Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


Prices of hybrid cars lower as fuel costs soar

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : If you are one of those who think fuel prices are going way too high, the growing trend of hybrid cars may be one to watch.

These are cars which use a combination of petrol and electric power to drive the car.

The take-up rate for hybrid cars in Singapore has been slow.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), there are now close to 90 hybrid cars on the roads, including one driven by the Environment and Water Resources Minister himself, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

But prices of such cars are coming down by at least $20,000 for leading models like the Toyota Prius in the past few years while green tax rebates have doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent from the beginning of this year.

These are facts to bear in mind the next time you get behind the wheel of a conventional car.

As Chairman of NEA Assoc Prof Simon Tay says, such conventional cars lose 80 percent of their fuel as heat, and only 20 percent is used to turn the wheels.

And of that 20 percent, 95 percent is used to move the car.

- CNA /ls

Online environmental portal for youths planned

By Rita Zahara, Channel NewsAsia
20 May 2006

SINGAPORE : Young environmental activists here want to see a more consolidated effort between government and groups to map the way ahead in environmental awareness and protection.

This was one hot topic raised at a dialogue between 30 activists and Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim.

Twenty-five-year old Angela Lee, a post-graduate student in knowledge management for sustainable product development, feels strongly about recycling.

Having organised a two-month-long competition involving some 150 schools to collect the highest volume of recyclables, she now wants to inspire restaurants and eating outlets into going green.

Said Ms Lee, "One of the ideas, suggestions that we can bring across to the F&B industry is that because every day they generate a lot of waste -- from food waste to plastic wastes to glasses -- so if we could actually get them to voluntarily, or maybe by law separate out these recyclables and channel more of their waste into the recycling bin, I guess that will help to reduce the amount of waste that we consume every day."

Another green activist, 25-year old Mohammad Noh, would like to link up more effectively with players in the industry.

He said, "NGOs cannot be left alone to fend for ourselves. Besides funding, we also need other kinds of support in order to reach out to schools."

Mumtaz Maideen, a teacher at Bukit View Primary School, said, "We would like to have a platform provided so that schools actually know that there are lots of NGOs who are supporting environmental programmes. We can collaborate together."

To answer that call, a first-stop environmental portal, "Youth Habitat", is in the works.

Developed by the Singapore Environment Council, this resource aims to help youths to exchange views and put ideas into action.

Said Dr Yaacob, "What we want to do is to create platforms which are meaningful, that will help to facilitate the growth of more environmental NGOs, especially among our young. It is also a way to engage and push information towards them, and we hope they will also use the portal service to give us feedback and ideas."

The portal is expected to be up by the end of this year. - CNA /ct


Singapore's duck slaughterhouses, sellers struggling after ban

By Lian Cheong/Joanne Leow, Channel NewsAsia
15 May 2006

SINGAPORE : Singapore's duck slaughterhouses and duck rice vendors are in dire straits following the bird-flu outbreak in the Malysian state of Perak in March.

Since then, there has been a drop in supply of live ducks from Malaysia's Johor state, leading to the price of the birds going up by 60 percent.

Now, some duck rice vendors are thinking of quitting, while duck slaughterhouses have started retrenching workers.

The price of a duck from Johor has gone up from the usual S$3.50 to S$5.50, but duck-rice sellers here say they don't dare raise prices because they are afraid of losing business.

They are just looking at other ways to reduce costs.

Said Jackson Seah, managing director of Yu Kee Duck Rice, "We are talking to the landlord about rent issues, but if we cannot resolve it for these four stalls, we might have to close them down."

Mr Seah, who runs a chain of 30 duck rice stalls, says many of his workers are already working half days.

Singapore's three duck slaughterhouses, which employ some 200 workers, are not faring too well either.

They estimate sales losses to be about S$5 million since the ban on Perak ducks, and they are taking some drastic measures.

Seven workers have been retrenched, 115 are on no-pay leave, and 10 others are working shorter hours.

