for-one.

Dollah Kassim’s grave among those slated for exhumation
KELLY NG Today Online 20 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — The graves of a local football icon and a former politician known for his anti-drug advocacy work are among those slated for exhumation at Choa Chu Kang cemetery to make way for the expansion of Tengah Air Base.

Abdullah Mohamed Kassim, who died in October 2010, rests in a tomb adorned with a bunch of red flowers and a miniature football pitch formed out of grey and white stones on top of the structure.

Better known as Dollah Kassim, he represented Singapore between 1968 and 1981, playing centre-forward, and was nicknamed “gelek king” for his graceful and deceptive dribbling.

Dollah, a respected legend in the region and one of the Republic’s star strikers in the 1970s, suffered a heart attack in October 2009, while playing in a veterans’ exhibition match. He died at 61, after spending a year in a coma.

Like Dollah, Harun A. Ghani, a former Member of Parliament and political secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry, was laid to rest at one of the 30,000 Muslim graves that will be exhumed at a later date, after they reach the 15-year burial limit.

Harun, who died aged 66 in August 2005, was known for leading the charge in the war against drugs in the Malay community.

He pioneered “meet-the-family” sessions, which have become a key component in rehabilitating former drug addicts and other ex-offenders.

He was often spotted at coffee shops counselling former abusers and their family members.

In 2005, an education fund dedicated to assisting families struggling with consequences of drug addiction was set up in Harun’s memory.

A total of 80,500 Chinese and Muslim graves, dated between 1955 and 2000, will be exhumed progressively to make way for the air base’s expansion. The first to go will be 5,000 Muslim graves across two blocks in the fourth quarter of next year.

TODAY understands that some families have already sought clarifications from the National Environment Agency and Islamic Religious Council of Singapore regarding the exhumation of their ancestors’ graves.

Heritage enthusiast Raymond Goh said many of the Republic’s founding fathers who died between 1946 and 1978 would have had their graves exhumed in earlier phases.

Mr Goh — who has embarked on an extensive documentation of graves at the Bukit Brown cemetery with his brother Charles — urged the authorities to work with the claimants to document the graves before they are exhumed.

“There is a lot you can uncover about the person’s genealogy and ancestry from the inscriptions on the graves,” said the 53-year-old pharmacist.

Prior to exhumation of graves at the Bukit Brown cemetery to make way for road developments, the Government worked with key stakeholders.

These included Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, The Peranakan Association of Singapore, Singapore Heritage Society, academics and grave experts, to document the graves, as well as memories and rituals associated with the cemetery.

Kranji farmers optimistic about alternative routes to countryside
NG SIQI KELLY Today Online 20 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Any realignment of Lim Chu Kang Road for the expansion of Tengah Air Base could mean more hassle getting to the Kranji Countryside, but farms and businesses there are not fretting just yet.

After Tuesday’s announcement by the authorities that more than 80,000 graves, three fish farms and a nursery will make way for the airbase’s expansion, property analysts wondered whether any partial closure of Lim Chu Kang Road would mean a big detour for visitors heading to Kranji Countryside.

The road, which is mostly straight, connects Jalan Bahar in western Singapore to the northwestern reaches, where farms and the Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve are located.

“If the works require such a main road to be closed, surely the Government will build an alternative road,” said Ms Ivy Singh-Lim, who owns organic farm Bollywood Veggies.

Stakeholders will want to be consulted on an appropriate alternative, said the 68-year-old.

The authorities said agencies are still “studying the exact impact on the road and possible mitigation strategies”.

Mr Kenny Eng, president of the Kranji Countryside Association, said it was difficult to evaluate the impact on businesses without further details of the realignment plans.

“Unless the entire road is going to be closed, there should not be too large an impact on traffic flow to Kranji. Also, we have customers coming in through the Bukit Timah Expressway and Seletar Expressway, so it’s not a one-way access,” he said.

