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.


Sand ban a wake-up call for industry: architects

By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia
30 January 2007 2142 hrs

SINGAPORE : The recent Indonesian ban on the sale of sand to Singapore has been an effective wake-up call for the industry, say architects.

Sustainable construction and alternative materials are now the buzzwords.

The Singapore Institute of Architects has also proposed a million-dollar research programme to look into solutions.

400,000 tonnes of sand from a regional country arrived at Jurong Port on Monday, just a week after Indonesia, the main supplier of sand to Singapore, banned all sand exports.

Architects say over-reliance on traditional sources and materials is due to a lack of research into sustainable construction now.

Tai Lee Siang, Council Member, Singapore Institute of Architects, said, "It does mean that what is really the new material that builders architects can depend on? There is a lack of research in the industry, even from the institute's point of view. We noticed that because of the good growth.

"There is a lack of research to anticipate problems to prepare for rainy days, so we want to embark on a research programme, we want the industry players to spend more on research to prepare ourselves, as sustainability issues are very great and environmental changes very great and all these will impact how we build."

Architect Tay Kheng Soon, who has been one of the key voices for sustainable development in Singapore, agrees that more needs to be done.

Tay Kheng Soon, Architect, Akitek Tenggara, said, "It is a great opportunity to rethink our building systems. Any change that happens has to be driven by certain forces - the sand ban is one of them, but the big question is really sustainable development."

And many ideas are already being explored - like those by architect Jeremy Chan, who is looking at dry wall construction and triangular steel frames to reduce the amount of steel used.

He said, "Our industry is very used to using reinforced concrete in most of our construction, so this kind of really throws us into the deep end to think of a totally new way to conceptualising architecture and maximising a different material and expressing it in a different way."

Architect Mak Hon Yue has done an experiment on seacrete or sea concrete - which is an alternative to concrete.

Seacrete can be grown by passing an electric current through sea water to build up minerals and eliminates the need for sand.

He said, "There must be a culture of looking at alternative materials which is not really apparent in Singapore. And without that culture, we can't move ahead, we can't begin to develop alternatives if people are not interested in it, or they can't find commercial value in it, they won't pursue it, and I think that's very important.

"The reason why seacrete is not widely used, talked about is because people have yet to see the commercial viability of it - it's definitely sustainable - it's just to get people to see the commercial viability of it."

And the potential for seacrete is huge.

Mr Tay said, "In about 10 years, If you start now, theoretically, you could have a gigantic floating platform out there, outside Pasir Panjang and we could use it for our new seaport or resorts or whatever. We can live without sand."

The Building & Construction Authority has already come out to encourage the industry to adopt new construction materials and methods, while the proposed research programme by the Singapore Institute of Architects will also go some way to reduce the dependence on imported raw materials like sand. - CNA/ms

Government to release concreting sand from stock pile from Feb 1

By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia
31 January 2007 1541 hrs

SINGAPORE: The Singapore government will release concreting sand from its stockpile from Thursday to make up for any immediate shortfall in supply as a result of Indonesia's ban on all land sand exports.

The Building and Construction Authority says this will help stabilise sand supply and prices over the next few months, while the industry makes the necessary adjustments.

However, it expects the price of sand to rise due to higher transportation costs involved in shipping sand from distant sources.

BCA has called on developers to work out a cost-sharing arrangement with contractors and concrete suppliers to cope with the increase.

Government agencies will also take the lead to bear part of the increase in the cost of sand for its existing projects. - CNA /dt

A Well Of Possibilities

31 Jan 2007 (TODAY)

New PUB projects will involve creative use of S'pore's canals, drains

Gracia Chiang

FIVE years from now, more drains, canals and reservoirs will have been
transformed into streams, rivers and lakes with lush greenery, floating
boardwalks and natural habitats for fish and birds.

This is what the Public Utilities Board (PUB) is hoping to achieve, with
five new projects in the north-east of Singapore along the Kallang River
and the Alexandra Canal. These are part of the Active, Beautiful, Clean
(ABC) Waters programme launched last April.

Announced yesterday, these initiatives to beautify the waters of Singapore
are meant to help the public appreciate the value of clean water.

"You talk to those people who have enjoyed water, those who do kayaking
and sailing. The last thing you want ... is to see dirty water," said Mr
Yap Kheng Guan, director of the PUB's 3P (Public, Private, People sectors)

The projects include two new reservoirs at Punggol and Serangoon, which
will be completed by 2009. Besides increasing Singapore's water supply,
they will also host lifestyle attractions.

Two wetlands, one the size of a football field at Punggol and another as
big as 18 football fields at Serangoon, will be created at the reservoirs.
They will feature suspension bridges, telescopes for bird-watching and
mangrove exploration, and links to parks, such as the 21-hectare Sengkang
Fruit Park that will be ready by mid-2008.

Working with the National Parks Board (NParks), the PUB will also convert
the concrete-lined canal at Bishan Park, that is usually dry and empty,
into a river with landscaped banks.

A small dam will be built to retain water from the Kallang River in order
to fill the canal. Water-play areas, as well as footbridges to improve
access to the housing estate, will be added to the park.

At Alexandra Canal, a new park with fountains and meandering streams will
be created on a deck which will be built over the canal. With this added
space, patrons at the nearby Zion Road Hawker Centre can look forward to
al fresco waterside dining.

The fifth project is a collaboration with NParks and the Housing
Development Board (HDB) for a new housing development at the site where
Sungei Whampoa and the Kallang River meet.

The PUB is looking to weave new community spaces, such as observation
decks and areas for morning exercises, into the riverside grounds.

It will spend the next few months firming up design plans based on input
from grassroots leaders and non-governmental organisations such as the
Waterways Watch Society and the Singapore Environment Council.

It is also inviting feedback from the public through a free exhibition
that will be held next Tuesday to Friday at the Asian Civilisation Museum,
where details of more projects will be revealed.

"We will make the most of our infrastructural assets, such as our canals
and reservoirs, by going beyond their traditional functions of water
storage and drainage," said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, the director in charge of
the ABC Waters programme.

But the PUB was quick to emphasise that these new developments will not
compromise the original function of the waterways, and that safety issues
will be considered.

When the upcoming reservoirs at Marina, Punggol and Serangoon are ready,
Singapore will have 17 water catchment areas in total.

There are also three other ABC Waters projects underway at Kolam Ayer,
Bedok Reservoir and MacRitchie Reservoir.

Food Labelling Infringements Up, Says Case

31 Jan 2007 (TODAY)

In Singapore News

- Channel NewsAsia

THE Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) is advising consumers to
watch what they eat.

Last year, there were 288 cases of food labelling infringements, according
to figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). This is an
increase of 33 per cent from the previous year.

Case says it receives three to five complaints every year from consumers
who believed they did not get what they paid for. Most of the complaints
were about hawkers who sold thawed frozen pork as fresh meat.

The AVA, which conducts regular surveillance at retail outlets, said label
infringements are mostly found on pre-packed processed food sold in retail

The offenders are mostly importers and retailers. They were each fined
between $300 and $1,000.

"Usually the labelling infringement involves the country of origin not
being mentioned in the label, or it has misleading information or health
claims ... The label (may claim the product) reduces cholesterol levels,
or that doctors strongly recommend the product," said AVA's head of
pre-marketing surveillance Ong Swee Seng.

Us Climate Policy A Hot Potato

31 Jan 2007 (TODAY)

Congress examines claims that officials edited scientists' take on

WASHINGTON - Two private advocacy groups say they have found evidence of
political pressure on government climate scientists in seven federal
agencies to downplay the threat of global warming.

Their report was expected to be presented to a House of Representatives
committee yesterday as the Democratic-controlled Congress steps up its
examination of climate policy in the Bush administration.

In preparations for yesterday's hearing by the House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee, its chairman Henry Waxman asked the White
House and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide more than three
dozen documents related to their climate programmes.

Among the documents sought were any effort by the White House Council on
Environmental Quality "to manage or influence statements made by
government scientists" to the media on climate change.