Fifteen have also been told to find temporary employment.

Said Joseph Heng, chairman of the Poultry Merchants' Association, "We heard from the farmers that the Perak Minister has declared (the state) bird-flu free, so we'd like to urge the authority to check out the farms and let the workers back into the job."

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority says imports can only resume after a 90-day period following culling and the complete disinfection of the last case of bird flu.

It says it will make arrangements to review and inspect the duck farms in Perak as soon as they are informed officially that the Malaysian state is free from the avian influenza. - CNA /ct

Eruption of Indonesia's Mount Merapi unlikely to affect Singapore

By Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia
15 May 2006

SINGAPORE : Indonesia's Mount Merapi erupted on Monday morning, spewing deadly hot ash and volcanic gases.

It was the most active the volcano in Central Java had been since the highest alert was raised.

But experts in Singapore told Channel NewsAsia it was unlikely the eruption would affect Singapore for now.

Experts say the eruption resulted in pyroclastic flows, which are deadly clouds of ash, gas and debris.

These clouds can travel several kilometres and cause ash to rain down.

The last time Mount Merapi erupted was in 1994; it claimed 66 lives.

But experts here believe there should be "no direct consequences on Singapore."

Said Associate Professor David Higgitt, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, "Singapore is too far away to be affected by an eruption like anything we've seen before in Merapi. Singapore is about 1,300 kilometres away from Merapi, and we know that ash covered maybe 400 kilometres in the previous eruption, but not as close as Singapore."

Scientists say Merapi is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Indonesia, but Monday's eruption was "relatively small".

Said John Low, executive meteorological officer (R&D), Meteorological Services Division, "For the case of Mount Merapi, there were several eruptions in the past 20-odd years, but none of them actually affected the air quality of Singapore. But we had a case of eruption from Mt Pinatubo in 1991. In that eruption, some of the ash did travel to Singapore and then caused a slight increase in our PSI from our good range to our moderate range."

The Met Services is closely monitoring the situation, and says Singaporeans need not be unduly worried.

Said Mr Low, "We're having light and variable winds. Under such circumstances, even if there's an eruption, it is unlikely that Singapore's air quality will be affected, because the ash or the smoke will be dispersed before they reach Singapore."

But the experts caution that it remains to be seen if Merapi has fully erupted. - CNA /ct


Recycling rates up; NEA plans more types of recycling

By Li Peng/Joanne Leow, Channel NewsAsia
14 May 2006

SINGAPORE : Singapore's goal of recycling 60 percent of its waste by 2012 looks to be on track, with both households and companies recycling more every year over the past three years.

The National Environment Agency says more can be done, and it plans to increase recycling for food, wood, and horticultural products.

The NEA says that in the past three years, all JTC Corporation factories have joined in recycling efforts.

In addition, the number of households that have taken up recycling has gone up by 10 percent.

Said Yang Hong, senior executive (resources conservation), NEA, "By the end of 2007, every five blocks of flats will have a recycling bin or collection point. We are going to give residents not only recycling bags but also recycling bins."

The NEA is pushing ahead with its recycling campaign, and some local recycling companies hope that the government can follow the example of countries like Korea and Japan by legislating incentives for companies to recycle.

Said Jolyn Chua, of Recycling Point Dot Com, "We hope that the government will seriously consider making companies set aside a recycling fee to help recycling companies lower their overhead costs."

NEA says this measure would only lead to increased costs for companies which would be passed on to consumers.

Instead, it believes companies should look into how they can reduce industrial waste, for example by encouraging major computer companies to recycle their own used products.

Besides reducing waste, the NEA is also working to reduce air pollution when it incinerates rubbish.

Said Ms Yang, "Singapore's waste incinerators are using the most advanced technology and at the point where the smoke is generated, we have air purifier machines so that what is released falls within national air safety standards."

Using the heat generated by incineration to produce energy is also another way that Singapore can be environmentally friendly. - CNA /ct