“From what we see now, the developments seem to be to the left and the right of the road, but we don’t know how the road itself will be changed.” Mr Eric Ng, chief executive of Apollo Aquaculture Group, was concerned that a partial closure of Lim Chu Kang Road would add to the congestion at Neo Tiew Road, which features a single lane in each direction.

“It may be that people will have to go onto Kranji Way, pass through the Kranji dam and onto Neo Tiew Road to access Lim Chu Kang Road ... If there is an accident, everything comes to a standstill,” said Mr Ng, 44. “That is a disaster because we have only one route to enter and exit this area with more than 80 farm plots.”

Changes to Lim Chu Kang Road may present a chance to improve the road network in the area, said other farmers.

“How our business may be affected … depends on whether there are alternative routes. Right now, the road is also not optimal,” said Mr Desmond Khoo, chief executive of Eden Garden Farm. “This can be an opportunity to optimise the network.”

Kranji farmers have, in the past, lamented the lack of public bus services to the area, which draws birdwatchers, visitors seeking respite from the urban jungle and groups going for staycations at the farm resorts.

The affected nursery and three fish farms are located at Murai Farmway, off Lim Chu Kang Road. Some were caught off-guard by Tuesday’s announcement. The owners of Koon Lee Nursery and Fisco Aquarium have at least 10 years before their leases expire, and said they needed time to plan their next steps.

When TODAY visited Rigoh Fishery yesterday, a worker at the farm said its manager was overseas.

Ms Goh Swee Hoon, who owns the fish farm at No. 17 Murai Farmway, off Lim Chu Kang Road, did not respond to queries. Kelly Ng

Tengah Air Base expansion could end ‘road runway’ drills in Lim Chu Kang
KELLY NG Today Online 29 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — The realignment of Lim Chu Kang Road for the expansion of Tengah Air Base could likely mean that it is no longer used as an alternate runway, a defence expert said.

It could also add to parking woes during the annual Qing Ming “tomb-sweeping” festival, according to the cemetery caretakers and visitors.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has been practising launch and recovery operations on the alternate runway since April 1986.

The latest — Exercise Torrent — took place last November after an eight-year hiatus.

On Tuesday, the Defence Ministry (Mindef) said that a new runway will be built at the expanded air base to meet the RSAF’s operational needs.

Asked if there would be any changes to the existing alternate runway at Lim Chu Kang Road, Mindef would only say yesterday that it “constantly evaluates” training and exercise requirements and when necessary, adjustments would be made.

Nevertheless, Mr David Boey, a member of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence, noted the importance of having public roads that can be converted into alternate runways.

“Having more runways would frustrate attempts at crippling our air force as there would be a larger number of runways to deal with,” he said.

Mr Leon Hay, 38, business director of local goat farm Hay Dairies, said that he was “surprised” Lim Chu Kang Road could be altered, given that it is sometimes used as a makeshift runway as part of RSAF exercises.

If the authorities are looking to replicate the exercises elsewhere, there is a stretch along the East Coast Parkway next to Bedok Camp that could be “reconfigured as an alternate runway within 24 hours should the need arise”, Mr Boey suggested.

However, the locations of new alternate runways in the future will be “constrained by increasing urbanisation”, he said, because clear flight paths to and from the road are necessary for such exercises. “Some roads in Tuas used to be suitable as alternate runways before the area was built up,” he pointed out.

The air force’s drone squadrons are based at Murai Camp, which is in the vicinity and has a runway on its premises, Mr Boey said. The camp may also have to make way as part of the expansion of Tengah Air Base, although Mindef has said the actual boundaries of the expanded air base are still being worked out.

If Lim Chu Kang Road is realigned, cemetery caretaker Huang Ya Jiu, who is in his 70s, believes that it could cause inconvenience to visitors.

Many cars are parked along the six-lane road during the annual Qing Ming festival when people visit and tidy up the tombs of their relatives or ancestors.

Mr Huang said that the traffic congestion is “especially serious” around the columbarium “where the car park is smaller”.

Some 80,500 graves at the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery in the area will have to make way as part of the development plans.

The congestion situation could worsen when the cremated remains from the exhumed graves are transferred there.