Also called to testify was a former senior official of the office that
coordinates the governments climate programmes. That official, Mr Rick
Piltz, quit his job in 2005, charging that scientists' climate documents
were being edited and toned down by political appointees.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a private advocacy group, and the
Government Accountability Project, a legal-assistant group that represents
whistle-blowers, earlier said they would present "new evidence of
suppression and manipulation of climate science".

The groups said their findings cover seven federal agencies and contain
information about "first-hand experiences" by government climate
scientists and workers.

Mr Waxman was said to be particularly interested in reports of activities
involving climate science at the White House Council on Environmental
Quality and at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Allegations of political pressure have been at the centre of a controversy
involving Mr James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space
Studies and one of the country's top experts on climate change.

Mr Hansen has accused the space agency of trying to keep him from speaking
publicly about global warming.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer was holding an open meeting
for her Senate colleagues to express their views on climate change.

Among those scheduled to comment are two presidential hopefuls, Republican
John McCain and Democratic Barack Obama, who favour mandatory reductions
of greenhouse gas emissions, which President George W Bush opposes.

Mr Bush has argued that such requirements would threaten economic growth.

Since Democrats took control of Congress, there has been a rush to
introduce climate legislation. Ms Boxer has offered the most aggressive
Bill, which is promoted as capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by
80 per cent by mid-century.

The Obama-McCain Bill, co-sponsored by Independent Senator Joe Lieberman,
would cut emissions by two-thirds by 2050. - AP

Great Barrier Reef Could Be Dead In 20 Years

31 Jan 2007 (TODAY)

SYDNEY - Australia's famed Great Barrier Reef, treasured as the world's
largest living organism, could be dead within two decades by global
warming, scientists warned in a report yesterday.

The World Heritage site, stretching over more than 345,000sq km off
Australia's east coast, will become "functionally extinct", the scientists
were quoted as saying in The Age newspaper.

The assessment is contained in a leaked draft of a major international
report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) to be released later this year, the newspaper said.

A chapter on Australia in the report on the global impact of climate
change on the world warns that coral bleaching in the reef is likely to
become an annual occurrence by as early as 2030 due to warmer, more acidic
seas. Bleaching occurs when the plant-like organisms that make up coral
die and leave behind the white limestone skeleton of the reef.

Some 500 experts are meeting in Paris this week, ahead of the release on
Friday of the IPCC's first report - since 2001 - on the state of
scientific knowledge on global warming.

The report will be followed in April by volumes focusing on the impact of
climate change and the social-economic costs of reducing the emission of
greenhouse gases, which have been blamed for global warming.

Earlier, warnings that climate change was damaging the reef - a major
tourist attraction - prompted the Australian government to announce late
last year that it was considering using vast sunshades to protect the

Australia's Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said the government was looking
at funding the use of shade cloths to protect vulnerable parts of the
giant reef off the coast of Queensland state.

The cloth, which is being developed by researchers in Queensland, would be
held in place by floating pontoons. - AFP


Anti-littering appeal by NEA during Thaipusam festivities

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia
30 January 2007

SINGAPORE: Hindu devotees will be carrying kavadis as a part of the Thaipusam celebrations over the next two days, and in order to keep the route and immediate vicinity of the temples clean, workers will be deployed and bins emptied hourly.

The area will also be spruced up.

However, officials are also appealing for members of the public to play their part and not litter - 40 additional refuse bins will be provided along the route devotees will take.

Amidst the celebrations has also come a warning by the National Environment Agency not to support illegal hawkers, selling anything from drinks to peacock feathers, along the way.

NEA says their officials and police will be on the look out for such vendors, who may face fines and jail terms, if caught. - CNA /dt

Singapore's waterways to receive makeover

By Yvonne Yong, channelnewsasia.com
30 January 2007

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s drains, canals and reservoirs will undergo transformations into more user-friendly streams, rivers and lakes by 2009, according to national water agency PUB.

The public can get a peek into the long-term plans at an exhibition next week.

The Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters programme is intended to bring people closer to water through improved waterfronts and recreation areas as well as foster education about this precious resource.

"In the last two years, we have been trying to bring people nearer to water through the introduction of water activities at reservoirs, such as kayaking, rowing, fishing and so on," says Tan Nguan Sen, Project Director for ABC.

"Under the ABC Waters programme, we will bring the water to the people by exploiting the potential of our water bodies throughout the island."

Singapore already has a pervasive network of 14 reservoirs, 32 major rivers and more than 7000 km of canals and drains.

Since the launch of the ABC Waters programme last April, three projects at Bedok Reservoir, MacRitchie Reservoir and a stretch of Kallang River at Kolam Ayer have been underway.

The aim also is to increase Singapore’s water catchment areas from covering half of the island to two thirds, within five years.

Today, the PUB revealed further plans for the ABC Waters signature projects including two new reservoirs to be created in the northeast of Singapore; the rejuvenation of Kallang River; and Optimising Alexandra Canal and its water.

The two new reservoirs will be created when Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon are dammed, to create Singapore’s 16th and 17th reservoirs by 2009.

The Punggol Reservoir will include a floating wetland the size of half a football field, where the public will be able to access via a suspended bridge on one side and a floating boardwalk on the other.

"The suspended bridge will offer an aerial view of the reservoir and of kayakers rowing beneath it, while the floating boardwalk gives an entirely different experience. As it floats just above the water, the floating boardwalk will move in tandem with any vibrations in the water," says Mr Tan.

Along the edge of Serangoon Reservoir, the Lorong Halus Wetland will become Singapore’s first constructed wetland, having been transformed from a former landfill.

This will be the size of 18 football fields and will bring together a range of plants such as cat tails and common reeds that filter surface run-off from the former landfill, allowing for natural purification to be part of the water treatment process.

The longest river in Singapore at 10 km, Kallang River, will also be given a facelift in areas where the public are likely to utilise it for recreation.

Under a joint ABC Waters project between PUB and the National Parks Board, the huge concrete canal at Bishan Park will also be transformed, becoming a river with landscaped banks.

Residents of the housing estate near Bishan Park now separated by the canal will have direct access to the Park with improved footbridges and be able to enjoy streams and water play areas.

"As part of the proposal for Bishan Park, the water edge of the river will be softened with plants which will create a strong connection and extension from Lower Peirce Reservoir, where the river originates. Water will be very much part of the park which will demonstrate how recreation and storm water management can co-exist", says Yeo Meng Tong, Director, Parks Development, National Parks Board.

A transformed 200m stretch of Kallang River at Kolam Ayer will feature interactive structures such as an Archimedes Screw and water wheel which will allow residents to draw water from the canal into a stream.

Patrons at the Zion Road Hawker Centre will also be able to enjoy outdoor water features along Alexandra Canal, one of the main canals flowing into the Singapore River.

"We want to bring everyone close to water so that we can all be inspired and motivated to take care of our precious water resource by using it wisely and keeping it clean. Water is a shared resource and as the national water agency, PUB hopes all of us will realize we are all owners of it," adds Mr Tan.

The public can find out more about the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme at the Asian Civilisations Museum from Feb 6–11, where experts will share their views and water activities, such as electric boat rides and aqua bikes, will be available. - cna.com/yy

Consignment of land sand from source outside Indonesia arrives in S'pore

29 January 2007 (CNA)

SINGAPORE: The first consignment of land sand from a source outside of Indonesia arrived in Singapore's Jurong Port on Monday.

This followed efforts by the Housing and Development Board to diversify its supply of basic construction materials by procuring land sand from regional sources other than Indonesia.

The Building and Construction Authority is working with land sand importers on this.

The government will also be releasing sand from its stockpile to cushion any transitional disruption to its supply - all this with the aim of helping the industry cope with the sudden announcement on sand export ban by Indonesia last week.

BCA says it will be briefing key stakeholders on the details of the stockpile release over the next few days.

It is also advising the industry to adopt alternative construction materials to reduce the need for land sand. - CNA /dt


Residents want to be more involved in shaping community

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
27 January 2007 2113 hrs

SINGAPORE: Residents and youths want to be more involved in helping to shape their community.

This came across clearly during the first public dialogue session for the Forum on HDB Heartware, which was formed last November to gather feedback on how to strengthen bonds in the heartlands.

Some 200 residents from the central region spoke up on what it takes to forge community ties and improve their living environment.

And the youths were brimming with ideas.

They suggested having more open spaces for recreational purposes and facilities like barbeque pits to help foster interaction.

Some participants also wanted more transparency and asked that residents be kept in the loop.

Grace Fu, Minister of State, National Development, said: "I think many of them have voiced their desire to have a greater say in what kind of facilities they would like to have in their area, and we should take that into consideration. We should be mindful that residents should be consulted and the decision-making process itself should be explained to the residents."

The students were also keen to be more active in volunteer work like caring for the elderly.

Some also wanted to know if youths can play a role in the Residents' Committees.

Other topics discussed during the three-hour dialogue included how schools can cooperate with the community and whether grassroots members should be nominated by the residents.

One issue that got many participants talking is whether wet markets are still relevant as more people are doing their shopping at supermarkets due to shifts in demographics and changing lifestyle.

This is the first of a series of public dialogue sessions to be held between January and April this year.

And the panel, comprising mostly MPs, expects the sessions to offer a lot of frank feedback.

"We need to come back and look at the results carefully, and review our policies and our programmes specifically with the feedback that we've got. Then we will make recommendations as a report from the committee on the forum," said Ms Fu.

The next dialogue will be held on February 10 for residents living in the North. - CNA/so

The little red dot that could ... and should

Today Online 26 Jan 07

Let's take the lead on climate change issues
Let's show the world how to be environment friendly
Letter from phillip ang keng hong

The public has been numbed by unceasing bad news on climate change in the press within the past year.

Frequent environmental disasters are now accepted as part of living on planet Earth. Today's front page article, "Dawn of the Hot Age?" (Jan 22), is but another superlatives-laden article to readers.

Whether damage amounted to RM1 billion ($438 million) in the December floods in Malaysia or US$1 billion ($1.53 billion) damage to farmers, mainly in the citrus industry, in California, it really doesn't bother us a bit.

Putting a cap on the emission of greenhouse gases is clearly not going to work without a corresponding decrease in the production of goods.

One important objective of the Kyoto Protocol is for industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gases by 5.2 per cent of 1990 level in five years' time.

Yet, we do not address the problem from the consumer's end--so long as there is demand from consumers, and money to be made, production of goods will not cease. Production will be transferred to another country, resulting in no nett decrease in greenhouse gases.

Industrialised countries have now acknowledged that there are practical constraints to achieving this target, as if we have the luxury of time.

Tackling climate change requires fundamental changes to the way we live, but it has now become synonymous with recycling. The three-step formula to reduce, reuse and recycle might have worked wonders if not for the perennial emphasis on recycling alone.

The reason for this emphasis seems to be governments' symbiotic relationship with businesses. There is no bottomline in reducing and reusing.

As a small and well-organised country, Singapore could have shown some leadership on climate change issues, but has preferred to go along with the recycling theme.

If asked how we can individually do our part, the answers from an average Singaporean are: I don't know, I don't care, or, recycling.

"Shop-till-you-drop" has not only become a national pastime but seems to be held up as a virtue. Our pitiful efforts only ensure that environmental catastrophe will occur. The question is when.

Letter from niti athavle

I AM a Primary 4 student.

Every day we hear about natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis. Yet people continue to behave as if there is no tomorrow.

People buy things when they do not need them. Paper is used only on one side and then thrown into the dustbin, instead of being recycled. So many trees are cut down to make paper; one day there will be no trees left.

If this continues, one day, there really won't be a tomorrow. But I want a tomorrow. I want to see the polar bears, grizzly bears, whales, other marine and land animals, birds and the beautiful flowers and trees.

I have some suggestions that could help the environment. Singapore should implement a garbage meter. Just as we pay for electricity and water, we should be made to pay for the amount of garbage we throw also. That could help in reducing the amount of waste we generate.

Singapore should also implement a rule that children take the bus to school and not get dropped off by car. This would use less fuel and the air would be less polluted. I wish Singapore would show the world new ways of being environment friendly.

The future generations should get to enjoy the Earth's beauty.

New premises for PUB

26 January 2007 1614 hrs (CNA)

Singapore's national water agency, PUB will be relocating to the Environment Building at Scotts Road on Monday.

PUB says the move is strategic as it brings the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and PUB under one roof.

PUB’s Chief Executive, Khoo Teng Chye said the PUB has been working closely with MEWR and NEA and “the consolidation of the whole MEWR family in one location will foster even better working relationships.”

Services to the public however will remain relatively unchanged with the relocation.

SP Services will continue as PUB’s billing agent and will still handle customer matters related to water accounts, so customers who need to open a water account for their residential or commercial premises will still need to visit SP Service’s Customer Service Centre on the Upper Ground Floor at SP Building.

Alternatively, this can also be done at SP’s counter at HDB Hub.

Those who visit the Customer Service Centre at the Environment Building will be able to enjoy integrated services for both PUB and the NEA such as the payment of license fees, general enquiries and tenders.

For the past 30 years,PUB has been housed at the Singapore Power Building (SP Building) off Orchard Road.

With the move from SP Building, the role of PUB as the national water agency should become clearer to those who still associate PUB with electricity and gas services which are now in fact handled by Singapore Power since it was corporatised in 1995.

Sales manager Janice Lee, who often visits clients at SP Building, recalls “Although this building was been renamed Singapore Power Building for many years, many people still fondly refer to it as PUB Building. Even now when I tell taxi drivers to take me to PUB Building, they know which building I am talking about.”

This is the third move for PUB which was first located at City Hall before moving to Colombo Court and then, SP Building which was initially called 'PUB Building'.


Prices of vegetables at NTUC Fairprice to remain stable

By Sharon Tong, Channel NewsAsia
Posted: 26 January 2007 1840 hrs

SINGAPORE: The price of vegetables sold in supermarket chain, NTUC Fairprice, will remain stable even as some retailers are increasing prices following floods in Malaysia.

NTUC Fairprice says it is able to do so as it imports vegetables from diverse sources.

Since the start of the rainy season, the supermarket chain has been bumping up its import of vegetables from other sources such as China, Australia, Vietnam and Thailand to meet demand.

During the SARS crisis in 2003, NTUC Fairprice had brought in more vegetables when the Pasir Panjang Wholsesale Market was closed.

It imposed a $10 limit on the purchase of vegetables to prevent traders from buying up all the stock.

This time, Fairprice says it does not see the need to set any limits but it will take action to stop traders from buying in bulk. - CNA /dt

AVA tells traders to label fish correctly following reports of oil fish sold as cod

26 January 2007 1929 hrs (CNA)

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority in Singapore has instructed traders to comply with labelling requirements.

This follows reports that oil fish is being touted and sold as cod fish.

It says many consumers may not be aware of the laxative side effects of eating oil fish due to the high content of indigestible waxy oil.

If not prepared properly or eaten in large quantities, it could cause diarrhoea in some consumers.

AVA says traders should correctly label the fish so that consumers can identify it.

Under its Sale of Food Act, it is an offence to sell food products which do not comply with labelling requirements.

If convicted, a person can be fined up to $5,000.

For subsequent convictions, he can be fined a maximum of $10,000 or jailed up to 3 months or both.

MediaCorp has been receiving calls from the public voicing concern about whether oil fish is safe to eat.

AVA says grilling will help to reduce the heavy fat content, and not everyone who eats the fish will be affected.

It gives the assurance that fish sold in Singapore is safe to eat. - CNA /dt

Jungle dining at Singapore Zoo

By Lau Joon-Nie, Channel NewsAsia
27 January 2007 1053 hrs

SINGAPORE: Singapore - known as the Lion City - is commonly associated not just with tall buildings and a clean and green environment but also great shopping and dining.

Those with a taste for adventure can even dine on the "wild" side, just a short hop from the city's urban jungle.

At the Singapore Zoo, what started out as "Breakfast with Ah Meng" the orang utan 25 years ago, has now evolved into Jungle Breakfast.

Besides the chance to meet a friendly ape, visitors can get up close with a snake, a mischievous otter and playful elephants.