Mr Hong Qing Fu, 63, who was visiting his father’s grave when approached by TODAY, said that parking is a challenge during the Qing Ming period.

He and his family were therefore there in the pre-dawn hours to “avoid the Qing Ming crowd”, he said.

Read more!

Singapore explores possibility of building a high-rise, green data centre

Channel NewsAsia 19 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is looking into the feasibility of building a high-rise, green data centre in Singapore, after the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Huawei International and Keppel Data Centres signed a memorandum of intent (MOI) on Wednesday (Jul 19).

In a joint press release, the three said they will focus on a two-year strategic collaboration to explore the possibility of building such a data centre here. IMDA will support the development through its programmes, Keppel will offer its capabilities to construct and operate a high-rise green data centre and Huawei will provide the technological expertise to develop said green solutions, it added.

This MOI will help Singapore tackle two major environmental issues: Energy and land use. The press release noted that the current best-in-class multi-tenant data centre report an annual power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of as low as 1.4, while in the United States, a similar large data centre in Nevada is able to achieve a rating of 1.18.

Using the same example, a typical Singapore data centre will need about 1 ha of land - about the size of three to flour Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks - and be housed in a six- to eight-storey building. The Nevada facility, by comparison is the largest in the world and spans across 13 ha - about the size of MacRitchie Reservoir park.

Due to these challenges, data centres here are capped at about 20MW to 25MW of power capacity, or about 5,000 server racks. The Nevada facility can host up to 26,000 server racks, the press release said.

As such, the study would look into the possibility of constructing a high-rise data centre building of more than 20 storeys and that can reduce energy use or increase efficiency to achieve a 10 to 20 per cent improvement in the current best-in-class PUE rating here, it said.

The three parties will also look into internal design elements, specifically new approaches toward more energy efficient cooling methods in a tropical setting.

"If the concept is found to be feasible and scalable, this would significantly cut down the land space requirements of data centres and contribute towards Singapore’s 2030 climate pledge," the press release said. "It could also apply various new approaches in data centre design and construction methods, processes and applications both locally and globally."

Huawei and IMDA also signed another MOI that is focused on helping Singapore-based tech companies grow and expand.

Through the partnership, 35 local companies, to be jointly shortlisted through the Strategic Partners Program (SPP), will get access and benefit from the Chinese networking giant's tech capabilities, market insights and business network, the press release said.

There was a third agreement inked between Huawei and Singapore-headquartered cargo security tracking company Ascent Solutions to help the latter expand its market footprint, it added.

Read more!

DBS raises S$685m through first green bond by a local financial institution

Today Online 20 Jul 17;

The US$500 million (S$685 million) floating rate green bonds will be issued with a five-year maturity, to yield a quarterly coupon of three-month US dollar Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) plus 62 basis points.

DBS said the issue of the bonds was well-received in the market, allowing the “tight pricing” for a five-year benchmark deal, due to the issuer’s strong credit rating and rare issuance in the US dollar bond market.

“The launch of our green bond amplifies our commitment to sustainability and to supporting projects which have a positive impact. It adds another dimension to efforts to ‘green’ our operations, and lends support to the transition to a low-carbon economy,” said DBS chief financial officer Chng Sok Hui.

The bonds were placed with investors in Asia (37 per cent), the United States (41 per cent) and Europe (22 per cent), with institutional investors, fund managers, asset managers and banks showing strong appetite, said the bank.

The net proceeds from the issue of the bonds will be used for the finance and treasury activities of DBS group, including the provision of intercompany loans or other forms of financing to DBS Bank and its subsidiaries.

The first green assets are expected to include the banking group’s financing of Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3, which was certified Green Mark Platinum — a building rating system to assess environmental impact — by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.

Green bonds are fixed-income securities that raise capital for use in projects or activities with environmental benefits, such as those to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In March, Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong announced the Green Bond Grant scheme by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to kick-start the development of a green bond market in Singapore.

Under the scheme, qualifying issuances can offset 100 per cent of expenses attributable to obtaining an external review for green bonds, up to a cap of S$100,000 per issuance.

The bonds can be denominated in any currency but have to be issued and listed in Singapore, with a minimum size of S$200 million and tenure of at least three years.

Property developer City Developments (CDL) in April became the first Singapore company to issue a green bond. The two-year secured bond raised S$100 million at a 1.98 per cent fixed rate due 2019.

Read more!

Indonesia: Hungry monkeys pick crops clean in Wonogiri

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 19 Jul 17;

Villagers in some areas in Wonogiri regency in Central Java have armed themselves with wooden and bamboo sticks to shoo away bands of monkeys that have repeatedly raided their farms in the past two months.

Monkeys have raided vegetable and fruit farms in Wonogiri, Slogohimo, Batuwarno and Ngadirojo districts, which are surrounded by forests.

“Villagers in the areas are producers of mango, papaya and banana. But we all have had failed harvests this year because the monkeys stole all the fruit. These animals really are a headache for us,” said Suprihadi, 43, from Sendang village in Wonogiri district.

Some farmers have tried to trap the monkeys using nets, but hunger forces them to keep returning.

Sedang village head Budi Hardono said monkeys had also damaged houses and raided food stalls.

“The monkey raids have terrorized us. We have to stay alert all day long to prevent them from entering our houses,” said Parwito, 55, from Tengiri village.

The economic division head of the Wonogiri regency administration, Edhy Tri Hadyanto, said the monkeys had left their natural habitat because of a lack of water and food in the forest as a result of the dry season.

“Natural forests are also in decline. There have been suggestions that we restore the forests and reduce the monkey population. We will seek the best solution,” he said. (bbs)

Read more!

Indonesia: Endemic Titan arum blooms perfectly in Bengkulu

Antara 20 Jul 17;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - A rare endemic "Armophallus Titanium" flower, which was 3 meters in height, bloomed perfectly in a farmers plants breeding site in Tebat Monok village, Kepahiang district, Bengkulu province, a grower named Holidin informed ANTARA here on Wednesday.

"The site was opened to public during the process ahead of blooming," Holidin added.

Located in the Bukit Daun protected forest, which is about 52 kilometers from the provinces capital city, Kota Bengkulu, the site was home to some of the rare endemic flowers, including the Amorphophallus gigas, Amorphopallus variabilis, Amorphophallus faenifolius, as well as the rare giant Rafflesia arnoldii flower.

Once perfectly bloomed, the Armophallus titanium flower releases a strong odor to attract flies.

According to the grower, the flies would help in pollination.

Some locals who lived near the forest crowded the site during the blooming process.

Holidin noted that before the due date, people had visited the site to see the rare Sumatran endemic flower.

At a different occasion, Holidin stated that the rare flowers had posed some threats, including the illegal logging and wildfires.

Amid the rise in populations, the number of forests rapidly declined, Holidin noted, while adding that some forests near his home had been transformed into plantations.

Therefore, according to him, the site played an important role in preserving the rare flowers.

"I hope the countrys next generation will get a chance to see the flowers perfectly bloom in the future too," Holidin remarked, as quoted by Mongabay Indonesia. (*)

Read more!

Earth is becoming 'Planet Plastic'

Jonathan Amos BBC 20 Jul 17;

US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made and put the number at 8.3 billion tonnes.

It is an astonishing mass of material that has essentially been created only in the last 65 years or so.

The 8.3 billion tonnes is as heavy as 25,000 Empire State Buildings in New York, or a billion elephants.

The great issue is that plastic items, like packaging, tend to be used for very short periods before being discarded.

More than 70% of the total production is now in waste streams, sent largely to landfill - although too much of it just litters the wider environment, including the oceans.

"We are rapidly heading towards 'Planet Plastic', and if we don't want to live on that kind of world then we may have to rethink how we use some materials, in particular plastic," Dr Roland Geyer told BBC News.

A paper authored by the industrial ecologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues appears in the journal Science Advances. It is described as the first truly global assessment of how much plastic has been manufactured, how the material in all its forms is used, and where it ends up.