Close to 100 visitors turn up daily for the morning tropical buffet where they also learn about wildlife conservation.

Fanny Lai, executive director, Singapore Zoo & Night Safari, said: "We're not just a viewing zoo, we also are a learning zoo. So while we entertain the guests, we also want them to be aware of the conservation of wildlife."

And if you can't wake up early enough to have breakfast with Anita the orang utan and her friends, you can lunch with the lions instead, by special request.

But the ultimate in wildlife adventure dining must surely be the Gourmet Safari Express at the Zoo's sister park, the Night Safari.

There, diners can enjoy a meal on wheels while taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the night 'jungle' as they travel on specially-outfitted trams.

The mood is heightened by the lighting, kept low to avoid blinding or distracting the nocturnal animals.

"Dining in the proximity of these animals that most of us have never seen or dream about, is very exciting...In my line of work, sometimes we do tourism, we go to fun places but the food is just OK. This was excellent. There was a real gourmet experience!" said Haydee Pampel, an American event planner, referring to the Gourmet Safari Express.

Even at a gourmet price tag of US$120 per head, there is no shortage of diners.

Some 80 groups enjoyed the moonlight-meal-on-the-move last year, mostly corporate customers and individuals celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. - CNA/ir

Environmental Controls To Help China Cool Growth

27 Jan 2007 (TODAY)

China will tighten environmental controls to restrain investment in
factories that stoked the nation's fastest annual economic growth since

"We're going to put forth more effort this year in meeting energy
consumption controls," central bank deputy governor Wu Xiaoling said on
Thursday in an interview in Davos, Switzerland, where she is attending the
annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The plan would improve air and
water quality without fanning inflation, she said.

Meeting a goal of using 4 per cent less energy for each unit of gross
domestic product may help curb industrial expansion, after two
interest-rate increases failed to halt an investment boom last year.
China's economy grew 10.7 per cent last year, spurring speculation that
the government would take further steps to rein in spending. - Bloomberg


Flood Respite As Prevention Plans Brought Forward

Jan 26 2007 (TODAY)

Gracia Chiang

The most flood-prone areas of Singapore will have extra protection before
this year ends. This means that the startling photographs of a bunch of
nurseries under water - which were splashed in media reports recently -
could become a thing of the past.

The Public Utilities Board (PUB) announced yesterday that it was bringing
forward its project to prevent a repeat of the flash floods at Joan Road
and Olive Road - the site of the eight nurseries.

The earth drain there will be replaced by a wider concrete canal. This
will be ready by October, about three months ahead of the original
schedule. Another flood-prone area, Cuscaden Road, will also get relief
earlier than planned.

Meanwhile, work on a new canal, costing $12.8 million, is already underway
in Commonwealth Avenue. It is expected to be ready by the end of this

"These are areas that are known to suffer from flooding," said PUB's
director of drainage, Mr Yap Kheng Guan.

Before the recent thunderstorms wreaked their havoc, dredging works at
Cuscaden Road as well as Joan and Olive Roads had been fairly effective.

Still, the danger of flooding has existed in these areas, either because
of small canal capacities or because of the natural terrain. A 30 cm-deep
road depression along a 50m stretch of Cuscaden Road, for example, creates
a bowl effect where water can be collected.

Heavy rainfall within a short time can give rise to flash floods, said Mr

The road level at the junction of Tomlinson and Cuscaden Road will be
raised by June. Over at Commonwealth Avenue, PUB is also taking interim
measures such as increasing the number of drainage holes from 10 to 20 and
installing 10 small dams to slow the flow of water.

Apart from heavy rains, high tides can also cause flooding. The Marina
Barrage project will block seawater from flowing into canals and help
flood-prone areas such as Chinatown and Little India.

PUB conducts yearly checks to make sure that there are no drain blockages.
It also ensures that construction projects do not contribute to the floods
either by obstructing the flow of water or altering the terrain.

"We will not let go of any flash flood," said Mr Yap. "We will look at it
and see what we can do."

Biodiesel Cars In Pilot Project

Jan 26 2007 (TODAY)

CARS powered by biodiesel - a biodegradable fuel produced from vegetable
oils - will be seen on Singapore roads as early as the middle of this

The venture, driven by a group of private firms including Shell and
Government agencies such as the Economic Development Board, is the first
of its scale involving 15 test cars here.

Unfortunately, those hoping renewable energy will bring down their fuel
costs will be disappointed.

The blend of Palm Oil Methyl Esters (POME) and ultra-low sulphur diesel
used in the trial here, are about the same price as diesel, said Mr Odd
Joergenrud, vice-president of automotive aftermarket sales (Asia Pacific)
at Robert Bosch (SEA). The company is the lead co- ordinator of the test

"People will use it, not because of the cost, but because they want to
preserve the environment," he said, adding that there is a trend now for
countries to increasingly use renewable energy as a source of fuel.

POME was chosen as it is renewable and easily available in the region,
with two of the largest palm oil producers, Malaysia and Indonesia
situated close by.

The process would involve the testing of emission and fuel consumption of
the 15 diesel cars fitted with special diesel filters. The cars comply
with Euro IV standards - the emission standard implemented for all new
diesel vehicles registered in Singapore from Oct 1 last year.

Expected to take place over the next two years, the project signals the
growing interest in the lucrative biofuels sector.

Singapore has recently taken strides in the biofuel market, convincing a
few big biofuel companies to set up shop here.

Peter Cremer (Singapore), the Asian arm of Germany's Cremer Gruppe, plans
to set up a $20 million plant in Singapore by May 2007 with enough
capacity to produce 200,000 metric tonnes of biodiesel.

Other organisations in the pilot stage include DaimlerChrysler (SEA),
Diesel Tech, Kuok Oils & Grains, the National Environment Agency, Nexsol
(Singapore), and the Volkswagen Group. - Chow Penn Nee

Want A Pet? Go To This Talk First

Jan 26 2007 (TODAY)

Want a pet? Go to this talk first

The Living Room invites you to "The Truth about Cats & Dogs - Pet Care &
Grooming", its monthly lunchtime talk at 12.30pm on Jan 31 at
Library@Orchard at Ngee Ann City.

If you're thinking of a furry friend to have in the house, how do you
decide if a cat or dog's better for you and your family? What breed would
be suitable? What must you consider?

What are the demands on you as a pet owner?

If you're introducing a new pet to the house where you already have
another, what's the least provocative way of doing it?

How do you toilet train your pet? How can you make bath time for your
pooch or feline more pleasant?

Come sniff out the answers and pose your own questions to Ng Whye Hoe from
Pet Lovers Centre & The Pet Safari.

The new Power of Stories CD from 938LIVE's popular A Slice of Life
collection will also be on sale at this talk.

Headache Over Shifting Sands

Jan 26 2007 (TODAY)

Contractors feel the pinch now, buyers may hurt later

Lee U-Wen

THEY were warned. As early as September last year, contractors like Mr
David Toh, project director of Ley Choon Constructions, were told that the
price of sand was on its way up. Like good businessmen, they factored a
moderate rise in the cost of sand into their tender quotations.

What they did not expect was Indonesia's blanket ban on sand exports. Now,
instead of this building material costing, say, 20 per cent more, they are
looking at its price doubling. And they alone must pick up the tab.

"There is no way to adjust to the rising costs," said Mr Toh as the impact
of Indonesia's "sand storm" started sinking in. "We have no choice but to
finish the projects and pay the higher price for sand."

They cannot pass on this mounting cost to anyone, because the price is
already determined during the tender process.

But when it is time for the next round of contracts to be signed, Mr Toh
and others like him will make sure that they charge developers for sand
prices that could hover closer to $50 a tonne, compared to the current $20
a tonne. And that is when the buyers, too, may feel the squeeze.

"Consumers must be prepared to fork out more, because developers are not
going to absorb the increases," said real estate firm Propnex's chief
executive Mohamed Ismail.

And so a whole new dynamic will be set into motion, affecting not just the
players in the construction sector, but even the way structures are built
and property is priced.

Singapore imports between six and eight million tonnes of sand each year,
almost all of it from Indonesia.