Here are some of its key numbers.
* 8,300 million tonnes of virgin plastics have been produced
* Half of this material was made in just the past 13 years
* About 30% of the historic production remains in use today
* Of the discarded plastic, roughly 9% has been recycled
* Some 12% has been incinerated, but 79% has gone to landfill
* Shortest-use items are packaging, typically less than a year
* Longest-use products are found in construction and machinery
* Current trends point to 12 billion tonnes of waste by 2050
* Recycling rates in 2014: Europe (30%), China (25%), US (9%)

There is no question that plastics are a wonder material. Their adaptability and durability have seen their production and use accelerate past most other manmade materials apart from steel, cement and brick.

From the start of mass-manufacturing in the 1950s, the polymers are now all around us - incorporated into everything from food wrapping and clothing, to aeroplane parts and flame retardants. But it is precisely plastics' amazing qualities that now present a burgeoning problem.

None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable. The only way to permanently dispose of their waste is to destructively heat it - through a decomposition process known as pyrolysis or through simple incineration; although the latter is complicated by health and emissions concerns.

In the meantime, the waste mounts up. There is enough plastic debris out there right now, Geyer and colleagues say, to cover an entire country the size of Argentina. The team's hope is that their new analysis will give added impetus to the conversation about how best to deal with the plastics issue.

"Our mantra is you can't manage what you don't measure," Dr Geyer said. "So, our idea was to put the numbers out there without us telling the world what the world should be doing, but really just to start a real, concerted discussion."

Recycling rates are increasing and novel chemistry has some biodegradable alternatives, but manufacturing new plastic is so cheap the virgin product is hard to dislodge.

The same team - which includes Jenna Jambeck from the University of Georgia and Kara Lavender Law from the Sea Education Association at Woods Hole - produced the seminal report in 2015 that quantified the total amount of plastic waste escaping to the oceans each year: eight million tonnes.

This particular waste flow is probably the one that has generated most concern of late because of the clear evidence now that some of this discarded material is getting into the food chain as fish and other marine creatures ingest small polymer fragments.

Dr Erik van Sebille from Utrecht University in the Netherlands is an oceanographer who tracks plastics in our seas. Of the new report, he said: "We're facing a tsunami of plastic waste, and we need to deal with that.

"The global waste industry needs to get its act together and make sure that the ever-increasing amounts of plastic waste generated don't end up in the environment.

"We need a radical shift in how we deal with plastic waste. On current trends, it will take until 2060 before more plastic gets recycled than landfilled and lost to the environment. That clearly is too slow; we can't wait that long," he told BBC News.

And Richard Thompson, professor of marine biology at Plymouth University, UK, commented: "If plastic products are designed with recyclability in mind they can be recycled many times over. Some would say a bottle could be recycled 20 times. That's a substantial reduction in waste. At the moment poor design limits us."

To illustrate that point, Dr Geyer said: "The holy grail of recycling is to keep material in use and in the loop for ever if you can. But it turns out in our study that actually 90% of that material that did get recycled - which I think we calculated was 600 million tonnes - only got recycled once."

Plastic pollution risks 'near permanent contamination of natural environment'
First global analysis of all mass–produced plastics has found humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes since the 1950s with the majority ending up in landfill or oceans
Matthew Taylor The Guardian 12 Jul 17;

Humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic since the 1950s with the majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world’s continents and oceans, according to a new report.

The first global analysis of all mass–produced plastics has found that it has outstripped most other man-made materials, threatening a “near permanent contamination of the natural environment”.

The study by US academics found that the total amount of plastic produced – equivalent in weight to one billion elephants – will last for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. And with production expected to accelerate over the coming decades, campaigners warn it is creating an environmental crisis comparable to climate change.

“We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic and I am very worried that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late,” said Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara, who led the project.

In 1950, when plastic was first mass produced, the report found 2m tonnes was manufactured. That figure has risen to 8.3bn in 2017 and is projected to reach 34bn by 2050.