The Indonesian ban will affect existing projects, which are worth up to
$90 billion, but is not expected to disrupt them.

That is because the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), which
manages the Republic's stockpile of sand, is willing to dip into it to
make up for any temporary shortfall.

But it was likely to price this sand higher than the current market rate
of $20 per tonne.

Mr Tan Tian Chong, director of BCA's technology development division, told
Today: "The stockpile is meant more for emergencies, so the price will go
up. The industry expects it to go up."

The irony is that the impact will be greater precisely because the
construction industry has turned around and the demand for sand is greater
than ever before.

Last year, $16 billion worth of contracts were signed - a 41-per-cent
increase from 2005.

Spotting this trend, the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL)
wrote to its members last September, pointing out that the price of sand
could rise further. It advised them to factor this in the costing of their

The SCAL said there was "an increased demand for sand in Singapore" due to
the Housing and Development Board's (HDB) stockpiling and the upcoming
integrated resorts.

This year, demand will grow further with $19 billion worth of contracts
expected to be signed.

Now suddenly, the main supply source has been cut off and the scramble for
alternatives has begun.

The HDB is already tapping into other sources of sand in the region. "But
there's always a chance that other countries could also ban the export of
sand, so the industry has to switch to steel," said BCA's Mr Tan.

For those in the construction sector, the timing could not have been
worse. Though it grew by only 1.1 per cent last year, it had started to
gather steam in the second half of the year - growing by 2.6 per cent in
the third quarter and 2.4 per cent in the fourth.

Now, it's back to the drawing board.

But while you may have to pay a little more for your next property and Mr
Toh will not make much of a profit on the four projects he has in hand,
each worth millions, the impact on the economy itself will be limited.

Said Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin: "I estimate that the construction
sector will contribute about 3.5 per cent to the country's gross domestic
product this year. The fact that the Government has released the stockpile
of sand will provide some breathing space this year, so I feel the impact
will not be that significant."

Cod fish sold in Singapore safe to eat: AVA

By Valarie Tan and Lynne Chee, Channel NewsAsia
25 January 2007 2030 hrs

SINGAPORE: Cod fish sold in Singapore is safe to eat.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority says the type of fish which caused many to be sick in Hong Kong is not known to be available here.

Mr Wong Tak Po, who called the MediaCorp News Hotline, was initially concerned when he bought five pieces of cod fish at a discount from a local supermarket.

Even though his family have since eaten two pieces, they have not experienced any health problems.

AVA says the so-called "oil fish" that caused a food scare in Hong Kong dwells near the bottom of the seabed, and has a waxy, non-digestible substance, which can cause diarrhoea if taken in large amounts. - CNA /dt


No More Glaciers On The Alps By 2050

Jan 24 2007 (TODAY)

VIENNA - Glaciers will all but disappear from the Alps by 2050, scientists
warned yesterday, basing their bleak outlook on mounting evidence of the
slow but steady melting of continental ice sheets.

In western Austria's Alpine province of Tyrol, glaciers have been
shrinking by about 3 per cent a year, meaning their mass decreases
annually by roughly a metre, said Mr Roland Psenner of the University of
Innsbruck's Institute for Ecology. If they keep melting at that rate, most
glaciers could vanish by 2037, said Mr Psenner.

The report comes as world leaders gather in Switzerland for the World
Economic Forum to discuss key concerns such as climate change and global

In a separate study on 900 waterbird species, scientists noted that
numbers of nearly half of the world's waterbird species are on the decline
due to climate change and economic development.

The worst decreases occurred in Asia where 62 per cent of the waterbird
populations had declined or become extinct. That was followed by a
48-per-cent decline in Africa, 45 per cent in Oceania, 42 per cent in
South America, 41 per cent in Europe and 37 per cent in North America.


Indonesia Acts, S'pore Regrets

Jakarta bans sand exports to S'pore; Republic will turn to new sources,
steel-based construction

Sharon Vasoo
Deputy Foreign Editor
Jan 25 2007

For some time now, Singapore has been basking in its friendship with
Indonesia, trying to nudge foreign investors to go to its larger
neighbour. It has been a staunch supporter of Indonesia's Riau Island's
Special Economic Zones.

On Monday night, the warm ties had to negotiate a sand trap. Indonesia's
Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu unilaterally announced that her country
would ban the export of sand, soil and topsoil - a move that will affect
mainly Singapore which imports between six and eight million tonnes of
land sand annually. It comes at a time when Singapore's construction
sector has just roused itself from a long, lethargic spell and is set to
take off.

Singapore imports almost all the sand used in its buildings from Indonesia
but is confident that it will find other sources to bridge the shortfall.
It has also been persuading its developers to switch from sand-based
construction to using more steel - which is more easily available and
makes for quicker, cleaner projects.

Indonesia's decision may speed up this switch.

"It could also be an opportunity - just as our water disputes with
Malaysia led to our engagement with Newater," said an observer.

Nevertheless, Indonesia's sudden and swift decision has not gone down
well. "Singapore is disappointed," said a statement from the National
Development Ministry and the Building and Construction Authority.

Ms Mari said that Indonesia took this decision because its government
wanted to protect its environment and maintain the nation's maritime
borders. "After observations in the field, there is actually quite heavy
environmental damage and the banning of sand exports is a response to
this," she said.

It is understood that Singapore had offered to work with Indonesia to
address its environmental concerns.

"We regret that Indonesia did not take up our offer ..." said the

Still, Jakarta decided to go ahead with the ban under which exporters have
been given up to Feb 5 to honour existing sand contracts.

Observers say that the Indonesia's move was mainly to placate domestic
lobby groups and provincial ministers who feel that they have not
benefited from the trade that fetches Indonesia more than $120 million a
year from Singapore alone. It has been the Republic's main supplier of
sand since Malaysia banned exports in 1997.

On paper, the ban could affect between $60 billion and $90 billion worth
of projects here that are already in the pipeline. But there is not likely
to be any disruption at all.

"We have quite a sizeable sand stockpile, and we are prepared to release
the stockpile to meet the immediate needs of the industry," Dr John
Keung, BCA's chief executive officer told Channel NewsAsia.

Meanwhile, the alternatives are already clicking into place. The Housing
and Development Board has already started procuring sand from sources
outside Indonesia to produce concrete. At least one such ship, it is
understood, is already on its way to Singapore.

This arrangement will ensure that Singapore builders get a steady supply
of sand to make concrete for their buildings. But since the sand is being
shipped from areas much further away than Indonesia, industry experts said
that it was likely to be more expensive than Indonesian supplies. This
sand could add between 1 and 2 per cent to project costs, experts said.
So, it probably made more sense to switch to steel-based construction
which would be marginally more expensive - it could add 3 per cent to
project costs - but would see buildings come up faster, with less
dependence on foreign labour.

Backing this, Mr Keung said: "It is very important for us to move away
from such high dependency on sand export in construction work. We've been
trying to persuade the industry to move towards a more sustainable form of
construction, like the use of steel structure."

Industry experts that it was possible for Singapore to cut its sand
consumption by up to 70 per cent. This would mean that the Republic would
only have to import between one and two million tonnes of sand a year.

Of late, Britain has slashed its sand usage by up 70 per cent and Japan by
50 per cent.

The trend has caught on in Singapore too, with the National Library,
Capitol Tower and the Ang Mo Kio Hub Mall using steel more than concrete
in their structures. Even the Marina Integrated Resort design has a steely
edge to it.

The construction industry here is expected to shrug off the impact of this
ban sooner rather than later, observers said.

For now, they are more intrigued by the mixed signals that Indonesia is
sending as far as its relationship with Singapore goes.

"Sometimes governments are forced to make tough decisions, but these
decisions should not be seen as an expression of negativity against
another country," said Mr Wiryono Sastrohandoyo, a former Indonesian
ambassador and now a senior fellow at Jakarta's Centre for Strategic and
International Studies. Not many builders in Singapore will agree with

PUB to implement flood management works in affected areas

By Wong Mun Wai
Channel NewsAsia
25 January 2007

SINGAPORE: Public Utilities Board (PUB) is carrying out drainage works to fix areas hit by last year's heavy floods.

The work is going on at Commonwealth Avenue and Cuscaden Road, and at the junction of Joan and Olive Roads.

Announcing its flood management plans, PUB says a S$12.8 million canal at Commonwealth Road is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

While at Cuscaden Road, a small dam will be built to slow the flow of water as an interim measure.

At Joan and Olive Roads, a long-term solution to flooding is to replace the earth drain with a larger capacity concrete canal.

This is expected to be completed by October this year. - CNA/so

Mating In Mandai

Jan 25 2007 (TODAY)

It's boom time as endangered species have babies here

Lin Yanqin

THEY may not be answering mating calls out in the wild, but at Mandai, it
seems some endangered species are having a baby boom.

More than 180 animals were born in the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari
last year under the parks' captive breeding programme. And of these, 14
per cent are endangered in the wild.

Doing spectacularly well last year were the primates, who saw three
proboscis monkeys, two douc langurs, one Bornean orang utan, one
lion-tailed macaque and four cottoned-top tamarins join their tribe last
year - all of which are on the endangered list of the World Conservation

Other animals born last year include three Nubian Ibexes - also
endangered - and a Malayan Tapir, two Jackass penguins, and a pygmy
hippo - all animals considered vulnerable to endangerment.

The zoo is also the only zoological institution to successfully breed the
douc langur outside its home range countries of Vietnam and Laos.

"As we have been very successful in the breeding of primates, we will
continue to focus our efforts on this group of animals," said the zoo's
assistant director of zoology Mr Biswajit Guha. "We will continue to focus
on threatened species such as Komodo dragons, and also on tropical
rainforest animals, in line with evolving into a rainforest zoo."

The parks' executive director Ms Fanny Lai attributed the success of the
breeding programme to "sound husbandry practices, expertise, and
dedication of our zoologists and vets".

Every aspect of the animals' lives is monitored carefully to ensure that
the animals breed successfully - their temperatures are monitored every
day, their diet is carefully designed to provide maximum nutrition, and
minerals and vitamins are given as supplements.

The zoo also tries to stimulate the animals mentally and physically by
simulating as free and natural an environment as possible.

For example, the orang utans have a free-ranging area where they can move
about, explore, and behave as their counterparts would in the wild.

Last year, the zoo also set up the Wildlife Healthcare and Research
Centre, with a new ultrasound machine to better detect pregnancies and
internal ailments.

But even with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, some things are
just beyond human control.

Said Mr Guha: "Even if we have both male and female species in the same
habitat, it may be a case of not having 'chemistry', much like the way it
is with humans."

The captive breeding programme, in place since the zoo's inception in
1973, was set up to contribute to the population of threatened species by
breeding them in captivity.

Notable successes of the programme include Inuka, the first polar bear to
be bred in the tropics, in 1990, and a giant flying squirrel, believed to
be the first to be born in a zoo in Asia, in 2004.

The well-loved Inuka has been hogging media headlines recently following
the zoo's announcement that he will move to a zoo in a temperate climate
once his mother, Sheba, dies.

That may not be too far off, as the 29-year-old mother is now already too
old to move, having passed the average life- span of 25 years for captive
polar bears.

Indonesia To Auction Permits To Log Old Forests?

Jan 25 2007 (TODAY)

JAKARTA - Environmental watchdog Greenpeace yesterday protested the
Indonesian government's plans to auction permits to log old forests in
Borneo and Papua, home to a rich variety of plant and animal life.

Within two weeks, forest lands in 16 locations - including Papua,
Kalimantan on Borneo island and on the islands of Sulawesi, Maluku and
Sumatra - will be offered for bids.

"More than one million hec-tares of forest lands, or twice the size of
Bali, will be offered on the chopping block.

"Instead of taking drastic measures to reverse the destruction of our
remaining forests, the forest ministry is hell-bent on issuing new permits
to the highest bidders," Greenpeace South-east Asia campaigner Hapsoro
said in a statement.

Indonesia loses about 2.8 million ha of forests each year - among the
highest rates in the world.

Experts say deforestation reduces the capacity of the ecosystem to
regulate the water and also leads to soil erosion and landslides.

Indonesia had lost more than 72 per cent of its intact ancient forest
areas, according to Greenpeace.

Kalimantan and Papua have some of the last areas of Indonesian rainforest
and are home to a rich variety of plant and animal life, with new
discoveries being made on an almost monthly basis. - AFP


Supply of vegetables from M'sia for Chinese New Year under threat

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
19 January 2007

SINGAPORE: Expect to pay more for your greens over the next few weeks.

Wholesalers say the supply of vegetables from flood-hit Johor for Chinese New Year is under threat – forcing prices to remain high.

The Johor floods have forced local wholesalers to bring in more supplies from China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

And because the growing and supplying of vegetables from Malaysia takes time, the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Market Association says supplies will not return to normal until the second or third week of February, around the Chinese New Year period.

The wholesalers at Pasir Panjang market buy many different types of vegetables from many different countries.

With the supply of vegetables from Malaysia like kangkong, chye sim and bittergourd going down by at least 50 percent, these wholesalers have had to import more vegetables from other countries.

The wholesale market association says flying in the supplies has incurred higher transportation costs which buyers, like stallholders, have to absorb.

It says about 60 to 70 percent of what they sell have to be flown in.

This results in prices remaining high. For example, a kilogramme of kangkong, which normally costs S$1, now costs S$3.

Supermarket chain Cold Storage says it is not increasing its prices of leafy vegetables.

Fairprice says it has increased supply from other countries and will continue to hold prices for as long as it can, although it has had to increase the price of bittergourd since Thursday by about 5 percent. – CNA/so


'Talks Of Water Wars Absolute Rubbish'

Water wars a far reality but Singapore's success story in water
management holds lessons for the world

Clement Mesenas
Wed, Jan 17 2007

THE world's movers and shakers have long debated the likely catastrophic
effects of a global crisis triggered by a water shortage. It was even the
premise of a television documentary The Water Wars.

But at least one international scholar says such a scenario is highly

"Talks of water wars are absolute rubbish. If there will be war between
two countries, the 15th reason could be water, but not the first
fourteen," Professor Asit Biswas (picture) told an audience of top
government officials, academics and water management experts gathered at
the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Prof Biswas, who heads a think tank in Mexico, the Third World Centre for
Water Management, argued that any impending water shortage would be the
result of poor water management, not climate change.

"The United Nations, the World Bank, their officials were sold on the idea
that climate change was the topic they wanted to discuss at world forums,"
he said yesterday during his lecture on the future of water.

His thesis struck fertile ground some 18 months ago when he discovered
that Singapore had been practising for 40 years what he had been preaching
round the world, often to deaf ears.

Taking up the story, Public Utilities Board (PUB) chief executive Khoo
Teng Chye, said the local water agency provided Prof Biswas with local
facts and figures. "We were flattered when he came up with a report that
highlighted Singapore's successful water management," he said. Prof
Biswas' report has since been read around the world.

Prof Biswas, who was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize last year, the
Nobel Prize's equivalent in water management, said that the Singapore
success story, especially in its wastewater treatment, could be adapted
and implemented elsewhere. Saudi Arabia is already studying the Singapore
model. With the global water business estimated to be worth about US$500
billion ($765 billion), the stakes are high.

"Singapore has what it takes to be the water hub of the world, and with
the capacity to attract all the right people to develop into the world's
intellectual capital for water management," said Prof Biswas.

PUB's Mr Khoo said Singapore is already forging ahead in research and
development in the field of water management - two universities are
setting up water research institutes and several international water
companies have set up office here. A Water Week is also planned for the
middle of next year.

Prof Tommy Koh, who chaired the lecture, said the PUB, the Asian
Development Bank and the Japan Water Forum have also joined hands to set
up an Asian-Pacific Water Forum and stage a Water Summit at the end of the

"My goal during the last lap of my service to the public is to ensure that
every Asian will have access to clean water," said Prof Koh, the chairman
of the Forum's governing council.

Singapore can play role of global water management consultant: expert

By Johnson Choo, Channel NewsAsia
16 January 2007

SINGAPORE: Singapore should share its experience with countries facing shortage of good quality water on how to better manage their water resources.