“We are on this enormous growth trajectory – there is no end in site of the rate of this growth,” said Geyer. He added that even academics who worked in the same field were unaware of the “sheer dimensions” of the crisis.

“Combined with this huge growth rate it makes me very concerned. We should look at the numbers and ask as a society, is this what we want, can we not do better?”

Last month a Guardian investigation revealed that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and that number is expected to jump another 20% by 2021.

And earlier this year scientists found nearly 18 tonnes of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific.

Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations. And scientists have warned that plastic bottles and other packaging are overrunning some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and remote coastline, endangering wildlife from basking sharks to puffins.

Experts warn that some of it is already finding its way into the human food chain. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish.

But Geyer said he was also concerned about the impact of plastic pollution on land-based ecosystems.

“There is much more attention paid to how plastics are interacting with marine organisms but there is much, much less known about how plastics interact with terrestrial organisms – I would suspect there is something equivalent going on and it might actually be worse.”

This new study found that growth in plastic production has been driven largely by packaging and the rise of single-use containers, wrapping and bottles. It found some of the only materials to outstrip plastic production over the past 70 years are used in the construction sector, such as steel and cement.

“Roughly half of all the steel we make goes into construction, so it will have decades of use – plastic is the opposite,” said Geyer. “Half of all plastics become waste after four or fewer years.”

To visualise the scale of the problem Geyer said he had carried out a “thought experiment”.

“If you take the 8.3bn tonnes of plastic and spread it out as ankle deep waste – about 10 inches high – I calculated I could cover an area the size of Argentina with it. That is the world’s eighth largest country.”

The study found that in 2015, of the nearly seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated, only 9% was recycled, 12% incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the environment.

Geyer said: “What we are trying to do is to create the foundation for sustainable materials management. Put simply, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and so we think policy discussions will be more informed and fact based now that we have these numbers.”

Read more!

Third-hottest June puts 2017 on track to make hat-trick of hottest years

June 2017 was beaten only by June in 2015 and 2016, leaving experts with little hope for limiting warming to 1.5C or even 2C
Michael Slezak The Guardian 19 Jul 17;

Last month was the third-hottest June on record globally, temperature data suggest, confirming 2017 will almost certainly make a hat-trick of annual climate records, with 2015, 2016 and 2017 being the three hottest years since records began.

The figures also cement estimations that warming is now at levels not seen for 115,000 years, and leave some experts with little hope for limiting warming to 1.5C or even 2C.

According to new figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), June 2017 was the third-hottest June on record, beaten only by the two preceding Junes in 2015 and 2016.

The Noaa data show combined land and sea-surface temperatures for June 2017 were 0.82C above the 20th century average, making a string of 41 consecutive Junes above that average.

June 2016 still holds the record at 0.92C above the 20th century average, followed by June 2015 which was 0.89C above the baseline.

The data line up closely with Nasa figures released last week, which are calculated slightly differently, finding the month was the fourth-hottest on record – with June 1998 also being warmer in their data set.

Based on the Nasa data, climate scientist and director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Gavin Schmidt estimated that 2017 was probably going to be the second-warmest year on record after 2016, but would almost certainly be among the top three hottest years.

The June data see all of the first six months of 2017 sitting among the three warmest months on record, making it the second-hottest first half of a year on record – again, beaten only by the previous year.

The near-record temperatures continued this year despite the passing of El Niño, which normally warms the globe, and its opposite – La Niña – currently suppressing temperatures.

The warming trend is almost certainly caused by greenhouse gas emissions – mostly the result of burning fossil fuels – with many studies showing such warm years would be almost impossible without that effect.

Last year, Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University published a paper showing the then-record temperatures in 2014 would have had less than a one in a million chance of occurring naturally.

“We have a follow-up article that we’ve submitted showing that the likelihood of three consecutive record-breaking years such as we saw in 2015-2017 was similarly unlikely,” he told the Guardian over email. “In short, we can only explain the onslaught of record warm years by accounting for human-caused warming of the planet.”