This was the suggestion of visiting water expert Professor Asit Biswas - winner of the 2006 Stockholm Water Prize, who was here to speak at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

He said besides going into the water treatment business, Singapore should harness its expertise to become a global water management consultant.

He said the way water is managed in the next 20 years will change drastically.

This is because future water problems and their solutions are likely to be very different from the past, or what is being anticipated at present.

"There is no water shortage even in the most water-scarce countries like those of the Middle-East, there is enough water. With the current technology, current economics, current management techniques, we can sit down with any city in the world and show how in about a week, you could provide your people 24-hour drinkable water supply at affordable cost," said Professor Biswas.

Professor Biswas observed that there is a general lack of good water management skills worldwide and this is where Singapore can play its part.

"Singapore has a tremendous opportunity to move into that particular niche and specialise itself in water supply, waste-water treatment so that it can provide advisory services, consulting services and even running services," said Professor Biswas.

Professor Biswas said Singapore should claim a bigger role for itself.

"If I have to criticise Singapore in any way, I think it is not thinking big enough. It knows what it has achieved, but it can do much more both to itself and to the rest of the world, by thinking bigger, by dreaming a much larger dream than the dream it has at present," said Professor Biswas.

Professor Biswas said Singapore should dream of organising an international Water Festival - something similar to the World Economic Forum held in Davos. - CNA /dt


9 picked as NMPs; 2nd term for NMPs Eunice Olsen, Dr Loo

By Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia
12 January 2007

SINGAPORE: A Special Committee has selected nine Singaporeans as Nominated Members of Parliament for the term of the current Parliament.

Among them, TV host and pianist Ms Eunice Olsen and businessman and medical practitioner Dr Loo Choon Yong will be serving their second term.

The seven new faces are:

1. Mr Gautam Banerjee, Executive Chairman of Pricewaterhouse Coopers

2. Ms Cham Hui Fong, Director (Industrial Relations), NTUC

3. Mr Edwin Khew Teck Fook, an engineer

4. Dr Kalyani K Mehta, a social worker and NUS Associate Professor

5. Mrs Jessie Phua, a businesswoman and President of the Singapore Bowling Federation

6. Mr Siew Kum Hong, a lawyer

7. Dr Thio Li-Ann, NUS Law Professor

Lawyer Siew Kum Hong says: "There are some areas that do interest me more than others that I feel very strongly about. And at the top of the list would be how better we can help the lower income, people who are less privileged and disadvantaged - basically anyone who is struggling in society, struggling to keep up with today's economy.

"Another area that I would want to touch on is freedom of expression, freedom of speech in Singapore and the media in Singapore and how it's regulated. I guess it's because of my legal background and also because I write for the newspapers. These are issues that are important to me and I do think that we can go a bit further with how we regulate expression, and especially political expression in Singapore."

Siew contributes articles to TODAY newspaper twice a month.

Jessie Phua, president of the Singapore Bowling Federation says: "I'm a firm believer in sports, not just in bowling. Being a mother of four, I firmly believe in the life skills that we can impart to our younger generation. Through sports, we definitely can bring up a generation of Singaporeans who are not only physically healthier but mentally stronger as well. We're going to have a very much well-rounded generation in the years to come.

"For all of us who believe in sports, it's important for us to step forward and do what we can. I hope that through Parliament, we can bring about some match-making where companies can adopt certain sports, and free up the limited funds we have to help other emerging and deserving sports."

The Office of the Clerk of Parliament says a total of 48 nominations were received.

36 had come from the general public.

The successful nominees were selected by an eight-member special committee, chaired by Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi.

Their names have been submitted to the President for his approval. - CNA/ir/ls

NUS sets up new institute to spur environmental education

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia
12 January 2007

SINGAPORE: Environmental research and education in Singapore is set to be given a boost with the setting up of a new institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

NUS says the environment and water sector has been identified as one with potentially high growth and economic relevance to Singapore.

And the new Environmental Research Institute will coordinate research and development at NUS in water, air quality, energy, sensing, security and policy issues.

The institute will be led by Professor Michael Saunders, who was professor of bio-engineering, civil and environmental engineering at Georgia Tech before joining NUS.

Professor Saunders is also the Vice President of the American Institution of Pollution Prevention. - CNA/ir

PM Lee suggests ASEAN Declaration on Environmental Sustainability at next Summit

By Wong Siew Ying and S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia
13 January 2007

CEBU: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has suggested that ASEAN work towards a Declaration on Environmental Sustainability at the next Summit.

Speaking during the Leader's Retreat at the Summit meeting in Cebu in the Philippines, Mr Lee stressed that ASEAN also needs to be effective in dealing with trans-border challenges .

One area of shared concern is the environment as it affected the physical well-being of people and economies.

Specifically, Mr Lee said ASEAN must work hard to tackle the problem of the haze as its likely to be worse next year with the El Nino effect.

Singapore, he said, appreciates Indonesia's efforts to resolve the problem at its root.

The Republic is working with Indonesia to develop sustainable land-clearing practices in the Jambi province.

Another critical issue for ASEAN to address is energy as there is a need to enhance energy efficiency and conservation.

The Prime Minister suggested that ASEAN work towards the long-term goal of an open regional energy market, which includes key infrastructures like the ASEAN Power Grid and Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline.

He added that it is also a good idea to develop alternative fuels such as biofuels, biomass, and even nuclear power but stressed that countries must pay close attention to security, environment, health and safety aspects.

Mr Lee said it was important to have a robust regional nuclear safety regime in place before nuclear plants come into operation and this was something that Asean's officials should look into.

Turning to the Singapore Chairmanship of ASEAN in August, Mr Lee said Singapore's planning a whole year of activities to commemorate the regional grouping's 40th Anniversary.

The Prime Minister stressed that the region is on the ascent and now is the time for ASEAN to take decisive action so as to secure the regional grouping's place in the world, for a brighter future for its people. - CNA /dt


Finding Their Feet, Then Fitting In Here

Government needs to draw up integration policy for foreigners, says NUS

Loh Chee Kong
Jan 12 2007

WHILE its efforts to attract foreigners here are bearing fruit, the
Government needs to apply the same acumen to making sure they fit in once
they land on our shores.

To do so, it needs to stop viewing them in terms of purely dollars and
cents - that is, offering them only economic opportunities.

"We need to look at integration policies, which are as complex as our
immigration policies … What we have not invented are the integration
policies after they have entered the door and come in," said Professor
Brenda Yeoh, a geography expert at the National University of Singapore,
citing her interviews with several skilled emigrants who said gaining
Singapore permanent residency or citizenship was just a stepping stone to
emigration elsewhere.

Speaking yesterday at an Institute of Policy Studies forum on migration
and social issues, Prof Yeoh said Singapore needs to focus on integrating
not only the expat "talents".

"The integration and support mechanisms should go beyond … to also the
students, the unskilled workers and the spouses. Each category deserves
careful consideration. For example, the foreign spouses who come in are
not getting support groups."

She added, to Today: "There are policies largely aimed at the economic
sphere, in terms of managing possible tensions as a result of the
competition between local and foreign.

"But what is still very much lacking are policies to do with the other
spheres of life. Education of the young is a very important starting point
in cultivating a cosmopolitan, tolerant outlook as they interact with

Civil society can also play a role in organising activities for foreigners
and locals to interact away from the workplace, added Prof Yeoh, who has
published books and journals on migration issues.

Sociologist Kwok Kian Woon of the Nanyang Technological University too
felt that Singapore "needs to think beyond economics" to create an
emotional bond among the foreigners it wants to attract.

"What is so unique about Singapore and what makes it attractive and
compelling enough for people to say, 'This is the place that I can give a
good part of my life to'?" he said.

Embracing them within a Singapore identity or culture could be one way.
But the role of government must be carefully managed. For example, he felt
that the early years of the 21st century, when society was undergoing
changes and everything was being questioned, had been an opportune time
for Singapore to develop its own culture.

But, Associate Professor Kwok, said: "In Singapore, the tension between
conservative forces and a newer set of values is almost always managed in
a neat and plain way."

When yesterday's session was opened to the floor, a member of the audience
said that the Speak Mandarin Campaign was stunting the development of
Singaporean culture - by killing off the dialects - "just like the way the
Stop At Two policy stunted our birth rates".

Another participant noted that the Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others model of
categorising Singaporeans - and which the Government has indicated it
would be relooking - was another example of a policy that needs to be

Weighing in, one Permanent Resident said he did not like being labelled a
"foreign talent".

He called for Singapore to rethink its stance against dual citizenship -
which was outlawed here in 1960 - if it wished to attract foreigners as
well as retain its own talents.

Agreeing, Prof Yeoh told Today: "The world has changed. While some of
these issues (of nation building) are still very much part of what nations
have to cope with, people's working lives are not going to be tied to one

It's Winter But Where's The Snow?

Jan 12 2007

Unseasonal warmth in North America, Europe a result of El Nino, greenhouse

PARIS - Across the continental United States and Canada, states and
provinces reported above-average temperatures for December, while five
states in the north and east of the country experienced record highs for
the month.

With 2006 already entering the weather annals as one of the hottest years
globally, much of the northern hemisphere is also on course for one of the
mildest winters on record.

According to Swiss researcher Juerg Luterbacher, of the University of
Berne's Geographical Institute, Europe is experiencing an extraordinarily
warm start to its winter.

One of the drivers of this warm season has been the El Nino effect, when
the central and eastern Pacific warms up, say Mr Luterbacher and other

"When you have an ocean basin as big as the tropical Pacific which warms
exceptionally, that amounts to a significant part of the Earth's surface
which is heated. It's not surprising that this should have an impact
across the planet's climate system," said Mr Jean-Pierre Ceron, deputy
director of climatology at Meteo France.

El Nino peaked last month, but its effect is likely to endure throughout
the first few months of this year, helping to make what could be the
warmest year on record, according to Britain's Meteorological Office.

Mr Luterbacher said the records show that, in years when there has been a
strong El Nino effect, winter warmth in Europe is usually followed by a
sharp cold snap in late winter or early spring.

El Nino is a natural cycle that occurs about every three to seven years.
It has the potential to inflict severe weather on South America all the
way to Australia.

But greenhouse gases are also likely to have played a part in the warm

"Single (weather) events can't be pinned to a single cause, but the last
30 (European) winters at the end of the 20th century and the start of the
21st century were … the warmest, and this is quite unusual," said Mr
Luterbacher. - AFP

Wikileaks - Where Dissidents Worldwide Can Blow The Whistle

Jan 12 2007

PARIS - Chinese dissidents, equipped with powerful encryption software,
say they will launch a site designed to let whistleblowers in
authoritarian countries post sensitive documents on the Internet without
being traced.

"Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet
bloc, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of
assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal (the) unethical
behaviour (of) their own governments and corporations," states the site
WikiLeaks (www.wikileaks.org).

WikiLeaks is "an international collaboration, primarily of mathematicians
.. of various backgrounds, some Chinese", said site official Julian
Assange, a cryptographer and member of the advisory board. The Chinese
were not people living in China but expatriates, he added.

The site says it has already received "over 1.1 million documents from
dissident communities and anonymous sources". It maintains that its
software is foolproof and that whistleblowers and journalists will not be
thrown into jail for emailing sensitive documents.

The British weekly New Scientist says in an upcoming report that WikiLeaks
will exploit "an anonymising protocol" called Tor. This protocol routes
data through a network of servers that use cryptography to hide the data
path and make it untraceable.

Though it is not related to the successful online encyclopaedia Wikipedia,
WikiLeaks says "both share the same radically democratic philosophy".

Mr Assange said the group had hoped to launch the site in March and that
they were not fully prepared for the premature publicity that they are now
receiving. - AFP


S'pore agrees to control the use and production of ozone-depleting substances

11 January 2007

Singapore has agreed to the amendments made to an international agreement to stop the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer.

The amendments control the production of hydrochloroflurocarbons or HCFCs, found in appliances such as refrigerators, and the production and consumption of bromochloromethane or BCMs, found in items like fire extinguishers.

Both substances deplete the ozone layer.

The changes to the Montreal Protocol came into effect five years ago but Singapore only agreed to the amendments this year.

The first draft of the Protocol came about in 1987 and set out timetables to phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances.

Local industries in Singapore will not be affected by Singapore's accession to the amendments until 2016.

That's when the phasing out of HCFC commences for developing countries, according to the agreement.

While Singapore does not produce any HSFCs, the chemical is traded and consumed in Singapore.

The hole in the ozone layer was discovered in 1985.

Scientists predict the ozone layer will begin to recover in a few years and will be fully restored by the middle of the century, if countries complete the implementation of the Protocol. - CNA/ir


Farmers generally positive about Lim Chu Kang's agri-tainment development

By Song Kian Yong, Channel NewsAsia
04 January 2007

SINGAPORE: Two companies recently won the tender for agri-tainment development in the Lim Chu Kang area which is now set for a facelift.

For some farmers plying their trade in Lim Chu Kang, the move to promote agri-tainment is welcomed.

Mr Gan Kian Leng, Director, Gan Aquarium, says: "I think this will bring more customers to us so this is a good thing."

Mr Kenny Eng, Director, Gardenasia Pte Ltd, says: "This kind of publicity and assurance by different investors and different farms or new-age farmers will boost up confidence in this whole zone."

However, concerns were also raised with regards to the impact the project might have on existing farms in Lim Chu Kang.

"If the interests of real farmers like the vegetable farmers or the fish farmers are not protected, they will be really affected."

Others in the area were worried about how the project might affect the area's natural setting.

Mrs Ivy Singh-Lim, owner of Bollywood Veggies Pte Ltd, says: "We don't want another resort here out in the countryside. We don't think we want spas out here, you know, we want this place to be very very homey, really back to nature."

The Singapore Land Authority says details of the development plans will be released to the public in late January. - CNA/so


Hot Talk - Next

Jan 3 2007

Next, a peek at seven issues that are brewing quietly - for now:

Year of the environment

Floods in Singapore, snow in the Middle East - if 2006 was the year of wonky weather, 2007 looks like the year environmentalism will take root in Singapore.

Going by the people who have applied for the position of Nominated Member of Parliament, Dr Chong believes environmental and animal welfare issues will have a strong voice in Parliament. President of Environmental Challenge Organisation Wilson Ang, president of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society Louis Ng and Dr Geh Min, president of Nature Society, are a few of the candidates.

The latter believes the applications are a reflection of the rising impact of environmental issues. Think the haze. Although an annual affliction, it was particularly bad last year, and Mr Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, believes it could be one of the rare blips for Singapore this year.

Dr Geh hopes that "Singaporeans rather than Singapore as a country can play a role (to fix the haze)". One way would be to press for more information on the pulp and paper companies contributing to the problem, and whether Singapore companies are among them. At home, with new guidelines for buildings to go green, Dr Geh thinks it is possible that alternative energy sources, such as solar power, will be given serious consideration. As will the "polluter pays principle" for those who want to
drive their sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and consume more energy than others. The time seems ripe for a tax on plastic bags.

Beijing Targets Blue Skies As Olympics Loom

Jan 3 2007

BEIJING - Beijing authorities have set a target of 245 clear air days during 2007, as they step up their drive to improve the city's environment ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games, officials said yesterday.

One of the world's most polluted cities, Beijing enjoyed 241 so-called "blue sky" days in 2006, exceeding its target of 238.

Further improving Beijing's air quality will be the city government's top priority in 2007, the Beijing environmental protection bureau said on their website. The bureau classify blue-sky days as days when air quality registers level two or better on an index that runs from level one, or excellent, to level five or hazardous to health.

Heavy industry, sandstorms from the Gobi desert and exhaust fumes from the fast-rising number of cars contributed in 2006 to heavy pollution that forced the government to issue health warnings to residents in November and December last year.

In a report released in November, China's State Environmental Protection Administration said 11 major cities in China, including Beijing, were plagued by serious air pollution on more than one-third of days in 2006, damaging the health of some 15 million people. - AFP