Andy Pitman from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia said the onslaught of very rapid warming in the past few years is likely a result of the climate system “catching up” after a period of relative slow warming caused by natural variability – the so-called “hiatus”.

“I do not think the recent anomalies change anything from a science perspective,” he said. “The Earth is warming at about the long-term rates that were expected and predicted [by models].”

But Pitman said the ongoing trend was “entirely inconsistent” with the target of keeping warming at just 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.

Current trends suggest the 1.5C barrier would be breached in the 2040s, with some studies suggesting it might happen much sooner.

“In my view, to limit warming to 2C requires both deep and rapid cuts and a climate sensitivity on the lower end of the current range,” Pitman said. “I see no evidence that the climate sensitivity is on the lower end of the current range, unfortunately.”

“It would be a good idea to cut greenhouse gas emissions rather faster than we are.”

Read more!

Tembusu tree that killed woman had no visible signs of decay

SIAU MING EN Today Online 18 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — The Tembusu heritage tree that toppled and killed a woman at the Singapore Botanic Gardens earlier this year had decaying roots. However, there were no visible signs that warranted more intensive checks.

The weather conditions in the days before and on the day of the incident could have also contributed to the toppling of the 40m-tall tree, which was more than 270 years old.

These were the views of two arborists who testified at yesterday’s Coroner’s Inquiry into the death of Indian national Radhika Angara, 38.

She was with her French husband Jerome Rouch-Sirech and their one-year-old twins at the Singapore Botanic Gardens near the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage on Feb 11 to attend an outdoor concert when the accident happened. Ms Angara was killed when the tree fell on her while four others, including her husband and children, were injured.

Among the witnesses who testified at the one-day hearing was arborist Derek Yap, a private consultant at Camphora. Mr Yap, who had spent a decade working for the National Parks Board (NParks) previously, said about 70 per cent of the tree trunk at its 2m point — measured from the ground level — was decayed, and this amount of decay would have affected the tree’s structural integrity.

Based on his inspection of the tree after it fell, coupled with information from Google maps in 2014, among other things, he said there were no signs of cracks or cavities on the tree. “The inspector would not have any signs to tell him that the tree had issues that would need additional mitigating measures. My opinion is that the tree failure was unpredictable,” he added.

It was likely that the tree had to bear an increased load from “a localised increase in wind speed” that day which, together with the “asymmetrical canopy” of the tree, caused it to topple, he said.

He also agreed with State Coroner Marvin Bay that there was a possibility that the decay had festered from 1859 — the last time the tree’s roots were cut when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was created.

Arborist Richard Gordon Thomas from ArborCulture noted that several factors could have contributed to the toppling of the tree, including the decayed roots and the rain in the preceding days which had softened the soil and made it harder for the roots to support the tree. “Tree failures, rarely or if ever, happen in an instance,” he said.

Unlike Mr Yap, Mr Thomas said it was not clear that the roots had been cut. However, the roots facing the road were stunted as the conditions under the road were not as conducive for root growth.

On the intensity of checks for the tree, both arborists agreed that signs of decay have to be observed from the visual tree assessments before calling for further checks, such as a resistograph and ultrasound to test for decay. Mr Yap added that as Tembusu trees are sensitive, it would be reflected in their canopies if the tree was having issues.

Several of Ms Angara’s family members were present at the hearing, including Mr Rouch-Sirech (above) and her sister Aarti Angara. Ms Aarti raised several questions, including whether older trees should be subjected to more checks. In response, Mr Yap said that while the maintenance schedule of the trees would be best answered by the NParks, the yearly inspections were adequate if there are no external signs of decay.

On her question if there should have been better risk management at the Gardens as it experiences more human traffic with its status as Unesco World Heritage Site, Mr Thomas said there could be more regular inspection of trees for such areas. But the levels or intensity of inspection does not depend on the age or size of the tree, he added.

Adjourning the inquiry to a closed-door session tomorrow, Mr Bay asked for the inspection schedule for the Tembusu tree — following changes to NParks’ inspection regime in November last year — and more recent images of the tree.

Read more!